Did Pope Francis baptize a baby whose parents aren’t married? 12 things to know and share

by Jimmy Akin

in Canon Law, Francis, Sacraments

francis_baptismPress reports are claiming that Pope Francis recently baptized the child whose parents were not married in the eyes of the Church.

Since many priests in America have refused to baptize such children, it raised some eyebrows.

What are the real facts in this case?

Here are 12 things to know and share . . .


1) What was the occasion of the baptism?

Every year the pope baptizes people on the commemoration of Christ’s baptism.

This takes place in the Sistine Chapel at St. Peter’s basilica.

This is an entirely normal practice.

For example, here’s a piece about Pope Benedict baptizing twenty babies on the Baptism of Our Lord in 2013.


2) What happened in this case?

According to Fr. Z’s translation of an Italian news story in La Stampa:

Among the baptized – according to the report in the daily “Il Tirreno” – there is also Giulia [i.e., Julia], caught of a couple married civilly but not in church.

And this is certainly a novelty.  Not for Bergoglio, who as a priest, bishop and cardinal baptized babies of teen mothers or unmarried couples many times.

Giulia’s parents, last 25 September, had made their request to the Pope directly at the end of the Wednesday general audience.

“We were on the ‘sagrato’ (the ‘porch’ in front of the Basilica)”, Ivan Scardia recounted, the father of the baby, “when he passed by and we asked him if he could baptize our second child.  He told us to get in touch with his collaborators and then they contacted us.”

When the time came to send in the documents there was a glitch: “We were married at city hall.  But this problem was also overcome,” Giulia’s father said.


3) Why would this mean that the parents weren’t married in the Church’s eyes?

If someone is a Catholic then, apart from certain unusual circumstances, they are obliged to observe the Church’s form of marriage or get a dispensation from this form.

Otherwise, their marriages will not be valid.

Dispensations are sometimes granted, such as when a Catholic marries a non-Catholic and they wish to have a non-Catholic ceremony.

When two Catholics are marrying each other, however, such dispensations are not granted.

City halls, even in Italy, do not observe the Catholic form of marriage, and so for two Catholics to just head to city hall and attempt marriage would result in an invalid marriage from the Church’s perspective.


4) How reliable is this report?


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