ASK FATHER: Baptism of child of a same-sex couple?

From a reader…


In my diocese and in others there has been a general conclusion that it is fine to baptized the child of a homosexual couple, so long as it is done in private, you let the parents know you don’t agree with their lifestyle, and you only write in the baptismal register the name of one of the parents (therefore treating it like the baptism of a child of a single parent). The “founded hope” for the infant as stated in canon 868 paragraph 1 number 2 for a licit baptism, they claim, exists in the fact that you never know how the grace of God will work in the life of the child upon receiving this sacrament. In order to keep this question short I simply want to hear your opinion on this matter concerning the baptism of a child of homosexual parents. If you have already written an article on this I apologize and would it be possible to kindly direct me to it so I don’t unecessesarily use up your time. Thank you very much.

Let’s see if we can run this gauntlet and survive.  Watch some people have a spittle-flecked nutty no matter what I write.

While we cannot place restrictions on God, who can save whom it pleaseth Him to save, Christ himself and Holy Church teach without the chance of error that baptism is “necessary for salvation” (CCC 1257) This is also inscribed in law, so that our practice is regulated (can. 849).  Because we want as many as possible to be saved, we are pretty flexible about baptism, the foundation sacrament.   Denial of baptism is a horrifying thought.  This is why the Church’s ministers should delay baptism.  More on that later.

Can. 868 lays down two criteria for licit baptism of an infant who is not in danger of death.   Yes, we are deeply concerned about liceity, because we are not antinomian jerks, selfishly sowing the Church with chaos.

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 (spes fundata) that the infant will be brought up in the Catholic religion (in religione catholica educatum); 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.

The first point is not much of a problem, but the second one is.

A “founded” hope has to be founded on something you can identify.  There should be some evidence.   Get the guess work out of the situation and ask a lot of questions.  Moreover, people can’t commit to what they don’t know.  This is a chance to teach.

That “educatum” really means “upbringing”, rather than mere “education”.  Can a same-sex couple really bring up a child in an authentically Catholic way if by their relationship they demonstrate that they don’t accept what the Church teaches?   I’m not just talking about a couple of guys or gals who share a house as friends, but who clearly share a lot more and in an obvious way.  Upbringing involves setting an example of life.

“Altogether lacking”?  While there is life, there is hope.  We don’t know how God might work on them or how they will respond.  The fact of a request indicates that something is going on.   Have they, on the other hand, said that someone’s grandmother wants it to happen but they have no intention of trying to live as good Catholics?  Do they want this baptism to mock the Church or to defy the Church as being “homophobic”?

Note that baptism is to be “delayed”, not “denied”.

Also, I think there is a difference between a same-sex couple who legally adopt and a same sex couple in which one of them is the true, natural parent of the child in question.

Practically speaking, because baptism is so important, before automatically deciding to delay the baptism – and I stress delay – it would be a really good idea to make some determinations about the criteria in the law, above.  That means talking to them to find out what is going on and making sure they understand clearly what the Church teaches about their inclinations, their obligations and the meaning of the sacrament, and the responsibilities it brings.

Once that is done, then a decision can be made.

If it is determined that the baptism can be administered, then there are the problems of the rite! Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination warns, “In those cases where Baptism is permitted, pastoral ministers should exercise prudential judgment when preparing baptismal ceremonies.”

First, scandal must be avoided.  Hence, this should be private and with as few people involved as possible.

The rite presumes the presence of parents, who obviously are not both of the same sex.  To refer to two women as “parents”, and to ask them “what name do you give your child?” would be a scandalous lie.   Clearly, their relationship to the child is not the same as that of heterosexual adoptive parents.

Moreover, the baptism has to be recorded in the official register.  Can. 877 §2 provides for the recording of a baptism of a child of an unmarried mother, for unknown father, etc. and §3 allows for conferences to make determinations about records for adopted children.  In any event, however it is sorted out, just putting “parentes ignoti” isn’t enough, even if the biological parents really aren’t known.  It seems that some explanatory note has to be added.

Anyway, the divine teaching about the importance of baptism, and the indications of the law, lead one to examine with care and not in a rush the whole raft of details and circumstances of the relationship, motives, prospects, etc., surrounding the child.

Hence, respondeo dicendum quod… what you say your diocese has determined is a pretty good plan, with the provision that each and every case be considered on its own merits.

I suggest that, in that diocese, if they haven’t done so already, priests should be instructed to consult with the diocesan bishop before going forward or communicating the decision to delay (not deny).  There are not so many of these cases that the bishop would be hard pressed.  Besides, he is in the big chair in order to make these calls.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. JabbaPapa says:

    Can I add that in such difficult situations, the need for godparents more active than usual in the religious upbringing of the children is often stressed in the preparatory stages of the Baptism, delayed or otherwise.

  2. Sportsfan says:

    “Baptism of child”, possible.

    “child of a same-sex couple”, impossible.

    It depends on where you put the quotes.

  3. Pingback: MONDAY IGNOMINY EDITION – Big Pulpit

  4. dallenl says:

    The article states the matter well. Many of the same qualifications can apply to other situations not considered exactly conventional such as divorced and civilly remarried parents, or parent in an immoral occupation (Mafia). Seems a bit illogical, but in fact, most parents want better for their children than themselves.

    [That’s a good observation. Thanks for that.]

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