Baptize but Be Discreet: On the Catholic Baptism of children presented by homosexual and other irregular parents

062914There has been some interesting coverage in the news recently regarding the Church’s stance on baptizing children conceived or reared in irregular situations.

In recent decades there has been an explosion in the number of children conceived and born outside of Holy Matrimony. The general approach of the Church has been to baptize these children as long as there is no evidence of an ongoing rejection of the Church teaching that sexual intimacy is reserved for marriage. While people may have fallen in weakness, the presumption was that they at least accepted the norm and were going to try to live by it.

If the “couple” in question were living together outside of marriage, the baptism was handled discreetly and the couple was counseled to cease fornication.

It is not certain that every pastor admonished couples as he should but this was (and is) the general policy.

Enter the new and ever more frequent problem of same sex “couples” presenting a child for baptism, and now the stakes get higher. Why? Because of the visibility of the sin involved. At the baptism ceremony, one can at least presume that a single mother has repented of fornication. But it is hard to presume that a homosexual “couple” living together openly, in a culture that has suddenly decided to “celebrate” their “lifestyle,” is making a similar admission of the wrongness of their past behavior. It is also difficult to presume that many who attend the baptism have clarity on the aberrance of homosexual acts.

Thus the Church finds herself in a deeper quandary regarding how to baptize children being brought up in irregular situations that are far more public, situations that bespeak acceptance and even celebration of something the Church must oppose.

Discretion is the operative word. We still have every reason try to baptize children in these irregular situations; after all, it is not the fault of the child. However we must balance the common good of avoiding scandal with the individual good of each child by seeking to handle these baptisms discreetly, giving no opportunity for public confusion regarding what we must reasonably and biblically oppose (same-sex unions).

Here are some excerpts from an article that was in the Washington Post this past Saturday along with my comments in plain red text. (The full text of the article is here: New Battleground?.)

… Catholic leaders have carefully, if quietly, avoided doing anything to block gay couples from having their children baptized … And this is for the good of the child, who is not guilty of the sins of parents, guardians, or caretakers. It is not to be seen as an affirmation of the sins of the adults involved, whether this be due to homosexual acts, fornication, or adultery.

The default position for most bishops … is that if the parents pledge to raise the child Catholic, then no girl or boy should be refused baptism.

They generally let parish priests make the final call and let them administer the sacrament, though it is usually done in a private ceremony with the biological parent—not the adoptive mother or father—listed on the baptismal certificate.

The honest truth is that most priests have been so inundated by single mothers that we no longer handle the baptism of such children discreetly (as was done decades ago), but have held such baptisms publicly, and often alongside the baptisms of properly married parents. This must likely be reexamined. We have fallen prey to the normalization of fornication in our culture. And while not every priest has done so, it must be admitted that we have not properly distinguished between what ought to be discreet (because of the behavior of the parents) and what can be publicly celebrated. However, one was still able to presume the possibility that the parents had repented of fornication and were now living properly. This is often not the case with so called homosexual “couples” who often (but not always) wish to live in very public opposition to Church teaching.

[But a] new debate was prompted by the emergence of a memo—first reported by the Wisconsin State Journal—that was sent in early May to priests of the Madison Diocese by the top aide to Bishop Robert Morlino. In the memo, the vicar general of the diocese, Monsignor James Bartylla, says there are “a plethora of difficulties, challenges, and considerations associated with these unnatural unions (including scandal) linked with the baptism of a child, and such considerations touch upon theology, canon law, pastoral approach, liturgical adaptation, and sacramental recording.

Yes, they are unnatural unions and present a host of difficulties to us. Even in the “single mother” scenarios that have recently troubled us, comes the listing of a “father” who is often absent or sometimes even unknown. I have often had to struggle with a woman who either did not want to disclose the father or did not even know who the father was.  There is always the option of writing Pater ignotus (father unknown) in the baptismal register, but it is generally desirable to indicate the biological father if he can be known. But at least the mother was known. Members of so called “gay” couples do not fit on either line. Which do we list? Who is the father? Who is the mother? It’s a mess. Further, the rites call for a blessing for mother and father. What do we do? What do we say? Its a mess, a big mess. 

Bartylla says that pastors must now coordinate any decision on baptizing the children of gay couples with his office and that “each case must be evaluated individually.” And this makes sense. When you’ve got a mess, and this is a real mess, it makes sense to adopt a uniform policy. If there are 100+ parishes in a diocese, there should not be 100+ policies in a matter as serious as this. The Bishop, who is chief legislator and liturgist, ought to set the norms.

A spokesman for the Madison Diocese, Brent King, said … “We want everyone to receive this most important sacrament, and we are dealing with this sensitive matter prudently, for the child’s sake and the integrity of this most sacred sacrament,” wrote King. Yes, we want to baptize every child we can. This mess is not their fault. But we have to do so in ways that protect  the common good by avoid scandal and confusion.

Officials at the USCCB said these decisions are left to local church leaders, and indicated there are no plans to formulate a national directive beyond the guidance offered in a 2006 statement on ministering to gay people. That document says that baptizing the children of gay parents is “a serious pastoral concern” but that the church should not refuse them access to the sacrament. OK, good, but I suspect that some national norms are going to be needed as well.

Since the bishops passed that document, however, an ongoing wave of victories for same-sex marriage advocates has continued to push the issue into the public arena. As more gay Catholics can marry, and can be open about their relationship, more gay couples may be presenting their children for baptism.

Exactly. What was once an abstract, even theoretical problem is now becoming more widespread. Further, the homosexual extremists are looking to embarrass us, to set us up. We need to consider carefully a way forward that respects our traditions, but does not give any credence to their unnatural unions.

“The question with gay couples is whether their opposition to the church’s teaching on marriage means that they do not in fact intend to raise the child in the faith,” said Rita Ferrone, the author of several books about liturgy and a consultant to U.S. dioceses on liturgical matters. “Gay parents may or may not be ideologically opposed to church teaching, but chances are they do not merely disobey but also reject the various norms they have transgressed,” Ferrone said.

