Friday, January 6, 2012

Just as disheartening as ever

The other day, my friend Larry D. who blogs at Acts of the Apostasy, wrote about a very unusual situation: a woman married to a permanent deacon in the diocese of Detroit used her dying husband's hand as the "container" for the holy water which she poured on her grandson's head as she said the words of baptism.

Larry was, understandably, shocked and upset by this.

But, as Dr. Edward Peters assures us all, there is nothing to worry about here, except Larry's intemperate language and lack of charity toward an unfortunate widow. Oh, sure, the baptism was illicit, but it was valid (if it took place as described). The publication of the story in the diocesan seminary's magazine, and the further placement of that story online on the diocesan seminary's website, does not in any way mean that the Archdiocese of Detroit is in the habit of condoning and celebrating illicit baptisms. In fact, as Dr. Peters lectures us:

1. Christ made sacraments powerful things, and baptism, in light of its ability to be conferred by virtually anyone, is perhaps the most powerful of all. But when Christ instituted Baptism, He surely knew it would be misadministered countless times. Such misuses should spur correction, not insult.

2. This baptism was not the last act of an AOD deacon (it was the act of a woman watching her husband die), and so the episode reveals absolutely nothing about the quality of the education that the deacon received at Sacred Heart Major Seminary nor about the sacramental policy of the Archdiocese of Detroit. Claims to the contrary are recklessly false.

3. The larger the organization or group, the more members there will be who can do something (wittingly or otherwise) to embarrass that community. That’s always been true, of course, but our electronic information age gives instant prominence to the bizarre, casting it as representative of the whole, when it is no such thing. It’s time people start remembering that.

4. The internet has one huge advantage over print media: the internet reaches people instantly, while print requires time. The Mosaic editorial statement that, as a matter of fact, will address the grandma baptism story won’t appear for two more months; in the meantime, this sad episode will be used by some as another stick with which to beat a local Church.

What else can I say? Personally, I support using the internet more forcefully to defend the Church against her cyberspace detractors. Not that every misrepresentation can be corrected or every thrust parried, of course—there are far too many to deal with—but at least some sort of qualified, reasonable, fact-based response should, I think, be made to such attacks when circumstances allow.

With that, we can all breathe a huge sigh of relief, and go back to worrying about much graver matters, like the matter of whether or not every single married Catholic deacon and married Catholic priest (especially given the new Anglican ordinariate) is required, ought to be required, should be required, or must be required to observe canon law by refusing henceforth to pay the marriage debt to his wife.

Priorities, people.

I should note that Larry is being the good guy, here; he removed the language that offended Dr. Peters (though I don't find the abbreviation for the phrase "Whither the Ferret-badger?" all that offensive, myself) and has apologized for jumping to the non-expert conclusion that a) this baptism was a bit shady and b) the fact that an account of it appeared in a print magazine published by the diocesan seminary implied that the diocese didn't really have a problem with it. Larry is a better person than I am; I can only suppose that since this story was not originally flung out into that lawless, Wild West atmosphere that is the Internet but instead appeared in one of those slowly-produced and (ordinarily) carefully edited expert-type publications, the only charitable conclusion to be reached is that the magazine's editor or editors had a really, really bad day when they previewed that selection prior to inserting it into their publication, and totally missed the bit about the illicit baptism. Just skimming, you know, the way editors do.

I am not so good. In fact, I'm a bit tired of this sort of thing. I started getting tired of it when I brought to a long-ago pastor's attention the little matter of a visiting priest ad-libbing his way so much through the consecration that it was hard to tell if a valid consecration had occurred, and received a reply in which, while my concerns were held to be just, my lack of the proper spirit of thankfulness and gratitude for this visiting priest's ministry and generosity in saying Mass at our parish were heartily deplored. I continued being tired of it when that same pastor refused to listen to the choir's valid and legitimate concerns about a new choir director; that time, I just left the parish to go elsewhere, because I knew that we were just disposable lay volunteers in that pastor's eyes. I've continued to be tired of it when I've read of scandals and horror stories, of lay people treated like dirt for raising honest and just questions about parish life, sacramental preparation, and other important issues. I've been tired of it when I've seen the faith of good people destroyed by the shrugging lack of concern and near-violent apathy emanating from the penumbras and porticos of chancery buildings all across this country of ours; and now I'm rather tired of hearing someone like Larry, who clearly loves his Church, tarred with the "cyberspace detractors of the Church" brush merely for pointing out what should be glaringly, blindingly obvious: that forty plus years of horrible catechesis and liturgical dysfunction and clerical scandals have created a situation in which it's simply, sadly, not all that surprising to turn the pages of some official American Catholic publication and read a positive account of an illicitly administered baptism.

Not all that surprising. But just as disheartening as ever.


LarryD said...

Thanks Erin.

freddy said...

Yes, thank you, Erin.

