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The Edgardo Mortara Case

Pope Pius IX, self-appointed “father” of Edgardo Mortara (Marzolino/Shutterstock [1])

I am, frankly, shocked to read an essay defending the Vatican’s 1858 kidnapping of the Jewish child Edgardo Mortara from his parents — but here it is [2], in First Things, from the pen of Father Romanus Cessario, a Dominican priest and theologian.

The Edgardo Mortara case shocks the modern conscience. The Mortaras were a Jewish family living in Bologna, which was then a city of the Papal States. When the baby Edgardo fell ill, and was thought to be near death, the family’s Catholic housekeeper secretly baptized him. He recovered. Five years later, when the boy was six years old, the Church learned that Edgardo was a baptized Catholic … and sent a Dominican priest, the local inquisitor, to investigate. Result: carabinieri took the child from his mother and father’s home, and delivered him to the Church.

Edgardo Mortara was raised as a ward of Pope Pius IX. The civil law in the Papal States, as well as canon law, required Catholic children to be given a Catholic upbringing. Pius IX said that his hands were tied in the matter. Father Cessario writes:

The requirement that all legitimately baptized children receive a Catholic education was not arbitrary. Since baptism causes birth into new life in Christ, children require instruction about this form of new life. Furthermore, although the Italian Risorgimento had begun, the diplomatic world in 1858 still recognized Pius IX as both pope and prince in Bologna. While the pontiff displayed his human feelings by making Edgardo his ward, Pio Nono nonetheless felt duty-bound to uphold the civil law. This law was not unreasonable, moreover. Even today, the Code of Canon Law, can. 794 §1, assigns to the Church the task of educating Catholics.

As the Catechism puts it, “Baptism seals the Christian with the indelible spiritual mark (character) of his belonging to Christ.” This mark is invisible, and one thus may certainly understand why the Jewish community of the time interpreted Edgardo’s relocation as an act of unjust religious and political hegemony. Their nineteenth-century Gentile sympathizers, who took the Church’s action as an affront to religious liberty, deserve less sympathy. In fact, the Mortara case exacerbated anti-Catholic sentiment in the United States, giving the dying Know-Nothing party a few more years of influence. And prejudiced manipulation of the Mortara case has not disappeared. Steven Spielberg is currently preparing a film adaptation of David Kertzer’s The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara. In order to forestall wrong and unwarranted interpretations, which may include allusions to child abuse, Catholics and other people of good will must acquire a right understanding of baptism and its effects.

The argument is based on the teaching that baptism causes an irrevocable ontological change in the person who receives it. More:

Baptism opens the door to a new way of life. The Catechism calls it “the way of Christ.” A baptized Christian is called to set out on a supernatural life of faith, hope, and charity, or what the Catechism twice refers to as the “theological” life, which includes religious instruction and access to the means of grace, notably the Eucharist. As the Catechism says, “Communion renews, strengthens, and deepens . . . incorporation into the Church, already achieved by Baptism.” These articles of faith bound Pius to give Mortara a Catholic upbringing that his parents could not. The Church offered to enroll Edgardo in a Catholic boarding school in Bologna, but his parents refused.

Prior to the arrival of the papal gendarme at his parents’ home, Edgardo Mortara was an anonymous Catholic. In his case, divine Providence kindly arranged for his being introduced into a regular Christian life. Edgardo received instruction about the gift baptism imparted to him.

Those lines are shocking. The Church “offered” to compel a Jewish child baptized without his consent or the consent or knowledge of his parents to receive a Catholic education against the will of his parents? Some offer. And God “kindly arranged” for this child to be taken from his Jewish parents and raised by the Church?

This is monstrous. They stole a child from his mother and father! And here, in the 21st century, a priest defends it, saying it was for the child’s own good. Fr. Cessario continues:

Those examining the Mortara case today are left with a final question: Should putative civil liberties trump the requirements of faith? We should be grateful if that question does not become pressing, but we cannot assume it will not. Christians who are tempted to side with the enlightened critics of Pio Nono should examine how much they themselves prize the gifts of supernatural grace that ennoble human nature.

