Pope Francis baptized baby of couple with civil marriage only

This is interesting.

Today Pope Francis followed the custom of other Popes and baptized babies in the Sistine Chapel.

But wait!  There’s more!

I read in La Stampa that the parents of one of the babies isn’t married.

That is to say, the couple is civilly married but not married in the Church.  My translation:

Among the baptized – according to the report in the daily “Il Tirreno” – there is also Giulia, caught of a couple married civilly but not in church.  And this is certainly a novelty.  Not for Bergoglio, who as a priest, bishop and cardinal baptized babies of teen mothers or unmarried couples many times.  Giulia’s parents, last 25 September, had made their request to the Pope directly at the end of the Wednesday general audience.  “We were on the ‘sagrato’ (the ‘porch’ in front of the Basilica)”, Ivan Scardia recounted, the father of the baby, “when he passed by and we asked him if he could baptize our second child.  He told us to get in touch with his collaborators and then they contacted us.” When the time came to send in the documents there was a glitch: “We were married at city hall.  But this problem was also overcome,” Giulia’s father said.

In other news, during the baptism rite itself, there was a point when the Pope stopped saying the black and went off the cuff (big surprise there).  He turned to the congregation and gave them a little talking-to.

Having listened to the Pope for a while, we are starting to hear his different voices, his moods, as it were.  Frankly, he got a bit intense and serious, verging on stern.

He told them:

Don’t forget, the greatest inheritance that you can give to your children is this, the light of the faith.  Hand on the faith, a strong faith that it be their salvation.

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  1. Jason Keener says:

    The Sacrament of Baptism is a free grace from God. I’m glad the Pope baptized the baby, although I hope the parents also understand that they have a sacred duty to bring up their child in the Catholic Faith. The parents aren’t off to a great start with their own marital situation, but we can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good in situations like this.

  2. mamajen says:

    Keywords Not for Bergoglio.

    He’s made it pretty where he stands on this issue, so it’s not a shock. I do prefer that there not be a big public to-do for baptisms when the parents are openly ignoring Church teaching, however. It sends completely the wrong message.

  3. mamajen says:

    Yes, Jason, but it doesn’t have to be done publicly.

  4. Thomas S says:

    “We were married at city hall. But this problem was also overcome,” Giulia’s father said.

    Is it too optimistic to interpret this to mean the Holy Father sacramentalized their marriage? [Probably.]

  5. anna 6 says:

    I understand that a baby shouldn’t be penalized for the actions (or lack of) from the parents. However, when my husband and I helped out with Baptism prep in our parish this time was always considered to be an opportunity to help the parents “regularize” their marriage. I wonder if there will be any follow up with this couple?

    And I must admit, when I anticipated that the pope would be following his predecessor’s tradition of baptizing babies on this day, I thought “hmmm…wonder what innovation will happen today?”

  6. Nicholas says:

    “We were married at city hall. But this problem was also overcome,”

    The queston is, how? By any chance would they have been married in the church, or was it simply disregarded? Hmm… Either way, I applaud the Pope’s choice.

  7. I will wait and see if this becomes another occasion to say, wow, look at how he’s changing the mean ole Church!

    I have never refused to baptize a child because the parents weren’t married, or married in the church. Who does this? Is this something that happens in other parts of the world? I’m pretty confident in the U.S., we baptize the child.

    The only real “hitch” is whether there is some indication the child will be taught the faith. That’s the thing we were taught, in the seminary, to make an issue of.

    Now, I’ve had folks get mad because I insisted that godparents have to be Catholic. And I’ve been so mean as to insist that a “Christian witness” actually has to be…Christian. But that’s not refusing a baptism.

    So while the pope isn’t doing anything “wrong,” I’m wondering where in the world this is a problem his example is needed to counter?

  8. PA mom says:

    Such mixed feelings on this issue.
    The baby should always be offered baptism, in my opinion. But the question asked of the parents, how do they intend to be up to the task of raising their child in a faith in which they are so remotely involved as to not make the effort of a sacramental marriage? This inhibits so much further development. When the child refuses (at some age) to participate in further sacraments or learning in the faith, how will they be strong on the matter? Will they choose then to lead through example and make the effort?
    My husband and I did and it has been well worth it, and it took so little time. Little was required of him other than to not block my efforts in this matter, but he has gradually been growing, eventually attending Mass with us, now leading grace before dinner. This Christmas I gave him a daily calendar with bible verses which he graciously received and even brought home a favorite.
    All that said, I thought today might have been the renewal of baptismal vows and sprinkling. Have I confused it with another Sunday?

  9. Random Friar says:

    IIRC, Pope Benedict mentioned that he had moved into the camp of being lenient for the sake of the child. Although knowing Pope Francis, he probably gave them at least a little private nagging to get that marriage regularized, in that classical Italo-Argentine way.

  10. Father, this is disturbing me a little. I feel like the Holy Father is becoming a bit more brazen here and starting to “buck the rules” again, like the Holy Thursday last foot washing year. How can he have the authority to give baptism to the baby of parents not married in the Church? [?!? Really?]

    Can you further clarify this matter by expanding and using canon law and any relevant Church documents on this matter? Has the Pope committed any infractions of canon law or doctrine/dogma/Church documents in what he has done? [No, I don’t believe he has. Moreover, he is the Legislator.]

    At least if he hasn’t broken the law so to speak, I’ll be like “That Bergoglio being Bergoglio” but at least the authority of Holy Mother Church is being respected. In other words, imprudent, but not violating Christ and his Church, so lets move on and get back to work. .

  11. Eliane says:

    “Frankly, he got a bit intense and serious, verging on stern.”

    Ask anyone who is deprived of the EF Mass because of Francis’ treatment of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, and they will probably affirm that he has such capacity.

  12. Netmilsmom says:

    Maybe, perhaps maybe, this couple was really very Catholic but poorly catechized. Maybe when they were called by the Vatican about the baptism, the official asked “What parish were you married in?” (we were asked that because we moved from our 1st parish to another an hour north, between babies). When they said, “Oh we just went to City Hall” the Vatican arranged a quick confession and sacramental marriage so they would be right. Maybe they were just ignorant and the press played it to it’s advantage.
    Wouldn’t it be nice if that were the story?

