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Christening -non religious /non practicing parents.

(20 Posts)
Bluecarrot Sun 16-Jun-13 15:55:09

Just looking some opinions here. DP and I are expecting our first child together. We are not yet married, though do plan to marry.

I was not raised with religion but explored Christianity a few years ago. I do not believe in any god.

DP was raised catholic. He is now, and has been fir over a decade, non practicing. He only goes for events like funerals ( which I attend with him)

However he says that our child will only get to heaven if its christened. I feel, if his god is real, then I'm sure he expects a bit more than a ceremony in which a non-believer and a non-practicing catholic say they will raise a child in the way his god expects. I do not wish to lie to people that we will. He doesn't see a problem with it hmm

Can he have our child christened without me being part of it?

Btw, he is ok with us not getting married in a chapel.

Bluecarrot Sun 16-Jun-13 15:58:51

Also, not sure if its relevant but he is keen to criticise folk who attend mass every week, yet do not lead godly lives. As if this gives him a pass to be hypocritical maybe? I'm not quite sure?

I respond that its not being better at it than others, its surely about your relationship with your god ( as was my understanding from my very strict catholic grandparents, plus my 6 months exploring my own feelings about faith -in a happy clappy modern relaxed baptist church)

Bakingtins Sun 16-Jun-13 20:02:20

I would have much more respect for your stance than his. It sounds like he is really struggling to reconcile a belief in God with the knowledge that he is not "practising", and that his lifestyle is incompatible with scripture. It doesn't sound like he is in much of a position to criticise others for being hypocritical. I'm Christian but not catholic and I'm aware their doctrine is different but I don't believe some empty promises made by your parents get you into heaven, or that the absence of this ceremony bars you.
Is there an element of appeasing family in there? Have you talked about schools - is getting your DC into a catholic school in the back of his mind?
I don't think either of you should put yourself in the position of making public promises you don't mean. There may be some middle ground of some sort of blessing/thanksgiving for the child that does not involve you making any promises you are not comfortable with, it may be worth exploring that option with the priest.

DomesticCEO Sun 16-Jun-13 20:05:45

I cannot understand why anyone who is not religious would go through the christening ceremony confused.

As an atheist there is no way on earth I would have allowed my dh to have my children christened, but thankfully I married a man who respected this.

MrsGSR Sun 16-Jun-13 20:20:35

From my (limited) understanding christening isn't really biblical. In the Bible people were baptised after realising they have sinned and had chosen to trust jesus. A baby cannot do that so in my opinion christening is at best a symbolic gesture and had nothing to do with who gets into heaven. Maybe look into it abit with him?

glorious Sun 16-Jun-13 20:51:25

It sounds to me like your DP is quite conflicted about his faith, on the one hand not wanting to practice but worried about his future child on the other.

I totally understand your reluctance to participate in something you don't believe in and I think if your DP still wants to go ahead and you are ok with it happening (just not with lying) the best thing to do would be for your DP to speak to the priest about it. Equally if you think it's wrong for your child that seems fair enough to me (and I am Catholic smile ).

Just to add, though, while it is important normally that the adults make promises for the child, the real focus is what God does rather than what they do. In an emergency like if a baby's born very sick the only essential bits are the water and the words said when it's poured over the head. You don't even need a priest then. That's not to say in general anyone would dispense with the rest of it, I just wanted to make clear that in Catholic teaching the baptism itself isn't about what the adults say.

I hope you both work something out that you're comfortable with. And congratulations on your pregnancy smile

Bluecarrot Sun 16-Jun-13 21:15:01

Thank you.

We live where I grew up - a very Protestant community in Northern Ireland. While RE is taught a little in school, its not a faith based school and I say to dd that in my opinion they are like fables etc.

He grew up in a very Catholic community. His whole family, while not all living in that town, are catholic and the kids are christened, have communion and are confirmed. People are expected to marry in a chapel. Yet from what I have seen, none attend regularly except his neice because she "does altar" but is left off and collected at the end.

So it seems it is maybe family tradition. If DP felt extremely strongly about his faith, its unlikely we would have got together. However, if he practiced then I'd be ok with christening. As long as I'm not involved its no odds to me. I don't expect him to teach baby religion or being it to mass.

