Dear Catholic Parishes: Stop Holding the Sacraments Hostage

Dear Catholic Parishes: Stop Holding the Sacraments Hostage January 25, 2018

This is Part 1 of what will be a two-part post.

I’m a Catholic mother of six living children, and I’m here today with a plea: stop holding the sacraments hostage.

Don’t erect arbitrary and unnecessary obstacles to the sacraments, obstacles that have no basis in canon law. In particular, stop making it harder for parents or parishioners to access baptism. By doing so, you’re denying members your flock the grace they need to live strong Catholic lives and grow in their faith, and you’re putting the souls of innocent babies in grave danger.

I’m not talking about setting basic standards. Those are needed and necessary. I’m talking about tying up burdens that you yourself aren’t willing to shoulder (cf. Matthew 23:4).

Let’s start with an example that I am all too familiar with: baptism.

Some of the obstacles to baptism I’ve heard about from other Catholic mom friends are patently ridiculous. Some parishes require a class (or two, three, or even more!) that can only be taken after the child has been born, and only after he or she has received his or her birth certificate (which can take several weeks or sometimes several months after birth), and require both parents to attend, and don’t offer childcare for older siblings. Some even stipulate that you can’t bring your newborn child!

Tell me, how can the Church claim to support large families if they require large families to shell out money just to attend a parish baptism class? Do you think it’s easy for a Catholic family with six kids to (a) find a babysitter in the first place and/or (b) afford a babysitter? Most large Catholic families, including my own, can’t afford a babysitter for the desperately-needed occasional date night, let alone a required baptism class at a parish!

And speaking of that, why do parishes require a new baptism class for each child or make it so the classes “expire” after a set amount of time (usually three years)? Do you really think that a Catholic family who has already baptized 4-5 kids has suddenly forgotten what baptism is and why it’s important? If we’re having 4-5 kids in today’s day and age, chances are we are intimately familiar with Church teaching and doctrine. Heck, by kid #5 I think I could have TAUGHT the baptism class.

And it’s not even large families. Do you really expect a brand-new mother who is exclusively breastfeeding to leave her tiny child alone for several hours, likely for the first time? You have new parents who are constantly exhausted, stressed out, anxious about a million different things, and you tell them: “Oh, by the way, you have to attend this class at your parish [or sometimes multiple classes] before we can even set a date for the baptism. We’re going to make it at the most inconvenient time possible for the parent who is working, and you’ll need to find a babysitter to care for your tiny, vulnerable newborn. Oh, you breastfeed exclusively? Well, you’ll have to figure that out, because we can’t possibly have an infant at a class where we’re discussing infant baptism.”

No. You don’t do that to families. You don’t target them when they’re already in one of the most chaotic, tiring, stressful periods of their lives and do what you can to make it even WORSE. That isn’t going to bring people into the Church, or evangelize them in any way. That is only going to push already lukewarm Catholics out of the door and send them down the street to the local happy-clappy Protestant church where all they need to do is sign up to get their kid baptized.

We as Catholics need to meet people and parents where they are. It’s 2018 and we can do better. Online classes (with a short quiz afterwards to ensure information was received and retained). Skype classes. Sending a deacon or a catechist or even the priest to the parishoners’ home to do the class. If a class at the parish is needed, allow siblings — including the new baby! — to attend along with their parents, and don’t have the class in late evening when toddlers will be tired and cranky. Feed them so they don’t have to cook that night, or organize a potluck. And allow parents to attend this class BEFORE the baby’s birth, especially if they are first-time parents!

Don’t require a birth certificate, social security card, passport, and godparent affidavits signed in triplicate by a notary. The hospital record of birth should be good enough documentation to start with, and the rest can wait and be submitted later. And while I understand the importance of having qualified godparents, it’s sometimes hard if you have godparents who live farther away to get all the necessary documentation in a timely manner.

If you’re worried that the godparents may not be suitable, ask if you can have a five-minute phone conversation with them instead of requiring that they get a testimonial from the local bishop or other onerous paperwork. Ask them to record a five-minute video about why godparents are important and have them send you the YouTube link.

And for the love of all that is good and holy, do not refuse to baptize children during Lent. This has absolutely no basis in canon law and is frankly discriminatory towards babies born in January/February.

I had to go through this with my sixth baby, who was born January 21 of last year. By the time my postpartum fog had began to clear enough for me to realize that I should really call the parish to ask about baptism (because of course we weren’t allowed to do so BEFORE the baby was born), Lent was nearly upon us. We’d been further delayed by the fact that we wanted to ask her potential godparents to be her godparents in person, but every time we arranged to meet up, one of us had to cancel due to illness. Finally, I had to do it over the phone.

So I finally remember to call the parish to request baptism (which canon law states should be done AS SOON AS POSSIBLE after birth), and what am I told?

