12Feb ‘Snow problem!

View from the front door in Westport this morning!

 

 

4 Responses

  1. Joe O'Leary

    Not to parade on your snow, but what are we to make of Mrs McAleese’s account of the state of official church theology on baptism and salvation? Surely the International Theological Commission should have produced a credible, updated theological vision on this long ago. From The Tablet:

    “On his way back to Rome from the World Youth Day in Panama in January 2019 Pope Francis was giving his usual in-flight press conference, during which as we know he can sometimes be less than careful with his words. There had been some robust discussion about abortion at the World Youth Day gatherings. Journalist Lena Klimkeit asked the Holy Father to comment on the suffering of women and his message of mercy in the context of abortion. “The message of mercy is for everyone, even for the developing human person,” he tells her. “The problem is in accompanying a woman who has come to the realization she has had an abortion …. you have to give comfort there, not punish anything … And many times, when they cry and have this anguish, I counsel them: ‘Your child is in heaven’.”

    “The Pope’s answer is kindly and consoling. It is also completely out of kilter with Church teaching. Church teaching in the matter of the status of an aborted or miscarried foetus which is not born live is at best vague – teaching and law regarding salvation refers repeatedly to being “born”. What is clear is that the Church regards the unborn child as a human being from the moment of conception: “Any discrimination based on the various stages of life is no more justified than any other discrimination … From the time that the ovum is fertilized, a life is begun which is neither that of the father nor of the mother, it is rather the life of a new human being with his own growth” (Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration on Procured Abortion, 1974, n. 12)

    “What expectation of eternal life does that child or any unbaptised child have when its earthly existence is extinguished? Let’s look at the answer the Church offers:

    “1. “The salvation of souls … must always be the supreme law in the Church” (1983 Code of Canon Law, canon 1752).

    “2. “The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation”. The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude (Catechism of the Catholic Church,1257).

    “3. The Church recognises the concept of Baptism by desire where an unbaptised person dies for the sake of the faith or a catechumen dies before baptism or a person ignorant of the Gospel would have desired it had they known of its necessity (CCC, 1258-1260). However baptism by desire is not available to “children who have died without baptism… the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God” (CCC, 1261).

    “4. Baptism wipes away all prior sin and even though the unborn child and the born infant are incapable of sin the Church teaches that, thanks to the sin of Adam, everyone is born “with a fallen human nature and tainted by original sin” (CCC 1250). A person who dies in a state of original sin “receives his eternal retribution … at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgement that refers his life …to everlasting damnation (CCC, 1022). In other words they go to hell. Since this seemed glaringly harsh in the case of blameless babies and caused untold additional grief to bereaved parents, some theologians hypothesised that there was a place or state called Limbo for such little souls, which was neither heaven nor hell. But Limbo was never incorporated into Church teaching. In 1980 the CDF issued Pastoralis Actio, which said that “for children who die without baptism, the Church can only entrust them to God’s mercy…”. In 2007, again prompted by pastoral concerns, in The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die Without Being Baptized, the International Theological Commission conclude that there are “serious theological and liturgical grounds for hope that unbaptized infants who die will be saved and brought into eternal happiness” but it warned, “These are reasons for prayerful hope, rather than grounds for sure knowledge”.

    “This is where Church teaching stands today: hesitant, unsure, pathetic. This great assertive champion of the unborn, never short of powerful words in defence of their right to life, retreats into mumbling hesitancy on the subject of their right to life with God after death.

    “It needs to do better, much better. The huge effort expended in external advocacy on behalf of the right to life of the unborn has no internal Church equivalent on behalf of the right to salvation of the innocent unbaptised dead child. That in itself is remarkable in an institution which believes it was created by God for the sole purpose of bringing the good news of salvation. Pope Francis says in Evangelii Gaudium, “The Church is sent by Jesus Christ as the sacrament of salvation …. the Father desires the salvation of every man and woman” (112, 181). Tellingly, he left out the unborn. In fact, the salvific fate of the millions and millions of these little human beings who die unbaptised is every day ignored by the Church.