I generally find Dr. Peters both clear and interesting in his explanations of Canon Law. His opinions in this matter leave me scratching my head.

Regarding his point-by-points:

1. I can't really speak to this, not having been able to read LarryD's original post on the matter.

2. My father-in-law was a permanent deacon. His wife, my mother-in-law, went to each of the classes with him and was his "study-buddy" so to speak. All of the other wives in the class did the same, so perhaps, if this is a common thing, this does reveal something about the quality of education at the seminary. At the least it is in no way "reckless" to raise the question.

3. Not germane. Especially if the organization itself published an article upholding the event as "look how cool we are" rather than, "don't do this, but do have compassion on us for doing it."

4. Apparently not even true, as the "event" first appeared in a print magazine. Not relevant, either; most parishes, schools and dioceses have web sites and news sites. This is, after all, the twenty-first century!

Yes, some in the Church want to go around with the Big Chip on their shoulders, and sniff out every little deviation from every little rule. But you know, more often it's just ordinary Catholics who have put up with *everything* for so long who just want their right to have the sacraments properly celebrated respected.
Dr Peters: LarryD is one of the good guys.

Ed Peters said...

Hmm. The thing about sarcasm is, most of what is actually said, is true, it’s just said meanly.

If I state (and I do) that the Sanders baptism does not, at all, reflect what we teach at SHMS, and that the paragraph in the widow’s story did just get by an editor who doesn’t have a lib-agenda bone in his body, and that I.T. simply and routinely posts excerpts of Mosaic on-line (the post is gone now, btw), you can quote it all back quite sarcastically, without ever acknowledging that what I said might actually true, and indeed, implying quite the opposite.

Now, you don’t even know me, so why treat my words that way?

I read your profile (e.g., conservative not Republican, homeschooler, can’t glue popsicle sticks together to form a cross, write personal fiction, etc.) and I thought, wow, that’s me. So why is she so distrustful of what I say? Just because I work for the Church? I’m sorry you’ve had rotten experiences at Mass, and that some priest didn’t care when you complained, and that you changed parishes, etc., but sister, so have I, many, many times, and to judge from your profile picture, I went through it all well before you did, and when things were considerably worse than today.

But, for all that, I still don’t dismiss the words of anyone who works for the Church, especially when he speaks for himself, as deception-till-proven-otherwise. And even if I had my doubts about this claim or that, I’d not publicly impugn personal veracity or accuracy until I had some evidence. And you don’t have. Not for me, anyway.

LarryD, whom I do not know, amended his post in several respects after reading mine, something you don’t seem happy about. Why not? Do you think he should have stuck to his guns, and refused the possibility that my take on events was more accurate than his? Who seems, in the end, more open to the evidence, then, you or him?

As for any other topics on which I write, they are posted for public use, and stand or fall on their own merits. If you’d care to study and discuss the operation of, say, c. 277, I’m more than happy to assist. Till then, I think, you risk embarrassing yourself by mocking matters of which you have little understanding.

LarryD said...

Just so you and your readers know, the seminary has removed the on-line article - not because of my piece. At least not directly, but because Dr Peters contacted the editors and they took it down.

Anonymous said...

As I was delivered of my second son, his birth was breech and the nurse noted aloud his blueness. Needless to say, I baptized my son myself in the name of our Father, His Son, and the Holy Spirit. Sure, the newborn was without sin at this point, but his next place was the neonatal intensive care unit, and not with me, and I wasn't about to take chances in case I didn't remember the rules correctly.


Siarlys Jenkins said...

Not being a member of the Roman Catholic Church, I'm not really entitled to an opinion on this. It is an internal church matter, which either the laity, exercising their right to freedom of religion, or the hierarchy, as the de jure decision makers in Roman canon, must sort out for themselves.

But, mindful, that every sincere Roman Catholic understands their church to be THE ordinary means of salvation, and considers it their duty, for the benefit of my soul, to bring me to surrender myself to that church, understanding also that formally the RC church considers the nearest parish priest responsible for me, not only for those who belong to his flock...

...I might note that this sort of controversy does not motivate me to consider seeking membership any time soon. The fact that people of good will, on BOTH sides, fight at such length over what, in my thinking, is a mere form or ritual, discourages me a good deal.

E.g., if it is forbidden by God for a priest to marry, then how dare the church opportunistically allow married priests to join the church and retain their priesthood? (Anglican, whatever eastern rite Priest's Wife belongs to, etc.) If it is good for Anglicans, why is it NEVER NEVER NEVER good for born and raised Catholics? Is it possible that celibacy has its place and purpose, but not universally?

There are Protestant sects equally capable of slicing and dicing how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. But to me, the value of the Protestant Reformation was to free us from worshipping ritualistic forms AS the substance of what God is doing, or even may do, in a given situation.

