Infant Baptism When Parents Are Not Serious


#1

A friend asked me about those parents who bring their children to be baptized just because it's the socially "done thing". Are such baptisms valid?

I was not sure what to say.

Part of me says YES, because for a sacrament to be valid, three things have to be present: the correct form, the correct matter, and the correct intention, and assuming the priest or deacon doing the baptizing has the right intention, it should be valid.

But part of me says possibly NO, When adults get baptized, they must have faith. Since a baby cannot have faith, they are baptized based on the faith of their parents until they reach the age of reason, at which time they are confirmed and make their faith their own. So if, say, the parents have no faith, then I am not sure what that means.

What do you guys think?


#2

The baptism IS valid. That is why most priests will probably refuse to baptize at that time, but wait until the parents become more serious.


#3

Before a baptism is allowed the priest has to be pretty sure that the child will be brought up in the Catholic faith. If the parents have no intention to do that but lie to the priest then the child’s baptism would still be valid.
If the priest has doubts about the child being brought up in the faith then he would refuse (defer) any baptism.

Can. 868 §1 For an infant to be baptised lawfully it is required:

1° that the parents, or at least one of them, or the person who lawfully holds their place, give their consent;

2°** that there be a well-founded hope that the child will be brought up in the catholic religion. If such hope is truly lacking, the baptism is, in accordance with the provisions of particular law, to be deferred and the parents advised of the reason for this.**

§2 An infant of catholic parents, indeed even of non-catholic parents, may in danger of death be baptised even if the parents are opposed to it.


#4

Exactly how does one determine who is “serious” about their faith? How is this measured? What makes you serious about your faith, and me “not serious?”

Many of the “traditional” Catholics I know do not consider many of the “modern” Catholics “serious” about their Catholicism. They base their assessment on externals–the “modern” Catholic attends an OF Mass, receives Holy Communion standing and in the hand, does not use Latin in their prayers, does not have many children, etc.

I know that among the “modern” Catholics that I associate with, it is easy to believe that other “modern” Catholics aren’t “serious”, again, because of externals that we can see. E.g.,they don’t attend parish Bible studies, they don’t get involved with any parish ministries, they never make it to the “Life Chain” events, they don’t send their children to the parish schools, they don’t have the “Religious Liberty” bumper stickers on their cars, etc.

This is not right. We shouldn’t base our assessment of seriousness of faith on externals. This is what the Evangelical Protestants do–assess the faith of others by a set of unwritten “rules.” Catholics don’t judge people by their “works,” do we?

Our faith is a work in progress, and at any given moment in our lives, our faith will be less than it will be at a later moment in our lives. My faith is more serious now than it was last week, last year, last decade, and God willing, if I live another ten years, my faith will be more serious then.

Two young parents who have just had a baby (and are dead tired, emotional, and probably broke, as well as exhausted trying to please everyone in the family with the Perfect Baptism Party) present their child for baptism. They don’t have a particularly stellar record of visible Catholicism in their parish, but they tell the priest that they plan to raise the child in the Catholic faith.

How can someone say that they are “not serious?” Of course they’re not as serious as some Catholics, but they are more serious than other Catholics. What is the “cut-off?”

Seriousness about our faith is something that grows through the years. Many young parents start out foolish and silly and even a bit worldly, but having a baby really does change everything!

A child should not be refused the saving Sacrament of baptism because the parents are young and immature in their faith.


#5

We most certainly can base whether or not someone is serious on externals, and the most serious one is also the easiest one.

I once had a pastor who posted something on the front page of the bulliten every week. It said something along the lines of:

“Sacraments are not social events or family celebrations. They are sacred rites that belong to the Church for the believer to grow in grace before God. Parents who wish to present their children for sacraments must demonstrate their faith by attending mass weekly for three months before any sacrament is received.”

The number of Catholics who don’t meet this standard is downright embarrassing, but we also need to start telling the truth to people like this. We need more priests like him.


#6

During Baptism, the parents are asked to make vows on behalf of the child. If the vows are not taken seriously, can they be considered fraudulent? Does the lack of valid vows invalidate the sacrament the same way that lack of a contrition invalidates the Sacrament of Confession?


#7

I think that is up to the priest to decide, which is what usually happens when a couple approaches a priest to have their child baptised. I know in my diocese the priest will have meetings with the parents to help them realize the importance of their faith and baptism. My husband and I had ours waived for both our children because the priest who baptised our children know us well and where we stand spiritually and in matters of our faith. But often a priest may not know the couple or family that well and they will find this out through their meetings with the couple. He has every right to defer a baptism if it is apparent that the couple isn’t serious about their faith.

