Who Can be Baptized as an Adult?

When my son’s girlfriend became pregnant 2-1/2yrs. ago, she attended RCIA classes, admittedly intermittently. She barely knew who God was at the time, and found our practices very foreign and strange. However, my grandson was baptized in the catholic faith, even though our parish priest refused to baptize his mother-saying she wasn’t “serious” enough, and wasn’t making an “informed decision” to be baptized or to enter into marriage. Of course, this basically prevented them from a Catholic marriage. She was only 19 years old at the time. As a result, she felt looked down upon by the pastor and the deacon, and has been pulling my son away from his faith ever since. At first I was allowed to take my grandson to Mass on Sundays, but about a year ago she started going to what I call, “feel good” churches, and would more and more tell me my grandson was going with her and could not go with me. My son has been going along to keep peace in his household. She has threatened to take his son away from him on more than one occasion. Now they have announced another pregnancy, as well as telling me my grandson will not be going to Mass at all. My son has told her his son cannot go to these other churches recently, so she believes she has the right to keep him from the Catholic Church as well. My son has resorted to reading scripture at home with her and his son, and says he thinks she will eventually “come around”. I do not believe that at all. I am able to take my grandson with me at almost any other time, but am afraid to teach him any prayers, etc. for fear of alienating his mother. They are still no tmarried. My heart is broken, and I am praying constantly for help and guidance for us all.

I thought baptism was for anyone to merely ask for, and I can’t help thinking if only the pastor had been less judgemental none of this would be happening to our family.

In defense of the parish priest it doesn’t sound as if this young woman was ready to convert and be baptized. Baptism is not something to be taken lightly:

Can. 865 §1. For an adult to be baptized, the person must have manifested the intention to receive baptism, have been instructed sufficiently about the truths of the faith and Christian obligations, and have been tested in the Christian life through the catechumenate. The adult is also to be urged to have sorrow for personal sins.

You say that she “attended RCIA classes, admittedly intermittently. She barely knew who God was at the time, and found our practices very foreign and strange.” Based the description you have given I find it difficult to consider her to have fulfilled the canon quoted above in any meaningful way. Unless these barriers were visibly overcome then the priest had every reason to delay her baptism for more instruction.

As for marriage, I fail to see how this would have prevented a marriage in the Church. Catholics marry unbaptized persons in the Church all the time. The only obstacle to a marriage would have been if she manifested beliefs about marriage that were contradictory to the Catholic understanding of the essentials of marriage.

The other thing to consider is that she was 19 at the time and now is only in her early 20’s. Young adults in that age group (*both *men and women) can sometimes lack maturity and bigger picture understanding. She may be being overly sensitive to what has taken place. The priest simply challenged her commitment to becoming a Catholic and she has responded by essentially acting out his objections.

If she has indeed “threatened to take his son away from him” then there are deeper issues taking place than a simple matter of religious conflict. That’s not how mature adults who have a child together handle relatively simple conflicts. If they are going to have any chance at making a marriage work they need to commit themselves to communication, team work, and conflict resolution in a mature and responsible manner.

Perhaps your son is correct that she just needs some time and space to think in order to “come around” and gain some maturity with age. But, as I said, I think there are other more fundamental relationship issues at play than the attitude of the parish they dealt with. Her reaction to the situation at the parish does not seem proportional. Perhaps the priest could have handled the situation with more pastoral care and patience but I have sneaky suspicion that this type of disproportionate reaction would have simply reared its head in another situation.

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