Not much excitement this week unless you’re a statistics geek…
In his post Baptism and Godly Living, Philip Jones explores a priest’s obligations in relation to conducting infant baptism and the circumstances under which this might be delayed. Whilst most of those commentating on the recent report in the Daily Mail and Daily Mirror managed to locate and quote Canon B22, Philip extends his considerations to the requirements for godparents within Canon B23, who are required to be “be persons who will faithfully fulfil their responsibilities … by the example of their own godly living”, and must normally be baptised and confirmed, though the minister may dispense with the requirement of confirmation. He notes that the situation is different from that considered by the Court of Arches in Bland v Archdeacon of Cheltenham  1 All ER 1012, which under the 1603 Canons effective at that time, a deliberate refusal to baptise (as distinct from a failure to baptise due to forgetfulness or laziness) should be charged as an offence of disobedience to ecclesiastical law rather than as neglect of duty.
He concludes by saying that “despite the [current] broad wording “as he thinks fit”, it is unlikely that Canon B22(2) empowers the bishop to support an outright refusal to baptise a baby merely because of disapproval of the parents’ lifestyle,” which would be to impose a condition of baptism that is not found in ecclesiastical law. “The dictum in Bland … suggests that the bishop’s power is limited to agreeing that the incumbent may delay the baptism. It is true, however, that any delay may be indefinite, in which case there may be little practical distinction between delay and refusal”. However, such an approach would be viewed as being little better than the comments attributed to the Chester diocese spokesman. Continue reading