The Urgency of Infant Baptism

Pietro_Longhi_-_The_Baptism_1755

I recently wrote of one of my newborn son’s namesakes, Bl. Columba Marmion. My son, Colum, was baptized five days after birth (it would have been three except for the priest’s sickness), which is fast these days. In the old days it would have happened sooner. Pope Benedict XVI, for instance, was baptized on the day of his birth! All of our five children have been baptized quickly after birth. What surprises me is the reaction we receive, many times negative or resentful, from family, friends, and acquaintances.

A Change in Practice
Why would a speedy baptism after birth bring about criticism? My guess is that deliberately bucking what has become the new norm makes people uncomfortable. Delaying baptism for a few months should be of great concern. It signals a very recent and drastic shift in Catholic practice and culture. The question at the heart of this delay comes down to “how necessary is baptism after all?”

Here are three anecdotal occurrences that typify this change in attitude and practice. First, a theologian friend asked me why we were baptizing our son so quickly, since a baptism of desire would suffice in the meantime. Second, a bishop advised a friend of mine that there was no rush in setting up the time for her child’s baptism; a few months would be fine. Third, I also heard that a deacon in a local parish’s baptism class taught that the Church had changed its teaching on the urgency of baptism.

Latent within these anecdotes, and many others which could be presented, it seems to me, are three presuppositions. First, the Church’s teaching on the sacramental power of baptism and original sin is not taken seriously enough (not that these realities are denied). Second, because recently it has been presented that it is valid to hope for the salvation for an unbaptized baby, it is now accepted as normative that an unbaptized baby will be saved. Although I accept the Church’s teaching on hope, this position conflates hope and certainty. Third, the decline in infant mortality has removed the threat of death from our minds (which of course still exists, even if to a lesser degree).

Although it is true that infant mortality has declined drastically, I don’t think it’s sufficient to say the change in practice is merely practical. If we really take the Church’s teaching seriously, why would we not want to baptize our children immediately just for the sake of giving them the most important gift imaginable?

Why is Baptism so Important?
As Catholics we believe that the sacraments are not simply signs, but are efficacious signs that make present the reality they signify. What does baptism do to us? It forgives sin (original and actual), liberates from the power of evil, bestows sanctifying grace, which is necessary for salvation, adopts as a son of God, incorporates into the Church, and places an indelible mark on the soul, which consecrates the baptized for the worship of God. It literally makes us a new person, a temple of God indwelt by the Spirit, and raises us up to the divine life!

Luther, in his Babylonian Captivity of the Church, specifically rejects the understanding of sacrament as an efficacious sign. In relation to baptism, he wrote: “Even so it is not baptism that justifies or benefits anyone, but it is faith in the word of promise, to which baptism is added. This faith justifies, and fulfils that which baptism signifies” (3.19). I fear that some Catholics may be falling into a similar view that baptism is simply a symbol or initiation ceremony, but not a powerful and necessary means of salvation.

The Church teaches infallibly that baptism is necessary for salvation (even if it is received in a hidden way). Here are few quotes from the Council of Trent on this point.

If anyone says that baptism is … not necessary unto salvation, let him be anathema (Session 7, Canon 5 under Baptism).

And this translation (of justification), since the promulgation of the Gospel, cannot be effected, without the laver of regeneration, or the desire thereof, as it is written; unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God  (Session 6, Decree on Justification, 4).

Moving Away from Original Sin
Baptism may also be delayed because of a lack of belief in or a misunderstanding of original sin. The teaching is considered harsh and contrary to modern understandings of freedom (or should I say autonomy) and human dignity. Original sin even has been denied by many modern theologians such as Karl Rahner (Theological Investigations, vol. 16, 200), a sentiment which surely has trickled down to the parish.

The Church teaches, however, that original sin keeps one from heaven. The Council of Trent in particular teaches that original sin results in the death of the soul not only for Adam but also for all of his descendants:

If anyone asserts, that the prevarication of Adam injured himself alone, and not his posterity; and that the holiness and justice, received of God, which he lost, he lost for himself alone, and not for us also; or that he, being defiled by the sin of disobedience, has only transfused death, and pains of the body, into the whole human race, but not sin also, which is the death of the soul; let him be anathema (Session 5, Decree on Original Sin, 2).

This is a hard teaching, but one that makes the power of baptism all the more important. Original sin is deadly enough that the Council of Florence says it is punishable by hell:

The souls of those who depart in actual mortal sin or only original sin descend into the realm of the dead (infernum), to be punished however with unequal punishments” (Decree, Laetentur Caeli; see also the Second Council of Lyons,  Profession of Faith for Michael Paleologus; John XXII, Letter to the Armenians “Nequaquam sine dolore”).

Although limbo has taken some hard hits recently (which is a huge understatement), Pope Pius VI condemns the following position, which rejects limbo, as false in his Bull, Auctorem Fidei:

The doctrine which rejects as a Pelagian fable that place of hell (which the faithful commonly called limbo of children) in which the souls of those who die with the sole guilt of original sin are punished with the penalty of damage, without the punishment of fire (no. 26).

Denying the urgency of baptism necessarily takes lightly the Church’s teaching on original sin, whether or not one holds to the position of limbo.

Recent Developments on Children Who Have Died without Baptism
At this point we meet the issue that may be driving the theological change in how we view baptism. Many believe that the Church has changed its teaching on the relation of baptism and original sin. The source of the alleged change is the following passage from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused him to say: “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,” allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church’s call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism (§1261).

It should be noted, however, that this position is one of hope and not of surety. Furthermore, it speaks of urgency in relation of infant baptism. In §1257 the CCC affirms both that “the Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude” and that “God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.” This both affirms the necessity of baptism, but also opens a door to extra-sacramental grace (which is not a new position). Extra-sacramental grace, however, is only a possibility, which needs to be contrasted with the certainty we find in the sacraments.

Seeking to defend this position in the CCC, the International Theological Commission issued a non-magisterial document, “Hope for Infants Who Die without Being Baptized.” Once again, the document explores grounds of hope, but also explicitly argues that this position is no reason to delay baptism:

The conclusion of this study is that there are theological and liturgical reasons to hope that infants who die without baptism may be saved and brought into eternal happiness, even if there is not an explicit teaching on this question found in Revelation. However, none of the considerations proposed in this text to motivate a new approach to the question may be used to negate the necessity of baptism, nor to delay the conferral of the sacrament. Rather, there are reasons to hope that God will save these infants precisely because it was not possible to do for them that what would have been most desirable—to baptize them in the faith of the Church and incorporate them visibly into the Body of Christ (preface).

Thus, the key document which could be used to justify the delaying of baptism argues for the opposite position! Reinforcing the document’s point that baptism is most desirable (to put it lightly), the Council of Trent affirms the necessity of baptism to remit original sin and to obtain eternal life. Those who deny this position are considered anathema!

If any one denies, that infants, newly born from their mothers’ wombs, even though they be sprung from baptized parents, are to be baptized; or says that they are baptized indeed for the remission of sins, but that they derive nothing of original sin from Adam, which has need of being expiated by the laver of regeneration for the obtaining life everlasting … let him be anathema (Session 5, Decree Concerning Original Sin, 4).

Thus, the Church’s teaching is very clear that baptism is necessary for remitting of original sin and for imparting of the grace needed for salvation.

The Urgency of Infant Baptism
The Church not only teaches the necessity of baptism, but also legislates the urgency of infant baptism. The Code of Canon Law actually stipulates that “parents are obliged to take care that infants are baptized in the first few weeks” (867, §1). Those who delay baptism contradict this obligation.

It is time for us to return to the Church’s once established practice on baptism. Given the Church’s own teaching and the inestimable benefits of baptism, we have to ask why anyone would wait. There has been no change in the Church’s teaching, as the CCC and the ITC speak only of hope. In fact the ITC says that “it must be clearly acknowledged that the Church does not have sure knowledge about the salvation of unbaptised infants who die” (§79). There is, however, sure knowledge of the grace of baptism. Don’t leave to hope what we can assure through the sacraments! I think it is a good position to hope and pray for those who die without baptism, but that is different than presuming salvation. Therefore, we should baptize infants quickly, placing them within the Lord’s sacramental grace. There is no good reason to delay and whenever possible we should choose surety over hope.

Author’s note: The recent development concerning babies who die without baptism has been controversial, to say the least. It is not possible to summarize the whole debate, but I will note briefly two interesting points that are not widely known. First, revised language for a passage regarding aborted babies was issued for Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Evangelium Vitae. Second, Avery Cardinal Dulles explicitly challenged the ITC document as contradictory of Catholic doctrine, especially in relation to the line from the Council Florence, which I quoted above. Dulles’s essay, “Current Theological Obstacles to Evangelization,” can be found in the book, The New Evangelization: Overcoming the Obstacles, published by Paulist Press.

