Wednesday, January 30, 2013

PROTESTANT BAPTISMS; AM I CLAIRVOYANT OR WHAT?

A couple of Sunday's ago, I watched a local baptism at Trinity on the Hill United Methodist Church and reported that there were some idiosyncrasies associated with that particular Baptism. You can read my blog post on it A QUESTION OF THE VALIDITY OF BAPTISM, ESPECIALLY AS IT CONCERNS THE RECEPTION OF CHRISTIANS BAPTIZED IN PROTESTANT COMMUNIONS HERE!

Now, and it is almost as though I anticipated this in a clairvoyant way, there is an agreement between some Protestant denominations and the Catholic Church concerning the acceptance of the validity of baptism of the respective communions with the Catholic Church.

I wonder, though, if these Protestant communions have any peculiarities in terms of what they do for baptism like what I saw in the Methodist Church, such as "We Baptize you in the name of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and only placing a slightly dampened hand (actually only a bit of his fingers did he place in the water) on the head of the child.

I welcome these kinds of agreements and makes me wonder if we should only recognize the baptisms of the various Protestant communions in which we have such an agreement. I particularly welcome the Catholic Church's insistence that these baptisms be properly recorded and records kept in the various churches.

So, do we have an agreement with the United Methodist Church and other Protestant communions apart from the ones listed in the article below? Perhaps PI can fill us in.

Churches to sign historic baptism agreement in Austin


Bishop Joe Vásquez of the Catholic Diocese of Austin says the mutual recognition of baptism is a response to Jesus’ prayer that ‘we may all be one.’

By Juan Castillo

American-Statesman Staff

Leaders of U.S. Roman Catholic and some Protestant churches will sign a historic agreement Tuesday in Austin by which the two traditions will formally recognize each other’s liturgical rites of baptism.

The product of seven years of talks among five denominations, the agreement will be signed at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday at a prayer service and celebration at St. Mary Cathedral. The service will be open to the public and will be part of the opening day activities of the national meeting of Christian Churches Together in the U.S.A., which will continue through Friday in Austin.

Representatives of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Christian Reformed Church in North America, Reformed Church in America and United Church of Christ will sign the document.

“This ecumenical effort, this mutual recognition of baptism, is part of our response to Jesus’ prayer that ‘we may all be one,’ ” said Bishop Joe Vásquez of the Catholic Diocese of Austin.

Before the agreement, Protestant denominations of the Reformed Church tradition normally accepted Catholic baptisms, but the Catholic church did not always accept theirs, said the Rev. Tom Weinandy of the Catholic bishops conference in Washington.

Weinandy, who participated in the discussions that led to the agreement, said Catholics questioned the validity of baptisms if they did not invoke the names of the Trinity.

The document to be signed Tuesday says, “For our baptisms to be mutually recognized, water and the scriptural Trinitarian formula “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28: 19-20) must be used in the baptismal rite.”

The agreement confirms that baptism is the sacramental gateway into the Christian life and that it is to be conferred only once.

“We wanted to assure one another that we had common liturgical practices and a common theology to the extent that the baptism of one church would be recognized by the other churches,” Weinandy said.

Denominations also agree to keep standard baptism records.

Keeping records “becomes especially important in the Catholic Church when you have marriages between a Catholic and someone who is not of the Catholic Church,” Weinandy said. “It’s important to the other churches as well.”

A representative for the Presbyterian Church in San Antonio said it welcomed the agreement.

“We’re very much in concert with it,” said Ruben Armendariz, associate presbyter of the San Antonio-based presbytery, which includes the Austin area. “It’s a historical moment.”

Armendariz said the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has always accepted Roman Catholic baptisms and baptism administered in the name of the Trinity.

The Christian Churches Together in the U.S.A. conference will gather representatives from 36 denominations and seven organizations who will focus their talks on immigration, said the Rev. Carlos L. Malavé, the group’s executive director.

The organization was formed in 2001 as a forum for diverse denominations, some of which were estranged.

“It was a way to come together for dialogue,” Malavé said.

The group hopes to produce a public statement on immigration reform that has the agreement of all the denominations, Malavé said.

18 comments:

Andy Milam said...

I think that it is safe to say that as long as the Protestants baptize using the proper formula, then validity isn't a question.

My big question is, why do we have to have some sort of agreement signed? What difference does it make? To me it gives a false sense of legitimacy to something which has always been so.

The issue I have specificially with the whole, "We baptize you..." is the same issue that I've always had with the Credo starting out "We believe..."

No person can speak for another regarding the imparting action. I cannot know what the intentions of the person next to me are, AFTER THEY HAVE REACHED THE AGE OF REASON. I don't know if his intention is to baptize as the Church intends; just as I cannot know the intention of faith next to the person when speaking the Creed. I can assume both, but there is no certainty in either. I can only speak for myself.

