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Why does the Catholic Church baptize babies?

Q: Why does the Catholic Church baptize babies? Aren’t they too young to understand what is happening to them?
A fair question. The easiest and perhaps best answer would simply be that this was the constant Tradition or teaching of the early Church, right from the time of the Apostles.

Despite this, the first objection often is that babies cannot personally make the commitment necessary for Baptism. But, since the time of Abraham right to the present, Jews have circumcised infants and brought them into the Covenant on the eighth day after birth, based on the faith of the parents, just as we do now in Christian Baptism. Could you imagine the Apostles standing before the Jewish crowds, announcing the New Covenant, but adding that their children were excluded, until they could make the decision for themselves? It would be unheard of!

And Scripture is very clear that the faith of a believing parent or spouse can have great effect, and can literally make a child or unbelieving spouse, “holy”. In 1 Cor 7:14, we read, “For the unbelieving husband is consecrated through his (believing) wife, and the unbelieving wife is consecrated through her husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is they are holy.” It is this faith of the parents, and Godparents, that asks for the gifts of Baptism on behalf of the child, which God graciously responds to.

St Paul also confirms that baptism now replaces circumcision as entry into the New Covenant. For example, he says, “In Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not administered by hand, by stripping off the carnal body, with the circumcision of Christ. You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with Him” (Col 2:11-12).

In fact, an early council of the Church, the Council of Carthage [252 A.D.] met in part to consider exactly our question. But the question wasn’t whether to baptize babies or not. No, the question was, that under the New Covenant, should we wait until the traditional eighth day of circumcision to baptize. And the decision was to not even wait until the eighth day, but to baptize as soon as possible, without delay!

St. Peter further settles the issue for us. As he gave the first great sermon of the Church on the day of Pentecost, converting some 3000 Jews at once, he would close, saying “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, ( i.e. babies too! ) 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” (Acts 2:38-39).

St. Peter makes it clear that children were included in this call to be baptized. While having no need to repent of personal sin, babies certainly do need the great, freely given, unmerited gifts of baptism — the stain of original sin washed from their souls, the indwelling of the Trinity restored, Sanctifying Grace poured into their souls — making them children of God and members of the Body of Christ.

In Mark 10:14, Jesus Himself gives further confirmation of all this. “People were bringing even infants (the Greek word here literally means infants, NOT older children) to Him that He might touch them…. ‘Let the children come to Me and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these…” And He took them in His arms and blessed them, laying His hands upon them.” Awesome!

Now according to Scripture, Baptism is the normal way of entering into the Kingdom of Heaven. “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit” (John 3:3-5). “Being born of water and Spirit” is Baptism according to what the early Church taught about this passage. If Jesus says the Kingdom of God belongs to infants and children, it would make no sense if He then withheld the gift of Baptism that would give them entrance to this very Kingdom.

Additionally, in 1 Cor 1:16 and Acts 16:15,33, we see baptism of “whole households”, with no mention of excluding babies. In fact, in all of Sacred Scripture, there is not a single place that says babies should not be baptized, not one. Period!

But, what does the early Church have to say about this matter? Lots!

Listen to St Irenaeus (A.D. 189), a disciple of St Polycarp who was taught by St John the Apostle himself! “He [Jesus] came to save all through Himself; all, I say, who through Him are reborn in God: infants, and children… He passed through every age, becoming an infant for infants, sanctifying infants; a child for children, sanctifying those who are of that age”.

The great St Augustine would write: “The custom of Mother Church in baptizing infants is… not to be scorned, nor regarded as superfluous, nor is it to be believed that its tradition is anything except apostolic”.

In his 215 A.D. letter, “Apostolic Tradition”, St Hippolytus would write: “Baptize first the children, and if they can speak for themselves let them do so. Otherwise, let their parents or other relatives speak for them.”

St Gregory of Nazianz summarizes the answer for us perfectly in his “Oration on Holy Baptism”. “Do you have an infant child? Allow sin no opportunity; rather, let the infant be sanctified from childhood. From his most tender age let him be consecrated by the Spirit.” Perfect!



  1. EdLim Reply

    The Catholic reason on the baptism of babies is based on the faith of the parents just as the circumcision of babies in the Old Testament. The stronger reason, however, is based on the discourse between Jesus Christ and Nicodemus, read John 3:1-5; Jesus said: “unless a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God, Nicodemus said – how can a man be born again when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born again? Jesus answered; AMEN, AMEN (meaning; truly, truly) I say to you, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Spirit, he can not enter into the kingdom of God."

    The baby is baptized so that the baby can “enter into the kingdom of God" immediately. The other aspect of it which is not explainable, and most likely cannot be grasp by many who are not spiritually strong, is the “born again" aspect. Take note the question of Nicodemus “can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb?" Jesus answered “Amen, amen (truly, truly)." Obviously, man can not enter again into his worldly mother’s womb. Since Jesus did not explain, therefore, the passage of “born again" in the discourse can not be explained in a way that people can easily grasp and accept.

