Thursday, April 16, 2009


The National Secular Society is promoting de-baptismal with certificates to go with it, bloggers and other Catholic sources suggest this is mere publicity seeking and nonsensical.

I think it raises one or two interesting points - primarily - are all the baptisms celebrated valid?

The Church baptises infants in the expectation that they "catch" faith from their family and community and will a later receive the other sacraments of initiation: Confirmation and Holy Communion.

But what if a child's family has no faith, have never been evangelised, if the God parents are merely mouthing, to them, meaningless words, if there is no intention of bringing up the child in the practice of the faith or of completing the sacraments of initiation? What if someone has been brought up in a totally secular environment and has never ever expressed, even internally, any assent to the Christian faith - is the baptism valid then?

In the case of marriage or ordination the presumption is that the celebration of the rite confers the sacrament until it can be proved there was a lack of the proper disposition to receive it. Can the same be said about baptism?

The Code of Canon Law says if there is serious doubt about a child being brought up in the practice of the faith, baptism should be delayed. How one actually proves in the external forum a lack of disposition I don't know.
I know, this is a bit of a Tablet question.


Fr John Hunwicke said...

Baptism would be invalid if the recipient were to place an obstacle (obicem) in the way of grace. A baby can't do that.

nickbris said...

National Secular Society,Optimum Population Trust,we are surrounded by NUTTERS.
One of their bright ideas is to be De-Baptised,there is no end to their genius for self publicity.

Whoever thought of closing the Bins and introducing "care in the Community" has got a lot to answer for.

Why don't they try their nonsense in a less tolerant Society and see where it gets them.

Most of them would of course have some short term and long term memory problems so how would they know where or when they were Baptised?

James said...

Provided that the minister of baptism does what the church intends him to do, the child is validly baptised.

The Council of Trent states that a character in imprinted on the soul in the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and holy orders which can be neither erased or taken away.

David Lindsay said...

If you didn’t believe in it anyway, then why would you care? And the record of the ceremony is precisely that: it simply records that the ceremony took place, which it did.

Anyway, whatever happened to the National Secular Society? In previous Holy Weeks, it would have been all over the airwaves and the public prints, demanding that Easter be abolished as a public holiday. But no more. Instead, it just wanted to get rid of NHS chaplains. Is that it? Is that really the best that they can do?

In any case, they have no chance with either Brown or Cameron, both of whom are, as Blair was, religiously observant and domestically conventional such as to be wildly untypical of The Project, but entirely in tune with the aspirations, even if not necessarily with the day-to-day lives, of the electorate at large.

That was why Blair left bishops in the House of Lords.

And that is why Brown, Cameron or any other Prime Minister will leave chaplains in the NHS.

So no national de-baptism as yet.

George said...


This is even goofier than their 'God probably doesn't exist' ad campaign on buses. Still, let them spend their money on pure non-sense. I bet this idea will really swell their membership (not). Is there no limit to their marketing genius?

Elizabeth said...

Ho do you de baptise an indelible seal imprinted on the soul that nothing, not even the loss of virtue or faith itself can eradicate??

How much does the ceremony and certificate cost??

gemoftheocean said...

The baptism is efficacious because it is not depended on us, but on God's grace. [Think, for instance of the severely retarded who might never have understanding...]

[And agree with nickbris that these people are nuts.]

Fr Ray Blake said...

Fr Hunwicke, that was always the reason for infant baptism, but presumption was that catechesis, and faith followed.
Indeed the reply to "What do you ask for this child?" use to be, "Faith", my question is can we really presume validity when faith is entirely lacking in parents Godparents and the community and society in which the child will be educated.
Is there not a serious doubt, this after all is current thinking in many Orthodox bishops.
Grace for Catholics/Orthodox needs co-operation, at least passively.

James, I have no problem with the indelible character, it is validity I am curious about, especially in a society that has become aggressive in it its negation of Christianity.

gemoftheocean said...

Hey as long as they kept to "form and matter" should be "good to go."

Now, if coca-cola was used instead of water, and some Australian jerk said "in the name of the Creator the redeemer and the spook...." then all bets are off.

[You're jerking our chains, today!]

Kate Edwards said...

Surely its the faith of the Church that supplies here, and the godparents are just representatives of the mystical body? Godparents, after all, aren't needed in an emergency baptism, and the Church has always taught that in cases of danger of death, even a child of non-catholic (or even non-christian) parents should be baptized. And a non-Christian can do the baptizing, with the mere intention to do what the Church intends.

Seems to me that of all the sacraments, the level of intention required for baptism is the weakest of all (ie none on the part of the recipient, and not a lot on the part of the minister!). It is certainly sad that children are deprived of their right to proper catechesis and full initiation into the Church, but surely a sacrament is either conferred or it isn't - what happens afterwards is irrelevant to validity.

Father John Boyle said...

I think the presumption must be for validity, even if the faith of the parents is lacking. After all, the Code of Canon Law says that one must baptise a child in danger of death, and an aborted child if it is alive insofar as it is possible, even if the parents object. The right of the infant to baptism as necessary for salvation trumps the rights of parents over their child when danger of death is verified. Canonically, there is no doubt about the matter. You can argue the theology till the cows come home... IMHO.

Gregory the Eremite said...


Is the concept of the "fruitfulness" of the sacrament of baptism useful here? In agreement with James, above, if the minister of baptism does what the Church intends, the sacrament is valid; but if faith does not follow, the sacrament bears no fruit. See ST III q.69 a9-10 seem to be applicable here.

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