• Sun, Jan 12 - 1:04 pm ET

Pope Francis Baptizes Child Of Unmarried Parents And Rightly Calls Priests Who Won’t ‘Hypocrites”

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Pope Francis, aka my favorite pope (and not just because his name is awesome) performed the traditional Baptism Of The Lord mass today, and along with 31 other children, baptized the infant of an unmarried couple, a first ever for this ceremony. He went on to say that priests (and presumably former popes) who refused to do this in the past are hypocrites, a charge I fully agree with.

Now, baptizing the children of unmarried couples is nothing new for the Catholic church, which I’m sure all of our Catholic readers can attest to. As a former Catholic, I’ve attended plenty of my friend’s id’s baptisms, and many of them are or were unmarried. So this would be par for the course in a regular, neighborhood parish. But for the head of the Roman Catholic Church to not only baptize what the church considers and “illegitimate child,” but to openly condemn priests who won’t, is kind of a big deal.

This isn’t the first time that Pope Francis has encouraged priests to baptise babies with unmarried parents, but it’s certainly the most obvious. According to the Vatican Network:

“You parents have the baby boy or girl to be baptised, but in a few years it will be they who will have a baby to be baptised, or a grandchild… And so goes the chain of faith.
‘What does this mean? I would just tell you this: you are the ones that transmit the faith, the transmitters, you have a duty to pass on the faith to these children. It ‘s the most beautiful legacy that you leave to them: the faith.”

 

As I’ve mentioned a few times before, I’m an atheist, but I was raised in the Catholic faith. So, personally, the idea of it being someone’s “duty” to pass on the faith isn’t something I am completely comfortable with. But I think the spirit of the idea is absolutely correct. If the church wants parents to pass down the faith, they must be inclusive to these parent.s And yes, that needs to include unmarried parents, and hopefully gay parent, and others who fall outside of the very narrow spectrum of what’s considered acceptable in the church. In an era where less and less people are willing to take religious vows and church numbers are incredibly low they need all the parishioners they can get.

 

 

 

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  • Genevieve

    Francis is one of my favourite saints, favourite popes, and a beautiful name for a boy or girl.

    • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

      I agree!

  • Gretta

    I wouldn’t be so quick to say church numbers are incredibly low. The church I attend (Catholic) is standing room only every service, every week. You don’t get there early, you don’t get a seat. Yet people stay and stand through the whole Mass. I think there is a powerful, resurgence of faith going on.

    • brebay

      Yes, one crowded church invalidates all statistics to the contrary.

    • Gretta

      Nope. It’s not just one church. I think the statistics need a re-look. Statistics are easy to interpret and present to fit any agenda, you know….

    • Mel

      I can’t speak to the statistics of this issue, but I will say that I’m the secretary for an office of statisticians, and you’re right about being able to make the numbers say what you want. Of course, that cuts both ways, so just b/c you might not agree with this number(s) based on your anecdotal evidence, doesn’t make them wrong in this case.

    • Gretta

      But it also doesn’t make them entirely right either.

    • Mel

      You are correct :)

    • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

      There are numerous reputable sources that point to dwindling church attendance, including this story from the Catholic News Service. My area church is standing room only many weeks too, from what I’ve heard but that is because they closed to two other neighborhood churches for having low attendance and not enough money to keep them going. That might not be the case with your parish, of course, but I know it’s the case in many in my area.

      http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1203473.htm

    • Gretta

      That article backs up exactly what I am saying. Accurate statistics are difficult to collect and difficult to interpret.

      And no, there is a new church being built near me as we speak due to the overflow.

      Faith is a beautiful thing. I invite anyone to it.

    • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

      I was in no way knocking the church. While I’m no longer religiously inclined, I was raised Catholic and have had nothing but good experiences there, including the 6 years I spent in parochial school. Citing statistics isn’t a condemnation of the church.

      Here in NYC, where I live, there have been steep declines in church attendance. Many, many parochial schools have closed, including my high school (which was very sad, I had a lot of happy years there). My former neighborhood parish closed last year, forcing the remaining parishioners to travel 5 miles over a bridge to the next closest church, another closed a few miles from my house two years ago, and hurricane Sandy caused yet another one to burn to the ground (it will eventually reopen, though, thankfully).