    By continuing to read in John 3:13, Jesus said; “no man has ascended into heaven, but he that descended from heaven, the Son of man who is in heaven.” How did Jesus descend from heaven into the world? Jesus descended through the Holy Womb of his mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. A spiritual man can now grasp the discourse that a worldly man must be “born again" in spirit through a Holy Womb just as Jesus descended through the holy womb of Mary. Mary is known in the Catholic Church as the “Spouse" of the Holy Spirit.

  2. Pingback: Why does the Catholic Church Baptize Babies? - Religion Itch

  3. Mike Reply

    You have to repent of your sins and ask Jesus to come into your heart to be born again. Mary has absolutely nothing to do with it. She was the mother of Jesus and thats all. Then once you are born again you are baptized. Jesus is the only one we should be praying to. Mary cannot save.

    1. Georganna Reply

      Please become better educated as you read Mike. I will pray for you.

      1. Johnny Reply

        And I will pray that you actually read your Bible as the inspired word of God and rely on it rather than a fallible human.

        1. Mike Reply

          What fallible human are you referring too? Romans 10:9-That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is lord”, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will ne saved. Romans 6:23-For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of life is in Christ Jesus our lord. 1Timothy 2:5- For there is ONE God and One mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men. John 3:16, I can go on and on. People, please put you faith in Jesus only, that’s my point. Once you are boen again, then you are to get baptized. Baptism is faith in action.A man who knows that he is saved by believing in Christ does not, when he is baptized, lift his baptism into a saving ordinance. In fact, he is the very best protestor against that mistake, because he holds that he has no right to be baptized until he is saved-Charles Spurgeon. ACTS 8:35-38-You have to believe with all your heart first that Jesus is the son of God then you get baptized.

          1. Johnny Wizorek

            Mike I was not replying to your comment sorry…I was replying to Georganna when he/she made the comment “She would pray for you”. However, I was referring to the pope as a fallible human.Most Catholics don’t rely on reading the Bible and studying it. They don’t believe that the Bible is the Ultimate authority and that is has the final say on anything. They believe that the Divine Pope has the final say. They also believe that these things have been handed down from one generation to the next from the “Fathers”…my husbands side is Catholic and I might as well bang my head against the wall because I would get more results from that! The indoctrination is so deeply rooted it is really hard for them to open their Bible and read/study it with a real wanting to understand the scripture because they have been told not to question the “Holy Authority” on such matters!!! One day when they realize how many lies they have been told, like my husband did, then maybe they will open their Bible and see the real TRUTH!! You don’t have to do all these things to go to heaven it’s not a “WORKS” based program!

      2. Audel godin Reply

        I don’t know where you are getting your facts from , but it’s certainly not from God. Born again simply means that. Born again. Before the great fall in the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve would walk in the garden and have fellowship with God. They were to live for eternity with God. But when the devil, disguise as a snake trick them into disobeying God, they virtually signed their death warrant. Satan therefore thinking he had won. But God had amaster plan. His son Jesus would come down to earth, and restore what was stolen from Adam and Eve. And so the phrase born again comes from. To bring us back before the fall.we must be born again, cause we actually died in the garden. It’s all in the scriptures. Open your bible and read it, it will not bite you.

        1. Mrs. Reply

          Agree !:)

        2. Johnny Wizorek Reply

          You are right about most of this but the Phrase “born again”. When we are Baptized (literally means to be immersed, but good old King James didn’t want to translate that…hmm wonder why) we are being buried like Christ was then we are raised out of the water to walk a NEW life just like he did. This is where the term “Born again” comes from. However, I am more than happy to hear or read where you got your information from….

        3. Rose Reply

          The early Catholic Fathers help translate and compile the first copy of our holy bible. The Holy Spirit guided them in everything they do until everyone of us were able to get a copy of the gospel. What on earth now that you say the Catholics didn’t read and understand their bible! That’s totally lie and you must be crazy.

    2. Deborah Reply

      Excellent reply

    3. Gerard Reply

      You are right- you are to change your life and follow Christ- a profound statement of personal mission. This is baptism- a rebirth. The onther ritual s are baby presentations, and not baptisms. Calling it baptism is really to ensure there is none of that rebirthing stuff- which is taken to bee too fundamental and radical.

    4. nyamah marcel Reply

      i fear for u sir…i doubt whether is lack of education or ignorance or pretext as luther thought u pipo.may God forgive u mike

  4. Ed Reply

    @Mike: The new born baby is innocent and does not need to repent. But the baby originated from the first Adam and Eve and carries the original sin. The baby should be baptized as soon as possible to enter early into the kingdom of God. The discourse between Nicodemus and Jesus need not be in the bible if it did not have a significant (and important) message. And Jesus’ reply to Nicodemus did not deny but a positive (men, amen). A person must be “born again” through the new Adam (Jesus) and the new Eve (Mother Mary), similar to the birth of Jesus through the holy womb of Mary and the power of the Holy Spirit (because He is God).

