Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Q & A: Can unborn, unbaptized babies have Catholic funeral & burial?

I have seen a various forms of the same question crop up in the comboxes of some blogposts on the recent Mass & burial with aborted babies at Assumption Grotto.

First, I am most grateful to all bloggers who responded to my request to give it the publicity it deserved. Perhaps this was my error to report that it was a Mass for the babies. This will be explained below...

I thought the question was a good one to ponder, given canon law. At the blog of Fr. Tim Finigan - a pro-life champion in the UK - a commenter by the name of Tomas, asks in a post Father made about my photostory:

Just a question Father...can unbaptized babies receive a Christian burial? God bless

Since I had seen this question before and was unsure how to respond myself, and with Fr. Perrone gone on vacation, I put the question to my parish priest who responded, as follows (emphasis mine, and comments in brackets):

  1. Baptism is essential for salvation. Without it, you can’t get to heaven. This is why the Church developed the theologoumenon [a theological opinion] on Limbo for unbaptized babies and the just who were not baptized.

  2. There are three ways in which baptism can take place: water, blood, and spirit (desire).

  3. Catechumens who intended to be baptized but die before baptism are considered baptized by desire and receive a regular funeral. Likewise were those who died as martyrs for Christ before baptism—they were baptized in their blood. Unbaptized or unborn children of parents who intended to have them baptized could be considered to be Catechumens and, therefore, could be considered baptized by desire. This is why canon law affords them a funeral. Aborted children, however, were not likely going to be baptized and their being considered Catechumens is more remote—not impossible, just more remote.

  4. Aborted babies are not in Purgatory. If they are not in Purgatory, then there is no reason for praying funeral prayers for them asking God to release them from Purgatory. (It goes without saying that neither are prayers offered for souls in heaven or hell.)

  5. The Church entrusts these souls to God’s mercy with prayer. Their eternal fate is in God’s hands, but the Church’s funeral rites are not among the prayers intended for them.

He further adds...
The Mass intention on that Friday was for atonement for sins of abortion, not the souls of the unborn. However, since they were human beings with an eternal soul, we perform the corporal act of mercy of burying the dead. The Mass offered on that Friday was not a funeral Mass—it did not use the funeral prayers or rites in any way.

Hopefully, this clarifies not only the question, but what actually took place at Assumption Grotto on June 27th, 2008.

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The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church; it is the disobedient who are held captive by the world!.