Friday, January 27, 2012

"Let the little children come to me, after all of the proper forms are filled out and they've been certified by the relevant authorities."

Mike & I were asked to be godparents to his sister's baby.  Baby L, we'll call him, was born in July and still has yet to receive the sacrament.  We of course are concerned that so much time has gone by, but in the past few days we have discovered why.  SIL lives in Texas and she recently informed us that we, to be godparents, have to attend a baptism class.  Now, for Marshall's baptism, our priest, who knows us well and to be faithful Catholics, waived our baptismal class requirement (we took one for Jack, but our diocese states that you need to re-take the class if 5 years have passed since your last class).  For our own child!  So we let SIL know this and she said ok, she would let her parish know and it shouldn't be a problem. is a problem, apparently.  She called a few days ago to let us know that her parish wasn't budging on this issue and demands that we take a baptismal class, regardless of the fact that we just baptized our own child THREE WEEKS ago!!

Let me be clear: we're not anti-baptismal classes.  We think they're a great idea for parents of the child receiving the sacrament - as long as the child's sacrament isn't being delayed because of it.  And at this point, that's what's happening.  Not because we haven't taken the class yet, but because all the proper forms haven't been filled out yet!!  When Jack was baptized, we set the date and then the priest worked with us on a time we could come in for our info session/class.  Perfect.  That's how it should work.  The state of a child's eternal soul should not rest on whether or not the proper boxes have been checked!  (Oh..and they're also telling her they can't do it until after Lent now!  I guess they don't have any "openings" until then.  Openings??  For baptism???  GET THIS CHILD BAPTIZED!!  It doesn't take that long!  He'll almost be  a year old by then!!!  Appalling, and dare I say, sinful.)

Back to our story.  So Mike was, well, let's say "not happy."  He asked her for the number to her church office so he could talk the baptismal director himself.  He was able to reach her and she insisted that a baptismal class for godparents is "Canon Law."  He argued that no, it is not, and asked to speak to the pastor.  Amazingly the pastor was in and agreed to speak with him.  He too insisted that this "requirement" is Canon Law.  Mike swore that, no, it is not.  The pastor just insisted that we need to take the class and hey, even he learns something new every time!  Well, great, but we wouldn't even be taking their class so how do they know what we'd learn??  Which just proves that this is simply an effort in formalities and "box-checking."  In the end, the pastor reluctantly agreed that maybe a letter from our priest would suffice.

I called my pastor who agreed that this is all just a big bizarre formality and who confirmed that no, a class for godparents is not a Canon Law requirement.  All that is required by Canon Law is that the godparents be Catholics in good standing, which again, a letter from our priest will confirm for them.  I asked my pastor that if the letter wasn't good enough, what we should do.  He replied, "Well it better be, but if not, just come in for a cup of coffee and we'll call it a day!"  Love that guy!

Again, let me state that we're not anti-baptismal education classes.  I think they're great for Catechesis (which I believe is severely lacking these days) and that most people benefit from them.  I just think it's horrific that a child's sacrament is delayed because of it. Mike even found on the church's website that baptisms require THREE MONTHS notice to "process all the paperwork!"  WHAT?!?!  Three months???  What IS Canon Law requirement is that babies should be baptized as soon as possible following birth!

"Can.  867 §1. Parents are obliged to take care that infants are baptized in the first few weeks; as soon as possible after the birth or even before it, they are to go to the pastor to request the sacrament for their child and to be prepared properly for it."

