Perspectives on baptism


A chara, – “I am perfectly happy with baptism at two weeks old [. . .] what I am not happy with, is insistence on church membership at two weeks old . . .” Mary McAleese’s nuanced views on baptism and denominational church membership, differentiating between the sacramental and the juridical, were explored as part of an hour-long  conversation with Ursula Halligan on June 16th. A five-part video recording  can be viewed on Membership and human rights are in part 4.

I hope this is helpful in facilitating an informed discussion on this issue. – Is mise,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – Mary McAleese is correct in her argument comparing baptism with infant conscription.

Catholicism, similar to most religions, can only sustain itself by enrolling children before the age of reason. Imagine if your parents raised you without religion in a balanced and caring way and then invited you at the age of 18 to enrol in a religion of your choice . . .– Yours, etc,


Dublin 4.

Sir, – In Catholic catechism in paragraph 1250 it says “born with a fallen human nature and tainted by original sin, children also have need of a birth in baptism to be freed from the power of darkness”.

But this negative language employed by Catholic catechism about the state of beautiful new-born children and their need to have a kind of second birth when any first birth by a real mother should already be wonderful, wholesome and holy on its very own.

This seems to me to contradict Rev Joseph Slattery’s oversimplistic and easy-going contention that “the primary meaning of this sacrament (baptism) has to do with bringing a person into a church, as into a family.”

The same paragraph from Catholic catechism also states that “parents would deny the child the priceless gift of becoming a child of God were they not to confer baptism shortly after birth”.

This statement seems to me to be designed to put pressure on parents to hurry up and baptise their children into the church. But all children born into this world are children of God without the need of the church to confirm it because through their parents God has made them.

Also, paragraph 1272 says: “baptism seals the Christian with the indelible spiritual mark (character) of belonging to Christ”.

But how can an indelible spiritual mark be freely rejected sometime afterwards by anyone who has got it? This seems to go against what Fr Patrick McCafferty states in his letter (June 26th): that the “invitation made at baptism” can also be “freely rejected”.

For how can something that is stated by the church to be indelible then be easily forgotten by anyone so baptised with it without hurting in some way such a person’s spiritual relationship with God? It is a sad situation for spirituality in our world whenever words are spoken and written on important spiritual issues are then allowed to become empty and meaningless. – Yours, etc,



Co Clare.

Sir, – I find the suggestion by Mary McAleese that babies not be baptised deplorable. Parents in all societies pass on their cultural and behaviour values from infanthood onwards. Not to do so would be a neglect of parental responsibility. Otherwise the children will know nothing and believe anything. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 14.

Sir, – I see the clergy coming out to reprimand Mary McAleese on her views on baptism. It is amazing how forthright they are on matters sacred to their churches. It is a pity they didn’t show the same degree of concern for the people in the equality campaign or stand with the unfortunate women who had no option but to go to Britain to seek abortions.

But of course these were the same people who hid the clerical abuse for years and now preach to us about matters of conscience.

Mary McAleese is indeed a huge threat because she wants to maintain her membership of the Catholic faith and has an alternative which is not acceptable to the church hierarchy.

It must be difficult for these men of the cloth to be lectured to by an expert on canon law and a woman at that. – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.

Sir, – The responses to Mary McAleese’s comments on Catholic baptisms as expressed through the letters published in your paper (June 26th) are alarming and yet wholly predictable.

The recurring assertion by both members and leaders of the Roman Catholic Church that baptism is an “invitation” might be considered genuine if they would also recognise that this entails a “no RSVP required” assumption.

While the faithful are quick to point out that everyone is free to make up their own minds on matters of faith as they mature into adulthood, a position I would share, I’ve yet to hear any response that imparts the procedure for declaring one’s official defection from this institution. Mrs McAleese’s critics might do themselves the favour of sharing such steps for the benefit of those who now wish to “freely consent” on this issue and have this consent formally recognised by church records in having their name removed from any invitation list.

The church never misses an opportunity to declare its own census figures, often in times of public debate on social and civic issues in this country, claiming to be representative of a large membership and advocating in their interests. Are these numbers derived from a head count of attendance at church ceremonies and the likes? I think not. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 14.