Editor’s note: The image above is a detail from “The Baptism” painted by Pietro Longhi in 1755.

R. Jared Staudt

By

R. Jared Staudt is Assistant Professor of Theology and Catholic Studies at the University of Mary in Bismarck, ND and Co-Editor of the theological journal, Nova et Vetera. His interests include systematic theology, especially in St. Thomas Aquinas, and the relationship of religion and culture.

  • droolbritannia

    I always have this sense of baptism-urgency any time a new baby is born in my ‘sphere.’ My parents waited a full month (back when you didn’t have to wait because of parish schedules and bureaucracy). I’ve never understood that and always felt somehow cheated of those thirty days of grace. Silly, I guess… (but I still feel cheated).

  • bethannbee

    I thought it was delayed until the Mom was recovered enough to have a party until I began noticing the mothers with their brand newborns in the Mall and the grocery store.

  • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

    We were *forced* to wait a month and a half, because our priest at the time lumped all baptisms together four times a year, with required catechesis for the parents.

    We made sure to get into classes a month before he was born.

    • http://redcardigan.blogspot.com/ Erin Manning

      It’s even worse in some places. I wrote about this issue, and heard from people whose dioceses won’t even let parents attend classes until the baby is born. Then both parents must come to the classes (usually in the evening and several hours long) without the baby! I had wondered why so many baptisms of children from four to eight months old happened routinely at my former parish–well, it’s that kind of silly policy which doesn’t seem to understand that a nursing mom can’t be away from her infant for lengthy periods of time (especially not to sit in a classroom while a lay volunteer gives the same instruction she and her husband already had for babies one through four, and this is baby five, but no, you still have to come to the mandatory parish baptism classes…)

      I think it’s a scandal that so many parishes positively obstruct the parents of newborns from baptizing their infants with anything like sufficient urgency.

      • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

        If it’s any plus, that priest has left the priesthood to get married (what a scandal and confusion that caused!) and two priests later, we have a good Canon Lawyer who is rather insistent upon *baptize first*, *then take classes*.

        I’m still trying to convince the education people of the absolute need for reasonable child care for classes for Generation X and Y, though.

  • Vinnie

    “…the certainty we find in the sacraments.” Very true but…………….in today’s society NOTHING is certain. I guess that certainty is another thing we need to witness to, as Mr. Staudt did here.

  • Nestorian

    The author’s urging that we take the doctrine of original sin seriously raises the
    question whether it is a true doctrine in the first place. It also raises
    the closely related questions whether the principal purpose of Baptism is to
    efface original sin, and whether those who die in original sin (on account of
    not being baptised) are eternally damned.

    With regard to Baptism, note that the Catholic Church’s position is not the biblical
    position. In the New Testament, the principal purpose of Baptism is the
    sacramental enaction of the individual’s death and rebirth with Christ.
    It is not the effacing of original sin.

    True, Scripture asserts that Baptism effaces sin, but the implied reference is to
    personal sins committed by adults prior to baptism, not to an original sin
    shared by all in infancy. The concept of original sin as such is not found in Scripture either; it is an Augustinian invention, based on a tendentious and erroneous interpretation of Romans chapter 5.

    Moreover, adult baptism was the essentially the norm throughout until around the 4th century. Fears of eternal damnation owing to the overwhelming influence of the Augustinean position on original sin had a lot to do with bringing about drastic a change in that norm in the Western Church, to infant baptism. Yet, evidently, this
    sense of urgency in view of a fear of potential eternal hellfire was absent
    prior to that time. This historical circumstance constitutes a powerful witness from early Tradition that the Catholic/Augustinean conceptions of Baptism and Original Sin are erroneous.

    The other important witness to Sacred Tradition here is that of Eastern Christianity. Eastern Christianity in all three of its doctrinally distinct forms (Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Nestorian) has never officially embraced the Augustinean outlook on Original Sin and Baptism. To the contrary, for the most part, Eastern Christianity has rejected that outlook rather vehemently as false, and as utterly alien to its own particular patristic heritages (most, though not all, of which the Catholic Church endorses as part of its own patristic heritage),

    There are many reasons why I personally am a convert from Roman Catholicism to
    Nestorian Christianity, but the falsehood – indeed, the heretical nature – of
    the Augustinean/Tridentine Catholic dogmas on Original Sin and Baptism are without a doubt the single weightiest reason.

    • Objectivetruth

      Anti Catholic Troll Alert.

      • Nestorian

        Why does having a different position automatically make me a troll? Actually, it does not. Your insults are an offense against God.

        • TheAbaum

          You don’t have a “different position”. You’ve self identified as an apostate and a heretic, and you hurl insults against the Church. You insult us with your intellectual and spiritual pornography.

          Truth is not an offense against God. Posting merely to foment discontent (trolling) is. I’m quite comfortable calling Hitler a monster, Obama liar and you a troll.

          Go find a “Nestorian” board, and stop trolling. Be with your own kind.

          • Objectivetruth

            Agreed. Nesty should frame his discussions from the respect of why Nestorian was declared a heretic of the Church, and why he (Nesty) left the one true Church to follow a heretic. There must be a huge element of self doubt in his heretical religious convictions if he’s spending so much time on a Catholic website.

            • TheAbaum

              Indeed.

            • Diodore of Tarsus

              It is, in fact, you who manifest self-doubt by sinning against the Fifth Commandment and defaming me personally, rather than addressing the substance of my arguments against Original Sin from both Scripture and Sacred Tradition.

          • Diodore of Tarsus

            Why do you sin against the Fifth Commandment by insulting me? Be a civil adult instead, and address the substance of my arguments against the doctrinal positions underlying Jared Stout’s article.

            Or are you so insecure about having to process and think through theological views differing from your own that your only recourse is to emote wildly when you encounter them?

            • TheAbaum

              Assuming “Diodore of Tarsus” is “Nestorian”, you have consistently come here to insult.

              By your own declaration, you are an apostate (left the Church) and a heretic (follow a heretic). That you find that insulting, is a problem with your sensibilities, not my civility.

              Why do you bear false witness?

              • Nestorian

                Take a careful look at my original post on original sin and baptism. There are no insults whatsoever, only a carefully considered argument – based on Scripture and Tradition – concerning why the Catholic position on original sin is erroneous.
                .
                I only denounced you and Objective Truth as sinners against the fifth commandment once you hurled insults at me, rather than addressing the substance of my arguments.
                .
                As for the claim that I, as a Nestorian, am a heretic, that is a question-begging way for you to argue. Ultimately, in this regard, the question whether the Nestorian Church or the Catholic Church is in error (or in heresy, if you prefer) is one of the fundamental points at issue in the debate over original sin and baptism.
                .
                So, if you wish to address my ideas in a civil and rational manner, then address my arguments, and do not gratuitously defame my person.

                • TheAbaum

                  Your posts are exclusively antagonistic and argued male fide, with no possible hope of a compromise. Go be with your own, Satan.

                  • Nestorian

                    Wow, the king of gratuitous slander strikes again, with yet another sin against the Fifth Commandment. I think it’s highly likely that you hold the record for that trait among CRISIS commenters, as numerous other posters, and not just me, have called you out on your nasty habit of hurling personal insults as well.

                    • TheAbaum

                      “the king of gratuitous slander strikes again,”

                      As I was saying-your posts are exclusively antagonistic and argued male fide, with no possible hope of a compromise.

                      Arguing heresies deposed of centuries ago in this forum is the very definition of futility, and dedication to futility is a diabolical trait.

                    • Nestorian

                      You act as though you own this forum. Here is a newsflash: You own it as little as I do.

                      It might be a useful exercise for you to go back and count the number of different posters who have taken you to task for your unchristian penchant to hurl insults, as well as the number of distinct instances on which they have done so. Even if you leave me entirely out of your count, you might very well be shocked once you start running the totals.

                      As for the present discussion, the fact remains: I presented a cogent theological and historical argument entirely relevant to the topic of the post, and you do nothing in response but slander me. That is not a Christian approach – not at all.

                      And I would not have posted what I did about original sin and baptism if I did not deeply believe every word of it to be true.

                    • TheAbaum

                      I don’t own it. I merely point out it is dedicated to a purpose you are arrogantly and axiomatically opposed to. What you think is cogent, I find disordered. You are as interested in dialog as those hit and run trolls that descend upon Austin Ruse’s or Anthony Esolen’s opinions.

                      Every post you make is a broadside against Church doctrine and you expect, no demand to have your them treated with kid gloves.

