Why does the Catholic Church baptize infants, who have no understanding of what is taking place?
The Catholic Church baptizes infants because Christ wills it. He must will it because He said, “Suffer the little children, and forbid them not to come to me.” (Matt. 19:14). According to the Apostle Paul, one cannot truly come to Christ except through Baptism. (Rom. 6:3-4). Christ must will it because the Apostles baptized “all the people” (Luke 3:21) and whole households (Act 16:15, 1 Cor. 1:16). Certainly “all the people” and whole “households” included infants. Christ must will it because He stated categorically that Baptism is a necessary prerequisite for salvation (John 3:5), and He certainly desires the salvation of infants. He must will it because the primitive Christian Church, which had fresh firsthand knowledge of His Will, baptized infants. In the ancient catacombs of Rome the inscriptions on the tombs of infants make mention of their having been baptized. One such inscription reads: “Here rests Archillia, a newly-baptized; she was one year and five months old; died February 23rd.”
An unbaptized infant is not simply in a “natural” state; it is in the state of reprobation, living under the reign of Satan, with the sin of Adam “staining” its soul. Therefore infants should be baptized as soon as is reasonably possible – usually within 2-3 weeks of birth. When children grow up with Our Lord dwelling in their souls, they have a powerful protection against sin. Moreover, Our Lord can thereby draw children to a deep love for Himself at a very early age – as He did with St. Therese, St. Maria Goretti, St. Dominic Savio, and Francisco and Jacinta Marto.
Author: Paul Whitcomb
Nihil Obstat: Rev. Edmund J. Bradley Censor Deputatus
Imprimatur: Timothy Manning, Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles, Vicar General
April 13, 1961