I write with reference to the letter by Ronald Cauchi Limbo In Balzan (May 21).
It has in recent years become very common to hear arguments and comments similar to those contained in this letter with regard to the Church and its stance on the issue of baptism of children born to parents who are not married in the Catholic Church. However, it is extremely clear that they are all based on the lack of proper knowledge of what the sacrament of baptism is all about.
The instruction reaffirming the place of infant baptism in the life of the Church which was made public on November 21, 1980 by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, stipulates the following:
"Assurances must be given that the gift thus granted can grow by an authentic education in the faith and Christian life, in order to fulfil the true meaning of the sacrament. As a rule, these assurances are to be given by the parents or close relatives, although various substitutions are possible within the Christian community. But if these assurances are not really serious, there can be grounds for delaying the sacrament; and if they are certainly non-existent, the sacrament should be refused... More is required of parents than merely presenting their infant for baptism. The more essential condition is a "true and living faith by which they adhere to Christ and confirm their commitment to the new covenant". In the absence of the reasonable hope that the child will be raised in the Catholic faith, the parents and priest not only may but should postpone the baptism until such time as there is some evidence of living faith."
Thus, the parish priest in Balzan was merely implementing a diluted version of the official Church teachings. In a nutshell, one cannot decide not to be part of the church with regards to marriage and then decide to be part of the Church when coming to baptise one's child. All sacraments are equally important as they are a sign of God, and the Church cannot accept a situation whereby people start to opt in and opt out of the sacraments they like or dislike.
Moreover, the sacrament of baptism is not merely related to the child. In the case of "infant baptism" the role of the parents is very important, as they are the persons who are giving assurance that they will raise the child being baptised in the Catholic faith and upon Catholic values. The Church deems that couples not married in the Catholic Church do not offer the necessary assurance that they will raise the child in accordance with the Catholic faith. Thus, decisions such as that which allegedly was taken by the Balzan parish priest has nothing to do with the child, but rather the parents' lack of willingness and capability to give assurance that the child being baptised in the Catholic faith will be raised according to Catholic values.
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