Monday, 18 May 2009

It seems that some are now campaigning to renounce their baptism by de-baptising (sic) themselves. The National Secular Society provides (at a fee) a certificate announcing that one has undone baptism. Somone insisted that he was forcibly baptised by his parents, and another has explained that baptism is a form of child abuse. Well once you’re baptised, you can’t be un-baptised.Baptism gives a “character”; it marks the person in a spiritually indelible manner. Baptism unites us to the mystical body of Jesus Christ. We don’t choose to be made one with Christ. We proclaimed yesterday in the Gospel: “You did not choose me but I chose you.” Give it up they certainly can, delete it never as it was not their choice to start with. But as the wise Lector in my parish says: If nothing happens at Baptism why go through all this process? Indeed – why?

As everyone knows Notre Dame, a Catholic university in the United States, has presented an honorary degree to the most pro-abortion USA president in history. Somehow, this has eclipsed what happened in another Catholic university this time in Georgetown, the most prominent Jesuit university in the USA. In order to satisfy the demands of the White House it covered up all the religious symbols in its hall when Obama spoke there recently. Most notably, they covered the golden letters IHS which were situated directly over the lectern. These are the first three letters of the name of Jesus in Greek, which were adopted by St. Ignatius of Loyola as the emblem of his order. The White House evidently wanted a background of flags and drapery for the Obama’s policy speech and resolved that the IHS and other religious signage should be obscured.Now the question of the right relationship between religion and politics is a famously complex one, and I certainly applaud Georgetown for inviting the Mr Obama to give a policy address at its campus. What a Catholic university should never do is to surrender its own identity or to make apologies for its own deepest commitments. A Catholic centre of higher learning should never accept secularization in order to participate in the public conversation.
Understanding Jesus is the key to this controversy and to the wider question of the church and the public square. The claim of the Church is that Jesus is not one religious figure among many. Jesus is the Son of God, God from God and light from light. He is God. He is THE way, THE truth and THE life. And this is why the great universities emerged from the heart of the Church. In the thirteenth century, St. Bonaventure, wrote that Jesus is at the heart of physics, mathematics, history and metaphysics. In the mid-nineteenth century, John Henry Newman made a similar assertion. The Jesus reverenced by the great tradition belongs in the public sphere and around the table of intellectual conversation. He poses no threat to legitimate expressions of reason. A Catholic university worthy of the name is a place where Jesus has this essential regulating role.What the event at Georgetown does is that it points to something broader, the tendency of too many Christian institutions to consider Jesus something of an embarrassment. The Christ who is the embodiment of Reason itself does not hinder those who are seeking truth in any form. As orthodox Anglo-Catholics we reflect on this and we feel sorry for those moments when we felt embarrassed to proclaim our Faith and inheritance, we look at the risen Lord and once more we promise: “No desertion; no surrender”, we shall work hard to make him loved and known even b y those who want to take him out of their lives by signing a piece of paper. I wonder how his love which was not stopped by a heavy stone and a cruel death, I wonder how it can be stopped by a piece of signed paper.

1 comment:

The Archer of the Forest said...

I don't understand that frame of mind where one thinks one has to be de-baptized. I mean, if you have totally lost your faith and think religion is junk, what does it matter if you were baptized? If you think its just religious nonsense, then it has not purpose and meaning. What's the point of undoing something that has no purpose and meaning?

Obviously if you so want it undone, then it must still have some power over you. Why else would you care?