As baptism rates are falling in many dioceses across the country, relatives are often left to worry about their family members who are not baptized. If you’re in this situation, what can you do?
“I have a great-grandson, five months old, that hasn’t been baptized. Parents were just married by a justice of the peace, father is Catholic but not going to church, and the mother is not Catholic. Is there any way that baby can be baptized? I’m worried about that,” said an anonymous caller to Go Ask Your FatherTM.
“Not against the will of the parents and not unless there is a well-founded hope that the child would be raised Catholic,” replied Msgr. Stuart Swetland, host of Go Ask Your Father. “In other words, we don’t baptize children against the will of their parents. Now, obviously, if the child’s in danger of death that wouldn’t apply. But other than that rare case of there being a life-threatening illness … the Church won’t baptize against the parents’ wishes.”
“I know that the parents would be agreeable to have the baby baptized, but the thing is, who’s going to teach this child the Catholic religion? I probably could do what I can, but I don’t live the in the same town that they do,” said the caller.
Msgr. Swetland answered: “I have baptized babies where a grandparent or another relative has made the commitment with the parents’ permission that they would be instructing the child and bringing the child up in the Faith, bringing the child to Mass and all that. But that has to be a situation where the person is, obviously, in the same area and can do that in a reasonable way.”
I think the first work that needs to be done here, anonymous, is a work on re-evangelizing the Catholic in this marriage and evangelizing the non-Catholic so they at least see the importance of their child being baptized and raised in the Faith. This is like the early Church—we have to convert whole households. And this is more and more the norm now in the United States.
We used to talk about converting the non-Catholic spouses of parishioners in the United States and we thought that was great work—and it is great work—but now we’re talking about evangelizing whole households of people, multi-generational households who don’t know the Lord. Because no one in this household right now knows the Lord, and so they’re not living a Christian life and therefore they’re not seeking baptism, which makes sense if you’re not living and believing the Christian life. It only makes sense to baptize if you know that in baptism, you die with Christ and rise a new creation. … So, we need to work on the parents in this case, and then the baptism of their child will follow.”