Before we were about to set forth on a three-week vacation, my wife and I thought we would make sure our house was secure by having our furnace and hot water heater checked. In these matters, my one-and-only and I differ considerably. Her motto is “Replace It”; mine is “Let’s Wait.” She is proactive; I am procrastinating.
The duo of technicians who arrived on the scene presented us with some dire news. The furnace, being long in the tooth, was “tripping,” a condition, we were told, that could suddenly start a fire. We were advised to remove all flammable objects that were close to the furnace. I envisioned removing the house and then isolating the furnace in the backyard. The second technician warned that our more than 10-year-old water heater could go at any time and spew out gallons of water. Thinking optimistically, I thought that if the furnace and the water heater went at the same time, the flood would extinguish the fire. My wife had other ideas, and insisted on getting both a new furnace and a new water heater. I had no choice other than to capitulate.
On practical matters we have our disagreements, but on matters spiritual, we think as one. We baptized all of our six children as soon as it was expedient. In matters of the soul, it is not advisable to wait. Baptism initiates the child into the Christian faith and restores him or her to a life with God that had been lost by Original Sin. Baptism is a gift. And even if the child is too young to understand the nature of the gift, he or she is nonetheless eligible to enjoy its benefits.
So, we were somewhat dismayed to learn about a rather startling comment that Louise Mailloux, a candidate in the Montreal district of Gouin, in Quebec, a well-known feminist and philosopher, made in her 2011 book, Laïcité ça s’impose! She declared that baptism is equivalent to rape since it forces religion on the child (“Quebec premier defends candidate who compares baptism and circumcision to rape,” by Peter Baklinski, LifeSite News, March 18, 2014). The comment, however, was not sufficiently outrageous to be denounced by party leader Pauline Marois, who stated that candidates are allowed to express whatever opinions they wish as long as they do not oppose the party platform. Was Mailloux’s comment offensive? In a rather lame apology, she told a reporter for La Presse, “I never wanted to offend or hurt anyone.” Nonetheless, she remarked that she “absolutely” stands by her comments. Depending on what group of individuals might be targeted, it has become either too difficult or too easy, these days, to offend them. Accusing Catholic priests of being a pack of rapists, apparently, is not a strong enough indictment to constitute being offensive. No one ever wants to offend anyone, but just goes right ahead and does it.
Ms. Mailloux, as a philosopher, might reflect on the distinction between an act that is beneficial and one that is harmful. Baptism is beneficial; rape is harmful. She might also reflect on the difference between ministering and imposing. Are children being raped in Quebec when all their family members impose French on them? Maybe the children would like to learn a different language! Or do they minister to children when speaking French to them, and providing food, clothing and shelter. One feminist has contended that the first three notes of Beethoven’s 5th symphony signify rape. Another holds that any conjugal act not initiated by the wife is also rape. Now we are told that baptism is “rape.” If this is the case, should any priest who administers baptism be charged with rape? Should Catholicism be denounced, condemned and abolished?
It has often been said that a person cannot be sent to hell since he or she did not ask to be born. Yet, a person cannot ask to be born. Making such a request presupposes existence. Being granted life is a great gift and it is precisely the nature of a gift that it is not requested but given freely. Ms. Mailloux has trapped herself in an interesting contradiction. On the one hand, she appears to champion freedom. On the other hand, she opposes the most essential act of freedom, namely, the freedom to give, even when the giver is God.
Our life begins thanks to a generous gift. We should honor that gift by spending our life giving to others. Watchdogs who see imposition where imposition does not exist act as if they brought themselves into existence. There is much talk in political circles about Quebec’s seceding from Canada. By seceding from reason, certain Quebec politicians have made an important stride in that direction. My wife and I will not be seceding from each other.
Donald DeMarco is a Senior Fellow of Human Life International. He is professor emeritus at St. Jerome’s University in Waterloo, Ontario, and an adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, and a regular columnist for St. Austin Review. Some of his recent writings may be found at Human Life International’s Truth & Charity Forum.