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BAPTISM


270


BAPTISM


is true baptism if a woman in case of necessity bap- tizes a child in the name of the Trinity." The Florentine decree for the Armenians says explicitly: " In case of necessity, not only a priest or a deacon, but even a layman or woman, nay even a pagan or heretic may confer baptism." The main reason for this extension of power as to the administration of baptism is of course that the Church has understood from the beginning that this was the will of Christ. St. Thomas (III, Q. Ixvii, a. 3) says that owing to the absolute necessity of baptism for the salvation of souls, it is in accordance with the mercy of God, who wishes all to be saved, that the means of obtaining this sacrament should be put, as far as possible, within the reach of all; and as for that reason the matter of the sacrament was made of common water, which can most easily be had, so in hke manner it was only proper that every man should be made its minister. Finally, it is to be noted that, by the law of the Church, the person administering baptism, even in cases of necessity, contracts a spiritual relationship with the child and its parents. This relationship constitutes an impediment that would make a subsequent marriage with any of them null and void unless a dispensation were obtained before- hand. See Affinity.

XIV. Recipient op Baptism. — Every living human being, not yet baptized, is the subject of this sacra- ment.

(1) As regards adults there is no difficulty or con- troversy. Christ's command excepts no one when He bids the Apostles teach all nations and baptize them.

(2) Infant baptism has, however, been the subject of much dispute. The Waldenses and Cathari, and later the Ajiabaptists, rejected the doctrine that infants are capable of receiving valid baptism, and some sectarians at the present day hold the same opinion. The CathoUc Church, however, maintains absolutely that the law of Christ applies as well to infants as to adults. When the Redeemer declares (John, iii) that it is necessary to be born again of water and the Holy Ghost in order to enter the Kingdom of God, His words may be justly understood to mean that He includes all who are capable of having a right to this kingdom. Now, He has asserted such a right even for those who are not adults, when He says (Matt., xix, 14): "Suffer the httle children, and forbid them not to come to me: for the kingdom of heaven is for such." It has been objected that this latter text does not refer to infants, inasmuch as Christ says " to come to me ". In the parallel passage in St. Luke (xviii, 15), however, the text reads: "And they brought unto him also infants, that he might touch them"; and then follow the words cited from St. Matthew. In the Greek text, the words Ppi<t>'n and irpoa-^ipepov refer to infants in arms. Moreover, St. Paul (Coloss., ii) says that baptism in the New Law has taken the place of circumcision in the Old. It was especially to infants that the rite of circumcision was applied by Divine precept. If it be said that there is no example of the baptism of infants to be found in Holy Writ, we may answer that infants are included in such phrases as: "She was baptized and her household" (Acts, xvi, 15); "Himself was baptized, and all his house immedi- ately" (Acts, xvi, 33); "I baptized the houseliold of Steplianus" (I Cor., i, 16).

The tradition of Christian antiquity as to the neces- sity of infant baptism is clear from the very begin- ning. We have given many striking quotations on this subject already, in dealing with the necessity of baptism. A few, therefore, will suffice here. Origen (in cap. vi, Ep. ad Rom.) declares: "The Church received from the Apostles the tradition of giving baptism al.so to infants". St. Augustine (Senn. xi, Do Verb Apost.) says of infant baptism: "This the


Church always had, always held; this she received from the faitli of our ancestors; this she perseveringly guards even to the end. " St. Cyprian (Ep. ad Fidum) writes: "From baptism and from grace . . . must not be kept the infant who, because recently born, has committed no sin, except, inasmuch as it was born carnally from Adam, it has contracted the contagion of the ancient death in its first nativity; and it comes to receive the remission of sins more easily on this very account that not its own, but another's sins are forgiven it." St. Cyprian's letter to Fidus declares that the Council of Carthage in 253 reprobated the opinion that the baptism of infants should be delayed until the eighth day after birth. The Council of Milevis in 4' 6 anathematizes whosoever says that infants lately born are not to be baptized. The Council of Trent solemnly defines the doctrine of infant baptism (Sess. VII, can. xiii). It also con- demns (can. xiv) the opinion of Erasmus that those who liad been baptized in infancy, should be left free to ratify or reject the baptismal promises after they had become adult. Theologians also call atten- tion to the fact that as God sincerely wishes all men to be saved. He does not exclude infants, for whom baptism of either water or blood is the only means possible. The doctrines also of the universality of original sin and of the all-comprehending atonement of Christ are stated .so plainly and absolutely in Scripture as to leave no solid reason for denying that infants are included as well as adults.

To the objection that baptism requires faith, theo- logians reply that adults must have faith, but in- fants receive habitual faith, which is infused into them in the sacrament of regeneration. As to actual faith, they believe on the faith of another; as St. Augustine (De Verb. Apost., xiv, xviii) beautifully says: "He believes by another, who has sinned by another." As to the obligation imposed by baptism, the infant is obliged to fulfil them in proportion to its age and capacity, as is the case with all laws. Christ, it is true, prescribed instruction and actual faith for adults as necessary for baptism (Matt., xxviii; Mark, xvi), but in His general law on the necessity of the sacrament (John, iii) He makes absolutely no re- striction as to the subject of baptism; and conse- quently while infants are included in the law, they cannot be required to fulfil conditions that are utterly impossible at their age. While not denying the validity of infant baptism, Tertullian (De Bapt., xviii) desired that the sacrament be not conferred upon them until they have attained the use of reason, on account of the danger of profaning their baptism as youths amid the allurements of pagan vice. In like manner, St. Gregory Nazianzen (Or. xl, De Bapt.) thought that baptism, unless there was danger of death, should be deferred until the child was three years old, for then it could hear and respond at the ceremonies. Such opinions, however, were shared by few, and they contain no denial of the validity of infant baptism. It is true that the Council of 5jeo- ciesarea (can. vi) declares that an infant cannot be baptized in its mother's womb, but it was teaching only that neither the baptism of the mother nor her faith is common to her and the infant in her womb, but are acts peculiar to the mother alone.

(3) This leads to the baptism of infants in cases of difficult parturition. When the Roman Ritual de- clares that a child is not to be baptized while still enclosed (claMsus) in its mother's womb, it supposes that the baptismal water cannot reach the body of the child. When, however, this seems possible, even \v\th the aid of an instrument, Benedict XIV (Syn. Dioec, vii, 5) declares that midwives should be in- structed to confer conditional baptism. The Ritual further says that when the water can flow upon the head of the infant the sacrament is to be administerei' absolutely; but if it can be poured only on some othei