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The Catholic Church: Social justice and faith

This morning's mass in San Fernando Cathedral, San Antonio, Texas as usual was well constructed, with the Bible readings, the day's message and the sermon fitting neatly together. This is not an endorsement of the faith. Two features are worth reporting. The first is that the guests of honor were the members of the committee organizing the Cesar Chavez march for social justice. It is one more example of the stress which the Church puts on social justice. This has a wide appeal, but whether the various Christian Socialist parties are striving to achieve that end is not always certain.

The second was the presence of the adults who have been studying the catechism and who will be baptized on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter. These adults may be nominal Catholics, who have decided to take their faith seriously, those who had not been baptized, and presumably converts (although this was not made clear). In his sermon, the rector said that child baptism, in which water is sprinkled on the baby's forehead is all right, but that the Church now recommends total immersion for adults. This has been the habit of the Baptists and various Protestant groups, which argue that only an adult can understand the ceremony and accept the faith, but I had not heard of it in the Catholic Church. A tank will be set up in the church, those to be baptized will get in, as will the priest officiating; he will sprinkle water over them three times, indicating that they are beginning a new life, like Lazarus, whose resurrection from the dead was the subject of the New Testament reading. It looks as though the Catholic Church wishes to separate the real believers from those whose nominal Catholicism means little. This seems like a good idea, but it is hoped that they baptized do not get into hot water later in life.

Ronald Hilton - 3/17/02