What is that supposed to mean? The Pope kidnapped a child from his parents. What would Fr. Cessario and those who agree with him say to radical Muslims today who kidnap non-Muslim children, compel them to say the shahada (profession of faith — the Muslim equivalent of baptism), then refuse to return them to their parents because they cannot let a Muslim child be raised by infidels? The jihadist argument is that this is just, and better for the souls of the children.

Note that one goal of this essay, according to the author, is to instruct Catholics “and other people of good will” on what baptism means, so they won’t be misled by an upcoming Hollywood movie, and think that what Pius IX (“Pio Nono”) did to that family was wrong. Really? The author even says (see above) that anti-Catholic bigots made a big to-do over the Mortara case — as if that were any kind of defense of the Vatican’s actions. Cardinal Law also tried the same kind of argument to neutralize the Catholic laity’s anger over the Church’s indefensible actions in the child abuse scandals.

In fairness, I can’t for the life of me understand why Hollywood is still so eager to stick it to the Catholic Church, which is pretty much flat on its back today, while giving the deeds of extreme adherents of the world’s truly dangerous, truly illiberal, truly militant contemporary religion a pass. It’s a weird kind of death wish. Pio Nono and the world he represented is dead and gone. Nevertheless … it really happened. All the theological syllogisms in the world cannot cover the moral crime committed by the Pope against that powerless Jewish family.

The kind of argument that Father Cessario makes in this essay may make emotional sense to men who have never fathered a child. Nevertheless, it is grotesque. We are talking a lot on the Right these days about the failures of liberalism, but even Catholic scholar Patrick Deneen, in his excellent new book Why Liberalism Failed [3], writes that

the achievements of liberalism must be acknowledged, and the desire to “return” to a preliberal age must be eschewed. We must build upon those achievements while abandoning the foundational reasons for its failures. There can be no going back, only forward.

For all liberalism’s serious faults — which I regularly catalog in this space — one of its great achievements was to separate Church from State, so that men like Pius IX and his clergy could no longer do things like what they did to the Mortara family. As a very conservative Christian, I say that that’s a liberal achievement worth defending.

Compare Pio Nono’s actions to that of a parish priest who would later become Pope John Paul II [4]:

The personal story of an American Jewish man who as a child during the Holocaust was hidden by a Polish Catholic couple demonstrates a respect for Judaism by the young priest who became Pope John Paul II.

In an account of the saving of little Shachne Hiller, recorded in “Hasidic Tales of the Holocaust” (Avon Books, NY, 1982), Hiller, renamed Stanley Berger, told author/editor Yaffa Eliach that in 1946 a newly ordained priest named Karol Wojtyla refused to baptize him a Catholic despite a request by the woman who had cared for him as her own.

Berger told Eliach that through a letter from the woman in Poland who had saved him, he learned that she, Mrs. Yachowitch, had approached “a newly ordained parish priest who had a reputation for being wise and trustworthy” to convert him “as a true Christian and devout Catholic” after she knew for certain that his parents had died in the crematoria. The priest refused after asking what was the wish of the boys’ parents in entrusting him to their Christian friends. Yachowitch acknowledged that his parents, in face of their almost certain death, requested that their son be raised as a Jew, to which Father Wojtyla replied that “it would be unfair to baptize the child while there was still hope that the relatives of the child might take him.”

It must be acknowledged that Edgardo Mortara, who would become a Catholic priest in adulthood, wrote a memoir in which he expressed gratitude to Pius IX for doing what he did. That fact should not be suppressed. On the other hand, what do you expect from a man who was raised from an early age as a ward of the papacy? One of the Christian boys snatched by Ottoman soldiers, forcibly converted to Islam, and raised at the Sultan’s palace in Istanbul to be one of his janissaries would likely have written a testimony as an adult thanking the Sultan for giving him the opportunity to be brought up in the True Faith.

Theologically the Mortara case is a challenging question, because Christians really do believe that baptism is a permanent thing. We really do believe that Christianity is objectively true. Plus, modern people have to be very careful about judging the acts of people from much earlier ages by our standards today. That said, at best, what happened was a tragedy. By my reading, the First Things author would have Catholics “and people of good will” think it was an unambiguous blessing for Edgardo Mortara. The coldness of Fr. Cessario, writing in the 21st century, euphemizing the kidnapping and what amounts to the forced conversion of a Jewish child as “divine Providence kindly [arranging] for his being introduced into a regular Christian life” — well, it’s breathtaking.

