Here’s something else to throw on the agenda for the upcoming Synod: children born outside of wedlock. I’d argue it’s not just the couples involved that need counseling; judging from this, so do some clergy.
The working document on the Synod notes about teenage mothers:
Above all, they are to be esteemed for the love and courage with which they welcomed the life conceived in their womb and now provide for the upbringing and education of their children. They deserve from society a special support which takes into account the many sacrifices they are facing. The Christian community is also called to provides a care which permits these mothers to see the Church as truly a family of God’s children.
And yet, we hear news like this, from the Philippines:
A young unwed mother decried the “sermon” given to her by the priest that officiated the baptimisal rites of her infant son in front of her family and friends in a chapel in Mandaue City.
“Makauulaw na magpabunyag ka og walay bana. Nakig dug ka og laki nga dili nimo bana. Wala ma mauwaw (It’s humiliating to have a baptism without a husband. You slept with a man that is not your husband? Aren’t you ashamed)?” Fr. Romeo Ubach of the Sacred Heart Chaplaincy in Eversely Child Sanitarium asked the 17-year-old woman who carried her months-old baby.
“Kining bata walay sala pero ang mama nga nakigdug og lalaki nga wala pay kasal maoy nagpuyo sa sala. Mapasa unya ni sa bata ang disgrasya. Dili unta nga nag happy happy unya naay bata. Oo, grasya ni pero nabuhat ni siya sa sala (This child has no sin but her mother who slept with a man without being married to him lives in sin. She may pass on the consequences of her sin to her child. There shouldn’t have been indulging in their passion then bore a child. Yes, a child is a gift from God but the baby was borne due to sin),” the priest said.
After giving his “sermon” Fr. Ubach asked the mother if she was married to her baby’s father.
Msgr. Esteban Binghay, episcopal vicar of the Archdiocese of Cebu described the actuations of Fr. Obach as “against the rule of courtesy and charity.”
“Any child, whether legitimate or not, has the right to be baptized. In the same manner, priests have the obligation to baptize anyone because baptism is the only means to remove original sin. Maayo gani gidala ang bata para bunyagan. (Good that the mother brought her child to be baptized),” Binghay, a canon lawyer, said.
The child’s grandmother took a video of the priest’s sermon and uploaded it to her Facebook account yesterday. The video has been shared more than 9,000 times as of Monday afternoon. The young mother told Cebu Daily News they don’t know where to go yet.
Read more and watch the video here.
And be sure to read Calah Alexander’s account of her child’s baptism, which was a pretty awful experience.
Because here’s the real issue: baptism isn’t about the parents. And while I understand the necessity of discretion to avoid scandal, it’s not about anyone else, either. It’s about the eternal salvation of a human child. The Catechism is absolutely vehement that “Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament”. If we really believed that, we’d be petitioning bishops, archbishops, and the Pope himself to allow the baptism of infants to proceed unhindered. If we really believed that, we’d be knocking down our priest’s door in the middle of the night if someone told us they couldn’t find anyone who would baptize their baby. This is the eternal soul of a child created by God Himself, and His Son specifically commanded baptism. He also explicitly told us not to hinder the little children from coming to Him. What is baptism if not the child’s first encounter with Christ? Who are we, any of us, to stand in the way of that?
What grace may work thought the sacrament of baptism is, like all sacraments, a mystery to us. Even sinners who wear their sin like a badge of honor are still coming to the Church and asking for something that only Christ’s Church can give. In baptizing a child of sinners, we ought not fear that we are opening the floodgates of moral relativism or normalizing the celebration of hedonism. We need only be assured that we are doing what God, and the parents of the child, have asked — giving the child mercy, grace, hope, and a way to Christ.
UPDATE: The priest is now facing backlash from his superiors and could be disciplined. Read more.