                      It takes a peculiar sort of kind of cognitive dissonance to expect that-the kind that says “we are legion”.

                    • Nestorian

                      How can you find my points regarding original sin disordered when you haven’t even bothered to answer them on their merits? If you (or anyone else, for that matter) wished to debate them in a civil and informed fashion, that would indeed be of great interest me.

                      But all you want to do – and probably all you are able to do – is hurl insults at those who disagree with you, and/or at those who marshall arguments against your positions that you cannot answer. In that regard, your consistently rapid resort to the most thuggish variants of the ad hominem fallacy is an abiding indicator of the intellectual weakness of your positions, and also of emotional insecurity in your convictions about them.

                      The truth, Mr A-Baum, is that, though you may fancy yourself to be sophisticated and edgy in your approach to posting on this site, you are in fact nothing more than a bully and an a**hole. And I assure you, I am not alone on this board in thinking that, even if others have not been pressed by your thuggishness quite to the point of saying it so bluntly.

                    • TheAbaum

                      “nothing more than a bully and an a**hole.”

                      But all you want to do – and probably all you are able to do – is hurl
                      insults at those who disagree with you, and/or at those who marshall arguments against your positions that you cannot answer.

                      And that profanity concludes our lesson on civility. Thanks for so completely impeaching yourself.

                    • TheAbaum

                      “you are in fact nothing more than a bully and an a**hole.”

                      And with that gratuitous expression of profanity, today’s lecture on “civility” is over.

                      Thanks for so thoroughly impeaching your own credibility.

        • Objectivetruth

          You’re heretical beliefs are an offense against God.

    • Alessandro Arsuffi

      Infant baptism is first witnessed by St Hyppolitus of Rome in about 200 AD. Despite the Augustinian vision of Original Sin is absent in the Eastern Churches (even Catholic, btw) because of their different understanding of sin, all of those Churches practice infant baptism. Maybe the version “in the negative” provided by the author (and by the Augustinian point of view) isn’t contradicting the Oriental counterpart. Western Catholics underlines that baptism is needed to give grace to remove the stain of original sin, while the Eastern Christians (Catholic and Orthodox) believe that it is necessary to provide grace. In both cases, baptism is necessary, either in a negative way (removing original sin) or a positive way (granting grace) since grace is necessary to those who don’t have it (because of original sin, of course). Just different ways to tell the same thing,

    • TheAbaum

      ..

  • Nestorian

    I would also point out that if the Baptism of one’s newborn infant is considered to be such a matter of extreme urgency, in view of the possibility that the infant might perish and face eternal damnation if a few weeks pass before an ordained cleric of the Catholic Church is available, then parents are doctrinally empowered to take matters into their own hands. According to Catholic teaching, any persons may act as an extraordinary minister of the sacrament of Baptism. If I remember correctly, it is not even necessary for the minister to be baptized him- or herself.

    • BHG

      Correct, though that is usually reserved for emergencies. One need not even be Christian to baptize, but does need to intend to do what the Church intends, use water and repeat the Trinitarian formula.

    • CRS

      That is absolutely correct (and evidence to the absolute necessity of Baptism itself). I plan on reviewing the form correctly so in the event of a premature birth or other emergency, I can baptize my child. I think if I can be trained in CPR/First Aid for emergencies, then I, as the mother, ought to be trained in this.

  • Barbaracvm

    My son’s baptism was scheduled at 6 weeks of age. He died when he was 31 days old. It used to be a child was baptized within 24 hours. How I wish I had not waited even if I had baptized him myself.

    • TheAbaum

      So sorry. Not much else to say, certainly nothing efficacious.

    • CRS

      I am so sorry. :’-( Just know that those souls are closest to Christ’s Most Tender Mercy (His Words in a vision to His saint).

    • Objectivetruth

      The Catechism also speaks of Christ’s ability to work his salvation outside of the sacraments (“With God, all things are possible.”) Jesus knows of your pure and loving intention for baptism. Have peace.

    • CT

      I am in a similar situation. My child’s baptism was scheduled for 10 days after birth, and he died six days after. It is a terrible burden for us to know that we should have baptized more speedily. It makes me angry that many churches make so many hoops to jump through before they will do baptism (not doing them during Lent, requiring classes AFTER the baby is born, requiring a birth cert, etc), possibly endangering the eternal lives of those babies. Luckily, at my current parish the priest does speedy baptisms if the parents request it, but many churches do not.

      • Thirstfor Truth

        Well, our pastor flat out refuses! Baptism if he feels there is a good
        chance the child will not be properly raised in the Catholic Church by
        devout Catholic parents. Reconcile that with any of your councils
        proclaiming Baptism and Original Sin.

        • Thomas Gallagher

          Your pastor is simply reflecting clear Catholic teaching on the efficacy of Sacraments: if one goes to Holy Communion without the intention of cooperating with God’s grace, the Sacrament is compromised. Same with Baptism in cases where the parents have no firm intention of rearing the child in the Faith.

          • Joelle

            So…if they die then what happens? What is the Catholic churches teachings about this? It’s something that was never and has never been properly explained to me.

            • Thomas Gallagher

              I’m not “The Catholic Church,” but merely one layman with a certain knowledge and understanding of Theology. If a child dies in infancy, or in childhood, or indeed in the teenage years, without having been baptized, and left unbaptized because the parents were not sufficiently Christian to take on their God-given responsibilities as parents, then surely we can leave the child to the mercy of God, can’t we? Sacraments have a lot of mystery around them. We simply believe that if you ARE BAPTIZED you get a powerful outpouring of God’s grace, but if through no fault of your own you ARE NOT BAPTIZED, God still loves you. It’s an article of Catholic Faith that God sincerely desires the salvation of everybody, all of us. It’s also become a much more basic teaching, since the pontificate of Saint John Paul II, that God is mercy. We need to dwell on that: God is mercy, or rather Mercy. If you’re puzzled about these issues in a way that can’t be satisfied by the impersonal and somewhat dry and intellectual atmosphere of a blogsite like this, then you should talk to a priest about these concerns. But it does no good to complain that somehow somebody failed to teach you something they ought to have taught you. The old doctrine of Limbo is still something people can believe, if they want to do so. I myself hate the doctrine and reject it and realize it’s done great harm to the grieving parents of deceased children over centuries now, but I AM NOT REQUIRED TO BELIEVE IT.

              • Joelle

                Thanks for your reply Thomas. Maybe I just need a different priest to council with. My Great Uncle is a monsignor in the Catholic Church and my Uncle a Priest so I’ve relied on them for most of the knowledge I have. I think what puzzles me the most is that I can’t find any doctrine about baptizing little children or infants. Plus Christ himself was baptized in his thirties…it just confuses me a lot!! I wasn’t trying to complain or sound rude, so I apologize if my comment came across that way. But if my questions aren’t welcome on the blogsite I will remove them and refrain from posting further!

    • Geri Wessels Pridgen

      You can baptize you child or anyone who asks it if there is the Threat of Immediate DEATH. Of course you should call a Priest to see if he can get there quickly, but in extreme circumstances any baptized person can baptize another – “In imminent danger of death and especially at the moment of death, when no priest or deacon is available, any member of the faithful, indeed anyone with the right intention, may and sometimes must administer baptism. In a case simply of danger of death the sacrament should be administered, if possible, by a member of the faithful according to one of the shorter rites provided for this situation. [24] Even in this case a small community should be formed to assist at the rite or, if possible, at least one or two witnesses should be present.” (“Christian Initiation, General Introduction” no. 16).

  • Dorotheus

    I read recently’ ‘a Catholic baptism has in practice little to do with the cleansing of original sin, it’s just a way of welcoming a little human being into the world and of course a wonderful excuse for a Guinness-fuelled knees-up.’ This is written of the Irish Catholic world and I believe this is largely what baptism has become – partly become the traditional theology expounded here is so implausible. What sort of God are we being asked to believe in? One who creates a situation in which the first human couple are bound to disobey his instructions and then – because of that – involves the human race for ever afterwards in the inheritance of original sin, demanding incredibly fearful punishment for those who fail to do anything about it, and condemning for good measure all the people who, for no fault of theirs, could never have known or could never know anything about the necessity of baptism. Such a God is a parody of justice and morality, a figment of disordered human imagination. So long as it continues to peddle a God like this, the Catholic Church will repel most sensible decent people and most of its own membership.

    • Objectivetruth

      What sort of relativistic God would you like the Catholic Church to “peddle?”

      • Dorotheus

        Not a relativisitic God at all, whoever that might be, but the God of Jesus Christ.

        • Objectivetruth

          Good! Then you have to look no further than the Catholic Church for the Truths of that God.

