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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sacrament Police

Last night I learned that a friend of mine who became a mother three months ago, is struggling more in her marriage and for her child than any of us realized. Her husband, who is not Catholic, is not allowing her to baptize their child. At all. They did not, at marriage, make any promises with regard to the faith of their children as this friend was also not Catholic at the time...she was only Confirmed a couple years ago, and even THAT was a huge struggle with only opposition from her husband.

In the process of learning this information, and in sending out prayer requests for this situation, I've become aware of the desperate need of Catechesis for adults with regard to Baptism, and our place as the Faithful. I know of some very devout and well-meaning Catholics who have done some very wrong things with regard to the issues of stonewalling parents.

The first was this; a woman I know said that her neice and nephew, atheists if I'm correct, logically refused to baptize their child. Well, this woman one day took it upon herself to "baptize" the child herself in the bathroom sink. So although this happened maybe 20 years ago, the child in question never learned he was baptized (and it may have not just been illicit, but invalid - there was no emergency, and may be invalid for other reasons.), and the parents also don't know.

There are SEVERAL problems with this! First, even though we as the faithful may love our friends and relatives and desire their good, we do NOT have the right to be sacrament police and trample on the rights of parents to work for what they see as being the good of their child. Yes, we hope that child will be baptized, but we cannot overstep our bounds and usurp the rightful authority and preferences of the parents...the parents GOD CHOSE for this child. We cannot forget that the Catholic Church teaches that PARENTS are the primary educators of their children and they hold the authority in the spiritual formation, or lack therof, with their children.
We can work to catechize the parents, we can pray for the parents and child, and we can trust in God's mercy. To "enforce" an illicit Sacrament just because someone is not operating according to OUR preferences and desires is contrary to the dignity and free will of the parents who hold rightful authority, and it is contrary to the dignity of the child who may be destined for a conversion like St. Augustine's. It is an offront to God to act thus, rather than trusting that He alone knows best and knows that child and His plans for that child; if we enforce what is supposed to be such a profound moment in the spiritual life of a soul, we act out of misguided love, and officially commit what is known as a "sin". And sin is, as defined by St. Thomas Aquinas, "a rejection of God's love."

Do we love that unbaptized child? YES! But guaranteed, God loves that child more. Entrust that little soul to God's mercy, and then respect God's authority in the matter. Who are WE to question HIM?

Another friend, another person who should know better, suggested that I get "ordained" through some weird Protestant denomination that offers "ordinations" by mail order. Unfortunately, these "ordinations" are legal in the state of Minnesota and one who possesses the certificate may apparently complete baptisms and officiate at weddings.

Now, if someone is already Protestant, well, it's between them and God. If we as Catholics take part in such a fallacious and invalid thing, we are outright DENYING our own Baptism, we are being unfaithful to God and our Church, and in fact, we're treading into the unholy land of heresy.

Further, if we, as alleged Catholics, are running around "baptizing" children, with or without their parents' permission, under the "authority" of a Protestant church, then we are not baptizing them Catholic...we are baptising them...something else. It might still be a valid baptism, but again, why would a Catholic put themselves into a position to baptize a child...something less than Catholic?

Sure, maybe these sacraments are valid in the eyes of state law, but we as Catholics don't operate according to the laws of Caesar when it comes to the spiritual world. We operate according to a higher authority; God. Who speaks through the authority He gave to Peter, who is represented in our Holy Father and the teaching authority of the Magisterium. It is not a physical authority, but a spiritual one; we are not part of an earthly Kingdom, but a Heavenly Kingdom. The laws of the State cannot stand above God, and because the State authorizes something does not mean that God acquiesces to the State.

Even further...the Sacrament of Baptism isn't just a few splashes of water and the Trinitarian formula. It begins a life of grace, an entrance into the ecclesial community, and ALL of us, as members of this mystical Body of Christ are obligated to help form this child in our faith. Parents and Godparents are primary, but what of the fact that people with no authority to do so are secretly "baptizing" children and leaving them without formation? They cannot grow in grace without the assistance of those around them.

It is Confirmation that COMPLETES Baptism; until we are Confirmed, we are not fully Catholic. So...in the Roman Rite, it is required that the child in question receive catechesis in the Faith for years prior to being Confirmed; and that child, then an adult in the eyes of the Church, must take it upon him or herself to REQUEST the Sacrament of Confirmation. Again...free will.

People, it is good to care about those around you, and it is good to desire the best for them; and the best is clearly an eternal life with God. But we can't take it upon ourselves to enforce our own timeline.

To Catholics who have completed these illicit baptisms out of your well meaning intentions, to those of you who have out of the same well-meaning intentions chose to be "ordained" by mail (well...you're not ordained and you have no spiritual authority, so don't be deluded) - go to Confession. Go talk to a priest. Get some solid advice on how to deal with the "baptism" you performed. Read the Catechism of the Catholic Church, especially with regard to Baptism. Quit going around assuming authority you don't have, even if your heart IS in the right place.

