Hi, I am a faithful Catholic who entered the Church in Easter 2012, and a regular listener to Catholic Answers Live. I have no problems at all with accepting the teachings of the Church -- but I've managed to work myself into a conundrum in my understanding of baptismal regeneration. I am sure that it is nothing that hasn't been answered a hundred times before. God, I love my Holy Mother Church.
Now, I want to be sure I am correct in my semantics and terminology, so correct me viciously: The Church teaches that Baptism works ex opere operato, meaning that it is efficacious by the fact of its working, with no dependence on the holiness of the person administering it -- since it is really Christ who administers it. It also teaches that the person receiving the Sacrament must be properly disposed in order to receive its grace.
So if a priest grabbed a person off the street kicking and screaming and baptized him -- the person would not properly receive the grace of Baptism and would not have been validly baptized. But, do we still say that the Sacrament worked, even if no grace was received, only that it was invalid (and probably also illicit)? Is it still said to have been efficacious, even if it didn't accomplish its purpose of granting the grace of baptismal regeneration? Does Jesus still operate on the person in the Sacrament of Baptism even if the person is unwilling to receive it?
Okay -- so you can't validly baptize an unwilling adult, someone who is not only poorly disposed, but actively opposed. The person must have the proper disposition. How, then, does it work to baptize an infant, or a person in a vegetative state, who can't consent or understand or be "properly disposed" in the sense we mean that for healthy adults? It seems like I've maybe heard this explained before, but don't remember.