Sunday

"Why are Catholic parents obliged to baptize their children as babies?"

By Paul Dion, STL


You have all heard the expression, "cradle Catholic." You have heard it from all levels of Catholics, from the daily Mass-goer to the Christmas and Easter Mass-goer. You have heard it on television and in the movies, "I was baptized Catholic a few days after I was born..."

You have also been in conversations where there was a lively give and take between those who were opposed to infant baptism and those who were all in favor of it. It was even possible that those involved in the discussion were all Catholic!

It could also be that you were surprised to see that your Lutheran friend was for infant baptism and your Catholic relative was against it. You listened and shook your head in disbelief at this turn of events.

It is true, there are Catholics who wait until there children are old enough to make up their own mind about whether or not to be baptized. There are plenty of non-Catholics who would be surprised at this opinion. Yes, there are Protestant communities who seriously believe in infant baptism. Martin Luther himself never abandoned the practice of infant baptism in his break from the Catholic Church.

ParishWorld.net is asking you where you stand in this matter, and why...

So here is the Burning Question of the week: "Why do you believe that it is an obligation of parents to present their new born children to the sacrament of baptism as soon as possible after birth?"

Give us your convictions and we will join the discussion and present a wrap-up.

21 comments:

  1. Dennis Sheahan11:16 AM

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  2. Dennis Sheahan11:42 AM

    Why would I give my child a flashlight in the dark? It's a similar question. A child is baptized as soon as possible because Baptism confers "an indelible mark" proclaiming the recipient "as Christ's own forever". Even though after Baptism in can inhibit the "flowering" of the grace given in the sacrament the mark remains and is a constant, if subtle, call to reconciliation and renewal. Francis Thompson's "The Hound of Heaven" comes to mind; "all things flee thee, who flee Me." Baptism brings one into the household of God, The Body of Christ, The Church: "It is only within the faith of the Church that each of the faithful can believe." (CCC 1254) I would not put my child out into the cold night without both the cloak of Baptism and the light of instruction in the faith of the Church.

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  3. Anonymous4:21 PM

    If you read the Bible in Acts it says that men and women were baptized. It also says rependt and be baptize for the forgiveness of sin. A baby cannot repent, he/she doesn't know right from wrong. Besides our Lord said that the kingdom of heaven belongs to such.

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  4. Anonymous11:32 AM

    Baptism is the gift of faith from Catholic parents to their children. It is really all about the commitment Catholic parents make to raise their children in full communion with the Catholic Church. Sadly many of our Catholic parents baptize their children and then ignore to raise them in the Christian lifestyle Jesus asks us all to live. Living a Christian life begins with the child at baptism and is then sustained with the Christian upbrining by parents. The gift of parents then is not just the act of Baptism. It is also the actions of the parents after the ceremony and throughout the rest of the child's life.

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  5. About the statement that babies cannot repent and therefore ave no need to be baptized, I will just say this for now.
    Jesus was sinless and He submitted himself to baptism by water. This according to all four Gospels. Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11;
    Luke 3:21-23; John 1:29-34
    Jesus also could not repent because He was sinless.
    Christian Tradition, from Apostolic times forward has practiced the baptism of infants. For those of us who believe that Tradition is an expression of God revealing Himself to us, infant baptism is to be believed as coming from the Will of God.
    In short, that is why Catholics are obliged by their faith to baptism infants as soon as is convenient.
    More on this subject later.

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  6. In the Old Covenant, the child must be circumcized on the 8th day. In the New Covenant, Baptism replaces circumcision as the rite of passage.

    In a Bible study I was attending it had one person recounting a story of her confrontation of another person in parish ministry. He waited a few years before he baptized his child. She asked, "What took you so long". His response: "Why are you Americans in such a hurry?" (He is hispanic). Before the group started to accept this response, as if this piece of post-modernist non-sense holds a deeper mystical truth than what the Church has taught since the beginning, I had to set them straight theologically. Baptism is necessary for salvation. No, our faith is not made up of koan puzzles. You gamble with the sacraments, you just may be playing with "fire", literally.

    God Bless,
    Laurence

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  7. To our Anonymous friend, and since Mr Dion did not cover this, I will say that "entire households" were baptized in the Bible. Unless our friend will argue that infants are not part of a houshold, then I dont think he has a leg to stand on.

    Acts 16:15 ESV
    (15) And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay." And she prevailed upon us.

    Acts 18:8 ESV
    (8) Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized.

    1 Corinthians 1:16 ESV
    (16) (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.)

    AMDG,
    Laurence

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  8. Anonymous3:22 PM

    There is no question about whether or not baptism is necessary for salvation. The question is when does the need for baptism enter the picture of individual salvation? Baptism by water abrogated the law of circumcision, so why would christians base the custom of infant baptism on the Old Covenant with Abraham when Jesus gave us the baptism by water example in the Jordan? I don't buy the argument of the household as being normative for this discussion. The household could increase in number after the moment of baptism. Would this require the quasi immediate infant baptism of the new member of the household? That does not seem to be indicated in Scripture.

