Cleansing Fire

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CDWDS responds: any part of the body is sufficient for valid baptism

July 18th, 2012, Promulgated by Ben Anderson

Remember this thread discussing the validity of “butt baptisms”? Today I received a letter from Archbishop Di Noia writing as the Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

note: +Di Noia no longer serves as the Secretary for the CDW. He is now the VP of the PCED.

So, the baptisms are valid. Actually, to be absolutely clear, he doesn’t rule them to be valid, he says:

“it has been the clear opinion of theologians – an opinion never rejected by the hierarchy – … that any part of the body is sufficient for the validity of the Sacrament”.

I suppose that does leave it open for Rome to reject it in the future, but I’d guess that’s highly unlikely.

Also, it would be much appreciated if anyone is willing to transcribe the rest of text in the comments.

UPDATE: 2012-07-19 10:44:00 EST
I got this response from a good and knowledgeable priest (paraphrased):

The CDW [whom the above letter is from] says how sacraments should be celebrated and will impose discipline. The CDF [for which +Di Noia previously was the undersecratary] determines if the sacraments and their celebration are valid. I consulted an official of the CDF about this question and got a different response. The above letter doesn’t resolve the point, but it is interesting.

The signature on the bottom right is that of the under-secretary of the CDW, Fr. Anthony Ward.

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21 Responses to “CDWDS responds: any part of the body is sufficient for valid baptism”

  1. avatar Bernie says:

    signature on bottom right is mine.

  2. avatar Dr. K says:

    So it sounds like it’s valid (para 3), but discouraged (para 4).

  3. avatar Jim R says:

    What this post and the others on “butt-Baptism” highlight is the need for following the law on the sacraments. What’s disturbing is that this sort of practice, and its accompanying doubt, arises in a parish in the USA with no extraordinary circumstances at play other than the hubris (hardly extraordinary!) of the priest who does this.

    Is it “valid?” – presumably, though as noted above the letter does not say unequivocally it is valid. BUT why should it even be at issue in a parish? Just do it properly and there is NO DOUBT; there is NO need to write to Rome; there is no need to parse HE’s letter…

    Honestly, following the rules at a parish with no extraordinary circumstances is the easy part – just do the red and say the black. The hard part is living the Christian life day in and day out in our broken sinful state, counseling those with real issues in real life circumstances that deal with real people and all the mess that entails.

    Why can’t our priests simply give us the sacraments as required so as not to burden us with additional doubts and problems? Life provides plenty of doubt and problems without arrogant priests unnecessarily adding to them.

    Rant off….

  4. avatar Bruce says:

    I’ll stand by what I said before:

    Who in their right mind, in light of Penn State and the homosexual abuse crisis in the Church, would think it a good idea to strip a baby, dip his butt into water, and parade him half naked around the Church in the arms of a priest?

    Do you WANT negative attention and an association that Catholics are all twisted homosexuals and pedophiles? Really?

    Would St. Cyprian have done this? Would any normal person?

  5. avatar y2kscotty says:

    No doubt about it – it’s valid (not “probably” or “presumably”). No one in authority will demand a conditional re-baptism. However, I don’t like it “on the butt” – it is more dignified and significant “on the head”. Pouring on the head, over a baptismal font is good enough for me. Standing in a “pool” of water and getting drenched conveys little symbolism for me. Oh, and I really don’t like holding up the naked baby for a round of applause – especially as some relative snaps a picture! Bishop Clark and his Vicars General should make it easier for the next Bishop by issuing new norms for the administration of the sacrament of Baptism.

  6. avatar annonymouse says:

    Bruce, we’re talking infants here. I cannot even comprehend why or how you’ve linked baptizing a naked baby with “Penn State and the homosexual abuse crisis in the Church.”

    Wow. Just wow.

  7. avatar Bruce says:

    So you would approve of this? You do realize that the media and 99.9% of Americans consider Sandusky and the offending priests “pedophiles” right? Even though they were actually homosexual ephebophiles…this matters not.

    I think you’re playing with fire. A stripped baby has his butt dipped in water and is paraded around a church by a man who 99.9% of America thinks is probably a pedophile. Do you want to call MSNBC to film it too?

  8. avatar annonymouse says:

    Bruce, not to offend, but that’s simply insane. No sane person will think of sex, pedophilia, ephebophilia or anykindofphilia when seeing a naked baby. I don’t care who’s parading the baby around. Seriously, you’re really out there on this one.

    Is this irrational fear what was driving you to argue with me so vehemently in the original post? For you didn’t express this pedophilia angle until the very last post, long after the discussion had been shelved. Prior to that, you had stridently advanced a position which Rome appears to have foreclosed.

