QUAERITUR: baptism of Catholic’s child in a non-Catholic service

From a reader:

My brother-in-law (to-be), her CATHOLIC brother, is having a baby in a few months and is planning to have the child baptized in a Presbyterian service.  I was told at one point that it might be a cooperation in Moral evil (schism) to attend services of another denomination.  I was also told at another time that in support of a family member, this would possibly be permissible.  So I ask you Father, ought we go to the baptism?  Assuming that the "Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier" mumbo-junko doesn’t make an appearance?

What about attending a CATHOLIC cousin’s protestant wedding?  Would that be recommended?  I assume that there’s no hard and fast rule here… But as your spiritual children, what would you advise us?

I forgot to mention Father, that her brother has asked us to be the godparents…  What do you think about that?


There is information lacking here, of course.  First, we can only guess at the dynamics of the family ties here.  Also, we don’t know the religious affiliation of the wife of the Catholic brother in law to be.

Still, you cannot be godparents to a child of a Catholic who is choosing to have the child baptized in a non-Catholic denomination.   He is demonstrating that he doesn’t have the will to raise the child in the Catholic faith. 

Second, your closest spiritual father is really your pastor at your parish.  You should ask him what to do about this.  In the meantime, I repeat that I don’t know the circumstances well enough to counsel on what you should do.   It may be that the Catholics involved in making these fairly bad decisions might have had such a bad formation that they truly have no idea that what they are doing is wrong.  Your reactions will therefore leave them puzzled.

My general view is that you should not attend the weddings of Catholics who have chosen not to marry in the Church, particularly when they know that it is wrong to do so.  You have to make some allowances for the possibility that your not going would truly harm your possible good influence in the future.  But for the most part, when people attend such services they give the impression that they are okay with what is going on.

Again, I cannot give you an iron-clad rule in this.  I urge you to seek your pastor at your parish and ask his advice after explaining all the different angles.

Folks, be a little careful about these situations.  They are very delicate.  Consider what is truly for the good of the people involved, in charity and truth, and not only what will make you feel proud of yourself at the moment.

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  1. Ralph says:

    “Consider what is truly for the good of the people involved, in charity and truth, and not only what will make you feel proud of yourself at the moment.”

    Amen. Such an important point.

  2. thereseb says:

    Thank you Father. I am currently in a similar dilemma as nephew and fiancee – both baptised but non-practising – are doing this. My sister is very upset indeed – but my non-attendance won’t help or sway them. What’s worse ? If they did submit to pressure and marry in a Catholic Church, then never darken its doors again – it would make a mockery of the Sacrament. However, I am praying to St Monica about it.

  3. TNCath says:

    Living in a diocese where Catholics comprise about 4.5% of the total population, I often find myself in very difficult positions when a person who was “raised Catholic” marries outside the Church, has a baptism outside the Church, or dies outside the Church and has a funeral in a funeral home with a protestant minister officiating. I also have a family member who “married” a Catholic priest in an Episcopal ceremony. This priest has never been properly laicized from the Catholic priesthood. He now is living as a married Episcopal priest with two children. These are always extremely awkward situations that cause much pain and suffering for those who feel compelled to witness to their Faith. My advice to anyone faced with this situation: if you are ever in doubt as to whether you should attend these types of events, then, chances are, your instincts are correct.

  4. jaykay says:

    I have had the situation of attending family weddings (first cousins) in the UK both of whom were raised catholic and educated in expensive private schools (won’t mention the order) and who married church of england spouses. Their parents, both devout catholics of the older generation (now mid 80s) made a token protest but basically ‘threw in the towel’. We on our side all attended. It would have caused a family rupture had we not. The parents, mine & theirs, put on a grin & bear it attitude. We basically made no comment although my mother, godparent of one, was very disappointed but only spoke of that afterwards. In fact all the older generation had a pretty stoic typically WW2 generation attitude, along the lines of ‘well we did what we could but what did we do wrong?’. Both were lovely occasions but the church ceremonies were purely for the social occasion. They might as well have been in a registry office except that would have been so infra dig socially. I don’t think any of the kids have been baptised. I have no real answer as to what to do. I know that my cousins are great parents. Yet they know they have wounded their own parents deeply. No-one really talks about it but the hurt is there.

  5. dpdeavel says:

    For one of my Protestant nieces my wife and I “stood up” with my brother and his wife at their baptism in a Reformed Church. Neither had ever been Catholic and since there is no such thing as a godfather or godmother in Calvinism we didn’t really have any official role as godparents. This was quite different from the writer’s situation.

  6. gambletrainman says:

    My situation was about the same. I had a cousin who was raised Catholic, but had some social dealings with the Episcopal Church. So, when he died he chose to be buried from the Episcopal church (he was still in good standing with the Catholic Church). I went as a family member, but did not take part in the service. I did not even sit with the family. When time came for “communion”, the minister had a large host, which he broke into pieces. It must have been larger than 5-3/4″. In fact, it looked about the size of a basketball (and I was sitting in the back). Then he invited everyone to communion, saying we were all brothers and sisters in the same Lord. I was shocked at the number of Catholic family members who went, including my own godfather (I was born when Pius XII had barely begun his rein). In fact, I was in tears the rest of the week.

  7. markomalley says:

    This is upsetting particularly considering which Protestant denomination. Not that it would be right anywhere, but especially here.

    In this denomination, we have one branch who, not very long ago, gave serious consideration to replacing “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” with “Mother, Child and Womb” or “Rock, Redeemer, Friend” (no, that’s not a joke…look at the link if you don’t remember the news)

    Or we have another branch of it that believes Of course a Roman Catholic can be saved in spite of his church.

    Bottom line is what’s the odds that the kid is even going to be exposed to Catholicism (except, perhaps, a really poor caricature), much less have a chance of being raised in the Faith…particularly with this bunch?

  8. johapin says:

    Consider this from “A man for all seasons”:

    Cromwell: The King wants Sir Thomas to bless his marriage. If Sir Thomas appeared at the wedding, now, it might save us all a lot of trouble.

    The Duke of Norfolk: Aaahh, he won’t attend the wedding.

    Cromwell: If I were you, I’d try and persuade him. I really would try… if I were you.

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