A friend of mine from Ethiopia described a lengthy presentation from a minister who had convinced himself that anyone baptized without full immersion is irretrievably damned. Another person present, who had served as a missionary in the sub-Saharan region, pointed out that in some regions, there isn't enough water to do immersion, sprinkling is all that is available. The speaker insisted "all the people you baptized are damned." I'm sure you would agree that he is wrong.

Does any of this really add up to anything on a cosmic or divine scale?

(Note: No sarcasm intended, anywhere in the above. I know you sincerely mean what you said.)

Red Cardigan said...

Dr. Peters, I wrote what I did because you went, "canons" blazing, after a friend of mine (who also doesn't have a lib bone in his body) simply because he asked a legitimate (if unfortunately phrased) question about why in heaven's name a seminary publication--a *seminary* publication, mind--would post such a dubious anecdote about a dodgy baptism without even appearing to notice.

While eyespecks and eyeplanks went bobbing recklessly about, the situation seemed to me to be one in which trust, respect, and fraternal charity were demanded on behalf of those working for the Church despite the truly head-scratching nature of this incident, while at the same time no trust, no respect, and certainly no fraternal charity was meted out to Larry, who was chastised for harsh language, engaging in schadenfreude, and being a cyberspace detractor of the Church herself; only one of these things was even true, and Larry immediately set a good example by apologizing for it.

Ed Peters said...

Forgive me if I come across as paternalistic. I don’t intend that.

In traffic court, your reply would amount to “Guilty, but with an excuse.” You seem to concede that my description of your writing was accurate, but you defend it because you were angry (at me, at the situation, at how you’ve been treated by ecclesiastical bureaucrats in past, whatever). All of which is irrelevant to how you replied to MY arguments. You still insist on interpreting events in their worst light, a la, the Mosaic editors gleefully posted on the seminary website a story about a bizarre baptism as a poke in the eye to all that is good and true and beautiful in the Church. The possibility that certain parts of an alumni magazine might routinely migrate to a school website without ANY editorial intervention (as happens everywhere) does not occur to you, and once it’s there, school bureaucracies, over Christmas break no less, need time to fix such glitches. I was on top of this matter the day after Mosaic came out (in early December) and even I never saw the website re-post of it till late this week! What makes you think any powers that be were more aware of it than I was?

Anyway, when the wider/back story was explained to him, LarryD backed off his original interpretation of events; you seem unwilling to admit any misjudgment on your part, and acknowledge only being angry that your friend was attacked, and that justified your … etc.

I don’t reply here so much to bring to you to change your attitude (though I frankly think it would be right for you to do so), and I won’t keep posting lest I come across as me defending me (rather than me defending some important principles of debate), but I do write instruct those as might interested that expressing naked distrust of others’ words just because they work for ecclesiastical institutions is pretty outdated.

Red Cardigan said...

Dr. Peters, where do you see me attempting to interpret events in their worst light? The events were as follows: a woman used the hand of her dying husband, a deacon, to baptize their grandchild--this, after first placing a deacon's stole etc. on her husband and calling the baptism "his" last act. Those are the facts of the incident.

Further, there is the fact that the seminary publication went out with that story intact. I have had a tiny bit of experience with having my writing published, and all I can say is that if it is routine procedure for a seminary magazine to publish articles without first reading them at all, as I must charitably assume happened here, then the secular publishing world is extremely different (and I should really try to land a gig at a Catholic publication to avoid any editing hassles and requests for re-writes).

Now, I don't think that "...the Mosaic editors gleefully posted on the seminary website a story about a bizarre baptism as a poke in the eye to all that is good and true and beautiful in the Church..." In fact, I don't think anybody has said anything like that in the course of this conversation. What I think is that this is another illustration of the tone-deaf nature of a lot of what is going on in the Church here in America. It simply doesn't appear to have occurred to anybody at the Mosaic to be concerned about this until you, Dr. Peters, informed them that it was a bit of a problem--and then, there is the cheerful assumption that publishing an "Oopsie!" two months later should be enough to quiet any concern.

In all honesty, Dr. Peters, I've seen some of the more rabid Rad-Trad sites (the ones who seem to think that Vatican II was either invalid or illicit or both) and they would absolutely have pounced on this story as proof of the laxity with which things are done in the "Novus Ordo church," as they like to put it. It concerns me, frankly, then, first that such a lack of oversight in a diocesan publication could have permitted such a lapse in terms of the printing of this story, but it concerns me further to think that the response is, "Oh, we know that's a problem, and we're sorry we let the story go through as is, but let's remember that the greater sin is to raise any questions about this sort of thing because that's uncharitable."

In 1972, that attitude would have been unfortunate; in 1992, that attitude would have been potentially dangerous to the faithful; in 2012, it's just another tile in the sort of mosaic we're all too used to.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Anonymous has a relevant point... is it possible that the woman simply had a legitimate concern for the immortal soul of her grandchild, and did the best she could when time was of the essence?

