A Catholic DISSENT from the Pope’s prohibition of beer baptism: on exegetical, historical-critical, theological, pastoral, missiological, ecclesiological, epidemiological, semio-linguistic, scientific, phenomenological, anthropological, gender-egalitarian, epistemological, and faith-based grounds.
770 years ago, Pope Gregory IX ruled that beer cannot be used for baptism instead of water. From Catholic eBooks Project:
“Unfortunately, the Scriptures don’t interpret themselves (see 2 Peter 3:16). Thus, some time in the 13th century, someone slightly misinterpreted the Biblical teaching on being reborn of water and the Spirit. Therefore the Pope was forced to lay down the law:
“’Since as we have learned from your report, it sometimes happens because of the scarcity of water, that infants of your lands are baptized in beer [!], we reply to you in the tenor of those present that, since according to evangelical doctrine it is necessary “to be reborn from water and the Holy Spirit” [John 3:5] they are not to be considered rightly baptized who are baptized in beer.” (From the letter Cum, sicut ex of Pope Gregory IX [in office 1227-1241] to Archbishop Sigurd of Nidaros, July 8, 1241, in Denzinger 447*. Boldface mine.)
“… for the sake of those poor children, I thank Christ our Lord that He gave us the Church to stand for truth (1 Timothy 3:15), and the rock of St. Peter (Matthew 16:18) to confirm our faith (Luke 22:32)… even in the small things”
My one-person parallel magisterium hereby DISSENTS from the above-quoted teaching, for the following reasons:
Second, the Pope assumed antiquated Platonist essentialism and Aristotelian physicalism to differentiate beer from water. But modern science shows that beer is at least 90% water, and experts don’t agree on what minimum molarity of water is required for water to remain water. So the “actual” distinction between beer and water is, in “truth”, nothing but an arbitrary logocentric convention imposed by the hegemonic elite that controls the dominant semantic discourse. Therefore, to be liberated from socially constructed “reality”, we should use beer as baptismal water.
Third, many of today’s Christians drink beer like it was water, making these liquids phenomenologically equivalent. Therefore, the institutional Church should follow the sense of the faithful (sensus fidelium) and baptize with beer.
Fourth, the Pope was an Italian who probably drank wine as the Apostles advised (1 Timothy 5:23). What does he know of my life and my needs as a beer-lover, that he presumes to judge my desire to use liturgical beer?
Fifth, the Popes have no business keeping beer out of baptism, when they can’t even keep sexual abuse scandals out of the priesthood. The Pope‘s apologies, his decrees to strictly police clergy ranks, his tighter standards for ordination, his championing of prayer and ascetic self-discipline for priests, his punishment of prominent Church leaders, his admission of non-clergy to high positions; his visitations/investigations and other measures to make the clergy accountable–these are NOT enough. The Pope still hasn’t done real reform like letting us choose whether we want to be baptized with tequila or beer, or to have our Mass by our bartender: in short, he hasn’t overhauled Catholic dogma from its outdated God-centeredness to modern me-principle. Until the Church has done enough, it has no moral authority to judge my use of baptismal beer.
Sixth, the population explosion, which objective science has informed us is actually happening, has increased demand for fresh water. Also, beer has alcohol whose disinfectant properties can help fight modern pandemics. So it’s more humane, considerate, and compassionate to use beer in baptism. By not doing it, the Popes are to blame for drought and disease.
Seventh, the Pope is keeping people away from the Church, with his preconciliar idea that the Church must stand for principle amid the secular world. But applying “meaningful and love-centered postconciliar and postmodern ecumenical theology” (theologia invertebrata merdataurana misinterpretativaque egocentrica atque vacua)*, if we baptized with beer, billions would sign up to convert overnight. Therefore we must drop the purity-fetish on baptismal water and baptize with beer.
*(We thank Fr. Charles Edouard, SD for this beautiful phrase, from his classics Theology of Accommodation: a New Faith for a New Audience (Sodalitas Domini Press, 1985) and Dissent for Showmanship: Refounding Christianity to Ingratiate with the World (co-written with Fr. Hansel Koenig. Anthony Mary Publications, 1991). Both works testify to the intellectual courage of a remarkable man.)
