This is from a December 28, 2000 letter to Cardinal Roger Mahony,
Archbishop of Los Angeles:
Enclosed is a copy of a letter I received recently from Monsignor Richard Loomis. I've already replied, hopefully resolving some of his concerns. I had celebrated a baptism at a home in Montebello, California. I wrote to the pastor of the local parish, asking him to record the baptism. Apparently the pastor gave your office a copy of my request. It's clear that my unofficial ministry bothers Monsignor Loomis.
Please be assured that I haven't harmed the relationship of the family to the church, that I don't mislead the faithful and that I respect the priesthood. I always urge Catholics to have their marriage witnessed and their children baptized according to the church's rules. I explain what's required for valid and licit reception of the sacraments. I give them names of parish priests who provide good spiritual care.
The style of the enclosed letter reminds me of these paragraphs from a Placentia, California parish handbook:
To begin preparation for your child's Baptism, please call the Ministry Office at least three months in advance. The Sacrament of Baptism is celebrated in English on the first and second Sundays of the month at 2:00 p.m., and in Spanish on the third and fourth Sundays of the month following the 12:15 p.m. Mass. Parents may choose to have their child baptized during weekend liturgies by advance arrangement. Infant baptism is available for children who have not yet reached the age of reason. The age of reason is normally 7 years old / first grade. Preparing for the celebration of infant baptism requires evening preparation seminars for parents and godparents.
For someone chosen to be a godparent, the requirements are that the person must: 1) be a fully initiated Catholic - this means one must have received Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation; 2) be a practicing Catholic and, if married, married according to the laws of the Catholic Church; and 3) be at least 16 years of age.
An engaged couple is to call the Rectory Office at least 6 months in advance to begin the preparation process. No date will be set until the couple has met with the priest. The engaged couple must participate in at least one diocesan approved marriage preparation program. The choice of the program is the decision of the couple. Weddings are normally scheduled to take place on Saturdays at 10:00 a.m., 12:00 noon or 2:00 p.m.
Sometimes couples are in situations which require special concern and action before a date can be set. These special circumstances are: when either party is under 20 years of age; when there is a pregnancy; when the couple lacks the means to support the family unit; when either manifests marked immaturity as exhibited by the absence of physical, intellectual or psychological development; when either lacks comprehension and appreciation of the sacramental aspects of marriage; when a Catholic is not practicing his or her faith; when the couple refuses to participate in any form of marriage preparation program; when parents or guardians raise reasonable objection to the marriage; and when either party has been previously married in any kind of marriage ceremony or by common law or when the parties are already cohabiting without benefit of marriage.
The priest/deacon will determine within a reasonable time if the couple is capable of entering into a Christian marriage. At times, the engaged couple will be referred to a licensed counselor for psychological evaluation. A priest/deacon may delay a wedding for a just cause. In such a case, he will assist the couple in finding a way to overcome the specific circumstances that made the delay advisable.
When I signed the rescript dispensing me from the obligations of the priesthood, I fully intended not to engage in priestly ministry. Before 1986, there were only two minor exceptions: I baptized both of our sons. Thanks to a hospitable priest, I celebrated our son John's 1970 baptism at the font of the cathedral baptistery in the city where we lived at that time.
As you know, I earn my living as a computer programmer. Among family members and at most places where I've worked in recent years, I've also been the unofficial chaplain. In 1986, my brother Dennis and his bride Leslie asked me to officiate at their wedding, so I did. In 1988 and 1989, I gave the invocation at our department's year-end holiday party. In 1989, I presided at the marriage of my co-workers Larry and Joy. In 1990, I baptized my sister Mary's two children.
Since 1986, word has spread rapidly that I do priestly ministry. Requests have been numerous, and my response has been generous: mostly weddings, but also baptisms, quinceañeras, bodas de oro, funerals and home blessings. I always advise Catholics to seek spiritual care through their parish. Often they say they tried but were turned away, or they're not eligible, or they aren't people who worry about church rules. Occasionally, engaged couples approach me because a pastor or deacon has given them my name. Sometimes priests in official ministry have thanked me for presiding where canon law or diocesan regulations prohibited them from doing so. I hope you share my concern that the rules don't always fit the genuine needs of God's people.