I must admit, I can't follow Ed Peters's critique of Erin, or relate it to the words she herself offered. But I'm not surprised he felt he had to offer a response. Are the facts really such an abomination at all? Was there some Christian charity lacking in the broadside attack about the article?

Again, I'm not writing as a Catholic, but at this point, I'm trying to find what is the sense of the discussion? (I infer that Anonymous IS a Catholic).

Red Cardigan said...

To put it another way: if the alumni magazine of my Catholic school came out with a story like that one, I strongly believe that concerned and outraged alumni would be calling the editor, a letter of apology would probably go out from the highest level right away, the website would carry an immediate retraction/correction, and the next issue of the magazine would not only further the apology but would talk about whatever improved editorial practices had been implemented in the meantime to make sure something potentially scandalizing to the faithful didn't show up like that again in a context which implied the school's approval. And I went to Franciscan University of Steubenville--this is a seminary's alumni magazine, for goodness sake!

Barbara C. said...

Siarlys, first I should point in light of your earlier post that priestly celibacy is a discipline, not a doctrine. It can and has been amended in the history of the Church in light of current Church needs. In fact, the Eastern rite of the Church married priests are still allowed. Especially since sometimes entire congregations of Anglicans have been joining the Catholic Church at a time it makes sense in the needs of the Church to allow already ordained married Anglican priests to remain both married and priests. But even most married priests support priestly celibacy after dealing with the hardships of being divided between "two families".

Secondly, it's obvious that the deacon was dying, not the grandchild. Unless there is an immediate concern for death, most babies aren't baptized until at least a week after birth. And even if a baby has an "emergency baptized" it is advised to have a follow-up presentation in the Church in order to make sure all protocols are followed.

It seems more like the deacon's wife just wanted her husband involved in the child's baptism even if it meant doing so illicitly. By presenting the information in the article without making it clear that this is NOT how things should be done it seemed to condone this behavior, misrepresenting the sacrament of Baptism and the authority of the Church. Just because something is poignant does not mean that it is right.

I think this was Larry's and Erin's concern. There is so much misinformation and miseducation inside and outside the Catholic Church, and it is more disheartening when a Catholic authority who should know better (a priest, seminary) approves (tacitly or overtly) illicit and sometimes immoral acts.

Red Cardigan said...

Barbara, I truly appreciate how well you said this. That's exactly what the concern was, all along, and I'm still mystified that some can't seem to grasp that concern at all.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

I took a long look at the comments at Larry's post. I think Susan Peterson commented very sensibly:

"I agree that she should not have done this, that it was wrong for her to baptise when the baby was not in danger, and so on. Someone should, very gently, considering her grieving state, tell her that this really was not proper. But I don’t think too much harm has been done."

The harm, I infer, is that this "alumni news" comment was published by a magazine that should have added a footnote saying "We are sorry to report that in his last moments, a Catholic deacon's hands were used to perform a baptism that is highly irregular..." or something like that. Maybe so.

As I said, I have no position to say that the wife/grandmother should or should not have done this. But another question arises in my Protestant mind.

Do you folks REALLY think that God would damn an infant's soul because his grandmother took the actions described in the article? Even if he was never baptized again? Do you really believe babies are burning eternally in hell because no adult ever baptized them? Or even sequestered in Dante's circle of hell for virtuous pagans and unbaptized infants, barred forever from the presence of God?

I don't think you do. I can almost formulate the response, part outrage, part reassurance that what the church teaches is not so rigid. But, the way people state that the baby remains stained with sin, what about his immortal soul... raises this line of questions.

Most of the baptisms I have witnessed include the reminder 'This baby isn't consenting to anything, they don't even know what is going on, but you adults who present the baby are committing to raise him in the knowledge of Our Lord Jesus Christ... which is where the responsibility memorialized by this ritual actually lies.

freddy said...

So, what I'm getting here is that blogger LarryD noticed something in CatholicLand that filled him with dismay, and blogged about it, perhaps somewhat intemperately.

Dr. Peters, Canon Lawyer, informed blogger Larry that A) It's not entirely what you think it is, and B) I don't think I like your tone, young man.

LarryD amended his post and language.

Dr. Peters informed his readers of the issue, noting that he really doesn't think he likes young Larry's tone.

Blogger Erin Manning notes that in spite of Dr. Peters, Canon Lawyer's technical expertise and solid Catholicism she doesn't really like Dr. Peters' tone regarding the discussed issue.

Dr. Peters, Canon Lawyer condescends to explain to blogger Erin Manning here that A) he doesn't think he likes her tone, and B) he's pretty sure he doesn't like her tone.

Or is that not a fair summary?

Red Cardigan said...

