If we are all God's children, why would a priest (actually 2 different priests from 2 different Catholic churches in this area) deny an innocent 9month old child Baptism?
I feel I must give you further information. My son was raised Catholic, and up until 2 years ago, was a practicing Catholic and his wife (who was baptized in the Catholic church as a baby ) attended church with him for a little over 6 years. He and his wife began going to a Baptist Church because his wife was not being spiritually fulfilled in the Catholic Church and requested they try other Christian churches. They began attending a Baptist church regularly a year and a half ago. My son felt that his family would have a better chance to stay church goers if they prayed together as a family, and he was having difficulty getting his wife to attend church. They are attending church regularly, but both of them want to have their third child baptized in the Catholic Church.
My priest at St ??? in [undisclosed city] would not allow the Baptism in his church. Just today, my son met with the priest at St ??? in [undisclosed city] and was denied as well. After reading your article on Baptism (including the story about the Eskimo child who was born of Pagan parents, who was baptized) I do not understand why my innocent grandchild should be denied Baptism.
In the story you read in What We Believe... Why We Believe It, the bishop baptized a dying child. The bishop rightly didn’t want the child to enter eternity without the seal of Baptism on his soul. As it happened, God used the sacrament to both cleanse (heal) the child’s soul while at the same time to heal the child’s broken health. So the situation was different with the child in the story than with your grandchild.
Before I move on, please note that I’m not being judgmental of anyone involved in this. There is plenty of fault to be passed around, but that doesn’t mean that anyone involved has had the intention of doing anything against Christ or His Church and her teachings. The root of the problem here is that your son and daughter-in-law do not know and understand the teachings of Jesus Christ as handed down by His Holy Catholic Church. Is that their fault? Absolutely not! In the aftermath of Vatican II (although not the fault of that magnificent Council), there were many abuses of the teachings of the Council that led to a watered down catechesis throughout the Church. (Please read here Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke’s short, single page letter.) The simple fact is, if they had been properly taught in the first place, we wouldn’t have to be dealing with this problem now. I suspect you are younger than I, which would be indicative of the likelihood that you are in the same circumstances catechetically as your son and daughter-in-law. Again, that is not your fault. It is because of situations like this that Joe Sixpack exists in the first place. The ultimate fault and guilt rests with whomever was responsible for the catechesis for you and your son and daughter-in-law.
When a child is baptized in the Church, the parents are acting on the child’s behalf. This includes making baptismal promises. Unfortunately, those promises are hollow, false and cannot be kept when the parents have left the Church. Therefore, the priests are not only right to deny baptism, but also duty bound under Canon Law and the dictates of their consciences to do so. If a baptism is performed when the person making the promises on behalf of the child has no intention of keeping the baptismal promises (which include fidelity to the Catholic Church and her teachings), then it is an abuse of the sacrament—and the abuse of a sacrament is a mortal sin of sacrilege. You see, if a priest were to perform such a baptism, he would be equally guilty of the sacrilege because he would be knowingly participating in that abuse of the sacrament. I realize your son and daughter-in-law don’t even realize they would be committing a sacrilege, and since knowledge is one of the requisites for a sin to be mortal, they would not have been imputed the guilt of the sin because of their ignorance of the nature of their act. However, the priest is fully aware, so he would indeed be guilty. It must also be duly noted that ignorance of the Church’s teachings can only cover one’s eternal destiny so far, as everyone has an obligation to seek, know, understand and live truth. So after reading this there will be no excuse in the eyes of God for your son and daughter-in-law.
Another factor that may be in play, but I don’t know because you didn’t tell me (although I suspect this may be the case, based on the circumstances you did reveal), is whether your son is married in the Church. You mentioned that your daughter-in-law was baptized in the Church as an infant, but there was no mention of their marital status. If they did not marry within the Church but rather attempted marriage outside the Church with a justice of the peace, judge, or non-Catholic minister, then in the eyes of the Church they would not be married anyway and would be living in an objective state of mortal sin.
It seems apparent to me that your son and daughter-in-law still consider themselves Catholics despite that they are not living as Catholics, but they are indeed living outside the Catholic Church and, therefore, in an objective state of mortal sin—even if not subjectively so.
