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Roman Catholic Teaching on Baptism

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The Council of Trent


On Justification: Chapter IV: By which words a description of the Justification of the impious is indicated—as being a translation, from that state wherein man is born a child of Adam, to the state of grace, and of the adoption of the sons of God, through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, our Saviour. And this translation, since the promulgation of the the Gospel, can not be effected, without the laver of regeneration, or the desire thereof, as it is written: unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he can not enter into the Kingdom of God.


Canon II: If any one saith, that true and natural water is not of necessity for baptism, and, on that account, wrests, to some sort of metaphor, those words of our Lord Jesus Christ: Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost: let him be anathema.


Canon V: If any one saith, that baptism is free, that is, not necessary unto salvation: let him be anathema (The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent. Found in Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom (New York: Harper, 1877), Decree on Justification, Chapter IV, p. 91; Canons on Baptism II, V; pp. 122-123).


The Code of Canon Law


Canon.849: Baptism, the gateway to the sacraments, is necessary for salvation, either by actual reception or at least by desire. By it people are freed from sins, are born again as children of God and, made like to Christ by an indelible character, are incorporated into the Church. It is validly conferred only by a washing in real water with the proper form of words (The Code of Canon Law (London: Collins, 1983).


The Question and Answer Catholic Catechism


1140. What is baptism?


Baptism is the sacrament of spiritual rebirth. Through the symbolic action of washing with water and the use of appropriate ritual words, the baptized person is cleansed of all his sins and incorporated into Christ. It was foretold in Ezekiel, “I shall pour clean water over you and you will be cleansed; I shall cleanse you of all your defilement and all your idols. I shall give you a new heart, and put a new spirit in you” (Ezekiel 36:25-26).


1151. What are the effects of baptism?


The effects of baptism are the removal of the guilt of sin and all punishment due to sin, conferral of the grace of regeneration and the infused virtues, incorporation into Christ and his Church, receiving the baptismal character and the right to heaven.


1152. What sins does baptism take away?


Baptism remits the guilt of all sins, that is, it takes away all sins, whether original sin as inherited from Adam at conception, or actual sin as incurred by each person on reaching the age of reason. No matter how frequent, or how grave the actual sins may be, their guilt is all removed at baptism. All of this is the pure gift of God, since St. Paul writes, “It was for no reason except his own compassion that he saved us, by means of the cleansing water of rebirth” (Titus 3:5).


1153. What penalties does baptism remove?


Baptism removes all the penalties, eternal and tempor tached to original and actual sin.


1155. What is the grace of regeneration?


The grace of regeneration infuses into our souls the life of grace that Christ won for us by his Death and Resurrection. It is the new birth of which Christ spoke to Nicodemus (cf. John 3:3) and the new creation described by St. Paul (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17).


1156. What virtues are infused into the soul at baptism?


The virtues infused into the soul at baptism are faith, hope, and charity. Among the gifts of grace infused at baptism are the peace and joy of the Holy Spirit, which make possible the practice of the Beatitudes.


1157. How does baptism incorporate us into Christ?


By baptism we become members of Christ’s Mystical Body, which is the Church. That is why “By the sacrament of baptism, whenever it is properly conferred in the way the Lord determined and received with the proper dispositions of soul, man becomes truly incorporated into the crucified and glorified Christ and is reborn to a sharing of the divine life, as the apostle says: ‘For you were buried together with him in baptism, and in him also rose again through faith in the working of God who raised him from the dead’ (Romans 6:4)” (Second Vatican Council, Decree on Ecumenism, 22) (John Hardon, The Question and Answer Catholic Catechism (Garden: Image, 1981).

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As a Catholic, I have learned in school that baptism is necessary for a baby to erase the so called original sin that came from Adam and Eve. A baby who died without baptism cannot go to heaven, as per the dogma of the Catholic church. The baptism rites require water and oil which symbolize the cleansing of the original sin. Catholic baptism normally is done for babies but it can also be performed for adults as long as the person wants to be baptized a Catholic. From what I remember, the water which is poured on the head of the baby is the symbol of cleansing and the oil that is applied on the baby's forehead is the sign that the baby is already a Catholic and thus is saved already.


In the Bible, Jesus was baptized by John The Baptist using water in the pond (or is it a river?) and that is why we are using water to baptize.

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From what I've understood, the idea of baptising infants didn't come directly from the bible. It came from Augustine, a man from 400 A.D, who came up with the term "original sin." He said that infants inherit the original sin from Adam and Eve and therefore, this puts them in a separation from God even from the beginning of their life. So parents became concerned about infants who die before being baptised, would they go to heaven if they aren't cleansed of their original sin? That's when the idea of baptising infants was started.


And it wasn't really immersing the infants on water as well, because that would scare them. It was just a sprinkling of the water into their heads. And up to this day, even here in my country, this kind of baptism is still done, a few months after a baby is born. But is this really necessary or not?


So when is the right time to be baptised for adults? There really is no set time for it. In the bible, there were instances where the believer was baptised immediately after pronouncing his faith. I guess that could work as well in current times. Once you believe in God and want him to forgive your sins and you're open to receiving the Holy Spirit, that's the time you can be baptised.

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I remember one of my friends telling me that she had to make a choice between, 1) a baby 2) a baptized baby 3) a rock, as the thing which God loved (as part of her religion class in Catholic elementary school back in the late 60's). I'm not sure if they still ask those kind of questions today however, at least I hope they don't!

Edited by David Lee

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From what I've understood, the idea of baptising infants didn't come directly from the bible.


Baptizing infants or entire households (including children) comes straight from the Bible. Go and baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit making disciples of all nations. Baptizing and bringing children up in the NT Covenant, teaching them the precepts of the Lord fulfills the commandment without prejudice. The OT covenant included children, and no NT Scripture indicates that they are now excluded from the NT Covenant. The issue with Catholic baptism isn't baptizing infants, it is baptismal regeneration. Using the same logic as most Credo baptist do, one must exclude women from partaking in communion, because nowhere in Scripture is there mention of a woman partaking in communion. So if one argues there is no direct explicit mention of children being baptized, one must also exclude women from communion.

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From what I've understood, the idea of baptising infants didn't come directly from the bible. It came from Augustine, a man from 400 A.D, who came up with the term "original sin." He said that infants inherit the original sin from Adam and Eve and therefore, this puts them in a separation from God even from the beginning of their life. So parents became concerned about infants who die before being baptised, would they go to heaven if they aren't cleansed of their original sin? That's when the idea of baptising infants was started.


Apart from William's points the earliest record I know of infant baptism in the early Church was Irenaeus, some 200 years before Augustine.:

"He [Jesus] came to save all through himself; all, I say, who through him are reborn in God--infants, and children, and youths, and old men. Therefore he passed through every age, becoming an infant for infants, sanctifying infants; a child for children, sanctifying those who are of that age . . . [so that] he might be the perfect teacher in all things, perfect not only in respect to the setting forth of truth, perfect also in respect to relative age" (Against Heresies 2:22:4 [A.D. 180]).


Others who taught infant baptism before Augustine were Hippolytus, Origen, Cyprian, Gregory of Nazianz and Ambrose.








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