The Church's Code of Canon Law requires that for an infant to be baptized licitly there is normally required the consent of at least one of the parents.
Q. Our granddaughter was not raised Catholic. Now she has a two-month-old baby. Can I baptize the baby? (Chances are the parents will wait until she's a teen to decide. But I feel that she needs the graces now.) (Broken Arrow, Oklahoma)
A. The Church's Code of Canon Law requires that for an infant to be baptized licitly there is normally required the consent of at least one of the parents. (The exception would be if the child were in danger of death.) In the language of the code: 1) "the parents or at least one of them or the person who legitimately takes their place must consent"; and 2) "there must be a founded hope that the infant will be brought up in the Catholic religion" (Canon 868).
In your own situation, then, if the child's parents are unaware that you are doing so (and even more, if they oppose it), you should not baptize the baby. To do so would undermine and usurp the parents' role. Instead, what you might do is to entrust the child to God (who created the baby out of love) and pray that, helped by the example of your own life of faith, the parents will one day decide on their own to have the child christened.
Q. I am struggling with obedience. My father was Protestant (Bible Belt southern), and my mother was Catholic. I was encouraged to study and was allowed to choose my own church. Now, for the first time in 60 years, I am disagreeing with the Catholic Church and not sure how to approach it.
I feel that the Church has established a terrible precedent by allowing religion to be deemed nonessential during the COVID-19 crisis. Not to provide holy Communion at Easter, when missing Communion at that time was considered a grave sin, was shocking. In my parish, we had no services at all for the first two weeks. Then Mass was livestreamed for the next two months. That was followed by two weeks when Mass could be attended alphabetically (A-M one week, N-Z the next).
I have lost so many during this time -- a niece, four cousins, several friends. Four of these died alone in the hospital -- no family, no extreme unction. Six have not had funerals. With religion taking a hands-off approach, the fabric of our society is shredded. Right when we needed our Church, it disappeared. I feel that obeying my church right now is a disobedience to God's clear requirements. What can I do? I can't talk to my friends, as they feel that watching Mass on television in a nightgown is the same as "attending." What do I do? (Courtland, Virginia)
A. To a certain extent, I understand what you are saying and sympathize. (A neighbor of mine asked recently, "How is it that liquor stores in our region were deemed essential but churches were not?") It's a bit difficult, though, to respond to your list of concerns because situations vary widely from place to place.
In some areas, the decision to close a church came from the diocese or parish, but in other places it was mandated by government entities. At the height of the pandemic, I believe that the Church was well-advised to suspend Masses and other services. Now, thank God (I write this in early August 2020), parishioners in most of the United States are beginning to gather for worship once more.
A couple of your observations, I think, deserve particular comment: First, not receiving holy Communion during the Easter time could not possibly be sinful if there were no opportunity to do so; and secondly, I'm a little surprised that your friends think that watching Mass on television is the same as attending. By contrast, several people have mentioned to me how much they have missed parish Masses and the chance to receive the Lord in Communion.
And finally, I don't think the Church has taken a "hands-off approach" at all; in fact, many parishes have made diligent efforts throughout the pandemic to maintain contact with parishioners through videotaped Masses and phone calls to each of their parishioners.
- Father Kenneth Doyle is a columnist for Catholic News Service