A bit of a potential situation recently, in the vein of the euthanasia case in Liempde or the Communion situation in Reusel, and again in the Diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch. A lesbian couple wanted to have their child baptised by Father Ad Verest, parish priest of St. Willibrord’s in Waalre. He refused to do so, the couple said, so they were forced to find a priest who would, eventually succeeding in doing so. This, of course, had the potential of exploding all over the media, were it not for the initial intention of all parties to keep the situation private – a laudable decision, I would think.

But some elements have gone public, of course, and various parties demanded explanations from Fr. Verest. Via the vice-chairman of the parish council, the priest informed the media that he never refused a baptism of the child, but that any meetings and baptism preparation never progressed beyond Fr. Verest’s explanation that the Church requires parents and godparents to fully agree with the Church’s teachings. The mother agreed and preparation would continue after Father returned from a three-month sabbatical in Peru.

But apparently, for some reason, this was understood as refusal from the priest’s part to baptise the child in question. The diocese in the person of auxiliary bishop Rob Mutsaerts stated the following:

Baptism is a sacrament that one receives out of conviction of faith. At the time of Baptism a child can’t comprehend that, so the parents must be behind the faith of the Church, and able to share that faith and live it for their child. The form of cohabitation of the parents responsible is of secondary importance. The interest of the child prevails!

While the Church is very clear about the best form of family in which children can be raised fully and properly, Baptism is first and foremost a sacrament of the child. But parents represent the child in many ways, and must be willing and able to raise the child in the best way they can. This creates responsibilities, not least when it comes to the faith. At Baptism, the parents and godparents accept the responsibility to guide and raise the child as it grows in faith. It is up to the priest to gain some understanding of the parents’ abilities to do so. It could conceivably happen that the priest finds that this ability is lacking, at which point he could say that it is not the right for Baptism if the parents are not prepared fully.

That stage was never reached in this case, of course. Father Verest had merely set up the first meetings to get to know the mother, her partner and ultimately the child. By presenting the situation to the media as if he had refused to perform the sacrament (seemingly because of the homosexuality of the mother and her partner) is awfully cause to slander.

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