Catholic schools in Britain are now rebuffing parents who, desperate to enroll their children in high-quality Catholic schools, baptize their children for pragmatic reasons, according to the Telegraph.
Parents are said to go through a “five-year epiphany,” baptizing their children when they reach school age.
Many schools are refusing to consider children who have had late baptisms. Some have set the upper limit at 12 months, while others consider only those who have been baptized within a few weeks of birth.
Peter Stanford, a governor at St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic primary school in London, said, “if you have had your child baptized at two or three or four they won't get in.”
At London Oratory, a school where former Prime Minister Tony Blair sent his two eldest children, only children baptized no later than four months after birth will be admitted.
Staff said the policy helped deter parents who baptized their children only to gain admission. Last year, the school had 700 applicants for 160 places.
David McFadden, head teacher at London Oratory, said the criteria for admission are based on canon law.
"The first criterion is based on Mass attendance. The next is to what extent the Catholic parents have met their obligations regarding the Church's sacramental practice, including baptism,” McFadden said, according to the Telegraph.
One 37-year-old hairdresser from Essex told the Telegraph she and her husband had converted to Catholicism two years ago to secure their daughter’s admission to the local Catholic school.
"I did this purely for my children," said the woman, a mother of three who spoke under condition of anonymity. "I wasn't religious beforehand and I wasn't brought up in a religious family. I could count on one hand the number of times we'd been to church. But I felt very strongly that I wanted to give my children the best chance. That was my main priority.”