Question: It is a common practice for parishes to refuse baptism during Lent, and I am wondering what recourse parents can take. Is there anywhere in the Church’s teaching that supports this practice? Is there anything that explicitly condemns it? Thank you.
— Online reader inquiry
Answer: Parents have the right and obligation under law to have their infants baptized shortly after they are born. The Code of Canon Law states this clearly: “Parents are obliged to see that their infants are baptized within the first few weeks. As soon as possible after the birth, indeed even before it, they are to approach the parish priest to ask for the sacrament for their child, and to be themselves duly prepared for it. If the infant is in danger of death, it is to be baptized without any delay” (Canon 867, Paragraphs 1 and 2).
Further, since there is certainly no requirement, or even a provision, in the law for pastors to deny, or for parents to refrain from, the baptism of infants during Lent, there is no basis for such a practice in a parish.
If the birth occurs very late in Lent, one might envision a pastor suggesting the baptism be delayed until Easter. In this regard, Holy Week is not usually a fit time to celebrate a baptism (except in danger of death), though even here, it is not strictly forbidden on Monday-Thursday of Holy Week.
Hence, I would say that you are on good grounds to appeal such a pastoral stance.
I suppose if a dialogue with the pastor is not fruitful, the bishop, the dean or the priest personnel director could be consulted and asked to direct the pastor in this regard.
Church of sinners
Question: One of the common objections of my adult son raises about going to Church is that all the sin and hypocrisy in the Church is intolerable to him. Any advice on what to say about this?
— Online reader inquiry
Answer: Well, of course, this is one of the objections that Jesus had to face from the Pharisees: This man welcomes sinners and eats with them (Lk 15:2). It’s a remarkable thing, Jesus is found among sinners, even hypocrites. He is not found in the perfect places of our imagined “church.” He is not simply found in the places or company I find desirable, he is found where he is found: among sinners. Indeed, one image for the Church is Christ, crucified between two thieves!
As for hypocrisy, we do well to wonder if any human being on this planet, save for the most heroic saint, is utterly free from this human problem. Surely your son cannot consider himself wholly free from it, can he?
In terms of mission, the Church is a hospital for sinners, and that means sinners will be found there; but so will medicine of the sacraments, the wisdom of Scripture, healing, encouragement and admonishment, too. And yes, sinners … even some in critical condition. We know our sin. That is why we have confessionals in every parish. Pray God, we always have room for one more sinner.
As for those who seek for Christ apart from the Church, i.e., apart from his Body: no can do. Christ is found with his body the Church. He incorporates them into his body through baptism and seeks for them when they stray.
Tell your son that Jesus loves sinners and is not too proud to be in their company and call them his brethren. Join us!
Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., blog at blog.adw.org. Send questions to Pastoral Answers, Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750 or to firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.