“Baptism is the sacrament which Jesus send us his Spirit, who frees us from sin and gives us the grace by which we become God’s children, heirs of heaven, members of the Church and the temples of the Blessed Trinity.” (CCC 1213)
I have a relative who was married in the Catholic Church. She never baptized her three children and they are now full grown and totally lost with no faith or a church. The parent wanted the children to decide on a religion when they grew up. Who will be held accountable by God for this, the parent or the children who are now grown up?
In a case like this, the parent is held to be responsible first. The grown children become also accountable, however, after hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ and having had the possibility of asking for this sacrament (CCC 1257). Before ascending to heaven, Jesus commanded His apostles, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16). In other words, if the children have learned about Jesus Christ and have had an opportunity to ask to be baptized, then they are now responsible. It becomes a matter between them and God. We have to believe this because of what Jesus said. In addition, the parent will also be accountable for any part she played. Nothing goes unnoticed by God.
You say that your relative was married in the Catholic Church. If she was Catholic, then in her preparation for marriage, she had to make a sincere promise to do all in her power to have all of her children baptized and brought up in the Catholic faith (canon 1125). It is a serious matter to make this promise to God and then ignore it or decide otherwise. All human persons are born with a fallen human nature and tainted by original sin. Every infant, therefore, is in need of baptism to be freed from it. A believing parent would be denying this to her own child if she did not have him baptized shortly after birth (CCC 1250).
My brother’s ex-wife belongs to another religion. Their daughter is not baptized in the Catholic Church. Is there anything that we as a family can do to get this done? Do both parents have to consent?
The answer depends on the particular situation. First, has the child already been baptized in her mother’s religion? If so, then you would need to find out how it was done. The Catholic Church believes in only one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins. The requirement is that it must have been celebrated using the baptismal formula that Jesus gave – in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19) – and there must also have been immersion, pouring or sprinkling of water. If this was done, then that Baptism is valid, and for life.
If the child, however, has never been baptized but is living in the legal custody of a parent practicing another religion, there may be nothing you can do for now except to pray and be an example, taking the child to Mass when she is with you and teaching her about Christ, so that one day she may seek Baptism for herself. The reason for this is that the Church believes Baptism to be the entrance into a new life in Christ. If there is no hope that the child will be brought up in the Catholic faith, then the Baptism is to be put off. In danger of death, however, the child is licitly baptized, even against the will of the parents (canon 868).
This article taken from Grace's new book, Dear Grace: Answers to Questions About the Faith, now available in our online store! Faith questions may be sent to Grace via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also visit her online at www.DearGrace.com.