Question: I’m wondering if a child can be baptized into the Catholic faith if neither of the parents are Catholic. In fact the mother is a mostly non-practising Hindu and the father has never been baptized into any religion. I am the father’s step-mother and I am a practicing Catholic. The parents would like the child to be baptized Catholic but have no intention of becoming Catholics themselves so their hope is that I would help with the child’s religious life.
Please watch video below for answer:
If you prefer to read, below is Fr. Mark’s Answer:
At the heart of this question is our understanding of baptism. As Catholics, baptism is not a private, individual act between Jesus and a person. It is a communal act. When we are baptized we are united to Jesus and become his disciple. But we also enter into a community, we are embraced into the communion of the Church, the body of Christ. We are united to Jesus and to the body of Christ, the Church. Therefore, the whole Church embraces the newly baptized as a loving mother embracing a new born child.
The Church considers the parents as the first teachers of the faith. They take on a special responsibility for the raising of their children in the faith. When parents bring their child for baptism, the Church requires hope that this child will be raised in the faith. At the Baptism Celebration, the priest or deacon begins by asking the parents, “What name have you given your child?” Then, speaks to the parents with these words. “In asking for Baptism for your child, you are undertaking the responsibility of raising him/her in the faith, so that, keeping God’s commandments, they may love the Lord and their neighbour as Christ has taught us. Do you understand this responsibility?” Parents are required to say yes to taking on this responsibility.
Though the parents take on the prime responsibility for raising their children in the faith, the whole community shares in supporting them. This is symbolized in the Godparents who promise to help the parents in their duty. Parents will hopefully also be supported by their local parish and sometimes by a Catholic school.
So, normally it would be expected that one of the parents is Catholic and able to take on this responsibility in a good way. In this particular case, the step-mother of the child’s father is a practising Catholic, involved in the child’s life, and willing to support the child being raised in the Catholic faith. So, if the parents agree and support their child being raised in the faith, it does seem that there is well founded hope that the child will be raised in the Catholic faith.
In this case, if parents agree to this and there is someone able to take on that support then it is very possible that a parish would agree to this. It would not be a usual practice, but perhaps an exceptional case. I remember a family from a previous parish. They were from another country. The parents were not Catholic but all of their children went to a Catholic school. All of them were baptized. Many years later here in Canada they were all still practising the Catholic faith. In fact, near the death of the father, at the age of 100, he was baptized. The Spirit of God works in mysterious ways.
Ultimately, the Church wants to have hope that the child will be raised in the faith.