In his account of the baptism of the infant entrusted to his care [September 3], Dan Savage raises some serious problems. As any Christian would agree, baptism is a serious matter. Savage claims to be a "cultural Catholic," meaning what--that he parties on Saint Patrick's Day?
Granted, a Dan Savage espousing infant baptism does offer a juicy subject for a newspaper article or a chapter of a book. Hey, it might even be a fun subject for a TV sitcom. Here's the scenario: a rabid atheist overcomes all kinds of obstacles to have this kid baptized--evil priests, outmoded traditions, a sneering spouse. All this in the company of a supportive Irish family cheering him on all the way. Nothing can keep a good man down and, as a gung ho "cultural Catholic," our hero can let nothing stand in the way of what he sets out to do: have his kid baptized. For this one, you wouldn't need a laugh track.
In the real world, however, one doesn't tamper with a channel of God's grace. One doesn't use baptism of an infant as a means of satisfying some self-indulgent whim.
As a sacrament, baptism symbolizes the introduction of a new member into the faith community. It is the first step of a lifelong faith journey. The role of parents and godparents is to insure that the infant/child is nurtured and instructed in religious faith until he or she is old enough to make faith decisions and commitments on one's own.
At the baptismal ceremony, parents and sponsors promise to promote the spiritual welfare and education of the child being baptized. The reason for having godparents is that in the event the parents are no longer able to carry out their responsibilities, these duties fall on the shoulders of the godparents.
How can Dan Savage carry out this responsibility when he has consistently displayed nothing but ridicule and contempt for Christianity and specifically for the Catholic faith? How can he protect a child's religious faith when he mocks the baptismal promises and the faith propositions that are part of the ceremony?
No, the fact that Savage calls himself a "cultural Catholic" does not mean the church is bound to do his bidding. His attitude toward baptism and its symbolism indicates that if hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue, Savage qualifies as a first-class hypocrite.