No, we can’t baptize the baby during Lent because Lent is a time of penitence and baptism is too celebratory, even for Sundays; it will have to wait until after Easter. Allegedly, this is a mandate from the bishop (though I have my doubts).

No, you can’t set a date until you have an in-person meeting with the deacon. We’ll need you make sure that you submit offering envelopes for at least three months so you can prove you’re a regular churchgoing member of the parish. Oh, you don’t have to put anything in them, we just need the proof for our records.

No, it doesn’t matter that we see you every Sunday and your husband is in Knights of Columbus and you’re in Catholic Daughters and you regularly bring your children to religious ed class, and have done so faithfully for years.

No, you can’t skip the required baptism class, because it’s been more than three years since your last child was baptized (gee, I’m so sorry I had TWO MISCARRIAGES in between babies five and six).

Oh, we only offer the baptism class once every three months, so may the odds be ever in your favor. And we don’t allow kids to attend, so good luck finding and affording a babysitter for all six kids, especially your breastfeeding newborn!

I hadn’t remembered this ordeal with any of my other babies, but I was steamed. I did get our parish priest to waive our requirement for the class, but not the requirement to wait until after Lent. In the end, the baby was over three months old before she was baptized, and it was the longest three months of my life. I even considered baptizing her myself, just in case (especially when she suffered a skull fracture due to a freak accident at four weeks old), but I didn’t because technically she wasn’t in danger of death (even with the skull fracture).

And it was so unnecessary! My husband and I are faithful, practicing Catholics. We have six kids, for heaven’s sake! The other five were baptized, three of them at that very parish. The father of the baby’s godfather was a deacon at our parish, but I still needed to submit paperwork proving the deacon’s son and his wife were suitable choices even though they had been godparents of our fourth child as well.

I would have been willing to bring my child for baptism the following week if I’d been allowed. All we needed was the baby, the priest/deacon, the baptismal font, and the godparents. I didn’t need time to plan a fancy party or anything. I just wanted my baby baptized, and it felt like I was being denied baptism until I jumped through ridiculous and arbitrary hoops.

Stay tuned for Part 2, where I’ll feature input from former parish religious ed directors about this issue.

"One day I hope to be the patron saint of working mothers in public accounting. ..."

Was St. Gianna’s Life as a ..."
"Absolutely NOT. A fetus is a potential life; it has no rights. Even if it ..."

Pro-Life Isn’t About Oppressing Women
"JoAnna,I wanted to mention to you that I responded to you in a post over ..."

Pro-Life Isn’t About Oppressing Women
"Abortion advocates don't deny that a fetus or embryo is human. We say that they ..."

Pro-Life Isn’t About Oppressing Women

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Catherine

    We are a Military family that moves every 1 1/2 years, and we have been in 5 different parishes (in different states) in the 6 1/2 years of our marriage (and 4 children).
    I DREAD figuring out each new parish’s rules for the sacraments, jumping through the hoops, proving our faithfulness because we’re always the new people (who never miss a Sunday, are in church groups/clubs/classes and volunteer time in every parish, tithe very seriously, are very serious about teaching the faith to our children…etc.), and feeling pushed back from parishes rather than welcomed because we offered little for their long term needs.

    I also am very frustrated by some of the “rules” for sacrament of marriage. Many military couples live far from each other, are deployed far away or work very hard hours, can often find themselves being sent overseas with little warning….and yet parishes give them ZERO accommodation or support. I know so many couples that married outside of the church because parishes didn’t care about their time restraints or lack of access to prep programs.

  • Patti Fordyce

    Just imagine if Joseph Ratzinger’s parents had been put through this (he was baptised in Easter Saturday, the day of his birth)!

    I used to be Chairman of the Admissions Committee of a heavily over-subscribed Catholic secondary school. *After* the diocese required us to remove nearly every criterion that might enable us to differentiate amongst 700+ applicants for 120 places, we instituted a requirement for baptism within six months of birth. I can’t tell you how many exceptions we had to allow because the priest would not allow baptisms when he was on holiday/duringLent/without attendance at a course that only runs once a year (whoops – you missed it!). Anyone would think someone, somewhere didn’t really want Catholic children baptised in a timely fashion.

  • Moira

    Please mention the high ‘fee but not a fee’ that is often ‘required but not required’. $50-$100+ is not a small sacrifice for MANY families!!

  • Holly

    Wow! I can honestly say none of this is done at my parish. Baptisms are only done one Saturday a month, so that can be tricky. And I know that they do require some parents to attend a meeting with the priest, but not the normal parishioners and they certainly don’t say no babies! What in the world?! We also baptize during Lent. I also don’t remember having to have any paperwork besides just filling in the one worksheet from the church. Something is severely wrong with your church’s system! And you are 100% right – it doesn’t have to be that way and isn’t that way in other places.

  • Ann

    Find a new parish. A parish and priest that offer the traditional form would not do this.