The following is a comment written by Dr. Peters, who has been having trouble posting it here for some reason (I can only guess at the mysteries of Blogger; I can't, alas, resolve them). So I'm attempting to post it for him; I have broken it into two sections in case the length is the problem. Here it is:

This seems worth pursuing yet, and like others, I find that writing about an idea frees me of it, while thinking about it is a circle of repetitions.

1. If someone blogs about their feelings, there’s little others need say. It’s one’s heart, after all. But when one advocates for a point of view—-as you advocated for the pov that the grandma baptism episode was disheartening proof that 40 years of rotten catechesis, etc, continues to flow from the ecclesiastical apparatchik—-one should advocate from the head, not the heart.

One of those rules of writing from the head is to avoid ad hominem attack. Not every criticism of a fellow human being is ad hominem attack, just as not every correction of another is condescension, nor every reply by a professional to an amateur arrogance, although in an age of misconstrued egalitarianism, such accusations are easy to make.

Anyway, you used an ad hominen against me, ridiculing, right off the bat, my work on the interpretation of Canon 277. Now, I don’t think that you really believe Canon 277 is relevant to the grandma baptism episode, so you can only be using my work on Canon 277 to imply that “Peters is goofy about X, so there’s no need to take seriously what he says about Y.” I am not wrong about that Canon 277, but even if I were wrong about that norm, how would that be relevant to my writing on something so unrelated? Yours was, in short, a classic ad hominen, the kind of thing unchecked hearts resort to, when they should be using their head.

I pointed this out to you above, but you have not withdrawn it or even acknowledged it; instead, your blanket reply boils down to, “I was defending a friend.”

2. You object to my characterizations of some of LarryD’s words, words which you dismiss as peccadilloes and in any case withdrawn. But given that they were withdrawn, why do you defend them yet, at least by trivializing them? (btw: I don’t really think that you don't actually find the abbreviation for the phrase “ wtf ” all that offensive, a point that might be made if one of your kids were to crawl those letters underneath, say, a math story problem you handed out as a homeschool assignment.) Anyway, to take one specific example, you object to my use of the phrase “cyberspace detractor” in this matter.

Okay, you tell me: first, was the vulgarity expressed toward Sacred Heart Seminary in the now deleted language a “detraction”? Second, was that detraction expressed on a website? But if so, what is wrong with my labeling that act as one of a “cyberspace detractor”? If you had argued that there are worse “cyberspace detractors” out there than LarryD, I would have readily agreed. If you had argued that it was a one-time slip by an otherwise stand-up guy, I would take your word for it (I’ve not followed AoA before this, but his prompt removal of the language speaks well for him). But neither of those observations would make my description of the original attack as being “cyberspace detraction” any less accurate than it plainly is.
(Written by Dr. Ed. Peters; Part One; continued below.)

Red Cardigan said...

(Again, this is Part two of Dr. Peters' most recent comment, which he was unable to post as noted above):

3. “Diane” over AoA has a good point about the proclivity of some people to take their complaints about the Church (sometimes, quite justifiable complaints!) to the public arena first, Diane’s point being that such tactics often hurt the very things (magazines, institutions, even the Church,) that one is supposedly trying to improve. You write that “concerned and outraged alumni would be calling the editor” about such a weird story. True, any clear-thinking Catholic reading that grandma baptism story should have been concerned about it, and would have been right to contact the editors. But did you follow your own advice? Did you express your objection to the editor, or the rector, or the bishop?, or did you instead join the public pile-on?

All I know is that I, for one (there might have been others), saw the paragraph when it came out, did a face-palm, and immediately contacted the administration, and they immediately agreed that a correction should be made. That was in the works. Meanwhile, without any more specific sem approbation, that article routinely migrated from Mosaic to the main seminary website—over Christmas break. You try tracking down academic offices and tech employees over Christmas break, as I did, and see whether it’s easy to get a web problem fixed. Anyway I was within literally a few hours of getting the piece pulled from the sem website, when folks like you saw it and touted it as further proof of your negative take on the local Church, and fed the prejudices of others by doing so. I think you were wrong to have done so.

Thank you for letting me make these points. I hope they’re instructive of some wider issues here.
(Written by Dr. Ed. Peters; Part Two; see Part One above.)

Red Cardigan said...

And now that I've successfully posted Dr. Peters' comment, I'll take just a moment to reply.

1. I admit cheerfully to being among those who don't believe that Canon 277 requires the perpetual continence of married clergy, not on my own study of the matter, but because I find the arguments of those who are qualified to address this and who disagree with Dr. Peters much more compelling than Dr. Peters' arguments. I also admit cheerfully to having dragged the matter in in a somewhat facetious way--but my point was that a man who writes seriously and gravely about how worried (canonically speaking) we should all be that married clergy may be (and, apparently, may have been for countless years) violating Canon 277 says that we really shouldn't be worried at all that a seminary magazine featured a story in which an account of an illicit baptism was presented without any negative comment. It is, if anything, the slightly patronizing, slightly insouciant attitude of "Trust us, we know what we're doing!" in the *context* of forty plus years of liturgical ruin that bothers me.