  13. Lavrans says:

    I fully support the baptism of anyone, regardless of their biological parent or guardian situation. A soul is at stake, and the sins of the parents should not block the child’s salvation.

    That being said, is there a way to do this that doesn’t seem to lessen the extreme importance, for the souls of the parents AND the children, of sacramental marriage? I say this as a married man who is now a decided minority in the society I live in. Once again, this is correct theology but horrible PR. Now, I am aware the Church is not concerned with PR. But we individual Catholics are. Not by choice, mind you, but by necessity, because it is flung in our faces each and everyday, sometimes on the hour.

    “Did you see the Pope baptized the baby of an unmarried couple?” “See, we don’t have to be married in the Church or maybe at all, and the Pope is cool with us. What is your problem? More Catholic than the Pope?” “Its all about loooooooooooooovvvvvvvvvvvvvveeeeeeeeee!”

    Our job is this “new” evangelization is not so much evangelizing but interpreting for the masses the words and actions of the Holy Father. I can do that, because I guess that is what God wants. Still, a little more interpretation for the masses by the Pope, a man far more prepared to do so than a man such as myself, would be helpful.

  14. Robbie says:

    No doubt, a “pastoral” action. In other words, a liberal action.

  15. Gratias says:

    Baptism should be offered generously and easily for babies. Once they are in they can work at it. With so few Catholic marriages we would decrease in numbers precipitously if we were strict about it. Of course single mothers should be welcome to baptize their children. I do not even see a problem if the parents were Protestant provided the godparents are Catholic. On Babtism we really need an aggiornamento. I also think, sorry, that preparatory courses are a hindrance; just walk in with your baby and have it saved of original sin no questions asked. Baptism is a Sacrament, not an opportunity for proselytizing. With adult conversions so complicated nowadays, we should baptize as many babies as possible.

  16. donato2 says:

    Why would a couple have their child baptized in the Church but not marry in the Church? It makes no sense at all.

  17. benedetta says:

    Often the next steps on the journey after cohabitation and/or non sacramental marriage is to forgo baptism for children and on and on it goes. It’s an opportunity to turn things around, the possibility of baptizing children born into these circumstances, for the entire family. As so many younger generations have grown up uncatechized and wholly secular, there is a great need in the pastoral world for forming parents in order that they may know how they can pass on the faith in their homes. Unlike other eras or cultures, in the western world at present, to opt not to baptize with that commitment to raising a child in the faith is to give over one’s children to something one does not fully intend or appreciate. As to children left to their own devices to choose when they are grown, it’s never really so simple that they will be able to make a free decision. The weight of the culture often impairs the ability to recognize and join with goodness such that there may be great struggle and a sense of wasted time. We need to speak openly as to what the stakes are here for the next generation.

  18. LadyMarchmain says:

    Mamajen, Yes, exactly.

    Anna6, I’m with you. Of course it is wonderful that the baby has been baptized. But where is the exhortation to the couple to marry in the church in order to receive the sacraments and increase in sanctifying grace so as to be the kind of parents who will provide a Catholic upbringing to their child? Wouldn’t you think Holy Father might have taken advantage of the opportunity to make that kind of statement?
    In this case, silence speaks volumes.

  19. Priam1184 says:

    What difference does it make, with respect to baptism, how the child came into the world? One thing that our Lord was very explicit about in the Gospels is that the sins of the parents in no way pass on to the child. Good for Francis, and thank God the parents had their child baptized unlike a growing number of others in this day and age.

  20. JoseTomas says:

    Dear mamajen, I have previously campaigned for you to be appointed Woman Cardinal, but I have to disagree with you here.

    This is exactly the message that the pope wants to be be made public worldwide, that Baptism trumps possible marriage irregularities of the parents. He does not want to make it private, he wants to make it public, and here’s why:

    The pope knows that many parents are in irregular situations out of human weakness. They are not trying to make their situation into a theological statement. I could give you a bit of personal witness here, but I’d rather not.

    The message is that denying Baptism to children in these situations would be like condoning the idea that children must pay for the sins of their parents. I do not think that the pope wants to condone that idea.

    That parents are in an irregular marital situation does not follow that they are atheists, schismatic or otherwise heterodox. As the pope said, “the greatest inheritance that you can give to your children is this, the light of the faith.” And I assure you that that can be done by parents in irregular situations.

  21. WBBritton says:

    Praised be Jesus Christ for another child set free from original sin!

  22. JoseTomas says:

    @ donato2
    “Why would a couple have their child baptized in the Church but not marry in the Church? It makes no sense at all.”

    Perhaps because they are in a second marriage without an annulment? Should the child pay for it?

    Or perhaps because the child was conceived out of wedlock?

    What is the good of being prolife if you say to the unwed mother that God loves her, but her children will not be Baptized because she is a sinful woman?

    Good grief! Some people really really must start reading Francis (and Jesus) and understand what does it mean to say “I want mercy, and not sacrifice” (Hosea 6:6, Matthew 9:13).

  23. Robbie says:

    The baptism of this child is not the issue. The issue is the Pope chose to baptize the child of parents not married in the Church. Every child deserves a baptism, but why did the Pope want to specifically baptize this child? Because he wanted to make a point. Because he wanted to send a message. Because he wanted to demonstrate yet another pastoral action.

    Make no mistake either. Pastoral is the new liberal. Just as in American politics progressive has replaced liberal, pastoral has now replaced liberal in the Church. Why get tied up in fights over 2000 year old rules when they can be all but sidelined by big, showy displays? That’s what the goal of this action was: to show compassion while also showing the Church shouldn’t become tied up in rules.

    Once the toothpaste is out of the tube, it’s hard to put it back in the tube.

  24. Volanges says:

    In my parish I’d say at least 90% of babies being baptized are presented by unmarried parents.

