Rural priest corners single mom

My sister has a friend, “Amy” who recently had a baby. My sister is the baby’s godmother. Without going into all the details, if the baby’s father had his way, the baby would have been aborted. Naturally, Amy wants him to have nothing to do with the baby.

Amy lives in a rural area with only one parish, and that parish has only one priest. When the baby was baptized, priest rushed through the baptism, then cornered the mother afterwards, insisting she tell him the baby’s father’s name. When she explained that the baby’s father was not part of the baby’s life, he still pressed her on the issue. This made her really uncomfortable, and Amy has not been back to church since, because she doesn’t want to see this priest. Prior to that, she had been going every Sunday.

My sister is at a loss as to what to say to Amy. She understands where Amy is coming from, but appreciates that as a godmother she should help make sure the baby is brought up in the faith. I suggested Amy should write a letter to the priest and copy it to the bishop of the area, but my sister didn’t think her friend would go along with that.

So, I promised my sister I would post the situation here and see what the wise CAF members had to say:)

Maybe the priest wanted to know for baptism records…tell her not to avoid mass,

This sounds like a storm in a teacup. The Mother is obviously very vulnerable and her situation is not good. Every Mother wants to have the support of hert child’s Father but in the circumstances she has to go it alone. What a brave and loving Mother. I am sure you are right and that the Priest’s questions must be for the purpose of records and he was not prying. He might have been more gentle and diplomatic though.

I think your sister and her friend need to sit down with the priest and talk with him. Tell him how he made her feel. Perhaps he wasn’t aware that he was bothering her, or simply wanted to know the father’s name for the baptismal records. :shrug:

This is awful.It is so sad that the priest has behaved in this manner causing this mother to feel so bad.It is not surprising she does not want to attend Mass.
She is in my prayers and her child.
Yes I think sending a letter to the priest and a copy to the Bishop/Diocese is the right way forward.
If we are to lead people to follow Jesus path in the church He established we must lead by example of love and faith. I think the priest was mistaken in his approach.
Also it is best to have both mother and father involved in a child’s life if it is at all possible.
Perhaps when emotions have calmed down and the father grows in maturity he may wish to be inbvolved in his child’s life. This is improtant for the child to feel secure and wanted as he/ she grows up in the world.

God bless you

Lord please help this mother and child.Please help this situation to be resolved.Please guide the priest involved and the mother that Your love for each of them will guide them.Thankyou Lord for hearing our prayers Amen

Memorare (Prayer to Our Lady)
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession, was left unaided.
Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto you, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother. To you do I come, before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in your mercy, hear and answer me. Amen

  • A delicate situation.

Something which is quite likely being overlooked is that the priest, apart from having an obligation, may have had everyone’s best interest at heart ; even though it doesn’t appear that way.Furthermore, at a later date, if Amy decided to seek child support, there would be a record to refer to .

Or perhaps no one is considering what might happen if the child would later wish to discover who his/her biological father was , even though emotionally, these kind of things can sometimes turn out to be a “storm in a BIG teacup” . . . or worse. I think the child would still be entitled to this information about his/her own parents if he/she sought it.

Assuming all the facts are accurate, consider the priest’s position a moment: The only proof he has to go on that the father has absolutely no wish to accept any responsibility at all for the child , is the mother’s wish that the father have absolutely nothing to do with her and with their child-

The easiest way to verify what she is saying, would be to speak to the father – without coercing him in any way. It is possible that the bishop might wish to do the same thing only to substantiate or to answer what are reasonable questions.

If Amy doesn’t want the father around at all, that’s one thing (and more than understandable if he’d tried to get her to abort their child in the beginning - that’s an emotional hell for the mother). But how can a mother arbitrarily decide that the father totally and exclusively “is not part of the baby’s life”, at (the very) least biologically ? A fact is a fact. It appears, judging by the information available that the parish is only interested in the biological fact of fatherhood for their records ; but that Amy feels disclosing this information might/would somehow serve to draw the father into the situation.

People change and situations change, especially

In the realm of situational ethics, canon law is not exclusively cut and dry . But it provides the best guidelines and principles to help us orient our moral decisions and to understand our moral obligations. It is somewhat difficult to say what canon law recommends in this case due to the lack of availability of information . But it isn’t always required in every case, depending on related factors, to inscribe the name of the child’s father in Baptismal Records. Here is the most pertinent canon (877 §2 highlights mine)

Can. 877 §1. The pastor of the place where the baptism is celebrated must carefully and without any delay record in the baptismal register the names of the baptized, with mention made of the minister, parents, sponsors, witnesses, if any, the place and date of the conferral of the baptism, and the date and place of birth.

§2. If it concerns a child born to an unmarried mother, the name of the mother must be inserted, if her maternity is established publicly or if she seeks it willingly in writing or before two witnesses. Moreover, the name of the father must be inscribed if a public document or his own declaration before the pastor and two witnesses proves his paternity; in other cases, the name of the baptized is inscribed with no mention of the name of the father or the parents

More on Baptism and Canon Law at this link

Maybe someone with expertise in the legal medical field could weigh in here. Isn’t a person required at a hospital where they give birth - to also provide the name of the father of the child for their medical records ? If so, I believe that medical record constitutes a public document. If such a document exists bearing the father’s name, then according to Can. 877 §2 , the name of the father must be inscribed in the Baptismal record as well. The pastor of the place where the child was baptized would seem bound to try and fulfill that obligation.

Imagine for a moment, if you will, what kind of a mess there would be if everyone kept incomplete and/or sloppy records of births and incomplete records of Baptism.

