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Parents: Donít Delay Baptism for your Infants!
Archdiocese of Washington ^ | April 22, 2012 | Msgr. Charles Pope

Posted on 04/27/2012 6:36:28 PM PDT by Salvation


There is a trend that has set up for years now, and that is that Catholics are waiting many months to get their children baptized. I suspect that what we have here is a combination of a much lower infant mortality rate and, also, a less fervent practice of the faith by many. Further, there seems little sense among the faithful today that an unbaptized infant would be excluded from heaven.

As regards the last point, I think it is pastorally sound to trust in God’s mercy for infants who die before baptism. However, I do not think it follows that we ought to disregard or substantially delay a sacrament which Jesus commands, and which the Church indicates ought not to be delayed. The Code of Canon Law says the following:

Parents are obliged to see that their infants are baptised within the first few weeks. As soon as possible after the birth, indeed even before it, they are to approach the parish priest to ask for the sacrament for their child, and to be themselves duly prepared for it. If the infant is in danger of death, it is to be baptised without any delay. Can. 867 §1,§2

The Catechism also states: The Church and parents deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God were they not to confer baptism shortly after birth. (CCC # 1250) So it seems clear that a higher priority should be given to scheduling the baptism of babies within the first few weeks after birth.

Protestant practice departs from the received Tradition – Another factor for American Catholics is that many are influenced by the Protestants. Protestants, (though not all of them) disagree with our Catholic practice of baptizing infants. They usually wait until a child is between 8 and 12 to baptize,  reasoning that the child will know and understand what is happening and be able to claim Christ for themselves.

But, I hope you see the supreme irony of this in the fact that the Protestants, who so emphasize that salvation does not come from works, delay baptism on the grounds that the infant has not achieved (i.e. worked up to) the proper level of maturity. To know, requires one to learn, which is a work. And we Catholics, who supposedly teach salvation through works (we do not), baptize infants who can work no work.

Novelty – Indeed, the Protestant denominations (mostly Baptists (another irony), Pentecostals, Fundamentalist and Evangelicals) who refuse baptism to infants, engage in a novelty unknown to the Church until recent times.

It is a simple historical fact that the Church has always baptized infants. Even our earliest documents speak of the practice. For example the Apostolic Tradition written about 215 A.D. has this to say:

The children shall be baptized first. All of the children who can answer for themselves, let them answer. If there are any children who cannot answer for themselves, let their parents answer for them, or someone else from their family. (Apostolic Tradition # 21)

Scripture too confirms that infants should be baptized if you do the math. For example

People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have him touch them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. (Luke 18:15-17 NIV)

So the Kingdom of God belongs to the little children (in Greek βρέφη (brephe) indicating infants and little children still held in the arms, babes).

And yet elsewhere Jesus also reminds that it is necessary to be baptized in order to enter the Kingdom of God: Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. (John 3:5 NIV)

If the Kingdom of God belongs to little children, and we are taught that we cannot inherit it without baptism, then it follows that baptizing infants is necessary, and that to fail to do so, is a hindering of the little children which Jesus forbade his apostles to do. So both Tradition and Scripture affirm the practice of baptizing infants.

Many of the Protestants who do refuse infant baptism also water down (pardon the pun!) the fuller meaning of baptism, no longer seeing it as washing away sins and conferring righteousness per se, but more as a symbol of faith that they claim to have already received when they said the “sinners prayer” and accepted Christ as their savior. But what a tragic loss for them, since baptism and particularly the baptism of infants, says some very wonderful things about the complete gratuity of salvation and the goodness of God. Consider these points:

1. The baptism of infants is a powerful testimony to the absolute gratuity (gift) of salvation. Infants have achieved nothing, have not worked, have not done anything to “merit” salvation. The Catechism puts it this way: The sheer gratuitousness of the grace of salvation is particularly manifest in infant baptism. (CCC # 1250) The Church is clear, salvation cannot be earned or merited and infant baptism teaches that most clearly. Salvation is pure gift. How strange and ironic that some of the very denominations which claim that Catholics teach salvation by works (we do not) also refuse, themselves, to baptize infants. They claim that a certain age of maturity is required so that the person understands what they are doing. But this sounds like achievement to me. That the child must meet some requirement, seems like a work, or the attainment of some meritorious status wherein one is now old enough to “qualify” for baptism and salvation. “Qualifications….Achievement (of age)….Requirements….it all sounds like what they accuse us of: namely works and merit. To be clear then, the Catholic understanding of the gratuity of salvation is far more radical than many non-Catholics understand. We baptize infants who are not capable of meriting, attaining or earning.

