Latest Novelty: Baptism of Unbelievers?

Francis to New Priests:     Pope Francissmiles

 Forget what the Church has always practiced!  Baptize anyone who asks.

 by Christopher A. Ferrara

 May 1, 2015

 Another day, another novelty from the lips of Francis. This time, in remarks following the ordination of new priests, he declared: “Do not ever refuse Baptism to anyone who asks! (my emphasis)”

 Never refuse Baptism? Under any circumstances? That is hardly what the Church always taught before Francis. For example, in a 1980 Instruction on Infant Baptism, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stated that “infant Baptism must be governed by two great principles, the second of which is subordinate to the first.” The first great principle, of course, is that “Baptism, which is necessary for salvation, is the sign and the means of God’s prevenient love, which frees us from original sin and communicates to us a share in divine life…”

 But the second great principle, which Francis would apparently ignore, is that: “Assurances must be given that the gift thus granted can grow by an authentic education in the faith and Christian life, in order to fulfill the true meaning of the sacrament.” Accordingly, “if these assurances are not really serious there can be grounds for delaying the sacrament; and if they are certainly non-existent the sacrament should even be refused.”

 As the Instruction further teaches: “In fact the Church can only accede to the desire of these parents if they give an assurance that, once the child is baptized, it will be given the benefit of the Christian upbringing required by the sacrament. The Church must have a well-founded hope that the Baptism will bear fruit.” If sincere assurances are given, then, naturally, “the priest cannot refuse to celebrate the sacrament without delay…” But if, on the other hand, “they are insufficient, it will be prudent to delay Baptism.”

 Take, for example, a “gay couple” that has no intention of raising their immorally acquired child in the Christian faith but rather in their own version of it, which includes the “right” of homosexual “couples” to live in an adulterous union based on the practice of sodomy, call it a “marriage,” and adopt children — all in violation of the Church’s infallible teaching on faith and morals.

 Vatican Insider reports Francis’ remark as “words that may be interpreted to rebut priests who refuse to baptize children of same-sex couples…” It would be hard to deny that interpretation in the face of his use of the word “never” without qualification. Never means never, unless one adds a qualifier, and none was added here. But this would seem to be in line with the thematic ambiguity Francis has been cultivating for the past two years, always tending in a liberalizing direction, however. Call it guided ambiguity.

 Worse, Francis did not limit his remark to the case of infants, where the urgency of Baptism would militate in favor of the sacrament, but rather included those who ask for it themselves, meaning adults. Is there to be no process of discernment by the priest in this regard? Is he to baptize even someone who openly “disagrees” with fundamental teachings on faith and morals? That would be a sacrilege. Indeed, not a few have presented themselves for Baptism in defiance of the Church precisely in order to legitimate their own errors or immoral “lifestyles,” as if the sacrament were some kind of entitlement instead of a gift of the Blood of Christ.

 Yet again one has the impression that Francis simply says whatever he wishes and does whatever he pleases with little or no regard for what came before him in the Church if he deems it unnecessary. As he declared in the interview with Civiltà Cattolica that so delighted the liberal media: “The Church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules.”

 Really? Which rules are those? The process of discerning fitness for Baptism, according to the perennial teaching of the Church, appears to be one of them. According to Francis. Our Lady of Fatima, intercede for us!

Comments invited…

26 responses

  1. I think this latest quip from Francis cheapens baptism. It is only right that baptism is granted only when adequate assurances are given regarding the child’s catechesis and practice of the faith.

    This is hardly unfair or over-onerous; even the secular law balances the rights it grants to citizens with the expectation that citizens will exercise their rights with responsibility.

    To grant baptism in a glib “free for all” fashion will only mean that people begin to take the sacrament less seriously; its significance will give way to it becoming no more than a vehicle for a family get together.

    Through this process, the true faith is reduced to “religion for appearances sake”, with no real substance behind it, much like Church of Scotland weddings. (of 7 such weddings I have attended, only one of the seven couples actually attend the CofS. In the other six cases, the role of the CofS was only that of a ‘venue hire’ company).