UPDATE: From Gabriel Rossman, a convert from Judaism to Catholicism, who is incensed by the essay:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js [6]

“Papal State dhimmis.”

UPDATE.2: Karl Keating comments:

When I read your post, Rod, I thought you meant that Fr. Cessario had written a regular essay, but it’s a book review–of a book that I’ve read and you haven’t, apparently. I suggest you do so. In fact, you should have read it before writing your overheated post.

“Kidnapped by the Vatican” was published by Ignatius Press last year. The subtitle is “The Unpublished Memoirs of Edgardo Mortara.”

The 75-page introduction is by Vittori Messori, an Italian journalist who has written or edited many books. The best known in English were his interviews with John Paul II, “Crossing the Threshold of Hope,” and with Joseph Ratzinger, “The Ratzinger Report.”

The foreword to the book is by Roy Schoeman, author of “Salvation is From the Jews” and a convert to Catholicism from Judaism. He is well known and well respected in Catholic circles.

The back-cover endorsements are by James V. Schall, S.J., who taught at Georgetown; Mitch Pacwa, S.J., who has a show on EWTN; and Fr. George Rutler, who has written more than a dozen books. These are all responsible and respected men. If you had had the book in your hands, the presence of their names would have made you suspect that the book might not be the wild thing you make it out to be.

Messori’s long introduction I found to be generous, understanding of the parties and of the times, and alert to present-day and nineteenth-century appearances and concerns. He does a great job explaining the political and cultural situation of the time.

The heart of the book is Mortara’s memoir. You dismiss it out of hand, suggesting that he was brainwashed. That’s not the impression someone reading the memoir would get. Mortara comes across as a well-educated and truly saintly priest and as a thoughtful recounter of what happened to him. There isn’t anything in his version of the story that could lead one to think he persisted as a Catholic, or became a priest, involuntarily or under any sort of undue influence.

I know it’s hard for a present-day person to believe, but Mortara repeatedly expresses his gratitude for what happened to him, even though it meant sorrow for his parents and himself. You may not think such an attitude is possible, but you shouldn’t judge until you’ve read his account.

Well, like I said, Karl, I don’t fault Mortara. I have no reason to believe that he was dishonest in stating his gratitude. My point is simply that this is what one would expect from a priest who had been raised in his circumstances. Whether or not Father Mortara was grateful for what happened to him, or was bitter about it, has no bearing, it seems to me, on whether or not it was morally right. Anyway, I don’t take a position on the book (which, as you say, I have not read), but the legalistic position advocated by Fr. Cessario in this review: that Holy Mother Church and Pius IX did Edgardo Mortara a favor by taking him from his Jewish family’s home and fostering him, because of a rash act the family maid did in a moment of fear for the child’s life. I still think Fr. Cessario’s position is wrong, but why couldn’t he at least acknowledge the immense tragic aspect of this case?

UPDATE.3: On Facebook, Princeton’s Robert George (a rather prominent conservative Catholic, in case you don’t know) comments:

The taking of the child by force from his parents and family was an abomination and defending it is an embarrassment. The gross, unspeakable injustice of such an action (and of its predicate, namely, baptizing a child against the will of its parents) was well understood by the early and medieval church and was affirmed and explained by Aquinas. Christians, including popes, can commit, and sometimes have committed, profoundly unChristian acts–and can, and have, committed them in the name of Christianity. This, shamefully, was such a case.

UPDATE.4: Catholics eager to defend the Church in the Mortara case would do well to think about what it will be like to raise children under this secular religion rising in dominance: liberalism. Readers of this blog are all too familiar with the claims transgender activists make about trans children, and the moral obligation their parents have to let them be their “real” selves. Do not for a moment think that we will never face the day when the State attempts to seize supposedly transgendered children from their parents (Catholic or otherwise) because those parents refuse to let the child “be who ze is.”

