To Attend or Not? "Infant" Baptisim in Lutheran Church


My brother’s significant other just invited me, my husband, and our small children to witness the Baptisim of their 1yr old son in a Lutheran church. I believe the Baptisim will be valid (presuming the correct form is used), but am concerned about what message we would send to my brother, his SO, our children, and other Catholic and non-Catholic family members were we (devout Catholics) to attend or not.

I’m particularly concerned because my brother was raised Catholic but is no longer practicing, and my brother is living with his SO. We don’t want to imply that everything is fine, and don’t want to send confusing messages to our children, but do think it’s good that the 1yr old is being validly Baptised somewhere.

Any thoughts, considerations, or advice would be appreciated.


My advice is that you seperate the problems.
You are the brother of a fallen away Catholic. Its sad, and I think you could and should
talk to him about what he is doing. However, on the day of the baptism, focus on the little boy who will indeed have a valid baptism. (I had this same baptism). It is his day, no one else’s, and his situation does not differ from many other Catholic children whose parents -married or not - go and get their children baptised but don’t have a living faith to pass on to their children.


By attending a baptism, marriage or other religious service, you are participating in the action. There are ways of non-participation, especially if you are say a police officer and a fellow officer is killed and you attend his funeral along with the other officers. Then it's like a duty and it might be scandalous if you didn't attend, people might think you were being cold.

But you cannot attend a wedding you know to be invalid (such as a remarriage after divorce) or non-Catholic (certain passive attendance excepted, as above).

Nor can you attend a baptism of someone for the same reason. Remember, there is no Lutheran baptism or Presbyterian baptism or Calvinist baptism -- it's all just Catholic baptism, done outside of the Church. Thus there are two problems. The first is that any Sacrament which is celebrated outside of the Church is intrinsically a sacrilege. The second is that baptism creates an obligation to explicit Faith. We baptize adults after we catechize them, we baptize babies before we catechize them, but catechesis is important either way. By being baptized, that child now has a right to be educated in the Catholic Faith. This is why the priest will (or rather, should) not baptize a baby if the parents are not licitly married, practicing Catholics (or, in a mixed marriage, that they promise to raise the child Catholic). He doesn't just go through the neonatal unit at the hospital baptizing random children, it would seem that this is a good thing (since if they die before they commit their first mortal sin, they will go straight to Heaven rather than to Limbo), but it is actually wrong to do so because it is a violation of the rights of the parent about whether or not to baptize their child and it is also setting up the child to have his or or her rights violated if they are not raised in the Catholic Faith -- it creates a debt that may not be fulfilled.

[quote=Summa, IIIa, q.69, a.6]As Augustine says (Serm. clxxvi): "Mother Church lends other feet to the little children that they may come; another heart that they may believe; another tongue that they may confess." So that children believe, not by their own act, but by the faith of the Church, which is applied to them: by the power of which faith, grace and virtues are bestowed on them.

[quote=Summa, IIIa, q.70, a.1]Baptism is called the Sacrament of Faith; in so far, to wit, as in Baptism man makes a profession of faith, and by Baptism is aggregated to the congregation of the faithful.

[quote=Summa, IIIa, q.71, a.1]Just as Mother Church, as stated above (69, 6, ad 3), lends children another's feet that they may come, and another's heart that they may believe, so, too, she lends them another's ears, that they may hear, and another's mind, that through others they may be taught. And therefore, as they are to be baptized, on the same grounds they are to be instructed.
He who answers in the child's stead: "I do believe," does not foretell that the child will believe when it comes to the right age, else he would say: "He will believe"; but in the child's stead he professes the Church's faith which is communicated to that child, the sacrament of which faith is bestowed on it, and to which faith he is bound by another. For there is nothing unfitting in a person being bound by another in things necessary for salvation. In like manner the sponsor, in answering for the child, promises to use his endeavors that the child may believe. This, however, would not be sufficient in the case of adults having the use of reason.

When Baptism begins, the priest asks the godparents, "What do you ask of the Church of God?" and they reply "Faith." There is an obligation created for them to teach the child the true Faith, if they teach him false things (as in Lutheranism or other non-Catholic religions), they are not guilty of sinning against him, by violating his right of baptism to be educated in the true Faith.

Thus, by attending a non-Catholic baptism, you are condoning this sin of sacrilege and the sin which will come if they do not raise the child in the Catholic Faith. In short, you should never attend non-Catholic worship, especially actively participating (that is, apart from a merely material presence) at a Sacrament, such as marriage or baptism (or the mockery of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which is Protestant communion). There are rare instances when a merely material presence at non-Catholic worship can be tolerated but this is probably not one of those instances (depending on what kind of message and chaos in your family not attending.

My sister is getting "married" again (she just got divorced and her fiancee and father to her most recent child is also divorced) and I have no intention of attending the wedding. I love my sister, I watch her children, I love the new baby for his own sake, but I know it would be offensive to God to attend her new "wedding" and so I cannot go (and yes, that applies to the reception, wedding presents, etc.). We shall see what happens when I do not go, our relationship with God is more important than our relationship with our family. Christ said, "He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me." (Mt 10:37).