And here is the Canon Law requirement for sponsors:

"Can.  872 Insofar as possible, a person to be baptized is to be given a sponsor who assists an adult in Christian initiation or together with the parents presents an infant for baptism. A sponsor also helps the baptized person to lead a Christian life in keeping with baptism and to fulfill faithfully the obligations inherent in it.Can.  873 There is to be only one male sponsor or one female sponsor or one of each.Can.  874 §1. To be permitted to take on the function of sponsor a person must:1/ be designated by the one to be baptized, by the parents or the person who takes their place, or in their absence by the pastor or minister and have the aptitude and intention of fulfilling this function;2/ have completed the sixteenth year of age, unless the diocesan bishop has established another age, or the pastor or minister has granted an exception for a just cause;3/ be a Catholic who has been confirmed and has already received the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist and who leads a life of faith in keeping with the function to be taken on;4/ not be bound by any canonical penalty legitimately imposed or declared;5/ not be the father or mother of the one to be baptized.§2. A baptized person who belongs to a non-Catholic ecclesial community is not to participate except together with a Catholic sponsor and then only as a witness of the baptism."

In the end, we'll take the class if this ends up being the hinging factor.  We won't allow ourselves to be what delays the sacrament any longer.  Maybe I sound childish, but it's the principle of the thing at this point! We don't have time to take the class in all honesty, and I'm not even sure that the next one at our parish would occur before the date she has set.  And my pastor agreed that it's ridiculous.

Something else that came up in our extensive discussions over this is: Shouldn't a baby be baptized regardless of the parents' intent to raise the child Catholic?  I mean, yes, the parents should raise the child Catholic if they want to baptize him Catholic.  But should that be a be-all-end-all requirement?  In extenuating circumstances, shouldn't they always want to baptize a baby?  Shouldn't the church go ahead and baptize a baby on the spot if a non-Catholic couple walks into a church and says, "We want you to baptize our baby"?  I know it's not an ideal situation but isn't it better than the innocent child walking around with Original Sin until the parents get their act together?  We did read that if a baby is left at a church, it's the priest's obligation to baptize him immediately.  Maybe I'm wrong, but that just seems like the right thing to do.  Any insight on that?

Another question: Can anyone baptize a baby?  I mean, I know anyone can, but I've also read that the parents have to request it in order for it to "count."  What's the rule on that one?


  1. I don't know the answers to your questions at the end, but that situation is appalling!!!! I have been a Godparent 5 times and have never taken a class!

  2. Oh, this is a HUGE pet peeve of mine. Jen Fulweiler wrote an article about it a while back, too.

    With my first, our priest waived the class requirement because he knew us and knew we were faithful Catholics in good standing. With my second, I had to take the class (same parish, different priest) but Father shut the video off after a few minutes and said, "You obviously know this already" and had me do all the paperwork. With my third and fourth, we knew the baptismal coordinator personally (he's now our fourth baby's godfather!) so he arranged it so we could skip the class and have private baptisms, without needing a birth certificate. But normally, our parish requires a birth certificate too (but not a class for the godparents, just proof that they are Catholics in good standing).

    It is, in a word, ridiculous. The only explanation I've heard for the birth certificate requirement is to (a) ensure that the parents of the child are the ones requesting baptism (because apparently there's a huge problem with people kidnapping kids and baptizing them Catholic?!), and (b) make sure the name is spelled correctly on the baptismal certificate (um, let the parents look at it before it's printed??).

    Anyone can baptize, but it's another extraordinary/ordinary thing. A priest or deacon is the ordinary minister of the sacrament, and it should be done in a church with parental consent. But if there are extraordinary circumstances (danger of death, etc.), then anyone can baptize at any place, without parental consent.

    I do think that a child should have a founded hope of being raised Catholic prior to baptism, because with baptism the child is obliged to get the sacraments as well as follow Catholic marriage rites. If the child is baptized Catholic and the parents raise him atheist (for example), then he'll contract an invalid marriage if he marries outside the Church (which he will, in all probability) and put himself into a state of further sin. Invincible ignorance will count in his defense, but still.

    Few things are more irritating to me than people who baptize their children Catholic with no intention of raising them to be so. That's what happened to three of my dear cousins, and now I can't go to any of their weddings. :(

    Ooooh, I can go on and on about this. It's bureaucratic nonsense.