  • Mike

    These are the reasons so many young adults are leaving the church and having their children baptized in other faiths, they don’t require the parents to go thru so many hoops. My daughter tried to have our grandson baptized but the godparents weren’t both catholic, we offered to stand in for them, the classes were only given at certain times of the year and at certain times , early evening, she works downtown usually late and he travels a lot. need less to say my Grandson still has not been baptized. but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. they have moved to a we hear family friendly catholic church, so we will see what happens. More are leaving because of the “rule” that no marriages will be performed outside, the young adults nowadays want outside weddings, where was the wedding in Cana, outside not in the temple. sorry for my rant

  • Bonnie Roberts

    ” Forbid not the children to come to me ” is what Jesus said. It is the right of every child to receive his Baptism as soon as possible after birth.

  • My husband and I have 12 children. We were pretty lucky that they were born before all of this weird stuff started happening. But our kids have to jump through hoops to get the grandchildren baptized. It is ridiculous. Especially for large families that have been in the same parish for many, many years! And have sent the kids to the parish school forever. There have been times when my kids were young that I had to step in and do things on my own. There were a few years when they changed first confessions to be a year after first Communion. During those years I schooled the children on it myself and took them to confession myself before their Communion. I just went in first and told the priest that the child coming in was making their first confession. I hope they straighten out the circus soon. Stop trying to be so psychological about Religion. Keep it simple. God gives us the instinct to see how Good He is, and to believe in Him. Stop trying to mudd things up. The Baltimore catechism is the most wonderful tool to teach with. Go back to that.

  • Caroline

    We have been very fortunate that the two different parishes we had our 6 children baptized to not have experienced any of this. My kids are ages 16-4, so relatively recently. I would call the parish office about a month before baby was due and schedule the baptism. We took a class for our first baby and then for our fourth baby (because we had moved to a new parish many states away) and took each class while pregnant. Our earliest baptism was 3 days, the longest was 3 weeks. I can’t bear to wait longer. I’m so sorry to hear others have such difficulties in trying to get their children baptized. Fortunately there are parishes out there that will work with big families, don’t lose faith!

  • Hcowen

    Don’t get me started on adopted children and coordinating their baptism. Our parish was not offering baptismal classes because the RE director had her hands full- eye roll- and we were pushed off to another parish months after I’d been calling. Then I asked to meet with the priest to schedule the baptism and he asked me RIGHT IN FRONT OF MY DAUGHTER and my mother in law, “Why exactly has it taken you so long to get her baptised?” She was 3 1/2. Uh… I just adopted her! I had already informed him of the situation in an email. So insensitive. We changed parishes after that.

  • Michelle

    My #4 out of 7 children wasn’t baptized until he was 3 months old because our priest at the time wanted us to have a baptism preparation class and have our godparents certified by their parish that they were practicing Catholics. We faithfully attended Sunday Mass with all our children so it should have been apparent that we were practicing Catholics. We seriously considered going to a different parish to get our baby baptized, but we were married in that church and the rest of our kids were baptized there, so we stuck it out. I went to the meeting with the priest with newborn in tow (hubby was working and refused to take off for the ridiculous baptism lesson). At the baptism, the priest said, “so sorry it took so long to get this done!” I kept my mouth shut. That priest was moved a short time later due to conflicts with the parishioners….every other priest we’ve had has said “when do you want to do it? Next weekend?” when we inquired about baptism for our new babies.

  • Just saying

    My daughter was dating a Marine when they became engaged a week before he went to boot camp. Obviously they do not allow computers at boot camp so he couldn’t take marriage prep online. Boot camp was on one side of the country, he was going to be stationed on the other side of the country and we live somewhere in between. We decided to have the marriage presided over by the Justice of the Peace and some of our Catholic friends refused to come to the wedding. I agree with what another person posted, that they should make things easier to accommodate persons in the military.

  • Susan

    “local happy-clappy Protestant church”

  • Nancy Janzen

    Maybe after child #5 you could have taught the class but could your choice of. godparents? These are the people who will be responsible for rearing your child Catholic. We need to answer no your brother not married to that woman he lives with who never made his confirmation can’t be the godfather everytime baptism classes come up.
    We have one priest who is our pastor , the chaplain at the Newman Center 20 miles south on Tuesday, teaches deacon classes at the shrine 40 miles north also on Tuesday and has to arrange confession time during CCD for the sacramental classes also on Tuesday. He is also one of the vocation directors and the bishop’s master of ceremonies. You think he has time to come to your house for private lessons?

  • Ironically, the godfather for #6 was just hired to oversee Marriage prep at our parish! So yes, I think he could have (especially as a father of 9 with a son in the seminary, and a father who is a deacon).

  • Sounds like he doesn’t have time for house calls. Why can’t he delegate to parish volunteers? Or do them online via Skype?

