The Wrong Example

Let's celebrate!

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?



Posted on January 15, 2014, in Catholicism, Conservative Catholicism, Traditional Catholicism and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Baptism remits original sin and confers sanctifying grace to the infant. In these troubled times any child who is presented for authentic Christian baptism , Protestant of Catholic, surely is in need as never before for sanctifying grace and the actual graces of the sacrament ,so it seems the babies should not be refused even if the future looks bleak as to their future instruction in the Faith. Hopefully at least some of them will later be interested in exploring their Christian and Catholic roots and living in God’s grace..

    • No.

      Baptism is not something given for the asking. It’s a sacrament. As every sacrament, either the person must seriously want to receive it, or someone – in this case – must want it for him. Without the intention of raising one a Christian there has never been, nor should there be, a Catholic.

      If Baptism were to be given just out of a bleak hope, then the entire world population should be officially declared baptised, or any Muslim or Buddhist baptised if they find the ceremony a fun thing to do.

      It’s a sacrament. Not a magic powder you spread around.


    • Actually, she’s more right than you, Mundabor. Church law is in place for the salvation of souls not to keep them out of heaven. It’s an equitable system as opposed to one rooted in strict justice, especially when souls like that of a newborn baby are held in the balance. That’s why even a non-believing Muslim or a Buddhist could validly baptise that baby. I won’t go on ad nauseam on the subject, but if that child had a subsequent ceremony – after a baptism with water according to the approved formula at the hands of an infidel with the right intention – in a proper church at a later date with a proper priest, he/she could only be conditionally baptised since that sacrament as well as ordination and confirmation can only be conferred once – as per canon law.

      If a child is brought to a church to be baptised by marginal Christians or even infidel parents – the parish priest is well within his rights to refuse/delay baptism subject to conditions OR baptise that baby forthwith. Canon law isn’t sharia law. It is to be interpreted and grants favours in the widest possible sense for the salvation of souls. Missionaries in Africa, Asia, the Americas (even as recently as 50-60 years ago) went about baptising people who in many cases had no clue what was happening to them precisely because they took what our Lord said about baptism and salvation very seriously and literally. Whether THEY were right or wrong is another question for reasons that don’t apply in the case of a baby.

      Remember, baptism is efficacious ‘ex opere operato’ – not because of the merits (or lack thereof) of the priest, parents or recipient. Protestants oppose this view (and infant baptism) precisely for the reason you give and consequently call us Catholics superstitious, wannabe magicians.

    • Mercy cannot go against Truth. The baptism of a child with no realistic chances of receiving a Catholic education (this is the requirement: Catholic, not “our father” and “do not harm”) must be refused by the priest, as even the new code of Canon Law states. Of course, different people will differ in concrete circumstances, but this pertains only their assessment about the probability of the child receiving proper instruction, and does not derive from the idea that it would be “sharia law” to do otherwise.

      Even more clear is the other example you make, of the missionaries senselessly baptising people with substantially no idea what they are doing. Besides posing serious problem of validity (a sacrament musth have at least a degree of intention by the adult receiving it to be valid) there is the important issue (forgotten by the Pope and everyone else) that a baptism isn’t God’s candy, but establishes clear obligations that increase the culpability of the one who does not follow them.

      The baptism of the uncaring savage, therefore, not only does not bring him any way nearer to heaven (because it’s either invalid, or the grace imparted by it are factually nullified by the non existent disposition), but prepares for the man a harsher treatment in hell, if in hell he will eventually end.

      In addition, that the baptism confers sacramental graces even if given only “for the asking” is not the question. Many go to hell who in their lives do much, much more than simply being baptised. It’s not that baptism saves. It’s that without baptism of one kind or other kind one cannot be saved.

      Nor does the ex opere operato argument work, because it refers to the fact that the sacrament is valid even if, say, the celebrant is in mortal sin, but does not exempt from the other conditions fore validity or opportunity of baptising.

      The question is whether it is right or wrong to baptise one for which no prospect of Catholic education is in sight. The simple, though politically incorrect answer is: it is wrong, as *even* the new code of canon law recognises.

      Lastly, such “let’s baptise everyone” argument neglect to consider Providence, and Predestination. If the Lord wants the baby to be saved, he will dispose things in such a way than, say, he will decide to be baptised when he has acquired the use of reason, or – say – that he will baptised before death – which is unconditionally allowed – in case of serious danger of death. The idea that the priest denying the baptism is possibly condemning himself the child to hell is preposterous.

      So: I have answered a far too long comment with a forcibly very long answer, which keeps me from what I want to do with this blog.

      Please keep your comments short and to the point. I do not want to follow the way of Rorate and Messa in Latino if possible.


  2. Speaking of wrong example and baptism, Rorate Coeli has a new story on Cardinal O’Malley of Boston receiving a baptismal reaffirmation blessing from a female Methodist minister. The picture made me ill…I guess this sort of thing, like your previous post on Shaping the Church just shows how much trouble we are in these days…very sad…

  3. Baptism is given for the asking in most parishes. The onus is on the godparents and so unless there is almost no hope for the child to be raised in the faith, no one is denied. And unmarried couples do present their children for baptism. But for the Holy Father to do this is just another nail in the coffin of sacramental marriage. That was way to big a stage. But who am I to judge?

  4. I know of an SSPX priest who told a close friend of mine that her secret baptism of a newborn (the child was born out of wedlock to Protestants) was a sin because, while it was indeed valid, the child has no hope of being raised a true Christian. That child will hit the age of reason and believe in a sorts of heresies and that puts his or her soul in grave danger. We cannot hope that he or she will be invincibly ignorant his or her whole life and we cannot be use that he or she will convert to Catholicism.

    According to a few news sites, they were in a civil marriage. Welp…I guess they didn’t get the 2,000 year old memo that a civil marriage alone between two Catholics is not true marriage. To have a child in a civil marriage only is still considered “out of wedlock.” The Church did not baptize babies of these types of parents until they were married by the Church and that “cured” the child’s illegitimacy. Pope Francis either just doesn’t know or does know but doesn’t give a damn. I suspect the latter of the two.

    • “Civil marriage”= concubines.

      We live in strange an ddisturbing times…

      Why is that to get a sound priest one must go more an dmore often to the SSPX?


  5. What I’d like to know is: how do people in mortal sin expect to raise their child in the faith when even they cannot live it? I say deny baptisms to the children of those who refuse to follow Christ themselves. We need to elevate the sacraments, not feed them to the dogs. God bless~

    • In theory other could: say, the very Catholic uncle who lives one street away; or the fact that the parents are preparing for conversion 9mendelssohn again).
      In practice, how likely is that?


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