Here are the remedies to the problem. First, your son and daughter-in-law need to return to the Catholic Church, and to do so will require a good confession. They need to first sit down with a priest and have a long, honest chat with him, as I’m certain I’m operating here in this answer without the benefit of all the pertinent information, so everything needs to come out in private conversation with a priest.
Second, if the marriage is not valid (i.e., attempted outside the Church) then it needs to be normalized. That means they need to receive the sacrament of Matrimony in the presence of a priest or deacon and two witnesses. That doesn’t mean another big wedding. The sacrament can be arranged with only the couple, a priest or deacon, and two witnesses in attendance.
Third, at this point the baptism of your grandchild can be administered. However, whereas the parents are making promises on the child’s behalf, they are then obligated to learn all that the Catholic Church teaches. It is painfully obvious they did not learn the faith growing up. Likewise, that you even had to ask this question demonstrates that you could use some remedial catechesis yourself. That’s not a judgment on you at all, but rather an objective observation on my part. So I would first recommend that they speak to a priest about remedial catechesis. If they (and hopefully you) decide to take this route, I will be happy to answer any and all questions as they (you?) go through catechesis.
I can empathize with the way your daughter-in-law feels about not having her spiritual needs met while attending Mass. This feeling is common and the biggest reason why Catholics leave the Church for other faith communities, particularly Protestant Fundamentalist sects such as Baptists. Indeed, I know of entire Baptist congregations made up of only lapsed Catholics. There are two reasons why Catholics like your daughter-in-law feel the way they do.
The first reason can be blamed on priests (as badly as I hate to admit it). Week in and week out, Catholics hear the same old milquetoast homilies about love your neighbor, be accepting, and don’t be judgmental. There is never anything solid by way of telling Catholics what they need to hear about Christian morality, dogma, and the risks we run of eternal damnation if we fail to do as Christ teaches through His Holy Catholic Church. What we normally hear is what I call “nice Catholicism”. It seems priests want to be nice. But Jesus wasn’t nice at all. He was respectful, loving, caring, kind, etc., but He wasn’t nice. This same Jesus called people hypocrites, liars, white painted sepulchers full of dead men’s bones, drove sinners from the temple with a braided cord, and promised to vomit us from His mouth for being lukewarm. That is what Catholics need and want to hear, which is why your son and daughter-in-law have left the Church—they don’t get what they need in their parish.
Priests don’t preach that way because they fear that parishioners will either leave or close their wallets or complain to the bishop. Such a fear is false and a lie from the bowels of hell perpetrated on the minds of priests from the Enemy himself. It’s been my experience that the only parishes in America that are growing through huge personal commitments on the part of Catholics and making many converts every year are those parishes that have priests willing to preach the truth forcefully and without apology. And I know this to be factual because I’ve been to those parishes, spoken at them, and know the priests. The most popular priests on the mission circuit are Fr. William “Bill” Casey of the Fathers of Mercy and Fr. Larry Richards, and the very reason they are so popular is because that is how they preach! So in order to keep Catholics from walking, priests need to begin to preach the way Jesus did—forcefully and unapologetically, telling the people about sin and its consequences.
But the parish priest isn’t the only one at fault. The other reason why Catholics feel the way your daughter-in-law feels is because they don’t understand the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Not only do they fail to understand that it is only in the Catholic Church where they actually meet Jesus face to face in the Eucharist—in His real and true presence; Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity—but they also fail to realize that it is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that completes the Old Covenant and institutes the New Covenant. They don’t realize they are witnessing a re-presentation of the sacrifice of the cross as an offering to God the Father from God the Son in reparation for our sins against the Father. If they truly understood what the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is and what is happening, they would never consider going anywhere else. Indeed, they would have the overwhelming desire to prostrate themselves face down on the floor before the altar during the priest’s celebration of the Mass! This is why I have said herein that your son and daughter-in-law need remedial catechesis. And if my words in this paragraph seem foreign or strange to you, you also need that same remedial catechesis. (In my best imitation of Christ, neither do I mince my words.)
Although I’m certain this is not the answer you were hoping for, I hope this answered your question. Again, since I lack the authority of a priest, I strongly urge you to print this and show it to your parish priest to verify that my answer is correct. If you have further questions or comments regarding this situation or anything else on your mind, please don’t hesitate to come back to me again.