  25. Kerry says:

    Uh oh, “…verging on stern”. Cue the music, (Garage Logic with Joe Soucheray), “It’s the end of the world as we know it…”

  26. Baptizing babies born outside Catholic marriages is something missionaries do all the time if they are doing their job. Pope Francis is acting in a manner that underscores a modern truth on which his predecessor spoke often and feelingly: Europe is mission territory; Italy is mission territory; Rome is mission territory these days. The Church’s top priority, as Benedict and Francis both teach, has to be the re-Christianization of what was once called Christendom.
    This is how you do it.

  27. APX says:

    Meh, who am I to judge? Call me when he baptizes the adopted baby of a homosexual couple living in a contrary to nature union.

  28. (X)MCCLXIII says:

    “Civil marriage only”? I hope you’re wrong. But “this problem was also overcome” doesn’t fill me with confidence. Even if the marriage was sacramentally validated a clear opportunity for evangelization has been missed. We ought not to be left to speculate about it.

    I had heard that a first-rate PR man had been recruited to the Vatican. It doesn’t look like to to me. The alternative is too hard to countenance: that the Holy Father is deliberately trying to make fools of faithful Catholics everywhere.

  29. Dundonianski says:

    What a remarkable honour to be baptised by a Pope, something to carry into adulthood with awe-and so public-the whole world will know. Then again, perhaps a privately bestowed baptism would have been more suitably humble yet no less significantly sacramental!

  30. Bob says:

    Hmm, our parish won’t Baptize a child unless the parents are registered parishioners! It seems our Holy Father has much he could teach some of our Pastors.

  31. Palladio says:

    Baptism is necessary to salvation. My understanding is that anybody, with the proper matter and form, can baptize. If my bozo kids don’t follow through on the Faith–and they have already have drifted–I will baptize our grandchildren myself. I feel that what the Pope did is wonderful. What I don’t understand is a. the fuss and b. what is meant by sacramentalizing the civil marriage.

  32. Imrahil says:

    A child must be baptized if his legal guardians request it, sincerely wishing him to be instructed in the that is, and there is the good possibility (or in the less lax version the probability) that they, or the godparents, or the grandparents, or somewho whoever, can actually perform the said instruction.

    Whether those thus responsible are personally living up to the said faith is, directly speaking, irrelevant. It becomes relevant only in so far as it makes it impossible for them to pass it on.

    * parents unmarried, not willing to marry (as, e. g., in one of the not even so rare occasions with which I cannot help to sympathize… irresponsible youth sinning against the 6th commandment and vividly refusing to sin against the 5th), profess (sincerely) to raise him a Catholic –> child must be baptized.
    * parents divorced and remarried, but Catholics –> child must be baptized.
    * parents civilly-only married despite the possibility of them to really marry –> here, only here, I can see a sense in withholding baptism. And also one in not doing so.

  33. gretta says:

    Robbie, yes, I think Pope Francis is trying to make a point. But I don’t think that he is trying to say that rules don’t matter here. It really depends, though, on which rules he wants to promote. I think the rules he wants to emphasize are 1) you do not penalize an innocent child for the sins/ignorance of the parents (and in his prior ministries he had numerous instances where he baptized the children of couples/women whose babies had previously been refused, so it is a real problem), 2) you do not jeopardize the soul of the child to make a point to the parents – the salvation of souls is paramount, 3) if you establish a relationship with the child, you open up the possibility of conversation and possibly conversion of the parents. You refuse to baptize the child and it is likely that the Church loses both the parents and the child forever.

    I think it is a very positive thing that the parents valued baptism enough that they have had both of their children baptized. It could be an annulment problem where they are waiting for an answer. It could also be that they are mostly secularized, but their “Nonna” has worked very hard to get those children baptized and this is the one opportunity the church has to bring them back. And, don’t we WANT people who have fallen away to think, “Hmm, I should at least have my child baptized…”??? It is as good place as any to start – with the added benefit of a baptized baby. If they have seen Pope Francis giving this message, wouldn’t that possibly give them the courage to approach the Church? We can’t begin to get people reconciled with the Church until they know that the door is open and we give them a reason to garner up enough courage to walk back through it.

  34. OrthodoxChick says:


    Giving Pope Francis the benefit of the doubt…isn’t it at least a little possible that the Holy Father chose to Baptize this child because the parents cornered him at a prior event and personally requested that he Baptize their child? The way the above excerpt reads, the Holy Father told them ‘yes’ on the spot with no questions asked. He didn’t know about the civil marriage until whomever in the Vatican conducted the follow-up on the Holy Father’s behalf contacted the parents. By then, Pope Francis had already agreed to Baptize the child. Maybe the Holy Father threw in his “stern” words to counter the appearance of him Baptizing the child of parents who had only been married civilly?

  35. ReginaMarie says:

    I concur with WBBritton’s sentiments: “Praised be Jesus Christ for another child set free from original sin!”

  36. JaneC says:

    My parents were in an irregular situation when I was born. My mother’s first attempted marriage had not yet been annulled, and my father had never even been baptized. Thanks be to God, I was baptized anyway. Though my mother could not receive Communion, she took me to Mass every Sunday, prayed with me every night, and sent me to Catholic school. Through her faithful example, my dad was converted and their marriage situation regularized. We all live imperfectly in one way or another–just because parents are in an irregular situation does not mean they will not raise their children in the Church.

  37. Will D. says:

    The baptism of this child is not the issue. The issue is the Pope chose to baptize the child of parents not married in the Church. Every child deserves a baptism, but why did the Pope want to specifically baptize this child? Because he wanted to make a point. Because he wanted to send a message. Because he wanted to demonstrate yet another pastoral action.

    Because, if he was a Good Pope he’d have said “Begone, fornicators, and take your bastard with you!” Right?
    The Pope made a point of baptizing children of unmarried (and non-sacramentally married) parents in Argentina to encourage his priests to do likewise. It makes sense for him to do so as Pope. The child did not sin, and providing the parents have been properly informed of their duty to raise the child in the faith, I can see no reason to deny baptism.