          Unless of course, you have been given divine authority directly from Christ Himself to correctly teach and without error on His revealed Truths.

          • Dorotheus

            The Catholic Church is precisely where I do look for the Truths of God, because I believe in its (not my) divine authority. That authority, however, can only be exercised by fallible men and if you think that they never mis-exercise it your objectivity really must be slipping.

            • Objectivetruth

              How do they “mis-exercise?” Give an example.

              I do agree, as fallible men, they do (and we do) sometimes don’t live up to the Truths we are proclaiming. They/we all fall, all sin. Look at the apostles. At the last supper, when Christ instituted the priesthood and Eucharist, one of them betrays Christ, one Denies Him three times, and nine others run and hide on the night He needed them most. And they had lived with Christ and knew He was God, yet still in their weakness fell.

              • Dorotheus

                I did not so much mean failing to live up to the truths we proclaim as changing the truths themselves (or, if you prefer, developing our understanding of them). An obvious example in this context is the changing status of limbo. The article quotes Pope Pius VI as being convinced about and teaching (definitively, if not infallibly) the reality of limbo, but a statement issued with the authority of Pope Benedict reduced it to a possible hypothesis. What does that say about the torment mothers especially used to go through agonising over the fate of their unbaptised babies who had died? – all for a possible hypothesis!
                This illustrates perhaps the wisdom of being somewhat reserved in what we claim about our apprehension of divine truth, seeing that our apprehension is so often not an objective certainty we can be intellectually convinced about, but a mystery we can only live with. Before you say it, this does not mean that we are adrift on a sea of total relativism. The guides we have – Scripture, Christian tradition, the magisterium of the Church – are reliable, but in the end (as they all say) the surest rock on which we must rely is the love and mercy of God.
                I have realised what I should be being up for Lent – looking at Catholic blogs. My resolve starts now.

                • Objectivetruth

                  But…..

                  I believe (and I stand corrected if I’m wrong) that limbo was always theory/hypothesis, not defined doctrine. Benedict was just reemphasizing what always was thought or believed. Christ never revealed to us what happend to unbaptized babies, so the Church never rendered a definitive teaching, only theories on “limbo.” Which also shows the humility of the Church saying we,can not proclaim what has not been revealed to us.

                  If the theory of limbo was miscommunicated to the faithful, that’s a tragedy. But aren’t we as Catholics charged with taking the initiative to persuit the Truths of the Church by also educating ourselves? I know of many Catholics that say they never read the Catechism, but will quote Catholic falsities from CNN, MSNBC as doctrinally true.

                  Thoughts? I stand corrected if I’m in error, but when I get the opportunity I’ll look deeper.

                  • Objectivetruth

                    P.S.:

                    I just searched on the Catechism for the word “limbo”, and nothing comes up.

    • dougpruner

      Dorotheus,
      I agree, ‘Such a God would be a parody of justice and morality, a figment of
      disordered human imagination.’ But that God is not the one of the Bible.

      “One who creates a situation in which the first human couple are bound to disobey his instructions” No, no evidence of that. He created them with free will, and gave them an instruction, ‘Go, live in paradise whether you like it or not!’ :-) (Gen 1:28,31) He then gave them a second one, ‘Out of all my creation, stay away from that one tree.’ (Notice that the other trees were “enticing to look at and good to eat”. And Gen 3 shows that Eve had adequate instruction, from whatever source.) I and others see that as a reasonable test of how their free will would be exercised. Having passed that test they would come into the rest of the promise, living forever in paradise due to their obedience. (Gen 2:17) Modern parents often give their [imperfect] children such tests, to judge their fitness for driving, staying out late or whatever.

      “and then – because of that – involves the human race for ever afterwards in the
      inheritance of original sin” Adam was condemned to death for his disobedience,
      and did die. We die because, having been born after the Sin, we acquired a
      genetic defect from our first father. It’s called death. But Gen 3:15 shows
      that Yahweh had already purposed a just and honest way out of the conundrum: A perfect life (Jesus) for a perfect life (Adam). (Cf. Gen 9:6, Lev 24:17, Num
      35:31; Mt 20:28; Mr 10:45; 1 Tim 2:6)

      “demanding incredibly fearful punishment for those who fail to do anything about it” If you mean ‘eternal hellfire’ or similar, please note that it’s illegal under the ‘double jeopardy’ provisions in the constitutions and laws of “civilized states”. Rom 5:18 ff., and “For the wage paid by sin is death; (Rom 6:23a), as in Gen 2, and “the gift freely given by God is eternal life “ Rom 6:23b, and Genesis; but nowadays “in Christ Jesus our Lord.” ‘Give ‘em death, then wake ‘em up and torture ‘em some more” is man ‘making God in his own image’, don’t you agree?

      “and condemning for good measure all the people who, for no fault of theirs, could never have known or could never know anything about the necessity of baptism” See double jeopardy, above, and Mt 28:19.

      Does this help?

      • Dorotheus

        Frankly no, because I think you are reducing the God of the Bible to a capricious pagan deity who plays around with people just for the hell of it (pun intended).

        No evidence? If you create human beings as they are and say, ‘You can do everything else except this one thing,’ what is the one thing they will most want do it – as you know very well? The game is rigged from the start. But why would a truly creator God of universal love and compassion want to play such games with his creatures?

        Somehow we can never quite cope with God as he is, so we cut him down to anthropomorphic size in this kind of way. Maybe it’s also because we can congratulate ourselves on knowing all the Objective Truth about such a God and not have to bother allowing him to transform us from our comfortable human state into what he wants us to be.

        • dougpruner

          “Modern parents often give their [imperfect] children such tests, to judge their fitness for driving, staying out late or whatever.” I believe that’s an adequate answer to your objection–unless you think those parents rig the game from the start.

          A & E were perfect, that is there was no such presumption as “what is the one thing they will most want do it – as you know very well?” Eve was seduced by the idea that she could do better by following Satan [the ventriloquist]; all evidence was to the contrary. She had life, perfect health, three squares a day, useful and rewarding work, a perfect husband, no worries about fashions changing and on and on. By her action she (a) called Yahweh a liar and (b) rejected his sovereignty over her. Adam followed her lead instead of his creator’s. That lead is promised to be very good even for their imperfect offspring: Isa 48:17,18. And I have found it so. (BTW are you finding and reading the scriptures I provide? Don’t talk to anyone about Christianity without checking what we say against the Book we claim to use. If you’re not, we’re done. Remember Jim Jones and “David Koresh”?)

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  • Michael

    The author must be living 500 hundred years ago with the only source of info as the Council of Trent, or maybe 200 years before, when the Pope condemned Galileus for saying that the planet earth moves… He should travel in time back to see John the Baptist baptizing Jesus and all the other adults in order to gain the graceful strength to convert, and witness the creation by Jesus of the Eucharist sacrament, and meet Peter and all the apostles that were married. He should forget and avoid all the middle age’s deformation of the sacraments as magical tools to clean sins by Adam and Eve who never really existed.

    • Objectivetruth

      Wher does your definitive, infallible authority come from to say that you are correct, and the Church’s Magisterium is wrong?

    • Objectivetruth

      I believe the author also referenced this from the Catechism,

      “CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
      SECOND EDITION
      1257 The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation. He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them. Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament. The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are “reborn of water and the Spirit.” God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.

    • TheAbaum

      ..

      • CRS

        I burst out loud laughing. I miss having those toys. :-)

  • Charles Saliba

    John 12:32 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself.

    Mark 10:14 Whom when Jesus saw, he was much displeased, and saith to them: Suffer the little
    children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of
    God. 15 Amen I say to you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a
    little child, shall not enter into it.

    I reflected quite often, regarding baptism of the water!

    From the above scriptures, I believe that Jesus in John 12:32 declared that, from the cross, HE BECAME THE ABSOLUTE OWNER OF ALL SOULS, FROM BIRTH! THEREFORE THE ORIGINAL SIN IS ELIMINATED THROUGH HIS DEATH!

    In Mark 10:14 Jesus also made it clear that from birth,all children belong to the kingdom of God! Then he emphasized in 15, and confirmed that WHOSOEVER WON’T RECEIVE THE KINGDOM OF GOD FROM BIRTH, notice the words: little child! HE WILL NEVER ENTER INTO IT!

    NOW THIS VITAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR SURE, JESUS DIED FOR IT! THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS NOT SUBJECT TO HUMANS, BUT TO GOD HIMSELF IN JESUS CHRIST DEATH!

    SO JESUS FROM THE CROSS ACCOMPLISHED ALL VITAL PROCESSES REGARDING THE KINGDOM OF GOD!

