Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Watering Down Baptism?

 While listening to Personally Speaking, a  Catholic interview program hosted by Monseigneur Jim Lisante, the prelate host shared sua sponte that he recently was approached by two lesbians who sought to have their child baptized.  Despite being turned away at two other parishes, the priest proclaimed to the couple:  “There isn’t anything in the bible about being gay so it must be OK” thus he consented to perform the sacrament.

The cleric’s superficial scriptural analysis speciously seems to ignore Jesus’ perspective on marriage in MT 19 as a married man and woman become one flesh. That passage clearly does not include alternative arrangements.   But the conundrum is on the propriety of baptizing a child to parents who manifestly are living contrary to the teachings of the church. 

While I appreciate the pastoral inclinations, the scenario calls into question the rationale for the sacrament of initiation and what is involved in infant baptism. Ideally, baptism claims the person as a child of God with an indelible mark on the soul. But an infant is unable to make baptismal promises, so those proclamations of faith are made by parents and godparents. Thus, pastoral discernment is required of the parents and godparents

Canon 1255 anticipates that the faith promise given infant baptism be supplemented by the parents, godparents and community.  In Acts 2:38 St. Peter exhorts us to “Repent and be baptized” which requires a metanoia (i.e. turning away from sin) in those professing the faith.

Practically speaking, the faith must be nurtured by the practice in the home church as well as with the People of God. The difficulty is when parents are living lives that are manifestly and publicly contrary to the tenants of the faith.

Those inclined to seek the mercy of God would surely say that an innocent child should not be punished for the sins of the parents.  But baptism involve promises made in rearing the child in the faith.   In this scenario, we can assume that they are living as a same sex couple and have pride in their lifestyle.  If one of the couple is biologically the mother, it raises issues about artificial insemination or procreation outside of marriage. This would mean that a child would be expected to be raised in the faith by a couple co-habitating outside of sacramental marriage and with orientations that the church teaches are disordered? 

 Despite Monseigneur Lisante’s claims, the Church in Canon 2357 considers homosexual acts as intrinsically disordered.   It is unclear if the couple was civilly married but the Church does not recognize such unions as being covenantial or sacramental. Perhaps the couple was not church going and those pastors deemed the sacrament of baptism being used as a ritualistic rite of passage rather than a conferral of grace.

Near the beginning of Pope Francis’ papacy, the Holy Father chided young priests to not become “little monsters” doggedly adhering to doctrine but instead to focus on compassion, evangelization and inclusion.  In that spirit, pastors may be reluctant to turn away anyone from the Church, even if adherence to baptismal promises made for them seem tenuous so as to see if takes hold. This calls to mind the conversion story of Fr. Donald Calloway who was baptized at age ten at the behest of Episcopalian kin even though his parents were not practicing their faith.  The only thing that he remembered from his baptismal sacrament of initiation was the donuts they eat afterwards.  Hearing his hair raising testimony, the graces of baptism did not take from merely that liturgical ritual.  Is it merciful to give the impression that one is saved by baptism but has no context to living properly as a Catholic Christian?

Pope Francis’ encyclical, Amoris Laetitia, attempted to reconcile the practice of the Catholic faith with the Modern Family.  Pope Francis declared that marriage was between a man and a woman for life (para. 62), same sex unions can not be equated with marriage (para. 52) and that education is the of a child is the “primary right” of parents (para. 84).  It is hard to believe that the child would be brought up in the ways of the church in the aforementioned scenario, which argues against  a profligate administration of baptism.

Pro arguendo, one could attempt to apply the logic of Chapter Eight of Amoris Laetitia in this instance.  After all, Pope Francis opined that pastors ought not throw moral stones and be done with irregular situations.  In footnote 351, the Holy Father sought to reconcile those in irregular marriages (Catholics civilly remarried after a divorce without obtaining an annulment) with the Church through a circuitous procedure in lieu of canon law.  

This alternative approach required extensive pastoral counseling for the couple so they could understand the wisdom of the Church and conforming their lives to the teaching.  In conforming irregular marriage to the norms of the church, the couple would need  to be catechized and gain an informed conscience. If children were a consideration and couples could not easily separate, so they would be enjoined from marital relations in order to receive the sacraments. And the couple would be encouraged to join another parish so as to avoid the appearance of scandal.  Of course, that is asking a lot. But the Gospel exhorts us: “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” 

So how would this Amoris Laetitia logic be applied to parents of a child seeking baptism who are flagrantly living their lives contrary to Church teachings?  That’s the rub.  Those making the baptismal promises are more than falling short of virtue.  They are publicly living their lives contrary to the teaching of the Faith.  Amoris Laetitia anticipates some metanoia as well as a resolve to sin no more.  Is it reasonable to expect the child to be raised under the Church’s precepts, particularly with the Home Church defies the theology of the body and a sacredness of the covenant of marriage?  

In America, we fret about the lack of Sunday Mass by many baptized Catholics  and of the glaring lack of understanding of fundamental precepts of faith (e.g. the Real Presence in the Eucharist). So many poorly catechized Catholics are poached by Evangelical denominations since they hunger for the divine, but are sacramentalized but not catechized.  So much for the fruits from the Church of Nice. For seekers of Divine Truth, it is disheartening if they discover that were holy fools for playing by the rules because mercy to the unrepentant overrides all.

