Did Pope Francis baptize a baby whose parents aren’t married? 12 things to know and share
Pope Francis recently baptized a baby whose parents may not be married in the eyes of the Church. What should
we make of this???
Pope Francis recently baptized a baby whose parents may not be married in the eyes of the Church. What should we make of this?
Press reports are claiming that Pope Francis recently baptized the child whose parents were not married in the eyes of the Church.
Since many priests in America have refused to baptize such children, it raised some eyebrows.
What are the real facts in this case?
Here are 12 things to know and share . . .
1) What was the occasion of the baptism?
Every year the pope baptizes people on the commemoration of Christ’s baptism.
This takes place in the Sistine Chapel at St. Peter’s basilica.
This is an entirely normal practice.
2) What happened in this case?
Among the baptized – according to the report in the daily “Il Tirreno” – there is also Giulia [i.e., Julia], caught of a couple married civilly but not in church.
And this is certainly a novelty. Not for Bergoglio, who as a priest, bishop and cardinal baptized babies of teen mothers or unmarried couples many times.
Giulia’s parents, last 25 September, had made their request to the Pope directly at the end of the Wednesday general audience.
“We were on the ‘sagrato’ (the ‘porch’ in front of the Basilica)”, Ivan Scardia recounted, the father of the baby, “when he passed by and we asked him if he could baptize our second child. He told us to get in touch with his collaborators and then they contacted us.”
When the time came to send in the documents there was a glitch: “We were married at city hall. But this problem was also overcome,” Giulia’s father said.
3) Why would this mean that the parents weren’t married in the Church’s eyes?
If someone is a Catholic then, apart from certain unusual circumstances, they are obliged to observe the Church’s form of marriage or get a dispensation from this form.
Otherwise, their marriages will not be valid.
Dispensations are sometimes granted, such as when a Catholic marries a non-Catholic and they wish to have a non-Catholic ceremony.
When two Catholics are marrying each other, however, such dispensations are not granted.
City halls, even in Italy, do not observe the Catholic form of marriage, and so for two Catholics to just head to city hall and attempt marriage would result in an invalid marriage from the Church’s perspective.
4) How reliable is this report?
It’s not as directly sourced as I’d like, since La Stampa is quoting another newspaper—Il Tirreno.
Also, it’s the Italian press, which is even more unreliable than the American press.
However, since it contains direct quotations from the father of the baby, I don’t have any special reason to doubt it.
My question is not whether the facts contained in the quotation are correct but whether they are being correctly interpreted.
5) How might they be misinterpreted?
Look at what the baby’s father told Il Tirreno about the status of their marriage:
“We were married at city hall. But this problem was also overcome,” Giulia’s father said.
What does he mean when he says “But this problem was also overcome”?
One way it could be overcome would be through talking to the relevant Vatican officials, possibly with them consulting Pope Francis, and getting them to agree to go ahead with the baptism despite the parents’ invalid marriage.
But there is another possibility: They quickly got married for real.
I can easily imagine the Vatican officials pointing out that their marriage was not valid in the eyes of the Church and inviting them to quickly have a quiet, Catholic ceremony with an agreeable priest (perhaps one of the very Vatican officials they were talking to).
It would be sound pastoral practice, for a couple intent on remaining together, to make such an invitation at such a moment.
The account Fr. Z quotes doesn’t indicate the means by which the problem was “overcome,” and so I don’t know whether they got an agreement to go ahead despite the lack of a valid marriage or whether they quickly got married.
For the sake of their souls, I obviously hope the latter was the case.