    ALSO I DON’T BELIEVE THAT JESUS DEATH DIDN’T TOPPLE WHAT SATAN ACQUIRED FROM BIRTH THROUGH ADAM SIN, WHEN JESUS HIMSELF DECLARED THAT HE CAME TO SAVE THE WHOLE WORLD!

    NOW IT IS WELL OBVIOUS THAT SINCE IN JESUS TIME THERE WERE PEOPLE ON EARTH, THEY HAD TO BE BAPTISED IN ORDER TO BE REDEEMED,BUT AGAIN, SATAN’S SPIRIT WAS ELIMINATED THROUGHOUT FROM THE ENTIRE OF OUR CREATION, THEREFORE SOULS ARE NOT BORN CONTAMINATED WITH SATAN’S SPIRIT, OR WHAT WE CALL:

    ORIGINAL SIN ANY MORE!

    SO ALL BIRTHS ARE CLEAN AS ADAM WAS WHEN HE WAS CREATED!

    Within our souls, we have THE WORD! WHICH WAS SLAIN FROM THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD. REV. 13:8

    THE RE

    • Objectivetruth

      The key to your whole tirade is the use of the words “I believe.”

      Do you go by “Pope Chuck I” in your church?

      In your false, sola scriptura “church” what you say might be “truth.” But in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church founded by Christ Himself……it’s false.

    • GaudeteMan

      Charles, you seem to accept the Bible as in the inerrant, infallible word of God – may I ask why?

    • Charles Saliba

      simply FAITH AS SMALL AS A MUSTARD SEED, IN THE LOVE OF JESUS CHRIST CRUCIFIED! THAT’S ALL THERE’S TO IT, AND UNLESS ONE CONTRADICTS ME USING THE SAME SCRIPTURE MINE STANDS!

      HUMBLY FOR THE LOVE OF THE TRUTH JESUS CHRIST REFLECT PROFOUNDLY :
      DRB

      John 3:5 Jesus answered: Amen, amen I say to thee, unless a man be born again of WATER AND THE HOLY GHOST, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh, is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit,is spirit. 7 Wonder not, that I said to thee, you must be born again. 8The Spirit BREATHETH WHERE HE WILL; and thou HEAREST HIS VOICE, but THOU KNOWEST NOT WHENCE HE COMETH, AND WHITHER HE GOETH: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

      Peace and love in Jesus

  • sparrowhawk58

    I am the mother of three young adults. Both of my sons have declared that they are no longer Catholic. My husband and I sincerely hope this is just a “questioning” phase and they will return to the Church as they mature.

    However, they have both said that they will not raise their children Catholic, when they start their families. Right now, neither is in a serious relationship, and I pray they fall in love with women who are serious Catholics. But if NOT, I am planning on baptizing their babies secretly. My younger son told me he knows I “would do something like that” and he specifically told me he would be very angry.

    But I feel it would be my duty, as the baby’s grandmother, to make sure the baby is in a state of grace in case the unthinkable should happen. I know that’s disrespecting the parent’s boundaries, but nothing less than a child’s immortal soul is at stake. And if baptism is a meaningless gesture, as my sons claim, what objection could they possibly have?

    I know a lot of Catholics, including priests, would frown on my intention, but in about a million years my sons–and their children–will thank me.

    • Objectivetruth

      Many, many books and websites I (we) can recommend giving to your sons that might help them on their journey back to the Church.

      Prayers also, to St. Monica.

      • sparrowhawk58

        Thanks, please send them along. I do pray to St. Monica (my eldest boy is named Augustine, actually) St. Rita and Our Lady. Please keep my kids in your prayers.

        • Objectivetruth

          a rosary tonight for their journey back home!

          A good short list is anything from Scott Hahn, a former Protestant minister who converted to Catholicism (“Rome Sweet Rome”, “The Lamb’s Supper”) Stephen Ray’s “Crossing the Tiber” and Matthew Kelly’s “Rediscovering Catholicism.” Peter Kreeft’s “Jesus Shock.”

          This are all easy read, page turning books that are enjoyable.

          Also, there are good websites such as EWTN and Catholic Answers.

          And the “Catholicism” DVD series from Fr. Barone is excellent!!

          Anyone else with some helpful ideas?

          • sparrowhawk58

            Thank you for your suggestions (I like Profs. Kreeft & Hahn and Fr. Barron, and I will investigate the others) and thank you for the rosary–it will all have an effect, I am sure. I’m keeping a list so that I will be ready with recommendations!

            • Objectivetruth

              God bless and best of luck! Remember: we do the best we can for our loved ones, and the Holy Spirit will do the heavy lifting on this! Maybe not as fast as we want or please, but in His time. God has a plan!

    • Objectivetruth

      If I may ask…..what are their reasons why they say they are “no longer Catholic?” Questions and concerns on Catholic teaching?

      I find lately, however, many people are rejecting the Church due to the horrific priest sex scandal. Possibly that? One couldn’t blame them for their anger, but blessedly, this horrible human sin does not have to be a reason to “throw the baby out with the bath water” and reject the whole faith.

      • sparrowhawk58

        All three of my kids attended Catholic high school. The boys went to an all-boys school, and they took theology all four years. There were a number of fine priests on the faculty that they admired. But still, high school seemed to be the turning point for them.

        I think Pope Benedict was right when he talked about the “tyranny of relativism.” They are held hostage to the idea that being judgmental is the worst of all possible sins, even though we (and I’m sure their teachers) have tried to help them distinguish between the sin and the sinner.

        Both of my sons deliberately befriend young people who are ostracized, they volunteer for the homeless, one is spending his spring break tutoring on an Indian reservation, etc. BUT: they completely buy into the idea that no one can criticize another person’s actions for any reason because objective truth does not exist. They see the Church as clinging to the intolerant mindset that demonizes gays, pro-choice people, and women.

        The most they will say about an action is, “Well, for ME that would be wrong.” I even hypothetically asked them about infanticide if the baby was born with serious handicaps: “For ME that would be wrong. I wouldn’t do that to MY child. But….” (This is how Belgium’s child euthanasia law got passed.)

        Also, they continually bring up the “hypocrisy” of the Church with materialism–the Church (and priests) should all live at or below the poverty line, sell off all property, etc., until the problem of poverty is solved for every person on the planet. (Which scripturally won’t ever happen.)And yet they have grown up knowing men and women religious who have dedicated their lives to serving the poorest of the poor.

        I don’t think they were personally affected by the sex scandal. I think their generation came of age when a lot of protections were put into place. However, I think there’s an unrelenting chorus of voices that keeps that issue alive. I am not dismissing the fact that those reprehensible things happened, but I think that “the pedophile priest” archetype has become almost a joke WAY out of proportion to actual statistics, and in EVERY SINGLE CASE, the guilty priest was acting AGAINST Church teaching.

        Anyway, that’s what I’ve traced their loss of faith back to. I am not blaming any of their teachers. I do, to a certain extent, blame myself. I thought we were doing enough to ground them, by modelling our faith and making sure they went to Mass and CCD in grammar school(which I taught, as well) If I had to do it over again, I would have formally done catechism with them every single day, not just once a week.

        It makes me sad that they are missing out on what could be such a rich part of their lives. How will they get through a crisis?

        And it breaks my heart that, if they persist in this rejection of Christ, I will be separated from them for all eternity.

        • Objectivetruth

          They might be going through a rebellious time, as all young men do. Keep praying and loving them, it’s amazing how maturity has a positive effect on men and their spirituality.

          • sparrowhawk58

            I know that many, many saints went through this prior to embracing Christ and living in imitation of Him. As their mother, I want to welcome them back home with joy, but I suppose they have to reach the point where they choose to return.

        • TheAbaum

          “Also, they continually bring up the “hypocrisy” of the Church with
          materialism–the Church (and priests) should all live at or below the
          poverty line, sell off all property, etc., until the problem of poverty
          is solved for every person on the planet.”

          If they are playing philosopher-king and receiving one thin dime from you, then give them an opportunity to practice what they preach.

          (I see nothing here about employment other than the mention of a part time job in another post)

          Time to shoe the cubs up the tree, if you haven’t done so. This means they support themselves and they live the consequences of their life-including not showing up for Christmas or Easter dinners when they don’t believe.

          • sparrowhawk58

            I think they will get this when they are fully responsible for their expenses. I just don’t like that they hold the Church to a standard which it has already met. If I am not mistaken, the Church is the second largest charity in the world, next to the Red Cross, which was originally a Christian organization (though currently secularized). In their defense, they do have a good work ethic and have taken jobs that are pretty demeaning. My issue with that is, where do they think that comes from? Their point is that those values spring from nothing, and that atheists have just as much compassion/investment in the marginalized as Christians do, while I believe they have those values because they were brought up in a CATHOLIC home that emphasized humility, work and learning. They just don’t see it now.

