Timothy Wilson ought to be familiar to regular readers, if any, of Semiduplex. For those who don’t know his name offhand, Wilson is a sharp young Catholic who is almost a one-man ressourcement of the pre-Conciliar, neo-Scholastic tradition. He has translated excerpts of some of the great old manuals for various websites. He has started publishing some translations on his own blog, Lumen Scholasticum. His first selection is from Edouard Hugon’s manual. We are, of course, thrilled to see Wilson start blogging more regularly on his own website. We suspect that there are many, many interesting translations and posts to come.
His first post is a great introduction to his project. Occasionally we have seen discussions from well-meaning Catholics who are in contact with children who, for whatever sad reason, have not been baptized yet and are not apt to be baptized. These people, moved with zeal that ought to be commended, ask in one place or another if they may secretly baptize the children. Would that everyone were so solicitous of the salvation of others! Hugon’s manual, far from being a dusty old tome to be rejected in favor of the scholarship, such of it is, of Küng, Rahner, Kasper, and the like, presents an elegant summary of the case for infant baptism and the case against baptizing secretly the children of nonbelievers. We won’t spoil the whole post, but we will give you a quick excerpt:
But the opinion of the Scotists is rejected by Benedict XIV, who follows and claims the opinion of St. Thomas.
He teaches that, generally, children ought not to be baptized when their parents are unwilling. It is obviously of natural law, as the Angelic Doctor here explains, that children not be taken away from the care of their parents. But, if children are baptized in this manner, they then ought to be taken from the care of their parents. Therefore the natural right would be injured if they were baptized, their parents being unwilling. It would also be dangerous, St. Thomas adds, to baptize the children of infidels in such a manner, which children would easily return to infidelity on account of the natural affect to their parents.
Yet if the children have been baptized, they are on account of baptism a thing of the Church (res Ecclesiae), they are joined to the body of the Church, and the Church obtains the right over them; and, that she might provide for their spiritual safety, she is able to separate them from their parents. Thus teaches Benedict XIV in the document already cited, which doctrine Pius IX confirmed in practice in the very famous case of Edgardo Mortara.
All theologians agree that children at the moment of death ought to be baptized, even if the parents are unwilling, because then the obstructions indicated above are not present, and the salvation of the soul ought to have superior force; and they are equally able to be baptized, if one of the parents should consent, whether the father or the mother, or the grandfather or grandmother in defect of the mother, because then the natural right which is in them is committed to the Church.
Perhaps you knew all this already—certainly these discussions take place often enough. But Hugon’s summary is precise, clear, and answers a difficult question directly. This, then, is the import of Wilson’s project: the Church lost something when it walked away, seemingly overnight, from the neo-Scholastic tradition. Given the events of recent years, it is time for the faithful to discover the value of clear reasoning and doctrinal precision. There are few better ways to do that than by dusting off those old manuals.
Keep an eye on Lumen Scholasticum.