Thank God for Mary McAleese. It was shaping up to be a fairly slow news day today, ad we were sitting around scratching our heads wondering if anything at all would pop up that was slightly interesting, and worth writing about. Thankfully, Mrs. McAleese has come through to save the day by saying something immeasurably stupid.

Yes, the former President’s latest target is as silly as it sounds: Baptism:

THE baptism of babies into the Catholic Church is unsuitable and needs to be overhauled because it means people’s freedoms are being suppressed for life, Mary McAleese has said…

….Her talk – entitled ‘Baptismal obligations? Revisiting the christening contract – a necessary prelude to any synodal journey’ – called for a change in the way infant baptism imposes lifelong obligations and compulsory obedience to church teaching as babies cannot possibly understand what is being promised on their behalf.

Church members, she warned, are expected to subordinate their freedoms to compulsory obedience to the Church’s teaching or magisterium from the day of their baptism onwards.

The basic problem here is that, for somebody who never stops talking about the Catholic Church, Mrs. McAleese appears to have entirely forgotten the sacrament of confirmation. She is correct that most people who are baptised do not have a choice, being as it is the choice of their parents to decide to raise them in the catholic (or Protestant, or many other) faith. Confirmation is when they decide for themselves. And indeed, even that is not necessarily binding, if they stop believing at some later date.

That is the pragmatic argument. There is also a theological argument, which Mrs. McAleese completely ignores, and indeed, on which she contradicts herself. Indeed, as recently as February, she was effectively arguing that infant baptism was too late:

The Catholic Church’s failure to reflect its concern for the right to life of the unborn with a smilar concern for the right to eternal life of those who die unbaptised before or at birth has been highlighted by former president Mary McAleese.

“These are not rare or exceptional cases. There are tens of millions of them every year. They die by clinical abortion, spontaneous miscarriage, still-birth or from fatal conditions which cause them to die in utero or soon after birth. The vast majority are unbaptised,” she said in an article for the current edition of the Tablet weekly.

That, as mentioned, was in February, when she was arguing that the church was to blame for the fact that those who die without baptism might not have a right to eternal life under present church teaching. Incidentally, she got that one completely wrong, as explained at the link above. But even assuming that she had gotten it right, isn’t she now completely contradicting herself? On the one hand, the unbaptised might go to hell, she says. On the other, we should not be baptising people so soon, she argues. If you put those two together, you end up with an argument that more people should go to hell.

She is, these days, a very confused woman.

There is also the question of her language. Baptism, she says, “suppresses people’s freedoms for life”.

How does it do that, exactly? Even the teaching of the church puts mankind’s own free will at its centre. Baptised, or unbaptised, whether to follow church teaching on any matter is a choice left up to the individual. All the church does, whether one approves or disapproves, is try to teach people how to be good Christians. It is up to the faithful to listen, or not. Mrs. McAleese appears to be declaring baptism the functional equivalent of a life sentence, when it absolutely is not.

There is, of course, absolutely nothing wrong with querying or challenging Church teaching. But we have gotten to the point with Mrs. McAleese when it has long passed the point where you can reasonably think that she is driven by a desire to engage in an argument for reform. At this stage, it just looks, and feels, like she is actively seeking out things to be annoyed about, and contradicting herself in the process.