170 Comments (Open | Close)

170 Comments To "The Edgardo Mortara Case"

#1 Comment By Fran Macadam On January 11, 2018 @ 4:30 pm

“Even a non-Christian can baptize.”

I have to assume that one was made up to cover the obvious pitfalls of so many evil priests having performed infant “baptisms.” They are no more baptisms than pronouncing two men married is a genuine sacrament.

#2 Comment By mrscracker On January 11, 2018 @ 5:27 pm

Thank you so much for sharing that interview re. the Aborigines. That was very thoughtful.
I think I’d agree that some practices which seem cruel were probably developed for survival back in the day. I’ve read American Indians trained very young children & infants to tolerate things we wouldn’t dream of today, but they lived in a different, harsher world.
From the interview & other sources I’ve read, I think European settlement/rule terribly damaged the aborigine culture. And ditto for American Indians. But there are obviously facets of those cultures we wouldn’t want to adopt today.
(Truthfully, there are facets of modern Western culture I wish we didn’t have to adopt as well.)

#3 Comment By TR On January 11, 2018 @ 7:16 pm

Thanks to Turmarion for his usual enlightening comments.

I once heard the late Fr. Benedict Groeschal refer to the Mortara case as a very sad instance which would not happen today. And said priest was certainly a theologically conservative cleric.

The history of forced conversions (obviously including forced baptisms) is interesting and one Catholic and Protestant apologists would probably like to wish away.

#4 Comment By Giuseppe Scalas On January 11, 2018 @ 7:20 pm


[7] you knocked it out of the park.

#5 Comment By Giuseppe Scalas On January 11, 2018 @ 7:31 pm

Tuvia Fogel

Ten years after the outrage, the God of Israel locked up Pio Nono and his whole ‘Pontificial State’ in the square-mile museum it still is today.

Either you are a troll, or you don’t realize that the logic of what you say leads to places you shouldn’t want to go.

#6 Comment By mrscracker On January 11, 2018 @ 7:39 pm

Per my catechism, Anyone can administer the Sacrament of Baptism if no priest is available and there is a danger someone will die without baptism. My old illustrated catechism says even an atheist or pagan can be an extraordinary minister in this extremity.(Which was news to me.)
I have Mennonite and other Protestant friends who believe differently, but the practice of infant baptism is based on Tradition and on interpretation of scripture which records whole households being baptized.
I understand you believe differently and respect that.

Here’s a link that might explain better than I can:


God bless!

#7 Comment By dominic1955 On January 11, 2018 @ 9:38 pm

“…to live under an order in which the authorities can separate a child from its parents forever…”

Wait, hold up. Mortara wasn’t separated from his parents forever. He stayed in touch with his family until he died.

“…because those parents hold to abnormal beliefs is to create an evil society. “

Ok, but he wasn’t separated because of “abnormal” beliefs.

“Honestly, I’m not trolling you here, but I want to ask: In an ideal society, would you support removal of children from the homes of non-Christian, or at least non-Catholic, parents?”

At this point in time, no. I’d support efforts to convert them to Catholicism of course.

“Let’s say that a group of fanatical lay Catholics, without the Church’s official approval, went around accosting non-Catholic children on the street, and baptizing them using the Trinitarian formula, thereby making them sacramentally Christian in the eyes of the Catholic Church (and the Orthodox Church too, I imagine).”

Mortara was baptized in danger of death as an infant. In the case you mention, the baptism would be invalid. I’d have those people arrested.

“On what grounds would the Church then refuse not to remove them from their parents’ house and raise them as Catholics?”

See above.

“That being the case, why shouldn’t lay people baptize these children on the street for the salvation of their eternal souls? — RD]”

For the same reason we don’t baptize babies and then immediately kill them to send them to heaven or in a less extreme matter, spend all day genuflecting towards the closest tabernacle or whatever other thing folks can come up with.

#8 Comment By John Spragge On January 11, 2018 @ 10:22 pm

Worth pointing out in this connection: no state agent ever removed Elian Gozales from his home. Period. Elian’s parents shared custody until his mother abducted him. Since she died (and Elian himself nearly died as well) on the way to Florida, the only parent remaining with a legitimate claim to custody, his father Juan, came to Florida to retrieve his son. It’s really exactly that simple. It’s only complicated to people who abandoned three decades of US policy that insisted on putting family over ideology and tried to paint Juan Gonzalez, with zero evidence, as an unfit parent. The effort to withhold Elian Gonzalez from his father had no basis in US law, and jeopardized the chances every American victim of spousal abduction trying to get a child returned from any country unfriendly to the US.

