ASK FATHER: Family member baptized children without parents knowledge

12_11_23_sac-baptism-headFrom a reader…


I recently learned that one of my family members took the initiative to illicitly baptize two “infants” (one under the age of one and the other almost 4 years old) herself because my brother refused to have his children baptized (his wife is not baptized and they are not validly married according to Canon Law).

Now what? Telling my brother and his wife would do more harm than good right now [Maybe not!] (he lets my mom take them to church on Sunday, and the oldest attends a Catholic pre-school, and my mom teaches him his prayers when she baby-sits for them, which would all likely stop if he found out about this), but eventually someone will have to let the cat out of the bag. [Yes.]

I’m assuming the parish my mom attends needs to know and make a record of it, but should the rest of the Rite be finished? Am I morally obligated to inform the parish if she doesn’t do it?

I’ve been praying and having Masses offered for them to be baptized, but this is not what I had in mind.

GUEST “FATHER” RESPONSE (slightly edited):

The questioner did not perform the baptisms, so she does not have direct knowledge of the validity of the administration of baptism.

Given that, it would be the decision of the person who did the baptisms to tell the parents that he or she administered the baptism validly.  Before doing so, it might be a good idea to talk this out with the local priest.  It’s hard to now in this too brief email/blog format what the situation is on the ground.

That said, should such information be communicated?

I would say yes, but the father should be strongly encouraged to have the children conditionally baptized at the local parish to insure the validity and to insure that the baptism is registered in the parish records.

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  1. Ave Crux says:

    QUESTION: I visit my father in a nursing home. He shares a room with a man who is Jewish who has Alzheimers and an almost childlike disposition and intellect now.

    One day he was sitting next to my father as I was helping him with dinner and the thought popped into my head about whether he should be Baptized before it’s too late.

    What about the elderly in these or similar circumstances? Should one attempt to baptize them if they are not able to consent, as with infants?

    I doubt his family would consent, and he’s about to depart this life.

    Enlightenment on this would be appreciated.

  2. frmh says:

    I knew of one lady who brought her nephew for baptism age 4, she did this secretly and the parish priest played along with it, knowing that the mother of the child was against baptism. He did all the ceremonies

    Later on the mother decided that her child should be baptised.

    The same priest did a second baptism of the same child.

    I rebuked the lady in question in the first place for doing the secret baptism. The priest should have known better, what he did was sinful.

  3. Absit invidia says:

    Interesting. There’s going to become a moment when Catholics need to come out of hiding on their Faith:

    Baptizing in secret
    Catholics who vote pro-life, but keep it under wraps due to social repercussions
    The whole I’m pro-life, but vote pro-choice
    The I’m Catholic, but I disagree with . . .
    Who am I to judge
    Who am I to tell others who they shouldn’t marry

    It’s time to draw lines in the sand and pick a side. Our defense and standing up for the Faith may be clumsy at first, but with practice comes wisdom and articulation.

    Otherwise, pretty soon incest will be allowed, the Catholic Church will face a war as our silence allows the forces of darkness to amass strength and momentum against Christendom. This issue of delaying, postponing the sacraments of salvation is just one of the many Christians will have to come to grips with. Silence is no longer an option.

  4. Possibly this situation is not uncommon. However, I understand a child can be baptized against the wishes of his parents only if he is in danger of death.

  5. Pigeon says:

    If I baptize a strange adult without his consent, I presume the baptism is invalid.

    Since baptism of the infant rests, in part, on the faith of the parents, how could a baptism against the parents’ will be valid, except in danger of death?

    I can’t secretly baptize random children, even if I were a priest, right? If I did, how could it be valid?

  6. Papal Fan says:

    This situation reminds me of the Mortara Affair, in which it was alleged that a Jewish infant was baptized by a Christian servant girl during the time of the Papal States in the 19th Century.

