Some of my friends complain that priests are too lenient when it comes to the sacraments. That we let almost anyone have their kids baptized – even if they never attend Mass or are living against the teachings of the Church.
The Church has only one requirement for Baptism: “There must be a well-founded hope that children baptized will be brought up in the Catholic faith.” (Code of Canon Law, 868)
Certainly what constitutes a “well founded” hope is debatable. Some cases are obvious – someone who asks their children to be baptized Catholic to go to a Catholic school, but is attending the Pentecostal Church is not interested in raising their children as Catholics. However, many cases are not so easy. I can think of two couples I’ve married – one came to Church every Sunday and another came to Church very rarely. Both were married the same summer – the first couple stopped coming to Church and the second started coming every Sunday. I was surprised on both accounts. I have no idea what the reason is for the change, I’m not sure how long it will last, but it was not what I expected.
The Gospel from this past Sunday may help to enlighten the situation (Matthew 13: 24-43). Christ compares the kingdom of God to a field where the landowner, God, has sown good seed. The devil comes at night and sows “darnel” – this is a kind of weed that in the early stages looked a lot like wheat. The farmer did not want his workers to tear up the weeds – since they may fail to distinguish the two and also pull out the good crop. The farmer waits until the harvest, when he will separate the weeds from the wheat.
We “workers” for the Lord are not always the best judges of people’s hearts – we cannot always distinguish the weeds from the wheat. That is why the Church is generous with her sacraments – we cannot risk losing the good in order to protect ourselves from evil. But just because I am not capable of judging, does not mean there will not be judgment. At the sacrament of Baptism parents make a commitment to raise their children as Catholics, to teach them the laws of God and the mysteries of their faith. On the last day, they will be judged by Christ as to whether they kept these promises. On the last day, priests will be judged as to how well they prepared individuals to receive the sacraments. All of us will receive reward or punishment based on their response to God’s grace.
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