Editor’s note: In some Catholic dioceses and parishes, the question of whether or not to baptize children of same-sex couples is not disputed. The child, say some dioceses and parishes, should be treated like any other child whose parents present him for the sacrament of baptism. In other dioceses and parishes, the approach is quite different, with some couples being turned away. Here, Archbishop John C. Wester of Santa Fe, NM, addresses a pastoral issue that has caused distress in parishes and among same-sex Catholic parents.
The Great Commission, as it is presented at the end of the Gospel of Matthew (cf. 28, 16-20), could easily be called “The Great Gift”, because the risen and ascended Christ, who possesses “everything power in heaven and on earth,” empowers the disciples “to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
From that pinnacle 2,000 years ago until today, the Church has carried out its divine mission and shared the gift of baptism with the same generosity with which our Savior gave it to us.
This generous impulse of the Church is reflected in the book of Isaiah: “Come to the water, all you who are thirsty!” You who have no money, come and buy grain and eat; Come and buy grain without money, wine and milk without charge! (55:1). Although he speaks of the Eucharist, Pope Francis also captured this theme in his final apostolic letter, “Desiderio Desideravi.” He wrote, “No one deserved a seat at that dinner party. All had been invited. Or rather: all had been drawn there by the ardent desire that Jesus had to eat this Passover with them.
So it is very concerning that people are being denied the sacrament of baptism, or any of the sacraments, for that matter. I understand that the Church, as guardian and dispenser of the graces of the sacraments, must exercise caution in their celebration and even, in certain serious and rare cases, refuse the sacraments to some until reconciliation and/or or removal of impediments are lifted.
Nevertheless, the general disposition of the Church is one of hospitality, openness and acceptance, in the spirit of the new evangelization. Refusing to baptize the children of same-sex couples is not in line with this awareness, and I find it quite disturbing. Denying baptism to these children solely on the basis that they have same-sex parents, while possibly done with good intentions, is not supported by church teaching or practice, in my view. notice.
Let me say at the outset that when a parent (or parents) request baptism for their child, it is a time of grace not only for the child but also for the parents. Indeed, the first answer should never be “Of course! or not !” Automatic approvals or blanket rejections are never good pastoral practice. Rather, the priest, deacon or lay leader should accompany the parent(s) and help them understand the beauty, implications, responsibilities and rights of this important moment of faith. This is true for all parents seeking to have their child baptized, including same-sex couples.
Vatican II’s declaration on religious liberty, “Dignitatis Humanae,” states that the family, “since it is a society in its own right, has the right freely to live its own domestic religious life under the direction of the parents.”Therefore, not only is the evangelization of the Church an openness of welcome, but it is also incumbent on the institutional Church to respect the domestic Church, the family.
While the ideal family, according to church teaching, is headed by a father and a mother, in reality we baptize many children from families that fall short of this ideal. Some families have only one parent due to divorce, abandonment or death. Unfortunately, many families are fragmented by substance abuse, violence, dysfunction and poverty. In all these cases, I am not aware that the norm is to deny baptism to their children.
Rather, we meet these couples where they are and encourage them to grow in faith by passing that faith on to their children. However, same-sex couples are sometimes denied the baptism of their children. Why?
“The general disposition of the Church is one of hospitality, openness and acceptance, in the spirit of the new evangelization. Refusing to baptize the children of same-sex couples is not in line with this awareness and I find it quite disturbing.
I suspect children of same-sex couples are being denied baptism because a judgment has been passed that they cannot raise their child in the Catholic faith as LGBTQ parents. It’s not true. It is true that same-sex couples cannot live up to the understanding of marriage intended by God and taught by the church in every respect, but we must admit that no couple can ever live up to this understanding in all respects.
In the teaching of the Church, marriage is a human reality, consisting of a relationship of total, committed, exclusive and lifelong love between a man and a woman; the conjugal act is its privileged expression (and requires the complementarity of masculine and feminine to be united), and in God’s plan, this conjugal act of love also brings new life to the world. No wonder this relationship of grace is seen as analogous to Christ’s bond with the Church.
The minister of the Church is called to help the couple requesting baptism for their child to strive to make their marriage ever more suited to the Church’s understanding of this bond, allowing this openness to faith to give them credibility in raising their children as Catholics.
