Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Relatives of Kidnapped Boy Ask for Rule Change

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Relatives of Kidnapped Boy Ask for Rule Change

Article excerpt

Relatives of Edgaro Mortara are asking the Catholic church to repeal a rule permitting baptism of infants in danger of death, including children of non-Catholic families, without parental consent.

A spokesperson for the family made the appeal in an Aug. 17 interview with NCR. Mortara was a Jewish boy removed from his family almost 150 years ago because he had been secretly baptized. He was separated from his family at the age of 6 and brought to Rome in 1858 on the authority of Pope Pius IX. The memory of that act is generating controversy ahead of John Paul II's beatification of Pius IX on Sept. 3.

Canon 868 of the current Code of Canon Law, last revised in 1983, says that for a baptism to be lawful at least one of the parents of a child (or the person who lawfully holds their place) must give consent.

It then adds this exception: "An infant of Catholic parents, indeed even of non-Catholic parents, is lawfully baptized in danger of death, even if the parents are opposed to it."

Elena Mortara, Edgaro's great great niece, told NCR, "Normally as Jews we would not make demands of another religion. But because of what our family faced, and because of the unexpected exaltation of Pius IX, we feel we have the moral authority and the duty to address a law that goes against the rights of people to raise their children according to their beliefs."

The passage was not crafted with issues such as those involved in the Mortara case in mind, according to Fr. …

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