My grandson has not yet been baptised. I have tried to persuade my daughter to arrange this but she does not seem concerned about it. Could I secretly baptise him when I am babysitting?
The ordinary minister of baptism is the bishop, priest or deacon and baptism should be carried out in the Church according to the full rite given in the liturgical books. In an emergency, if a child is in danger of death, any person (even a non-Catholic) may baptise a child validly if they pour water on the child, say ‘I baptise you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’, and have the intention to do what the Church does.
It would be wrong to carry out an emergency baptism if there is no pressing necessity such as a serious danger to the child’s life. Baptism makes us Christians, children of God and members of the Church, with the duty of living the Christian life and living in accord with the teaching of the Church. The Church has always recognised the need for the consent of the parents and a well-founded hope that the child will be brought up in the practice of the faith.
If a baptism is carried out in an emergency, the parish priest should be informed so that he can offer pastoral care, and so that he can enter the details in the baptismal register. Should the child survive, he will arrange for the other ceremonies of the baptismal rite to be carried out in the Church at when convenient. The fact of baptism has important consequences in later life, especially in relation to marriage, so the parish priest should also be informed if a baptism is carried out when there was not any danger – though unlawful, such a baptism would be valid.
Many grandparents feel as you do. It is right for you to encourage the parents to have the child baptised, but you cannot force their decision. Try to show the value of the Christian faith gently, without nagging, but joyfully witnessing to the value of the Christian life.”
– This article by Fr Tim Finigan entitled “Catholic Dilemmas” was published in “The Catholic Herald” issue November 1 2013. For subscriptions, please visit http://www.catholicherald.co.uk (external link)