Sadly, these days the presumption is that many people, even beyond the “gay” community itself, not only approve of but even brazenly celebrate what God calls sin and abomination. Thus our presumption of good will is difficult to maintain.  Our operative presumption must become that we are being set up and pressured to approve what God does not approve. 

DeBernardo said the problem with a policy that focuses specifically on gay parents is that it “stigmatizes lesbian and gay couples as being more suspect than any other parents.” Sadly, though, many if not most gay parents want to live their sin publicly. It is not fair to ask us to be silent; we cannot do so.

“It is very likely that no parents that present a child for baptism are perfectly following all church rules,” he said. “Why single out only lesbian and gay parents for further scrutiny?” OK, but again the operative point is the public nature of the sin and the scandal given by its public nature. Some sins are just more obvious and public than others.

Countering any trend to curb baptisms, however, is the long-standing presumption, in church teaching and among even conservative church leaders, that no child should be denied baptism.

And herein lies the delicate balance: the good of the child vs. the common good to avoid scandal. The key going forward is discretion. More baptisms than in the past are going to need to be celebrated privately, in the presence only of the immediate family (i.e., parents or guardians and godparents). This will need to include fornicators and other irregular parents. We have become too lax and must now apply a norm consistently that has been poorly applied in the past.

And thus the bottom line seems clear: baptize these children, but do so discreetly. Further, we ought to regain more discretion as to how we baptize children in other irregular situations. The common good and the individual good of the children can and should be balanced, but they are not mutually exclusive.

92 Replies to “Baptize but Be Discreet: On the Catholic Baptism of children presented by homosexual and other irregular parents”

  1. I agree with you, Msgr, completely. Discretion is the operative word. However, a “national policy” from USCCB needs to be put out so that there is some uniformity and standard in how such matters must be handled. A very touchy and sensitive situation without a doubt, and it deserves the utmost of care and love for all.

  2. I think in registering the parents of a child from homosexual parents, the priests should just write parents unknown for the sake of that child, baptism should be administered to the child. but homosexuality is a complete mess. may God help his Church in this trial period .

  3. No, no, no. Are there baptisms of children from divorced parents or out of Faith couples? Want to enjoy the comforts of the church then conform with the teachings of the Church. It will end up undermining the entire effort. Marriages will be next. Give and inch and expect to lose a mile.

    1. Have to agree here. It is not reasonable to presume good faith in 2014. Every fornicator and homosexual knows the Catholic Church is the last bastion of real marriage and sexual morality. This excessive erring on the side of charity and presuming good will got us the current situation. The church appears weak, ripe to cave on these issues. They wouldn’t dare take their kids to a mosque for a comparable rite.

      Even if a homosexual is encountered who puts on a good show that they were ignorant of church teachings, then it would be clear that they had no ability to raise a child catholic.

      You then need to consider the likely outcome of the child being baptized but not being raised catholic. Because they are baptized, is it not fair to assume they become even more culpable for their sins as they are raised to be apostates? I have to believe an unbaptized person has a greater claim to ignorance than a baptized one. But what do I know? 🙂

      1. But the Church has always erred on the side of charity when it comes to baptism. Look at the example of St. Francis Xavier, who at best imparted on many of his converts the mere rudiments of the Faith. If we do not presume good faith, that’s going to make it nearly impossible to baptise any child born out of wedlock whose parents so much as know each other, and I don’t mean the biblical sense.

        Also, incthe case you describe, there are factors which at the very least mitigate moral culpability so as to make their acts not a mortal sin.

        1. …and yet institutionalizing a lowest common denominator approach to moral culpability, won’t we only promote wholesale ignorance of the Faith? How cruel is it to set up a child to, one day, be a baptized Catholic who loathes his own faith due to a lifetimes example of how the Church somehow marginalized mommy and mommy or daddy and daddy?

          If the Church truly holds to the salvation of those in the state of inculpable ignorance, why undermine the teachings with regard to infant baptism – the promise to raise the child in the Faith – by baptizing those we presume will be all right under the auspices of mitigating moral culpability by entrenched ignorance?

  4. Discretion may be the better part of valor but you just can’t make this stuff up. Or can you as you go along? So the Church bends the rules behind closed doors for the sake of the children. This pretty well waters down the sacrament of baptism when you leave the said innocent recipient in the care of those knowingly living against Church teachings and bringing the baptized child up with concepts against Church teachings. There is no glory in Mudville tonight as the mighty Casey strikes out. So now you can hide your lamp below the measure and it’s a good thing. The Church has thrown down the gauntlet and joined the rest of the world in being upside down. You may claim I am being mean and nasty but next you will be calling for us to take in all the illegal alien children flooding across the southern border because they are potentially Catholic. I am sure you will correct me where I am wrong but I believe Christ said you don’t give sacred things to dogs nor cast your pearls before swine lest they trample them under their feet and turn and tear you to pieces. I am compassionate but this is blind lunacy as well as blind faith. All we lack are the aluminum foil hats with coat hanger antennas.

    1. Well, this isn’t a new thing Robert. The Church has baptized the children of prostitutes from the beginning. Somehow the sacrament has survived. Most pastors are generous with baptism since it is so necessary for salvation. But more pastors are strict with First Communion and confirmation which really do require belonging to and participating in parish life

      1. I would disagree with the example of prostitution-first of all it really can’t be considered a choice in life like homosexual unions; secondly Jesus had mercy on the prostitutes and the penitent, but not homosexual acts; thirdly their desire to raise their child catholic should first be expressed in their disunion and abiding in the catholic faith. Manifest grave sin and all that….

        I certainly cannot be the godmother of a child in a fallen away catholic family that doesn’t intend to raise their child catholic, simply because I have a deep concern for the child. I am called to pray for the children and their parents conversion, not giving in to the call of ‘intolerance’ and hate that is directed at the church. The priest has to have a reasonable expectation that the child will be raised in the faith, which given the manifest grave sin, he cannot.

        1. Prostitution not a choice? Hm… I don’t think that statement can be made across the board like that. Are there some prostitutes who are basically slaves who are completely against their will trapped? Yes. Are all prostitutes trapped with no choice? No.