But you can show your brother that you love him by praying and making sacrifices for him and his family, that they may come to/back to the Catholic Faith. This is a greater love than confirming them in their sin by attending the baptism. And you should explain to them why you are morally unable to attend, because they are not Catholic, rather than making some excuse why you can't go.


You are right. The Catholic Church will recognise the child’s baptism provided the right form is used. I think Grace has given you the right advice. The child is innocent. Who of us is without sin and attending the baptism is not about condoning sin. My view is that your children may be too little to discuss the issues. Speaking to your brother about his choices and making clear that you do not support some of them and attending the service will just show your love and concern for him.

BTW the existence of limbo is not part of the doctrine of the Cathoic Church.


No by itself it would not be wrong to attend the baptism of the child of non-Catholic parents in a non-Catholic Church. Your dilemma is the same as it will be if your Catholic girl does marry this girl outside the Catholic Church. How “not any longer Catholic” is he, is the key. It is called formal defection, not that common. I would look at the AAA answers on going to weddings in these circs.

Bear in mind the baptism itself is valid, nothing the parents are doing or not doing affects the status of the child or the validity of the baptism, so it is your personal prudential judgment on whether to attend. My experience is that whatever “message” you think you are sending by your action, those involved will not interpret it in that light.


As others have said, a Lutheran baptism is considered valid in the Catholic church. (When I converted from Lutheran to Catholic, I did not need to be re-baptized.) My opinion is that attending the baptism shows your support for the child’s Christian baptism. Condoning this right, does not condone the wrong that he and his girlfriend are committing by living together unmarried. If it were me, I would attend the baptism.


Remember we share Baptism with the other Protestant faiths (assuming Trinitarian formula) - in this case be there - stay open to the family - maybe eventually your brother may come back to the fullness of the Faith and bring the rest of his family with him.


Just go. Don't make a big deal out of it.


I don’t see any reason hear to no go.

I tend to go with wether the event is valid in the Catholic Church or not.

I would not go to a Lutheran church and take part in their “communion” because it isn’t valid is down plays the seriousness of the Eucharist. Not to mention they do not believe in transubstantiation.

However, a Luthern baptism is valid under the Catholic Church law so I find no reason to boycott it. If it takes place during a service that has communion simply don’t take part in the communion.


The baptism will be valid but the child will not be Catholic. The father is neglecting his duty to raise his child in the faith. If he ever wanted his child to receive the other sacraments (like the Eucharist), the child would actually have to convert to Catholicism. Perhaps this is unlikely, given the fact that he doesn't practice, but it is worth knowing. You could attend as an observer, but you do have the issue of your attendance indicating approval to him or to other people watching. And it's tricky, because if I were in your shoes, I would approve of the child being baptized rather than not, but I wouldn't approve of the child not being Catholic. The fact that you have small children makes it an easier decision for me. Attendance at the baptism will be confusing for them. They will get the impression that everything that is going on is a good thing, and this will eventually lead them to consider that perhaps it ISN'T a big deal to raise your kids another religion, or that there isn't really a difference between the two. They are probably too young to understand the nuances of your partial approval of the situation. While one instance might not make or break your child's faith, it is possible that it could have a strong influence on how they think about these topics in the future when they get older. Because of this, I would definitely not bring any children older than toddlers to the baptism. While one option would be to go without the children, I would probably not go at all, and explain why to your brother. But I would buy a religious baptismal gift for the baby as a way of supporting the faith of the child.


[quote="Apologist_WanaB, post:1, topic:237642"]
My brother's significant other just invited me, my husband, and our small children to witness the Baptisim of their 1yr old son in a Lutheran church. I believe the Baptisim will be valid (presuming the correct form is used), but am concerned about what message we would send to my brother, his SO, our children, and other Catholic and non-Catholic family members were we (devout Catholics) to attend or not.

I'm particularly concerned because my brother was raised Catholic but is no longer practicing, and my brother is living with his SO. We don't want to imply that everything is fine, and don't want to send confusing messages to our children, but do think it's good that the 1yr old is being validly Baptised somewhere.

Any thoughts, considerations, or advice would be appreciated.


I'm assuming that the girlfriend is not Catholic. She has every right to raise her child in the religion of her choice, even the Catholic Church recognizes that.

Rejoice that she wants to have the baby baptized and be hopeful that he'll be raised with the Lutheran religion by her rather than no religion by your brother. Perhaps one day he'll come into full communion. Until then, pray for him.


When it comes to marriage, formal defection is no longer a way to be able to marry validly outside the Church.

As for the Baptism, the Catholic Church acknowledges that the non-Catholic may well feel an obligation to raise his/her child in his/her own religion (Principles and Norms on Ecumenism #150 & 151) and *“In carrying out this duty of transmitting the Catholic faith to the children, the Catholic parent will do so with respect for the religious freedom and conscience of the other parent and with due regard for the unity and permanence of the marriage and for the maintenance of the communion of the family.”
Obviously here permanence of the marriage is not at issue since there is no marriage. Who knows where those two will be in 10 years.



They chose life.

