“You could say I lost my faith in science and progress
You could say I lost my belief in the holy Church
You could say I lost my sense of direction
You could say all of this and worse, but
If I ever lose my faith in you
There’d be nothing left for me to do.” — Gordon Sumner
It was one of those stories that took several days to digest. If I have a job here it is to reflect on the news of the day and hopefully articulate my own thoughts coherently. Sometimes an immediate reaction is necessary and attainable. Sometimes, it isn’t. Last week it was reported that thousands of baptisms were rendered null and void because of a priest in Arizona using the wrong phrase.
It took awhile for me to get to this point. One of my good friends at another site I frequent wrote what could charitably be called a hit piece on the matter. He asserted that the church was trying the time old trick of showing you the shiny object over here to get you to stop looking over there. Anything is possible I suppose.
As a cradle Catholic I’m left with the unenviable decision of going down one of three roads. I can agree and essentially trash my own faith. I can disagree and defend what appears to be the indefensible. Lastly, I can do neither and simply throw out the infamous Kevin Bacon line from Animal House. “All is well. All is well” as the forces of both faith and lack of faith trample over me.
Lord knows I shouldn’t be the last word on this and I know full well that I have maybe 12 people that read this thing regularly. On most days I wish I had a wider audience. This is one of those days where I don’t. I will simply do the best I can and start from the beginning.
Sacraments in the church are sacred. One of the major differences in the church and other Christian denominations is that all of the sacraments are real events with God’s presence through the holy spirit. Each sacrament also builds on the other. Baptism is the foundation of all of the other sacraments. You get baptized. Then, you go through first communion and first reconciliation. Then, you get confirmed. Then, you either get married or you marry the church so to speak. That’s the order of things.
There is no fast pass for sacraments. You cannot skip to the front of the line and avoid certain steps. So, the cruelest part of this story is where all of those folks have to repeat everything over again. They just can’t be baptized and go home. They have to repeat the whole ball of wax. However, that ignores the 20,000 pound elephant in the room.
There’s room for common sense here. Does the holy spirit take a holiday when a priest, deacon, bishop, or even lay person replaces I with we? Where does the line on ceremonial end and the line on holy ritual begin? Furthermore, if the presider felt he was baptizing people in good faith and the participants felt they were witnessing a baptism in good faith then were they not actually witnessing a baptism?
My wife has a saying that fits this particular situation perfectly. In difficult situations, people often try to do the correct thing. Yet, there are times when the correct thing is not necessarily the right thing. It seems counterintuitive until you actually happen upon one of those moments. Voiding all of those baptisms seems like the correct thing. That is until you realize that you are also voiding first communions, confirmations, and weddings. Some of those people are long gone and can’t get a remedy even if they wanted one.
So, when does the correct thing become the wrong thing? When does the ceremony suddenly outweigh the meaning behind it. A baptism is a cleansing of original sin and a promise the parents and god parents make to raise their child in the faith. I’m not sure where the you or I comes into play there. It doesn’t impact that promise. It doesn’t change the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Maybe God can insert himself in only those places where all the words are right and everyone has jumped through the right hoops. I seriously doubt it though. I think God finds his way to you whether “We” or “I” say so.