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Ask the Register: how do I baptize my granddaughter?

Q. My son and his wife do not attend Church regularly; they only attend Mass for weddings, funerals, or on the holidays.  They recently shared that they do not intend to have their daughter baptized. I know that in emergencies, any Catholic can perform a baptism. I’m thinking about baptizing my granddaughter privately, but I want to be sure to do so correctly. What do I need to know?

A. In true emergencies, baptism can be performed by any person who intends to baptize, by pouring water over the person to be baptized, and by reciting the words “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

However, the situation you describe is not an appropriate reason for you to baptize your granddaughter. Certainly, it can be very painful when Catholic parents decide not to baptize a child. Talking with your son about the importance of baptism, and encouraging him to return to the faith is a loving way to respond. But ultimately, God has entrusted parents with the authority to raise their children, and this includes the authority to make decisions about a child’s religious participation. Baptizing a child has profound eternal consequences, and consequences for life here on earth. Even pastors are only permitted to baptize when they have a reasonable hope that a child will be raised in the faith. 

The best thing to do is to pray, daily, for your granddaughter, and for her parents.  And, the Lord calls you to witness to the meaning of the faith, and the importance of the Gospel. It would not be right to baptize the child in ordinary circumstances, in violation of the divinely given authority of her parents.

If, however, a child is in immediate danger of death, the Church says that he may be baptized, even against the wishes of his parents. This is because of the divine and eternal effects of baptism’s saving graces. Immediate danger of death, however, should not be interpreted loosely— this circumstance is serious, and very grave.

Apart from that grave situation, please pray for your granddaughter and her parents, and hope for their conversion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Write to Ask the Register using our online form, or write to 3700 Sheridan Blvd, Lincoln NE 68506-6100. All questions are subject to editing. Editors decide which questions to publish. Personal questions cannot be answered. People with such questions are urged to take them to their nearest Catholic priest.

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