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Let's say a Protestant couple has a child who has been raised in a Protestant church that believes in adult baptism. So the child has not yet been baptized.

The husband then becomes Catholic and desires his child to be baptized and raised Catholic. But his wife strenuously objects, is very hostile toward the Catholic faith, insisting that the child is raised Baptist, for example.

Can the husband, out of the spiritual welfare of the child, requests a Catholic priest to baptize his child without the child and the wife knowing about it, and receives a certificate of baptism in the hope that in the future when the child becomes adult he/she can decide for himself/herself whether to be confirmed as Catholic?

If secret baptism, or a dispensation can be given for this unusual form of baptism (similar to radical sanation of marriage when the hostile spouse doesn't know), is there an age limit for the child?

The consideration here is that just as an infant is not aware that he/she has been baptized, the child doesn't need to know either.

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  • Maybe we need an initial question asking how any of these secret rites can be justified.
    – curiousdannii
    May 20 at 23:42
  • Discussion here May 21 at 1:48

2 Answers 2

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Those who baptize infants are bound by Canon Law to raise those children Catholic. A Catholic parent must

Can. 1125 1/…do all in his or her power so that all offspring are baptized and brought up in the Catholic Church.

The Church prohibits secretly baptizing children* because it cannot be assured that the child will be brought up in the Catholic religion.

Can. 868 §1. For an infant to be baptized licitly [i.e., lawfully]…2/ there must be a founded hope that the infant will be brought up in the Catholic religion; if such hope is altogether lacking, the baptism is to be delayed according to the prescripts of particular law after the parents have been advised about the reason.

*unless there is immediate danger of death

source: this answer to the question "Are there involuntary Catholics?"

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According to the Canon Law you need at least one of the parents to ask for the Baptism. So "legally" there is no need for the other to know or agree. Also, Baptism is a life-saving sacrament and it is denied in really few cases.

Regarding the age limit I think it depends on what your church defines as age from when the kid can be considered conscious of his decisions. In any case you should really ask for advice to your local priest or to the Bishop as well.

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  • What if the kid would have been around the age of first communion (7-8) but has been brainwashed as anti Catholic by the non-Catholic spouse, believing that he/she doesn't need to be baptized until the normal Baptist church age of 12? May 20 at 21:02
  • I think one can try to have an honest talk with both the kid and the non-Catholic parent and explain to them that Baptism for the Catholic Church is not like a subscription or something that "marks" the kid as Catholic, but it's just a gift that catholic parents give to their children, having them decide when they are grown if they want to get the other Catholic sacraments. Good luck! May 21 at 20:03
  • @cartoonheart91 that is not a great way to describe baptism in the Catholic Church. Parents who baptize their children Catholic can't just wait around for the child to "decide" to receive the other Sacraments. They would be derelict in their duties as parents to do so.
    – jaredad7
    May 24 at 14:37

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