  • Denise

    The parish I grew up at refused to let my husband and I get married there. He was in the military in KY and I lived in CA. The deacon told me that since we both couldn’t take the class with him, he couldn’t make sure that we were marriage material. We had a very lovely nuptial Mass at a different parish. We are still in contact with the priest who presided at our wedding 30 years ago. My family was active at the parish, where my mom still is a parishioner. I didn’t understand that logic then, and it still doesn’t make any sense now.

  • J Allen

    When I wanted to baptize my youngest, the priest wanted both godparents to attend classes with him! Both lived in a different state! After trying to reason with the priest, and not being successful, I called my childhood parish, where my first child was baptized, and they agreed to baptize my child there. Thank goodness!!!

  • Can you imagine how revolutionary it would be in our parishes to have baptism classes come to the newborn’s home (complete with a freezer meal)? OK, I guess you can imagine it–you mentioned it! I’m just getting goosebumps at the thought of it . . . in such a good way! What better way to show that parishes are welcoming communities? So let’s go revolutionize our parishes, ladies! (If enough in a parish speak up, mention the need, volunteer to staff it, etc, it could happen!)

  • You might want to address some of these concerns beyond the parish; say, to the diocese. State-issued birth certificates are a requirement of our diocese; not the parish. It’s partly because of the many discrepancies that have been encountered with different spelling names, etc. It may not seem like a big deal at the time of baptism but it can become an issue when, say down the road, someone needs their baptismal certificate for Social Security purposes and the names don’t match exactly. All I’m saying is that there can be issues about which not everyone is aware.

  • Jessd

    Hi! My name is Jessd. I posted libelous material about the Catholic Church, so my comment has been edited accordingly. Hopefully I can find ways to express my disagreement using facts and reason instead of falsehoods and illogic.

  • Luis

    Pray for the Catholic Church so you are not to fall in the temptation to judge.
    Remember His Word!

  • Luis

    I hear all this complaints all the time
    The Church should do this or that
    But brother and sisters we are part of the chuch let’s stop asking or complaining but let’s help in every way we can the people do not go lukewarm because of the requirements they go lukewarm because they want to let’s no blame other people for our personal decisions

  • That is insane!

  • That would be amazing! We actually had one of the deacons from our parish come to our home and do the baptism class for #5, because he needed surgery at 8 weeks old and it was considered an “emergency baptism.” No meal, though. 😉

  • Great point, Father! The response to my article actually encouraged me to email my diocese and ask for the rationale behind no baptisms during Lent. No response yet, but it has only been a day.

    Thank you for your ministry!

  • Hi Luis! Prayers and judgement are both appropriate in this instance.

  • Hi Luis. I think it isn’t either/or, but both/and. We can bring attention to problems within the Church AND help people every way we can.

  • Joseph Lukaszewski

    Actually I did used to teach the class occasionally. Unfortunately having a Deacon for a father doesn’t necessarily qualify since neither of my brothers would.

  • Even so, he could have testified as to your worthiness!

  • Kate

    I love this idea. As with most great ideas for things “the church” should do – the only way it can happen is for folks to step up. If something bothers you, tugs at you, seems like a great idea – maybe God is calling you to do it.
    And I hesitate to say it but I will. When I was a DRE there were far too many “suggestions” and far too few volunteers to execute on all the “great ideas” that folks had.

  • I agree! As a working mom with six kids, my time is in short supply; however, my husband and I plan to volunteer with our parish’s Marriage prep ministry this year. (Just need to get the training done first.) I’d love to help with baptism formation too!

  • Deb

    The high number of divorces and the high number of requests for annulments are the reason why. It made sense then and even more sense now. I think the priest was doing exactly what he should have been doing, ensuring that the couple understand exactly what marriage is in the Catholic Church. The priests who accommodate anyone, anytime, are the ones who have to take responsibility for the incredible lack of understand about our faith and the Sacrament.

  • DJDeKok

    The Church isn’t a private club in which we can change the rules when we see fit or it doesn’t fit the narrow confines of what we think feels right. As for those folks on active duty, all they need to do is see their chaplain. So you’ve had a snootful of kids. Do you stop enrolling them in school and attending conferences because the principal knows you by now? Of course not. Each child is an individual with its own soul. The Smith family doesn’t get an exemption. Sacraments and salvation apply to the individual.

  • Christina

    The requirements for baptism while similar are not as onerous. But the same can’t be said for our Confirmation preparation classes. It has become a 2-year program that requires monthly parent meetings, classes weekly and a couple of monthly classes for the kids. This is just a sample of the things required in the 1st year. The second year includes all of the above, along with a weekend retreat, a saint paper, a personal interview with CCD staff, and 20 or so hour of community service. This coupled with changing the requirements every year for the last 3 years has left me with no love for the endless hoops they seem to need. I have asked and they are worried that our diocese is going to change or restore the order of the sacraments so confirmation would be at a younger age and make the older classes less important so that families don’t feel the need to attend Mass or pursue a Catholic culture. I understand but it hardly helps to make it misery for parents with many kids, a spouse that works shifts, and a single car to do all of the running around. The expense of the retreat and classes are also a bit daunting.

