Why does the Catholic Church baptize babies?
Why does the Catholic Church baptize babies? Aren’t they too young to understand what is happening to them?
St Paul confirms that baptism now replaces circumcision as entry into the New Covenant. For example, he says, “In Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not administered by hand, by stripping off the carnal body, with the circumcision of Christ. You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with Him” (Col 2:11-12). In fact, an early council of the Church, the Council of Carthage [252 A.D.] met in part to consider exactly our question. But the question wasn’t whether to baptize babies or not. No, the question was, that under the New Covenant, should we wait until the traditional eighth day of circumcision to baptize. And the decision was to not even wait until the eighth day, but to baptize as soon as possible, without delay!
St. Peter further settles the issue for us. As he gave the first great sermon of the Church on the day of Pentecost, converting some 3000 Jews at once, he would close, saying “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, ( i.e. babies too! ) in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is made to you and to your children” (Acts 2:38-39).
In Mark 10:14, Jesus Himself gives further confirmation of all this. “People were bringing even infants (the Greek word here literally means infants, NOT older children) to Him that He might touch them…. ‘Let the children come to Me and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these…” And He took them in His arms and blessed them, laying His hands upon them.” Awesome!
St Gregory of Nazianz summarizes the answer for us perfectly in his “Oration on Holy Baptism”. “Do you have an infant child? Allow sin no opportunity; rather, let the infant be sanctified from childhood. From his most tender age let him be consecrated by the Spirit.” Perfect!