The Baptism Farce
There has been a lot of talk around the recent nonsense of a Bishop telling a priest that as he had used the wrong word, “We”… baptise you” instead of, “I”… baptise you”, thus invalidating the sacrament of baptism! This along with another story of a deacon who using the same words and having baptised someone who later became a priest. The priest then was told he was not a priest as he was not truly baptised and you have to be baptised, before you can receive the sacrament of Ordination. As the words were not as set out in the rubrics, then he was not truly baptised and therefore not a priest. This invalidated every mass he had celebrated or any sacrament he later performed as a priest. The Vatican ‘Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith’ (AKA Modern Pharisees) have confirmed this nonsense.
But….If a priest vicariously acts as Christ in the performance of a sacrament, and is therefore the visible sign of Christ ministering the sacrament, then by logic, whatever he says or does within that sacrament must be Christ’s action and words. By making a formula, that says only specific words may be enunciated and thus tying divine power and the sacrament to specific words, you make, what I can only call, is a magic spell!
Another problem for me with this matter, is the idea of a male, sacerdotal vicarious priesthood, being over the Body of Christ (The gathered Church); Simply put, the “I” over the “We”.
Legalism has no place in the Church! It is destructive and contrary to the freedom Christ has won for us! We maybe likened to the Galatians, who started out free but wanted to run back to a dead legalistic, ritualistic living! So who or what has bewitched us? Why have we allowed this nonsense to rule our lives?
The only answer I can see is it belongs to a system that desires to control and dominate. It is far removed from the simple message of the Good News and is sadly founded on an erroneous belief that it is the sole holder and guardian, of the whole deposit of true faith!
I write this, not as a canon lawyer or a theologian, but from my vocation and calling as a simple Franciscan friar.
When I made my first Confession in 1961 I remember that the then, bishop of Southwark, Cyril Cowderoy, who was my confessor on the day, never asked me to make an act of contrition. This undoubtedly, caused me much concern later in life, as I was a legalist! I am sure that the rubrics were not followed and so many, (like me) would deem my confession as invalid! Thank God I have been set free from that prison of legalistic death!
Maybe the question of weather the baptisms were illicit (which undoubtedly from HMC point of view, they were) one might better ask were they therefore invalid? Does not mercy triumph over judgement? And is God so confined, to blessing only those, who get the words of the spell right! God forbid! It’s about time HMC grew up and started to love better, than spend its days in judgement of good priests, who live the evangel.
I have always used the words. ‘I baptise you…’, but seeing how wonderfully rich the image of the Body of Christ together is, in speaking as Christ, and pronouncing in the unity of the Holy Spirit, “ We baptise you….”, a deeper awareness of the divine is somehow revealed and the sacrament enriched.
I am sure I will write more about this and similar matters in the future! Until then, live loved!