Baptisms recalled due to change of pronoun

In his baptisms Fr. Arango used “we” instead of “I” because he (I assume) understood that it is through the request and the faith of the parents that the baptism is taking place, not through his personal assumption of authority and power. He can’t baptise on his authority alone even if the church says he is in the role of Jesus. Jesus didn’t force people to accept him. So “we” not “I” is good Christian theology in my opinion.

In Catholic tradition any baptized Catholic can baptize someone in extraordinary circumstances – ex. potential death and no priest available, like a miscarriage/ live birth. As a chaplain I was called upon to perform baptisms. My mother, and many like her, baptized her premature babies before the doctor arrived. In an emergency there is no formal rite except pouring water over the child’s head and reciting the words of baptism “in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” There is no assumption of the one baptizing being “in persona Christi” as there is in Catholic theology of priesthood. So the use of “I” would be inappropriate by a mother except to identify herself as a person of faith in the absence of any other family or faith community members. In a church baptism there are parents and family present along with the priest or deacon, hence “we.”

So there are nuances already in the performance of the sacrament. It is the faith of the parents that acts as the spiritual conduit/context through which the child is welcomed into the church. The child cannot ask for baptism but the parents do on the child’s behalf and the Church accepts that request on the basis of the faith of the parents and the pledged support of the faith family and community to which they belong. So, I believe the use of “We” is not only appropriate but good theology.

As a Catholic educator I had been saddened by the continuing return to Tridentine theology and liturgy. I had been drawn to religious education by Vatican II and it’s emphasis on the shared priesthood of the people and its de-emphasis on hierarchy. Rev. Arango sounds like a good, Vatican II type of priest. And his words represent the forward thinking that Vatican II Catholics were pursuing. Sadly, that movement is no more – at least among the clergy, who now are returning to Latin and cassocks and incense more and more, despite a more forward looking pope.

Isn’t it time, given the last 50 years, that Catholics once again resolve not to give over control of their relationship with God to priests and bishops. The Catholic Church is not the Kingdom/Empire of God; the pope is not an emperor, priests and bishops are Servants of the People of God not “Christ” among us. Hardly! The faith of those present welcomes our child into the church community not a particular pronoun, not a clerical costume.


About Mona

I am a wife, mother, and author. I taught high school for 27 years and I was a hospital and hospice chaplain until my health required that I retire. I miss my hospital coworkers and cannot imagine how terrible this year and last year have been. I want to be there for them in at least this small way.
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