    “It begs the question why the Father’s desire for the salvation of every child is not enough to guarantee it with the conviction and confidence that allows a Pope to comfort a woman distressed after an abortion with words his own Church cannot and will not say, “Your child is in heaven”.”

  2. Paddy Ferry

    Joe, I don’t usually read the Tablet online, always preferring to wait until the paper version arrives by post. I like to have a paper or magazine in my hands. However on Friday when I saw Mary McAleese’s article mentioned online, I decided to read it.

    Now, of course, we would all surely have to agree with what Mary has to say and what you have just said, Joe.

    But, something else struck me as I read her article.

    For example:

    “4. Baptism wipes away all prior sin and even though the unborn child and the born infant are incapable of sin the Church teaches that, thanks to the sin of Adam, everyone is born “with a fallen human nature and tainted by original sin” (CCC 1250). A person who dies in a state of original sin “receives his eternal retribution … at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgement that refers his life …to everlasting damnation” (CCC, 1022). In other words they go to hell.

    I genuinely wonder if anybody with a modicum of intelligence or even just a bit of common sense takes this kind of stuff seriously anymore. The penultimate chapter in Tony Flannery’s new book “From the Outside” ( Can We say Anything with Conviction about Eternal Life?) makes much more sense than this kind of ridiculous church teaching. Reminding us of Wordsworth’s “Intimations of Immortality” — something I vaguely remember from the dim and distant past — was especially welcome. (Tony, sorry for always dragging you into our discourse but it is an excellent book).

    And, then:

    “2. “The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation”. The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude (Catechism of the Catholic Church,1257).

    Really!!

    And, finally,

    “Pope Francis says in Evangelii Gaudium, “The Church is sent by Jesus Christ as the sacrament of salvation”.

    Now, I think having Francis as our Pope has been an absolute miracle given what went before him. And, as part of our remit in our Archdiocesan Ecumenical Commission we studied Evangelii Gaudium page by page and chapter by chapter.

    However, we now know that most respected biblical scholars, if not all, are of the view that “Jesus did not foresee a separate religious movement, later given the name Christianity” to quote Fr.Kieran O’Mahony OSA. Rather, his ministry was “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel”.

    “From the time that the ovum is fertilized, a life is begun which is neither that of the father nor of the mother, it is rather the life of a new human being with his own growth.” (Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration on Procured Abortion, 1974, n. 12)

    But what if there is no ovum?

    Reading that line above, “from the time that the ovum is fertiized …” brought me back to Earlsford Terrace one Spring morning many years ago. We were listening to a lecture — and I frantically taking notes — from Prof. Don Hingerty, Professor of Biochemistry who was an endocrinologist and he was lecturing on the part played by hormones in the process of reproduction. Don Hingerty, who was an Irish rugby internationalist, was one of the two best teachers I had in my years of education.

    Previously he had taught us the feedback mechanism which controls the whole endocrine system, i.e., the levels of the various endocrine hormones in our system. For example, when the correct levels of thyroxine have been produced by our thyroid gland a message is sent and received by the hypothalamus at the bottom of our brain which then signals the anterior pituitary gland to cease production of thyroid stimulating hormone. This control mechanism applies to all our endocrine glands. There are 7 stimulating hormones in all produced by the anterior pituitary.

    So, back to reproduction.

    The follicle stimulating hormone, which is one of them, controls the monthly release of the ovum from the female ovary.

    He then explained that when the ovum is fertilized at conception and becomes embedded in the placenta the placenta then produces a hormone which signals the hypothalamus to message the anterior pituitary to stop its release of the follicle stimulating hormone until pregnancy is complete. So, no further release of ova (eggs).

    Then came my Road to Damascus moment. And, then, he said this is what happens with the contraceptive pill. It is a synthetic version of the hormone produced by the placenta when the fertilized ovum becomes embedded.

    Now, I know the line in Mary’s article refers to abortion. But we were led, I think, to believe that taking the pill was just as mortally sinful as abortion.