  • Jane

    What’s a parish’s rationale for not allowing the parents to take the class before the baby is born? I can’t even begin to fathom a reason for that because it’s not as if the baby is learning the material in the class. No, let’s take two sleep-deprived people, one of whom is still recovering from childbirth, and try to give them the information.

    I can understand wanting a birth certificate or mistakenly thinking baptisms can’t happen during Lent (since that’s kind of a Catholic urban legend at this point) but not the requirement that the baby be born before the parents can sit in on the class. It’s not exactly privileged information, after all.

  • These aren’t the rules, though. Canon Law does not require fifteen classes and the baby’s birth certificate prior to baptism. Nor does it require no baptism during Lent.

  • Theresa

    Wow, I actually had no idea some parishes did this! For our first there was a short meeting (maybe fifteen minutes in all?), you could bring the child, and it was just to stress the importance of baptism and the continued participation of the family in going to church etc to try and deter people from thinking of it as a nice family tradition and the last time they would step into church for a few years. Also to let everyone know at least one godparent was required to be Catholic. When I had my second I just told them I had already done the meeting and they were fine. But all this you are talking about… crazy!!

  • Kathleen L.

    Boy, does this article hit home! It sounds like the situation my family had to endure with many of the Sacraments. (and that included Confession, Communion, and Confirmation) With each child, we were required to take a Baptism class…..ugh….each one….all five….and yes, they asked us to teach the Baptism classes after our 5th. That is another story. My one child was born during Lent, and I was told not to have the baptism during Lent, because it is not suppose to be a joyous occasion. My child did not have the choice of deciding that time to be born…he was induced 3 weeks before his due date due to my health condition, so he was small. Then I asked the church staff, …if they would withhold Baptism from an ill person in the hospital if it was Lent? Of course not!
    I ask for Baptism for my child, now, and it does not have to be done during Mass; a private time would be better to avoid contact with all the bad bugs for the baby. Is it too much to ask for a free gift from God, for good practicing Catholic families, active within their own Church! We had all the paperwork, godparents paperwork, birth Cert., classes (ugh) taken…etc….but, we had no control over the baby being born during Lent! There needs to be less taking hostage of the Sacraments! Thank you for your article, and God bless you and yours!

  • Amy

    Wow. This was an eye-opener. I don’t understand why pastors would want to put such obstacles between parents and the sacraments. Our little parish is very accommodating. I teach baptism classes, and I try to be very flexible. I very often do a class with just a single couple because I try really hard to work around their schedule in any way that allows both the mom and the dad to attend. (That’s the beauty of being part of such a tiny parish; I’m sure that that wouldn’t work in bigger parishes.) I never tell a couple that they cannot bring their children. In fact, I expect that they will (especially if there is a newborn!); and if they wish, I’ll arrange for one of the other catechists to be there to keep the young children busy so the parents can pay attention to the class. I’ve even gone to the family’s home and done a class for them in their home during their toddler’s naptime because that’s the only time it really worked for both parents. Our pastor does require parents who have gone through the baptism class before (even several times) to do it again for each baby; I have no control over that, but I do try to individualize the classes by going into more breadth and depth for those parents who have attended my classes before. And if the parents have gone through this SEVERAL times, then I do an abbreviated class. It is true that our pastor normally won’t do a baptism during Lent unless it’s on an emergency basis, but I’m pretty sure that is a rule from the bishop. By the way, we encourage (although we don’t require) the parents to do the baptism class a few months BEFORE the baby is born. I don’t understand AT ALL any requirement that the parents must wait until the baby is born before they can take the baptism class. In my opinion, that’s pretty ridiculous.

  • Sue

    What a beautiful idea!

  • Fr. Michael Williams

    It’s always good to hear feedback from parishioners who have concerns. We priests can often be disconnected from the day to day issues that are pressing upon the laity. That being said, I had to smile at the issues raised, as they seem so far removed from my reality in a small, Northern Canadian Diocese. Here, weekly Church attendance stands at about 10% of Roman Catholics, and over 90% of the requests for Baptism come from non-practising parents. My standard for Baptism? Please come to Church on Sunday, introduce yourself to me, and ask me for a registration form. I will give it to you and, after you return it, I will Baptise your child. I might meet you once if that is possible. The vast majority who had phoned or e-mailed re: Baptism for their child do NOT come. Apparently, that is too much to ask of them. And they are angry at me for suggesting such a high standard. They either go elsewhere, or forget about the Baptism altogether. I often wonder if that makes me a bad pastor. Oh, I strongly encourage parishioners to do all this as soon as they find out they are pregnant. That is such a horrid thought to everyone, that it is shocking to them I even mention it. Don’t ask me why. I would love to go to their homes for a visit, but they always decline. If they agree to meet for half an hour, they always come to my office. With their baby or without – doesn’t matter to me. I’m not making a point, just observing the wildly different experiences in the Catholic Church. I suppose there is no “right” way to address them, but I do appreciate hearing the feedback and it gives me an opportunity to reflect on my own approach. To be honest, the drive through Baptismal Font would be a smashing success here. But that thought just depresses me.