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  9. Anonymous, are you saying that we ought to wait until the age of Jesus when he was baptized before we are to be baptized? You admit baptism is necessary for salvation, so what happens to those who die in their teen years? Are they damned? If you are Catholic, then you will accept the teachings of the Church. I suppose you arent since your criteria is explicit Scriptural teaching.

    I think the comparison is very clear:

    Colossians 2:11-12 ESV
    (11) In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,
    (12) having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.

    And check this out, who is the promise to?

    Acts 2:38-39 ESV
    (38) And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
    (39) For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself."

    -Laurence

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  10. "Baptism by water abrogated the law of circumcision, so why would christians base the custom of infant baptism on the Old Covenant with Abraham when Jesus gave us the baptism by water example in the Jordan?"

    Because it is in the very passage that shows that baptism REPLACES circumcision. Baptism "abrogated" circumcision in its replacement of it. How are you going to jump to a totally different passage and say that just because Christ happened to be baptized at a certain age, that that was the model for all baptisms? Does that mean that we can only get baptized at one age? Futhermore the comparison is not compelete either since we are baptized to be regenerated, forgiving us of Original Sin. Did Jesus have original sin, was he cleansed of it at baptism?

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  11. For interested Catholics; here is what the Catechism of the Council of Trent said (I read found this this evening researching a question I was asked on my apologetics website):

    Infant Baptism: It's Necessity
    That this law extends not only to adults but also to infants and children, and that the Church has received this from Apostolic tradition, is confirmed by the unanimous teaching and authority of the Fathers.

    Besides, it is not to be supposed that Christ the Lord would have withheld the Sacrament and grace of Baptism from children, of whom He said: Suffer the little children, and forbid them not to come to me; for the kingdom of heaven is for such; ° whom also He embraced, upon whom He imposed hands, to whom He gave His blessing.

    Moreover, when we read that an entire family was baptised by Paul, it is sufficiently obvious that the children of the family must also have been cleansed in the saving font.

    Circumcision, too, which was a figure of Baptism, affords strong argument in proof of this practice. That children were circumcised on the eighth day is universally known. If then circumcision, made by hand, in despoiling of the body of the flesh, was profitable to children, it is clear that Baptism, which is the circumcision of Christ, not made by hand, is also profitable to them.

    Finally, as the Apostle teaches, if by one man's offence death reigned through one, much more they who receive abundance of grace, and of the gift, and of justice, shall reign in life through one, Jesus Christ. If, then, through the transgression of Adam, children inherit original sin, with still stronger reason can they attain through Christ our Lord grace and justice that they may reign in life. This, however, cannot be effected otherwise than by Baptism.

    Pastors, therefore, should inculcate the absolute necessity of administering Baptism to infants, and of gradually forming their tender minds to piety by education in the Christian religion. For according to these admirable words of the wise man: A young man according to his way, even when he is old, he will not depart from it.

    [END]

    -Laurence

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  12. ParishWorld Theology Editor11:11 AM

    Comments and responses to the Burning Question, "Why are Catholic parents obliged to baptize their children as babies?"

    "Why would I give my child a flashlight in the dark? It's a similar question. A child is baptized as soon as possible
    because Baptism confers "an indelible mark" proclaiming the recipient "as Christ's own forever" "

    "Baptism is the gift of faith from Catholic parents to their children. It is really all about the commitment Catholic parents
    make to raise their children in full communion with the Catholic Church."

    "For those of us who believe that Tradition is an expression of God revealing Himself to us, infant baptism is to be believed as coming from the Will of God. In short, that is why Catholics are obliged by their faith to baptism infants as soon as is convenient"

    "Pastors, therefore, should inculcate the absolute necessity of administering Baptism to infants, and of gradually forming
    their tender minds to piety by education in the Christian religion." (Council of Trent)

    The necessity to baptize infants is taught to us by the Apostles and their successors. There is no getting around it. Baptism is the gateway into the Church. The Church is the gateway to Salvation. It is therefore immoral to withhold entry to the gateway of salvation to a child born into the faith of the Church.

    In accordance with the teaching of the Council of Trent on the sacraments, Baptism is not just a sign of faith but also a cause of faith. It produces in the baptized "interior enlightenment," and so the Byzantine liturgy is right to call it the sacrament of enlightenment, or simply enlightenment, meaning that the faith received pervades the soul and causes the veil of blindness to fall before the brightness of Christ.

    To those who object by saying that it is better to leave the infant to make a personal decision about baptism so that it will be more effective, the Church responds that there are many elements of life that we as human beings impose upon our children so that they will be better prepared for life and its activities. We prepare them to deal with their relatives; we prepare them to deal with their civil citizenship; we prepare them for school and we choose the school to which they will go.

    In an earlier blog we called the postponement of bapsitsm of infants, "spiritual child abuse". We ask you to consider that. Be good Catholics yourselves so that you will be excellent spiritual parents for the children given to you by God Himself.

    Paul Dion, STL
    ParishWorld.net
    Theology Editor

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  13. Anonymous11:44 AM

    Very interesting information on Baptism. Thank you and God bless.