            I won’t close any doors to them while they are still in these dark woods. My arms are always open to them, and I think that a certain amount of arrogance is normal at their age. When they do mature a bit more, my hope is that their hostility will be replaced by acceptance of their Catholic background, and their
            acceptance will lead them to more involvement in the Faith.

            • Objectivetruth

              As they progress through their 20’s, they’ll realize that there’s a nagging hole in their souls that money, buddies, material things, and even cold beer can’t fill or satisfy. One day possibly as they pass by a Catholic Church and for reasons they’re not sure of they’ll walk in. They might then sit there in the quiet, and in a small way…..realize they are home…..

              The Hound of Heaven will always persuit us and never leave any of us orphans…..!

            • TheAbaum

              I wasn’t suggesting closing your doors, just your wallet.

    • dougpruner

      You might appreciate my story: My mother’s parents were a mixed marriage at a time when that was a major issue. When I was born-72 years ago-my grandpa’s mother came down from Montreal, took me out of my parents’ house to the nearest Catholic Church, had me sprinkled, and returned me. She never contacted my grandfather again. From this distance in time I appreciate her concern, but as you can see from my earlier comment here it’s not a concern of mine.

      More serious is that it’s apparent that your sons are of the ‘age of reason’, so God looks on their state of mind now. If they die in this state their decision becomes their final one. ” The dead cannot praise Yahweh, those who sink into silence.” Ps 115:17, NJB
      Scripture study can help; the arguments of relatives are little heeded by children, sometimes.

      • sparrowhawk58

        Good for your great-grandmother–a woman of conviction!

        Yes, I’ve found that trying to reason with them gets me nowhere. I am now relying on the prayers of many, the example my husband and I (and all four living, devout grandparents) set, and the Holy Spirit.

        I think my older son may be opening up a little to at least talking about this without descending into argument. My younger son is far from that. He is hostile to Catholicism. I can barely write this without weeping, but he claims to hate Jesus. I asked him what Jesus ever did to him to deserve that. He says, “Jesus never existed.”

        But how can he feel so much animosity toward someone who “never existed”? That would be like hating unicorns. You can’t have that much emotion toward something imaginary. Apparently he has some investment in Christ, even if, at this time, the wrong investment.

        So I believe his conversion is possible. I also believe that in his case it would have to be something drastic and sudden, along the lines of St. Paul.

        • TheAbaum

          But how can he feel so much animosity toward someone who “never existed”?

          There’s something else going on here.

          Just out of curiosity, if you care to share, what is your son’s occupation and recreation interests?

          • sparrowhawk58

            He is into martial arts, and he’s very conscientious about his health. So, I don’t think there is any drug issue here. He attends community college and works part-time. His circle of friends seem like fine young people, and they give him a hard time about being disrespectful toward the Church (but also toward me and my husband on this issue). Several of them are practicing Catholics. I might add that the conversations we have with him would shock his friends’ parents. With his grandparents, he is nothing but respectful and kind, although he is frank about not wanting to attend Church. I agree, there’s something going on. Sometimes I think this is all about him asserting his independence by rejecting the central value of MY life. Then sometimes I think, where is this coming from?

            • TheAbaum

              I wasn’t suggesting drugs. There are some social circles young men are found in that have a culture of religious skepticism or cynicism.

              Young men, especially those that are involved in some overt physicality (martial arts, body building, weight training) reject religion because it reminds them of their own morbidity and mortality. Going to Church detracts from their self-involvement (and trust me, gyms and dojos are full of people alone in crowded rooms). It also convinces them that they are captains of their own destiny, when they are still dependent on others (part time job) and that ship is likely to be a PT boat, rather than a great aircraft carrier. (community college)

              In some occupations, such as the sciences atheism is a culture.

              You know your son the best, but if he keeps repeating his rejection of God and Faith, I’d assume he’s attempting self-convincing and I suspect, life isn’t going as he thought.

              • sparrowhawk58

                I do think atheism as culture is a problem for the Millenial Generation. There seems to be a really mean edge to rejecting religion. It isn’t just the idea of choosing not to practice, it’s now become important to mock anyone who does practice. This is new. It goes beyond embracing a philosophy that rejects God, and moves into a very intolerant view of those who don’t agree.

                Stephen Hawking is the guy my sons like.

                I wish they could have attended a lecture I recently heard by Br. Guy Consolmagno, a Vatican astronomer, in which he addressed how Faith and Science reinforce each other, and how Catholic theology set the stage for scientific inquiry in the Middle Ages. If Br. Guy got a fraction of the publicity that Hawking et al enjoy, I am sure it would give a lot of people like my sons much food for thought.

                • Objectivetruth

                  Here’s a list of Catholic astronomers/scientists trough the millennia whose faith and scientific discovery were never at odds. Hawking is a B team scientist compared to these guys. Also, tell your son that the next time he gazes at the full moon, there are 50 craters and mountain ranges named after Jesuit astronomers and scientists. Top level scientists whose work only enhanced, deepened and confirmed their Catholic faith:

                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Catholic_scientists

                  • sparrowhawk58

                    Oooh, very useful! Thanks.

                • TheAbaum

                  It isn’t just the idea of choosing not to practice, it’s now become important to mock anyone who does practice.

                  Atheism, especially the new variety is a religion. Like Communism, it is at war with nature, the adherents know it that’s why they can’t engage opposition.

        • dougpruner

          “Jesus never existed” [as a historical man]’ is a view no longer held by serious scholars of the Bible and history. He is attested by Roman and other writers, some of whom had reasons to dislike him and his followers! One source states, “The respected historian Will Durant argued: ‘That a few simple men should in one generation have invented so powerful and appealing a personality, so lofty an ethic and so inspiring a vision of human brotherhood, would be a miracle far more incredible than any recorded in the gospels.'” Other sources show Voltaire and Napoleon—no evangelists, certainly!—holding similar opinions.
          As you suggest, animosity is generated by something real. Maybe by the God he finds among ordinary believers—the God of Hellfire, arbitrary actions, and so on. Not the one I know.

          • sparrowhawk58

            Yes, you’re right, I can’t see how he can say Jesus never existed. I don’t know if he’s really thought this through, given the contemporary accounts. And then, once that’s established, how anyone can explain why the apostles went from abject fear and hiding to, on Easter, publicly proclaiming the Gospel. I don’t see how anyone can deny that something extraordinary took place, and that Christians and non-Christians recognized this phenomenon.

            Oh, I should add, he does read a lot of work by prominent atheists, like Richard Dawkins, and the astronomer whose name escapes me at the moment. He is very impressed by their reasoning skills.
            Yet he won’t even explore anyone like Augustine or Aquinas.

            • dougpruner

              As to ‘Dawkins et al.’ I recall this one:
              “God is dead.” – Nietzsche
              “Nietzsche is dead.” -God :-)
              (Probably S. Hawking, BYW.)

              Tacitus, Suetonius, Josephus, Pliny the Younger: all credible historians who predate “the Fathers and Doctors”; all “believed in” (referred to as historical) Jesus and his followers.
              If your conscience and/or your priest permit you to read “outside” literature, you might send your sons to this:
              http://www.jw.org/en/publications/books/The-Greatest-Man-Who-Ever-Lived/#insightsearch_id=297e8af7-bed7-4f70-aca9-67fc98594e4c&insightsearch_result_index=0
              “The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived”, the life story of Jesus, rearranged from the gospels in chronological order. (What the scholars call a “harmony of the Gospels”.) Each chapter has relevant scriptural cites at the end so the reader can check against the Word of God itself. A good start for your sons, since the story is a fascinating one, whether it’s fact or not.

    • ThirstforTruth

      Grandma of the future (sparrowhawk58) You go for it! Clearly yours sons,adorable as I am sure they are, have their heads on backwards. If they ever become parents, don’t worry. Grandma will be needed and called upon for everything under the sun and you will be blessed by all the saints in heaven, if Baptizing your grandchild becomes one of those things. Parents need never know and when that chlld reaches 18 yrs of age, you can inform them face to face.
      Been there; done that in our family. No one is the wiser and I sleep well at
      night.

      • sparrowhawk58

        I am glad to know I will not be alone, if it comes to that. I hope the alternate scenario will occur: they’ll take it upon themselves to baptize the little ones!

      • Barbaracvm

        I also baptized my granddaughter since my daughter has fallen away from the church. She looked at me like I was looney lol. But in my heart I know I did the right thing. I will never say anything.

