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Should children of same-sex 'marriages' be baptized?

In November 2008, during their 43rd annual meeting in Quebec City, Canadian canonists were asked to consider a formula for the uniform registration of the baptism of children of same-sex unions. Msgr. Pedro Lopez-Gallo of Vancouver cited the instance of a lesbian couple's approaching a parish priest in his archdiocese to ask for baptism for their child. The priest referred the matter to an archdiocesan official who advised him to defer the baptism.

Two documents spell out basic Church legislation. First, a document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith--an Instruction on Infant Baptism (Origins 10:474-48, 1980-1981); second, canon 868 sets out two conditions for the celebration of baptism: the consent of the parents (or at least one of them), and a realistic hope that the child will be educated in the Catholic religion. Without these, baptism must be deferred.

Some might interpret the canon as a refusal to administer the sacrament. According to c. 213, Christ's faithful have a right to be assisted by their pastors from the spiritual riches of the Church, especially by the Word of God and the Sacraments. But the infant is not yet one of the Christian faithful (c. 204).

While sacred ministers cannot refuse the sacraments to those who request them, there are three conditions to be taken into account (c. 843 [section]1): the time must be opportune; the petitioners must be properly disposed; and they must not be prohibited by law from receiving them. Same-sex couples do not qualify. First, it is possible that they are not the parents of the child and second, because of their lifestyle they are not properly disposed so that there is little realistic hope that the child will be reared in the Catholic faith. Of course, if the child is at the point of death, the norms of c. 868 [section]2 apply.

In January 2006, the Judicial Vicar of the Archdiocese of Vancouver sought the opinion of the Apostolic Nuncio in Canada. In his reply, the nuncio stated: "The fact that a child may be raised by a homosexual couple presents an obstacle to the Christian upbringing of the child." The rite of Baptism indicates that the parents are "the first teachers of their children in the ... faith, bearing witness to the faith by what they say and do."

A same-sex couple even if "married" according to standards of the state cannot be said to be in good standing with the Church, even if a claim is made that they are living chastely. Their civil union can be a cause of scandal or, at least, of confusion in a parochial community. Church teaching would require their separation.

Adoption of children of same sex "marriage"

The question of adoption was raised. Canon 877 [section]3 is interpreted to say that children who have been adopted in accordance with civil law are considered to be the children of the person(s) who has (have) adopted them. But this has always been understood in the context of a heterosexual marriage. It was suggested that this canon might have to be changed, as will those canons referring to freedom to marry, gender identification, and others.

The Church's position has been consistently against the adoption of children by same-sex parents. In 2003, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) wrote: "Allowing children to be adopted by persons in such (homosexual) unions would actually mean doing violence to these children in the sense that their condition of dependency would be used to place them in an environment that is not conducive to their full human development. This is gravely immoral." (CDF: "Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual Persons," June 3, 2003, Origins 33 [2003-2004] p.180)

In Canada, there are other considerations. For example, some countries such as China restrict adoption of their children by homosexuals. In spite of this, some Canadian same-sex couples have adopted Chinese infants. One wonders how they were able to evade the authorities.

Other countries have laws against artificial insemination of lesbian partners. In Canada there are no such restrictions. In a 2007 ruling of the Ontario Court of Appeal, the Court recognized three individuals as the parents of a five-year old boy: the two lesbian women raising him (one of whom is the biological mother), and the biological father who donated his sperm. (Court of Appeal for Ontario, AA vs BB 2007 Jan. 2, 2007, Docket C39998). To further complicate the matter, with the widespread donation or sale of ova and sperm to various sperm banks and fertility clinics how can one be certain, in the canonical sense, who the real father is? The same may be asked of surrogate mothers.

Problems with in-vitro fertilization

In vitro fertilization has resulted in an increasing number of children being conceived and growing up without knowing the identity of their biological fathers. According to the Irish Independent News (April 19, 2008) Kirk Maxey has fathered an estimated 200-400 children through sperm donation over the years. Having since fathered a child for himself, Maxey may well be concerned about all the children in his vicinity who are totally unaware of their connection to him or his son. We may visualize cases of incest or abnormal births due to innocent sibling mating.