My uncle and aunt were denied their son a Catholic baptism over 20 years ago because it became apparent to the priest that they had no intention of raising him in the Catholic faith. They were doing it as a cultural norm within their families and because they knew their mothers wanted their grandson to be baptised. They were honest with the priest about it and the priest had no choice but defer the baptism until they would promise that they would raise their son in the Catholic faith. It ticked my uncle off because he thought that the priest should just overlook it and baptise him. The grandmothers were heartbroken, but they understood completely why the priest would not do it and were not angry about it. They knew their children and knew they were not serious and thought religion was bogus. My cousin was never baptised and they do not practice the faith. They bought into the idea that they would allow their child to choose a faith to believe when they grew up. But what I often see in my generation and younger generations is that when parents do that, the children often don’t choose any kind of faith.


#8

It looks like CAF apologist Fr. Grondin answered your question, too:

forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=745210


#9

Wait, I am supposed to have a baptism party???

We just converted and my son is being baptized next month…


#10

It has become a custom in recent times to have baptism parties. It is a joyous event and we humans like to celebrate joyous events.

But there is absolutely no requirement to have a party. And if you do have a party it can be as big or as small as you want. It needn’t be anything more than baby, parents, and godparents going to get fast food after the baptism.


#11

So then a priest can refuse baptism? I find that odd. Also how would a priest tell parents that they aren’t serious about their faith? I would think the experience would be like walking on eggshells.

however, yes even if the parents weren’t serious the baptism is valid. A good friend of mine was born into a situation like this. Fortunately she came back to her faith and eventually fulfilled her promises of baptism on her own


#12

[quote="benjammin, post:11, topic:311327"]
So then a priest can refuse baptism? I find that odd. Also how would a priest tell parents that they aren't serious about their faith? I would think the experience would be like walking on eggshells.
Snip
fQUOTE

I would assume the priest can determine this through the meetings they have with the parents. It's sort if the same with priests refusing to marry a couple if he doesn't believe through his sessions with the couple that one or both are not ready to be married or should not marry each other. He could also recommend delaying it. With my uncle and aunt, it was quite apparent that they had no intention of bringing my cousin up Catholic, so the priest denied the baptism.

[/quote]


#13

As a member of the baptism team in my parish, I can tell you that sometimes it isn’t too hard. The parents will tell you. It may be that they tell you that they are only doing it because Grandma or Grandpa insisted or because it is just something that the family insisted on even though they haven’t been to church in years.

When I am told that, I refer the couple to the deacon who leads the ministry and, if he has doubts, will take the case to our pastor. He makes the final decision.

And yes, it does happen occasionally. Most of the time, the parents are given the benefit of doubt.

Peace

Tim


#14

I just find it kind of odd. I mean i think its okay, because being baptized is better than not being baptized. This leads me to another question though. If the parents disagree with church teaching on issues like abortion or gay marriage, can their child be refused baptism. I know you can’t predict a child’s beliefs when older, but growing up in that environment, wouldn’t they be more likely to be dissident towards the Church?


#15

We don’t ask questions like that, but if they took a public stance for those things, it is reasonable to believe that they would not raise their children in the faith and that would lead to at least a delay in baptizing their child.

I don’t make that call, but agreeing to raise the child in the faith is a requirement. No doubt there are some couples that don’t answer that question honestly, but their problem isn’t with the Church, their problem is lying to get a sacrament and having to answer to God for that.

Peace

Tim


#16

[quote="TerryOfromCA, post:1, topic:311327"]
A friend asked me about those parents who bring their children to be baptized just because it's the socially "done thing". Are such baptisms valid?

I was not sure what to say.

Part of me says YES, because for a sacrament to be valid, three things have to be present: the correct form, the correct matter, and the correct intention, and assuming the priest or deacon doing the baptizing has the right intention, it should be valid.

But part of me says possibly NO, When adults get baptized, they must have faith. Since a baby cannot have faith, they are baptized based on the faith of their parents until they reach the age of reason, at which time they are confirmed and make their faith their own. So if, say, the parents have no faith, then I am not sure what that means.

What do you guys think?

[/quote]

There is no way to judge the parents since you do not know them and you are getting this as third hand info based on the judgement of someone else. As some of the other posters have stated and quoted cannon law, really only the priest can determine if he should go ahead with the baptism since it involves a promise by the parents to raise the child in the faith. I would probably say to your friend that there is not anyway to judge the parents and their seriousness or lack there of and that needs to rest with the priest doing the sacrament and we need to learn to mind our own business and stop gossiping about the worthiness or lack there of other people in bringing their children to be baptized.


#17

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