“For an infant to be baptized lawfully, it is required that there is a well founded hope that the child will be brought up in the Catholic religion. If such hope is truly lacking, the baptism is, in accordance with the provisions of particular law, to be deferred, and the parents advised of the reason for it.” (Canon 868 par. 1, no. 2 CIC)
Duly considered and aptly called as the “Sacrament of Initiation,” Baptism is an infant’s basic introduction to the integral Sacramental life of the Catholic faith. And as provided by the above cited Canon Law, an infant may not be “lawfully” baptized if the child would not be accorded the tenable opportunity or “well founded hope” of receiving the Sacraments of Confirmation, Reconciliation/Communion as the he progresses in being “brought up in the Catholic religion.”
The primary consideration in the above canonical legislation is the child who should not be incorporated into the Catholic Church through the Sacrament of Baptism. If the infant would not be accorded the realistic expectation of being raised up as a Catholic by gradually knowing more about Catholic faith and by subsequently practicing and receiving the other Sacraments of the Catholic Church, the Sacrament of Baptism will appear futile.
In such a situation, the administration of the Sacrament of Baptism should be “deferred” and the parents of the child should be “advised” of the reason of the postponement.
What are the ordinary causal factors that reasonably warrant the delay:
1. The parents are non-Catholics.
2. The parents are Catholics but simply living together.
3. The parents are Catholic but only civilly married.
4. The parents subscribed to two different religions with the non-Catholic being strongly against the Catholic faith.
5. The child is left by the parents to the care of non-catholic elders.
In any of the above more common situations, the more common approach is for the concerned Pastors have the parents “advised” of the significance and implications of the reception of the Sacrament of Baptism on the part of their children. This includes the subsequent reception of the Sacrament of Matrimony after having approached the Sacrament of Reconciliation, plus other relevant and practical advisories.
There are three ordinary questions asked in conjunction with the above canonical provision:
First, can the child of a single parent be baptized? Yes, provided the latter is a Catholic in fact.
Second, can an adopted child be baptized? Yes, on condition that the adopting parents are Catholics in faith and observance.
Third, can an infant in danger of death be baptized, irrespective of the conjugal situation or religious affiliation of the parents? Yes, taking into consideration however, the more recent doctrinal pronouncement on “Limbo.”
November 24, 2008