In the case of the Ontario man who donated his sperm and has now been granted the status of legal parenthood, if he were to bring his child to be baptized could the parish priest refuse to recognize his paternity and prevent him from signing the register as the father of the child? According to c.877[section]2 "The name of the father is to be entered if his paternity is established by some public document or by his own declaration in the presence of the parish priest and two witnesses."

But there is another possibility not mentioned by Lopez-Gallo: Canon 877[section]2 continues: (where it is not possible to enter the name of the mother or the father) "the name of the baptised person is to be registered without any indication of the name of the father or of the parents."

The "right" to receive Sacraments

Msgr. Lopez-Gallo concludes that the right to receive the Sacraments is not absolute, and is subject to certain limitations (c.843[section]1). For example, although the right to marry is a natural right, it may be restricted for serious reasons such as impotency, lack of baptism, and the existence of a vow of celibacy.

The intention of the canonical legislator is never to give the appearance of legitimacy to homosexual couples who pretend to be the "parents" of the child to be baptized. It might even be possible that they are seeking publicity under the pretext that the Church is softening its stance toward homosexuality and homosexual unions. "In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized by the state or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to the marriage state, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty." (CDF in Origins, June 3, 2003 op.cit) (One might stress that even in marriage there is no natural right to sodomy or anal sex--sex is not a recreational activity. Author),

Lopez-Gallo reminded us also that if a child is not baptized he or she would not be eligible to attend a Catholic school in some places, and this would make it more difficult to obtain instruction in the Faith (if Catholic schools are still teaching the Faith--author).

However, any eventual baptism should not be construed as legitimization of homosexual unions or persons who present themselves as "parents." As the Apostolic Nuncio has written: homosexual couples cannot pretend to enjoy those natural and inherent rights of parenthood, and therefore should not have any role during the celebration of Baptism, nor should they receive the special blessing normally reserved for the father or mother, nor should they be registered in the baptismal register."

In considering whether there is hope of the child's being raised in the Catholic faith, it is not sufficient to rely on grandparents, extended family or good Christian friends to circumvent canon law. The parish priest must carefully evaluate circumstances, realizing that in this highly mobile society, the child may be forced to move with his 'family', away from the support he counted on.

In trying to promote a common policy, Lopez-Gallo asks how does a parish priest respond? How can he be morally certain that there is a realistic hope for the child?

The most reliable criterion would be if the couple were to separate. Although a surrogate might be used to inculcate moral principles in the child, a child learns best by example. Since not all cases can be referred to the chancery; clear guidelines should be established. Although Lopez-Gallo would prefer a special rite for these special cases he recognizes that "liturgical books are to be faithfully followed ... no one may on personal initiative add to, omit, or alter anything in those books" (c. 846[section]1).

Listing conditions for possibly allowing such a baptism, Lopez-Gallo stresses that if it is obvious that the parents are actively promoting homosexual or legal adoption rights, prudence would demand that baptism be deferred. He indicates further that such a baptism should not be carried out during Sunday Mass or in the presence of other children being baptized. The norms of c. 877 on registration of the baptism should be followed.

An active question period followed. One person asked: "Are the sins of the father to be visited on the sons?" He added that denying baptism was penalizing the child. Without realizing it, he reminded the group that homosexuals adopt boys, most likely to inculcate in them their chosen lifestyle. Someone suggested that adoption of children by homosexuals could be considered child abuse because it deprived them of the attention and examples of a normal mother and father, roles that God Himself had designed. Lopez-Gallo disagreed.

J. Huels then reminded the chairman that according to c. 110, children who have been adopted in accordance with civil law are considered to be the children of those who have adopted them.

Father Daniel Smilanic, President of the American Canon Law Society suggested that we might have to sanate [Latin. cure] the civil law that recognizes same sex unions. What he meant by that is not clear. How can we sanate a law that should never have been passed?

Dr. Ferrari is a graduate of University of Toronto Faculty of Pharmacy, of University of Western Ontario School of Medicine, and of St. Paul University Faculty of Canon Law. Since retiring from the Federal Public Service she has worked as a free-lance writer.
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Author:Ferrari, Jean
Publication:Catholic Insight
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Jan 1, 2010
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