    Make no mistake either. Pastoral is the new liberal. Just as in American politics progressive has replaced liberal, pastoral has now replaced liberal in the Church. Why get tied up in fights over 2000 year old rules when they can be all but sidelined by big, showy displays? That’s what the goal of this action was: to show compassion while also showing the Church shouldn’t become tied up in rules.

    Showing compassion? How awful. Totally contrary to the spirit of the Gospels.

  38. rtjl says:

    “I fully support the baptism of anyone, regardless of their biological parent or guardian situation. A soul is at stake, and the sins of the parents should not block the child’s salvation.”

    So…. baptizing babies indiscriminately with a fire hose would be okay? Is baptism something magic then?

  39. ” Why get tied up in fights over 2000 year old rules when they can be all but sidelined by big, showy displays?

    What 2k yr old rule did Pope Francis break?

  40. Mike says:

    Ok, I say sure, baptize the child. But now, the guilt of Original Sin is gone, the Holy Trinity in-dwelling in his or her soul. There, however, that little thing called ignorance into which we are all born, and baptism gives infused graces, not infused knowledge. So it’s up to the parents now–big time.

  41. kiwiinamerica says:

    Couple of questions.

    1) If it is clear that the parents have no intention of bringing a child up in the faith, will the Church still baptize?

    2) The parents of this child are unmarried in the Church’s eyes. What does this say (if anything) to the Church about the parents’ attitude to the Catholic faith and their commitment to teaching it to their child?

  42. Stephen Matthew says:

    The Pope likely, either himself or through some other, has made an effort to assist with whatever marital irregularity is present, but done so in a private manner.

    As to why he would do it for this baby, perhaps it is as simple as he was asked?

    While certainly many probably mail in requests and such, Francis seems to be very open to direct, personal appeals.

  43. Jack Hughes says:

    I am going to be charitable and assume (not knowing all the facts) that the Holy Father KNOWS more that we do about the couple in question, think about the possibilities: 1) they are in the process of converting to the Faith and the Holy Father knowing this and the couple in question is not penalizing the child (2) they are Catholics who are in the process of getting their Sacramental Marriage in order (3) for whatever reason they were given a dispensation from their Bishop for a civil wedding.

    In anycase one really should look at the minutiae “Don’t forget, the greatest inheritance that you can give to your children is this, the light of the faith. Hand on the faith, a strong faith that it be their salvation” – I am going to take this statement by the Holy Father as well as an indication that he has talked to the couple in question and is convinced of their good WILL

  44. rtjl says:

    I wish to apologize for my last comment. It was harsher than it should have been.

    I do want to say though that I am struggling with this pope. All through my various family gatherings over the Christmas holidays I have been hearing from family members how much they like good Pope Francis. “He is so much better than that wicked Pope Benedict. Francis is okay with gay marriage and Francis doesn’t care if people are divorced and remarried and Francis doesn’t get upset about abortion.” Now I suppose I’ll have to hear about how Francis doesn’t care whether or not couples are married. I know none of these statements are true but honestly, Pope Francis is making life very difficult for those of us on the ground who are actually trying to stand for what the church teaches. It’s enough to make you want to either run off to the nearest SSPX chapter or to just hide in your basement, keep your head down, your mouth shut and your faith to yourself.

  45. kittenchan says:

    Interesting what different groups of people will focus on regarding the same event. Posts about the pope’s baptisms are splashed all over my Facebook feed today and everyone is gushing over… Certainly not anything to do with who is and isn’t married… But his remarks about breastfeeding. So if some people here are concerned about Church PR over what happened, I wouldn’t worry. People are paying (positive!!!!) attention to something completely different. Even Mayim Bialik had good things to say about it.

  46. Wiktor says:

    I don’t see the problem.
    Married parents or not, the child deserves to be baptised.

  47. Joe in Canada says:

    Let’s not overlook the comment in the article that this couple went to a Wednesday audience, and stayed to the end, and approached the Pope directly. I hope the baptism will be a source of blessing for this family.

  48. Vecchio di Londra says:

    There was a it in the La Stampa that rather took me aback.
    «Oggi canta il coro – ha concluso – ma il coro più bello è quello dei bambini, che piangono perché sono scomodi o perché hanno fame… Se hanno fame, mamme, date loro da mangiare!».

    The mind boggles.

  49. LadyMarchmain says:

    Jose Tomas: You wrote: “That parents are in an irregular marital situation does not follow that they are atheists, schismatic or otherwise heterodox. As the pope said, “the greatest inheritance that you can give to your children is this, the light of the faith.” And I assure you that that can be done by parents in irregular situations.”

    With respect: In order to give children an inheritance of faith, the parents must have faith. We are instructed by Our Lord and in the Epistles to recognize the faithful by their faith lives. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” This couple is breaking a commandment.

    In the article we learn they requested the baptism back in September. That’s four months in which to regularize their situation.

    Perhaps it is extreme to say that this gives scandal? But the fact is that it does.

  50. Vecchio di Londra says:

    sorry, a ‘bit’ not ‘it’

  51. Bosco says:

    Maybe the bambino has some good solid Catholic godparents or extended family who will be solicitous for the child’s Catholic upbringing. Personally I have no problem whatsoever with what Pope Francis has done and I commend him for it. Any time the parents aren’t homosexuals who had their child conceived in vitro and carried by a surrogate…well, you know. Maybe I’d look askance a tad.

  52. Johnno says:

    Gratias –

    There is a problem. The faith of the parents is what makes the Baptism valid for the child [?!?!?] because they take the vows in place of the child. It is their faith that saves the child and they are to set the example. Thankfully at least the priest is also there. So yes, it IS a concern. And YES, the parents should receive a stern talking-to regarding what they are getting themselves and the child into. This isn’t some free-for-all ceremony for the heck of it like your child’s first trip to Disneyland; and even Disneyland has rules.

    No one is saying to refuse to baptize the child. Just make sure to inform the parents fully about their duty prior to the baptismal rite.