It just feels like a big immoral lie to me and that's what I'm struggling with!

glorious Mon 17-Jun-13 07:49:21

Yes, I see what you're saying blue, it seems he would be lying too.

I think a lot of Catholics struggle with or reject some of the church's teaching, e.g. I am pro gay rights including marriage and use some contraception. But in my opinion I believe the important stuff. Do you know if your DP still believes anything and just isn't comfortable with the church as an institution, or if he's really only thinking about baptism for the cultural reasons you identify? Would you feel differently in those two cases?

I'm not trying to persuade you one way or the other, you need to be totally comfortable with whatever you decide. I just wonder whether your DP has quite complicated set of thoughts and feelings here.

Bluecarrot Mon 17-Jun-13 08:31:26

We talked about it more last night but he is being so defensive and not actually answering v straightforward questions.

He said he sees the bible as a guide. I agreed that a lot of stuff in the bible is common sense good living ( be nice, be charitable, don't gamble, don't borrow money etc). I'm not really sure what the "important stuff" is glorious, that can't be just what a person with a strong moral compass would do? It sounds like I'm trying to convert him but honestly I just want to get to the basis of his individual faith. Which has had no impact on our relationship until now

At one point last night when trying to "argue" his case, he said in a round about way that actually the christening wasn't important. Then realising he had said that, switched the conversation...

I guess it's going to be dropped now and wil be something he will discuss with his side if the family in due course ( they don't know about baby yet)

glorious Mon 17-Jun-13 12:30:25

How difficult blue .

I'm using my own definition of 'important' which is obviously personal but I mean believing in God and the Catholic understanding of God, the incarnation etc, and the morality all Christians and frankly nearly everyone agrees on, just not some of the controversial moral stuff. But that's a personal view - I was just trying to illustrate being comfortable with parts of Catholicism but not all of it.

I hope as you say that it's something that works out for you all when the baby is here.

AMumInScotland Mon 17-Jun-13 12:48:59

It is probably difficult for him to explain because he probably hasn't really thought that much about it in the past! A lot of people find that when they have a child, or one is on the way, all kinds of things from their own childhood resurface, even though they haven't considered them important since.

For a lot of Catholics, there is a huge sense of cultural identity which is quite separate from any kind of actual belief or regular chuchgoing, and I'd guess that is going to be very strong in NI because of the long and complicated history there.

From a theological perspective, baptism has one set of meanings, to do with belief. But from a family/cultural perspective it can often be about "These are the things we do because we are Catholics. We are Catholics because we do these things." For his family the "things we do" seems to be baptism, first communion, confirmation. Others might add in wedding and weekly mass, particular saints days, etc.

So, it might help if you think of this as being about family/culture/sense of belonging rather than really religion.

And then decide whether you are ok for him to do this on that basis, or whether you just find it unacceptable. If you don't want to stand in church saying things you simply don't believe, then talk to the priest (or get DH to) and explain that you are happy for it to go ahead, but not to join in those parts of the service.

Personally, I'd agree with you that it is hypocritical of him to stand there saying he plans to raise the child in the faith if he doesn't really plan to do that. But he may have woolly ways of thinking about what he means by those promises that let him off the hook (in his own mind at least...)

neontetra Mon 17-Jun-13 13:42:30

I think this is one of those issues where, if you ask on an internet forum, everyone says the rationally correct thing, which, here, is that it is wrong or at least pointless to have dc christened if you do not believe. In EL however, loads and loads of non-believers do this, and noone bats an eye-lid. At my church, the congregation is tiny, yet we have many christeningsveach year of dc whose families never attend otherwise. I always think that, for many, it is a metaphor, a way of promising to bring their child up with good moral values. And as such, it is very valid. If your dh wants to do this could you let him, but not attend if it would make you uncomfortable?

Bluecarrot Mon 17-Jun-13 19:08:38

Neon tetra - I would be ok with him having baby christened as long as I would not have to take part. I'm not sure the priest would be ok with it though ( not in DPs hometown chapel anyway) a few folk have mentioned he gets baby christened then we have a naming ceremony later that I am part of but tbh, that's of no interest to me. I like low key!

