Sunday, May 29, 2005

If my daughter is a Catholic then is the Pope a Nazi?

Well, it’s done. My daughter has been christened. I didn’t make any trouble, though the priest was obnoxious, among other things saying to my wife, “Have you paid yet?” After the christening everyone went back to our place and we had a big dinner while the little one mucked about on the floor, blissfully ignorant of the idiocy that had just taken place – some of the things the priest said during the ceremony were just priceless, somewhere between emotional blackmail as used by a seven-year-old and a self-parody, including a long, rambling, puffed up soliloquy filled with hokey philosophy.

Not surprisingly, I’ve been thinking about the whole christening thing and the rationales offered. I can think of three – all of which made some appearance during the priest’s ham-fisted attempt at Hamlet. The first is that by being christened, the child becomes a catholic. The second is that it thereby cleared of the original sin, and the final is that christening is like dialling up an ADSL connection straight to the ‘Big G’, himself. Each is ludicrous in its own way.

I guess I have already mentioned what I think of the idea of a seven-month-old baby being a catholic. It is laughable. No commitment made upon the behalf of the child by its parents can be deemed binding upon the child in any reasonable country. I have been thinking about this in particular and realised that, because of this line that the Church takes, I have been far too easy on the Pope and his connection to Nazism. After all, if Catholics deem me a (deeply) lapsed catholic and my daughter a fully-fledged one then, being consistent, they must deem Ratzinger to be, at best, a lapsed Nazi. The Church has an official procedure to sign out of the Church which I have never bothered to actually go through. I wonder if Ratzinger ever officially signed out of the Hitler Jugend? All this is doubly ridiculous. It is ridiculous as the idea that either I or my daughter are Catholics is idiocy just as it is silly to think Ratzinger a Nazi. It is also ridiculous as the very way of thinking that the Church’s rules force upon one is sheer lunacy.

The idea of christening clearing away the original sin may be effective as a threat to motivate people to christen their children but it is a whole level sicker than the ‘you may not even know what your own name is but you’re still a Catholic’ line. The idea that my tiny daughter was weighted down with sin, any sin is, frankly, highly offensive. The idea that this sin was passed on to her due to something (eating a forbidden apple – in itself an idiotic offence) that was supposed to have been done several centuries ago by one of her ancestors is at the level of some medieval concept of justice. It feels strange to even have to point out that the children are not responsible for the crimes of their parents. A God who would send a tiny child to hell just because her ancestor once did something is, frankly, not a God who is the least bit worthy of our worship. Indeed, that kind of God is, at best, worthy of our disdain.

This leaves the third argument used for christenings – that they open up a connection to God. Well, I just don’t think they do. There’s no-one at the other end of the line. To accept that they do, one would already have to be a Catholic and have accepted that whole lunatic credo – making the christening nothing more than an official recognition of the status quo. Certainly, from my own personal experience, I have to say that the fact that a guy poured some water on my forehead at age less than one did not have a significant impact upon my spiritual development. The fact that I had to cope with the waste of time and intellect that followed did play a vital role, but that is another story.

So, why do people christen their children? For no other reason than that it is tradition, really. A thoughtlessly good reason, one might say.


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