Secret baptisms against the parents’ wishes

| Father Michael Van Sloun | October 25, 2017 | 7 Comments

Unbaptized children. It is happening more and more these days.

So often the grandparents did their best to practice their Catholic faith and pass it on to their children, but to their great dismay, their own children have lost fervor for their faith. Their adult children go to Mass occasionally or not at all. They do not pray all that much at home. The teachings of Jesus and the Church are used to a lesser extent to guide their lives, marriage and family. And when these adult children have children, because their faith has slipped as a priority for them, they do not have their
children baptized.

Grandparents are keenly aware that baptism is necessary for salvation and have great angst over the fact that their grandchildren are not baptized. The ordinary ministers of baptism are the ordained clergy, bishops, priests and deacons, but in an emergency situation, anyone can baptize. Sometimes grandparents, fretting over the fact that their grandchild is not baptized, consider the situation to be an emergency, take the matter into their own hands, and secretly baptize a grandchild without the parents’ knowledge or without asking the parents’ permission.

Sink Baptism


Is a secret baptism against the parents’ wishes the right thing to do? No. In fact, the Church prohibits a secret baptism without the knowledge or approval of the parents, except if the child is in immediate danger of death.

So a grandparent, relative or a concerned individual wonders, “If the child is unbaptized, what should be done?” If the parents do not have a sincere desire to have their child baptized, the child should remain unbaptized.

Infant baptism presumes that the parents are practicing the faith, and if they are not doing so, and if there is not a well-founded hope that the child will be raised in the practice of the faith, and if the parents do not choose the faith for their child, essential conditions for infant baptism are missing. In that situation, baptism is to be delayed.

Then the hope is that when the child reaches the age of reason, usually as a teenager or an adult, the person will intentionally choose the Catholic faith for him or herself. At that point, the proper route to the reception of baptism is the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA).

In the meantime, what can grandparents or other concerned individuals do?

They can practice their own faith with fervor to give good example to the parents, inspire them and, hopefully, motivate them to act. They can pray for the parents and their unbaptized child. And, if the opportunity should ever present itself, they might gently and tactfully suggest or encourage the parents to both give more attention to their own practice of the faith and to have their children baptized, and to make these suggestions calmly and kindly — without being pushy, preachy or authoritarian — with great diplomacy and being extremely careful not to alienate. Baptism is the gateway to the sacraments and the Christian life, and it is a precious grace to those who receive it.

Father Van Sloun is pastor of St. Bartholomew in Wayzata. This is the seventh column in a series on baptism. Read more of his writing at




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Category: Faith Fundamentals