Who can be baptized?

When my brother (raised Catholic) and sister-in-law (raised Lutheran) were foster parents, they had a desire to have the baby they were fostering baptized. She had a very uncertain future with a drug addicted mom and no identified father and most likely would be tossed from one foster family to another. They wanted to be her god-parents with the intent of honoring that role throughout the child’s life. Their parish priest refused to baptize the baby so they took her to the Lutheran church where she was baptized and welcomed into the family of God. As events played out, my brother and his wife were able to adopt this baby who is now 4 years old. The family now identifies the Lutheran Church as their spiritual home.
In my understanding of the sacrament of Baptism, I can find no logical reason why the priest denied this baby a baptism. Your thoughts?

Code of Canon Law:

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.

For a child to be baptized two things are necessary: 1. the parents or guardians consent/permit the baptism; 2. that there is a “founded hope” the child will actually be raised Catholic.

In the situation you describe they were only temporary guardians at the time and there was no basis for thinking that they child would be likely to be raised Catholic since the child might have either been returned to the birth parents or been adopted by a non-Catholic (or even non-Christian) family.

If the birth parents’ legal rights had not been terminated then it would have been a violation of their rights under natural law to baptize their child without their consent. Granted that this is a very difficult situation but, based on what you have written, your brother and his wife did not actually have custody at the time they requested baptism. This leads us to the second part, the sacrament of baptism presupposes being raised in the Catholic faith. The child could have ended up being adopted into a home of a family that is Protestant, Jewish, or another religion. And if the child was " tossed from one foster family to another" there was zero probability that your brother and his wife would have been permitted any meaningful time with the child despite their best intentions.

The two requirements for the baptism of a child were missing and therefore the priest was right to not baptize at that time. Perhaps he could have better explained that the baptism would need to be delayed until those two issues could be resolved but he did do the right thing according to the laws of the Church.

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