The Wrong Example
It can make sense, at times, to give baptism to babies whose parents are not sacramentally married. Those of you who love classical music might, for example, remember the case of Felix Mendelssohn and his siblings; all of them baptised, even if born of Jewish parents.
But you see, Mendelssohn was raised as a Christian – albeit, alas, a Protestant one -, as were his siblings. When he was baptised, the decision to raise him as a Christian was already made. It was no question of what the relatives of the parents “expected”, or of a nice ceremony and party, or of the child not feeling “different” when at elementary school. The intention to have people around the baby caring for a proper Christian upbringing was certainly there already.
This is most certainly not so for many couples nowadays, who consider having their children baptised only in order to avoid discussions with their parents, or because of the “nice ceremony”, or because everyone else in their circles does it. That they do not care is already not shown, but shouted, by the simple fact that they are not married in church. There might be other people – perhaps the uncle, or the grandparents – taking this obligation for themselves; but how often this is the case nowadays both you and I can easily imagine.
Never one to let a good headline go to waste, Bishop Francis has now baptised the son of a couple who did not consider it right – or did not have the right, I do not know the details – to marry in the church, though they apparently did consider it just the ticket to have their baby baptised by the Pope. Would the Bishop of Rome object to this? Well, of course not…
Francis is very aware – whatever the Pollyannas might think – of the worldwide echo of anything he does differently from his predecessors, and he has already complained in public about those priests who are restrictive in their decision to give baptism (probably because they care, I add). When, therefore, Francis proceeds to baptise the baby of public concubines living in scandal, he willingly undermines both marriage and baptism. The first because he sends the clear message that another usual testimony of Christian faith, that is obviously a sacrament and an obvious precondition for a chaste life in common rather than concubinage, can be dispensed with; and the second because it again creates the perception that a baptism is something you give to a baby like you would a pacifier.
This may seem strange to us, but certainly isn't in Francis' world. If atheists can be saved and Jews don't need to be converted, baptism is clearly no big deal. If God punishes us with a slap on the wrist at most, then clearly God has already slated us for inevitable salvation at conception. If there is no need to convert anyone to Catholicism, or Christianity come to that, then there is no specific value to be attached to the peculiar rite of admission to this Christian faith and baptism can be given for the asking, merely as a token of something already there for everyone.
In Francis' vision there is only one community of faithful, the humans. He has already baptised all of them – be they atheist in “good conscience”, Jews eating kosher or Muslims observing the Ramadan – in the name of the Black Shoes, the Ford Focus and the Wheelchair. It is very clear to him Christianity is just one of many options, all of them leading to inevitable salvation, with the worst case scenario being a slap in the wrist. He probably considers Christianity the best option; but again, certainly not to the point of trying to persuade others to follow his choice. He will merely point out to you the advantages of choosing this option: having more joooy, experiencing more luv, and the like.
Why on earth would he ever have a problem in giving baptism to absolutely anyone?