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Question

Good morning,

How come despite the fact that the Lord Jesus ordered his people that they should be baptized only after having believed, you Catholics baptize infants?

Isn’t this a huge contradiction?

Greetings


The Priest’s reply

Dear friend

1. not only Catholics but also Orthodox baptize infants.

This means that the Tradition of the Church says that it has always been done this way since the very beginning.

Speaking of Tradition, you may know how much the Orthodox care about it!

2. You should ask yourself what are the reasons that motivate Catholics and Orthodox to baptize children.

And once you know, you can contradict them.

This is how a dialogue begins.

3. Here is what Catholics and Orthodox think about this matter.

Certainly, in Sacred Scripture there are no explicit references to baptism conferred on children.

But we cannot exclude it because we are told that entire families received baptism.

4. Some examples.

Saint Paul writes: “I baptized the household of Stephanas also; beyond that I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.” (1 Cor 1:16).

Now presumably there were also children in the family.

5. Similarly, in the Acts of the Apostles we read of Lydia: “After she and her household had been baptized, she offered us an invitation,” (Acts 16:15).

The same thing is said of the custodian of the prison where Paul was: “He took them in at that hour of the night and bathed their wounds; then he and all his family were baptized at once.” (Acts 16:33).

6. In any case, in these texts we do not read the opposite, that is, that they baptized the whole family except the children.

And this is important.

7. But what St. Paul recalls in his letter to the Colossians, namely, that baptism replaces circumcision, is also particularly valuable: “In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not administered by hand, by stripping off the carnal body, with the circumcision of Christ. ” (Col 2:11).

Now circumcision was done specifically to infants, to newborn babies.

8. We probably also find an allusion to infant baptism in these words of Saint Peter spoken on the day of Pentecost: “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.

For the promise is made to you and to your children and to all those far off, whomever the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:38-39).

9. We also have the testimony of the tradition of the first centuries.

Tertullian, who is of the second century, says that even infants were baptized (De baptismo, 18, 5; De anima, 39).

Similarly, Origen in the third century (In Ioan. comment., I, 6, 9):

10. What about the necessity of faith before Baptism?

It is clear that children cannot express it on their own.

But neither can they express all other needs by themselves.

Parents act as their spokesmen and interpreters.

And the parents, just as they do so for their natural needs, do so also for their supernatural needs.

11. Hence infants are baptized in the faith of their parents.

This is how Christ’s command is understood: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mk 16:16).

12. The words in which the Lord says: “…; whoever does not believe will be condemned.” must also be understood well.

Would you dare to conclude that children who die without baptism and therefore without faith are inexorably condemned?

As you see, the words of Jesus must be understood by making the necessary distinctions between those who refused to believe, those who did not receive the announcement of salvation, and those who received it through their parents.

By making these distinctions you begin to put yourself on the path to better understanding the Lord’s words, avoiding being misunderstood.

I wish you well and I will remember you to the Lord.

Father Angelo