Michael asked:

A priest in our diocese refused to baptize my nieces and nephews because my sister’s marriage wasn’t annulled. He also refused to baptize an older friend of mine because of an odd living situation. He’s engaged but living with his fiancée and his in-laws. He approves their marriage but not his conversion or baptism. How much power does a priest have to decide who gets baptized?

Jimmy Akin replied:

"According to the code of Canon law ... 843 says ‘sacred ministers can not deny the sacraments to those who seek them at appropriate times, are properly disposed and are not prohibited by law from receiving them. Pastors of souls, and other members of the Christian faithful according to their respective ecclesiastical function have the duty to take care that those who seek the sacraments are prepared to receive them by proper evangelization and catechetical instruction attended to the norms issued by competent authority.’

So the basic answer is that if the person meets the requirements ... sacred ministers like the priest can’t deny them ... The pastor though does have the responsibility to make sure that the person is properly prepared and has the proper dispositions and so forth to receive the sacrament. So that means not just a situation where the person has gotten adequate religious education to be baptized, but also is the person apparently living in manifest grave sin? If the person is, then it would be within the pastor’s right to say, ‘I’m sorry I don’t think you’re qualified to receive baptism right now. I don’t think you have the necessary dispositions for baptism at this point. We need to address that, and then we can baptize you.’ That may be something that is going on here ... On the other hand sometimes pastors make mistakes ... Because of the unusual living situation I can understand why a pastor would have some questions about this ...

Michael replied:

I can understand that ... It still leaves up the question of the infant he denied baptism to.

Jimmy Akin replied:

"That strikes me as more potentially problematic. Because it’s not required for baptism that the parents live in a valid Catholic marriage or anything like that. It is required that there be a founded hope that the child be raised in the Catholic faith. And sometimes pastors in this country will use a delay of baptizing the child as a way of incentivizing the parents to go ahead and get their situation regularized ... Pope Francis has even said some things critical of pastors denying baptism to children because of the situation of their parents."


Catholic Answers, "Open Forum" (San Diego: Catholic Answers, 2013)

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Show air date: September 19, 2013

Name of show: Open Forum

Guest comments by: Jimmy Akin

Question appeared in show: 39:37

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