    “Baptism is a Sacrament, not an opportunity for proselytizing.”

    What??? Every opportunity is a good opportunity for explaining and catechizing and conversion! Particularly one where it concerns ENTERING into that VERY SAME FAITH! If not then, then please pretty please explain when? Shall we also hand Holy Communion out to everyone too?

  53. Chuck Ludd says:

    This is a wonderful thing to show that baptism is about the person being presented and not the people presenting him or her. Although we may never know what happens with the parents, surely they have received extraordinary grace for presenting their child to the Church in the face of a culture which questions the sacramental life. We should all pray the parents respond to whatever grace they have received and that we all utilize grace in our own lives.

  54. Bosco says:

    “Iesus vero ait eis sinite parvulos et nolite eos prohibere ad me venire talium est enim regnum caelorum.”

  55. NoraLee9 says:

    Oh Kerry, my friend, I believe the original was written and performed by R.E.M.

  56. mrshopey says:

    I am glad the baby was baptized and they wanted their child baptized. I have many friends who have children that are not baptized at they see no reason, significance.

    My sister and her husband were told by someone in authority at their parish that they should just get married civilly while they wait for her annulment. They were then denied baptism of their child (now children) and realizing they did something wrong, have gone to another denomination. It is a sad story but I have seen first hand and heard of people in the same predicament.
    I will gladly give them the benefit of the doubt and pray they remain in the faith.

  57. pontiacprince says:

    Perhaps the time has come to change church law so that only the ‘state’ marries and,all things being considered, that marriage be recognized as valid by the church.

  58. Jason Keener says:

    Unfortunately, priests, especially these days, have to go meet people where they are. This civilly married couple, who at one time ignored the duty of having a Church wedding, was enlightened by a special grace of God to at least see the importance of baptizing their child. That is something to rejoice in. This actual grace of God will also perhaps be the start of this couple’s own movement back towards God and the rectification of their marital situation. The very fact this couple sought out Baptism for their child is some evidence they will make some effort to raise their child in the Catholic Faith, despite their own personal sins and failures.

  59. Nan says:

    @rtjl, just accept that Francis is pope. Don’t worry about it. Don’t struggle with it. Don’t try to force yourself to love him when you’re all “seriously, what was that?” about something he did. Pray for him, as you would for any pope, knowing that his papacy is part of God’s plan.

  60. AVL says:

    On its surface this bothers me because of the message it gives, but when I think about it, he did the right thing. Whether or not he counseled them to regularize the marriage is something we do not know- maybe he did, maybe he didn’t. But I am going to assume that he did. After all, he always says he is a son of the church. And I think that means something.

  61. Nan says:

    @AVL, you’re right. Sacraments are public acts. Gentle corrections on following Church teaching aren’t.

  62. moon1234 says:

    It is one thing to baptize a baby in an irregular situation, but to do so in such a public way sends the message that Church law does not mean much if even the Pope does not respect it and the law is bendable when it suits the whims of the time.

    Laws are given weight when the legislators themselves respect the law. When laws are ignored by those who make them it only breeds indifference in all of those to whom the law is supposed to apply.

    Think about the illegal alien in California who was given a license to practice law. It is this hypocrisy that makes all people disrespect the law. Why should the law apply to us when those who break the law are held up as examples?

    Baptize the child? If there is a chance he will be raised as a Catholic, then yes. Hold them up as examples in a public ceremony with the supreme legislator to the rest of the world?

    I think this just breeds resent for the law and emboldens those who think the law can be ignored when it suits their fancy.

  63. Thanks Fr. Z for the in-comment commentary to my questions. I think what I meant was, how can he baptize the baby of two non-Catholic parents, or parents not married in the Church? I guess if at least one of them is Catholic they can receive baptism for their child. I’ll also take your Supreme Legislator comment in context too.

    The fact that you have said that to your knowledge he hasn’t done a violation of Canon Law or Doctrine is enough for me. I’ll just move on then. Thanks again for the commentary.

  64. frsbr says:

    Reading Francis through Benedict. Comments of BXVI regarding generosity in administration of the sacraments. He was speaking of First Holy Communion, but his words apply to baptism as well:

    “In the course of time I have realized that we have to follow instead the example of the Lord, who was very open also with the people who were at the margins of Israel at that time. He was a Lord of mercy, too open – according to many of the official authorities – with sinners, welcoming them or allowing himself to be welcomed by them at their dinners, drawing them to himself in his communion. Where there is no element of faith…, then it can’t be a sacrament of the faith. But, on the other hand, if we can see even a tiny flame of desire for communion in the church, a desire also from these children who want to enter into communion with Jesus, it seems right to me to be rather generous.”

  65. amenamen says:

    In canon law, the decision to baptize a child, or to delay baptism, is not a question of reward or punishment, but of readiness on the part of the parents to raise the child in the faith:

    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.

  66. Nan says:

    @moon1234, two things to remember: 1. in an emergency situation the priest is free to do what he deems necessary with sacraments; 2. anyone may baptize in an emergency situation.

  67. Jack wrote, “I am going to be charitable and assume (not knowing all the facts) that the Holy Father KNOWS more that we do about the couple in question…”
    exactly.We didn’t know the circumstances.

  68. Geoffrey says:

    Sin is the business of the Church. The parents are living in sin. The baby was born with Original Sin… which has now been washed away! Let us pray that the parents repent and regularize their situation very soon.

  69. Gratias says:

    Baptism of newborns should be very easy and uncomplicated. There are 1.2 billion Catholics. If their life span were 80 years (we wish) 15 million babies have to be baptized every year. With about 500,000 priests worldwide ( probably a bit less) each priest would have to babtize 30 babies/year just to keep the Church numbers constant. I would not count on the Protestants and other ecumenisms rushing to join us. Babies are very valuable new life for Catholics and as many as possible should be invited to join us.