    But more importantly, don’t we have much bigger fish to fry? We have “gay marriage” in New York State now, over the objections of traditional Catholics, and we are getting very close to seeing it nationwide. We are seeing our religious liberties destroyed, and not slowly. Abortion on demand is the law of the land and has been for nearly 40 years. We have a man in the White House who is not a believer in Jesus Christ and seems hellbent on replacing organized religion with humanistic statism, in which we worship him and him alone. And I could go on and on.

    And in that context, we have people here all in a tither about how much skin is covered by water in a baptism and now we have you in a tither about naked babies causing scandal.

    GET YOUR PRIORITIES STRAIGHT

  9. avatar Raymond F. Rice says:

    Bruce: “Do you WANT negative attention and an association that Catholics are all twisted homosexuals and pedophiles? Really?”

    As far as the participants in the Baptism stand, the motto on that famous shield says it all: “Honi soit qui mal y pense”.

    PS #1: How many medieval and renaissance portraits of Mother Mary with a baby Jesus have as their focus Mother Mary showing the Child, making it obvious to the viewer that He is truly a human and a male. Were Raphael, Da Vinci, Michaelangelo promoting poedophilia?? I think not.

    PS#2: how many “putti” in paintings in Catholic Churches are unconcerned about Puritans seeing them with their “butts” showing??

    However you do have a point worth considering because the original Sistine Chapel’s Last Judgement had all the people leaving their clothes behind on the way to heaven or hell and Pius IX ordered tons of fig leaves for the Vatican statues which were making Victorian ladies faint.

  10. avatar Dr. K says:

    No sane person will think of sex, pedophilia, ephebophilia or anykindofphilia when seeing a naked baby

    You underestimate the sickos of this world:
    http://www.13wham.com/news/local/story/sexual-abuse-ellersick/gE9N8SMAYEKn8iz46iKcnw.cspx

  11. avatar Raymond F. Rice says:

    The baptism by emmersion previously described is quite common in the eastern churches. And Dr. K, you are correct; there are no limits to human failing! But I don’t think we should relegate certain ancient practises to the “bone yard” because there might be one person in 100,000 who might have a mental/developmental affliction and is totally off the Bell curve of appropriate behavior.
    One of the problems in today’s society is that one person may “mess up” and the rest of us have to pay a penalty. Thousands of laity have had to go through “Safe Environment” training in order to work with children and most of our stellar “perps” in that area have been clergy.

    We must also keep in mind in this day and age that there are still some acts that may be immoral and be a confessional matter but may also be illegal and against the laws of God and man.

  12. avatar annonymouse says:

    C’mon, Dr. K – one total sicko, and NOT a cleric, mind you. I have never in my life heard of another incident
    (aside from the one you link) involving an infant, and I’m willing to wager that neither have you. By your post, does this mean that you’re in agreement with Bernie’s sentiment?? I can’t believe that.

    How about the rest of my post. Would you not agree that there are much, MUCH bigger fish to fry than “butt baptisms”?

  13. avatar Scott W. says:

    Would you not agree that there are much, MUCH bigger fish to fry than “butt baptisms”?

    Yes, but dismissing one bad thing by appealing to a worse thing is bad arguing. Now if you want to go round and round with Bruce over what goes through a sex fiend’s mind, so be it. I think a minor point can be made about the PR angle, but that is really not my main issue either. For me the main issue is that as I am reading it, it is just another case of people making up sacramental rite variations and making excuses when called out. And frankly, this is the root of all the worse things that can be appealed to. He who is flaky in the small stuff is likely flaky in the big stuff.

  14. avatar annonymouse says:

    Scott – I think the Archbishop’s letter should put to rest the idea of “making up sacramental rite variations.”

    Do not be afraid. God is in charge. He knows whether baptism was intended or not. One drop of water will do it.

  15. avatar Scott W. says:

    I’m not disputing the validity, but the licitness and seemliness.

    A). I’m not afraid and nothing in my reply suggests that I am. B). I have given no indication that I don’t think God is in charge. If find these comments insipid and and a little insulting.

  16. avatar Bernie says:

    “By your post, does this mean that you’re in agreement with Bernie’s sentiment??”
    I missed something. What sentiment?

  17. avatar annonymouse says:

    Bernie, I apologize. I meant Bruce. Please forgive me.

  18. avatar Raymond F. Rice says:

    I have always wondered if confession by telephone could be valid. Someone is in danger of death, (9-11) can they call a priest and receive absolution??

  19. avatar annonymouse says:

    Raymond – no.

  20. avatar christian says:

    I do not agree with butt baptisms – if the entire infant cannot be immersed safely – don’t do it at all. What’s the matter with the standard practice of pouring water over an infant’s head?
    In regard to parading a naked baby around the church. Children and adults that are baptized by immersion are clothed or redressed in a white garment signifying the dignity of being clothed in Christ. How does parading a naked baby around the church convey that same dignity? If they are paraded around the church, it should be in a white garment.


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