On Irish Baptism

I saw this msn piece on the confluence of baptism, state-sponsored Catholic schools, and parents looking out for their kids. It’s a curious thing for an American to read. State-sponsored Catholic schools prioritizing baptized children for admission and the “lies” parents tell to take advantage.

Last month the Irish Parliament struck down the “baptism barrier.” It’s really more of a non-baptism barrier, but still strikes me as a mixture of cynical opportunism, religion-based elitism, and a missed opportunity for evangelization. More on that last one later.

In 2012, Fiona was living with her young family in an area of central Dublin known for overcrowded schools. Fearful that her children might be put on a waiting list or face a long commute, she decided to get them baptized.

At her older daughter’s pre-baptism consultation, the priest asked her why she had decided to do so, noting that she and her husband weren’t regular churchgoers.

“He prodded if we were doing it for school reasons,” Fiona recalled. “I pretty much lied through my teeth.”

I suppose one advantage of a public school system is that it doesn’t encourage falsehoods pushed through dentitions. Another might be that it can plan on a large scale and somewhat alleviate the distribution of schools in large urban areas.

It strikes me that if we were taking Matthew 28:19-20 seriously, we might prioritize children from non-believing families in Catholic schools. Though that might spread the alarm more generally across the spectrum: parents who might feel entitlement or atheists concerned their families were being targeted for evangelization.

That’s only a half-snarky opinion. The truth is that perhaps the Church should devote more energy to efforts outside of education.

On average, Irish schools spend 10% of compulsory instruction time on “religion, ethics and moral education” — the second highest among developed nations, according to data from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

It would seem our efforts would be better placed at raising that figure closer to 100% in our endeavors.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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