Baptism - Water doesn't touch skin
(10-02-2020, 09:08 PM)LionHippo Wrote: Case in point, and this may be a bit crude, but:  for years, how many priests who were guilty of abuse of minors still went on to hear confessions, and consecrate the Eucharist?  I'd be almost certain that none of them were in a state of grace while doing so.  We always hear of "consecrated hands, consecrated hands!"  But sadly, how many of those "consecrated hands" which perhaps hours before were used to inappropriately touch some poor victim were then allowed by God to celebrate Mass and consecrate the Eucharist?  Only theological gymnastics can justify the technicalities that this was still possible.

If the grace of the Sacraments depended on the sanctity of the minister, it would be impossible to tell if any Sacrament were valid. Since they only do anything at all because God is the one acting in them, the theological gymastic you're looking for is the phrase ex opere operato - literally, "by the work having been worked". Do the proper actions with the proper words and the proper matter, and they work because God promised they would. That's hardly some technicality. Why would God deny grace to an entire parish just because the priest is a sinner, even one of the worst? In your view, confessing to such a priest, even if you had no idea what he'd done, would invalidate your confession and you'd go to hell.

If Baptism requires water on skin, not on hair, then if the water doesn't touch skin, there was no Sacrament performed. No gymnastics involved.
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While I agree that God would not hold someone responsible for an unknown botched baptism due to exceptionally thick hair, I don't agree with some of the comments that have a Donatist flavor, nor the sentiment that asking questions like this one amount to hairsplitting.  A sacrament requires valid form and matter (as well as minister and recipient) in order to be a valid sacrament.  When something is lacking, and the recipient is unaware of this and there's no reasonable way for them to find out, it is easy enough to recognize that God is not cruel and will not deny them sufficient graces for their salvation.  None-the-less, when a question or doubt arises, it must be addressed and cannot be dismissed because the implications are a bit odd or off-putting.

One example that has occurred to me, and been mentioned by atheists, is that you can get the following hypothetical scenario: Person A murders Person B.  Person B was in a state of mortal sin at the time, so they're in Hell now.  Person A later repents of their sins, including this heinous murder, and receives baptism or absolution.  They then die in a state of grace and will, perhaps after a time in Purgatory, be in Heaven for eternity.  This isn't even a hypothetical.  At least one of the Nazi war criminals executed at Nuremberg, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, expressed repentance for his crimes and received absolution from the Catholic prison chaplain, Fr. Bruno Spitzl, mere days before he was hanged. It is a fair assessment to say that at least some of the many victims of the Nazi regime died in states of mortal sin, whereas if Seyss-Inquart made a sincere confession and remained in a state of grace during the last couple days of his life, he is, or will be, in Heaven.

Seemingly odd or even outrageous?  On some level, sure.  The point is, the sacraments, like all things, are subject to rules and laws (both of God and the Church) and sometimes, we can come up with strange situations that have, at times, unsettling but true answers.  So, a child molesting priest can say a valid Mass and absolve your sins, a war criminal can receive absolution that their victims won't, and maybe (just maybe) water in baptism does have to touch the skin for a valid baptism.  I don't think any of this involves theological gymnastics (the underlying principles are rather simple) and I think asking these kinds of questions is more than just hairsplitting or being too rigid in applying the law.
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Perhaps some context will help.

It’s unlikely I would be inclined to even raise these sorts of concerns. My view is somewhat similar to LionHippo. I’ll start with an analogy to paint a picture of how I see this.

I’ve worked in manufacturing for most of my career and we used to have a QA manager who was happily procedural; He was good at what he did in so far as his job requires him to catch imperfections. Any deviation from protocol or process was his moment to shine and delighted on the opportunity to inform you of your deviation. My initial response was “this is great, this guy is going to help run a tight ship”……But that dissipated after a year.

Now, it would be true, if one wished, to point to the reality that I was the recipient of much of his work, as the residing manufacturing engineer I had to deal with most of his gripes and find a solution to them. And believe me, when I tell that I don’t mind one bit running a tight ship or running more efficiently; he wasn’t the first or last QA manager I had to work with. But this gentleman was different. His exaggerated vigilance had a negative effect with people out on the floor and therefore resulted in efficiency getting worse, not better. It caused the masses to question the steps they have been doing for 10+ years. Even here I did not mind too much as long as this was going in the direction of what is most efficient and cost-friendly. But in a matter of a year, he managed to get two types of people out on the floor. 1) Clones of himself. Who wouldn’t move a finger unless there was a checklist or confirmation of some sort. 2) People who despaired and quit. More of them fell under no. 2 and that became an obvious problem for us.

This very issue was raised by someone who is just like that QA manager but toward matters of the Church and I can tell you it has had a very similar effect with those around him. Not an exact analogy, but the psychology is certainly similar in that these sorts of people believe their response to these sorts of issues is synonymous to moving toward truth; when all it mostly does is breeds unhealthy fear and despair in some people. You see, what he doesn’t seem to understand is that how you implement things with real people AND the failure to understand that some people simply aren't apt to be that way and constantly exposing them to such an approach results in unfruitful outcomes.

So although these sorts of things matter and may not involve theological gymnastics; it can affect some people negatively and it’s not always helpful or good to regurgitate them to some people. They simply aren’t there yet spiritually. This isn’t to be confused with going toward a more lax approach to things either; we all know what comes of that and it's unfortunate if someone manages to interpret that out of what I noted.
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