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Tiffany English wrote:

Hi, guys —

My name is Tiffany. I'm from New Jersey and was raised Catholic. My husband is not Catholic but is a Christian. We got married, not in the Church; but at the location of our reception.

At the time of the wedding, we had already had a child out of wedlock who was baptized in the Catholic church. I had been going to Church all my life and received the sacraments from our parish.

After we were married, we had another child and, of course, wanted her baptized. Our priest called a meeting and ask us, why we were not married in the Catholic church. After all was said, he told us we could still get our daughter baptized, but that her and our son's baptism would not be "recognized" by the Church until my husband and I were married in the Catholic church.

I am writing this because I wanted to know,

If the Church does not recognize our children's baptism, does God recognize it?

Thank you,

Tiffany

  { If we were not married in the Church, is our son's baptism recognized? }

John replied:

Hi Tiffany,

This seems a bit odd. Perhaps the priest did not explain himself well or you didn't understand what the priest was saying.

The Church recognizes all baptisms as valid, so long as they are properly performed with the proper intention. That includes baptisms performed in Protestant churches so long as they are Trinitarian and the intention is to perform a Christian baptism.

What is at issue is your marriage. As a Catholic, you are permitted to marry outside the faith so long as you receive a dispensation. These are routinely granted, however, you are required to have a Catholic wedding and agree to raise your children as Catholics. For that reason, the Church may not recognize your marriage, especially if it was performed by a Justice of the Peace. That's because the Church doesn't recognize the government's right to issue marriage licenses. In the Catholic Theology, Marriage is a Sacrament or Covenant. This is something God has not empowered governments to perform.

At best, a civil marriage is a contract. Something the Church is not in the business of recognizing.

Nevertheless, I see no reason to question the baptism of your first child. It was presumably a valid baptism administered in a Catholic Church. The Church could refuse to baptize the second child because technically you are living out of wedlock in the Church's eyes. As a result, the Church has no assurance that you will bring up the child as a Catholic if, indeed, you are not living as a Catholic; that is a different story altogether. The Church recognizes all valid baptisms no matter where or how they take place. In fact, in an emergency, anyone, (including laity), can perform a valid baptism. Again, so long as it is Trinitarian and the intention is to perform a Christian baptism.

In your situation, it is quite possible that what priest meant was:

The children can't participate in any further Catholic schooling or receive the other sacraments because the evidence points to the fact they will not be brought up in the faith.

In that case, once they are old enough to make the decision for themselves, they can seek out the Church.

Hope this helps,

John

Mary Ann replied:

Dear Tiffany,

There has to have been some misunderstanding along the way. If your children were baptized in the Catholic Church, they were baptized in the Catholic church and the baptism is recognized.

It's even recognized if they received a valid baptism from another denomination. However, these days, the Church usually hesitates to baptize a child when neither of the parents is committed to the Catholic faith. Perhaps the priest assumed that since you had not made your marriage valid in the Church, you were not intending to be Catholic any longer yourselves. The Church wants at least one parent to be committed to the faith so "that parent" can raise the children in the faith in which they are baptized.

I think the priest perhaps was talking about your marriage not being recognized. As a Catholic, you were bound to be married with an official Catholic witness, and to get a dispensation:

  • to be married outside of a church and
  • to be married to a non-Catholic

These things are easy to do. Since you did not have a Church marriage, the civil marriage you have is non-sacramental and invalid. The priest wants you to raise your marital union to the level of a sacrament, so that you can participate in the sacramental life of the Church.

I hope you do. The benefits and joys are immense!

God bless.

Mary Ann

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