23 January 2023


 At first, I thought of regaling you with some heavy humour about how the English Language is subject to a curious transition whereby, after a few centuries, it will consist simply of a very tiny number of words, all of them endowed with an enormous plurality of varied and unrelated meanings. This thought was sparked by seeing a TV clip of an American Police Chief saying that his officers "entered the location and located the victims", meaning, I presume, that they entered the place and  found the victims. [He also had a word heinious which was new to me.]

But some words from Ephesians in the Mass ad tollendum Schisma brought me to my senses. 

"One Baptism".

It's just not true that, nowadays, there is "only one Baptism". 

Immensely clever people ... immensely cleverer than the Man from Tarsus or even me ... prefer formulae like " ... in the name of the creator, the redeemer, and the sanctifier." Such phrases have even had to be dealt with in the Catholic Church. My suspicion is that in the broad sunlit uplands of the Reformation Inheritance, they are very common.

As Catholic Clergy check the Baptisms of their Paschal Neophytes, I wonder how aware they are that when somebody has written on a certificate that s/he "baptised N according to the Rites of the Church of England", this is quite possibly ... and often certainly is ... a shameless lie.

It is my belief that people entering into full communion from such religious environments should be conditionally baptised. As they once were.

And what about Holy Orders? If an ordinand was not validly baptised, then his Confirmation and Ordination are not valid.

There was a time when some Catholic Bishops, after ordaining presbyteri, reordained them all sub condicione in the Sacristy ... just to be on the safe side ... 

Perhaps this wholesome instinct should be restored and extended: so that, in the Sacristy after the Ordination, the chaps would all be conditionally baptised, confirmed, and ordained.

If this would be "unecumenical", then the blame for such a sin lies with those who, despite the ecumenical agreements and assumptions of the 1960s, arrogantly took to themselves the right to render Baptism an area of sacramental uncertainty.


Zephyrinus said...

Dear Fr. Hunwicke.

Your pithy Article is consistent with the NO Mass that I recently attended. I noticed that there was not a Crucifix on The Altar.

I mentioned this to Mrs. Magillicuddy (the Sacristan, Reader, Extraordinary Minister, General Everything), but she retorted:


√Čamonn said...

The famous (and possibly apocryphal) story of Michael Cardinal Browne OP occurs to me; having celebrated a pontifical Mass in Pope's Quay, he was introduced to a lady in her dotage who remembered as a midwife that she superintended his birth, and fearful for his survival, baptised him "in the name of the Most Holy Trinity, Jesus, Mary and Joseph"! What had to be done afterward, I don't know but there was some consternation.

motuproprio said...

I thank God that I was baptised in the Church of England in 1948 before such shenanigans were fashionable.

Fr Edward said...

It was in one of Peter de Rosa's very funny 'Bless Me Father' books that the curate had sleepless nights when told by a mother of a newly baptised child, that she regularly covered her baby's head with vaseline. So, what if the water hadn't actually touched the baby's head, and he wasn't baptised after all? What then if he was ordained, and then consecrated bishop, and then elected Pope, and so all sacramental life life of the Church collapsed; no absolutions, holy communions, ordinations, consecrations...!?
Armed with a shrimp paste jar full of baptismal water, the curate visited the newly 'un-baptised' baby and his mother. Needing a distraction, he spilled hot tea into his lap, so as the mother went to find a towel, he quickly baptised the un-vaselined baby, and hid the jar.
On his return home he was now undoubtedly sure that this baby was regenerate, and the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church was saved from sure collapse. The hot and stinging wound he had received from the tea was surely worth it. Thoughts of the mother's reaction on finding an empty shrimp paste jar in the recesses of her baby's part could wait for another time.

The curate also buried a vacuum cleaner in the garden, but that is a similarly edifying story for another time.

Albertus said...

Several years ago i read about two catholic parish priests in Australia who were wont to baptise in the name of the creator, redeemer, and sanctifier. Only after 30 years of this sacrilege did the local Bishop intervene. All persons so baptised were supposedly tracked down and offered the chance of being baptised validly. In France, Paris i believe, for many years after the Council infants were not baptised, but only blest, "ad modum experimenti", with the permission of the local Ordinary and, it seems, Paul VI! Most parents believed that their infants had received some kind of post-conciluar baptism. Some of them were later invalidly confirmed, invalidly wed. These horrible aberrations are the fault of dismally failed post-conciliar liturgical practice, catechesis, homeletics, theology studies and seminary training for which Popes and Bishops shall surely have to answer for before God. Alas, nowadays, before ordination, every candidate's baptism needs to be thoroughly looked into. I was baptised in 1955 in the Church of Rome, then "Magistra et Mater": nowadays the Church of Rome's sacramental practices are only somewhat more trustworthy than those of liberal protestants.

Prayerful said...

What is and isn't valid isn't always clear for Peter Heather in his latest book 'Christendom' reprises the story of Anglo Saxon missionary St Boniface finding a Bavarian priest baptising 'in nomine Patria et filia' but the Saint was told that it was valid. Presumably the thinking was the intent, the understanding of the baptiser and baptised that the Trinity was being invoked, plus the orders of the priest trumped a confusion with endings. Otherwise a Trinity of Fatherland and the Daughter (plus presumably Holy Spirit) would be an odd heresy.

Bill Murphy said...


I guess that you are thinking of the case of Father Matthew Hood in Detroit. Long after his ordination he discovered that he had never been validly baptised. So his ordination was invalid and the resulting chaos of all the invalid sacraments he had conducted could never be undone. It is good to see that Detroit archdiocese took this aspect of Catholic teaching seriously. When I lived in Detroit the number of marriage annulments was scandalous.


Josephus Muris Saliensis said...

Dear Prayerful, it seems then that that learned and cultured People's repeated obsession with 'Patria' throughout history has an ancient pedigree!

Shaun Davies said...

It is really difficult - I have seen film of an Anglican pseudo-Baptism when it was clear that the water was poured and then afterwards the words were said. There was also a case some years ago in Drogheda when Fr Iggy O'Donovan (an Augustinian priest)did a baptism jointly with the godparents and later the matter was resolved by the bishop ordering the sacrament to be repeated absolutely (not conditionally).
It is very hard for converts to find a priest who will conditionally baptise; I tried a number of "good conservatives" unsuccessfully; when asked they all reacted as if I had suggested a Black Magic ritual.

Albertus said...

He intended to say "Filii", "of the Son": a confusion of grammatical ending does not invalidate a sacrament, because the minister's intention is to say the right word, and in such cases "Ecclesia supplet".

Banshee said...

There are a few words in most American dialects -- different words, but generally ones associated with crime or horrible death -- which have extra syllables inserted.

It doesn't seem to happen for phonetic reasons.

It may be associated with reading advanced vocabulary words in early childhood, in books which the reader suspects his parents would not want him to be reading. (Like murder mysteries.) There is a good chunk of my own vocabulary which I have never heard spoken, even in adult life.

It might also reflect a need to spin out a word, in order to fit the scansion of a dramatic sentence.

And finally, there is a sort of contagion of profession. Like pronouncing "homicide" as "home-icide", which is very common in US city police departments and not elsewhere. Somebody started it, and now it is an institutional marker of being a detective who investigates murders.

US computer people have two different pronunciations of kludge/kluge, with different etymologies and subtly different but related meanings. Only the pronunciation tells you with certainty the meaning which is being used.