Conditional baptism for babies/children?


Why is it that in the Catholic church we say that "Baptism saves" and is really important for the child, yet when the parents/parent or someone else is doing wrong, the church doesn't let the child be baptised? Even say if the parents were Atheist and they wanted their child baptised, the church commands that they only be baptised if they are going to be brought up in the Catholic faith. Why do we deny this child baptism, if it is so important, on the basis of what their parents believe?

I may sound a bit harsh and i apologise for that it is not my intention, i just simply want to know.


Baptizing someone doesn’t do them any good if they just wind up repudiating the faith later on (actually, it’ll hurt them much worse). That’s why the Church forbids baptism of babies under such circumstances only in the case of imminent death.


One reason is because at baptism someone must make promises for the child. A parent who is not living their Catholic faith would be lying. One of the promises at baptism is “To bring the child up in the faith.” An atheist would be lying. But a parent or legal guardian must be able to make these promises in good faith.

Another reason is that Baptism brings one into the Church which gives one responsibilities. Someone baptized into the Catholic faith is bound by cannon law. This is a major burden on someone who is not going to be instructed in the faith or taught that mortal sins are ok and the Church is wrong.


I’m curious why you used the phrase “Conditional baptism” in the title of this thread.

But as for your question as stated in the thread… in a way you are asking a math problem. What are the odds that baptizing a child will be of benefit to him rather than affording an opportunity to repudiate the Faith?

In the days when reaching the age of reason was unlikely at best, it was obviously to the child’s spiritual advantage to baptize him and likely guarantee his entrance into heaven. Today, when even poor, disadvantaged children are likely to grow to adulthood, baptizing a child who is unlikely to know his Faith will result in him failing to do all kinds of things that he doesn’t even know he is obliged to do. For example, the probability of him entering an invalid marriage will be very high.


Baptism is important according to our Catechism 1213 it says:

“Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua),4 and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission.”

The thing about Baptism is that once someone has been baptized they are now obligated to live a life in communion with the church.

As Catholics we are obligated to attend mass every Sunday, Get married in the Church, faithfully receive the sacraments, and live our lives in accordance with the social teachings of the Church.

I think that a lot of people nowadays treat Baptism as if it’s a party…kind of like a baby shower or a sweet 16 birthday. They don’t understand that through our Baptism we now have life long obligations to live as faithful Catholics.

So in your example of the church refusing to baptize the atheist’s baby…How can the church take part in such an arrangement in which they know that the child will not be taught according to the Catholic faith? It’s not something to be taken lightly. The atheist parents in your example are treating Baptism as a “Right of Passage.” Whereas in the churches eyes this child will be a baptized Catholic who most likely will not attend mass (a Sin), deny the existence of God (a heresy) and live a life that is not in communion with the church in which they have been baptized. Their faith will not develop. To treat the sacrament in this manner is to denigrate this holy gift from God into just a party.

In fact what type of creed will this child be taught at the hands of their atheist parents?

“I (don’t) believe in God, (there is no) father almighty, (there isn’t) maker of heaven and earth…”


I used the term “conditional” in my thread title because of the conditions that are placed on the parent rather than on the child.

I get a lot of these answers in terms of wanting to save the child from future Sin, but my only concern is that if the child were then to die not baptised (before the age of reason) because of their parents beliefs that they would not go to heaven. My concern comes from reading what the early church fathers feared on the matter who debated whether the child should be baptised 7 days or immediately after the child was born to save them.

If that were the case shouldn’t we be baptising everybody? Or at least trying to to take care of the risk of death as a child?

I really appreciate all your responses :slight_smile:


Infant baptism makes the infant a member of the Catholic community, and the parents of that child are promising to be responsible for teaching the child the responsibilities of being a member of that community. If the parents aren't Catholic they won't fulfill their responsibility and the child will bear false witness to what it means to be Catholic by their actions.

Put more simply, every time a poorly catechized individual does something that goes against church teaching and then tells people he or she is Catholic - the people who see that individual say to themselves, "Oh, THAT"s what being a Catholic means". Thus, not only is harm done to the soul of the baptized child, because Christ will hold them to a higher standard than He will an unbaptized child, but the risk is that other people will be lead into sin, or even pushed away from the Catholic Church, by the poor witness of that one individual.

Furthermore, baptism places an indelible mark on the soul of the individual, marking them as belonging to Christ. Satan will thus target that marked individual with more frequent and heavier attacks precisely because he knows they belong to Christ and if he can turn them against Christ it is a way of slapping Jesus in the face.


I think SMHW asked because the term “conditional Baptism” is already in use to describe something else. It refers to those entering the Church and the validity of their Baptism cannot be proven. Since Baptism cannot be repeated, they are “conditionally Baptized”. If they weren’t baptized before, then they are now. If they were baptized, then nothing will happen.

In regards to the question, if Baptism were merely some “get out of hell free” card, then it might make sense for us to go up and down the streets with a super soaker of holy water baptizing everyone indiscriminately.

But, while it is certainly true that Baptism removes Original Sin and is the ordinary way God has chosen to bring us into salvation, there is more to it than that. Baptism brings with it responsibilities. Unto whom much is given, much is required. To lay that burden on a child who has little hope of being properly equipped to handle it is not doing them any favors.


Ahh i get it, silly me. Thank you for your responses. I just wish everyone would become baptised and become catholic so that they could share in our awesome God :slight_smile:


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