2. The Baptism of infants also powerfully attests to the fact that the beauty of holiness and righteousness is available to everyone regardless of age. To be baptized means to be washed. Washed of what? Original Sin. At first this seems like a downer, “Are you saying my baby has sin?” Yep. All of us inherit Original Sin from Adam and Eve. We are born into a state of alienation from God that is caused by sin. The Scriptures are clear: [S]in entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned (Rom 5:12). So even infants are in need of the saving touch of God. Now why would we wish to delay this salvation and resulting holiness for 7 to 12 years? The Catechism says this,

Born with a fallen human nature and tainted by Original Sin, children also have need of new birth in Baptism to be freed from the power of darkness and be brought into the realm of the freedom of the children of God….The Church and parents would deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God were they not to confer baptism shortly after birth. (CCC # 1250).

St. Cyprian Bishop of Carthage in the 3rd Century was asked if it was OK to wait to the 8th day to baptize since baptism had replaced circumcision. He respond with a strong no:

But in respect of the case of the infants, which you say ought not to be baptized within the second or third day after their birth, and that the law of ancient circumcision should be regarded, so that you think that one who is just born should not be baptized and sanctified within the eighth day We [the bishops] all thought very differently in our council. For in this course which you thought was to be taken, no one agreed; but we all rather judge that the mercy and grace of God is not to be refused to any one born of man. (Epist# 58).

So then here is the beauty, that infants are summoned to receive the precious gift of holiness and righteousness and that they are summoned to a right relationship with God by having their sin purged and holiness infused. Infants are called to this dignity and should not be denied it. With this done, some of the holiest and most innocent days of our lives may well be our first years. Then, as the will begins to manifest, and reason begins to dawn, the grace of holiness gives us extra strength to fight against the sinful world that looms.

3. The Baptism of Infants also attests to the fact that faith is gift for every stage of development- To be baptized is to receive the gift of faith. It is baptism that gives the true faith. Even with adults, true faith does not come until baptism. Prior to that there is a kind of prevenient faith, but it is not the Theological Virtue of Faith.

Now faith is not only an intellectual assent to revealed doctrine. It is that, but it is more. To have faith is also be be in a righteous and trusting relationship with God. An infant relates to his parents long before he speaks or his rational mind is fully formed. He trusts his parents and depends on them. It is the same with God. Thus the infant can well trust and depend on God and be in a right relationship with God, in an age appropriate way.

With his parents, his or her relationship of trust with parents, leads the infant to begin to speak and understand as he or she grows. It is the same with God. As the infant’s mind awakens, the infant’s faith grows. It will continue to grow until the day he or she dies (hopefully) as an old man or woman.

That faith accompanies us through every stage of our life, and develops as we do, is essential to its nature. An infant needs faith no less than an old man. An infant benefits from faith no less than a teenager or an adult. To argue, as some Protestants do, that you have to be a certain age before faith can exist, hardly seems to respect the progressive nature of faith which is able to bless EVERY stage of our human journey.

I have some very vivid memories of my experience of God prior to seven years of age and I will say that God was very powerfully present to me in my early years, in many ways even more so than now, when my mind sometimes “gets in the way.”

Too many Catholics are waiting months, even years to have their children baptized. Precious time is lost by this delay. Infant Baptism speaks powerfully of the love that God has for everyone he has created and of his desire to have everyone in a right and saving relationship with Him. Surely baptism alone isn’t enough. The child must be raised in the faith. It is the nature of faith that it grows by hearing and seeing. Children must have faith given at baptism but that faith must be explained and unwrapped like a precious gift for them.