    Asking Jesus to come into your heart is not a sure thing. Jesus said in John 6:48-59; “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you.” A grown up person who has not partaken of the flesh and blood of Jesus has no life in spirit. The “born again” in spirit is the presence of Jesus Christ in the person. And the “born again” person becomes a member of the Body of Christ, a member of His Church.

    In the case of the baby, the baby is considered innocence until the age of reason, and by that time in the Catholic Church, he/she must receive the Holy Communion (the Bread of Life) continuing in that “born again” state in the Body of Christ.

  5. Leah Reply

    We also should not forget that Baptism is also the first rite of exorcism. It is our earliest protection from the devil.

  6. Michael Reply

    It would be accurate to say that from the earliest times entire families were baptized but that is not the whole story. Lots of babies weren’t baptized and it did not become a “mandatory” Catholic/Christian practice until after St. Augustine’s teaching on Original sin centuries later. This famous sinner and saint is the major contributor to this practice and of course, he was not baptized as an infant, and he had a very holy and faithful mother in St. Monica. Any understanding that God would not save the innocent who have died before baptism or even the adult who is seeking the truth of God’s love is inadequate and offensive to the gospel. Church theology has grown beyond this “fundamentalistic” approach to salvation.

    The above use of Mark 10:14 is somewhat misapplied because the evangelist is not speaking of baptism here but “blessing”. It is actually very clear from scripture that Jesus instructed his followers to baptize but that he did not baptize.

    Baptism does not save us from opportunities to sin, we are always free to sin. Grace is relational, not magic. It is available to the baptized and the unbaptized. Our tendency to sin is our opportunity to turn to God in our weakness, it is what makes us desire God, as St. Augustine so wonderfully stated, and open our hearts to saving grace that can both keep us from sin and aid us in turning quickly to God when we have sinned. This grace is in us and with us and around us at every moment of our lives, whether we are baptized or not. God’s work has never been limited to the good work of his institutional church.

    An approach that enters the very young into a children’s RCIC process and baptizes them when they request it, at 7, or 12, or 18, is faithful to the early traditions as well. The advantage here is respecting the very early tradition of one initiation ceremony with baptism, confirmation, and eucharist together. The confusion around contemporary confirmation which is not a Catholic bar-mitzvah is here avoided.

    That doesn’t make it any easier to raise Catholic kids in this day and age but there are a variety of ways, faithful to the tradition, that it could be done.

  7. Susan Schneider Reply

    Parents make decisions for their children ie., what kind of food to eat, where to go to school, what clothes to wear, and what religion they want them to be brought up in. Baptism is the washing away of the original sin of Adam and Eve. The longer the stain of sin is on the soul the longer the devil will have to harm the soul. So we Baptize to dedicate the child to God and present a pure soul. Hopefully the education for the soul continues throughout their lives as they grow in Grace.

  8. Jaykie Reply

    Jesus blessed babies. He never baptized babies. Mark 10. Follow the bible and not your false interpretation thereof.

    1. ZORSHA Reply

      As A Parent It’s your Choice to have them baptized or blessed. We also have communion and confirmation which is like another baptism. Now I understand that the Catholic faith may not reflect your faith or religious path, but please don’t stand in the way of our religious paths. We have freedom of religion for a reason. If God gave us free will please have the same courtesy

  9. Mrs. Reply

    They do that to earn money.

  10. Richard LaRaviere Reply

    Hummm… Informative, enlightening and I have to admit, makes perfect sense. Interesting.

  11. 12081970 Reply

    Brethren, I am so impressed about your personal opinion about your faith. WELL please allow my brethren to justify what the real and truth teaching of our Mediator and Savior Jesus Christ when he came to this world to save us for our sins. The first step he makes before he start for his work as a well of the FATHER, He himself go to the Jordan River to undergo water baptism as commanded of the FATHER to show us and perform individually. That moment John de Baptist challenge him to change his mind saying,” I ought to be baptized by you,” John said, “and yet you have come to me.” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so for now. For in this way we shall do all that GOD requires.” Matthew 3:14-15: My brethren of RCC members it is clear, and no one can refuted this because Jesus Christ our LORD GOD our Savior do this as the well of the FATHER in heaven. You cannot connected to the body of Christ if you violating one of his Holy Words. Brethren, open your eyes, mind and hearts and let the guidance of Holy Spirit leads you to understand the secret will of God. Violating of God’s Holy Word’s excuses no one! Thank you very much Roman Catholic Believers and I love you all in the name of Jesus Christ…Amen

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