April 12, 2011

Fortescue's Crypto-Catholics

As reading for relaxation (yes, I'm odd) I've been making my slow way through The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described.

I'm up to the 'reception of converts.' It's an interesting section to me personally, because Fortescue's description of how to receive unbaptized converts sounds a lot like what I went through in my own case, the parish near college not having heard (apparently) of the restored catechumenate through the RCIA. Amusingly, he only recognizes three species of the unbaptized adult: the Jew, the Muslim, and the Unitarian.

It's the section on receiving previously baptized converts, however, that is really interesting:

The case of a convert already baptised differs entirely in principle. He has once been a Catholic. He became so when he was baptised, no matter who baptised him or where. But since then he may have incurred excommunication for frequenting the conventicle of an heretical sect. All that is needed then, in principle, is that he now be absolved from that excommunication. (433)

Now I'm not sure this sense of things stands up to a more current magisterial ecclesiology, but the theological assumptions in it beg some other questions.

For example, it's not uncommon to meet someone who was baptized as an infant by a priest or deacon, but who was never brought back to church again, and not raised as a Catholic. Such persons may not even know that they are Catholic, or might self-describe as without religious affiliation, but the Church considers them Catholic Christians nonetheless.

So what about those in the same situation who were baptized in non-Catholic ceremonies? Such a person might think that he was 'baptized Lutheran' or what have you, but since he was never taken to church again and thereby made excommunicate, in fact he is a Catholic in fairly good standing.

Therefore, on Fortescue's logic, if you were baptized as an infant in a protestant ceremony, but never went to church after that, you are in fact a Catholic. So, for your weekend planning, confessions are usually on Saturday.


sam said...

I like it.

In fact, that description (anyone baptized is already Catholic) probably makes it easier to discern differences among those "converts" coming to the Catholic Church. It is odd to apply the same exact preparation to a person not baptized, a person baptized as an infant but never catechized, a person active in, say, a Presbyterian church, and a person coming from this or that Anglican tradition.

Anonymous said...

Funny that you should post this. My husband's cousin was baptized as an infant and never taken to church afterwards. She found herself in church one day after my daughter requested she wanted to see her nana who was attending a service at the time. She was visibly uncomfortable being there which aroused my curiosity. Then she accidentally let slip the word "damn" and was convinced that a thunderbolt from heaven would come down upon her for cursing in church. When I inquired further about her religious upbringing, I discovered she believes herself to be "saved" due to her baptism. I told her it's a little more complicated than that, but I'm not sure I'm qualified to indoctrinate her. I'm not yet certain she desires to be indoctrinated.

Brother Charles said...

I aspire to being indoctrinated!

Ad Abolendam said...

I love the description "conventicle of an heretical sect". It sounds so nefarious.

Brother Charles said...

I know! That's my favorite part. It conjures up great images.

ben in denver said...

When I was recieved into the Church again conditionally three years ago because a conversation with my mother shed considerable doubt on the validity of my non-catholic baptism, the priest who performed the condtional baptism also absolved any excommunication, in case it was necessary.

I have to say that I think it is a good idea. In the days before I was catholic I certainly gave full consent of the will to my separation from Peter.

timh said...

... which all seems to beg the question about a grandmother baptizing an infant because it seems the parents have no plans to ever come back to the Church - but then again I'm always asking that question - certainly no member of the "current magisterial ecclesiology" would baptize him ...