#9 Comment By Rob Maloney On January 12, 2018 @ 11:02 am

First Things’ editor Reno clarifies his position on Edgardo Mortara case here. Thank goodness. Perhaps original Mortara article should have been preceded with an explanatory note that this was not magazine’s position.

#10 Comment By kelly mason On January 12, 2018 @ 3:26 pm

I’m confused why you are saying if we say it is ok for Christians to do something it should be fine for all religions to do it.

If Christianity is the one true religion then why do we have to say it is ok for Muslims to do this too. The american argument for plurality is not the same as God’s argument for the primacy of the sacraments.

I haven’t seen a single argument that is actually rooted in the Christian tradition, as opposed to americanism, which argues that a Christian state shouldn’t save a boy’s soul who was baptized and thus needing to be raised in the faith.

#11 Comment By Fran Macadam On January 12, 2018 @ 4:11 pm


I could have joined the Catholics when I accepted Christ, and considered it, but after careful examination and prayer, including speaking with priests and others, I was led by the Holy Spirit not to, since there are other alternatives.

“I have Mennonite and other Protestant friends who believe differently, but the practice of infant baptism is based on Tradition and on interpretation of scripture which records whole households being baptized.”

It certainly is based on tradition, which was instituted for reasons of those later faced with administering a state by church authority, beyond basic Christianity, as I have addressed and which are matters of fact.

As for the scriptural interpretation, it’s a stretch when the explicit examples are all of being spiritually reborn, of repentance and then the outward sign of baptism as public commitment by the individual. Rather, this was a political policy in search of an interpretation. In other words, of private interpretation, since not all accept it.

I would grant that if you are a cradle Catholic, then you wouldn’t seriously question what the hierarchy of that often apostate and heretical church has taught, which claimed to be the sole hope for salvation, unless something dramatically negative happened to you personally.

#12 Comment By Fran Macadam On January 12, 2018 @ 4:19 pm

I don’t agree with this:

“Now one can argue that there ought to be a middle ground–tolerance in the sense of ‘not going to beat you up’–but at the same time opposing the “queering” of pop culture and such; but the way the world actually works is that it’s pretty much zero sum. You’re a horrible, awful sinner who needs to stay out of sight (or otherwise get beat up), or you’re not so different from everyone else.”

Truth is, if you commit sins, whether those of homosexuality or any other, you’re not different from anyone else. We are all of us sinners, and invited to be freed (not “beat up”) but that is not the same at all as “acceptance” and “celebration” of sin, of whatever sort.

It’s not a “special” sin – it’s as banal as all the others.

#13 Comment By Fran Macadam On January 12, 2018 @ 4:25 pm

“Worth pointing out in this connection: no state agent ever removed Elian Gozales from his home.”

Well, I was there a couple of miles from where the Janet Reno raid took place in Miami’s Little Havana, almost in the military assault style of her Waco one.

And the end of Elian was very much an exercise of state power and propaganda – Elian became the poster boy for Cuba’s communist party, which took him over, in his Young Communist Pioneer outfit, paraded endlessly by the Castro regime, and mouthing the communist pieties they put in his head.

As for Elian’s father, he never had much interest until the regime decided to make an issue of it. He had multiple children by a number of women, and had left Elian to be raised by his mother.

#14 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On January 13, 2018 @ 11:46 am

If Christianity is the one true religion then…

Everything after “then” depends upon the truth of your “If.” There is no proof of your premise. It may well be true, but our constitutional framework is based on the recognition that no human institution is competent to determine what religion, if any, is True. Therefore, we allow the same rights to Muslim, as to Christians, as to Jews, as to Buddhists, as to Hindus, so that civic peace is not disturbed by warfare over unresolvable issues.

the hierarchy of that often apostate and heretical church has taught, which claimed to be the sole hope for salvation

You could say that about almost any faith, from the viewpoint of almost any other faith. So let the Catholics be true to their own errors and apostacy, and let the rest of us be true to our own errors and apostasy. May we all find a bit of the truth along the way, and may God have mercy on us all.

