This is the second in a series of articles which are based on the top 9 google searches which come after "Why do Catholics..." in the search suggestions. I start at the ninth and will work my way to #1. If you have follow-up questions or comments, please post them below.
The topic of today's blog is "Why do Catholics Baptize Babies?"
Obviously many people from various Christian traditions do not baptize infants. They say only adults or people of a certain age at least should be baptized because it has to be a conscious act as opposed to something that you are forced to do as an infant and have no choice over. They would say "how can somebody accept the Lord Jesus Christ unless they are of a certain age and can explicitly give consent?". However Catholics would say that the faith is passed down from parents to children and that the parents are the first teachers of their children. Children do not necessarily need to give explicit permission for everything that is done to them. And as you will see there are many benefits of baptizing infants and potential pitfalls of neglecting to baptize them.
When we look in the Bible one of the things that Jesus says over and over again is go and baptize all people in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. He further goes on to say that unless one is baptized that they cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Catholics throughout the centuries have taken these Commandments very seriously because he doesn't give an exception. Jesus does not say for example that unless a person is baptized "assuming they have reached the age where they can consent to baptism", they cannot be saved. No, instead the command to baptize everyone is explicit and no exceptions are given.
We also can look at history and find that from very very early in the church, much before any Protestant denominations existed, infant baptism was the norm. All Christians practiced it. It was not until the Reformation that certain Christian sects began removing infant baptism and instead started practicing only adult baptism. There are many sources of Christian literature that date back to the first one or two centuries of Christianity explaining infant baptism and how it is performed and it is seen as something that naturally occurs for all Christian families. I would suggest looking at the Wikipedia article on this subject because they go into great depth and give a very well-rounded explanation for this practice.
But when you think about it on another level, children do not verbally consent to anything until a later age and we must wait even longer before they are old enough to make an independent conscious decision to do something. However just because that is the case does not mean we withhold our culture and values and beliefs from a child until they are of the age where they can make a conscious and personal decision about it. For example we do not wait until a child is 12 or 13 years old to teach them what is right and wrong or to teach them about God or to teach them our language or values. We do that right from the very start when they're very young. Baptism is a form of initiation into the Christian family and into a relationship with God himself. Why would we withhold this amazing gift that God has provided to us just because this is a child who cannot explicitly consent to it. There are many examples of consent in our lives that do not apply to children. For example we would not withhold medicine from an infant simply because they cannot verbally consent to taking it. And if we listen to Jesus and he says baptism is necessary for salvation who are we to say "I think you forgot to mention that this only applies to people of a certain age, Jesus."
Thank you for reading this article. If you have any questions or comments please by all means feel free to leave them down below. In terms of the article I was referencing on Wikipedia that can be found here.