    So, in my innocent, naive mind there had to be the beginning of new life being destroyed by contraception for it to be a mortal sin. And, I, of course, always sought to accept the teaching of the church.

    So, I sat there utterly gobsmacked, no longer frantically taking notes. (He was such a great teacher if you took his notes you didn’t need to read anything else).

    From that moment on I vowed I would never again take church teaching at face value. And, so my journey to maturity had begun.

    Sorry if that was all very technical and boring but it was a massive moment in my life.

  3. Joe O'Leary

    One of my least favourite books is the CCC, which is theology by bureaucrats. For authentic Catholic theology on such themes as salvation, church, baptism, original sin, we need to look beyond the grim screen of this Catechism, imposed by worried prelates, and look back to Vatican II and its theologians such as Yves Congar. Or look to the ecumenical discussions on these questions. The celebration of baptism in our churches moves on a very different plane from the bureaucrats, and it is a theologically more respectable plane.

    Paddy, I don’t quite get the point of your account of contraception. Presumably Paul VI was working with the same understanding of it?

  4. Sean O'Conaill

    CCC 1257 is hugely problematic as a means of verifying the necessity and sufficiency of infant baptism for ‘salvation’ – understood as afterlife entry into ‘Heaven’ – for two very obvious reasons.

    Firstly, the Gospel Chapter that it relies upon (John 3:5) is the dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus, beginning with the latter’s bafflement over being ‘born AGAIN’ as an ADULT.

    That clear reference to an adult experience of baptism by ‘water AND the spirit’ that Jesus is referring to there DEMANDS an ADULT experience of entry into the ‘kingdom of God’ – what is referred to these times as ‘baptism in the spirit’.

    Given that even ‘water’ baptism was an adult rite in the early church, it is clear that for Jesus entering the kingdom of heaven was therefore a THIS LIFE conscious adult experience of rescue from the fear that one was ‘lost’ by virtue of past mistakes and apparent condemnation. (Even the fact of the Roman occupation of Palestine was seen as a negative divine judgement by many, as Jesus observes in Luke 13: 1-5.)

    Since the RCC does NOT insist upon the necessity of an ADULT ‘baptism in the spirit’ for entry into an afterlife ‘Heaven’, the deployment of John 3:5 to justify the necessity of INFANT baptism for entry into that afterlife ‘Heaven’ is therefore simply absurd. So is the implication that infant baptism is a sufficient observance of Jesus’s injunction that one must be born of water AND the spirit to enter the kingdom of heaven, since, given the context of Nicodemus’s objection to ADULT rebirth, Jesus was quite clearly referring there to a fully conscious ADULT experience impossible in infancy.

    Secondly, the clincher for regarding ‘salvation’ as NOT NECESSARILY CONFINED to the recipients of infant baptism is surely the final sentence of CCC 1257:

    “God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.”

    This surely means that while infant baptism is regarded as efficacious in beginning our journey to salvation, God’s sovereignty trumps even its absence in regard to salvation – surely the basis of Karl Rahner’s insistence on the possibility of ‘anonymous Christians’.

    John 3:5 needs to be reread in relation to the problematic of the ‘New Evangelisation’ as well as the problematics of original sin and salvation AND the problematic of the ‘fixation with sexuality’. There are ‘knots’ here that do indeed all need untying for a ‘New Evangelisation’ to become feasible.

    CCC 1257’s insistence that the church does not neglect Jesus’s injunction that we be born of water AND the spirit will become true when adult baptism in the spirit, as the culmination of a fully voluntary adult re-education and affirmation process, becomes normative. It is simply untrue at present – when that whole chapter is read seriously as a response to Nicodemus’s question re the possibility of ADULT rebirth.

    There is no reason to believe that Jesus even foresaw the phenomenon of infant baptism, given his apparent belief that even some then alive would see the coming of the kingdom ‘with power’. (Mark 9: 1) Infant baptism came in as a ‘convenience of Christendom’ and is now a theological drag on readjustment to post-Christendom.

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