#15 Comment By William On January 13, 2018 @ 4:44 pm

Fran Macadam…how are things in the realm of anti-Catholic trolls?

Try reading the Didache….complied during the 1st century, before the advent of the Rev Billy Bobs…….there is nothing in it that prohibits the Baptism of children and would prohibit the administration of the Eucharist (not empty symbolism’s your heresy teaches) to children since it requires Baptism in order to receive the Eucharist.

#16 Comment By Turmarion On January 13, 2018 @ 5:18 pm

Fran, you missed my point completely. You say, “[Homosexuality is] not a “special” sin – it’s as banal as all the others.” It has historically been treated as different from others, though. Gay people have been beaten up, killed, subjected to shock therapy, etc.–things not generally done to those who commit other sexual (or non-sexual) sins.

My point was to indicate an inconsistency in Rod’s thinking. He says gay people should be able to be out of the closet, should not be persecuted, etc. However, at the same time, he seems to support some type of stigmatization of gay people. My point was that these are contradictory goals. Whether or not gay people should be accepted, or even tolerated, wasn’t my point. My point was that societally speaking, it’s probably a zero-sum game. You either have the closet, with all its associated nastiness, or relatively wide-spread acceptance. You can’t really split the difference.

I would grant that if you are a cradle Catholic, then you wouldn’t seriously question what the hierarchy of that often apostate and heretical church has taught, which claimed to be the sole hope for salvation, unless something dramatically negative happened to you personally.

Very ecumenical attitude there! You’re almost saying, “Well, if they BRAINWASHED you as a child, you can be excused for believing their crap!”

You are, of course, entitled to your opinions on Catholicism in general and infant baptism in particular; but I think there is nothing gained by calling other Christian churches “apostate” and “heretical”–God knows Catholics have done that enough re other churches, and it wasn’t any more appropriate coming from them.

FWIW, I converted to Catholicism as an adult, and having spent many years before that point researching Christian history, I concluded that while no Christian church as it actually exists in the world is perfect, the claims of the Catholic Church are stronger than those of any flavor of Protestantism. Despite this, there are aspects of the various branches of Protestantism, including the Anabaptist tradition, that I respect and admire. At the end of the day, though, I think the reasons for choosing Catholicism (or for that matter, Orthodoxy) are more compelling. YMMV, obviously.

#17 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On January 14, 2018 @ 11:10 am

He says gay people should be able to be out of the closet, should not be persecuted, etc. However, at the same time, he seems to support some type of stigmatization of gay people.

I’ve argued this with Turmarion since almost forever. It seems to me that what Rod, and the doctrines of his church, and for that matter the doctrines of the imperfect church Turmarion has chosen to submit to because its imperfect claims are stronger than any other… what all these support is that same-sex attraction is at odds with a deep underlying divine plan, and hormonal impulses pointing in that direction should be resisted. No more, and no less, than that.

This alone is anathema to those who want their same-sex affections to be accepted, glorified, celebrated. Too bad. The fact that I eat roast pork cooked in Sweet Baby Ray’s barbecue sauce is anathema to Muslims. (Not to Jews, who don’t expect gentiles to adhere to kosher laws, those are to distinguish the Chosen from all the rest of humanity). Gays have a right to be left alone, to the peace and quiet enjoyment of their home, but they have no entitlement to anyone celebrating what they do a positive good.

Recently there was some mild controversy about a Roman Catholic priest who “came out” as gay. What he said and meant was, that just as many priests are subject to the thought of love with a woman, he is subject to the thought of love with a man. Physically. Hormonally. He was also quite explicit that he lives life as a priest in obedience to his vow of celibacy. I don’t believe Rod has any problem with that.

As long as Rod recognizes that a same sex couple has the CIVIL right to live together, it is of no valid civil concern that he and his church believe they really shouldn’t, and preach that to anyone who cares to listen. There are even some gay people who believe that — people who feel same-sex attraction and adhere voluntarily to a celibate life. I respect that, without rejecting the right of those who feel differently to live differently.

