Orders for baptism made for two pre-school children – 2021vol1#37

A judge in a rural town made an order that two primary school children in care could be baptised and enter the Holy Communion programme.  The Child and Family Agency (CFA) sought the order under Section 47 of the Child Care Act. The children’s mother was reported as having mental health issues and was living in independent accommodation. The children’s grandmother objected to the way the order was sought.

The children’s social worker told the court that the mother was unwell with mental health issues and had been admitted to hospital on many occasions. She reported that the children’s father was happy for the baptism to go ahead. The social worker said the children’s grandmother, while being a religious person herself, was objecting to the order for baptism and wished to address the judge.

The mother’s lawyer said that she had not been able to receive instructions from the mother for the previous two years but that she had kept in touch with the children’s grandmother. The judge decided to hear from the grandmother.

The children’s grandmother reported that their mother tended to get “very excited” when she saw her children. She said that an incident had occurred previously in the room during a visit from the children and that the children’s mother had not seen them during the previous two years. The grandmother said the mother was living in independent living accommodation, which did not meet her needs. She said the mother had attended all her medical appointments but had still not seen her children.

Children’s grandmother: “My daughter is in and out of hospital… then this letter about baptism? Who is pushing for baptism?”

The judge explained that the children were about to start school and that when children were in school, the First Holy Communion was seen as “a very important event for children, a big occasion for families and children”, which occupied a lot of the school curriculum. The grandmother said that it should not be “just an occasion”. The judge said that the Constitution dictated the rights of children. The grandmother asked why there had been no discussion with her about this and the judge replied that [grandmother] was not a guardian of the children.

The judge told the grandmother that the children’s foster parents had asked [the grandmother] to be the godmother at the baptism. She pointed out that the children’s mother could come back to court at any time to seek access. The judge explained that the CFA could not assume anything in relation to the children and that was the reason why it was necessary for them to come to court to seek the order for baptism.

Judge: “Would you prefer to co-operate and be godmother in this?”

The grandmother said that it was the way the matter had been handled which concerned her the most.

The judge made the order that the children could be baptised and enter on the Holy Communion programme.

Further order made that primary school child could be baptised as it was own wish

The same judge made an order under Section 47 of the Child Care Act that a child of junior primary school age, A, should be baptised and allowed to receive her First Holy Communion. The child’s mother opposed the application and the father neither agreed nor disagreed. The judge was satisfied that the child had made her wishes known and that the welfare of the child required the making of the order.

The CFA lawyer told the court that an application for baptism of A’s older sibling had been opposed two years previously. The social worker reported that the application was being made for A to be baptised so she could receive her First Holy Communion. The CFA lawyer asked the social worker if A understood what was being sought.

Social worker: “Yes, and she has made her wishes known. She wants to make her Communion.”

The social worker said that A’s father had been born to a Christian family and that it was his opinion that the child should be old enough to decide for herself. He was neither agreeing nor disagreeing with the application. The social worker said that the father had had no contact with his child.

The mother’s lawyer reported that the mother did not want her child to receive religious instruction and that she opposed the application for baptism. The social worker informed the judge that the mother had made no contact with the children and that they did not refer to her as their mother.

The judge said that it was the desire of the child to be baptised and receive her First Holy Communion. She said it was important for A to have “a sense of belonging to the community of the foster family and the school community”. The judge was satisfied that the child’s welfare required the order and she made an order that A could be baptised and receive her First Holy Communion.