Helping defend the Church... baptism


I’m trying to defend the Church’s stance on baptism. My detractor of the Church’s administration of baptism rails against the Church’s refusal to baptize children whose parents are not Catholic, or are otherwise living in sin.

First, what I get: I get that the Church has a right to defer baptism if a child is not likely to be raised in a Catholic manner. We both get that. That’s what this whole problem is about.

I also get that no one has a natural claim to the beatific vision, and therefore it’s not a deprivation to such children (per se) to be relegated to some unknown fate that the theologians assume is outside of Heaven proper and yet devoid also of sensory pain-- perhaps even attaining to the fullness of natural happiness, though empty of supernatural happiness.

Here’s the beef she has. Why? She (and really, I myself, although I submit in all things to the Church) does not comprehend why the Church doesn’t simply baptize these souls anyways, why they even have a right to defer.

What seems to be the harm in it? There is infinite reward-- the child is guaranteed (should they perish before the age of reason) the beatific vision! Such infinite reward seems like it should take place over any risk-- excepting that we may not choose evil that good may come of it. Therefore, the baptism of children not of Catholic families must be in some way evil- at least this is the only logical reason that I can think of to explain why we would avoid doing something with such infinite reward to it. …but… why??

What is the evil in it?

Please remember to try to appeal this to a cafeteria Catholic, if possible. Simply saying “it’s evil because it’s against what the Church teaches” is insufficient. The Church does not create laws and call them good, they identify truths that are good because God has made them so, and declares them unto us (or so I believe).


The Church does not refuse to baptize such children. For liceity, there must be a “well-founded hope” that the child will be raised in the faith. Sometimes for pastoral reasons it is deemed inappropriate to baptize a child whose parents do not practice the faith in some way. But this is not a doctrinal restriction nor is it universal disciplinary practice. In my own parish, while the parents are required to be registered and active, there is no requirement that they be church married, receiving the sacraments, confirmed, or anything really; as long as they can convince the pastor that the child will be raised in the faith, they will be accepted.

Anyway, when the Church does refuse, or delay a baptism of a person, whether it be a child or adult, it is often because the Church recognizes that baptism confers not only spiritual benefits, but spiritual and temporal responsibilities and obligations as well. A baptized person is required to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation. A baptized person is obligated to observe the fasting regulations of his sui iuris Church. A baptized person who does not observe Catholic ritual form for his marriage ends up with no marriage at all. Therefore the Church recognizes that the baptized person must be cognizant of his obligations and able to live up to them before imposing these on him.


It is true there is a risk the child will die before the age of reason and thus be deprived of the Beatific Vision. (Before anyone jumps on me here, I am not saying the limbo of infants is dogma, so please relax.)

There is, however, something else at stake which I don’t think you’re taking into account: the risk that the child will grow to the age of reason, fall into mortal sin, die, and not only be deprived of the face-to-face vision of God, but also go to eternal torments, perhaps even to the lowest depths of hell. Granted, this risk is present for all the baptized, but if there is good reason to believe the child will not be raised Catholic, and especially if they will not even be raised at all Christian, then the risk is greater.


I sense I know the answer to this question, but permit it to be asked.

Should a child perish before the age of reason, such obligations are wasted upon them (especially so if they perish before the age of 1!) Then, what difference has it been, for the two children who died at the age of 1, one baptized and the other not, excepting that the one not baptized has missed the boat?

The response I would proffer would, no doubt, be: a priest has no way of identifying such a risk in the child under normal circumstances, and must assume that the child will live up to such a time when the obligations would matter, and in light of this, must not baptize the child. However, should any risk be present that the child should die before this time (weakness, living in a war-torn area, about to take the Oregon trail into territory devoid of a parish, etc…) the priest ought to baptize the child. Furthermore, should such an emergency event suddenly transpire, any person has the ability to emergency baptize the as yet unbaptized child.

Is that sufficient? Furthermore, is it totally true?


You offer a risk I had not yet considered, Ad Orientem. From what I recall, it is Scriptural and Church teaching that such a one would be held to higher degrees of responsibility (one reference being Jesus’ upbraiding of Chorazin and Bethsaida v. Tyre and Sidon, and Capernaum v. Sodom, in each case the latter seems to receive a more bearable judgment because they were less cognizant of the Divinity that they scorned).

Would such a penalty be inflicted on one who, although baptized, really was not baptized of his own accord, however, and perhaps is not even truly aware of what baptism is or means?


There is such a thing as invincible ignorance; however, St. Paul teaches that we can learn about God from nature and that his Law is written on our hearts. Not knowing the faith does not automatically excuse one from punishments due to deliberate mortal sin.


There is also the sin of the parents who promise to bring the child up in the faith, during the baptism. If they fail at this what awaits them, at their judgement? (There are all those lovely passages about leading little ones astray and mill stones…)


I think the church should allow it if the parents are Christian or are looking to convert. No sense on not doing it for the good of the baby.


The problem is that the child is being baptized into the fullness of the faith. They are then bound by the obligations of that faith. The parents too are making promises, if they don’t intend to keep those promises they are committing a serious sin, and they are intending to lead the child away or deprive the child from the fullness of the faith of which they are being baptized into.

That seems like a bad idea on all accounts.


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