  • Your method does not sound unreasonable to me at all!

  • Portia

    My friend was a lapsed Catholic who was on her way to returning to the Church. She and her husband were going to mass regularly when she had her son. I was asked to be his godmother. I was willing to drive 30 miles to go to the required classes. Long story short, after enduring cancelled classes, inflexible rules, and rude Catechists, my Godson was finally baptized. Mind you, my friend’s husband/godson’s father works evenings and had trouble getting nights off for the classes.

    My point is that this parish clearly missed an opportunity to bring a wonderful family into their community. Their child was baptized, yes, but the experience did nothing to make them feel welcome. They no longer are active in the parish.

  • Padre

    Just a thought… most of these requirements betray a lack of knowledge of the theological importance and canonical right to the sacraments, or a wholesale disregard for the salvation of souls. Therefore assuming you have options perhaps you should choose a different pastor/parish.

    My requirements, for which I was deemed mean and pushing people out of the Church some years ago in an oped to the local paper, are simple: for the first baby meet with me (my place or yours) at your convenience, the baby is welcome inside or out of the womb. After that if I see you at Mass then no further hoops necessary–although I would love to come bless your home or share a meal. I am happy to baptize on a days notice, so long as you have a practicing Catholic god parent (confirmed, married in the Church, Sunday Mass-goer).

    All other sacraments: come to Mass… everything else is negotiable.

    Usually its the practicing Catholic Godparent that is the rules hang up, but this is a canonical requirement.

  • So sad.

  • That sounds wonderful, Padre! We have been faithful Mass-goers at our parish since 2008 so that would have been no obstacle. And we’d love to have you over for supper if you are ever in the Phoenix area. 🙂

    Requiring faithful godparents is absolutely necessary. But some of the requirements for proving it are rather onerous at some parishes, and sometimes even ridiculous.

  • Deacon Paul Boboige

    I have witnessed cases where the requested Godparents are Catholic in name only; it’s very obvious that this is only intended as a social privilege and has no spiritual significance in the parents and godparents mind.
    It is probably more important for these Godparents (rather than the parents) to attend a class (a runthough of the Sacraments. I am an eastern Catholic deacon and our baptism includes Chrismation (Confirmation) and the Eucharist. The service also includes various blessing and anointing and there are practical issues (loose clothing, blankets, holding candles, etc) that make these wonderful Mysteries less awkward.

  • Absolutely! A class or a meeting with the priest may be necessary. But these should not become unwieldy obstacles.

  • Katie Walsh

    Thank you so much for sharing this. In a 4-5 year span we had to attend baptism classes 3 x. Once to be Godparents to our niece in another Parish, before they would sign all of the required paperwork, and twice before our Parish would baptized our children. They finally waived the class for one of our 3 oldest children. During this time I converted to Catholicism at this Parish, and we were married there, and attend Mass every weekend unless we’re really ill. This year we have one in First Year Confirmation Classes, one in Second year Confirmation classes, and one in First year first communion classes. They did away with continuing faith formation. Confirmation Classes are monthly on Saturdays-different Saturday different times for Confirmation I and II, multiple mandates outside of class (retreats, Youth Day, 40 hours of community service per child (1/2 at our Parish) etc., with only 3 absences allowed (1 Saturday is 3 absences). Confirmation Classes fall during SAT’s, theater performances, track meets, etc. No make ups for absences are allowed even if they are ill, taking SATs etc. We’re told if we really love or children and are serious about raising them Catholic and saving their souls, we’ll make sure they’re there. First Communion is every Tuesday evening 5:30-7:00, with mandatory parent meetings at the same time every week. If I miss a parent meeting it counts as an absence for my child. Two weeks ago he had the flu. We both missed, so he has now has 2 absences with no way to make them up. I also missed half of the parenting class the next week, because I had to pick up our 13 year old and 15 year old daughters in two different cities and get one home, and one to a soccer game, and my husband could not get away from work to help, as he was across the valley tearing down a fish tank. Oh, and our child preparing for First Communion has weekly homework, to complete on the Mass. Every week we have to write up the Mass time, Parish Priest who presided over the Mass, the color of vestments, Church liturgical year, the Gospel Read and Reflection, Homily reflection, and what he learned and how to apply it to daily life-for a first grader. We also have to sign in after Mass on Holy Days of Obligation to prove we were there. I was unaware of this requirement for the first Holy Day of Obligation during his preperation so we did not sign in, and pray that they don’t hold it against my son. We were there. 2 of our 4 children are alter servers almost every Sunday morning at the 7:30 am Mass, and my husband is an Eucharistic Minister. In the past I have been involved in the Mom’s club at our Parish, Little Lamb’s nursery, and volunteered at Catechism in the past. We both work full time, and have no family nearby to help. My husband’s work hours 6 days a week until 6:00 or 7:00 pm, don’t allow him to help. I am so overwhelmed, and it frustrates me that our Parish and the requirements for the sacraments are another source of great stress. It seems that our Parish should be a source of support, not stress with so many hoops to jump through. I know it’s not this way at all Parishes. I have wanted to respectfully meet with our Parish Priest about my concerns, as I wonder if he knows what’s happening, but my husband does not want me to rock the boat.