    Whats more, in any walk of life, if persons can get “something” without any effort or comittment on their own part, then that “something” tends to lose its appeal. Again the CofS is a good analogy – despite its willingness to marry anyone and everyone, these same people do not appear in the CofS pews, once the Minister has outlived his usefulness to them.

    Many people of my own generation were baptised in the groovy 70s and 80s, but their parents did not go on to teach them the faith, or ensure they practiced it well. As a result, If I asked around the people I went to school with, I expect I could count the number of practicing Catholics on one hand. And even they would be mostly ‘Cafeteria Catholics’. (Although I was taken to mass regularly, I received no worthwhile instruction on the faith and even basics like saying the rosary and attending confession were neglected).

    I met a friend recently, who is not a Catholic himself, but his wife and children are. I attended the baptism of one of his children, years ago. We were talking about religion and he said openly that his wife very rarely (if ever) bothers to take the children to mass and the main reason she wanted them baptised was to ensure they could get into the same schools which she attended.

    It would appear that this is the vision Francis has for the Church. How depressing.

  2. All of the sacraments should be prepared for with a proper period of instruction – even when God Parents stand with the newly baptised. This pope is making a mockery of the Catholic Faith. It is more than depressing, it is scandalous and frightening.

  3. This was really inevitable, given the post-Vat.II’s progresssive weakening of all sources of sanctifying grace. Starting with the Mass, the Sacraments had to follow. The New Mass itself took care of the Holy Eucharist. Closely connected as it is, Penance followed – helped on by ‘general absolution’. Matrimony, weakened by the zeitgeist, is to be dealt with shortly – and no matter what the ‘conservatives’ do, the damage is already done. Ordination is conferred on men trained to be social workers rather than ministers of grace. Extreme Unction is meaningless, given that all go to heaven and hell doesn’t exist. Confirmation, stripped of its solemnity, and with suspect matter and form, no longer has any meaning to most Catholics. Baptism has likewise lost it’s meaning, being, to most, a quasi-pagan welcome into the world, and hardly needed a fiñal push from the Supreme Pastor. One wonders what remains to be done before the Virgin must crush this serpent’s head.

  4. This is just more of the same old same old from Francis. I used to say I don’t know what to make of him but now I do know what to make of him. He’s a modernist through and through and we’ll go on getting more of the same until he goes.

    I’ve read the opinion that he’s highly intelligent but I profoundly disagree. I don’t think he’s intelligent at all, because his statement to give baptism to anyone no matter what, shows an incredible level of ignorance about the sacrament and that is the most basic of all the sacraments. No wonder he doesn’t see the importance of keeping Communion from public adulterers, if he doesn’t understand baptism.

  5. I can see I’ve been wrong about this, but I will say it here in case anyone else has held the same view, but all my life I’ve been arguing that anyone who asks the priest to baptise their child so be granted that wish.

    I’ve always thought that because of the emphasis put on baptism being essential for salvation and to wash away Original Sin.

    So my first reaction to the article was one of a great deal of surprise.

    The children are innocent, and deserve the chance to be saved, surely?

    However, I do take the point about adults in immoral relationships using the sacrament to justify their lifestyle choices.

    I’m just surprised that nobody else seems to think the way I have always thought about baptism for all who ask for it (above adult “users” excepted).

    • Michaela

      To be honest, I have the same thoughts as yourself.

      It is a stroke of bad luck on a young innocent child to be placed in the care of
      a couple who practice sodomy in the first instance but to be denied baptism would be a bit much. After all, the child has no say in the matter.

      What about all the people converted by missionaries: how could they have all given permission to be baptised in a faith of which they probably hadn’t heard a few weeks earlier?

      I have always wondered why pro-life groups never ever mention the important fact that an aborted child gets denied the chance of baptism.

      • Frankier,

        That’s very interesting to me because I know someone who had a lot of miscarriages, unfortunately, and couldn’t get any priest to baptise them. I don’t really know much detail apart from that but it made her very bitter against the Church.