          I have to think in the case of a prostitute who has the freedom of movement and freedom of religious expression to bring her child to church for baptism, she’s in that lifestyle by choice. If she has enough freedom to bring her child to church, she has enough freedom to bring her own self to same church or to police station or to other agency to get help to get herself out of the lifestyle – if she so chooses.

  5. The pastoral mess which you have outlined above has been brought upon the Church by bishops who want to be seen as being ‘pastorally ambidextrous’ and compassionate. But look at what their policies and misguided compassion has done to the integrity of Christ’s sacraments, the moral teaching of the Church, her mission to evangelize and last but not least the fruits of the sacraments and the authority of parish priests – undermine them all. Why doesn’t the bishops apply Canon Law 868 and the principles derived from them to deal with these irregular relationships? These laws are there protect the integrity of the sacraments and to guide pastoral practice so as to avoid scandal. How can anyone committed to living publicly in opposition to Church teaching be sincere in their desire to raise their child in the practice of the faith. This is a grave failure of episcopal responsibility and leadership and is happening in the Church all over the world. This mess is also the reason why the fruits of the sacraments are not realized. Not to mention the terrible bind it puts the poor orthodox parish priest in.

    1. What you assign to the bishops is really more a problem at the level of priests. I am willing to say as I do that we haven’t handled it all that well. But to be fair please at a least remember that we are in the midst of a cultural tsunami that began in 1968 and its successive waves are scouring our culture and leaving enormous destruction. To say we haven’t perfectly responded is true but gosh Greg have you? Has any one of us? I don’t know your age but I wonder if you’ve raised kids in this tsunami. And if you have, did you get it all right. It is so easy to bishop bash and its so easy to say what should have been done looking back. The point is what to do now. To my mind, baptize but be more discreet, using more private baptisms.

      1. Msgr. Pope, You’ve outlined the problem well — and I agree that we must “err” on the side of providing Baptism to every child.

        We must also be aware that it is highly likely that any baptism of a “child of gay parents” will be used as a sign of Catholic Church validation of the parents’ “marriage.” There needs to not only be a national policy (whether or not the USCCB realizes this need or not), but I suggest that the CDF (or other relevant dicastery) needs to formulate and promulgate something with the approval of the Holy Father. We really don’t need to add to the confusion by having conflicting “policies” on this sensitive issue in the USA, Canada, Great Britain, etc. “Catholic,” after all, does still mean “universal,” and I posit that this is not one of those areas in which diversity would be a healthy and just situation.

        If the Church proceeds with “private baptisms” (a theological fantasy, in that all sacraments are public acts), what about photos? Will the Church permit baptismal photos at these baptisms? If so, again I suggest that these — like the baptisms themselves — will become a sort of de facto “acceptance” and “endorsement” of the “marital status” of the “parents.”

        This is fraught with far more danger and difficulty than any of us presently realize, and must be very carefully and prayerfully addressed. The Church runs the real and serious risk of being interpreted as endorsing sinful “union” as an acceptable “lifestyle” within her fold.

        The Church, not just individual priests, bishops, or bishops’ conferences, needs to consider very carefully whether it would be, in fact, more pastoral and loving to defer these baptisms – rather than to carve out a policy of administering them in “private.”

        I do not offer any of the above as anything other than questions.
        As always, I will accept and conform to the Teaching and discipline of the Church — laying my own opinions aside once she speaks.

      2. The bishop is the primary moderator of the Church’s sacraments, not my imperfections, the culture or my response to the post Vatican II disease currently gripping the Church. The administration of the sacraments of the Church are governed by Canon law and not the prevaling culture. Bisops make the pastoral policies of the diocese not the priest and ultimately they are responsible for the way sacraments are administered, and people are prepared to receive these sacraments. More often than not, priest are called upon to baptiize children of parents who are unevangelized, in whom there is no founded hope that the child will be brought up in the Catholic faith. But, under obedience these priests are expected by their bishop to adhere to diocesan policy based on sociology and to his pastoral wisdom. Canon law allows bishops and priest to delay and deny, and evangelize adequately before administering the sacrament so that the fruits of the sacrament may be realized. How often has this been done? It is all very well to call me a bishop basher and ignore reasoned explanation. Ultimate a bishop is charged with the responsibility of shepherding Christ’s flock and a diocese will reflect his leadership or lack of it? The buck stops with him.

        1. Blah blah blah. I see you just want to bash not have a real conversation. Look out before someone shines a light on your stewardship. Everyone is always a better bishop than the actual bishop. To bad for us, I’m sure you would have run things so much better.

          And be careful, the measure that you measure to others will be measured back to you. Further, judgement is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy.

          The devil has you right where he wants, bashing fellow Christians instead of looking to reform this culture and work with the Church. Throwing rocks is so easy. Repairing and rebuilding is hard work. The Lord is looking for builders not bashers. I’ll take my lumps for not having handled things perfectly, but thank God you won’t sit in judgement over me or anyone. Look out for your judgement though, the Lord will judge you by the harsh exacting standards you have for others no matter how complex and broken down the reality is. On that day the buck will stop with you and I promise you, you will need more than a buck to pass your own judgment day using your standards.

          1. Mr Kingman has pointed that laxness in the Bishops and one of the many reasons we find ourselves having to have this discussion.

            explain where he is wrong…

          2. I think the main area where the response is wrong, is this is not an article about past failings, it’s about what to do going forward, so the remarks are off topic and are unnecessarily accusatory for the reasons stated.

          3. The above reply shows you have lost the plot, surely you are better than that Monsignor.
            Baptism of an infant is by proxy and what you are advocating is not a call to conversion, but accommodation. This is not a moral and pastoral response. Where is the wisdom in throwing sacraments at parents who clearly do not have a relationship with the Church and whose lifestyle publicly indicates that they do not intend to have one? Canon 868 number 2 says there must be a founded hope that the infant will be brought up in the practice of the Catholic religion. If such hope is altogether lacking, the baptism is to be delayed according to the pre scripts of the law. Earlier instruction from the Congregation of the Faith with regards to pastoral action for baptism states that assurances must be given by the parents, if it is established by the priest that there are no serious assurance given the sacrament is to be denied. This is Church teaching and not me sitting in judgement. Besides, when it comes to judgement and the responsibility for souls, you and the bishops have have more to worry about. All I can say is that I take God and his Church seriously as a practicing married orthodox Catholic.