Don’t delay. Get started early and teach your child the faith they have received every day.

TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; History; Theology
KEYWORDS: baptism; catholic; msgrcharlespope; sacrament; sacramentofbaptism; sacraments
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To: Salvation
If you think your child who only lived one hour is going to Hell because you didn't have it baptized before he/she died, you have no understanding of God at all.

What a cruel doctrine.

41 posted on 04/28/2012 12:52:38 AM PDT by Lakeshark (NbIttoalbl,cRwIdtaa)
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To: Craftmore
Dismas was baptized by desire. Under dire circumstances, he acknowledged Jesus Christ for Who He was and is and rebuked the bad thief for his lack of respect. Others were baptized by dying for the Faith but not having been baptized by water. This is known as Baptism by Blood. Both of these doctrines are not as well understood by many in the pews as once they were but they are true nonetheless.

No, this is NOT an invitation to a game of Scriptural Jeopardy.

42 posted on 04/28/2012 3:22:43 AM PDT by BlackElk ( Dean of Discipline ,Tomas de Torquemada Gentlemen's Society. Burn 'em Bright!)
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To: doc1019
If G-d is in the habit of condemning infants to eternity in hell or a lengthy time in a limbo state just because they missed baptism, he is not the G-d of the bible

Exactly. None of that is Biblical.

43 posted on 04/28/2012 3:36:21 AM PDT by alnick
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To: BlackElk; All

If my memory is correct, did not in the Acts of the Apostles, and I am a Catholic myself, was not whole families baptized? That had to include infants as well.

44 posted on 04/28/2012 4:29:53 AM PDT by Biggirl ("Jesus talked to us as individuals"-Jim Vicevich/Thanks JimV!)
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To: Secret Agent Man; Salvation
From the CCC:

1256 The ordinary ministers of Baptism are the bishop and priest and, in the Latin Church, also the deacon.57 In case of necessity, anyone, even a non-baptized person, with the required intention, can baptize,58 by using the Trinitarian baptismal formula. The intention required is to will to do what the Church does when she baptizes. The Church finds the reason for this possibility in the universal saving will of God and the necessity of Baptism for salvation.59

45 posted on 04/28/2012 5:08:47 AM PDT by verga (Party like it is 1773)
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To: doc1019; terycarl; Cronos
Bull, nothing in the bible requires baptism for entrance into heaven. The only requirement is acceptance that Jesus is our Lord and savior.

1 peter 21 This prefigured baptism, which saves you now. It is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God* for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

I really wish that prots would start reading the Bible, even once in a while would help them.

46 posted on 04/28/2012 5:19:15 AM PDT by verga (Party like it is 1773)
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To: verga

There’s no need to make offensive generalizations like you did - it doesn’t help the discussion.

It’s not as cut and dry as you make it seem. There are some Biblical verses that seem to imply that water baptism is required for salvation, but there are many other verses that speak of salvation with no mention of water baptism. The key is to understand the context of the verses in question.

In the verse you posted, we see that water is seen as a type of instrument for salvation, and was compared to the water in the flood, which “saved” Noah. Of course, the water itself didn’t save Noah, but the ark, which is a figure for Christ. In the same way, our salvation comes from Christ, and the regeneration of the Holy Spirit. Peter is comparing the water in baptism to the water in the flood, but in both cases, the water itself really isn’t critical piece of salvation. It is the repentant heart; trust in God, and the Holy Spirit, that brings salvation.

47 posted on 04/28/2012 6:48:58 AM PDT by Turtlepower
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To: Lakeshark
Few hours old infant: Hi God I’m here!

God: So sorry but you were not Baptized, so you can’t come in.

Few hours old infant: Well, you must know, being that You Know and See everything that I had a pretty rough birth and things got pretty frantic between my delivery and being rushed into the NICU. You do know that I was rushed to the NICU and died before my parents even had a chance to hold me live alone Baptize me, don’t you?

God: Well I do have rules.

Few hours old infant: So you are condemning me to Hell because of a technicality?

God: Yep. That’s how I roll.