Eighth, the Bible was written by pastoral people whose use of water in baptism was specific to their culture. But we should follow the innovating spirit of the last ecumenical council, whose most progressive interpreters have brought such renewal to the Church. So, rather than perpetuate an outdated tradition, we should subject it to a functional critique and modernize the liturgy by baptizing with beer.
Ninth, the Biblical writers–all males–required water for baptism to exclude wymyn power; for herstory shows that wymyn dominated the pre-Christian orgiastic cults that used intoxicating substances in initiation rites. Also, the very existence of the prohibition against baptismal beer, which is herstorically directed toward males, shows the male-orientedness of Church policy. To protect wymyn’s dignity and fight the patriarchy, we should baptize converts and catechumyn with beer.
Eleventh, the Pope’s ruling cited the Gospel of John. But modern biblical scholars, who have doctorates in textual and form criticism and therefore know better than all the ancient witnesses (including Irenaeus, the student of the John’s pupil Polycarp), question that Gospel’s authorship by the John the Apostle. So we can’t be sure if the historical John’s record really said ‘water’ and not ‘beer’. Therefore the Pope’s ruling is uncertain, and we can baptize with beer.
Twelfth, the Pope based his non-diachronic ruling on the idea of baptismal regeneration with “water and the Holy Spirit” is the Christian rite of initiation. But this disregards the dialectical relationships of the apostles and their communities within the Nazarene Movement. In this case, the Johannine alliance’s choice of water-baptism (supported by the deutero-Pauline coalition) is obviously contradicted by the preference for river-water-baptism–and therefore water-and-suspended-river-particulates-baptism (!)–of the united federation of Petrine-Jacobean churches and the common extra-Marcan source of the Mattheo-Lucan armada. Clearly, the Pope wrongly interprets the Bible as a unitary whole in light of apostolic tradition, on the simplistic basis that it was the same God who inspired the Biblical writers and lives in the Church. While modern experts are still reconstructing the Biblical books with their personal deconstructive paradigms, we may ignore the Pope and use beer-baptism as a rite of initiation.
Thirteenth, the Pope and bishops who codified the Biblical books deliberately excluded the secret gnosis of Heinekensis of Henessios, whose alternate Christianity was less narrow-minded on liturgical beer. The Catholics triumphed only because they connived with Constantine to set the councils in the morning when the Heinekensians were still sleeping off their hangover (as revealed to me by my spirit guide Colt the 45th Ascended Master).
Fourteenth, it’s the interiority of my faith that counts, not the physical matter and form of the sacraments. So if I truly believe, then it’s perfectly okay if I get baptized with beer.
Lastly, under the principle of totality, we should look at the whole Christian life and not at particular wrong acts. In my case, using beer for baptism would deepen my Christian life, for then I’d renew my baptism everyday.
Therefore, on exegetical, historical-critical, theological, pastoral, missiological, ecclesiological, epidemiological, semio-linguistic, scientific, phenomenological, anthropological, gender-egalitarian, epistemological, and faith-based grounds, I dissent from the Pope’s ruling against baptism with beer. I have also established Catholics for Baptismal Choice (CBC), a non-profit, non-stock, tax-shelter (501c) people’s organization, to pressure the hierarchy to relax its rigorist stance against baptismal beer.
Our manifesto “Baptism of Human’s Desiring: A Theo-Historical Semiosis of the ‘Waters of Life’ in Scriptural Text and Context” has been published on Chamelium, the journal for cutting-edge theology, and will appear in abridged form on the progressive magazines Conformwill and United States. Help us petition Message and Ministry Review, Apostle, and Prime Matters to publish the manifesto without amendments. Unfortunately, it was rejected by Sensus Communis, the conservative journal, because we refused to let their editorial demands threatened our uncompromised independence.
Johannes Edouard Chaplin
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