In an article in the Irish Times, former Irish President Mary McAleesh offered a rather shocking opinion, stating that by baptizing babies, the Catholic Church is creating “infant conscripts who are held to lifelong obligations of obedience.”
Ms. McAleesh argues that baptizing children “worked for many centuries because people didn’t understand that they had the right to say no, the right to walk away.” Since she holds a licentiate in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University and should know well the sacramental order of the Church, her comments are all the more controversial.
Baptizing a child at birth does not “conscript” a child into a “lifelong obligation to obedience.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Holy Baptism is the… door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission.” Ms. McAleesh’s concept of the sacrament of Baptism discounts faith and the concept of grace. Her comments betray a petulancy and a confusion between the natural order and the supernatural order.
The former Irish President is emblematic of the state of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland. On May 25, abortion was legalized in the Republic of Ireland. Vocations to the priesthood are scarce. Only St. Patrick’s College in Maynooth remains as the sole seminary in Ireland. The Church in the Emerald Isle is truly suffering the effects of secularization.