Catholics in India, for the last few generations, have been following a unique practice of naming their children. The children are invariably given the baptismal name after a saint; but once they enter school, many children are given Indian names which hardly have any resemblance to the baptismal name, and which eventually become their official name. Many of such official names owe their origin to names of natural forces like sun, light, wind etc. and of objects like precious stones , flowers etc. I would like to know whether Catholic Church has issued instructions, at any point of time, on how Catholic couples should name their children on baptism and thereafter.

2 Answers 2


Yes: the Catechism provides explicit guidance on this matter, and it's covered in Canon Law.

  1. The sacrament of Baptism is conferred "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."85 In Baptism, the Lord's name sanctifies man, and the Christian receives his name in the Church. This can be the name of a saint, that is, of a disciple who has lived a life of exemplary fidelity to the Lord. the patron saint provides a model of charity; we are assured of his intercession. the "baptismal name" can also express a Christian mystery or Christian virtue. "Parents, sponsors, and the pastor are to see that a name is not given which is foreign to Christian sentiment."86

    1. Mt 28:19
    2. CIC Canon 855

  1. Parents, sponsors, and the pastor are to take care that a name foreign to Christian sensibility is not given.

The Catechism makes clear that the name given at baptism is the person's Christian name. Neither the Catechism nor Canon Law provide any guidance on common names; in Christian societies (or those with a Christian heritage) the baptismal name is usually the common name. In non-Christian cultures, the common name may be something else. Even in Christian cultures, a person's common name may not be their Christian name ("Junior," for example; or a nickname like "Tiny").

The Catechism continues

God calls each one by name. Everyone's name is sacred. the name is the icon of the person. It demands respect as a sign of the dignity of the one who bears it.

The name one receives is a name for eternity. In the kingdom, the mysterious and unique character of each person marked with God's name will shine forth in splendour.

The Christian name is the name used by God, and it will be the name used for the rites of the Church. As the name is sacred, it should not be forgotten in this life — even though it will be used for eternity in the next.

  • 1
    "The Christian name is the name used by God, and it will be the name used for the rites of the Church." Are you sure? I think at marriage, when it has also a legal value... I think in that case, the "legal" name should be used. I live (and I was born) in Italy, and here the baptismal name is always the common name.
    – Marco
    Jan 20, 2016 at 15:09

As a Catholic you are actually forbidden from naming your children with demonic names:

  • Lucifer
  • Beelzebub
  • Baal
  • Moloch

are all off limits. citation needed, pretty sure I heard it on Relevant Radio...

But, I'd bet you could name your kid Damien a'Molokai or some variant. "The Omen" is not canonical and hopefully the Leper Priest is remembered longer than the movie. I bring up that name because, for whatever reason, some names enter the public consciousness as "Evil", but I doubt whether the Church cares what the public consciousness sees as evil.

Lucy and Luz have the same derivative as Lucifer, but St. Lucy very early on sanctified that name.

  • 1
    I agree with you that such names as Lucifer Beelzebub, Baal and Moloch should not be given as names to Catholic children. If saint names are generally acceptable, could being named after St, Lucifer of Cagliari, who's feast day is May 20th be permitted? catholicsaints.info/saint-lucifer-of-cagliari
    – Ken Graham
    Jan 24, 2016 at 5:18
  • @Ken wow, never heard of him before. I asked a similar question about Pope Pelagius. The guy who answered (who doesn't participate much on the site any more) said that Canon Law forbid "heretical names". Which is even more broad.
    – Peter Turner
    Jan 24, 2016 at 5:29
  • 1
    I've heard of people named Jezebel or Cain. All I know is, I'm not going to name my kids one of these names! :) Jan 25, 2016 at 0:00

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