Q. 1. What is the position of the Catholic Church regarding the baptism of children against the wish of their parents? I heard that there are some parents who will not take their sick children to certain hospitals because they fear that their child will be baptised against their wish if they are near death.
A. 1. In cases where non-christian (possibly Jewish parents) request that their child not be baptised in a near death situation, the hospital staff will publicly agreed never to do this.
On this matter, the Code of Canon Law # 868 states:
"§1. For an infant to be baptized licitly:
1/ the parents or at least one of them or the person who legitimately takes their place must consent;
2/ there must be a founded hope that the infant will be brought up in the Catholic religion; if such hope is altogether lacking, the baptism is to be delayed according to the prescripts of particular law after the parents have been advised about the reason.
§2. An infant of Catholic parents or even of non-Catholic parents is baptized licitly in danger of death even against the will of the parents."
In summary, a Catholic hospital can honour the request of non-christian parents, such as Jewish parents, even if a child is at death's door. At the same time, Catholic hospital staff member are not obligated to respect that wish in accordance with Canon Law # 868 2/ §2. By law, the staff is allowed to perform an emergency baptism in danger of death, therefore ensuring the salvation of the child.
If a Catholic hospital staff member does not perform an emergency baptism, he/she will not be reprimanded by the hospital or the Catholic Church for not having done so.