I notice that the Diocese of Madison issued a press release last Friday to inform the general public about its practice of baptizing children of same-sex couples.
A priest I know (in another diocese), when he was requested to preside at such a baptism, consulted with the chancery, including a canon lawyer and the bishop. He still took significant flak from parishioners for it.
As I see it, the two major problems with the Madison approach:
- It conducts a significant sacramental policy in secret, hiding even from parishioners who might question a priest for whom he might baptize. The diocese seems to want a measure of control, but no actual responsibility for any potential local fallout.
- It presumes that diocesan bureaucrats are possibly better judges of the intent of parents–people whom a pastor knows and offers a degree of pastoral care. Most priests I know are quite capable of making a call. Especially if a policy is spelled out on the diocesan level. The priest I mentioned above: he was told to focus on the intent of the couple, but that the determination of what to do was up to him.
Honesty and openness are nearly always better approaches. Things one keeps out of the public eye: confidential specifics, details in individual processes of discernment, personal conversations–the usual pastoral aspects.
On one level, I can appreciate the concern. I’d appreciate it more if the institutional church would open up a bit on the broader issue of adoption–the one that affects hundreds of thousands of children, and not just some few thousands adopted by same-sex couples.