          4. Yes, but at the end of the day “well founded” is a prudential judgment. You see it as a dogmatic judgment. It is not, it is a prudential one. Think what you will about me, I don’t answer to you. Reasonable people differ over where to draw the line. There needs to be a clear contraindication to deny baptism to an infant. I am stricter with other sacraments but follow the Argentinean Bishops statement from ten years ago and their interpretation of Can 825 as a reasonable way forward regarding baptism. That document was signed by the current pope when he was Archbishop of B A. Again, It is a prudential judgement. So stop your personal attacks and harsh judgements of me and patronizing things like saying I’m “better than that.” There is no need for it. I am a solid priest, I preach the difficult truths, I am outspoken on all the moral issues and don’t need to present any credentials other than my 25 year record, and over 5 years of blogging. I am no liberal or accomodationist, as you state. I do have a high bar against refusing to baptize infants and interpret well founded hope generously. I would do such baptisms discretely and think we need more discretion today, not less.

            But at the end of the day you watch yourself GK, and curb your prosecuting attorney approach. I don’t need to be schooled by you in canon law or scolded for violations of it. I am well within common practice and interpretation of the canon. It would be enough for you to say, “I don’t agree with you.” Or I would handle this differently. But why do you insist on seeking to impugn my character or that of the bishops. What is your problem GK? Why all the personal attacks? Why the bishop bashing? What’s that all about GK?

          5. Sorry Monsignor, I amended an earlier post and forgot I had already submitted it. Once again forgive me for coming across as personally attacking you. This is not what I intended when I posted my first comment to contribute to the discussion on your blog. I hold the bishops accountable by confronting them with facts. Here in Australia the Church is in the same mess and not a single bishop has the courage to show leadership by diagnosing the crisis accurately in order to treat the illness effectively. I find this very annoying. Once again God bless and keep up the good work of building up the body of Christ.

      3. While it is very well that you level the seeming lion’s share of blame on priests, Msgr., you seem to pass over the very real and greater issue that those in authority, namely the Bishops, were responsible for these priests. Not only responsible for the jobs they were doing, but for their souls as well. Priests are part of a Bishop’s flock and still are.

        Much was looked past, ignored and glossed over like a parent not taking notice of older children giving all the signs of outright rebellion and letting that rebellion spread unchecked to the little ones. If parents allowed themselves to be swept away in the tsunami (tidal wave that many enjoyed because they partook), then it’s time to realize that past failure – not imperfect response – and gird up. Let’s learn from that failed methodology, let’s discipline ourselves, too, not seek a continued permissiveness that is really no charity, but rather the opposite.

  6. Is it even proper to baptize an infant unless the parent or guardians are willing to formally renounce the sin of fornication which led to conception or the sin of fornication in general which may be persisting in a disordered relationship (even if only implied by appearances)?

      1. If it is not proper to refuse baptism to a child, why require the parents to talk to a priest prior to baptism at all?

        Musing a little in fun, imagine putting a sign out front of the church or an ad in the paper saying “Got Heaven Insurance? Catholic Baptism 2 pm Sunday afternoon. Walk-ins welcome. Nothing required. Bring a witness or two”.

      2. Msgr, obviously we are all sinners and unworthy, but some make themselves intentionally unworthy and are obstinately living in sin. The truth is offensive to those in that state. Something is clearly wrong with the preparation if the guardians are not repentant and remain willing to have the child baptized. I agree with you that we should baptize them, but the fact that couples in obstinate sin seem to be gliding happily through the process is a contradiction or at least seems to be a contradiction.

        1. Well this is just the point and why the Bishop wants to draw those cases to the Chancery. They shouldn’t just glide through and if the baptism is done, it must be handled very discretely so that homosexual behavior is not countenanced or celebrated.

      3. When I hear of this issue I am always reminded of that passage (Matthew I believe) where it is said that if you cast out a demon he will be back with reinforcements, so to speak. My question is this: as we know the sacrament of baptism includes an exorcism. Admittedly no demon as such is being driven out, but when we have a child who is not growing up in a healthy spiritual environment, aren’t we flagging up the child as a target?

  7. It is tough to run a religion based on a set of core beliefs when the current culture stipulates the terms of implementation.

    Maybe a better solution, to be charitable and loving to all, is to require one or both of the parents to be practicing Catholics. Clearly God Parents have an obligation to the child and God which requires them to practicing Catholics too. A child needs to be formed to love and serve the Lord.

    1. I think this standard is better for First Communion and Confirmation. We should be more generous with Baptism and permit even a glimmer of hope to be basis enough to offer the Sacrament of Baptism. It is frankly rare that a parent shows up and says “Baptize this baby, and by the way I have no intention of every raising him the faith.” The priest can usually secure some agreement from the family to return to the practice of the faith. I also use the class as a time to warn the unpracticing of Hell and Judgement. So I’m not just patting everyone on the hand and throwing lots of water.

      1. Actually, Monisgnor, it isn’t rare at all. I come from a family of eight and with the exception of two of my siblings, the ‘Catholic’ education ended with the party after the baptism to satisfy social norms. That was it. I’m glad to know, however, that you use the preparatory classes to speak on the realities of Hell and Judgment. Although Hell and Judgement, for my above mentioned siblings, didn’t much stir them either as nobody really thought it important. And I hale from a family that built our local parish and school, the very same we attended. Sorry to say, much of what was taught at the school is what led the majority to have no care for Hell or anything else.

  8. Just curious; when the priest says, “There’s no way in hell I’m going to baptize a bastard,” is that God talking?

    You just might consider that the presenting parent is a freaking psycho, who takes the rejection out on the baby.

    Just sayin’.

  9. I am soon to be a godparent, and I am pleased to say that the child’s parish had a special meeting with parents and godparents to discuss baptism and the role of godparents. Originally my husband and sister were to be godparents, but that changed because the sister does not regularly attend mass, and the parish is calling the home parish of the godparents to verify their membership. I would think this kind of meeting would be an appropriate time to address the issues of fornication and openly living in sin and to identify if a private ceremony is in order. I’m not sure how wide spread this practice currently is. Our youngest is 6, and we did not have a meeting like this when she was baptized, so perhaps it is either new or a more local phenomenon.

