Seeking Catholic Understanding of Infant Baptism Ceremony

My husband and I are converts to Anglicanism. We were both raised baptist. Wow - what a switch. I feel very much that I’m still trying to wrap my head around so much. This change has been in the last year. It’s funny to me that when I was baptist I felt that I knew “everything” about my faith. Now I feel as though I know nothing - like I’m starting all over! Our little one (he’s nearly 4) is not yet baptized. We were just confirmed this past December. We decided to wait on baptizing him considering we’re having a new baby end of June/early July. If we follow through with the baptisms, we will do them together.

Recently we became godparents to a baby of some friends. I admit that we were ignorant of the ceremony going into it and neither one of us had ever seen an infant baptism before. We both went away from it feeling confused. The one thing that was confusing to us is that my husband (the godfather) answered questions for the baby being baptized. Meaning the priest would ask questions directed specifically to the baby, like will you renounce satan blah blah blah and some other things that would profess belief in christianity (sorry - I can’t remember the exact questions now). He felt a bit uncomfortable professing beliefs for someone else. I mean, baby is too little to have beliefs on these things yet. So I guess I’m trying to wrap my brain around this. And I would bet the fundamentalist/evangelical lens that I grew up with is partly getting in my way so I need some help.

I guess I was confused because my understanding is that baptism is a sacrament whereby grace is imparted to a baby and not based on belief. And yet during the ceremony we were responding that she believes certain things. So that’s got me scratching my head a bit!

Also, my particular parenting style lends me to try to be as respectful as possible to my child in the way that I raise him. It feels in my current understanding at least disrespectful to my child to have someone else speak for him and say that he believes things that he is simply too young to believe. Perhaps I still don’t fully understand infant baptism as this is obviously a big no no in the baptist faith and that’s what I was brought up and indoctrinated in. So, needless to say, this is kind of a hang up for me right now. Please know that I’m not asking in order to judge. We’re really happy with our conversion to Anglicanism and feel that overall it’s much more what we believe, but I’m struggling with this. I don’t want to baptize our child and new little one without having hammered this out. I do plan to go to our priest for more information, but I’d love to hear from parents, especially if there’s parents on this forum who practice a more gentle style of parenting. Please help me understand! Thank you.

The priest is not directing those questions to the infant, but to the parents and Godparents who are entrusted with raising the child in the faith. During an adult baptism, the questions are asked of the adults preparing to be baptized. Hope tat helps.

The priest specifically named the baby, so the questions were asked “(Name), do you blah blah blah?” Here is an excerpt from the ceremony that was used, found in the Book of Common Prayer:

Then the Celebrant asks the following questions of the candidates who
can speak for themselves, and of the parents and godparents who speak
on behalf of the infants and younger children

Question Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces
of wickedness that rebel against God?
Answer I renounce them.

Question Do you renounce the evil powers of this world
which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?
Answer I renounce them.

Question Do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you
from the love of God?
Answer I renounce them.

Question Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your
Savior?
Answer I do.

Question Do you put your whole trust in his grace and love?
Answer I do.

Question Do you promise to follow and obey him as your
Lord?
Answer I do.

I was raised Baptist so perhaps I can help a bit.

In the Old Testament, Israelite boys were to be circumcised at 8 days. It was just the boys, but it was their entry into the covenant. Obviously, they could not agree to the circumcision themselves or agree to be part of the covenant, but that was the method chosen by God.

In the New Testament Baptism is our entry into the New Covenant. It is now open to girls as well as boys (in terms of participating in a visible sign of the covenant). We know from the Gospels that Jesus wanted the children to come to them. Also, we know from the epistles that whole households were baptized and converted.

In terms of answering for the child, no child is born knowing everything that they need to know. As parents you have interpreted and communicated on behalf of your child from the beginning. That is how we teach children to understand and process their world. For example, when your child was hungry and you knew it when they were pre-verbal, you probably spoke with them about being hungry and you were getting their bottle or baby food together etc. Obviously this is a simplified example, but I use it to illustrate that the promises in baptism for the child are the parents/godparents making the verbal assent as the child is brought into the new covenant. The second piece is that the child then has to be raised up in knowledge of their faith. The idea of nothing can be done to enter into the new covenant until someone reaches the age of reason would have been foreign to the apostles and definitely was foreign to the early church.

Ohiomom makes a good point in comparing Baptism to the entry of infant boys into the old Covenant at eight days old.

They did not have to make personal consent to be initiated into the covenant. Their parents made that commitment for them.

When Jesus brought the old Covenant to fulfillment in the New Covenant, he did not make any change which would exclude children from entry into this new covenant.

Faith is required: either the Faith professed by adults of their own volition, or the Faith professed by parents on behalf of their children. Parents must promise to raise the child in the Faith (just as Israelite parents would promise to raise their children in their Faith.) If no one will promise that the child will be raised in the Faith, the baptism must be delayed.

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