While it sounds merciful to baptize a child from a proud lesbian couple, sadly it seems that the child would be left as a spiritual orphan through a perfunctory ceremony which waters down the sacrament.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

St. Francis de Sales on Inner Peace


These are calming words of wisdom from a Doctor of the Church at a time when it feels as if the sky is falling.

Hallelujah for the patron saint of Catholic writers and the Catholic press. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Commemorating Our Lady of Sorrows

Seven Swords Piercing the Sorrowful Heart of Mary in the Church of the Holy Cross,
Salamanca, Spain

On September 15th, the Roman Catholic Church commemorates the Solemnity of Our Lady of Sorrows. The feast grew in popularity during the 12th Century, but was not formally introduced until it was a regional feast in Cologne in 1423.  In 1482, the feast was put on the Church calendar as "Our Lady of Compassion".  In 1723, Pope Benedict XIII extended the feast to the entire Latin Church under the title: "Septem dolorum B.M.V.".  The Code of Rubrics issued by Pope St. John XXIII reduced Our Lady of Sorrows to a Commemoration.

The Friar Servants of Mary (a.k.a. The Servites) have been praying the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows since the 13th Century and thereby reflecting on the suffering of Mary in union with her Divine Son, Jesus Christ.

The Seven Dolores devotion was approved by Pope Pius VII in 1815.

1. The Dark Prophecy of Simeon at Jesus' presentation at the Temple  (LK 2:33-35)
2. The Flight of the Holy Family into Egypt (Mt 2: 13-15)
3. The Child Jesus Is Lost in the Temple (Lt 2: 41-52)
4. Jesus Encounters Mary on the Via Dolorosa (Jn: 19: 17)
5. The Crucifixion and Death of Jesus (Jn 19: 25-30)
6. Jesus Is Taken Down from the Cross (Ps 25:15, Jn 19: 31-37)
7. Jesus Is Buried in the Tomb (Is 53:8, Jn 38:42)

The Friar Servants of Mary (a.k.a. The Servites) have been praying the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows since the 13th Century and thereby reflecting on the suffering of Mary in union with her Divine Son, Jesus Christ.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Sound the Strepitus

An Obituary and Eulogistic Meditation of Yeshua bar Yahosef bar Yaqub

The Strepitus is the sudden loud clatter that symbolizes how the Earth convulsed at the physical death of the only begotten Son of our Lord.   In Matthew 27:46-53, when Christ gave up His spirit on the Crucifix, there was a tumultuous earthquake.   It is the jarring closing of a Tenebae Service, which is done in preparation for the Paschal Triduum.

Some churches have the Tenebrae on Spy Wednesday.  Others choose to extinguish the lights after celebrating the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday or even Great and Holy Friday.  Regardless of the time, it is a ritual that reminds us of how the Light of the World was briefly extinguished to fulfill scripture as an expiation for mankind’s sinfulness.

While it is difficult to watch Mel Gibson’s cinematic masterpiece The Passion of the Christ (2004) for its depiction of the savage brutality inflicted by the Roman overlords on a political prisoner who challenged the religious practices and expectations of the Jewish hierachy.   The teardrop from heaven is incredibly moving.

When Salvador Dali painted Christ of Saint John of the Cross (1951), Jesus was depicted without wounds on a Cross that floated above the Earth. Dali listened to the color of his dream that indicated that depicting the nails, blood and crown of thorns would mar the image.  Dali wanted the emphasize the Trinity with the positioning of Jesus hanging on the Cross to represent the nucleus of the atom.  Clearly, the cross hovering over the Earth shows the cosmic significance of the passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. In a modern manner, Dali celebrates Eastern Christian Church's emphasis mystagogy of Jesus' Divine Sacrifice by death on the cross.

But during a Tenebrae service, the faithful were reminded that unlike even in classical depictions of Golgatha (the place of the skull) where Jesus was crucified, the crosses of Calvary were not necessarily hung that high in the air.  Since those being executed had their feet nailed bound to prevent them from moving as they slowly suffocated on their crosses, they may have been only a couple of feet above the ground.

Such crosses would serve the Roman overlords as tangible examples of what happens to brigands, rabble rousers and revolutionaries. The low positioning would allow most passers-by to look into the eyes of the executed. This makes the taunts from the crowd and Jesus’ words of forgiveness all the more remarkable.

It is easy to gloss over how the expiation of mans’ sins required a blood sacrifice to seal the New Covenant. By cognitively sounding the Strepitus over Christ's crucifixion, we may "Ecce homo".

While some ears may find it as painful as the Stepitus, the Christ’s Passion has been told by Glenn Beck using a motif of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon  (1973).  Whether we use pop parables, cinematic accounts, scriptural studies, communal worship or prayerful personal reflections, it is worthy to reflect on how God's only begotten Son chose to be the suffering servant to right the relationship between God and mankind.

[This piece originally ran at]