Apologize and Don't Be Sorry!

A site dedicated to thinking through the common objections to the Catholic Faith as well as questions of a general religious nature.

Location: Prague, Oklahoma, United States

Just your basic 21st century priest trying to bring the Gospel to everyone who will give it a fair hearing.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Baptism and Miscarriage

Dear Father Tharp:
What happens to a child of miscarriage? Does that child go to heaven? Does it need to be baptized? My wife and I lost our first child several years ago to miscarriage. Our priest told me at the time when it happened, we knew it was coming, baptize the six-week old fetus. I did this. What does the Church teach?Name withheld
El Reno, OK.

First, I would like to extend my condolences to you and your wife. The loss of a child is a heartbreaking cross for a couple to share. May the Lord share with you his abundant healing graces.

The Church teaches that the sacrament of Baptism is necessary for salvation (CCC #1257). Through the sacrament of Baptism, three effects take place: Original Sin and any personal sin is forgiven, a character or permanent seal is placed upon the soul, and the person becomes part of the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ (cf. CCC #1267-1270). Along with the sacrament, the Church also recognizes that Baptism can be conferred in two other ways. The first is the baptism of blood (CCC #1258). Here the unbaptized person are baptized by their death for Christ and with Christ. The second is a baptism of desire (CCC #1259). In this case, a person expresses the desire to be baptized but for one reason or another it is not possible to baptize them. Along with the desire for baptism, the person should express contrition for their sin and charity. This is how the Church thinks of those who died before the coming of Christ.

However, the Church also recognizes that while God distributes his graces through the sacraments, He is not bound by the sacraments. Therefore, for those who are not baptized, so long as they have not formed a positive intention against Christ, we can hope for their salvation as well.

In the matter of your child, your actions were warranted. Life begins at conception, and in the words of Horton, “a person’s a person no matter how small.” The Church would want to show solicitude for the child, even in the moment of death. Some might object that sacraments are for the living. This is a valid point. But, because we do not know when or how the soul separates from the body, as long as the condition, “if you are alive,” is mentioned during the conferral of the sacrament, then we have not done offense to the sacrament. At the same time, if the person is obviously dead, i.e. decomposition has set in or the corpse is cold, then baptism should not be administered. Lastly, when aborted fetuses are found alive, they also should receive baptism (Code of Canon Law canon 871).


Post a Comment

<< Home