We are not married either which adds another heathen dimension ;)

We had first scan today so have dropped the subject for now and staying on topics we agree on or are learning about. I appreciate everyone taking the time to comment.

Tuo Mon 17-Jun-13 20:08:34

Bluecarrot, I just wanted to add that your DH's views seem to be out-of-date even with Catholic teaching, although I must admit that I am not actually Catholic (though I do have an interest in eschatology!), so I stand to be corrected. As far as I know, though, the Catholic Church abandoned the idea of Limbo - a place in Hell, apart from God but without actual suffering - for unbaptised infants about 5 or 6 years ago, so I don't think that even orthodox Catholicism would teach that unless your baby is baptised s/he is necessarily damned. Just sharing this in the hope that it may make the issue marginally less emotive for you.

At the same time, it seems to me anathema that a priest would refuse to baptise a baby brought to him for baptism simply because only one parent was prepared to make the baptismal promises on the child's behalf. Who is he - who are we, any of us - to decide on God's behalf who does and who does not get to be part of His Church? I do think it's worth your DH exploring this option, therefore, if it means a lot to him to do so. (I'm a member of the CofE. My DD2 was baptised a year ago at the age of 10 and at her own instigation. She was old enough to make her own promises, but no-one ever asked where my - atheist - DH was in all this, and he didn't come to the ceremony. It was not a problem at all.)

Congratulations on your pregnancy and all the best.

neontetra Mon 17-Jun-13 20:53:49

Am also C of E, so it may not translate, but cannot imagine any child being refused rite.of baptism simply because of parents' marital status, or because one parent did not feel comfortable attending. If this does prove to be the case, could do look at having dc baptised in another parish? Or even (if this would work for him) in another denomination? Am assuming here that it is Christian, rather than specificly catholic, baptism which matters to him, which may be a wild assumption!
Congrats on pregnancy and good luck!

neontetra Mon 17-Jun-13 20:55:43

Sorry for typos in above. Do should read dh. Other spellings should be.correct.

glorious Mon 17-Jun-13 21:24:07

Some great points here.

Yes, limbo has officially been abandoned and the official position now is that we don't know what happens but the church hopes that unbaptised children go to heaven. There is also teaching on adults who aren't baptized because they didn't know about Christianity or didn't have the opportunity which says they can also go to heaven. I won't explain my personal views (more liberal) as they're not relevant smile

And I can't imagine the priest would refuse a baptism either if that's what you decide.

LondonBus Mon 17-Jun-13 21:32:59

From what I understand (which ins't a lot!) the mother needs to be present for her child to be baptised in a Catholic church.

The parents, however, don't need to be married, as the church doesn't want to punish the child for the parent's sins.

If you DH has been raised to believe it's not possible to go to heaven without being baptised, then it's going to take a lot to convince him other wise.

I know quite a few people from Catholic families who were not practicing until they had their first child, wanted them baptised, and then wanted their child raised Catholic as they had been. Such friends of mine may not go to mass every week, but their DC have their first communion, etc. <shrugs>

sarahtigh Tue 18-Jun-13 16:11:27

maybe he sees christening baby as a cultural rather than religious catholic thing, like many cultural/secular jews still circumcise their sons

unfortunately with christening there is no compromise position you either do or you don't; so either you or DH have to give way

sashh Thu 20-Jun-13 08:58:20

maybe he sees christening baby as a cultural rather than religious catholic thing, like many cultural/secular jews still circumcise their sons

You beat me to it.

It may well not matter much to him, but it will to his family.This has happened in my RC/Protestant/atheist family.

I know one grandparent who worried terribly about her granddaughter for months if not years that she wasn't christened.

She stopped saying anything after a while, some of us think she took the opportunity while bathing said grandchild to make sure she was 'done'.

I don't think the mother needs to be there, because of this belief that if a baby died it could not go to heaven I've heard of fathers taking their child to the church before the mum got out of bed (old days, bed rest after birth).

Another thing that did happen in my family (mother's generation) was teasing/name calling between cousins.

If you are truly not bothered let it happen.

Some people just cannot get their heads around not doing something. I'm atheist and I try (as much as possible) to ignore Christmas. A lot of people struggle with that. An atheist friend told me it had not occurred to him that you could not celebrate Christmas.

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