Hope this helps. . . praying for Amy and her child.

I guess the issue here is that it appears the priest gave no explanation of why he demanded to know the father’s name - no explanation is given in the first posting, and so therefore everyone is simply guessing as to why the priest wanted to know these details. Basically, unless the priest explains to the mother that he has a right & a need to know and explains why he has this right/need, in a respectful way, then the mother would be entitled to think that his questioning if appearing demanding, was an invasion of her privacy.

Judging by the Canon Law extract above, the priest need only know the name of the father if that father’s name is already on the child’s birth certificate or the father has acknowledged the child. If there’s no mention on the birth certificate, then unless the father has personally acknowledged paternity to the priest in front of witnesses, then the priest should not be entering the name on the records.

It sounds to me like the priest was clumsy in his dealings with Amy, but that he wasn’t being deliberately hurtful even if the effect he had on Amy had that unfortunate result.

I would strongly counsel her to go back to church and talk to the priest. If baby’s father isn’t mentioned on the birth certificate she’s in the right. If he is, then she ought to fill out the record correctly. In any case, baby may grow up and independently want to seek out his or her father at some point, and it would be deeply painful to that child if he/she was prevented from doing so by Amy because of her distaste for the father.

I’m just curious as to why this wasn’t covered when she talked to the priest about having the baby baptized. As for why he wanted to know, I’m sure the busybodies have told the priest all kinds of stories about who the father is.

As for being uncomfortable, this is only the beginning. She has a whole life of this coming.


Dear Father ____,

I desire to resume Mass attendance at [parish]. However, your questioning me after [child’s] baptism made me uncomfortable. Please advise whether I may resume Mass attendance at [parish] without further related questions.


If thinks he has a valid reason for such questioning, then he should explain in replying to this letter.

In any event, staying away from Mass is not a valid option. If there proves to be an impasse with this priest after a some communication like I suggested in my previous post, then she either needs to find another parish or take it up with the bishop.

Keep us posted regarding how it progresses.

She was probably afraid the priest would attempt to contact the father or his family, pressuring for a “reunion.” Or maybe she does not feel he deserves any recognition as a parent. She might be right. She probably never wants to see nor hear from him again, especially since he attempted to get her to kill her child. This is none of the priest’s business, and if he only needed a name for clerical reasons, he should have said so. Amy probably feels vulnerable enough without someone hassling her to divulge private information. If I were your sister, I would speak to the priest and let him know that his actions upset her friend so much that she’s been skipping church and that he needs to call her, apologize, and invite her back to Mass with a promise of respecting her privacy.

It seems to me this is a rather one-sided, slanted accounting of the events with many assumptions and few facts.

“rural priest corners single mom”… what an inflammatory title. You make other statements such as he “rushed” through the baptism and he “cornered her” and then he “pressed the issue”.

And moreover, this is all a second hand tale from your sister.

I really think it is uncharitable to be casting such uncharitable aspersions on a priest without any facts.

What you should do, if asked, is encourage these people to sit down and **talk **with their pastor and clear up any misunderstanding.

Dear Amy:

Get over it.

Sincerely Father_________

I’ve noticed may feel the Church should bend over backwards to accomodate their feelings and should just be over joyed that they show up for mass once in the while. If Amy thinks the priests was bad wait until she deals with the rest of the world.

Sam, no priest I have ever deal with would send such a message. I agree that we are lacking all the facts to know exactly what went on in this case however as others have pointed out, I can imagine a priest approaching the matter in a clumsy manner but I really do think the advice that the young lady should talk to the priest and clear the air as been the best advice rather than rushing to involve the Bishop. The old adage of solving problems at the lowest level possible is generally useful I have always found.

Most priests I know wouldn’t either (although I know a few that would with no problem at all) but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t. Threatening to “withhold” mass attendance is hardly a bargaining position to take with a priest.

As I said the matter of parenthood would have/should have been talked about when the baptism was arranged. If it wasn’t disclosed, or outright lied about it would explain why the priest was wondering what the deal was.

On the baby’s birth certificate, the father was listed as “unknown.” I agree that the priest probably wanted to know who the father was for the baptismal records, but failed to approach it in a tactful way.

She is not so much “withholding Mass attendance” as avoiding that particular priest, who happens to be the only priest in the area. If she lived in a city with 5+ parishes like I do, she would just have started attending Mass elsewhere.

I’ve noticed ma[n]y feel the Church should bend over backwards to accommodate their feelings and should just be over joyed that they show up for mass once in the while.

I agree that we should not compromise our values to “keep the pews filled,” however, we also need to have room for those souls who are struggling and in the beginning stages of conversion.

I was responding to the suggested note, not at what the person has actually done.

So she put “father unknown”, even though he is known? If that was revealed at the baptism by someone that didn’t know it was a secret being kept from the priest I could see why it led to a very awkward moment for the mother - as it probably should have.

This. Since the child’s mother has not only stopped attending Mass in the priest’s parish, but has stopped attending altogether, it is not out of place for the child’s godmother to talk to the priest about the situation on her own accord, if only to get advice about how to best help her friend. If this priest does not give her a helpful answer, then she can consult with another one.

It is far better that the mother do it, but the mother made it her friend’s business when she named her friend the godmother of her child. The main thing is for the child’s mother to have a good relationship with the Body of Christ, so that the child will have the religious upbringing that is his or her birthright, by virtue of the mother’s choice in favor of infant baptism. Still, it is not out of place for the godmother to make certain that all of the t’s were crossed and i’s dotted with regards to her godchild’s baptism.

Augustine had a child out of wedlock

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