Why baptize a baby?



Q. Our son and his wife-to-be are not practicing Catholics. They have a little girl, now 20 months old, who needs to be baptized. How do we as parents approach the subject -- without turning them against the faith completely or against us? (Regina, Saskatchewan)

A. Let me say first that I admire very much your love for Catholicism and your desire to pass on the benefits of the Catholic faith to your granddaughter. My goal is the same as yours: to bring her parents back to regular practice of the faith so they can offer strong religious support to their child.

The wording of your question, though, may be significant. You say that your granddaughter "needs to be baptized." Is it possible that you think that is her only chance for heaven? I raise the question because there are some people who believe that.

So let me clarify that first. In 2007, the Vatican's International Theological Commission, with the approval of Pope Benedict XVI, said that the concept of limbo reflected "an unduly restrictive view of salvation" and that the mercy of God offers good reason to hope that babies who die without being baptized can go to heaven.

Now, on to your question. Canon 868 of the church's Code of Canon Law states that "for an infant to be baptized licitly ... there must be a founded hope that the infant will be brought up in the Catholic religion."

Right now, as you describe the situation, that sounds doubtful. If you see an opportunity in a quiet way to speak to your son about the religious path he might be considering for their daughter, then do it.

But be careful not to force it. To strong-arm your son about his religious responsibility could have a negative effect, including jeopardizing your relationship with him for a long time.

Do you think it might be better for now simply to pray for them, that they will reach the choice of baptism on their own? And remember that God cares about the baby's salvation even more than you do.

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Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at askfatherdoyle@gmail.com and 30 Columbia Circle Dr., Albany, New York 12203.