And just so you're aware; in the case of an emergency, ANYONE can baptize someone. In Minnesota, ambulances carry Holy Water (although regular water can be used), and a little card with the Trinitarian formula for baptism, in the case that someone is dying, or a baby is born and is close to death, or even stillborn. Even if the EMT's/Paramedics are atheists, they are asked to perform this rite according to the wishes of the person - it's filed under "Psychological First Aid." But in the life of grace, for the soul affected, it has an impact for eternity.

What is needed for Baptism is the permission of the parents, the desire of the parents to raise this child in the faith, and ultimately, the completion of Baptism with the sacrament of Confirmation.

We can't be sacrament police. It's not our job. It IS our job to be faithful and to pray, and to trust in God's mercy. THAT will do a lot more for people around us than in taking actions contrary to God's will for the souls He loves more than we can ever imagine.

*
Read about Baptism in the CCC here.

***** NOTE: I am not a theologian, and any doctrinal errors or misstatements are mine and should not reflect upon the valid teachings of the Church. Do NOT use this post as catechesis in a classroom, but only authentic texts published with the proper ecclesial authority. I have linkd to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and that is only the tip of the iceburg with regard to the immensity of Baptism.

6 comments:

Maureen said...

I guess that if God can entrust a child to His care and that of atheist parents, or pagan parents, or what have you -- it's only fair that we do the same.

Of course, it's also fair to try and persuade reluctant parents to get their child baptized, if you think they really might have Catholic or Christian faith and might raise the kid accordingly. But ultimately, they have authority over their kids and we don't.

The enlargement of teachings about God's Divine Mercy comes into this.

Angela M. said...

My friend's grandchildren are not baptized and won't be. So...my friend was babysitting and she blessed the babies with holy water and prayed over them and I believe dedicated them to God. Mom and Dad were not home. I think this is OK.

As for the difference between Catholic baptism and non-Catholic baptism - it's my understanding that we are baptized into Christ, He actually is the one that baptized us so therefore there isn't really a "Catholic" baptism and a "non-Catholic" one.

This is reflected in the sacraments of initiation for our candidates. They are not "rebaptized."

The only difference I can see is that those baptized in the Catholic church are bound by the laws of the Catholic church.

It all sounds like so much hair splitting, doesn't it?!

Adoro te Devote said...

Maureen ~ exactly

Angela ~ Glad to see you again!

Anyway...you're right. If the Trinitarian formula is used, the Church honors the Baptism. (ie: in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. None of this Modalist heresy Creator Redeemer Sanctifier crapola.) Anyway, most Christian denominations are accepted in the Catholic Church, and at work as I deal with the other Sacraments it's my job to collect the Baptismal certificates, in case a Conditional Baptism needs to be done. So...if there is no document to prove Baptism, people get a conditional Baptism.

Praying for someone and asking for God to bless them is not a Baptism...there has to be an INTENTION to Baptize them along with the proper formula in order for the Baptism to take place.

I think my friend would be willing to Baptize her baby Lutheran...and then raise her Catholic and into the other Catholic sacraments, but her husband won't allow ANY baptism at all. As the baby isn't dying, she can't just take it upon herself...she is not a single mother. She is married, and the permission of BOTH are needed. However, it could be that there may be conditions that allow her to act upon her faith and her conscience in spite of marriage, so I hope if it is possible she can find that way.

Certainly, this baby has baptism of desire. Please pray for my friend's husband, especially.

Adoro te Devote said...

Just to be clear...if your friend's "blessing" was an intention to baptize, and included the Trinitarian formula, it might have been a valid but illicit baptism, and this is NOT proper and is clearly not documented, it is also a violation of the rights of the parents, as well as an offront to God who knows the proper plan for that family.

If it was a simple prayer...we all pray for people all the time and pray for God's blessing upon them, which is in effect a "dedication" to God of that person, but is not an intended Baptism.

Most Christian denominations have what we as Catholics consider to be valid Baptisms. Maybe you're not involved in gathering the info, but each denomination documents Baptisms and generates certificates. Some of the Baptismal Certificates actually include the Trinitarian formula, some just indicate such and such was baptized on such and such a date and these are the parents and these are the Godparents and Mom's maiden name. People cannot recieve other Sacraments in the Chuch without proof of Baptism. If there is no document, then what is called a "Conditional Baptism" is performed, which honors any Baptism already completed and is done as a "just in case" the first (if any) one was not valid for any reason.

If someone does not have a proper Baptism in the Trinitarian formula, then if they receive any of the Catholic Sacraments, those Sacraments are invalid. (If you were reading when I did my post on Modalism - think of the implications. If someone is improperly 'baptized' and is ordained, the ordination is invalid as are any sacraments conveyed by the Ordinand.....what a HORRIBLE concept!)

Lillian Marie said...

Like others have stated, your friend can always bless her daughter and ask Mary, our Heavenly Mother, to keep her daughter under Mary's mantel. Mary will protect her...in this world and the next. Mary promised this ... and we remember it every time we recite the Memorare.

I will keep her family, especially the conversion of her husband, in my prayers.

Lillian Marie said...

Another blessing your friend can say for her daughter is one my parents taught me:

As she blesses her daughter with Holy Water, say, 'In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. May you be covered with the Precious Blood of Jesus and the Armor of God.'

This is not a Baptism, nor is meant to be, but is a blessing she can use for her daughter, daily if she would like.