    In traditionally Catholic countries a Babtism is a great family occasion. The family afterwards gets together, frequently at the grandparents home and there is eating, drinking and merriment. Everybody considers themselves Catholic at these joyful social occasions even if they are not regular churchgoers. Once you are in, you are in. The Jews have their circumcisions, we want to recover our generous baptism. A similarly merciful outlook should be had for Church weddings and funerals.

    Pope Francis has a gift for touching chords that stimulate discussion.

  70. bookworm says:

    A commenter on another thread reports that, according to another news story, the couple is planning to marry in the Church in the near future. There could be any number of legitimate reasons why the couple’s Church wedding has not yet occurred. It could be that the couple wants certain family members or friends to attend who can only do so on a particular date. Or the couple may have married civilly earlier than they had planned in order to protect legal benefits for themselves or their children. I once knew a woman who was planning to marry an immigrant from the Netherlands (a legal resident) on a certain date (neither of them was Catholic), but when he was seriously injured in an accident about 2 months before their scheduled wedding, they had a judge perform their civil wedding at his bedside so that he could receive her health insurance coverage immediately. Most of us probably know of cases where couples marry civilly before one or both are sent on a military deployment, and have a church wedding later. Also, if this couple is serious enough about their faith that they asked the Pope to baptize their child, maybe they are living chastely or at least trying to until their Church wedding takes place?

  71. Bob says:

    A few points;
    a child deserves, make that must be Baptized, there is no salvation otherwise;
    there may be some doubt as to whether the parents will raise the child Catholic, perhaps, but denying the request will likely ensure the child will not be raised Catholic;
    the purpose of having Godparents is to reinforce and, if necessary, take over the Catholic education of the child after Baptism so the attitude of the parents is less an issue than often presented above;
    it is, in my opinion, wrong for a parish to use a Baptism request as a means of coercing the parents into “joining”, what is the expected result of an unwanted and coerced requirement to become a parishioner? Does anyone actually think those parents will suddenly become better Catholics?

  72. LadyMarchmain says:

    bookworm and others who have commented on the couples’ decision to seek out the Pope for this baptism:

    Yes, we are supposed to interpret others’ actions charitably and hopefully. However, in this day and age, we have seen many instances of people (whose lives violate Church teaching) forcing the Church to give them sacraments as a kind of statement.

    The question here is not whether this baby should have been baptized, as we don’t know the particulars.

    The question is: why this baby is favored for international coverage and being baptized by the Pope. This baby is the “poster child” for a message about inclusivity.

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  74. coeyannie says:

    Oh boy, this is great news! I have three children, married outside the Church, never baptized their children, and how stupid of me to tell them they should not baptize their children until they regularize their marriages and promise to bring the children up Catholic. So at ages 8,7,6, 4, 3, and 2, I can tell them to scrap all that and get those children baptized. I pray for these parents and their children, my grandchildren. I even asked in Confession if “I” could baptize the children, and the priest was strongly against that, even so far as to say it would be a sin. Now, my two sons, one of which is childless, so no worry there, but my other son baptized their children in the Church and take them to a demoninational church when they go. Oh, woe is me. Would someone please let me know when this Pope is going to say it like it is, instead of hedging and giving everyone the impression that he really isn’t saying what he means. There are always little hidden meanings. I’m not on board with this Pope. I’m still holding out for Benedict the XVII to return.

  75. americangirl says:

    I would rather see the baby baptized regardless of the parents circumstances. Baptism takes a way original sin and the baby is now a Child of God. Actual Grace can now work through this Child. I know many parents who practice the faith and yet their Children have gone astray. Who is to say how God will work in this Child’s life? I am familiar with a couple who left and detested the Church and it was through their teenage Children they were brought back to full communion with the Church. Another example: a Catholic woman married to a man of Mormon persuasion had decided upon their marriage they would not practice either religion but had their infant son baptized as a Catholic strictly on the prompting of her grandmother. When Christmas came her son began to question the very meaning of the celebration. The young mother realized she could not answer his questions. She called the parish which conducted a Welcome Home Program and the whole family through that young child was brought back and into the faith. Please… God can give grace to the soul to any soul but through baptism the soul is prone to reception. Good the baby was baptized and brought into the family of God. Let us pray for a children baptized who may not have Parents who understand accept or live the faith. May through these innocent Children the Lord bring these parents home to God and his Church.

  76. Palladio and others here have spoken of baptizing children without regard to the parents being involved; and Palladio mentioned that anyone can baptize–and of his intent to baptize his grandchildren on his own initiative.

    Except for very special circumstances, this is the wrong thing to do.

    First, it is illicit for non clergy to baptize except in an emergency. Parents neglecting to baptize their children does not count.

    Second, they are not your children. The parents are wrong not to baptize their children, but they are *their* children, not yours. Do you intend to baptize every child in the neighborhood?

    Third, what happens next? Is this baptism kept a secret, or made known? Who will teach the child about the Faith? Or do people suppose that mere baptism–without any practice of the faith–is sufficient? Where did you get this idea?

    Something like this is a great way to create alienation. How would being separated from your grandchild for many years help? How will the parents, telling their child how terrible Catholics are (out of anger over a surreptitious baptism), help?

    There are good reasons why Mother Church doesn’t empower everyone to confer baptism apart from true emergencies.

  77. Imrahil says:

    Dear @LadyMarchmain,

    I see how you conclude (having myself no opinion on the matter) that the baby is a “poster child”.

    But you are reading too much into it if you say “as a poster child for inclusivity” in the relativist sense. For all either of us know, and assuming “poster child” to be correct, he might just as well be a poster child for the bare thing that happened, i. e. baptizing children whose parents are not married (a policy which has good Catholic arguments for it, and is at any rate demanded by present canon law, can. 867f.). Especially given that this policy, or rule, is being contested (for a proof see this combox – and I am not saying btw. that the opposers have no arguments).

    [For the record, I call myself a practicing Catholic and owe this status, below and apart from God’s grace which of course could still have worked somehow, entirely to the tradition of child baptism and the tradition of class-wise general First Communion. My parents, also, are merely civilly married, though I never asked and am not going to ask about the faint possibility of them having asked for a dispensation.]

