I caught this story on a few internet news sources yesterday: Argentina’s bishops promoting baptism, even when the parents are disinterested in religion. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, president of the Argentine bishops’ conference:
The child has no responsibility for the condition of his parents’ marriage. The baptism of children can, on the contrary, become a new beginning for the parents. A while ago, I baptized the seven children of one woman, a poor widow who works as a maid and had her children by two different men. I met her on the feast of Saint Cajetan. She said to me, ‘Father, I am in mortal sin, I have seven children and have never had them baptized, I don’t have the money for the godparents and for the party… I saw her again and after a little catechesis I baptized them in the chapel of the archepiscopal residence. The woman said to me, ‘Father, I can’t believe it, you make me feel important’. I said to her, ‘But madam, what do I have to do with it? It’s Jesus who makes you important.
The sacraments are for the life of men and women as they are. They may not make big speeches, but their ‘sensus fidei’ grasps the reality of the sacraments with more clarity than many specialists do.
Obviously, the parents must have enough grounding in faith to bring a child to church. Once there, I’d urge making use of opportunities other than “a little catechesis.” Youth ministers emphasize the importance of socialization as a gateway for lassoing unchurched teens into involvement. The Church has opportunities to bring together parents of young children, inviting them together to explore a commonality: if not faith, then parenting. And if not catechesis, then a shared responsibility for their respective children.
What do you think? Does the Church rightly baptize everyone who asks? Are there standards to apply?