2. I really don't find the abbreviation "wtf" all that mind-bogglingly offensive. Charity compels me to suggest that my lack of offense here may simply be generational, however. Nevertheless, Larry's original "wtf" was directed at two things: the shocking baptism itself as described (and his laudable concern about its validity), and the still-incomprehensible fact that the story appeared in a seminary publication. An official publication, that is, of a diocesan seminary, a school which trains priests and deacons. To call Larry a "cyberspace detractor" of the Church--the Church, mind, not of the particular seminary nor even of simply the magazine--for pointing this out is to overstate the case so grossly as to strain charity beyond the breaking point.

Since I broke Dr. Peters' post in two parts, I'll break my reply likewise, in the hopes of avoiding confusion.

Red Cardigan said...

3. This third point truly puzzles me. There is a time and a place to take one's concerns privately to a pastor, bishop, magazine, seminary, school or other organization--but that time and place is long past when the story has already broken in the public sphere. And it was not Larry who made the Mosaic story public--it was the Mosaic itself, choosing to post the story on the seminary website! Had an SSPX site posted the story, or had a Rad-Trad site done so, or had some actual enemy of the Church who thinks all Catholic baptisms are invalid anyway picked it up, there would have been tremendous harm done. And any of these groups could easily have picked this up and run with it. The moral of the story: what is posted on the World Wide Web will be addressed on the World Wide Web. It's called fair game.

Further, I'm not attacking the local church at all; I've never lived there. What I'm attacking, if anything, is, again, the tone-deafness of letting something like this slip through in 2012 and then reacting like it's just no big deal. Was the grandma baptism a big deal? Well, whether grandma's faith formation was solid and wonderful and she was driven by grief and pain (as people sometimes are) to do something uncharacteristic, or whether grandma needs a class or two on the sacrament of baptism, is something I wouldn't even care to speculate about. The problem in this story was never grandma. The problem in this story was that nobody appears to have read it at all before publishing it in print. And again online.

As for tracking down tech employees over Christmas break--my father, husband, a brother, a brother-in-law, and others in my family are tech employees. And most of them carry pagers, and can be reached at a moment's notice over any sort of break. Granted, the secular world has different standards--and that may be the lesson here: if the diocese isn't ready for Internet prime time, maybe they shouldn't be posting anything as coming from official diocesan offices, seminaries, schools, and so forth, without having the ability to pull, edit, etc. on the fly.

Anonymous said...

Can't comment on this matter specifically (lots of details going on here) but all I know is that the admonition to be charitable on these types of matters is often a one-way street. And that is all I will say on this.

~ Ann Marie

freddy said...

Erin, I really think you might be on to something in your last replies to Dr. Peters.

I think it is entirely possible that there is, not so much a generational problem, but that there exists in certain pockets of academia, an attitude of astonishment and a certain amount of dismay that the ordinary laity have as much voice as they do.

You know, I think that Dr. Peters' reaction might have been correct if Larry had simply been present as a guest at the Baptism, and then blogged about it without checking with a local authority.

He might even have been correct if Larry had picked up a print copy of the article at the home of a seminarian-alumni. (In a limited publication, at least one should write to the editor prior to discussion in another venue.)

But that's not what happened.

The article was made public. As Erin notes, "fair game."

And in that case Dr. Peters' reaction smacks more of academic wagon-circling than honest discussion.

However, with three very fine individuals hashing out this thorny problem, I'm sure charity will prevail.

Anonymous said...

Missed that one by Larry. But here's the thing. Larry often (often) searches for stories like that so he can jump on his making fun of fellow Catholics bandwagon. Does he showcase some interesting stories? Yes. Does he many times make good points about what's wrong with this picture? Of course. But overall, the spirit of his blog in the last couple of years has increasingly been uncharitable and seeks to demean fellow Catholics just for jest. So I'm glad Peters took him to task for the language because it's proof that he needs to tone it down once in awhile, sort of pick his battles and decide what's truly funny and what's truly bullying.

Red Cardigan said...

To the anonymous person who submitted a comment recently: please add a nickname so I can publish your comment. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Little Miss Muffet

Red Cardigan said...

Thanks! If anyone wants to reply to the comment time-stamped 3:28, you know whom to address. :)

eulogos said...


I think this should have been left where it was. Jeff accepted Dr. Peters politely expressed fraternal correction with humility, and this was truly edifying. I am sure it was difficult to do that, and that he was wincing inside, which is why what he wrote is so edifying. Why undermine that?

I also was not offended by the "wtf" in itself. But when Dr. Peters found fault with it, I thought perhaps that I ought to cultivate a greater sensitivity to how others may hear such expressions.