  78. tm30 says:

    Wow, I thought I was a cynic.

    We kinda haveta take people at their word when they vow to raise their kids in the faith. Just like we take engaged couples at their word when they make their marriage vows.

    That said, the reality is, anyone who makes said vows, are on the hook for said vows. How many sacramentally married Catholics completely abandon the Church except for First Communion and Weddings (if that even)? If the couple has expressed intent to be re-united with the faith, and they are willing to vow that they will raise the child in the faith, you can’t withhold Baptism. If the couple is making a cynical show of it (e.g. they’re celebrities or other public figures who are very publicly and vociferously unwilling to follow Church teaching), then I could see withholding since the intent is to deceive, not fulfill baptismal promises.

  79. Ben Kenobi says:

    “Why get tied up in fights over 2000 year old rules when they can be all but sidelined by big, showy displays?”

    How many here married in the Church because otherwise their children would not be baptized? Does this strike you as a particularly good reason to marry in the Church?

  80. Ben Kenobi says:

    “we have seen many instances of people (whose lives violate Church teaching) forcing the Church to give them sacraments as a kind of statement.”

    Baptism is freely offered.

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  82. Palladio,
    You ask:

    b. what is meant by sacramentalizing the civil marriage.

    If one is validly civilly married, or validly civilly married within another Christian denomination, the solution is to have the marriage convalidated by a Catholic priest. The convalidation is essentially both parties reiterating their wedding vows before the priest, in the presence of at least two Catholic witnesses.

    Our parish offers marriage as part of the Mass for anyone who wishes. A few months before we were to be received, a couple in the parish who had limited resources opted to celebrate their wedding as part of the Noon Mass, and the Pastor explained that such an option was available to anyone who wished it. So my wife and I decided that we would do the same following our reception, having been married for almost thirty years (the marriage having been first contracted in an Episcopal Church, and hence, not witnessed by the Catholic Church). So, we had a valid marriage in all respects EXCEPT that it had not been witnessed by the Catholic Church.

    Our convalidation was witnessed by the couple who were, and remain dear friends and were also our sponsors for reception into the Catholic Church.

    If I have omitted anything from the above explanation, I apologize, and trust that Fr. Z or another commenter will offer any needed corrections or amplifications.

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  83. Palladio says:

    Dear Fr Martin Fox and Martial Artist: thanks for your replies. Fr. Fox, all points well taken. Your general point is that the baptism is illicit and that it creates a bunch of problems. It’s the necessity of baptism to salvation is my starting point. I am not obliged to baptist strangers, but surely love for one’s one nearest and dearest makes the desire understandable enough. I won’t run to the well it’s still valid claim, but I would love to know what your sources are, Father. I think necessity neglected by otherwise informed lapsed Catholics is an emergency for the soul like never telling children not to touch a hot stove. But I am edified to read your very kind reply, Father Fox, and eager to hear more if you should be so inclined. God bless.

  84. Sonshine135 says:

    I’m fine with this. If it was important enough for the civilly married couple to have the child baptized, then we should hope that they are being turned towards God. All of us with children know that our kids don’t always want to go to church (at least my kids are that way…maybe you all have perfect kids that always want to go! If so, God bless you!), but we make the little Pagans go anyway. Why? We want them to know that it is an important part of life. What is real and important to us hopefully is made more real and important to them. Then they become like fuel, awaiting to be kindled into full blown fire by the Holy Spirit.

    In this case, the child shall lead them, and just maybe, the spirit will have a profound impact on their heart.

  85. Palladio says:

    Dear Father Fox,
    I neglected to reply to your questions, ” Or do people suppose that mere baptism–without any practice of the faith–is sufficient? Where did you get this idea?” I don’t suppose that, but then I did not make up the doctrine that baptism is necessary to salvation.

    I should have mentioned that the grandchildren are not yet a twinkle in the eye of their only putative fathers. What I meant was this: if my kids, who of age have already drifted from the faith, should have children, and if, despite my most Benedictine approach to their lapse, they persist in refusing Baptism, while the child or children or infants I would (perhaps) baptize him, her, or them, in secret.
    The precedent would be my great-grandfather, who baptized new borns in his medical practice–presumably in peoples’ homes (this was until the 1920s). This was, interestingly, in Cincinnati. I expect that infant mortality was the reason. He was a St. Xavier’s grad, so no ignoramus, and a devout practicing Catholic whose nieces and nephews entered (5 of them) into religion. The parallel I see is that the infant, should he die unbaptized, exists in a state unknown to me and much debated, I think, in the Church. Why would I not see the problem as an emergency, given that the sacrament is a necessity?
    God bless.

  86. Palladio:

    Thanks for your reply.

    First, I fail to see why you aren’t “obliged” to baptize strangers. What gives you the right to baptize another person’s child? That is what you are claiming you a duty or a right to do. Whether it’s a grandchild, or a niece or nephew, or a cousin, the fact remains, they are not *your* children–are they?

    So I think my point is clear enough. You bring your children to be baptized. Your children. Not other people’s children. Your grandchildren–dear as they are to you–are someone else’s children.

    You said the desire is understandable. Indeed it is. I salute the good impulse at work here. But a good impulse or intention is not enough–and I shouldn’t have to explain that idea further.

    You asked me for my sources. Well, I don’t offer comments here with a library of documents and so forth handy–nor do I think that’s reasonable to expect. I will simply tell you that I am quite familiar with what the norms of the Church are regarding baptism of adults and children, as well as common sense, and my answer comes out of both of those things. And the Church says, at least one parent must consent. And that non-clergy are not to do what you say. If you want specific citations, I’m sorry I don’t have that handy. But I suspect you’ll find something in the Code of Canon Law, which is available online. The Rite of Baptism isn’t, I don’t believe. And one or the other specifies a need for a well grounded hope that the child will be raised Catholic. Which–in your case–you admit you don’t have. What is that hope, especially after the parents react to your invasion of their parental responsibilities?