Support them.


I would go to the baptism, but I would not take my young children to any celebration afterwards if held at the place where your brother is living with his girlfriend. I make it a point not to bring my children to the homes of people who are “shacking up”. I have a much bigger issue with your brother’s other actions, but given his other actions, it seems that baptism of this child and involvement in the child’s life is a step in the right direction. Since your brother has not married the mother of his child, even if he wanted his child baptized Catholic, he might have a hard time getting the baby baptized Catholic if the child’s mother didn’t agree to it.


I would go to the baptism, You can talk to your brother with compassion and charity about why you think he should return to Catholicism, why he should be married, why he should baptize the child as a Catholic, but do it with charity . You have to take people where they are and try to move them forward step by slow step. At least he is baptizing the child. That is a step in the right direction. I don;t mean you should not express your views on this but please do so with kindness and charity, and be sure you know the reasons and can explain, but do it with love and charity. I frequently see much judgmental, prideful finger wagging out of Catholics , and I feel it is counter productive, and I think by not going that is essentially the way you are going to come across. Your brother knows your views, and knows you are a devout Catholic. . Be happy for the child that he/ she is at least going to be baptized. I know I am going to have a lot of you telling me I am wrong on this , and you should not attend, but I am sorry to say the attitude I am describing is quite common in my view, even by many who don;t seem aware that they are coming across in that way , and I honestly feel it drives many away.


Contrary to what some of the "leagalists" on this forum attempt to teach, the Church does not in any way prohibit our attendance at religious services in other churches.

So long as you are not a God-Parent, or directly participating in the ritual itself, there is absolutely no problem at all.

It it were sinful to attend a religious service in a Non-Catholic Church, then Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and many other leaders of our Church would be in a state of mortal sin. They attended services, and even participated in them, at many Protestant Churches, Jewish Synagogs, Muslim services, etc., etc. Benedict XVI even participated in "Evensong" (what we call Vespers) at Westminster Abbey.

Your sister-in-law is a Lutheran, so it is appropriate, from her point of view, to have her child baptized in her church. Go, give the baby a present and enjoy the party. There is absolutely no problem at all with this.

If you do not believe this is the case, discuss it with your Pastor.



I was raised Lutheran and joined the Catholic Church through RCIA. My baptism was recognized as valid. Support the good choices they make and sometime later, not the day of, try to talk to your brother about his faith. Let him know that you care. Leave the rest to God.


I should correct myself a bit - or maybe mitigate my answer. I said earlier that the father is neglecting his duty to raise his children as Catholics. And while I believe that the duty is there, because he is not married, he never did make a vow to that effect. Perhaps that makes it easier to go to the baptism than if he was specifically disregarding a promise he made.

This is why cohabiting is so complicated.

It is true that they “chose life” in the sense that all parents do, but we don’t know if the pregnancy was unintended. It is possible that they planned to get pregnant all along, and that this is not the type of “choose life” situation that means the same as in the case of a couple that was actually at risk for abortion.

Also, a Catholic parent has a duty to raise his child Catholic. But he never makes that promise until his marriage - for a reason of course. And it’s not that the lack of a vow eliminates your responsibility, but it does raise the question about the level of neglect. Then there is the issue that the parents aren’t actually bonded together, and never officially made any agreement about raising the children (as they are required to do at a Catholic wedding). So in a “her body/her choice” world, can an unmarried father really expect to be the one allowed to choose the religion for his kids? Really, it’s very sad. The neglect may not be so much in the baptizing at the wrong church as the unwillingness to give your children married parents. And I’m not ok with a world that gives mothers all the say and treats fathers (especially the unmarried ones) as less than equal. But that is the situation and the baby is here, stuck in this situation.

So I guess I would change my answer to have a little more sympathy for the father in terms of the decision not to baptize Catholic. I would still not bring my young children to the event though, as the whole situation is very complex and may send too many mixed signals about what is right or even just what is normal. I think I would go myself though, and express joy and support of the faith that is being given on the part of the mother, and express love for this little child who might very well appreciate a faithful, stable aunt/uncle in his/her life in the future.


I agree. If they were married and had made the promise to raise the children Catholic, and then attended a Lutheran Church and wanted to raise the child Lutheran, it might not be a good idea to attend. It would almost justify their actions. However, where they aren’t married, they never made that promise, so it is good that they are baptising the child to bring him into Christ’s family and wash away his original sin. I would assume a Lutheran baptism would be almost identical to Catholic (where Martin Luther was a Catholic priest before he broke away), so the baptism would be considered valid.


As a Lutheran married to a Catholic, whose children are all being baptized Lutheran, I can personally tell you the Catholic Church recognizes Lutheran baptisms, this is from both of my husbands priests. They are not thrilled the kids aren’t going to be raised Catholic, but also recognize that my husband returned to his faith after marriage and forcing the issue is not an option.

Your brother has fallen away from your church, and is SO is not living in accordance with hers either. However, those are sins that they are committing not your nephew. Be glad that at least they are not compounding the situation by not baptizing their child. Go to the ceremony, to not go will just alienate your brother and his SO more.

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