  10. Is there an “official” policy regarding the baptism of children conceived via immoral infertility procedures? Given the advances in bioengineering, it seems that’s going to be another thorny problem facing the Church….

    1. I suppose one could say it would be analogous to baptizing children concieved in adultery.

  11. One could argue that a child raised in an overtly sinful situation needs the grace and protection of Our Lord more than others…and thus should be baptized irrespective of any public perception of the Church’s endorsement or acceptance of the sinful union.

    I am amazed, however, that so-called gay “parents” actually present children for baptism. In many respects the gay lifestyle is a rejection of the most basic tenets of our Catholic faith. Perhaps they don’t see it that way.

    1. “In many respects the gay lifestyle is a rejection of the most basic tenets of our Catholic faith. Perhaps they don’t see it that way.” Jamier, you are correct. They don’t see it that way because of a woeful lack of catechesis from a largely silent church regarding repentance from sin in general and the sin of sodomy in particular. I cannot remember the sin of homosexual acts ever being preached at my current church. How about at yours? In fact, I cannot remember any teaching from the altar regarding any particular sins, especially against purity, i.e., extra-marital sexual relations, aka fornication, the sanctity of Christian marriage versus so called “gay marriage”. Through proper catechesis, the lies of Satan are revealed for what they are, sin is exposed as sin and souls are called to repentance and to salvation. According to the Pew Foundation, 58% of Catholics say homosexuality should be accepted by society and 56% of Catholics support abortion rights. How can this be? Only 20% of people who identify themselves as Catholic attend Mass, hence the huge number of parish closings across the country. Of the 20% who do attend weekly Mass, fully half of them support homosexual marriage, abortion rights and of course contraception. How can this be? Because they are not being called to repent of these sins from the altar.
      There are actually Catholic parishes where non-celibate homosexuals are celebrating “Gay Masses” and receiving the Holy Eucharist.
      The Catholic Church is the only institution today between us and evil. I can’t explain the reluctance of the Church to call its flock to repentance from these grave sins. It’s either reluctance to “hurt the feelings” of parishioners and drive them away from a rapidly shrinking Church, or quiet complicity with sinful lifestyles. God help us.

  12. If I were a priest, I would have a very hard time withholding the incredibly powerful grace imbued by the sacrament of baptism from an innocent child merely because the “parents” are in rebellion against God and his Church.

  13. I think the operative question here is what is best for the soul of the child being presented for baptism. If it is evident that the child will not be brought up in the ways of the Catholic faith, but will instead be taught that a mortal sin is a good thing, does that put the soul of the baptized child in more jeapoardy than if the child is left unbaptized? Is someone who is not baptized less culpable in such a situation?

  14. As a grandmother with several of my grandsons not baptized, this is a great sorrow for me. Talking to their parents and reminding them how necessary Baptism is to enter the Kingdom of Heaven has not made a difference. Not yet. But I trust in God to bring this about since I pray faithfully for these Baptisms.
    This is a touchy topic, to know how to do what is right in God’s Eyes.
    Infant baptism was not part of the Early Church but came about as the norm later on. Would it be acceptable to ask the parents to wait until the baby is older before they are baptized? Maybe require the parents to attend Masses for a specified time in hopes that what they hear at Mass will open their hearts to God?
    God is in control ultimately, and we can pray that we will act in accordance with His Will.

  15. Is scandal the only reason for not doing it? I was under the impression that Baptism in the catholic church obligated the person baptized in a number of ways. Does any one really expect that a gay couple is going to raise a child in the faith when they clearly do not believe it themselves? What chance does a kid have in this circumstance. Better to delay or not at all when there is not chance of proper rearing in the faith. The consequence of not living up to your baptismal vows is rather severe, perhaps even more harsh than not being baptized when one is not ready.

  16. The Holy Spirit needs to get into their souls as soon as possible, was St. John the Baptist choosy?

    1. Well yes, John the Baptist was choosy.
      “Do penance, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” Matthew 3:2
      “Ye brood of vipers, who hath shewed you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of penance. And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham for our father. For I tell you that God is able of these stones to raise up children to Abraham. For now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that doth not yield good fruit, shall be cut down, and cast into the fire” (Matthew 3:7-10; Luke 3:7-9).
      “What shall we do?” “And he answering, said to them: He that hath two coats, let him give to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do in like manner” (Luke 3:11).
      Some were publicans; on them he enjoined not to exact more than the rate of taxes fixed by law (Luke 3:13).
      To the soldiers he recommended not to do violence to any man, nor falsely to denounce anyone, and to be content with their pay (Luke 3:14)
      So yes it sounds to me as if he were very choosy.

  17. Msgr: With all do respect, you main article does not really address the question of whether there is a founded hope that the child will be raised Catholic. Any child raised in a gay relationship is going to be taught that such sexual relationships are good and loving. This is not the Catholic Faith. Ther would seem to be no founded hope here. Note: a FOUNDED hope not a fantasy, miraculous hope.

    1. Yes the notion of a well founded hope has more recently been interpreted generously rather than strictly. I would agree there are additional issues with homosexual “couples” and that is why it makes sense to have a clearer policy and refer the issue to the diocese

      1. A generous interpretation is great when one is dealing with someone of good will, but a parent who would insist their child be baptized Catholic and even raised Catholic while engaging in a daily example of grave mortal sin is setting up that child for a horrible confusion. Spiritual matters aside, even though that is the most important, would leave this child with a torn sense of what is right? Like the child of divorce having to decide whom to cling to Mom or Dad, but in this case it is God and the Faith vs. the ‘loving’ parents who reared me. Very damaging all around to the faith of the child and the ‘faith’ of the parents. For by the Church making accommodation for gravely sinful situations, the ‘couple’ is taught that either it doesn’t matter that much or they are fine as they are.