        • MARGARET MARY

          Could you blame her?

          Although I don’t know if baptism of desire would have applied in cases like that.

        • MM, what period was this? I may be misrembering but I’m sure I’ve heard that in such cases the form was modified to “If thou canst be baptised, I baptise thee etc.” Can anyone confirm this?

          • Christina,

            It was years ago, I’m not really exactly sure how long ago, but maybe sixties or seventies.

            I didn’t know that about the form being modified in cases like that, so thank you for that information.

  6. Michaela, I’m sure that all sorts of errors such as this have found their way into post-Vat.II catechesis. Before this everyone knew that in the case of an infant the parents’ assurances, as explained above, were essential before the sacrament was conferred. What Pope Francis is saying makes a mockery of Baptism.

    • Christina,

      I take all that you and Chris Ferrara say on board, but I happen to know someone who was baptised as a baby into a lapsed family and went on to become a very strong Catholic. Maybe the priest is right to use his discernment in these cases?

      • Maybe. If the parents had lapsed then there was always the hope that they would return to the Church, but in any case they must have promised to bring the child up in the faith, and the priest would have been bound to take their word for it.

  7. I don’t think any baby should be deprived of Baptism regardless of the parents affiliations. The child is innocent and may still receive the grace later on to become a good Catholic. Jesus said that nobody can enter Heaven unless he / she be born of the Holy Spirit; therefore, being baptised is the person’s “ticket to heaven” without which he cannot enter.

    A promise could be extracted from the parents, I suppose.

  8. I’m afraid I have been ignorant of the rules regarding baptism.

    Personally, I don’t think any child should be denied baptism because of the lack of faith of the parent(s).

    Since only about 10% of baptised children now attend church does that mean that the other 90%
    were baptised under false pretences?

  9. Rite of Baptism: ;

    “The celebrant speaks to the parents in these or similar words:

    You have asked to have your child baptized. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training him (her) in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring him (her) up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbor. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?

    Parents: We do.

    78. Then the celebrant turns to the godparents and addresses them in these or similar words:

    Are you ready to help the parents of this child in their duty as Christian parents?

    Godparents: We are.”

    Are these responses optional if parents and godparents are not practicing, or have no intent to practice, the Faith? Are they expected to lie just to get their child baptized?

    From the Catechism: “1236 The proclamation of the Word of God enlightens the candidates and the assembly with the revealed truth and elicits the response of faith, which is inseparable from Baptism. Indeed Baptism is “the sacrament of faith” in a particular way, since it is the sacramental entry into the life of faith.”

    As I understand it, at least one parent and one godparent should be in a state of grace, and able to receive the Eucharist.

    Baptisms in scripture were preceded by instruction in the Faith.

    Pope Francis will need to re-write scripture, the Catechism, Baptismal Rites, and Canon Law if Baptism on demand without prior instruction, and intent to live in accord with the Faith, become the practice of the Church. It is interesting and challenging to have to explain some of Pope Francis’ words and actions as a member of an RCIA Team in light of the true teachings of the Church! So, why do we spend 8-9 months preparing for Baptism at Easter Vigil? Why not just baptize when catechumens first approach the priest about RCIA if they already have a sponsor who is a practicing Catholic?

    The Church acknowledges Baptism by Desire which would certainly apply to catechumens and to infants whose parents desire their Baptism.

    CCC: “1259 For catechumens who die before their Baptism, their explicit desire to receive it, together with repentance for their sins, and charity, assures them the salvation that they were not able to receive through the sacrament. …

    1261 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.”

    Our priest never “refuses” Baptism. He will, however, provide instruction, and postpone – except in cases of emergency – a Baptism until he observes one parent and one sponsor who demonstrate they are practicing the Faith, by, for example, attending Mass every Sunday, and receiving instruction, for a period of time. That is the proper ‘pastoral’ approach, reconciling relationships that are contrary to the word of God and the teaching of His Church. A priest is to be about the saving of souls. Choosing to ignore, or serving as an enabler of, sinful behavior is hardly salvific.