  • CRS

    I got lucky that my children are still alive and well and were baptized late. I am not taking that risk again (and even then I knew I was taking a HUGE risk). Limbo, though gentle compared to Hell, scares me, and what right have I to deny my child immediate salvation at the earliest possible time? Christ has confirmed to some degree (though He refused to go into specifics) that Limbo exists. His saints have spoken with certainty of Limbo. He also spoke clearly about baptism. Even if I have to baptize my child myself, I will, and I will be sure to know the exact proper form. I am not taking another chance with an innocent. I’d also like to add that this whole debate makes abortion all the more serious as through abortion, a child is denied both life AND eternal life by the mother and those who participate. In this regard, the Devil is clever, purposely attacking those Christ loves the most, and separating them from Him permanently (though I hope not!).

    • Dorotheus

      Did not the magisterium some while ago decide that there is no such thing as limbo? I also recall Popes John Paul and Benedict saying that heaven is not to thought of as a place to which you could go, nor is hell. Does make you wonder what they could be then.

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        Some of the Fathers, St Isaac of Syria and Maximus the Confessor taught that every one of us is destined to behold God in His uncreated glory. For those who love the Lord, His Presence will be infinite joy, paradise and eternal life. For those who hate the Lord, the same Presence will be infinite torture, hell and eternal death. The reality for both the saved and the damned will be exactly the same when Christ “comes in glory, and all angels with Him,” so that “God may be all in all.” (I Corinthians 15-28) Those who have God as their “all” in this life will finally have divine fulfilment and life. For those whose “all” is themselves and this world, the “all” of God will be their torture, their punishment and their death. And theirs will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8:21, et al.)

        The “fire” that will consume sinners at the coming of the Kingdom of God is the same “fire” that will shine with splendour in the saints. It is the “fire” of God’s love; the “fire” of God Himself who is Love. “For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29) who “dwells in unapproachable light.” (I Timothy 6:16) For those who love God and who love all creation in Him, the “consuming fire” of God will be radiant bliss and unspeakable delight. For those who do not love God, and who do not love at all, this same consuming fire” will be the cause of their “weeping” and their “gnashing of teeth.”

      • John

        No, although it was commonly reported that way in the media. But the document of the International Theological Commission referenced in the article above is not an organ of the magisterium. The existence of limbo, understood as the part of hell [limbo means threshold] to which go those who die in original sin without actual sin, is a dogma of the Church. See especially Pope John XXII and the Ecumenical Council of Florence.

        • Thomas Gallagher

          Limbo is NOT DOGMA. It is a traditional teaching that one may still hold, but is not required. My own view of it, like the view of many trained theologians, is that it is a preposterous teaching and one that has brought awful grief to parents down through the centuries.

          • CRS

            The what happens to the unbaptized, pray tell? Are we to understand, then, that baptism is not necessary for salvation? I don’t think it is preposterous, nor do I think it can be fully known. Christ admitted in one vision that it was a secret place, and that He would not give more information regarding it. I think – I hope – it is meant to be a temporary state, though, but that is my opinion, not doctrine.

  • dougpruner

    Whatever label our religion puts on Christian baptism, it’s clearly an important step in one’s spiritual development. With that word “development” in mind, it’s worth noting the famous teaching/baptizing command at Mt 28, which begins, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them…”

    Now, disciple means someone taught, which implies teachable, which means capable of learning. Therefore I see baptism as something which must follow, not precede, the ‘age of reason’ as the Catholic Encyclopedia and other sources call it. Certainly a child should be taught ‘from infancy’, as it seems Timothy was, in a household apparently divided. (1 Tim 4:6, 2 Tim 1:5) And there’s the famous instruction at De 6, “And hence, if, throughout your lives, you fear Yahweh your God and keep all his laws and commandments, which I am laying down for you today, you will live long, you and your child and your grandchild… You shall tell them to your children, and keep on telling them, when you are sitting at home, when you are out and about, when you are lying down and when you are standing up” NJB, at Catholic.org

    A clue as to how this was done is at Neh 8, “all the people gathered as one man in the
    square in front of the Water Gate, and asked the scribe Ezra to bring the Book of the Law of Moses which Yahweh had prescribed for Israel. Accordingly, on the first day of the seventh month, the priest Ezra brought the Law before the assembly, consisting of men, women and all those old enough to understand.” Ibid. No “Sunday School” for them!

    So my conclusion is that infant baptism is not a scriptural teaching, however deeply felt it may be among men. Will unbaptized children be saved from eternal death or some other punishment? “God is love”, someone once said.

    What do you think?

    • Objectivetruth

      I give all my faith and trust on the subject to the Catholic Church which was given from Christ the keys to the kingdom, and the ability to bind and loose. Their doctrinal teaching on baptism is as from Christ’s lips to our ears. No need recreating the wheel after 2000 years.

      • dougpruner

        “Their doctrinal teaching on baptism [and other subjects]” is claimed by them to originate with scripture, as in “The Bible we gave to the world!” It is that book, long predating the “Fathers and Doctors”, that I cited and quoted. When we read God’s Word we are not “recreating the wheel”, we’re using It to travel a spiritual road. 2 Tim 3:16,17 in the JB, NJB, Douay, NAB…

  • Grant M

    God’s grace is not confined to the sacraments, but We MUST use the sacraments where they are available. An analogy: If I am genuinely unable to find work to support myself then the state or my family can help me, But we don’t think much of people who have work available, but who prefer to rely on the state or their family.

  • jebny

    …only a man without children , aka priest, could have invented the “limbo” for the unbaptized babies……a man sleeps well knowing that a child is in limbo, but a mom looses her mind.
    This is why we need women as the head of the Congregation of Doctrine of Faith…..

  • hombre111

    Aah, the iron-clad 1abc2abc3abc certainty of the left brain, which afflicts the modern Church with its own version of Enlightenment fundamentalism. I also think the child be baptized soon after birth, but I want time to prepare the parents and godparents for the event. In the meanwhile, the innocent child is safely in God’s hands, or there is no reason to believe in a good God. If a health emergency occurs, I will be on hand to baptize the child immediately.

  • Mother-Earth1213

    This is a riveting article. Thank you.
    Today’s young couples with kids often leave the Catholic Church as young adults only to return when kids are born or some not at all. What i find mind-boggling is the gap these young mums and dads have had away from their Catholic Faith. This brings me to the point that the decision to baptize early or later or not to baptize can be a total new dimension to the young couple. I agree with your thoughts that baptism for infants should be done as early as possible as part of the Catholic teachings. The blurring of these lines may be due to the gaps therein for these young couples or just the mere fact that there are some liberal Catholics out there that will opt for an alternative option. One would guess, the onus will be on parents and the choice they make to baptize early or later.

  • mike

    Matthew 19:14
    Matthew 18:10; Hebrews 1:14
    Infant baptism is just getting a kid wet.

  • mike

    “Peter replied to them, ‘Repent and be baptized…'” (Acts 2:38)
    Repentance comes before baptism. How can a child repent when they don’t even know what repenting is?

    • Objectivetruth

      I’m guessing you have your own self proclaimed authority over scripture? That you decided one day that your interpretation of holy scripture is THE correct one, and that the Catholiic Church has been getting it wrong all along? Or did Christ meet you for coffee one morning and told you that you were, Mike, the new authoritative teacher of His word? That Christ never gave the Church His authority and they’ve been teaching in error for 2000 years?

      • mike

        “As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you.” (1John 2:27) I would only expect some obviously bitter one, as yourself, to use the “meet you for coffee” comment you used to show what Spirit you do NOT have. And, also, yes, the RCC has been teaching error her whole time (about 1600+ years). Plus, this article admits the constant changes.

        • Objectivetruth

          How am I bitter? Obviously, I spoke the truth about you. You claim teaching authority over scripture. How? You do realize where the canon of scripture comes from, don’t you?

          So the RCC has been teaching in error for 1600 plus years? Show me how you have infallible teaching authority over scripture, and the Catholic Church founded by Christ Himself, does not?

          Or are you just in here on an ignorant, uneducated, bigoted rant against the Catholic Church?

          • mike

            I claim teaching authority over scripture? Oooookay?!?! Also, the NT canon comes from the apostles and their closest associates. We didn’t need some late 300s council to tell us that! Oh, and how is being against RCC teachings bigotry?… Wow!

            • Objectivetruth

              Not in the mood to answer my questions, are you?

              So the councils of the Catholic Church didn’t decide which 27 gospels and epistles of the approximately 55 being read and used at that time were inspired and to be included in the New Testament canon of scripture? That the Gospel of Matthew was in….but the Didache was out? That the Acts of the Apostles were in…..but the letters of Clement and the Gospel of Peter, were out? So you have confidence that the books chosen by the Catholic Church are the ones that belong there? Or (as you have stated) was the Catholic Church also in error in what books to include in the bible? And if they’re in error, which books do you believe should be removed (or added to) from the bible, and how do you know you’re correct?

