Q. How should I respond to a young couple (raised Catholic) who do not plan to baptize their infant children? (They intend to wait until the children are old enough to decide on a religion for themselves.) (Baltimore, Md.)
A. I would ask the couple whether they follow the same standard in other areas of child rearing. Since they’re not sure whether their son will grow up to like math, do they decline to teach him arithmetic when he is little?
The role of parents is to determine what opportunities they have benefited from, what virtues and values have helped them, what moral framework can offer guidance through life — and then to pass on the best of what they have learned to their children.
What Catholic parents say by having their infants baptized is this: We believe (both from our faith and from our experience) that the sacraments and Catholic teaching offer a clear channel to God, and we want our kids to have that blessing.
Q. I notice that the Catholic bishops of the United States are holding their annual meeting at the Marriott Hotel at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. This strikes me as an expensive site for those who are constantly asking Catholics for contributions to the poor. (Don’t they know that most of the faithful could not afford to stay at such a place for several days?)
It strikes me that there are many Catholic properties around the country — seminaries, abbeys or convents — which could accommodate them for much less money and would serve as a better example.
Why don’t the bishops take a page from Pope Francis and start acting like the original apostles whom they claim to represent? (Jamestown, Ky.)
A. Since his election in March of 2013, Pope Francis has continually called Christians to examine themselves against Christ’s own witness to poverty. On the feast of St. Francis, the pope hosted a lunch for the poor in Assisi; that same day he addressed townspeople in strong words, saying that “the church, all of us should divest ourselves of worldliness. Worldliness is a murderer because it kills souls, kills people, kills the church.”
Such a message rings especially true from a man who has chosen to live in a two-room modest apartment in a Vatican hostel for visitors and to eat his meals at a common table.
Prompted by your question, I looked into the U.S. bishops’ choice of the Baltimore Marriott for their annual meeting. What I found is that they are indeed sensitive to the Gospel’s call for simplicity.
In fact, some years ago their annual meeting was moved from Washington, D.C., (where the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is headquartered) to Baltimore precisely because hotel rooms in Baltimore rented for about two-thirds of what they had been paying in D.C.
Another reason for the change was that flights were generally cheaper into Baltimore-Washington International Airport than into Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.
Realistically, the options for such a large meeting are limited. It requires a facility that can host 600 attendees, be easily accessible from all parts of the nation and provide 60,000 square feet of space for meetings, religious services, news conferences, etc.
Sometimes what is ideal needs to be sifted through what is practical and possible. Your question, though, serves as a valuable reminder: Optics are important, and Christians need habitually to view things through the lens of the poor.
Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at firstname.lastname@example.org and 40 Hopewell St., Albany, N.Y. 12208.