It is important to keep in mind that the issue is the baptism of the child and not the ability of the parents to live up to all the teachings of the church on marriage. Likewise, there are substantial, foundational, and critical elements in the relationship of same-sex couples that provide strong assurances that the child will be nurtured in the faith.
I want to emphasize here the crucial importance of love. In the baptismal rite, the priest or deacon tells parents that they are “the first teachers of their children in the ways of faith, testifying to faith by what they say and do, in Christ Jesus our Lord “. Without a doubt, same-sex couples are very capable of teaching their children faith, living a life of respect for each other, remaining faithful to each other and loving each other.
God is love and the most fundamental catechesis a child can receive is to be loved, to return love and to be part of a loving family. All other catecheses are based on this. In addition, same-sex couples bear witness to many other aspects of Catholic life that form a coherent catechesis for children: commitment, fidelity, self-sacrifice, honesty, humility, kindness, spiritual depth, church attendance. , respect and much more. These considerations form the basis of the specific Catholic teaching that same-sex parents impart to their children.
Therefore, I see no reason why a couple would be refused when they present their child for baptism on the sole basis that they are a same-sex couple.
As a pastor, I also believe in baptizing children of same-sex parents because parents, in requesting baptism for their children, show good faith. The mere fact that they approach the Catholic Church in this regard, knowing that their relationship cannot be recognized as a sacrament, proves that they are serious about their faith and that they want to raise their children in this faith. Goodwill on their part must be presumed.
It is a time of grace for parents. The priest, deacon, or lay minister should take advantage of this by spending time with the couple, exploring the faith with them, challenging them to grow in that faith, and supporting them in their desire to follow Christ as than Catholics. I believe that excessive attention given to the fact that the couple is homosexual blinds the minister of the church to the abundance of positive and virtuous qualities that remain in their relationship.
Moreover, the believing community to which the child is initiated, and which is represented by the godfathers and godmothers, is also responsible for the deepening of faith in this child. The church has always pointed to the Body of Christ as integral to the development of the faith of the newly baptized. Years ago, when missionaries asked Rome if they could baptize children even if the parents had not converted, they were told that the community takes responsibility for raising children in the Catholic faith. .
This is quite well experienced by the multitude of teachers of religious education in our parishes and our schools. It is also illustrated in our parishes where the children are catechized by the celebration of the Eucharist and the testimony of the parishioners throughout the week. In the Catechism of the Catholic Churchgives us a beautiful reflection on the community of faith into which the baptized are initiated and which becomes a conduit of grace for the new initiates (no. 1267-71).
“Without a doubt, same-sex couples are very capable of teaching their children faith, living a life that respects others, remaining faithful to one another and loving one another.”
The scriptures also give us guidance on how to approach the question at hand. The Gospel of Mark shows that Jesus responds generously to the father who wanted his son to be healed of a dumb spirit (9:14-29). Even though the father’s faith was weak (“I believe, help my unbelief!”), Jesus performed the miracle and healed his son. Believing LGBTQ parents, though aware of their own challenges to the faith, are nonetheless worthy, by having their child baptized, of the healing sought by the man in the Gospel of Mark.
In the ninth chapter of the Gospel of John, we see that Jesus rejects the idea that children are punished for the actions of their parents. This trajectory of grace leads me to believe that children of same-sex parents should not be denied baptism solely on the basis of their parents’ same-sex relationship.
The propensity of the church to baptize is captured in the Acts of the Apostles (8:26-40). The words flow with enthusiasm and joy as the Ethiopian eunuch says, “Look, there is water. What prevents me from being baptized? The chariot was ordered to stop immediately, and Philip baptized it. Jesus echoed this impulse to baptize in the Gospel of Matthew: “Let the children come to me, and do not forbid them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as they are” (19:14).
LGBTQ parents striving to live and love their Catholic faith may rightly ask, like the Ethiopian in Acts, “What is stopping us from baptizing our child? I believe the answer is: Nothing. “All you who are thirsty, come to the water! (Isa 55:1).
This article originally appeared on Outreach: An LGBTQ Catholic Resource.