From a reader…
Is it morally wrong to delay converting Catholicism? The potential convert believes the Catholic Church is the one true Church. However, she is a teenager, has very hostile parents, and is willing to wait a few years to make sure she is right about her convictions.
Age is an interesting thing in Canon Law. People who have achieved the age of 7 have, presumably, achieved the use of reason. As such, they can make their own decisions and are no longer treated as infants in the law. Their parents cannot provide the consent needed for baptism, they are required to freely request baptism of their own volition. Yet, such persons are still minors until they turn 18, and are under the care of their parents (can. 97). At the age of 14, if they are unbaptized, they can choose which Ritual Church to be baptized in. At the same age, if they are female, they can validly marry. If they are male, they have to wait until they are 16 to marry validly.
A minor who wishes to be baptized, or wishes to profess the Catholic faith can validly do so whether or not his or her parents consent.
Pastoral prudence comes into play here.
Especially if the parents are strongly opposed, there may be some good reasons for delaying the baptism or profession of faith. Our interlocutor says the individual is a “teenager” which covers a broad range from a bouncy, immature 13-year-old, to a seasoned, well-adjusted and mature 19-year-old.
The pastoral response to each one would be individualized.
A young woman, aged 16, who has shown maturity and discretion, and is clearly sincere in her desire to become Catholic might be quietly baptized, although if she is still living at home, with hostile parents, her ability to practice the faith might be compromised. A girl, aged 13, who wants to be Catholic because she just watched the Bells of St. Mary and is enraptured by the world of Catholicism therein presented, might be encouraged to continue to read, pray, make friends with Catholics and visit the church on a regular basis for a few years before being baptized.
Another factor to consider is whether this young woman who wishes to convert is already baptized or not. If she is not baptized, the urgency of welcoming her to the water of life will be a motivation. If she is already baptized, but not in full communion with the Church, might be more safely delayed.
The intensity of her parents’ hostility will also be a factor.
All in all, this is a decision that should be made at the local level, by a good and trusted pastor familiar with the specifics of the situation.