I did think that Jeff was mistaken about his opinion that the baptism was not valid, and that he should not have expressed his opinion with such certainty.

I also think that considering the emotions of the widow involved, any criticism should be expressed more gently.

I do think the widow was thinking with her feelings instead of with her brain in this matter, or that she had not been well instructed about what is required for a baptism to be valid. (Since she apparently thought her unconscious husband was baptizing the child.) I also think it is odd that she sought no advice from, say, a priest, about this. But we have to assume that she meant well, and give her something of a pass in light of the circumstances.

As for the publication, I find Dr. Peters explanation for how this happened reasonable. Isn't this a freebie publication to other alumni, and wasn't this a column usually devoted to family events, like weddings, births, and so on? Can't you see how this could slip through?

I have also been in the situation of complaining about a really questionable ad libbed celebration of the eucharist, with ad libbed words of consecration, and of being put off with condescending words. Of complaining about home made eucharistic bread which was clearly full of honey, and which crumbled all over the floor so that people walked on it, so that it was probably better if it were invalid matter. I understand and share your pain at that sort of situation.

I just don't think this was really one of those situations. (Yes, I agree it shows poor catechesis, but not the wanton disregard of the faith that the above examples show.)

Susan Peterson

eulogos said...


Why do you say that having the wives go to classes with their husbands reveals something about the quality of the education? Is there any reason why the wives would be less able to handle demanding material than the husbands? (The answer is no, by the way!)

LarryD said...

Susan - I think you mean "Larry" where you wrote "Jeff".

Red - I care to address Little Miss Muffet:

Larry often (often) searches for stories like that so he can jump on his making fun of fellow Catholics bandwagon.

How do you know how often I search? You know nothing. And I don't make fun of people - I jab at what they say and believe. There's a difference, and I try very hard to stick to that. The efforts of those who seek to dilute and deform Church teaching are dangerous and divisive. Their ideas are worthy of scorn and ridicule. You may disagree, as is your right, but you don't have the right to mis-characterize my intentions.

But overall, the spirit of his blog in the last couple of years has increasingly been uncharitable and seeks to demean fellow Catholics just for jest.

See answer above. And I don't think you understand my blog, especially if you've been reading it for the past couple years.

So I'm glad Peters took him to task for the language because it's proof that he needs to tone it down once in awhile, sort of pick his battles and decide what's truly funny and what's truly bullying.

Oh, so you like it when someone gets knocked down a peg? Sounds kinda mean-spirited! How charitable is that?

That was sarcasm by the way, in case you couldn't tell.

The offending language was the first time I've slipped in that regard in a very long time - if you remember when AoftheA was on Blogger, my Cuss-o-meter was stuck on 0%.

And as to the post in questions, I "bullied" no one, and made fun of nobody. So it seems to me that your comment represents more of an axe to grind rather than offer a constructive comment germane to the current conversation. And if that's the case, why not leave such a comment at AoftheA instead of here, where there's a chance I might not see it.

If you don't like my blog, don't read it.

Charlotte said...

In our dioceses, the wives of deacons to be are required to attend classes.

freddy said...

Ahh, Susan, you misunderstand my point.

According to Erin, Dr. Peters said: "2. This baptism was not the last act of an AOD deacon (it was the act of a woman watching her husband die), and so the episode reveals absolutely nothing about the quality of the education that the deacon received at Sacred Heart Major Seminary nor about the sacramental policy of the Archdiocese of Detroit. Claims to the contrary are recklessly false."

As this woman was the wife of the deacon, and as in my experience the wives of deacons are HEAVILY involved in their husbands' studies I think it is fair, or at least not "reckless" to judge the quality of education at a seminary by the attitudes or understandings of the deacons' wives.

As I mentioned before, my mother-in-law studied by my father-in-law's side as he prepared to become a deacon, as did all the other wives in his class. My mother-in-law was well able to grasp - and interpret - all the material covered. I thereby question Dr. Peters' assertion that the wife of a deacon could in no way reflect the education her husband received. Certainly it's possible that an individual woman might have no interest or capacity for the work, but highly unlikely!

So in fact, I agree with you.

Barbara C. said...

My understanding is that not only does a wife have to consent to allow her husband to start the deaconite process, but she must commit to go through the entire program with him. (I think she earns the equivalent of an M.A. in theology when it's over.)

A friend just started the last year. I'm not sure if his wife had to have a psych evaluation, too, but I know they were subject of a home visit in which they were both interviewed. And they have started the process together.

freddy said...

Barbara, thanks for clarifying this. If this is standard practice in every diocese, then it seems to me that Dr. Peters is being rather disingenuous in trying to distance the education of the deacon from the actions of the wife.

Certainly one must have compassion for the poor woman. Certainly it is possible that at such a time education may fly right out the window. But it seems unjust to me for Dr. Peters to scold LarryD for making what appears to be a fair observation.

eulogos said...