  18. Matt on June 30, 2014 said:

    “I think the operative question here is what is best for the soul of the child being presented for baptism. If it is evident that the child will not be brought up in the ways of the Catholic faith, but will instead be taught that a mortal sin is a good thing, does that put the soul of the baptized child in more jeapoardy than if the child is left unbaptized? Is someone who is not baptized less culpable in such a situation?”

    I have this question as well.

    1. Yes, me too. What of all the aborted babies? They never had a chance at baptism…
      But we trust in God’s mercy. Likewise these poor innocents.

      Oh dear, I hope God leads us in the right path.

  19. Annette Strachan says:
    June 30, 2014 at 3:44 pm
    The Holy Spirit needs to get into their souls as soon as possible, was St. John the Baptist choosy?

    cf. Mt 3:7-8: Msgr Pope, no response to Ms Strachan?

    The Real Msgr. Pope Appears …

    1. St.John the Baptist preached repentance to the people before he baptised them, they were free to make up their minds. So anyone who seeks baptism for their baby should be helped, any way if you have an emergency, as the Nuns taught us do it yourself – just pour water on their head saying ” I Baptise You In The Name of The Father and The Son and The Holy Ghost.” Then when the emergency has passed The Church will complete the baptism with the oil of Chrism. The question mark I made is just a comment, that doesn’t require an answer.

      Many Thanks.

    2. I keep telling myself I should avoid internet because where I float “on the spectrum” I doubt if I’ve ever helped anyone. Annette gave great response but I still don’t know what you mean. John used harsh words for the power brokers and those who made 10 Commandments into 300. Jesus, otoh, offers us a New Creation in Him. His Holy Spirit, I thought freely recieved, freely given. He says “behold, I make all things new” hth. God bless.

  20. I have three children, one was baptized in a group baptism on a Sunday afternoon, one during a normal Sunday Mass, and one privately because that time worked for Father et al. When a child is presented for this most precious and indispensable sacrament, I’d think it was up to Father (operating with his bishop, of course), to determine the context of the event. I think the Church “caters” to the laity too excessively. Sure, we’re all used to that from our consumerist culture, but to make something valuable sometimes one must sacrifice one’s preferences and, imagine, obey another, in this case the Church’s representative, the priest. To offer a family a private baptism is still a complete baptism and if they understand the Church’s reasons and teaching, as they should desire to since they’re Catholics presenting their child for membership in the Church family, they can grow in faith and holiness as a result of the experience of grace for their child!

  21. It seems to me, since we can’t really solve this problem in the short term, the only way forward is to remember what is in the best interest of the children.

    Parents who were married in the Catholic Church receive at least 6 months of counseling and classes before they get married. Presumably, things discussed and learned in this period include how to lead a moral and Catholic life and raising children in the Catholic faith.

    Would it then be unreasonable to say to parents (all, not just homosexual) who do not have Church recognized unions, be it through same gender coupling or divorce or…, that they must undergo a similar period of counseling and education, where the priest would have at least a shot at evangelizing the parents of the prospective baptismal candidate?

    To baptize a child then never lead them to greater faith does a disservice to the child, so the goal should be not just a one and done sacrament, but a life long union between the child and God.

  22. Monsignor Pope, why does the secular media insist on using the term defrocked when referring to laicized Catholic priests? I’ve even caught family members using this term. It is offensive to the sacrament and it’s indelible nature. Similarly the marriage sacrament in the Catholic Church has been scandalized by media which over time seeps into lay Catholic kitchens. They want to indoctrinate the world that these Sacraments can be discarded like old clothes!

    1. A clergy coat was traditionally called a “Frock” and I suspect that’s where the word comes from. Thus it means to have your clergy uniform removed as a kind of metaphor for losing the practice of the clerical state. While you are right, they can’t really lose the indelible aspect, but they can lose all its prerogatives and external signs.

  23. The Church is in the grip of a sacramental crisis. She cannot blame anyone but her leaders for this. History has shown that faithfull adherance to Christ and his Church’s teaching is the most effective pastoral response, not name calling or arbitrary warnings about being judgmental. I am simply pointing out the facts. Baptism of an infant is by proxy and what you are advocating is not a call to conversion, but accommodation. This is not a moral and pastoral response. Where is the wisdom in throwing sacraments at parents who clearly do not have a relationship with the Church and whose lifestyle publicly indicates that they do not intend to have one? Canon 868 number 2 says there must be a founded hope that the infant will be brought up in the practice of the Catholic religion. If such hope is altogether lacking, the baptism is to be delayed according to the prescripts of the law. Earlier instruction from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith with regards to pastoral action for baptism, states that assurances must be given by the parents, if it is established by the priest that there are no serious assurance given then the sacrament is to be denied. This is Church teaching and not me sitting in judgement. All I can say is that I take God and his Church seriously as a practicing married orthodox Catholic. I am sorry if my earlier comments offended you or disrespected the rules of your blog in any way. God bless Monsignor.

  24. I have a nephew who is in his thirties and is gay. He was baptized in the Catholic Church and educated in Catholic schools. He “married” some guy about a year ago in the state where he now lives. I have no animosity towards my nephew, he is a nice guy but I don’t agree with his life style or his concept of being married. Suppose they decide to adopt a child and want to baptize it in the Catholic Church and request me to be it’s god father. I couldn’t in my own conscience do such a thing because it would be counter productive to my beliefs as the child would be raised in a homosexual environment and the perverted concept of marriage. The Catholic Church has put the faithful in an adversary position by allowing them to have the child baptized. So who is at sin?

    1. You should not be a godfather. No one is putting you in any position. You are free. Do not cooperate. The baptism is for the Child, nothing more. The Church has not put you in any position. Just say no. If godparents cannot be found, that can be dealt with by the diocese. However, each safe is handled on its own.

  25. This is from Evangelii Gaudium s.47. I think it beautiful and thought to share.

    “There are other doors that should not be closed either. Everyone can share in some way in the life of the Church; everyone can be part of the community, nor should the doors of the sacraments be closed for simply any reason. This is especially true of the sacrament which is itself “the door”: baptism. The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak. These convictions have pastoral consequences that we are called to consider with prudence and boldness. Frequently, we act as arbiters of grace rather than its facilitators. But the Church is not a tollhouse; it is the house of the Father, where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems.”