48 posted on 04/28/2012 7:21:01 AM PDT by MD Expat in PA
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To: Craftmore
Was the thief on the cross baptised? NO
Did he go to heaven? YES

It is a very dangerous thing to try to establish a general rule from an exception, particularly since you are not a thief dying on a cross next to Jesus.

49 posted on 04/28/2012 7:38:36 AM PDT by lightman (Adjutorium nostrum (+) in nomine Domini--nevertheless, Vote Santorum!)
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To: verga; Cronos

Why is it so difficult for those who require “acceptance” of Jesus to “accept” (believe and trust) those things which Jesus has commanded, namely Baptism and Eucharist?

If “acceptance” depends on my intellectual assent or fervent emotions then “my” acceptance will always be subject to question and found wanting. If on the other hand I simply trust and believe that Jesus’s word accomplishes that for which He sends it that can never be found wanting.

50 posted on 04/28/2012 7:45:00 AM PDT by lightman (Adjutorium nostrum (+) in nomine Domini--nevertheless, Vote Santorum!)
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To: Dallas59
Baptism does not save you.

I know your Protestant semi-literate pastor tells you so. But you don't have to stay ignorant. Read the Bible every now and then:

baptism being of the like [water] form, now saveth you also: not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the examination of a good conscience towards God by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 3:21)

51 posted on 04/28/2012 8:15:49 AM PDT by annalex (
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To: Craftmore
the thief on the cross

You're nailed to something too?

52 posted on 04/28/2012 8:17:27 AM PDT by annalex (
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To: Lakeshark
If you think your child who only lived one hour is going to Hell

The Church does not teach that he is. St. Augustine taught that such child attains the state of greatest possible natural happiness after death. A baptized child attains beatific vision: a state of supernatural happiness. Does the former sound like hell to you? At any rate, even St. Augustine limbo hypothesis is not a dogmatic teaching of the Catholic Church.

A child needs to be baptized in obedience to the commandment of Christ clearly given in the Bible (Mark 16:16) and out of love for the child whom you want to be near Christ forever, not out of fear of a Calvinist cruel god that only exists in Calvin's sick imagination.

53 posted on 04/28/2012 8:29:43 AM PDT by annalex (
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To: Turtlepower

Baptism Saves you. Period, that is exactly what the Bible says.
As far as “offensive generalizations” You might make that exact same comment to the non Catholic I replied to. He goes out of his way to insult Catholics in every thread he can.

54 posted on 04/28/2012 9:49:06 AM PDT by verga (Party like it is 1773)
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To: Turtlepower
the ark, which is a figure for Christ

You can believe whatever you want, but one who reads the Bible as it is written, and without Protestant obfuscations would see in Noah a figure of Christ, in the ark, a figure of the Catholic Church, and in the flood the baptismal water. You enter the Church through baptism in order to be saved, as St. Peter explains in that verse. "Good conscience" is indeed obtained through baptism, which washes off all preexisting to the baptism sin by the Resurrected Christ.

55 posted on 04/28/2012 11:15:26 AM PDT by annalex (
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To: Craftmore

The Good Thief expressed remorse and received a Baptism of Desire.

Have you ever read about a Baptism of Blood?

A Baptism of Desire?

Most of us are familiar with a Baptism of water and the Holy Spirit.

56 posted on 04/28/2012 11:31:48 AM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Cronos

Great post.

57 posted on 04/28/2012 11:33:44 AM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Lakeshark

I grabbed my son out of an oxygen tent when he was a baby, took him to the hospital sink in the room. Turned on the water and baptized him, “I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

I’ve lived this. It’s not cruel to baptize your own child, is it?

58 posted on 04/28/2012 11:35:43 AM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Biggirl

Yes, entire families, including children and babies were baptized. The household of Lydia is one example from St. Paul.

59 posted on 04/28/2012 11:37:23 AM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: MD Expat in PA

do you remember the definition of Limbo, where babies would go?

It’s not called Limbo any longer, but the unbaptized children are in the presence of God, but in a different place/level than those who were baptized.

“There are many mansions in my Father’s house.”

60 posted on 04/28/2012 11:40:53 AM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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