Judge refuses to bar children from becoming Catholics

A general view of the High Court on the Strand, London. Picture: Anthony Devlin/PA Archive

The private hearings took place in the Family Division of the High Court in London. - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

A judge has refused to make an order barring five children - who have links to Suffolk - from formally becoming baptised into the Catholic faith. 

Mr Justice MacDonald heard that the children, who are aged between four and 11, had been taken from their Protestant mother's care and placed with their Catholic aunt, who has been caring for them for more than three years. 

The court heard that their aunt wants them to formally become Catholics, and they have been informally attending Catholic services and events for some time.

The children's mother objected as she said they should be "able to choose their own religious path" when older.

She asked the judge to make an order which would bar their aunt from having them formally initiated into the Catholic religion until the age of 16. 

Mr Justice MacDonald, who is based in London, has refused the mother's application.

His conclusions were published online following private hearings in the Family Division of the High Court.

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Salford City Council, in Greater Manchester, had responsibilities for the children's welfare, he said.

Mr Justice MacDonald also said the family had links with Suffolk and Norfolk, but the children could not be identified. 

He concluded that it would be wrong to deny them "the option of participating in formal rites of passage".

The judge said evidence showed that if such a bar was imposed the children might see themselves as "different" to the community in which they were living and feel "segregated" or "excluded".

He said he was deciding what was in the best interests of the children, and was not pronouncing judgment on the "relative merits" of the Catholic and Protestant religions.

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