Larry, sorry for calling you Jeff. I dont' know where I got the name Jeff from.
Freddy, I think I did misunderstand the import of your comment. As you explain it, it is a reasonable point to make. But sometimes I think people can take courses at an advanced level, and pass tests, while having missed out on underlying basics and fundamentals.

It is also quite possible that the sacramental theology taught did not focus on validity but on other aspects of the meaning of sacraments. If you are being taught things like "sacraments are particular instances of the sacramentality inherent in the whole church" you aren't being taught anything which is wrong, but you aren't learning what is required for validity of baptism either.

It is also true that what is taught is not always learned, and that some kinds of information do not stick in certain kinds of minds after the test is over. I don't think this incident by itself gives us enough information to come to conclusions about the deacon's course of study.
Susan Peterson

Siarlys Jenkins said...

I think Little Miss Muffett makes a valid point, although, being the fair-minded, well-balanced person I am, I have to sympathize with at least the form of LarryD's self-defense. It is certainly true that a sharp retort to an event or statement one considers contemptible is not, ipso facto, uncharitable, demeaning, or unfair.

Until Larry moved from Blogger to WordPress, he used to be big enough to accept some sharply worded comments from me, so I must testify that he can take it as well as dish it out (although shortly after he migrated, I haven't been able to get through any more).

But, when Larry says "You know nothing," he is not so much being rude, as being very unimpressive. Obviously Miss Muffett has read his blog over a period of time, and drawn conclusions therefrom. "By your fruits shall you know them."

And retreating into the defensive "If you don't like my blog, don't read it" borders on cowardice. If you put a blog out there, you are inviting response, from those who profoundly disagree, as well as from your fan club.

It is legitimate, as Erin has done, to set standards of decorum. But I think we should all read blogs written by people whose views we don't like. That's what the real world is like, and we sort ourselves into intellectual ghettoes in cyberspace at peril of our very souls.

LarryD said...

I was going to respond to SJ's comment, but I can't stop laughing over that last sentence.

signed ~ the big defensive coward.

Tony said...

like the matter of whether or not every single married Catholic deacon and married Catholic priest (especially given the new Anglican ordinariate) is required, ought to be required, should be required, or must be required to observe canon law by refusing henceforth to pay the marriage debt to his wife.

I have seen this post of Dr. Peters' before, and his interpretation is quite "out of the mainstream of Catholic thought" (though not necessarily incorrect). As one who (with his wife) is discerning a secondary vocation in the permanent diaconate, I am more than ready to embrace celibacy should my wife predecease me, however, I am not ready to hold her to that decision. Dr. Peters will forgive me if I ask my local Ordinary for clarification.

To the baptism subject at hand: I was taught that in extremis, anyone (including a non-believer) could baptize if water were available and the proper words were used.

However that does mean in extremis (that would mean the child has a chance of dying in the near term).

That having been said, this particular abuse bothers me much less than the lady who receives communion in the hand from an EMHC and while walking away proceeds to break it and give half to her pre-first-communion son. The baptism is a one time thing, and though illicit, a life affirming action in the face of death. Were I a deacon, I would want that my wife would do the same, and I'd take my chances with my Lord when I crossed over. :)

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Erin, I think a few pleasant assurances I tried to offer Larry may be in the spam box.

Red Cardigan said...

I'll check, Siarlys.

Red Cardigan said...

Ah, Siarlys, I'm glad you mentioned the spam folder, because I found several comments that had been dumped there, including some that had no problem at all. I freed those up.

However, your comment to Larry on this thread was held on purpose. There's no really good reason for you to "bait" Larry with that "manliest man in the Catholic blogosphere" bit--and I know you know better. :)

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Erin, you should look at Larry's own column more often. One of his most devoted fans gave him that compliment, sincerely, really meaning it, and I referred to it for that very reason. He was quite pleased to be so called. I intended no sarcasm whatsoever.

As far as I recall, he had cut down a huge swathe of very woody weeds with a hand snipper, just because his wife wanted it done. The ladies were quite impressed.

Red Cardigan said...

Okay, Siarlys, but I tend to think that what happens in other people's comment boxes should stay in other people's comment boxes. I had no way to know you weren't just being snide, after all. And I do happen to know that you and Larry don't seem to get along, so I'd prefer you two not to "mix it up" over here, so to speak.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

I don't know at all that we don't get along. He's been known to compliment me now and then. As I said, he has shown some capacity to take it and well as dish it out. And the reason I talked about him here, is that another commenter talked about him here, and he responded. And half of what I said was in his defense. Furthermore, he was amused, and said so.

I don't know, one way or the other, whether he presently has an ax to grind with me, or whether WordPress has problems similar to Blogger, only more subtle. The only reason to think we don't get along is that he hasn't told me the answer either.