In the case of baptism, it isn't the body of believers who baptizes, but the person who completes the Sacramental sign. If it were simply a fiat of the faithful or even two, then baptism would not have a Sacramental character, it would be a communal symbol.

There are theological problems which may have an answer, but are not addressed. This is just another media expose on how the Prottys and Catholics are just the same...and the USCCB is again (sigh) perpetuating that myth.

In my estimation, there doesn't need to be a formal agreement signed to convey that which has always existed.

Anonymous 5 said...

Random thoughts:

1) The whole agreement isn't printed here, but the excerpt indicates that the only formulaic agreements are to a) water and b) Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. If that's as far as it goes, then the Church has tacitly agreed that "We baptize you" and laying a damp hand on the recipient are valid. I thus hope that the full agreement is more comprehensive than the article details.

2) By this document, does the Church effectively delegate policing of the sacrament (i.e. determination that the correct form was used) to these Protestant ecclesial communities? ("I'm sorry, my child. Based on your description, your Protestant baptism was clearly invalid since it used beer instead of water, but by the terms of this agreement, which my bishop has ordered me to honor, I must nevertheless recognize it as valid.")

3) To avoid the dangers of fallacious ecumenical thinking, we as Catholics should be very clear that a) we aren't agreeing to do it their way. Nor are b) all signatories agreeing to do it in some trans-community way. Rather, c) they are agreeing that they do it the Catholic way. (I'm sure they would put it differently, though.) You might get the same practical result no matter which of these three phrases you use, but theologically the first two are fraught with danger. Indeed, the very fact that this agreement no doubt allows the other communities to describe it in one of the first two ways will further validate them and their existence independent of Rome in their own eyes. ("See? The Catholics agree we're a legitimate church even though we think their pope is the antichrist! It's taken 500 years, but we knew they'd see it our way some day! Maybe thy won't all go to hell after all!") The remedy, of course, would be to include explicit language in the document to the effect that all parties agree to do it the Catholic way, and to exclude language to the effect that Catholics are agreeing to do it the Protestant way, but I'm sure that there's no such language, and I'm equally sure that if there was, the Protestants wouldn't sign. (Better yet, we could put in language that says "We'll treat your baptisms the same way the Council of Arles treated the baptisms of other heretics.," but I'm sure that would go over like a lead ballon.)

Pater Ignotus said...

Andy - "I cannot know what the intentions of the person next to me are." Since when? You sure claimed to know my intentions when I used the word "actor" in the context of the liturgy.

Something which has always existed can have been overlooked or, under the guise of triumphalism, ignored. The formal agreement has no effect on that which has existed, but on how the truth is perceived. The truth here is that the validity of Baptism depends not on the minister or the denomination, but on God's grace.

The agreement Good Father McDonald references does not "give a false sense of legitimacy" to anything since the Baptism is already legitimate.

Good Father - We have the Ecumenical Directory which I have already referenced regarding the validity of Baptisms in other denominations.

Pater Ignotus said...

Anon 5 - No we are not agreeing to to it their way. No, we are not agreeing they are a legitimate church, but that Baptisms celebrated with water and the invocation of the Trinity are valid regardless who performs them.

Andy Milam said...

Anon 5;

You bring up great points. I would like to see much more clarity.

I also think, as you do that there is a great danger as well with the fine line walked regarding "ecumenism," as defined in the post-conciliar age.

I suspect though that this is all a bunch of nothing, because in the end, unless the forumula is compromised the sacramentality is unchanged.

Anonymous 5 said...

PI,

You're objectively wrong here. Mormon Baptisms, for instance, are (to use your words) "celebrated with water and the invocation of the Trinity," and yet the Church has held them to be invalid. Thus we can't be agreeing to that in this document, now, can we?

Further, you state "No we are not agreeing to to it their way. No, we are not agreeing they are a legitimate church . . . ." The only way you can state that definitively is if you've read the document. If you have, could you pleas give me a link to it? I'd very much like to read it myself. Thanks.

Anonymous 5 said...

Andy,

You write "I suspect though that this is all a bunch of nothing, because in the end, unless the forumula is compromised the sacramentality is unchanged." That's what I try to address in my point #2. In legal terms (plug your ears, PI!) I'm asking if this document creates a presumption that anyone who has been baptized in the other signatories' denominations has (by fiat) been baptized in the proper form, and if so, whether that presumption is rebuttable by showing that in some cases an improper form had actually been used.

