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.
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.