      There are tons of sources that talk about the declining number of churchgoers. Here is one about religion in the US in general:

      http://www.churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/139575-7-startling-facts-an-up-close-look-at-church-attendance-in-america.html

      Here is one that talks about growth in some areas, but mentioned distinct declines in particular groups, including women

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-briggs/counting-us-catholics-signs-of-growth-and-decline-on-the-road-to-100-million_b_2315142.html

      This article is about a study that made it pretty clear that not only are baptismal rates declining (a good argument for my case that unmarried parents should be allowed to raise their kids in the church) but also that there are less children, teens and adults becoming catholic.

      http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/survey-catholic-infant-baptisms-decline/

      I share these to show you that I didn’t just pull out one article, I’ve done my homework. And I am certainly not trying to disparage the church, I don’t see how you interpreted it that way. My point was to support a more inclusive church (its inclusiveness being one of the reasons I still support the church, even as an atheist).

    • Gretta

      I agree with you on inclusion.

      But I think there is a quiet resurgence in faith. Perhaps one that hasn’t been captured in mainstream media. I see it in my every day life and I see it with the enthusiasm people have for Pope Francis. There is something there that people yearn for, and I think its a good thing.

    • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

      This is my point exactly, though. While the numbers at least suggest (if not outright say, in some cases) that church attendance is down, I think Pope Francis, and his spirit of inclusiveness (not to mention his sincere concern for the poor and needy) could be just what the church needs to bolster their numbers. He’s like a breath of fresh air for the church, and I think having someone like him has been a long time coming.

    • kay

      If we’re going to use the church we attend as the only one then the last Catholic church I was a parishioner at couldn’t pay their bills (like, staff would put things onto personal credit cards to buy supplies and such) and mass was sometimes attended by only a dozen or two people (in a church that could hold hundreds). So all parishes are dying off and have no money?

      One church, or even one region having a resurgence doesn’t mean that it is happening everywhere.
      It isn’t speaking ill of the church to report facts.

    • brebay

      It certainly can be, and so can rationality, science is beautiful too.

  • brebay

    I can’t believe it’s 2014 and calling a child “illegitimate” for something over which he has absolutely no control is still considered okay. I fail to see how this is not bullying.

    • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

      I completely agree. That’s why I put it in quotes. It’s so ridiculous. My parents were unmarried when I was born, and I’ve had people as recently as last year call me a “bastard” or “illegitimate” as an insult. It was worse when I was younger, and persisted even after they officially married. It’s total bullshit.

    • Gangle

      How can a person be ‘illegitimate’ anyway? Being alive is about as legitimate as it gets…

    • Andrea

      This is, in fact, quite contrary to their own teachings. The Catholics believe in the original sin, which (to them) means that a child won’t get into heaven unless it is baptized (and it wasn’t uncommon for priests to baptize babies who died at childbirth in order to ensure “passage”). So refusing to baptize a child would pretty much (against in THEIR eyes) prevent a child from entering heaven THROUGH NO FAULT OF THEIR OWN.
      This pope is the awesomest. And I say that as a somewhat lapsed Catholic myself..

    • Mel

      Agree x100!!! I’ve always been disgusted that the government requires a child to be “legitimized” if born to a single mother. I realize that it’s probably for child support issues, but I am sicked by the fact that a child has to be associated with a man to be considered “legitimate.” Surely in 2014 we can come up with a better term. I would definitely consider it a form of bullying to both the mother and child. I’m so glad Frances put it in quotes.

      As for the Pope, I’m glad we’re seeing his words put into action. I’ve be hesitant to name him “Person of the Year” just for saying things we like to hear. This is a real step forward for the whole Catholic church. Of course, this is coming from an Atheist, and I realize Catholics don’t need my approval, but that’s how I feel about it :)

    • brebay

      No, you can get child support either way, It’s just a holdover from a more ass-backwards time.

  • Harriet Meadow

    The Catholic church in our area won’t baptize our son (my husband was raised Catholic and wants to do it; I’m an atheist but don’t see the harm in it) because even though my husband and I are married, we weren’t married in a Catholic church. 0_0 This is why I’m not religious.

    • Gretta

      Indeed, those are the requirements. But have you asked why the church has those requirements? If not, I encourage you to sit down with a priest or other church staff and discuss it with them.