            • Objectivetruth

              So the books of the NT were finalized during the lifetime of the Apostles??

              • mike

                Peter called Paul’s writings Scripture, and Paul refers to Luke’s writings as Scripture.

                • Objectivetruth

                  Non answer. But you have still dodged all of my questions.

                  • mike

                    Again, the apostles and their closest associates wrote the NT canon, and we did not need some late 300s council to tell us what was already known. Plus, on a side note, even “St.” Jerome thought your extra seven of the full RCC canon were not Scripture. Your council means nothing. Nothing.

                    • Objectivetruth

                      “Your council means nothing. Nothing.”

                      Typical response of someone who wants to deny the historical fact that the Catholic Church, given authority from Christ Himself to bind and loose, put the canon of scripture together.

            • Objectivetruth

              How come the Signs Gospel, Didache, and Gospel of Thomas did not make the New Testament? Who made that decision what books were included, and these books were not? Or were these “NT decision makers” possibly made erroneous decisions in their choices?

    • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

      Ah, yes, the same Peter who said “Baptism now saves you”…. :-)

      • mike

        That is true, Jim. Yet Paul only baptized a few people even though he preached to the world. Also, after Yeshua said that you must be born of water and the Spirit, He only repeated that you must be born of the Spirit. But, I do admit that BELIEVERS should be baptized immediately.

        • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

          So you agree with Peter that Baptism is salvific?

          • mike

            It is, at the very least, obedient. It is a proper work. That said, the RCC puts less emphasis on it then Peter when she admits, according to her view, that good people that have no knowledge of Yeshua can make it to heaven. Changes, changes, changes!

            • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

              Well, baptism is either a means of salvation, or it is not. I’m still not sure whether you are agreeing with Peter that it *is* salvific. Can you clarify?

              • mike

                I believe it is possible God-fearing (which is a must) BELIEVERS can get in without it since Yeshua AND Paul kind of de-emphasized it as I previously stated. And I think they de-emphasized it because of the future stranglehold the RCC and her daughters would have on people with infant “baptism”.

                • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

                  Thanks for the comment–but again I can’t seem to tell whether you agree that baptism is capable of *saving* someone. Peter seems to think so. And if Peter seems to think so, then maybe baptizing an *infant* really *is* salvific?

                  Consider this: you mention above that Yeshua first says we must be born of “water and the Spirit” but *then* drops the water and only says “born of the Spirit”, thus (I think) you are implying that the “water” isn’t so necessary after all.
                  But we can agree also that Peter first says “repent and be baptized” but then *drops* the “repent” when saying “baptism now saves you.”
                  To be consistent with our Scriptural hermeneutic, oughtn’t we agree that “repent” isn’t so necessary after all?

                  • mike

                    Repenting can never be an exception, as numerous Scriptures testify.

                    • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

                      If it can never be an exception, why does Peter *make* the exception by *not* saying “repentance and baptism now saves you”? That’s not what he says, right?
                      Did Yeshua or any other infant have to do anything to receive the sign of Israel’s covenant with God–circumcision–eight days after birth? Seems to me that the Jewish understanding of being brought under the sign of the covenant did *not* involve repentance. But now a son of Israel, Yeshua, fulfills this covenant with a sign that *can’t* be given to infants? Seems a bit weak to say so, based on the Scriptural evidence.
                      (btw, Mike–I’m still hoping for just a simple yes/no on whether baptism is salvific–not as a “gotcha” but just for clarity…I’m inferring that you don’t think it is–am I right?)

                    • mike

                      Under the OT, it wasn’t until you were thirteen that you were a son of the law. Likely, it is the same in the NT. That said, I think I did clarify that you must be a born-again, God-fearing, age of reason believer to make it to heaven. Also, you must be born-again that nobody may boast in their works. As it is written: “Without me you can do nothing.” Yet, I also believe OSAS is blasphemy.

                    • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

                      Okay–just for clarity, the Catholic view of infant baptism is that it effects what it signifies–salvation. BUT, the Catholic view is also that we baptize infants under normal circumstances with the faith of the *parents* and godparents in mind. So faith is an element to be found in the context of infant baptism.
                      One particular thing worries me about the view you are expressing, however–are you saying that all children who die before the age of reason and all adults who are disabled and never have attained the us of reason therefore cannot “make it to heaven”?

                    • mike

                      No, you couldn’t be more wrong. I am saying that those that have not yet gotten to the age of reason (including the adult mentally retarded) are in heaven. Also, don’t you see how your view on baptism severely contradicts your stance on those with no knowledge of Yeshua, or even with that knowledge, that can still make it to heaven if they are good? Don’t you see how it is work’s salvation, without the Holy Spirit, which is expressly contradicted by numerous passages?

                    • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

                      How can someone dying before the age of reason end up in heaven if they haven’t repented??? How are they justified? How are they saved? Aren’t they necessarily ignorant of Yeshua?
                      Btw, “works salvation” isn’t the Catholic way–the Catholic teaching isn’t based on works–rather, the Catholic teaching is that God can save all who respond to the *grace* that He gives them in this life.

                    • mike

                      1) Look at my comment that ‘Objectivetruth’ replied to concerning age of reason (children).
                      2) If someone past the age of reason makes it to heaven without full knowledge of Yeshua, it is works salvation. And

                    • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

                      Mike–you are incorrectly stating what the Catholic Church teaches. It simply does not teach that being “good” is sufficient for salvation. Doing “good” only has value if it is actually a *response* to God’s grace. That’s what the Church teaches.
                      As to getting to heaven without repentance–then we both seem to agree that infants and others have access to salvation without repentance. The Catholic Church teaches that the normative means by which such as these can be saved is Baptism–I’m still not sure what you believe saves them….

    • erin

      Thank you Mike! The act of accountability certainly isn’t at the age of infancy. I’ve NEVER understood this. And Jesus himself was baptized in his 30’s. Baptism is symbolic. Repentance of your sin from your heart and accepting Christ as your Lord and Savior is the way of salvation

  • http://saintsbooks.net/ Shin
  • Meredith

    We can be serious about baptism without despairing of God’s mercy on our most helpless little ones. One of the comments below linked to an article from 1959 on baptizing a miscarried embryo – while the action is laudable, I think that we have to be careful not to view God as a bureaucrat who will damn us over the slightest departure from regulation. This is from the article:

    “It is very important that the fetus itself be touched by the water, and not just the membranous sac that surrounds it. This sac must be broken before baptism or the sacrament is not valid. The water must touch the “person,” The big problem in the baptism of a miscarriage is finding the fetus. A membrane surrounds the fetus, but both may be enclosed in a blood clot. The membrane can be distinguished from the blood clot by touch. If not, the whole can be placed in a loop of gauze and lukewarm water run over it which will remove the blood.”

    If I manage to execute these actions correctly, my baby is in heaven. If the bloody mess is too slippery and I accidentally wash everything down the drain, my baby is in hell. Will anyone say, with a straight face, that he loves a God who operates like this? I won’t. If God were like this, I would hate him. Fortunately, while we are bound by the sacraments, God is not. “The Sabbath is for man, not man for the Sabbath.”

    We should “choose surety over hope,” yes. But no mother, and no person who really thinks about the issue, can be truly at peace with a thin, delusional hope. Only a strong, trusting hope, based on a real friendship with God, will do. Perhaps not all unbaptized infants are in heaven – perhaps God offers them a choice, and some refuse his love, the way the angels did. We don’t know exactly how it’s all going to work. But I do not love a God who will damn my baby on a technicality. I am pregnant right now and I can’t wait to get my baby in my hands and baptize him. God, they say, loves my baby more than I do – so how can my will for him to be saved be somehow greater than almighty God’s? Fie on that.

  • Follower of Christ

    One thing to note is that unless your children were completely immersed in water, they were not baptized in accordance with the baptism described in the Gospels. The blog post condemns treating baptism too casually, but anyone who doesn’t practice baptism by immersion isn’t taking baptism seriously either. Only a small quantity water is required to immerse a newborn, so there isn’t any excuse of insufficient water for immersion like there may have been for baptizing adults at some places and times in the past.
    Of course, there is no record of infants being baptized in the New Testament period church, but that is a separate issue and discussion.

  • Joelle

    Why in the world would God not save all of his children and give them all the opportunity to be saved. What about those who died before ever learning about the “saving sacraments” that the Catholic church offers? I mean…I was baptised as a baby in the Roman Catholic church, so I guess that means I get to go to Heaven but all of my wonderful friends and family members who weren’t are automatically going to hell?

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