Fact Check

Did a Priest in France Slap a Baby During a Baptism Ceremony?

Disturbing video footage of the incident went viral in June 2018.

Published Jul 1, 2018

In June 2018, a priest in France slapped a baby in the face during a baptism.

In the summer of 2018, many were taken aback by a disturbing viral video which appeared to show a French-speaking Catholic priest slapping a crying baby while officiating at its baptism.

The video formed the basis of news reports throughout the world. On 21 June, the Daily Mail reported:

This is the bizarre moment a baby's relatives are forced to wrestle their child away from a French priest who slapped it during its baptism. The clergyman hit the child in the face with his left hand after he lost his temper when the child would not stop crying during the ceremony.  The outraged man and woman watching on, who appear to be his parents, react in shock and step in to snatch their baby back.

It is not known when the footage was filmed but it was captured in a church where the ceremony was conducted in French.

In the video, a priest can be seen holding a crying baby next to a baptismal font, and attempting to calm and comfort him or her. However, he becomes increasingly frustrated by the child's screams, and at one point slaps the child in the face, shouting "Du calme!" ("Relax!") The adults surrounding the baby are visibly shocked by this, and make efforts to take the child back from the priest's arms.

The priest holds the baby even closer to him, at one point appearing to cover the child's face with his hand, saying "Tu vas te calmer" ("You're going to relax.") The video ends with a man, possibly the baby's father or godfather, pulling the child away from the priest — but even then, the priest struggles to hold on to the baby.

The video is authentic. On 22 June, CheckNews — the fact-checking arm of French newspaper Libérationreported (translation):

The scene unfolded during a baptism, which took place on 17 June in a church in Seine-et-Marne, not in Martinique or Belgium, as you might have read on social media in recent days.

When contacted by CheckNews, the spokesperson for the diocese said... the priest apologized to the family after the incident, and the baby was indeed baptized.

According to Libération, the diocesan spokesperson described the priest's actions as "understandable, but not excusable," and said: "A baptism can be long, and the baby was crying a lot." In a statement published on 22 June, the diocese of Meaux, located 30 miles east of Paris, confirmed the priest's suspension (translation):

This short video was an extract from a ceremony in which the baby was crying a lot. The elderly priest lost his cool and slapped the child. Mindful of this unwarranted act, the priest apologized to the family after the baptism. The loss of temper can be explained by the elderly priest's tiredness, but that does not excuse it.

On Friday 22 June, Monsignor [Jean Yves] Nahmias, Bishop of Meaux, took precautionary measures whereby the priest is suspended from all marriage and baptism ceremonies.

The diocese has also suspended the priest from his duties at the parish church of Saint-Martin de Champeaux, where he is the rector, the statement added.

According to Émilie Geffray, a reporter for the French newspaper Le Figaro, the family of the child has filed a complaint against the priest, but it's not clear whether that relates to the diocese or if formal criminal charges have been filed.


Barnes, Tom.  "Priest Slaps Baby During Baptism as Shocked Congregation Looks On."      The Independent.    22 June 2018. 

Adams, Char.    "Priest Slaps Crying Baby During Baptism — and the Internet is Outraged: 'This is So Scary.'"     People.    21 June 2018. 

Foster, Ally.    "Outrage as Priest Appears to Slap Baby in Unsettling Baptism Video."     News.com.au.    22 June 2018. 

Zhao, Christina.   "Video: Catholic Priest Caught Violently Slapping Baby During Baptism to Stop It Crying."     Newsweek.    21 June 2018. 

Stickings, Tim.    "Outraged Relatives Snatch Baby From Priest After He SLAPS the Child Because It Won't Stop Crying During Baptism."     Daily Mail.    21 June 2018. 

Coquaz, Vincent; Andraca, Robin.  "Le Prêtre Qui a Giflé un Bébé Suspendu par Son Diocèse."   Libération.  22 June 2018. 

Diocèse de Meaux (Diocese of Meaux.)    "Message aux Catholiques de Seine-et-Marne: Incident Lors d'un Baptême."     Diocèse de Meaux (Diocese of Meaux.)    22 June 2018. 

Dan Mac Guill is a former writer for Snopes.

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