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Was this priest wrong to refuse to baptize a seriously ill newborn?

Full Question

The chaplain of our local government hospital refused to baptize a sick newborn. The doctors told the family to get the priest because the infant was in critical condition. When the priest arrived and found out that the parents were temporarily absent, he refused to administer emergency baptism and confirmation. A few hours later, when the baby was about to die, the doctor administered emergency baptism. I am a doctor who has done at least one emergency baptism and taught other medical students to do the same; I find the actions of the priest hard to understand. Did the priest have sufficient grounds to refuse administering emergency baptism to a dying infant whose parents were not around?

Answer

The priest in question violated canon law, and possibly the moral law, in refusing to baptize the baby. He needs to be informed of what the Church teaches. In cases of urgent necessity and specifically with cases of children under the age of seven, canon law requires that they be baptized without delay (CIC 867 §2). When there is danger of the baby dying, there is no requirement that the parents be present, that they be practicing Catholics, or even married in the Church. Thank God for that doctor and other doctors like yourself.

 













19 comments

  1. Noel David Reply

    The priest was absolutely wrong. Many a child and adult have been deprived of receiving the Lord’s message and the sacraments due to the heartlessness and rigid stands taken by the priests/nuns/Laity (Church)…. The Lord does not delay in healing, forgiving and saving people from their misery/pain….. Jesus Christ Our Lord is ever willing to forgive and save sinners… He forgives any sinner who comes to HIM that very moment…. The thief who was crucified along with HIM is promised Paradise that very day … and he is not made to go through all the rigmarole to obtain forgiveness for ages as our bishops/priests/nuns and faithful in every parish/place…. We (Clergy and Laity) with all our ruthless, inhumane, selfish, rigid and unjust ways – are only making a mockery of the Lord’s immense love for humankind and HIS saving grace….

  2. Gabriel Reply

    The priest was most grieviously wrong in this situation. It just goes to show that the people of God must pray for his conversion fully to the faith he professes to believe. We, layity, are not held blameless before God in this. We do have direct guidance to pray always, and to pray constantly for those whom are ordained.

  3. Lyndia Fogarty Reply

    I agree with what wss said .I think that there need to be more softer way Jesus Christ was a gentle person who help and forgave all

  4. keda smith Reply

    I sometimes wonder about the education of these men when they are in the seminary. How could a ordained priest refuse to baptise anyone in an emergency situation especially little children.

    1. Mrs. Mary Monahan Reply

      I agree! There is no reason for the priest not to baptize the baby.

  5. Mike Reply

    Is this just a bogus story? There is no indication why the priest did not baptize and confirm the baby besides the article indicating that the parents were “temporarily absent.” This article is very vague and appears to just be pondering a scenario rather than informing others of an incident. If this did occur, to be fair the priest has to give a reason why he did not baptize and confirm the baby.

  6. sarah cutter Reply

    Ifind it difficult 2 belive this story why was this priest not reported not reported 2 his bishop did they even bother 2 ask his name the name of his church or if he was even a priest at all any lay person who is catholic can baptize a child who is in danger of dying hence the doctor it all sounds far fetched 2 me.

  7. john Reply

    priest was not wrong becasue of absence of parents,, you need direct permission from parents to baptise. Otherwise just like the case in Baton Rouge (regarding confidentiality of confession) parents can sue the priest and diocese for baptising their child without direct premission and presence of parents.

    1. Jacob Reply

      Amen for that…..I totally agree ….& thanks for someone understand the whole teaching of the HOLY CHURCH……hope other can see this matter in different points of view

    2. Joshua Reply

      Actually you don’t need any such permission. In danger of death, infants are to be baptized even against the will of the parents. And fear of a lawsuit is not grounds not to be damned when judged for the mortal sin of omission that this can be.

      In Postremo mense Benedict XIV settled questions of morality and law here, rejecting to opinion of some (Duns Scotus e.g.) that babies could laudably be taken from unbelievers and baptized, and affirming St. Thomas’s view that they ought not to be. But in danger of death, any infant ought to be.

      Current Canon Law reiterates this:

      Can. 867 §1.

      §2. An infant in danger of death is to be baptized without delay.

      Can. 868 §1. For an infant to be baptized licitly:

      §2. An infant of Catholic parents or even of non-Catholic parents is baptized licitly in danger of death even against the will of the parents.

  8. Victor Reply

    Cooked up story. how can a well trained catholic priest do that and walk out unquestioned by his authority or even his own conscience?

  9. marmay Reply

    Yeah, this truly sounds bogus–probably just to prompt clergy-haters, like some in this chain, to fire away!!! A priest refusing to perform something as BASIC a teaching????? Please…

  10. Nidal Reply

    How can parents leave a dying new born baby, if this story is true the priest should be heard before making any judgement.

  11. Yvonne Luna Reply

    That’s what sticks out in my mind…where were the parents? And if this did occur why did no one question the reason behind the priests refusal. I can’t clearly see this happening with a trained priest…this would be very cold, showing no compassion for the baby or its little soul.

  12. china Reply

    SUPPOSE THE DOCTORS DIDNT ADMINISTER BAPTISM AND THE BABY HAPPENED TO DIE WHAT WOULD BE THE EFFECT TO THE BABY?

  13. Susana Rosende Reply

    Twenty-seven years ago, I had to beg a priest to baptize my dying newborn, and he was especially hesitant because my ex-husband was not a practicing Catholic. In fact, he was Jewish. The priest finally agreed when I promised to raise our son, Sean, in the Catholic faith if he survived. He didn’t tell us when he would perform the ceremony, so we weren’t present in the ICN when he did, and the Baptism Certificate didn’t designate the Catholic Faith, but said instead NON-DENOMINATIONAL. Our son didn’t make it, and I was hurt by what I thought was an extremely uncompassionate priest and in response, I strayed from my Catholic faith for years.

  14. Susana Rosende Reply

    I believe this occurred because a similar situation happened to my family. Twenty-seven years ago, I had to beg a priest to baptize my dying newborn, and he was especially hesitant because my ex-husband was not a practicing Catholic. In fact, he was Jewish. The priest finally agreed when I promised to raise our son, Sean, in the Catholic faith if he survived. He didn’t tell us when he would perform the ceremony, so we weren’t present in the ICN when he did, and the Baptism Certificate didn’t designate the Catholic Faith, but said instead NON-DENOMINATIONAL. Our son didn’t make it, and I was hurt by what I thought was an extremely uncompassionate priest, and in response, I strayed from my Catholic faith for years.

  15. Okwe Reply

    Why would the parents of a child in such critical condition be far away from the child.?

    1. Margarett RBC Zavodny Reply

      It is impossible for the parents to be there 24/7. They sometimes have to leave the unit to eat, shower or sleep. A baby’s condition can change moment by moment.

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