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Melissa wrote:

Hi, guys —

I was married in the Catholic Church in 2007 to a non-Catholic. I divorced that husband due to infidelity in 2009. I did not seek an annulment. I recently re-married this year and am expecting my first child. My new husband is Catholic, however, we were not married in the Catholic Church.

  • I was wondering, will they allow us to baptize our baby, as a Catholic, if we were not married in the Church?

Thank you so much for your time!!

Melissa

  { Will they allow our baby to be baptized in the Church if we weren't married in the Church? }

John replied:

Hi, Melissa —

Thanks for your question.

Congratulations! Our prayers are with you as you expect this beautiful and joyous event.
Please forgive me ahead of time, but I'm going to challenge you a bit.

  • If you are choosing not to live as a Catholic, why do you want your child baptized as a Catholic?

When your child is baptized you will be making a commitment to raise the child in the faith.

  • How can you do that, if you've rejected the faith?

Baptism is a sacrament, it is the point at which we are "born again" or "born from above". Original sin is washed away. We die with Christ and are resurrected with Him as well. It is a great Mystery. It is not simply an act of initiation or a blessing. It's not just a tradition. It's a very holy and sacred thing meant for believers.

You may well embrace Christianity, but you have rejected the Church. Perhaps you didn't really think it through, or perhaps it wasn't that important to you, at the time, but now it seems having your child become a Catholic is a priority.

Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not scolding you, just challenging you. It's truly wonderful that you want your son or daughter baptized in the Catholic Church.

That is, it's wonderful that you want [him|her] to be Catholic but, if you want [him|her] to be Catholic, then why don't you want to be one, yourself?

I'm not sure what the canon law is in your case. You may well be able to have your child baptized in the Church; I'm not sure. Perhaps one of my colleagues who is more familiar with canon law can address that issue for you. I would invite you to come home. The annulment process doesn't take that long. While your infidelity is not grounds for an annulment, it does possibly indicate that the person who entered the marriage:

  • did not understand the vow and the permanency of marriage
  • or it could also indicate emotional immaturity

All  of these could be grounds for an annulment. I invite you to start looking into the process. Assuming you can get an annulment, you'd also need to get the present marriage convalidated. That shouldn't be a problem once an annulment is granted.

If you are going to bring your kid up as a Catholic, you may as well be one yourself. If you're going to go to your kid's First Holy Communion, you should do the things necessary to be able to receive Holy Communion with them as well.

Forgive me for being so up front.

I hope things work out for you.

Under His Mercy,

John DiMascio

Eric replied:

Hi, Melissa —

My colleague has encouraged you to regularize your situation, and I agree.

To answer your question from a canonical standpoint, there are only two requirements

Canon 868 §1. For an infant to be baptized licitly:

1. the parents or at least one of them or the person who legitimately takes their place must consent;

2. there must be a founded hope that the infant will be brought up in the Catholic religion; if such hope is altogether lacking, the baptism is to be delayed according to the prescripts of particular law after the parents have been advised about the reason.

This is possible if you are not married in the Church, although it will probably be slightly more difficult. If you regularly go to church (abstaining from Holy Communion owing to your irregular marriage), and intend to raise the child Catholic, there is no canonical or legal impediment to baptizing your child but, for the sake of your own soul, and so you may receive the awesome gift of the true Body and Blood of Christ worthily, we encourage you to get your marriage regularized.

This would involve getting a declaration of nullity (an annulment) for your first marriage (and your husband's marriage(s), if he had prior marriages) and having your present marriage convalidated (blessed).

Eric

Paul replied:

Dear Melissa,

John has given you encouragement and Eric has given you the law. I would like to compliment those with a little theology.

Jesus, and the Catholic Church, as His body, does not recognize civil divorce as real divorce.
It is simply separation from bed and board, but the marital bond remains. Once a valid marriage has been entered into and consummated it is indissoluble — regardless of the sin of the other spouse and the injustice that may have occurred. This is part of the, "for better or worse, until death do us part" oath. The marital bond exists, whether we like it or not, until the death of one of the spouses. That is true even if there as been a civil divorce and a subsequent ceremony with another considered to be "re-marriage". The original pair are the ones truly married and subsequent unions are objectively, an arrangement of perpetual adultery.

When we choose ourselves and our own version of love, over that of the will of God as Jesus established it, we are objectively choosing self over God; and this can never bring real happiness. The route to happiness sometimes comes through sacrifice and suffering in this life, following Christ by the carrying of our cross.

A person's primary concern is the salvation his soul, and to the married person that extends to the obligation before God to help one's legitimate spouse get to heaven, remembering the line of Mother Teresa:

"God doesn't call me to be successful He calls me to be faithful."

If the annulment process uncovers that there was no valid marriage from the beginning, one is free to marry before God in the Church but until or unless that nullity is declared, the original marriage is presumed to be valid, and all have the moral duty to act according to that presumption.

Therefore to avoid sin, it is reasonable to live apart or, at least, as live brother and sister with the new partner, until or unless there is an official declaration of nullity.

I wish you grace in clarity, faithfulness, and perseverance.

Peace,

Paul

Mary Ann replied:

Melissa,

The answer to this question used to be an automatic yes.  Nowadays, however, canon law requires a "well-founded hope" that the children will be raised Catholic.

If you and your husband do not practice, and are not in the process of convalidating your marriage, then the pastor may not do it, though it will be his decision.

Mary Ann

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