What's the rule on the private baptism thing?

Recently, I participated in a baptism for my nephew who is now my godson. It was conducted on a Saturday, privately, with just the family there.

It was my understanding that Vatican II did away with private baptisms unless there was an outstanding reason for doing so. In this case, it was done because the parents preferred not to have it witnessed by the entire congregation.

Is this okay? Should I have said something?

Thanks in advance!

This was perfectly fine. I’ve never seen anything about that in a Vat 2 document. We have private baptisms in our family all the time. We have family priests who are close and we always call upon them when it is time for Baptisms and Weddings . All they need is permission from the priest of that particular parish if it isn’t their own.

I assume this baptism was done by a priest or deacon? Some people by “private baptism” include baptism by a lay person. I know a woman who secretly baptizes every baby she comes across, “in case” their parents don’t have it done. This, of course, is forbidden by the Church, unless the child is in danger of death.

This is what the Rite of Baptism for Children says:

Baptisms outside Mass
32. If possible, baptism should take place on Sunday, the day on which the Church celebrates the paschal mystery. It should be conferred in a communal celebration for all the recently born children and in the presence of the faithful, or at least of relatives, friends and neighbors, who are all to take an active part in the rite.

Baptisms within Mass
73. If possible, baptism should take place on Sunday, the day on which the Church celebrates the paschal mystery. It should be conferred in a communal celebration for all the recently born children. It is fitting that baptism be celebrated during the Sunday Mass so the entire community may be present and the necessary relationship between baptism and eucharist may be clearly seen.

I’ve just never understood this idea that baptism is a private family thing. It, like all other sacraments, are community events. Even Penance is a reconciliation with God and the Community, even if the actual confessing of sins is private.

The baptism was done by a priest who is a friend of the family. He used to be the pastor there, but retired about 2 years ago. By “private” I just meant that it wasn’t performed during mass. It was just a quick, “let’s get this kid washed up” ceremony (his mother’s words, not mine).

“Private baptism” is a specific term which means that the person was baptized in a hospital or home (or other situation) by someone other than the pastor or a priest/deacon delegated by the pastor. Usually this happens in an emergency.

Having a baptism in the church, but not during Mass is altogether different. Just because only the family members and friends were in attendance, that doesn’t make it a “private baptism.”

Either baptism during Mass, or outside of Mass is perfectly licit.

If the parents prefer to have the ceremony done the way you’ve described that fine, there’s nothing even remotely wrong with doing it that way.

Thank you. It’s not very nice to insist on correcting my use of the word “private” to refer to a ceremony that was invitation only. I did not mean it was “private” in the sense that you mean, and the word can actually have more than one meaning. Thanks for the condescension.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I was merely saying that the term itself “private baptism” is a legal term which has a specific meaning in canon law. I meant nothing beyond that.

It’s not nice for you to correct Father either. :tsktsk:

And before someone jumps in, I know it’s not nice for me to correct you for correcting Father either.
:tsktsk: on me too.

I thought Fr. David’s explanation was very reasonable. I had no idea that there was a canon definition of private baptism. Many of us visit the forums to learn more about our faith and find facts like this one interesting.

And shame on me for jumping on an apparent n00b who has inactivated (her?) account, (not to mention shame on me for even typing “n00b” :o )…

but since when do those who are still learning the ways of a message board (the post count is only 3) get to tell the old-timers what is proper? :nope:

Father David felt the need to make sure I knew of the canonical definition of “private baptism.” I felt the need to let him know I was aware of it, and didn’t appreciate that he assumed that I didn’t, although I’m now realizing that he might have said it for the benefit of other readers as well, who might not have known the difference.

By the way, thank you, Father David, for responding. I really do appreciate it, and apologize again for my rather inappropriate response, and to anyone else who has a problem with me today. I didn’t mean to get off to a bad start. Thanks to everyone for being so welcoming.

I have another question on this subject, actually. The particular parish in which the baptism was performed has a baptism class for the parents, and schedules many of the infant baptisms on the same day, to avoid having to do them individually, since they have a shortage of priests.

The couple circumvented the parish’s rule, asking the retired pastor to officiate for their baptisms and not participating in the mandatory class. The grandmother (my mother-in-law) prefers that all the family baptisms be done this way because she sees her family as being in a higher class than most, and doesn’t feel that her grandchildren should have to be baptized with everyone else.

I keep feeling like I should have said something, but since this is my husband’s family, and I plan to be part of his family for the rest of our lives together, I hesitate somewhat.

No problem from here. My response was intended to be tongue-in-cheek. I hope it came across as such. Welcome.

Perhaps they did circumvent a parish rule, but they did not circumvent a universal Church rule. Parents of children children to be baptized should be well prepared for the duty they are about to undertake. In your parish a class has been established to for this purpose. But there is no universal requirement that such a class be attended by all such parents. I presume the retired pastor knows these parents. If he is satisfied that they are already prepared to undertake the duties of Christian parents, and if the current Pastor agrees with this assessment, then it would not be unreasonable to dispense with the class.

The grandmother’s preferences should not be a factor, but I am curious as to how you know this. Did she tell you this?

I would also not say anything either, especially if there is any chance that you are mistaken about the grandmother’s prejudices. I think the risk of hurt and offended feelings would be very high.

Just because only friends and family were in attendance at the baptism, doesn’t make it a “private” baptism.

If the doors of the church remained opened to the public and invitations were not required it wasn’t private- but a very public sacrament.

Baptism outside of mass is perfectly acceptable and due to the logistics of where the baptismal font is located in many churches is the norm in many places.

Yes. She also brags that she has family members that were baptized by the pope once long ago. She’s originally from a country in which her family was very well known and had very high social ranking. I get that there’s a cultural difference and I have a lot of respect for her, but it seems pretty elitist to think her family should be baptized differently from others. If you’ve seen the movie Romero, picture the light-skinned people who insist that their baby not be baptized with the “Indians.”

That’s basically it. I’m very relieved that I’m not obligated to say anything in this instance. Since the grandfather is heavily into a Course in Miracles, grandma is a big fan of Depok Chopra, and the mom is afraid to send her oldest to CCD, I’m a little nervous about doing a good job as his Godmother.

Thanks all!

My apologies for coming across as snippy. (Because I know I did.)

I should just warn you that this particular forum (Liturgy and Sacraments) is very legalistic. And that is not meant in a bad sense. It’s just that we frequently deal in the technicalities of liturgical and canonical law. As such, most terms are expected to be rather rigidly defined unless stated to be otherwise.

People that use words in a way that could be confused with the strict liturgical meaning tend to jumped on. …Hence the concern that “private baptism” be understood correctly.

Vatican II did not “do away” with private Baptisms. Nothing prohibits “Private Baptisms”. However Sacraments by their nature, because they are acts of Christ Himself, incorporate the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church. So the Rites within which Sacraments are celebrated, should be celebrated, with the “Church” present.