Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Dunkin' Catholics

I've commented before on the fad for full-immersion Baptisms in some Catholic parishes and dioceses, so I won't run on too long about it again.

But I've just got to unload once more, since thousands of people in Silicon Valley are now aware of this folly via a page 1 article that appeared yesterday in the local rag, the San Jose Mercury. It's written completely from the standpoint of supporters of this radical change, which means, I suspect, that it relied plenty on information from the diocesan offices in San Jose, where Bishop McGrath supports it wholeheartedly.

It's full of inaccuracies. Here's one:

But by the fourth century, most adults had been baptized, so the [baptismal] fonts shrank to fit infants.

The fourth century began in the year 300. Christianity was still a small minority of the Roman Empire's population, and bloody persecutions were a matter of recent and vivid memory. Despite legalization of the religion under Constantine and Licinius in 313 and a trend toward acceptance during the century, it's laughable to say that adult-scale baptisteries vanished because there were no more adults to baptize.

Then comes another howler:

By the Middle Ages, experts said [and what experts would those be?], baptisms were treated as a quickie formality rather than one of the most important sacraments of a faithful life.

You can always get some mileage out of associating something with those nasty Middle Ages! But anyone who actually reads medieval history, even casually, will be struck by the immense importance the Church placed on early baptism, and how this emphasis was mirrored in society's tendency toward making each child's Christening an increasingly elaborate and celebratory social event. They may have been done "quickly" in the sense that the Church began to stress the need to baptize children as soon as possible after birth, but this was only common sense, given the high infant mortality rate of the times.

Did I say I wouldn't run on about this again? I did, didn't I? OK, just one more:

The Rev. Jose Rubio also prefers immersion, and he requires it for babies he baptizes. He works at the Newman Center at San Jose State University where baptisms are less frequent, and when Rubio needs to supply his own font, he might use a decorated horse trough for adults or a large clay pot from Pottery World for babies.

"When I first started immersing infants by baptism," he said, "I got a cooler - you know, a beer cooler - and put some fabric around it."

That's terrific, Father. The horse trough, the Pottery World pot, and the beer cooler are so much more in keeping with our times -- especially with our times' love of jettisoning every shred of past beauty and wisdom in favor of trendy vulgarity.