Refusing Catholic Baptism

Is it right for a parish priest to refuse a baptism in the church if the baby’s mother and father were not married when they had the baby? If so, could you please show proof?

There is nothing that says that the child of non-married parents may not be baptized but the priest has the right, nay the obligation, to “DELAY” the baptism of any child he does not have a founded hope will be raised as a Catholic.

He may well feel that their having conceived a child together and still not being married shows a disregard for the Faith which is likely to mean that the child will NOT be raised in the Faith.

The priest can’t refuse based on the parents’ marital status at the time of the baby’s birth; the Catholic Church doesn’t have rules about “illegitimate children” (an oxymoron in the Church’s eyes).

BUT the priest might have legitimately delayed the baptism if he thought there is little likelihood of the child being raised Catholic:

Can. 868 §1. For an infant to be baptized licitly:

1/ the parents or at least one of them or the person who legitimately takes their place must consent;

2/ there must be a founded hope that the infant will be brought up in the Catholic religion; if such hope is altogether lacking, the baptism is to be delayed according to the prescripts of particular law after the parents have been advised about the reason.

Code of Canon Law, Canon 868, Section 1.

We’re speculating, of course, because we don’t know the facts; but this is the most likely scenario I can think of.

When parents request baptism for their child the priest will usually have a talk with them - particularly if they are not known to him.

He may discover that not only are the parents not married to each other, but they do not come to Mass on any regular basis. They may be living together, and there may even be other indications that they are not practicing Catholics.

If they are not practicing Catholics, there is not much likelihood that their child will be brought up in the Faith. The priest must, under such circumstances, delay the baptism. Hopefully the parents will straighten out their lives and return to the practice of the faith, at which time the priest will be most willing to baptize their child.

That is itself not a good measure. Personally those not Married before finding out the thay are pregnant, should not Marry until the child is at least a year or two old. To insure that they are NOT entering Marriage BECAUSE of the child, but for the right reasons.

The practicing Catholic of the child should speak with their pastor about presenting their child for Baptism. The practicing part is the key.

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