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  14. I would not phrase my approach to baptism in the same way that your question does. "Why do you believe that it is an obligation of parents to present their new born children to the sacrament of baptism as soon as possible after birth?"

    The stress in this question is on parental obligation, to which the simplest succint answer would be, because parents, by their marital vows, are to receive children lovingly as blessings and to raise them in the faith.

    But I do not generally think that sacraments are about fulfilling obligations by following rules/promises. They are more generally about encounters with the presence and power of the living God. More about what God is and does than about us.

    Every human, lovingly received into the world or orphaned, has a right to experience that presence and power with his/her creator.

    With that in mind, I tend to think less about obligation, particularly in its formal or juridical sense of force and more in terms of "obliged to do" as a more formal recognition of the great honor that we have to participate in this invitation. For example, "We are obliged to celebrate the wedding of..."

    As the Christmas Vigil Reading from Isaiah puts it:
    "As a young man marries a virgin,
    your Builder shall marry you;
    and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride,
    so shall your God rejoice in you."

    That to me is the essential sacramental union of love between God and humanity. Christ as the first sacrament and we, disciples of Christ.

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  15. I wanted to comment on the notion that "postponement of bapsitsm [sic] of infants [is equivalent to] 'spiritual abuse'."

    Isn't it also possible that one wait until a child reaches the age of reason, not so that the child can make his/her own decision so much as so that this person can celebrate the full rite of christian initiation (i.e. baptism, confirmation, and first eucharist) through the catechumenate? In this instance, the period prior to the celebration of sacraments would not be considered "postponement" or "spiritual abuse" but a period of evangelization and precatechumenate.

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  16. Jay,
    Thank you for a wonderful reflection on Baptism and the sacraments in general.

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  17. Gary, God does not have any grandchildren. We cannot get to heaven by what someone does for us. The Bible says that we need to repent of our sins and put our faith in Jesus Christ and Him alone for remission of sins. Baptism is an outword expression of an inword commitment. Jesus said nothing about sacraments. That is Catholic doctrine, and is not Biblical. Babies and anyone under the age of accountability will be with a Loving Heavenly father . 2Timothy 3:15-17, says And that from childhood you known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. 17. That the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

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  18. Paul Dion, STL5:56 PM

    Gary:

    “God does not have any grandchildren.” Good one.

    You say that we cannot get to heaven by what someone does for us. Catholics believe that we get to heaven because of what Jesus Christ did and does for us. Isn’t He someone?

    Sacraments are holy, sacred ritualistic acts that Jesus practiced before our very eyes and urged us to memorialize in our discipleship to Him. He thereby sacramentalized cleansing and belonging through Baptism, thereby spiritualizing Circumcision. He did the same for eating at the Last Supper and told us that Eucharist is the source of the spiritual strength that we need to gain eternal life. John’s chapter six is important reading in this matter. He gave us the authority to forgive the sins of the contrite. He sacramentalized the Healing of the sick and the infirm by showing us how to do it. All of these rituals, and more, are outward signs of internal commitment. They are all elements of the New and Everlasting Covenant between Jesus and His people. Catholics believe this because all of these actions are open behaviors that Jesus Himself practiced for our edification and continued practice. Sacraments are not Catholic Doctrine alone. Sacraments are sacred vestiges of the public life of Jesus as memorialized and practiced by His People. This Humanly Divine life that He lived and left us for our benefit is Biblical, Gary.

    I pray that you will learn to unshackle yourself from the Bible verses and learn to read the inspired stories so that the Divine Teaching that they contain will come to mean something to you.

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  19. Mike Peterson12:42 PM

    As with all debates between Catholics and Protestants the Protestants uses the Bible that Catholics gave to world and then argue that they themselves without any authority can say that the Church Jesus started is wrong in saying what it means. They believe that the churches that men started after the year 1500 have the real truth. All they have to do is read about the history of the world between Jesus's ascension and the canonization of the bible.

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  20. Mike:
    Believe us, Brother, we all wish it were that simple.

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  21. Korin Pau5:36 AM

    Catholics believe baptism is necessary for salvation.
    VATICAN II declared this in #7 of it’s decree Ad Gentes:
    “Therefore, all must be converted to Him, made known by the Church's preaching, and all must be incorporated into Him by baptism and into the Church which is His body. For Christ Himself "by stressing in express language the necessity of faith and baptism (cf. Mark 16:16; John 3:5), at the same time confirmed the necessity of the Church, into which men enter by baptism, as by a door. Therefore those men cannot be saved, who though aware that God, through Jesus Christ founded the Church as something necessary, still do not wish to enter into it, or to persevere in it." (Dogmatic constitution by Vatican II: Lumen Gentium 14) Therefore though God in ways known to Himself can lead those inculpably ignorant of the Gospel to find that faith without which it is impossible to please Him (Heb. 11:6), yet a necessity lies upon the Church (1 Cor. 9:16), and at the same time a sacred duty, to preach the Gospel. And hence missionary activity today as always retains its power and necessity.”

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