If it is true that baptism is God’s grace to us, wouldn’t it make sense to just go around baptizing every baby—and even adults who don’t want it? After all, if it’s grace and not works, then our response doesn’t matter, does it?
On the contrary, baptism is grace and not magic. Since grace perfects nature (as distinct from magically annihilating it), our response matters a great deal. Recall that Creator and Redeemer are one and the same God. Creation is so ordered by the Creator that parents are responsible to communicate life (biological, emotional, moral, and spiritual) to their children. To baptize either an unwilling adult or somebody else’s child against the wishes of the parents is an act of spiritual kidnapping that violates nature and is therefore invalid according to the Church. In Catholic understanding, to baptize anybody validly, the baptizer must intend to baptize according to the mind of the Church. This means he must baptize in water using the Trinitarian formula and he must have the permission of the candidate, or, if he is incompetent to give such permission, the permission of the candidate’s parent or guardian. God the Redeemer’s grace does not violate the nature made by God the Creator, especially the sacred nature of the bond between parent and child. Neither, when dealing with someone who is now independent of parental or guardian authority, does God the Redeemer’s grace force baptism against the will of any human person made by God the Creator.