    1. The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.
      What does this even mean? The Church and no Pope before has ever stated this. Search our Catholic patrimony. The logical question then follows: why should Pope Francis make such a statement if not set the stage for what he is aiming to do?

      1. To anonymous @FMShyanguya, the words “O ye of little faith” come to mind…

  26. Msgr Pope,
    Can you address sometime the philosophical/theological principle(s) that undergird Church teaching on the parent-child relationship, the obligations involved, and Church oversight of such obligations? I think that addressing these principles might help clarify the prudential as well as doctrinal issues involved. For example, does the child have a right to baptism? Does this right convey certain responsibilities onto the parent/priest/bishop over and above what one would find in the ten commandments? Does failure in responsibility contravene the right to baptism?

  27. thanks for the insight. i wish to ask in the danger of death, say in a hospital, can you baptise a child whose parents are muslims?do you need consent even if not given?

  28. thanks for the insight. i wish to ask in the danger of death, say in a hospital, can you baptise a child whose parents are muslims?do you need consent even if not given for validity of the rite?

  29. Vincent, my understanding, both from Catechism class and my wife’s RCIA course, is that in the event of an emergency, anyone may baptize a person in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. The teaching I’ve gotten is the person baptizing does not even need to be Catholic. If at all possible, the person baptized should later be formally baptized in a sacremental way.

  30. Monsignor,

    Just to clarify some points about procedure, what elements must be present at a valid baptism? There must be water and the spoken formula of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Okay, but godparents are not necessary, correct? And what about the promise to raise the child as a … is it a Catholic or merely a Christian? What is the force of such a promise? Who makes the promise and what is the wording of the promise itself? What happens if the priest has reason to believe that child will not be raised as a Catholic/Christian?

    1. Jim, to be valid, all that us needed is true water, and the spoken formula. But circumstances can make the baptism illicit.

    2. In an emergency baptism godparents are not required. Otherwise they are, at least one. As for the admonitions to raise the child in the faith, they are serious and I spend a lot of time on them in the Baptism class. Some people think, based on this post, that I am squishy about permitting baptisms. I am likely to baptize those who Children presented but I am VERY clear to the parents that they are making a solemn promise to God and if they renege on the promise they will most likely go to Hell. I thus ask them to be SURE they mean it. On account of this I do have parents who draw back and do not show for the baptism. It is important to get infants baptized but it also important to preach to parents and be very clear with of the obligations they undertake. Frankly, I doubt many “gay couple” will approach the church. But if they do and are properly instructed and not permitted the opportunity to grand stand in a big Church baptism but must be content with a private one, I think a lot of natural triage will happen.

      1. I would tend to agree that removing the opportunity to grandstand would thin out those irregular couples seeking baptism for a child.

  31. It seems to me that many of the responses criticizing Msgr. Pope’s position here seriously undervalue the role of the godparent. If this role is taken seriously, it can be tremendously helpful in enlisting the grace of God on behalf of a child who otherwise would be left to the whims of unfortunate circumstance. The godparent pledges to see to the Catholic education and rearing of the child insofar as parents, for whatever reason, may be disqualified from doing so. This will certainly involve faithful and continual prayer for the child and might also involve bringing the child to Mass and providing access to the sacramental life of the parish, as well as seeing to the child’s catechetical and moral education in whatever ways possible. It is time to seriously rejuvenate our understanding of what it means to sponsor a person for baptism in the Catholic Church.

  32. If only the majority of priests acted as you do, Monsignor, with honesty and true charity. I wonder at all the confirmations, specifically: if we asked the newly confirmed the Church’s teachings and their agreement with such, would most actually agree? Are the numbers a false image of Catholicism in America? I think so according to CARA and Pew results.

  33. A question: what if one unwilling becomes a godparent (ie, spouse forces the decision) and the situation of the baptized child and his parent is so dysfunctional (divorce/boyfriends introduced to home/pending 2nd “marriage”/home environment morally threatening to any child) that the godparents now simply have no interaction with the godchild, mainly to protect the purity of their own child-are the godparents’ souls at stake?

  34. +Monsignor . . . during a break at work yesterday I went on line to glean a little more information and light regarding your comment of June 30th re the: “Argentinean Bishops statement from ten years ago and their interpretation …” and was rather startled to find this particular blog was the very first entry . . . and then I couldn’t find any further information references . . . do you happen to have an online link to the material you were referencing . . . ? . . . being Argentina is our wonderful prayerful Holy Father . . . Pope Francis’ . . . home ground . . . and he was a Bishop there . . . your reference rather peaked my interest . . .

    A little “Just in Case” note: Sometimes I forget how far reaching internet information can be disseminated . . . and finding this lengthy blog discussion outside of the Archdiocese of Washington feed woke me up a bit . . . Our Holy Mother Church’s gracious guidance and loving discipline found in the governing . . . “Code of Canon Law” . . . has been referenced by some text . . . and also by number . . . during this discussion of the Sacrament of Baptism. The emergence of the . . . gravely serious problem . . . posed for Her priests of irregular parenting situations and its becoming . . . more and more grave . . . in these days . . . because there is a . . . very present . . . concentrated dominant liberal force in our culture which is rapidly propelling mankind into tragically devastating moral and ethical bankruptcy . . . as I read along . . . I got the feeling that there may be some souls who . . . following along with this discussion . . . may very well NOT have had contact with the actual referenced canon (law) . . . so I thought I’d just tuck it into this discussion as a teaching/reference point . . .
    CANON 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.

    §2. An infant of Catholic parents or even of non-Catholic parents is baptized licitly in danger of death even against the will of the parents

    Code of Canon Law Vatican Link:
    I really appreciate the scope of care and detail revealed in Monsignor Pope’s sharing . . . The below Old Testament reference . . . written under the inspiration of the Sweet Spirit of our Holy God . . . reminds and reveals to us the oft mentioned Scriptural fact that a . . . “teaching priest” . . . is . . . truly . . .a gift from God . . . along with . . . God’s law . . .

