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Priest Accused Of Accidentally Drowning Baby During Baptism

Priest Accused Of Accidentally Drowning Baby During Baptism

Sometimes, I come across articles that simply break my heart.  This was one of them – in Moldova, a six-week-old baby died during a baptism.  The priest who performed the ceremony is now accused of accidentally drowning the child.  Onlookers say that Father Valentin, the priest, failed to cover the baby’s nose and mouth when he immersed him three times in water.  Twenty minutes later, the child started bleeding from the nose and mouth, and died on the way to the hospital.  A post-mortem revealed that he had drowned.

The priest is denying responsibility for the baby’s death, but the family seems convinced that his negligence was the cause.  The baby’s godmother, Aliona Vacarciuc, said, “The baby was crying as he went into the water. We couldn’t believe it but we thought the priest must know what he’s doing, but he didn’t. When we got him back there was nothing that could be done anymore.”

This was not the priest’s first baptism, and he claims that he followed Church protocol.  A manslaughter investigation has been launched, and the priest could face up to three years in prison.

Of course, it’s too early to tell what verdict will arrive from this case, and I don’t want to declare the priest guilty before a court.  But this is clearly a very delicate situation, and one that parents must constantly fear.  Trusting your child’s life to another person, especially so soon after his birth, is a challenge, and priests must certainly be aware that they have an intense responsibility – I’ve never seen (and couldn’t find) statistics on infant mortality due to baptism, but after being immersed in water three times, it definitely seems possible that a baby could drown. 

Like any other person assigned to care for a child, the priest has a responsibility for the child’s life – and if the priest was indeed negligent, he should be punished.  Of course, this is probably no help to the grieving family, but I’m sure that it’s equally devastating to feel betrayed by a religious authority.  In this sense, if the priest was being careless, his actions are even more damaging.  It also makes me that much more leery of infant baptism – although it has a long and complex theological history, people should also be aware of the fact that it can be dangerous.  It’s ironic that infant baptism became popular because because infant mortality was so high – babies needed to be baptized so that they could enter heaven, even if they died – but now, that seems to be a far less compelling reason.

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Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

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227 comments

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12:09PM PST on Feb 3, 2011

Again, another case of fundamentalism. Baptism of a child in any other country would be a few drops of "holy" water on the top of the childs head. Why on earth put a baby UNDER water not once, not twice, but THREE times???

8:29PM PST on Nov 17, 2010

Sarah, oh thats bullshit Catholic psychobabble....that baby didn't need cleansed of any sin, are you to say the millions of children who are aborted every year go to hell? What kind of cruel asshole god (and I didn't capitalize that on purpose) are you worshiping? Holy shit, you think God's so much of an ass he'd send a newborn baby straight to hell for not having been baptized? Baptism is required at the AGE OF CONSENT read your effing bible again idiot.

8:27PM PST on Nov 17, 2010

"Suffer the children unto me and do not hinder them"

What exactly is the need for infant baptism in the first place? A child who dies will go to heaven no matter what, for children belong to Christ, and no other. They are as close to God as infants as can get. The only time a need for baptism occurs is at the age of consent, are you to tell me your child is consensious at 1-4 months old? I have an 8 year old boy who is still not baptized because I don't believe there's a need for it, he is not ready to take responsabillity for his actions, and thus, until I feel he is, he will not be offered baptism by anyone.

Baptism is about being cleansed, of sin, what has this infant done in a need to be cleansed of sin? Has he defied anyone? Did he somehow manage to creep out of his crib and commit murder, adultry, theft or anything else? Seriously? The Catholic religion has MAJOR issues!!!! Lets drown a baby to make sure he goes to heaven, but hey at least now that he's dead we know he's in the right hands now....not the hands of a monster who would assume he needs baptism!!! That poor poor child, what kind of monsters was he born to?

9:01PM PDT on Oct 3, 2010

Maybe this practice will cease! It makes no sense in the first place.

1:17AM PDT on Oct 1, 2010

I agree with Kelly M and Jean S. In our churches here in the Philippines, a little water is poured over the top of the child's head and forehead but the baby isn't dunked into the baptismal font. Can the archbishop and other Church authorities look into the manner of conducting baptism in their jurisdiction? They really need to do this to prevent repeats of this accident in future. So sad...

5:00AM PDT on Sep 18, 2010

All I can wonder is why did water have to even touch that baby's face !? The pouring of just a little water over the top of the baby's head is all that is needed. The family that were there with the baby and priest,,,they didn't see and do anything when they saw this little baby's face go under the water 3 times!? A total shame to all who were standing there!

11:14AM PDT on Aug 15, 2010

Nothing that happens now will bring that baby back, it is true, but the case here is pretty cut and dry. Why would the rules be any different for a priest than for anyone else? If anyone else; parent,friend,babysitter,etc. had dunked a baby in water and it then died they would be charged. He claims no responsibility. How many other babies should be endangered because he "he followed Church protocol" ? He should be charged fairly by the Law and he should be reviewed by the church and not permitted to baptize any more infants. Also it would be refreshing for the Church to take accountability and make an effort to train all priests in safety and maybe common sense before allowing them to perform rituals on anyone particularly children.

7:45AM PDT on Aug 12, 2010

Why punish the priest? I've always said that morality can be judged by intentions, not by actions. Most people seem to think the opposite, after all, "the road to hell is paved with good intentions". Punishing the priest does not bring the baby back, nor does it serve any other purpose other than satisfying the need for vengeance by most angry people. It was an accident, and the Bible always preaches forgiveness. So why not practice what you preach once in a while? Consistency is rare these days.

5:16AM PDT on Aug 12, 2010

This is probably a very good reason for having your child dedicated not baptised. The way Baptists do it is that the parents of the child make promises in the eyes of God and the congregation to bring up the child in the right way, and the congregation and the minister promise to support them in this.

Baptism in the Baptist church happens when the person is ready to make a public declaration of faith-like Confirmation (except that it is not at any particular age, so it can be older or even younger than the normal age for Confirmation.) It is by conscious choice that Baptists, and others who share the same doctrine regarding baptism, are baptised, and it is full immersion. This kind of baptism is "believers baptism".

A baby has committed no sin. The doctrine of the Original sin being washed away is flawed, as did Jesus not say "let all the little children come unto me." It has also been said in the Bible that to come to God you have to be as a child.

As for the priest, it was not intended, and it is a tragic accident. I'm not so sure we should be baying for blood "because judgement without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful." (James 2 v 13 NIV Bible.) On the other hand I do not think he should be baptising any more babies as it might happen again.

I agree with Tamie R when she says it is all in the hands of the Lord anyway. It isn't for us to judge the priest or the family for their actions. May God be with the judge who has to preside over th

4:05PM PDT on Aug 11, 2010

I can't really understand how the priest could possibly not be guilty. If he held the baby under the water to the point where he drowned, it's manslaughter...simple as that.

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