    It is common sense that if you baptize another person’s children without that person’s consent, that other person is not likely to respond favorably. After all, if it were easy enough to get your children to agree to your grandchildren’s baptism, why not try that route? Why defy them? Only because they aren’t just slow about it–but they refuse. And if you do it nonetheless, it’s my common sense that tells me they may well be alienated from you. And if you grandchildren ever learn from their parents they were baptized, what they hear will be how terrible Catholics are. Why would you want this?

    Are you under the impression that simply someone goes through life, good and bad, and upon death, the mere fact of that person being baptized–that’s all, no other sacraments, and no other instruction in the faith–will save that person? I would ask what is your source for this idea.

    What the Church calls us to do is to share the Faith. After all, if all we had to do was merely baptize everyone, and that’s all, this would be very easy. We could simply offer people money to be baptized: “you may think it’s silly, but we are convinced it’ll save your soul. Here’s $100 for the trouble.” I’m pretty sure we could raise the money and get it done–but perhaps for only $20 a soul.

    I’m not trying to be irreverent; I’m challenging the notion you appear to be advancing: that our goal is the sacrament of baptism, alone–rather than a life of faith in Jesus Christ! The point is, they go together.

  87. Palladio:

    I wasn’t intending to go look up the relevant canons on baptism, but lo and behold! Right after posting my comment above, I found it referenced in an article by Jimmie Akin. Here is the link: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__P2X.HTM.

    You can go back and forth from there to read the nearby sections of Canon Law that also pertain to the subject.

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  90. Lucas.Br says:

    Was it not God who intervened in the creation of this babe’s soul ex novo a few months before this event?

    What would happen to that same God-created soul in the afterlife, if – not baptized – the babe were to decease?

    Should the babe be denied Baptism, because of his/her parents’ heresy?

    What if he/she had NO parents at all – no Baptism until the unbaptized develops his/her own will?

    Is there not a norm which allows, in extremis, for anyone to perform the Baptism, in order to save a babe’s soul? Is there not an unwritten principle behind this exception which basically says all babes should be Baptized ASAP/”just get on with it”?

  91. rtjl says:

    Sigh. I have now had three conversations with Catholics who have looked on this baptism and have concluded that couples being married or not doesn’t really matter and that going to church doesn’t really matter either. They have basically said to me. “I don’t know what your problem is. Francis doesn’t care if people are married or not. Francis doesn’t seem to think it’s important to go to church regularly.”

    Life has become very difficult indeed.

    I know that these things don’t really reflect the Pope’s mind. (I really hope they don’t). But none-the-less, that is now the perception on the ground.

  92. gsk says:

    @Palladio: What Fr Fox didn’t mention is the obligation incurred by the baptised soul. This will later greatly impact his or her attempts at marriage — with salvation still hanging in the balance. I say this as a “convert” who only discovered much later that her own infant baptism (unrecorded, anecdotal only) was what drew her to the One True Church. Still, it doesn’t justify intruding without (1) sufficient cause and then (2) sufficient effort to safeguard the responsibilities that accrue.

    Consider the judiciousness over the centuries about when to bring catechumens fully into the fold, and remember in particular the reticence of the Jesuits to baptise the natives of North America. It’s a remarkable shot of grace, but it’s not a silver bullet.

  93. Palladio says:

    Thanks, Fr. Fox and gsk. gsk: the issue is the soul of an unbaptized infant in the here and now, not early America. Should the infant die, having been baptized, there can be no doubt where its soul goes. The sufficient cause would be the immortal soul of an infant, born to a Catholic parent, my own grandchild. Why do we assume, but carelessly, that all infants survive past infancy? Should unbaptized infants die, where do their souls go?

    Fr. Fox, I cannot begin to thank you for your reply, most pastoral. I am sure my own pastor has no time for discussion of this. You are a good shepherd, and I am happy to be your sheep. I did not mean to call you out on sources–that’s not how I behave with priests–only to save you time in replying. Special thanks for the link.

    I have a moral obligation to give witness to (and defend) the Faith before the world, but I do not see how you derive from my moral obligation to my family the very same moral obligation to the world. I know I have no such thing.

    Vatican II does not teach that only Catholics are saved, but it clearly implies that the Church disposes of God’s grace as does nothing else under the sun. So for me to ignore the ignorant, immature, indifferent, depraved, confused, or grossly mistaken actions of my own children with regard to my (still unborn) grandchildren is simply out of the question.

    So until the Church teaches a Catholic is not to consider the soul of his grandchild as imperiled by its not being Baptized, I think my question is only natural, my course of action perhaps–again, perhaps–clear.

    “§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.” So, iff I saw my own grandchild in danger of death, I would without hesitation baptize it, if nobody else had the sense to do so.

    Thanks to Father Z for allowing us to correspond. I hope you see I am taking what you say to heart, but thinking about it, too.
    God bless you both!

  94. Volanges says:

    Palladio, I can sympathize. My grandson will be 3 next month and he’s unbaptized. My daughter has categorically stated that in order to have him baptized she’d have to lie and say she’s going to raise him Catholic and she’s not willing to do that in order to simply make me happy. She doesn’t go to Mass except at Christmas, had only a civil marriage to an agnostic who is nominally Anglican.

    Now I’ve had to resist the urge to baptize him when I’ve given him a bath. A friend priest even expressed surprise that I hadn’t done so, knowing as he does that I’m part of my parish’s baptismal preparation team and all, but resist I did by reminding myself that to do so would bind him to things he might never learn about since I live about 1500 miles away so wouldn’t have any opportunity to teach him anything. Now if he gets sick and I’m nearby all bets are off and he’ll be baptized in a heartbeat but for now I have to be content with praying for him, and for the sibling he will have in about 5 months who will also remain unbaptized.

  95. Palladio says:

    Volanges, you are very kind, and thank you. I’ll pray for you and your family. God bless.

  96. LadyMarchmain says:

    Volanges, take heart! Your daughter is closer to the Catholic faith than many people out there, as she believes in the meaning and significance of baptism. I will pray for your family and your grandchildren.

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