    “And many days shall pass in Israel WITHOUT the true GOD, and without a priest a teacher, and without the law.” 2 Chronicles15:3 drv

    The good and eternal salvation of the souls from sin of EACH of the ADULTS . . . involved in a disordered lifestyle . . . is a matter of great concern when such adults come to a priest requesting baptism of a child . . . as well as the eternal salvation of the soul of the precious child . . . Such considerations require deep prayerful discernment on the part of the priest . . . as they search out our wonderful GOD’s holy purpose and will re all the individual lives brought before him in each given situation. Baptism . . . as taught by our Saviour and LORD . . . and further emphasized by our Holy Mother Church . . . is always combined along with the . . . “teaching” . . . of GOD’s will and ways . . . which . . . actually . . . is a great deal of what GOD’s church is all about in the first place . . .

    “And JESUS coming, spoke to them, saying: ALL POWER is given to me in heaven and in earth. Going therefore, TEACH ye all nations; BAPTIZING them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. TEACHING them to observe ALL THINGS whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I AM with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.” Matthew 28:18-20 drv

    . . . all for Jesus+

  35. “It’s a mess, a big mess,” is the quote I take away from this, Monsignor. It’s getting messier as I type with the U.S. District Courts striking down state amendments forcing the U.S. Supreme Court to make what many believe will be the inevitable decision striking down traditional marriage laws. In about 50 years – much like the SCOTUS abortion decisions – our culture will look back at the social destruction and wonder how it all came to pass.

  36. I hate to have to have to bring this up but to me this is a MESS as Francis says. If the clergy should think of or consider Baptizing babies of same sex couples because its NOT their fault, that does that not to contradict the idea that these Marriages are somehow valid. I think all of this goes back to the reaction to Soon to be Blessed Paul VI’s Encyclical where while he did teach pastoral care on Contraception warned what would result of the teaching were rejected and we see the result. The fault does lie with the Bishops, mostly the Americans who just a week after HV was published promised to support and defend it, until just two months later and in short they stabbed Pope Paul in the back. If he had the backing of the priests Bishops Cardinals and theologians we would not even be having this discussion . As the Holy See now admits Catholics don’t know their own Faith and even the moral teachings is why our nation and culture our falling apart. Wake up!

  37. “…we can at least presume that a single mother has repented of fornication…”

    Wouldn’t be right to replace the above word ” mother” with the word ” father” ?
    Or we assume that the father does not have to repent……

  38. It does seem that Canon Law and theological insight should be explored more. CL is today perceived as a hindrance rather than the aid to clarity that it really is.

    Indiscriminate baptisms do give the perception of expedience and hypocrisy. There is the danger of a type of sacramentalism (just get it done) at work while also the danger of the Church professing a teaching (chastity) and a sacrament (marriage) that it later undermines by creating an atmosphere of moral indifference toward those who present their child for the sacrament. If I were a non-Catholic, I would wonder what sense that makes. As a Catholic I wonder what sense that makes!

    After all, the parents are proxies for their child, so we are therefore saying to that child: it’s okay for the Church to knowingly baptize a child who will then be living in a home where the teachings of the Church will not be followed.

    Would a doctor heal a child and then return it to a home where its health will not be nurtured?
    Why should the Church “heal” a child only to return it to a home where the “medicine” is taken at the discretion of the parents?

    One smart priest told me that when the unmarried parents brought their child for baptism, he also gave them pre-Cana and got them married quietly in the Church. I’m all for bundling sacraments! However, in the case of s.s. couples, expedience does seem to give the greatest scandal.

    1. God bless you @Rosemary!
      Faith is a gift and not a right. If the gift is then received as it ought be received, – not making a mockery of of the gift – then it is a gift that keeps on giving with graces all around for all involved who are well disposed.
      How rightly you say that those sincere parents [e.g. those not married in Church] seeking baptism for their child, with the help of a good priest, take that opportunity to correspond with grace and regularize their marriage so that it is in accordance with God’s law and that of His Church.
      If it is as it has been reported, it is then scandalous that the Pope baptized a child of parents only civilly married.

  39. Thanks Msgr Pope.

    With the spiritual good of those infants and children in mind along with the research pointing to the psychological and emotional problems of children raised in households by homosexual couples (see Ana Samuel’s summary: “New Family Structures Research and the ‘No Differences’ Claim” 2012) , I am wondering if there might be a special ‘evangelizing’ role for members of the parish who have left the homosexual lifestyle who would be willing to witness in some way to the truth and freedom of the Church’s teachings to these same sex couples &/or be part of the prep classes for these infant baptism in some form.

  40. “Just as if, for example, tomorrow an expedition of Martians came … green, with long noses and big ears, just like children draw them … and one were to say, ‘I want to be baptized!’. What would happen?” | We are all ostiaries (12 May 2014) | Morning Meditation in the Chapel of the Domus Santae Marthae | Pope Francis
    It is now clear why the Pope said this …

  41. “[…] to avoid exposing young people to erroneous ideas about sexuality and marriage that would deprive them of their necessary defences and contribute to the spread of the phenomenon. Those who would move from tolerance to the legitimization of specific rights for cohabiting homosexual persons need to be reminded that the approval or legalization of evil is something far different from the toleration of evil. […]” | CDF, Considerations regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual Persons, 5
    From this, and the whole CDF document referenced, it appears that baptism of such children is a no-go.

    1. Dear Mr. FM
      A Most Holy Rosary would be helpful in coming to terms with the situation.

      1. Aloha and Dear @Annette Strachan,
        Not sure what you mean…
        Mahalo & regards,
        @FMShyanguya (google to resolve ‘anonymous’ me …)

  42. Do you reject Satan? And all his evil works? And all his empty promises?
    An active gay couple is UNABLE to answer ‘i do’ to these questions, rendering them UNABLE to bring up a child in the faith.
    Sacraments require the participation of the individual. Sacraments are sacred – they are not to be dished out like sweets.

  43. To baptize a child of unbelieving parents is illicit, just like how foster parents cannot licitly clandestinely baptize their foster child unless they adopt him.

    St. Thomas, addressing the question of “Whether the children of Jews should be baptized against the will of their parents?,” says “it would be dangerous to baptize the children of unbelievers; for they would be liable to lapse into unbelief, by reason of their natural affection for their parents.”

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