  • That is INSANE. You absolutely should say something! They are putting up unnecessary obstacles to the sacraments and making them a prize to be won and not grace that is received.

  • Karen Bushman

    As the DRE who handles baptism I would like to give another perspective. I work with six parishes and so offer a baptism class once every two months. However, if necessary (illness, job restrictions, etc) I have held a private class even at the home. We ask that one parent attend, babies always welcome and you can take the class from the minute you learn you are pregnant! Godparents are not required to take the class but encouraged. Each priest chooses when he holds Baptisms. Families only take the class (one night – 2 hour session) if it has been 3 years or more between children. Sometimes, having a “seasoned veteran mom/dad” helps the first time parents understand the responsibility that goes with sharing the Catholic faith. While some families call it “hoops”, I also think that families that are less informed/practicing need to be encouraged to learn more about their faith.

  • I agree with your last line! Your parish’s baptism prep seems very reasonable, except that it might make more sense to *request* seasoned/experienced parents to participate instead of *requiring* them to do so.

  • Janet

    Well! Shock-a-roo its a big big problem. DREs I think, think they are the top dog! It is ridiculous. It is sad. It is sickening. It is wrong. I have stood in awe on more than occasion. You know the Church is trying so hard to get fallen away Catholics to return. We have Catholics Come Home. These stop signs of time, paper work and MONEY! Are terrible .
    Its no wonderful Catholics are leaving. I had a DRE scold my CCD kids for not attending Mass. Rarely do these kids attend. Later I asked her why she came in and raked the kids over the coals. She spoke. Then I said THEY ARE 7 years old. They can’t TELL their parents anything. She still said they can ask. I ‘ve seen teens told not to return to CCD -meaning no Sacraments because he was a terribly shy kid. After a few times with DRE he got the boot! In sure Jesus agreed with that one,huh!!! It is too hard to become a Catholic. It is too to get Sacraments received for the children. I so wish our Dioceses could see what’s going on.

  • Chuck

    I find the discussion here interesting. I do not intend to comment on the particular experiences of the blogger or the commenter, since I don’t know them or their parish, and am only hearing one person’s view of it. I can comment on the two-year Confirmation Preparation that we have at our Church.
    I’m sure that some parents see it as hoops to jump through. You’ll have to ask them why they see it that way. We implement it with the intention of something like a two-year retreat or a pilgrimage that they are taking. That is, it’s a journey to a sacred destination. In this case, that destination is the Sacrament of Confirmation. There are meetings, homework, paperwork, etc. for them to do. It’s the same as many of the big things we do: being on a travel soccer team, putting on a play, getting into college, whatever. The big things in life – and there aren’t many bigger than the Sacraments – require good, hard preparation. Heck, that’s what life is. It’s good, hard preparation for the after life.
    We encourage families to engage in this preparation together. If a parent sees the things that we do – service, learning about saints, reflecting on the Gospel, learning about prayer, etc. – as a hoop to jump through, then, unfortunately, they won’t get anything out of it and their child may not either. However, if the parent sees these things as opportunities not only for their child to grow in their faith, but also for them to walk with their child and grow in their own faith, then they will jump at the opportunity. It’s unfortunate, if we think that we have the Sacraments all figured out and that we would not learn more about them, about ourselves and about God, with each new child. Every time we prepare for a Sacrament and every time we participate in it, as the receiver or one of the Church, we have an amazing opportunity. It’s all in how we approach it.
    I’m sure that I’m not addressing the points made previously. That’s not my purpose. I hope that in sharing our approach, some parents and their children will come to know and love God more through Sacramental preparation.

  • Except that you can’t force that, and it encourages a portrayal of Confirmation as a prize to be earned instead of a sacrament to confer grace.

    In the Eastern rites of the Church, infants are baptized and confirmed at the same time. They aren’t required to attend retreats and classes and do service projects with their parents. So obviously confirmation does not require such.

