Thursday, July 15, 2010

Baptism of Newborn

Has anyone else run into trouble trying to schedule a baptism for a newborn?

We belong to a large city parish. Our church schedules baptisms only twice a month in a small chapel outside of regular Sunday Mass. The earliest baptism date I can get in September will occur when my baby is over two weeks old.

I asked if there was any flexibility to schedule a private baptism with one of our many parish priests. The secretary told me that most parents wait until the baby is 2 to 3 months old before they baptize. She hinted that I was a little nuts for worrying about a baptism before my child was even born.(At my last daughter's baptism at this same parish the Deacon told me he never sees baby's under one year.)

I'm pretty sure that this "common" practice in my parish is against Cannon law. We're supposed to get baby's baptized within the few weeks after birth. I feel like I saw something from our Pope which recommended not waiting longer than 10 days after birth.

Canon 867
§ 1: Parents are obliged to see to it that infants are baptized within the first weeks after birth; as soon as possible after the birth, or even before it, parents are to go to the pastor to request the sacrament for their child and to be prepared for it properly.

In addition, my parish prints a very unfriendly notice in the church bulletin which states "you must be a parish member for the past 6 months before baptizing your child." Everyone in my community works for the government and the turn-over for jobs is super high. I can't imagine telling a couple that newly relocates to D.C.while the wife is pregnant- "Sorry you need to wait six months to baptize your child." Can't there be some exception if you provide a letter from your old parish stating that you're a Catholic in good standing? Do we really want to raise extra barriers to this extremely important sacrament?

Baptism is so critical. I feel like I'm supposed to say something politely to my pastor about this subtle discouragement of newborn baptisms, but not sure what to say. Anyone have any ideas?

St. John the Baptist, pray for us!


  1. We're fortunate because our priest is one of Dan's best friends so he's very accomodating.

    Dan would like to have our babies baptized in the first eight days but they usually end up being baptized around the 4th week. I'll tell you more about that the next time we chat. :)

    I realize how rare our situation is, though. It seems most everyone else I know has faced a similar situation to the one you face. I'm so sorry!

  2. Unfortunately this is common across the U.S. and I do agree with you it's a big problem! I also live in an area where many couples relocate (near a military base).

    The idea of requesting a letter from the couple's old parish is a good idea, however don't forget that sometimes a new baby can draw a couple back into the Church. Even if a couple has only been attending Mass for a couple months before the birth of their baby this shouldn't prevent their ability to have their little one baptized. It's an issue of the safety of the baby's soul.

  3. You are dead right on this issue! Don't back down-get that baby's soul to safety. Although I do think that waiting the two weeks would be acceptable-at least you tried your best if you can't come up with a better solution.

  4. We've usually waited a little longer, about a month; mainly because I have such a hard time recovering from my c-sections and also because we have to work around travel times for my family, who live out of state, to be able to be present. But we're also lucky because my husband is great friends with our (now former) parish priest so we could have scheduled it for whenever we liked. After we'd moved parishes he even came and did the baptism for us at our new parish, with our current pastor in attendance.

    But I think you are perfectly correct to push the point and get your baby baptized as soon as possible. I can't believe people would wait a whole year!

  5. Last year in Pittsburgh, my sister's priest freaked out on them initially when they tried to schedule her baby's baptism when she was already three months old. "Would you deny her food?" he demanded. "Why would you deny her the Kingdom?"
    HOWEVER, when they called him back to try to schedule immediately (taking his point), he said something along the lines of oh you haven't taken the pre-Jordan class ever (something not required in Erie Diocese where her older child was batized 10 years earlier) and the earliest slot he had for that was in a few months and maybe they should try another parish.

    I would prefer a sooner is better myself. In fact, I was wishing to my mom that I had done Baptism in an Eastern Rite church (my grandmother is good friends with a Maronite Corbishop) and that way I would never have to worry about First Commnunion or Confirmation and the circuses those could become.

  6. I would feel that within 2 weeks is a reasonable timeframe on the part of the parish.

    If it were any longer, I would check with the Legion of Mary if one is active within the parish--one of its works is finding children who need the sacraments, through door-to-door census if necessary.

    A sympathetic member may be able to help you connect with a priest or deacon independent of the formal scheduling procedure in the church office.

    --Meredith, who left 8 messages on the wrong church telephone number before she finally got the last baby baptized!