Baptism

by Kate Dugan

I have been thinking a lot about one of the moments in From the Pews in the Back when Eileen Markey writes about deciding what sort of spiritual/religious lineage to raise her son in. She describes this conflicted sense of wanting to shield her son from some of the less attractive angles of Catholicism, yet, as a Catholic, not quite sure how to teach him spirituality without Catholicism.

I have just over six weeks left in my own pregnancy and find myself haunted by similar conflicts. My husband is a pleasantly quasi-atheist who finds god and majesty in mountains and snowboarding. He’s happy to baptize our daughter—sees it as an important linkage to my family and my culture. (And I know he’s already planning her snowboarding/mountain baptism!) Most of the time, I agree. I can’t really imagine not raising our daughter Catholic. Not only is being Catholic an integral part of me, I want her to grow up with a sense of wonder and awe at the world. And being Catholic is what taught me that.

But then the Vatican does ridiculous things like put ordaining women in the same category as pedophilia and my heart just sinks. Can I really invite my daughter to this kind of community? Expect her to participate in something so unjust?

To baptize or not to baptize? The other day, a good and wise friend of mine asked me to think about how I want to welcome our daughter into our lives. I think she was trying to get me to think about the root of baptism—an initiation into a certain community. When she asked me, I immediately got down to the business of trying to decide between a Catholic baptism and some other kind of welcoming into our world. But it recently struck me that we all live in multiple communities; we have all had multiple initiations into various worlds.

So I think we’ll baptize our daughter Catholic, but I don’t think that will be the only baptism she receives. I look forward to baptizing into our family, our friends, our favorite things about the world. Maybe her baptism will never really be complete.

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3 Responses

  1. Please allow your child to be baptized Catholic. Then, trust God to lead her spiritually, through the guidance of Church teachings. She will have a mind and heart of her own, and will decide, ultimately, what she will or won’t believe. Respect that.

    P.S. I read the source document about not ordaining women and about pedophilia. The only reason they were contained in the same document is that both are serious offenses. Beyond that they are separate issues, and I saw that clearly. Perhaps it would have been wiser for the leaders of the Church to release the information separately. What is “ridiculous,” if anything, is that they released both together, but the teachings are not ridiculous. It would have been wiser to separate them.

    P.P.S. Please explain: What is the injustice of not ordaining women? Does anyone have a right to be ordained? I’m simply asking for your reasoning.

  2. Ruth Ann is right.

    As I commented on another blog, let’s say you were working at Target. If you stole $500 worth of merchandise, you would be fired. Now let’s say that you beat up a customer so badly that he needed to be hospitalized. You would also be fired.

    That doesn’t mean that Target thinks that beating up another customer is “only” as bad as stealing merchandise, it just means that they think that both are worthy of the strongest sanctions they can place on their employees.

    In the case of Target, you would be reported to the civil authorities, and I do believe that the Church is wrong for not requiring reporting suspected cases of abuse to civil authorities. At least in countries where the rule of law is respected.

  3. Congrats on the impending birth of your baby girl! My spouse and I struggled with the big baptism decision as well, and ended up deciding to baptize our son at the ecumenical Benedictine church we attend … as the worshiping community of a local Benedictine monastery, it provides a strong link to our shared religious heritage and our spirituality. As an ecumenical and inclusive community, it represented our vision of what we hope the church will one day become. In the eyes of the institutional church, I believe, his baptism is “valid, but not licit.”

    He also had his second baptism a week ago – his “ocean baptism,” when I put his feet in the Atlantic for the first time. 🙂

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