Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Baptism, Minister and Intention

Please read also:
Bad Water, Doubtful Baptisms

Holy Office decree, under Pope Alexander VIII, Errors of the Jansenists, #28: "Baptism is valid when conferred by a minister who observes all the external rite and form of baptizing, but within his heart resolves, I do not intend what the Church does." - CONDEMNED

Some people advocate an interpretation of the above decree, whereby "intention to do what the Church does" means anything from "remitting original sin" to "incorporating the baptized into Christ's body", etc.

But can that be what "intention to do what the Church does" really means?  If one were to take this  position, he is likely going to find himself in heresy for denying the Council of Trent:

Pope Paul III, Council of Trent, Session 7, Canons on Baptism, Canon 4, ex cathedra: "If any one saith, that the baptism which is even given by heretics in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, with the intention of doing what the Church doth, is not true baptism; let him be anathema."

And the Council of Florence:

Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, Session 8, 1439, ex cathedra: "But in case of necessity not only a priest or a deacon, but even a lay man or a woman, even a pagan and a heretic, can baptize provided he or she uses the form of the church and intends to do what the church does."

Either the Council of Florence and God the Holy Ghost made something into a divinely revealed dogma that is ludicrous and preposterous (that a pagan can have a true intention to remit original sin - something he doesn't even believe in!), or there is a more reasonable way to understand "intention to do what the Church does".

For starters, the minster of any sacrament must do so in earnest:

Pope Julius III, Council of Trent, Session 14, Chapter 6, ex cathedra: "For neither would faith without penance bestow any remission of sins; nor would he be otherwise than most careless of his own salvation, who, knowing that a priest but absolved him in jest, should not care fully seek for another who would act in earnest."

Secondly, he must at least have a habitual intention:

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Tertia Pars, Q.64, Art. 8, Reply to Objection 3: "Although he who thinks of something else, has no actual intention, yet he has habitual intention, which suffices for the validity of the sacrament; for instance if, when a priest goes to baptize someone, he intends to do to him what the Church does. Wherefore if subsequently during the exercise of the act his mind be distracted by other matters, the sacrament is valid in virtue of his original intention. Nevertheless, the minister of a sacrament should take great care to have actual intention. But this is not entirely in man's power, because when a man wishes to be very intent on something, he begins unintentionally to think of other things, according to Psalm 39:18: "My heart hath forsaken me." "

It would seem that as long as baptism is administered correctly using the Catholic rite (i.e. "what the Church does"), a Catholic is to presume a right intention, and this makes perfect sense, as an intention (i.e an act of the will) is REQUIRED to effect the movement of the faculties. However malicious a minister may be, if he does externally what the Church does, then he intended to do so. Otherwise how could a minister perform that which he intends not to? If he initially intended not to do "what the Church does", but then in fact did it, the worst that can be said is that he did it with a begrudging intention, but intended to do it nonetheless.

Note also that the Holy Office decree says "a minister who observes all the external rite and form of baptizing", not "a minister who CORRECTLY AND EARNESTLY observes all the external rite and form of baptizing".

In other words, the Holy Office decree above is in harmony with the dogmatic Councils of Trent, Florence and the doctrine of St. Thomas, in that if it were to happen that the external rites and form were performed by a minister who intended not to do what the Church does, this intention would be externally manifested, either by an error in carrying out what the Church does, or by performing it such a way as to be obviously mocking it; there would be defect of form, matter or earnestness as a result of the defect of intention.

The only alternative to the reasonable position presented above is to say that no man can ever be sure of the intention of the minister, and that therefore, no man can ever be sure of whether or not he is truly baptized.  But this is not only illogical, but it is not at all consonant with the merciful God's command to be baptized, "For God commands not impossibilities" (Pope Paul III, Trent, Session 6, Decree on Justification, Chapter 9).  Nor did He intend for believers to be continually seeking conditional baptism.

Nevertheless, if you have a reasonable cause to suspect that your baptism, or especially the baptisms of children and infants before the age of reason, may have been invalid, you DEFINITELY need conditional baptism.

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Tertia Pars, Q. 82, Art. 7, Reply to Obj 2: "Baptism alone is allowed to be conferred by heretics, and schismatics, because they can lawfully baptize in case of necessity; but in no case can they lawfully consecrate the Eucharist, or confer the other sacraments."

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