By way of example: I cannot legally drive 100 miles an hour on the interstate. But actually I can. If this document says that all of the baptisms of these other groups are hereby presumed to be valid, but I have evidence that mine was nevertheless performed with beer, which controls? My statement, or this agreement?

And if this document doesn't create such a presumption, then--as you say in your first post--what's the point of it, since we can hold them valid on a case-by-case basis anyway? If all it says is that baptisms performed according to the proper form by these other groups are valid, that's already what we say, so there's no point in saying it again.

The more I think about it, the more I think that the best we can hope for is that the agreement is empty verbiage that changes nothing and lets us continue to make sure on a case-by-case basis that baptisms performed by non-Catholics are valid.

Andy Milam said...

"If this document says that all of the baptisms of these other groups are hereby presumed to be valid, but I have evidence that mine was nevertheless performed with beer, which controls? My statement, or this agreement?"

[...]

And if this document doesn't create such a presumption, then--as you say in your first post--what's the point of it, since we can hold them valid on a case-by-case basis anyway? If all it says is that baptisms performed according to the proper form by these other groups are valid, that's already what we say, so there's no point in saying it again.

The more I think about it, the more I think that the best we can hope for is that the agreement is empty verbiage that changes nothing and lets us continue to make sure on a case-by-case basis that baptisms performed by non-Catholics are valid.

That is a GREAT question. And I think that we are in agreement. I think that even with this "agreement," the best practice will still be to individually check and balance.

Pater Ignotus said...

Anon 5 - The document doesn't include Mormons, now does it? "Representatives of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Christian Reformed Church in North America, Reformed Church in America and United Church of Christ will sign the document."



Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Your comment, PI, did not have a caveat, you wrote, and of course wrongly, which I presume you now repent of, that, " but that Baptisms celebrated with water and the invocation of the Trinity are valid regardless who performs them."

Anonymous 5 said...

Pater: Your reply is nonresponsive.

I never said the document included Mormons. You stated that the agreement in question cannot say "X," giving as your reason ("Y") that "Baptisms celebrated with water and the invocation of the Trinity are valid regardless who performs them." I answered that your statement of the agreement's contents (namely that it doesn't say "x") is wrong because your stated reason of "Y"--namely, your definition of baptism--is wrong. To show that your definition is wrong, I cited the invalidity of Mornmon baptisms. If not "Y," then not "X." Ergo, the statement may very well say "X." The fact that the Mormons aren't signatories has nothing to do with this analysis.

If you had instead stated that "Baptisms celebrated with water and the invocation of the Trinity are valid regardless of which signatory performs them," that would have been a different discussion, and the validity of Mormon baptisms would indeed have been irrelevant. But To that statement I would still say that, until we read the document in question, we don't know whether it says that or not, and so I would thus still have to say that you were wrong, or at least not necessarily right.

I'm sorry if my logic escaped you.

Pater Ignotus said...

I am speaking to the document Good Father McDonald posted.

Anonymous 5 said...

Pater: So am I.

Pater Ignotus said...

Anon5 - No, you were speaking of what I said in my post, assuming I was speaking globally. I was not. My comments, plainly, were in the context of what Good Father McDonald posted.

Mormon Baptism - not mentioned in the article posted - is not valid. So I am not, by what I posted, even thinking of Mormon Baptism.

Anonymous 5 said...

PI: With respect, please don't tell me what I was speaking about. I know what I was speaking about. Obviously you either can't or don't wish to follow my explanation, so I see no point in beating this horse any further.

Pater Ignotus said...

Anon5 - I can understand only what you write. If you don't want to continue the conversation, that's fine with me.

Marc said...

Anonymous 5,

Perhaps you now better understand my position vis-a-vis our discussion at breakfast on Sunday?

Andy Milam said...

Don't worry Anon 5, you were clear in your posting. It is almost universally accepted that when one attaches the modifier phrase, "for instance," that the example may not necessarily apply to the topic directly, but simply speaks to an example which can apply to the circumstances in the original discussion.

And people think that that using the vernacaular in the liturgy makes it easier to understand. -smh- Whatever.....Perhaps if we rephrase your statement regarding the Mormon's this way, it will be better understood:

Mormon baptismata, sicut sunt (ut tuo verbo utar) "aqua invocatione Trinitatis celebratur," et Ecclesia ea irrita habeatur. Neque hoc ita scriptum pacti modo potest?

That makes it much easier to see. As it is, most readers would come to understand that your example of Mormon baptism doesn't have to be explicitly included to be a valid expression of an example.

If that were the case, then this whole conversation would be moot, because it is predicated on the Methodists who are not part of this agreement. Go figure.

Sadly, Anon 5, there are some people in this world who just don't get it. Don't worry though, those of us who can actually comprehend the English language understand your point.