  • Katie Walsh

    I do not think I have the sacraments all figured out, nor do I fail to recognize the importance of hard work. I appreciated the hard work of the employees and volunteers at our Parish that work to prepare our children for the Sacraments and help us as parents prepare them for the sacraments. I have volunteered my time as a Catechist, and I know it’s not an easy thing to do. We are not perfect Catholics, but we do try to live our faith and pass it on to our children. I understand the requirements that limit absences too. However, when there is no way to make up those absences that is a problem. My son wound up attending the mandatory retreat sick. Our family had the stomach flu. He felt well enough to go, but said when he got there, he was still sick the next day. Most likely some people left with the stomach flu. He should have stayed home. Normally, I would not send my child away sick, but we were told in order for him to be confirmed in April he would have to attend this retreat. If he could not attend even due to illness, he would need to find another local retreat to attend. If we could not find another retreat, he would have to attend another year of Confirmation Classes and meet all of the requirements again in order to be confirmed the following year. The problem with that is all of the other nearby parish retreats are full with their own Confirmation Students. Last year our son attended Congress Friday evening through Sunday in LA with my husband and his Grandparents. We asked if he could attend this again instead of the retreat, and were told he could not. We were also told our children cannot make up absences in any way. It seems that doing a research paper on the topics discussed during a missed class, would be appropriate preparation and make up for missed sessions (with a valid reason to miss), but we are told that there is no option to make up missed sessions, even if they’re sick, or there’s a family emergency, etc. For two years we did not take our children to continuing faith formation, because my husband was expanding his business, and I returned to work full time, rather than part time. The added stress, and time demands made it difficult for me to get our children there, and none of them were preparing for sacraments. Instead we committed as a family to do continuing faith formation every Sunday evening with our children at home. We did not follow a program. We talked about events in our children’s lives and society and discussed them within the context of our Catholic Faith. Was it perfect? No, but our children have commented that they miss this time, and they got more out of it than the formal classes at the Parish. The time demands of having 3 of our 4 children preparing for the Sacraments at the same time, and the daily demands of parenting and life in general do not allow us to do this anymore. On Tuesdays our 6 year old son, and I get home at 4:30, and we have 30 minutes to check in on my 3 older children, feed ourselves, clean up (brush teeth, etc), and leave for Religious Education for his first year first Communion Class. We leave at 5:00, and I drop him off at his class at 5:30. I then go to parent faith formation at the same time. I then pick him up at 7:00 or 7:15 (his class often stays until 7:15), and then we head home. We are home at 7:45, if I don’t have to run errands (pick up dinner, meds for sick child, materials for a school assignment due tomorrow, etc), or pick up our other 3 children. I see my husband for the first time since 7:00 am. We chat for a few minutes, feed our 6 year old another snack, as he’s usually hungry again, and get him ready for bed. If I can stay awake I have another 1 to 1 1/2 hours to spend with our 3 oldest and my husband. 9/10 out of 10 we both fall asleep sitting up on the couch around 9:00 and head to bed at 10:00. Most days are like this. The church does forget that parents are overwhelmed. Although my husband and I work full time, and have no family nearby to help, I know that we have it easier than many other parents. There are single parents that are working more than one job, parents with children with life threatening illnesses, parents caring for their children and ailing parents, etc.; and as a result they struggle to get their children to religious education and attend parent faith formation. That does not mean that they do not understand the sacraments, or desire to live more fully in their Catholic Faith, or journey with their children. The inflexibility is what frustrates me for myself and our family, and for families with bigger struggles than our family. We are not perfect Catholics. I don’t believe there are any perfect Catholics walking this earth. We do however take our commitment to raising our children in the Catholic Faith seriously, and strive to journey with them as they prepare for the Sacraments. I believe it is problematic for the Church to not recognize how stressed parents are, and provide some flexibly and understanding when it comes to preparing for the Sacraments. Should I adjust my attitude? Yes, maybe I should, but those running formation classes for the Sacraments, would also convert more hearts, if they recognize the struggles that parents and families face. God Bless.

  • Janet

    Wow! Seems thru out the country everyone is saying relatively the same thing.
    So what can we do?
    What do we do?
    To whom do we go to?
    I can only think if one way to make a statement. Asking what is going on. Why does this occur. Why so mean, cruel and strict. And finally ask- really how would Jesus handle the CCD program(s)? The meeting should include the CCD office and even folks from the Diocese. The worst thing to the Director/coordinator is confrontation having to answer and then follow through.

  • Saralinda Hurley Larson

    It’s been nearly 40 years and I’m still bugged that we had to have a class to baptize our son (child #4) in five years. Teachings on baptism hadn’t changed. It was just a rule.

    More recently, (10 years ago) my daughter was told that she wasn’t welcome to baptize her son because she was not active in a parish (although she and her husband were planning to go so they could raise the boy Catholic). She is now active in the Unitarian Church while her husband still considers himself Catholic, does not attend any church. The irony in their situation is that both grandkids attend Catholic school. I pray every day that they will come home from school some day and ask Mom and Dad if they can be baptized.