#18 Comment By William Tighe On January 14, 2018 @ 4:45 pm

I have written this before, or something much like it, on the subject of infant baptism, but I will repeat it for those who have an interest in the history of Christian sacramental practice.

Much has been written on the subject of whether the baptism of infants and small children was a deplorable innovation or an apostolic practice. Perhaps the most historically-focused debate on the issue took place between two German Lutheran pastors and theologians: Kurt Aland (1915-1994) – well, Aland was actually ordained in the Prussian Union Church, so he might have been more Reformed than Lutheran – and Joachim Jeremias (1900-1979). Aland thought that infant baptism was at least a mistake which should be remedied, if not an error; Jeremias defended the practice vigorously, on the basis of both Scripture and very Early Church history. (The works to which I will refer by their English titles were, of course, all originally written and published in German.)

Jeremias published a pamphlet – he was not only an academic NT scholar, but a strong exponent and proponent of Christianity – in 1938, “Did the Primitive Church Practice Infant Baptism,” which has not been translated into English, a pamphlet which he expanded into a book, Infant Baptism in the First Four Centuries (London, 1960: SCM Press; the German original was published in 1958) in which he argued on the basis of the NT (and Jewish practice, e.g., proselyte baptism), the Church Fathers, and archaeological evidence (e.g., epitaphs) that infant baptism was frequently (bot not necessarily universally) practiced from the earliest days of Christianity, and by the apostles – especially St. Paul – themselves. To this small book (112 pages) Aland responded with his 120 pp Did the Early Church Baptize Infants? (London, 1962: SCM Press; the German original was published in 1961). Jeremias responded with his 91 pp The Origins of Infant Baptism (London, 1963: SCM Press; the German original was published in 1962).

I think that Jeremias makes a more convincing case, generally; and he certainly demonstrates without any doubt that infant baptism was widely practiced by the middle of the Second Century; earlier than that, the argument turns on what one makes of Jeremias’s claim that Christian baptism was an adaptation of Jewish proselyte baptism, a practice which certainly applied to infant children of adult proselytes to Judaism, and that NT statements to the effect that “AB and his whole household were baptized” should be assumed to apply as much to children as to servants and kinsfolk living in the household, absent any indication to the contrary, just as it would have done in Jewish proselyte baptism. And, after all, if the Early Church agreed with St. Peter, as it did, cf. I Peter 3:21-22, that baptism “saves you,” and not with the later conceits of some Reformed and Mennonites, then they had good reason to do so.

#19 Comment By Nancy On January 20, 2018 @ 11:00 am

“In order that a child be baptized, it is necessary that the parents consent, or at least one of them, or someone legally standing in their place, and that there is reasonable hope that the child will be brought up in the Catholic Faith.”

The child was Baptized having been gravely ill, but did not die.
The question is, does the reasonable hope that the child will be brought up in the Catholic Faith still exists? Which leads to the second question, why this child? I would search The Vatican Archives to determine if the mother of the child was the one who requested the child be brought up Catholic.

Regarding the Baptism of desire and the Baptism of water, and the fact that “No one can come to My Father except through Me”, although, at the end of the day, it is still a Great Mystery, outside The Body of Christ, Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, there is no Salvation.
One Groom, One Bride, in Heaven and on Earth.
“Blessed are those who are called to The Wedding Feast of The Lamb”, which includes those who come late to The Fold.

“… [31] Then the Jews, (because it was the parasceve,) that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the sabbath day, (for that was a great sabbath day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. … [32] The soldiers therefore came; and they broke the legs of the first, and of the other that was crucified with him. … [33] But after they were come to Jesus, when they saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. … [34] But one of the soldiers with a spear opened his side, and immediately there came out blood and water. … [35] And he that saw it, hath given testimony, and his testimony is true. And he knoweth that he saith true; that you also may believe.”
Let us Pray, that a multitude of anonymous Catholics, at the hour of their death, will recognize Jesus The Christ, in all His Glory, and come late to the fold.

#20 Comment By Trent Roman On February 7, 2018 @ 1:38 pm

fyi, you get a mention. [9]