Children baptized outside of the Catholic Church

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q: Thanks for all your great work, you’re a tremendous resource to many of us! I have a question for which I cannot quite find a matching situation for in your archives.

In your book When Other Christians Become Catholic, you cite Canonist John Huels regarding a juridic act of reception for children baptized outside of the Catholic Church (p144). Your quote of him speaks to the implicit declaration of the parents that they want their child to be Catholic by virtue of notifying the pastor of their child’s (Protestant) baptism for record in the parish register, an indication of their intent to raise the child in the Catholic faith. 

Would the registration of baptized children under 7 or lacking the age of reason in either the parish school or Christian formation programs (in addition to the parish itself obviously) also constitute an implicit declaration of the parents’ intent, thus making the children juridically received?

We have discovered a small number of children (between 7-8 years old) in our First Communion preparation who are baptized outside the Catholic Church, so they’ve not been received liturgically, but who have been in our formation programs and/or school for several years, prior to their reaching the age of reason. The parents’ preference is for them to continue the “normal practice” of catechesis with their classmates, which obviously contradicts Canon 885 §2 which would have us receive and also then confirm them (even though, as you’ve pointed out, this canon seems to simply be ignored by many) since they’re currently of age and no longer infants.



A: Thanks for your comments on my work.

Yours is a canonical question more than a liturgical one, so you may want to consult a local canonist.

In my view the parents could make a verbal declaration that it was their intent (if indeed it was) that their child baptized Protestant as an infant was to be considered Catholic when the child entered Catholic formation at the age of 4 or 5 or whatever it was. The circumstance I’m treating on that page of my book concerns children who are below catechetical age.

However, once a child has begun catechesis for first communion, the child has by definition reached catechetical age. That child is to make a profession of faith, be confirmed and then receive communion.

So, in my view, if the child joins Catholic peers in the year that preparation for first communion is beginning, that child does not fall into the other category of those who can simply be declared Catholic—they are now at catechetical age and make the declaration for themselves, receiving confirmation with their first communion.