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Article in Church Times (17/4/09) displays common fallacy about Canon Law on baptismal preparation

In an article on the Church's relationship with the State, Canon Reiss of Westminster Abbey stated that

"If one of the parties to a marriage is baptised, a couple can normally be married as of right in their parish church.  If parents want their child's birth to be marked by baptism, then most clergy will readily do so, even though, wrongly, some may try to impose conditions, contrary to canon law"

This is wrong in two respects.  Baptism is not a pre-requisite for marriage, and as Council member Ian Robins pointed out in the letter below, imposition of conditions is permitted.

“Canon Robert Reiss claims that it is “wrong” for the clergy to try to impose conditions on parents and godparents before the baptism of children. How can it be wrong to respect the integrity of the participating adults who are being required to commit themselves to the Christian faith and to involvement in the Body of Christ?

To “turn to Christ” must mean something. There are many Christians in this country and in the wider world for whom commitment to Christ involves considerable and even ultimate sacrifice. Are we not selling the faith short by allowing ill-informed promises to be made in the manner that Canon Reiss seems to approve?

The imposition of conditions is, in fact, permitted by canon law for the purposes of “preparation”. Handled with pastoral sympathy and wise but gentle firmness (for example, planning the baptism date in consultation with parents and as part of the preparation), this makes the whole experience potentially a first step towards a genuine faith commitment.

Obviously, a baptism where one or more adults are already committed members of the Church requires a different approach.”

Ian Robins  

A fuller exposition of the legal position is given on


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