    • Kheldarson

      Wait, what? That’s not even right. The Catholic Church recognizes marriages outside of the Church, and will (should) baptize a child from such a union as long as one partner is Catholic. My husband’s agnostic and we just baptized our son, no issue. I’d find another parish and/or call the bishop of your diocese.

    • Gretta

      You know, now that I think about it, it’s not a requirement at our parish either. However, they did encourage parents to think about marrying in the church since try were seeking to get their child baptized. Either way, talking to the priest about the reasons behind this encouragement or requirement is a good idea.

    • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

      That is exactly what my local church would do. They encouraged my best friend and her husband to marry in the church (she’s Catholic, he’s Jewish, so he wasn’t open to it) but they went ahead and baptized the baby anyway, and are always open and friendly to my friend when she attends mass.

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      Yeah, I agree with Kheldarson. That shouldn’t happen. My (Catholic) church would baptize your kid.

    • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

      That’s so frustrating. My local church most certainly would, but I know there are plenty of churches that disagree with the practice, even in NYC where I live where everyone is pretty liberal about these things.

    • Justme

      We weren’t married in a Catholic church but our church did baptize our daughter…just not during the public mass. It was at 10:00 on a Saturday morning. The church construct does have some funny “rules” sometimes but I try not to let the rules get in the way of my relationship with God, and I think that’s Pop Francis’ whole spiel.

    • Andrea

      My Catholic parish would totally baptize your kid. They have an asshole priest, because there is NOTHING in their teachings that would go against it.

    • Harriet Meadow

      Yeah, I thought it was ridiculous too, and I know plenty of churches that will baptize children even if their parents weren’t married in a Catholic church (heck, my husband’s brother and his wife weren’t ALLOWED to get married in the Catholic church because they conceived out of wedlock, but their kids were still allowed to be baptized). Unfortunately, this is the only Catholic church we’ve found in our area… If my husband really cares about it, he’ll talk to the priest about it further, but he hasn’t, so I guess there just won’t be a baptism. Oh, well – it’s no skin off my back lol!

    • Paul White

      wait…if you’re not religious, why did you try to have your kid baptized?

  • CW

    Priests can get on a “power trip” when it comes to baptism. My 3 kids
    were baptized in 3 different parishes and not once were we asked to
    provide any kind of documents confirming that they were Catholics in
    good standing. But when my sister-in-law asked my DH to be her twins’
    godfather, her priest insisted on all this paperwork that was a complete
    pain to track down. One thing SIL’s priest asked for, our current parish priest said that he’d never before been asked for in all the years that he’s been serving as a pastor.

    • CW

      The godparents being Catholics in good standing, that is.

  • Mila

    I normally could not care less about a Pope but I just love this guy.

  • CrazyLogic

    My grandmother was “excommunicated” (not really, but the priest told her she was) from her church for getting pregnant with my uncle at age fifteen. It was an area where there weren’t many Catholics so it was the only church there too. Not getting my uncle, father and aunt baptized was such a huge deal for her, she converted just to get it done.

    • Aimee Mann

      Damn for a minute there I thought your Uncle got your Grandma pregnant lol

    • CrazyLogic

      Curse my grammar!

  • Kay_Sue

    The whole concept of illegitimacy is out-dated (says the poster who had both of her children out of wedlock). With more folks opting not to marry at all, and more people capable of deciding to have children outside of marriage because they are better able to support them, it’s just crazy to still define it in those terms. While he lost me a bit with his support for the anti-marriage and adoption equality in Malta, I am glad that he took a stand about this.

  • http://www.twitter.com/ohladyjayne allisonjayne

    This isn’t completely related, as we aren’t catholic, but my parents (and I) stopped going to our local church (protestant) when I was 4 because they got a new minister who told my parents that if they didn’t have me baptized, I’d go to hell, and my dad threw a fit and said he can’t abide by anyone – god or otherwise – who thinks an innocent child should be damned for eternity over the lack of a ceremony.

  • koolchicken

    I had not heard of this before. In fact the churches I’ve attended have stressed it’s even MORE important for children who’s parents are in “irregular relationships”. That would mean gay couples, unmarried couples, or couples like my husband and I who are straight and legally married but didn’t get married by a priest.