    When the authorities found out, they took the child from his parents and Bld. Pius IX was dragged into this by refusing to return the child and refusing to deny him a Christian education. Neither side would budge, especially when the parents refused to convert, but it made the pope extremely unpopular.

    Pertaining to the above situation, it’s unfortunate that the Baptism, if valid, happened this way. There are so many possible (negative) reactions from the parents and the rest of the family. At this point, yes, a priest should be contacted and all important parties come together and be made aware of it.

    The only concern I have is what would happen next if the parents decide to cease any association with a Christian upbringing for their children?

  7. Don’t baptize other people’s children. Don’t baptize those old enough to consent, without their consent. Because these things are wrong. This creates all kinds of messes, but who will clean them up? Not you.

  8. Imrahil says:

    What Fr Fox said.

    I mean, of course the parents could suddenly receive infused wisdom and see that Christianity is true and that they had better get their affairs in order themselves, and all. Of course that can happen; as miracles always can.

    But supposing we are only one inch short of that, how can the parents possibly not be enraged that, to say it as they would say it, these Christians steal their child by playing foul tricks they themselves hold to be illegal, and afterwards say “sorry what happened, it was our fault, but as it is we have to benefit from it”. The maidservant who baptized young Edward Mortara at least could claim that it was an ermergency baptism and she had probably with objective justification, and certainly personally seriously, believed the boy was sick to his death.

    And apart from these prudential questions: Didn’t we learn once that thou must never do anything bad no matter what good may come of it? Or, as the Bl. John Henry formulated with a fine sense of making his point precisely clear, (no literal quote) that the Church prefer the sun to fail and the earth to grow poisonous and each single human being to die in extremest pain and agony, rather than that one human soul, he would not say “be lost”, but rather than that one human soul should commit a single venial sin?

    If so, what part of “illicit” did they not understand?

    Dear Ave Crux,

    if I’m rightly informed, if consent lacked at the last moment where they were capable of consenting, any baptism afterwards would be invalid.

    Oh and of course, if we leave the question of the baptismal character aside for a mment, what would baptism change? If they would have consented if they could have consented, they are saved anyway. If they would have not consented even if they could have consented, with full knowledge, they are not. And if they would not have consented if they could have consented for reason of misinformation, then we do not know if they are saved, but we do know (I guess) that the baptism-by-water as such would be invalid.

    Of Course if someone expressly desired to be baptized, and did not revoke it before falling in a state incapable of consent, then he must be baptized.

  9. PA mom says:

    Ave Crux- for the elderly Jewish man, I believe Jesus made promises of Mercy related to the Divine Mercy chaplet, when recited in the company of a dying person.

  10. Imrahil says:

    Since baptism of the infant rests, in part, on the faith of the parents, how could a baptism against the parents’ will be valid, except in danger of death?

    I think that while refusing faith is incompatible with Baptism and thus invalidating by nature, mere lack of faith does not belong into this category, and in any case Baptism does not “rest on” anybody’s faith so much, as its matter is water and its form is the formula. In any case, the faith in case of infants is supplied by the Church (not the parents) and expressed in the Old Rite by the sponsor (not the parent) speaking in the Old Rite in the name of the baptizand himself (again not the parents).

    Whether it would be possible and, if so, advisable to make, outside danger of death, the consent of at least one parent or legal guardian a condition of baptism with invalidating force by positive law would, by the way, be an interesting question for theologians and canonists (and one beyond me).

  11. Ave Crux says:

    PA Mom:Interesting you should say that! That exact thought came to me also after asking that question!

    Offering the Chaplet of Mercy for this soul seems to be a prompting of grace.

    Thank you!

  12. Former Altar Boy says:

    My non-Catholic wife did not want out children baptized. After a civil divorce, I baptized both children. Having gone to Catholic school in the pre-Vat2 era where we were all taught (repeatedly!) how to perform a valid baptism, I was confident I did it correctly. Later, before the children made their First Holy Communion, the pastor conditionally baptized them just to be safe. NB: the marriage was later annulled.

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