  3. Forgot two things...

    1. Call the office of the bishop of the diocese that your sister is in, and explain the situation to someone there. Maybe they can intervene with Fr. Ignorant.

    2. I see your concern about children not being baptized, but I think it's better to trust in the mercy of God should they die unbaptized rather than to baptize them if there is no intention to raise them Catholic, kwim? It'd be different if a Catholic baptism didn't require Catholic marriage rites even if the person has since fallen away from the Church.

  4. Canon 868.1.2 addresses your question at the end! :)

    But yes, that's HORRIBLE. It makes me SO MAD.

  5. Hebrews, Mike & I are also godparents already and we've never taken the class before! Nor did Jack or Marshall's godparents ever have to take one! Which makes me know it's not Canon Law!

    Ah, JoAnna thanks for the link to Jen's article. Can't wait to read it! I've never heard of the birth certificate requirement, but I wouldn't be surprised if my SIL had to provide one (seriously...who is pretending to be a baby's parents just to get him baptized???).

    That's what I thought about the "anyone can baptize" scenario. That it has to be an extraordinary circumstance. But what about, for instance, my nephew, whose parents aren't Catholic, but my mother-in-law wants him baptized? Would that count? Just curious.

    And I completely, 100% agree about the infuriation of getting children baptized when they know they're not going to raise them Catholic. I've witnessed it. But I would think the Church's main concern would be for the child to receive the sacrament. But you're right - I guess it does affect future sacraments. I hadn't thought of that, so thanks!

    #1: We did consider calling the diocesan office. Still might do it.
    #2: You're right. Makes sense. Thanks!

  6. Re: your nephew, I guess it would depend on the priest... in theory, a priest should refuse to baptize an infant of he won't be raised Catholic. Not just because it may cause problems with other sacraments down the road, but also because it would essentially cause the parents to lie during the baptismal rite. :( You specifically promise to raise the child in the Church, after all, and if you promise that before God amd to God with no intention of doing so....? Not good.

  7. I can understand your frustration. Although not the same, most parishes require that an adopted child NOT be baptized until the adoption is finalized. In our case with Isabella, she was baptized at 4 1/2 months because of this. With Isaiah, they bent the rule and he was baptized at 1 month old exactly! In some cases, finalization doesn't happen for over a year! So sad when the child has to wait for the grace!

    1. Julie, I was wondering about adoptive children being baptized. Thanks for your input!

  8. Um I have 6 godchildren and never had to take a class for them! Just a letter from our priest saying we were Catholics in good standing. Wth.

  9. This reminds me of my frustration over getting Clara baptized. We finally got her baptized at 9 months only because we argued our case to the diocese. So no, they will not baptize a baby just because it's a baby who is in need of being baptized. During that time, I often wondered why our diocese wouldn't rather err on the side of baptizing our daughter even though the adoption wasn't finalized, especially because the rules differ from diocese to diocese. I think what it comes down to is different interpretation of the catechism. And, luckily for us, that allowed us to present our case and get them to change their minds (otherwise she would have been a year and a half!). Good luck!!

  10. That's so frustrating. They have classes for everything now. It's agonizing for practicing catholis who know their faith. I think you should just have an interview with the priest and he can ask you questions about your faith. If you fail, then take the classes. If you pass, then baptize away.

  11. Classes sound like a good idea, I agree. It's the darn paperwork that gets you every time.

    I'm having paperwork issues at my own parish for a different reason.

  12. I have never taken a class either and I'm a godparent.
    I believe anyone can baptize a baby if its an emergency. When my youngest brother was born, my mom baptized him in the Kitchen sink "just in case" b/c it was going to be awhile before his baptism b/c my dad was super sick. Of course, we had an official baptism later, but I would say to be safe ... do it if you're unsure. God will grant an allowance.
    I think this situation is simply appalling! That is stupid ... you, taking the class you "could" have taken (how do they not know) a short time ago! UGH!!!!!