Fr. Daniel Cardo, who holds the Pope Benedict XVI Chair of Liturgical Studies at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, noted that there is a liturgical instrument specifically intended for the sprinkling of water - the aspergilium – which is used during the Easter Season and in other ceremonies when holy water is sprinkled.
"We do this all the time. We bless people at a distance with holy water. We have a beautiful thing that we can use [the aspergilium]. We don't need toys to do that," he told CNA.
Both Cardo and Pietrzyk suggested that an actual baptism performed with a water gun would be illicit.
But even a staged photo raises the possibility of the sin of scandal, which the Church defines as "an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil," Pietrzyk said.
Staging such a photo, he said, may lead others "to treat the things of God and of Divine Worship as mere objects of derision, stripping them of their sacral import and infusing them with a sense of the slap-stick."
"It especially leads non-believers into concluding that people of faith do not take their beliefs seriously and, in extreme cases, can lead people to conclude that the priests involved think that such acts of religion are no more than superstitious nonsense."
Cardo agreed. He said the photo, while perhaps intended to be funny, could lead to confusion about the Sacrament of Baptism and how it is conducted.
"There is definitely a risk of trivializing" the sacrament, he said, and of undermining the sacredness of the rite that the Church views as opening the door to eternal life.
Ultimately, Cardo said, it is a question of whether we believe what the Church professes about holy water – and what it means to act accordingly.
"Do we believe that this water that has been blessed is actually different than what it was before? In other words, do we believe that through the prayers instituted by the Church, that water is not the same – there is something that changed in that water, that therefore makes it capable of doing something in the object or person that receives it?"
If so, he said, "then the consequence of treating that water with the utmost love and devotion and respect would be the most natural thing."
(Story continues below)
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