    Baptism is a bridge, not an island. Sometimes, parents bringing their child for Baptism have not set foot inside a church since their own Confirmation or marriage. They go ‘island hopping’ from one Sacrament to another. They fail to see the Sacraments as bridges to each other, or as bridges to a closer relationship with Christ and His Church. They are merely pleasing a grandparent or friend by seeking this Sacrament for their child, not to be seen again until another Sacrament or funeral comes along.

    Why wait until funeral Masses to remind ‘visiting’ family of the need for a conversion of heart? Baptisms are opportunities to save more than the soul of just the child being baptized.

  10. That’s excellent Linda.

    A local parish has no children from the “Catholic” school who will receive their First Holy Communion, because the priest asked that the parents ensure that their children attend Holy Mass for 6 weeks beforehand. No deal; they couldn’t be bothered to do even that. They want the white dresses and veils, the flowers, photographs and the celebration, but they clearly haven’t a clue what the Sacrament is. Ditto, baptism.

    • Therese,

      I once met a priest who tried to make sure the parents were practising and would attend the preparation classes for First Confession and Holy Communion. One parent refused and complained to the diocese, and that priest was ticked off and told to let the child make First Confession and Holy Communion anyway.

      I’m sorry for the clergy. They are in a no-win situation half the time, because the bishops are such wimps.

  11. There was a time when parents weren’t present at the baptism. Just the godparents attended who had to be practising Catholics.

  12. I don’t want to keep inserting replies, as it gets confusing, but, having had a bad news day yesterday, I didn’t give a very good reply to Margaret Mary above when I said I couldn’t remember where I’d heard about the Baptism of foetuses in the cases of miscarriage, abortion or still-birth. As often happens, I woke up with full recall! I was taught in 5th form that if we girls became nurses, midwives, doctors, or of course mothers, we must know, and tell others, how to baptise such a foetus, no matter how early in the pregnancy the miscarriage occurred. The Baptism must be done in the usual way as regards matter, but the form must be “If thou cans’t be baptised, I baptise thee etc.”

    What a pity, Margaret Mary, that those NO priests of the 60s and 70s did not know this, and how sad that your friend did not know the simple Penny Catechism answer that we used to learn by rote:- “The ordinary minister of Baptism is a priest; but anyone may baptise in case of necessity, when a priest cannot be had”. She could nave performed this merciful act herself.

    Linda gave an excellent answer to Pope Francis’s errors, but I would like to comment on this quotation from the New Catechism, and I hope that it will not be considered to be off-thread

    1261 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.”

    This is indeed not erroneous, but it is ‘waffly’ and imprecise, as we are all dependent on the mercy of God. It is a good illustration of how the Church’s modernist pastors since Vatican II have rejected Thomistic theology. The Church herself has never rejected, nor defined as an article of faith, St. Thomas’s postulation, made in the supplement of Summa Theologica, of a ‘limbo of unbaptised infants’. To me his logic is inescapable, in spite of the modernist’s inclination to regard the transcendent God as a sort of super human being. Every human being since Adam and Eve has been born without the life of God in the soul – sanctifying grace – without which it simply lacks the supernatural ability to behold the Beatific Vision, just as a man without eyes cannot see because he lacks the necessary natural ability to do so. As St. Thomas explains:

    Accordingly, it must be observed that if one is guided by right reason, one does not grieve through being deprived of what is beyond one’s power to obtain but only through lack of that which, in some way, one is capable of obtaining. Thus, no wise man grieves for being unable to fly like a bird or for that he is not a king or an emperor, since these things are not due to him; whereas he would grieve if he lacked that to which he had some kind of claim. I say, then, that every man who has the use of free-will is adapted to obtain eternal life, because he can prepare himself for grace whereby to merit eternal life; so that if he fail in this, his grief will be very great, since he has lost what he was able to possess. But children were never adapted to possess eternal life, since neither was this due to them by virtue of their natural principles, for it surpasses the entire faculty of nature, nor could they perform acts of their own whereby to obtain so great a good. Hence they will nowise grieve for being deprived of the divine vision; nay, rather will they rejoice for that they will have a large share of God’s goodness and their own natural perfections. Nor can it be said that they were adapted to obtain eternal life, not indeed by their own action but by the actions of others around them, since they could be baptised by others, like other children of the same condition who have been baptised and obtained eternal life: for this is of superabundant grace that one should be rewarded without any act of one’s own. Wherefore the lack of such a grace will not cause sorrow in children who die without Baptism, any more than the lack of many graces accorded to others of the same condition makes a wise man to grieve.

    Hence the importance of having a baby baptised as soon as possible after birth, and of baptising a miscarried or aborted child if one is in a position to do so. When the modernists preach about the mercy of God and ignore His justice and the effects of original sin in the soul, they do so much damage, not the least of which is depriving infants of the gift of the Beatific Vision. Shame on Pope Francis for his continued downplaying of the means of grace.

    • Christina – a wonderful post.

      Your last paragraph recalled conversations some in our parish have had with our priest, who is rightfully, I believe, along with many of us, concerned about Pope Francis’ ambiguity and his remarks on mercy and on his concept of a ‘pastoral’ approach. To have a ‘Year of Mercy’ and a ‘pastoral’ approach without a call to repentance and a change of heart does indeed “ignore His justice”. I was reminded of this paragraph from the Catechism:

      “2092 There are two kinds of presumption. Either man presumes upon his own capacities, (hoping to be able to save himself without help from on high), or he presumes upon God’s almighty power or his mercy (hoping to obtain his forgiveness without conversion and glory without merit).”

      To get back on topic, you noted “the importance of having a baby baptised as soon as possible after birth, and of baptising a miscarried or aborted child if one is in a position to do so.” A neighboring parish EVERY WEEK on the front page of their bulletin reminds, “Parents ANTICIPATING [emphasis mine] the birth of their first child are asked to attend baptismal instructions classes.” I also found this in another bulletin: “When you take a trip, you do not wait until you run out of gas before you fill the tank – at least not on purpose! You fill your tank and pack your bags as you anticipate a trouble-free journey. We can make a similar case for the baptism of children as they begin their spiritual journey.” In RCIA, analogies are very helpful.

      I hope the practice of preparing for Baptism, and making every ‘pastoral’ effort to encourage parents and godparents to be practicing, with the intent of raising a child in the Faith, is continued in our newly ordained, and previously ordained, priests. To postpone a Baptism is not refusal of Baptism.

      Perhaps someone can speak to the Baptism of babies who have already died, be it a miscarriage, still born, or aborted. I was told that a baby who had already died could not be baptized. I also found,

      “On the subject of miscarriages (spontaneous abortion), the Catholic Code of Canon Law # 871 states:

      “If aborted fetuses are alive, they are to be baptized insofar as possible.”

      Thank you.

    • Christina,

      Thank you for that really wonderful post. It’s very clear and I will be able to use it next time the question of what happens to the unbaptized infant comes up.

  13. Christina and LindainPA

    Your posts are fabulous, really enlightening. I can’t say enough how helpful they are.

  14. Thank you Margaret Mary and Linda – and I, too, am so grateful for what I learn from you and from this blog in general. That is an excellent point about the presumption of God’s mercy. It is a sin that has become endemic in the Catholic flock thanks to the false teaching of the shepherds, and especially the chief Shepherd.

  15. Thank you, Margaret Mary and Christina. These discussions also serve to remind us how important it is for us to pray for our priests and our pope. The upcoming Synod on the Family will be very telling. We must pray for our Church, that She remains a true and faithful witness to the word of God and the Word of God.

    • LindainPA,

      I do agree about being reminded to pray for priests and pope. I especially think, as you do, that we need to pray for the Church at the next Synod on the Family. I think that’s going to be a big turning point in this crisis.

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