Was this priest wrong to refuse to baptize a seriously ill newborn?


Full Question

The chaplain of our local government hospital refused to baptize a sick newborn. The doctors told the family to get the priest because the infant was in critical condition. When the priest arrived and found out that the parents were temporarily absent, he refused to administer emergency baptism and confirmation. A few hours later, when the baby was about to die, the doctor administered emergency baptism. I am a doctor who has done at least one emergency baptism and taught other medical students to do the same; I find the actions of the priest hard to understand. Did the priest have sufficient grounds to refuse administering emergency baptism to a dying infant whose parents were not around?

Answer

The priest in question violated canon law, and possibly the moral law, in refusing to baptize the baby. He needs to be informed of what the Church teaches. In cases of urgent necessity and specifically with cases of children under the age of seven, canon law requires that they be baptized without delay (CIC 867 §2). When there is danger of the baby dying, there is no requirement that the parents be present, that they be practicing Catholics, or even married in the Church. Thank God for that doctor and other doctors like yourself.

 


Fr. Vincent Serpa O.P.