Civil Baptisms

December 19, 2011 By: erik Category: Colindres, Politics, Religion, Spain 362 views

Rate this post:
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

Water Drop With BubblesI recently came across this tidbit of local news. The conservative political party in my small town is up in arms because the ruling liberal political party is allowing the practice of “civil baptism”. Of course they are not arguing the reasonable point that the term is self contradictory; they are more concerned that the practice is offensive to The Church. I don’t think it’s offensive so much as it’s a reminder of the decline The Church is suffering in Spain.

It’s easy to imagine how someone came up with the idea for a “civil baptism”. Spanish baptisms are very much like Spanish weddings; they are huge parties with lots of family and friends and good food and wine. It’s great and healthy to celebrate the good events in your life with family and friends.

It is becoming more and more popular for marriages in Spain to be “civil”, done at the town hall, rather than religious, done in the church. Starting in 2009, the majority of Spanish weddings have been non-religious town hall ceremonies.

When you add these two things together, the fact that people are accustomed to and love to have parties to celebrate the birth of a child, and the fact that many people don’t see what a celibate man in robes who actually thinks he can, and should, turn wine into blood by uttering magic words has to do with celebrating family events…you get somebody suggesting that a government official should say some inspiring words to a crowd of a newborn’s family members.

I wonder if they use official government water? No I’m kidding. I looked it up. Apparently a civil baptism is a ceremony to celebrate a new Spaniard getting citizenship. The ceremony usually includes a reading of several articles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child adopted by the UN in November 1989:

Article 6 – 1: States Parties recognize that every child has the inherent right to life.

Article 6 – 2: States Parties shall ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child.

Article 12 – 1: States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.

Article 12 – 2: For this purpose, the child shall in particular be provided the opportunity to be heard in any judicial and administrative proceedings affecting the child, either directly, or through a representative or an appropriate body, in a manner consistent with the procedural rules of national law.

Article 27 – 1: States Parties recognize the right of every child to a standard of living adequate for the child’s physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development.

Article 27 – 2: The parent(s) or others responsible for the child have the primary responsibility to secure, within their abilities and financial capacities, the conditions of living necessary for the child’s development.

Article 27 – 3: States Parties, in accordance with national conditions and within their means, shall take appropriate measures to assist parents and others responsible for the child to implement this right and shall in case of need provide material assistance and support programmes, particularly with regard to nutrition, clothing and housing.

Article 27 – 4: States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to secure the recovery of maintenance for the child from the parents or other persons having financial responsibility for the child, both within the State Party and from abroad. In particular, where the person having financial responsibility for the child lives in a State different from that of the child, States Parties shall promote the accession to international agreements or the conclusion of such agreements, as well as the making of other appropriate arrangements.

I remember the mountain of paperwork I had to fill out and drive to various government offices around my province after my daughter was born to get her “into the system” so she could suckle the socialist teat. It’s a big hassle, one worthy of a glass of champagne upon completion.

To me, a civil baptism deciding what country a human has allegiance to, before he is able to think for himself, based solely on the geography where he escaped the womb and allegiances of his parents is just as immoral as deciding what religious beliefs he should hold based on the same criteria. But most people don’t really put that much meaning into it. It’s really just a party for a happy reason, which is something I can get behind.

  • In Italy you can unbaptise yourself, in case you later regret the decision you took as a weeks-old baby to join the Catholic church.

    • Hahaha! This site will let generate a certificate of unbaptism for yourself. Because nothing is really official until you have a certificate.

    • Josh Grady

      One can un-baptize himself in Spain as well, but it is a real hassle. I know people who went through several years of paper pushing before their names were finally removed from the baptismal record.  

      Remember, the Vatican has been a bureaucracy for millennia.

  • Josh Grady

    What you saw as meaningless bureaucracy (well, it was, after all) was, for me, one of the most emotive moments of the whole birth period.  I’m not quite sure why, but the reality of fatherhood, etc. really came home to me when the clerk wrote Sophia’s name in the tome.  (I love that they still call the things “tomes” here.)  I literally, and for the first time in my life, wept tears of joy, right there in the Registro Civil.   

    • It’s interesting how different people step over the parenthood threshold, isn’t it?

      While you were being profound, I was being incredibly shallow.

  • Marga

    Immoral? Really?

    When a child is born into a family there are things that come with it, whether we like it or not. One is the place of birth, the nationality of the parents, the languages the parents talk, the education he/she is going to get, the financial confort, piercings on the ears or the lips or rings around the neck.

    I don´t think it is immoral that my daughter is Spanish because she was born in Spain, maybe it is immoral that she is american just because you happen to be one? I don´t think so.

    About the religion… I don´t push anybody into religion, but it is important for understanding history, and customs of the place you are living. It is a matter of intense, deep feelings for some of the people you have around, and we need to be respectful with all that, even if we don´t share it. The chosen religion to teach is the one I know about. I can not teach what I don´t know.

    I don´t think any of this is immoral.

    Having said all this, I don´t see the point in these civil baptism, but I am all in favour of a good celebration party. 

    • I wondered if anyone would call me out on the choice of that word. That was a bit of extreme idealism on my part. We can’t choose our families; that’s an inescapable consequence of biology, but the nation(s) we “belong to” is a social construct we humans impose on ourselves that is very, very difficult to change later in life. I understand the practicality of defining Nora as a Spaniard or an American for legal reasons, and we chose double nationality for her for sound pragmatic reasons, but, like religious baptism, the choice wasn’t hers. I think you’re right that “immoral” is too strong a word.

      Thank you for calling me out on that.