Author: Maria Morrow

Revisiting Infant Baptism

Citizenship confers on a person certain rights and responsibilities. As recent news has reminded us, a person’s citizenship is not primarily a matter of personal choice, nor a rational decision made by the individual. Rather, citizenship is decided at birth, without the person’s consent. Those with U.S. citizenship are granted rights, such as voting in government elections, and obligated with duties, such as following the laws. Baptism within the Catholic Church likewise confers rights and responsibilities on the person, and these often begin when the person is an infant, again, without consent. Former Irish president Mary McAleese recently made some headlines when she was quoted in the Irish Times June 23 and June 22 asserting that baptized babies are “infant conscripts who are held to lifelong obligations of obedience.” McAleese regards this as a breach of fundamental human rights: “You can’t impose, really, obligations on people who are only two weeks old and you can’t say to them at seven or eight or 14 or 19 ‘here is what you contracted, here is what you signed up to’ because the truth is they didn’t.” No doubt, if we were to apply this perspective to citizenship, we would find many people objecting that they did not choose to be citizens of a country with high poverty levels, drug problems, inadequate infrastructure, gang violence, etc. And yet we must recognize that there are restrictions applied...

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Holiness, Penance, and Moral Theology

Despite the constancy of the faith throughout two millennia, Christianity is always being adapted to the present age, usually with some difficulty, debate, and struggle. Catholic history presents us with so many examples of this that we can hardly claim that our particular time or setting deserves the crown of being the “most unique,” despite the rise of automobiles, smartphones, computers, nuclear weapons, and the nuclear family. And yet, it is our time! One of the tasks of moral theology is to identify the needs of the present situation and to aid in the moral discernment of contemporary Christians, while trying to avoid the arrogance of presuming that there is nothing to be learned from the virtuous lives of those who practiced the faith before our time, dealing with moral struggles that were every bit as genuine as those of our own days. When we look at the current era, we find something distinct in the present articulation of the role of the laity. The now famous  Chapter V of Lumen Gentium, entitled “The Universal Call to Holiness in the Church,” emphasizes that holiness is not solely for priests and professed religious, but for every believer: “Therefore, all the faithful of Christ are invited to strive for the holiness and perfection of their own proper state. Indeed they have an obligation to so strive. Let all then have care that...

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