What Happens to Babies
Who Die Before Baptism?
Baptism Is Necessary For Salvation
As Catholic Christians we are gravely aware of the necessity of the sacraments for Eternal Salvation. The first, and therefore, most important early sacrament is Baptism – the washing away of the Original Sin handed down by our First Parents. As Catholic parents, we are admonished by Holy Mother Church, to avail our children of this cleansing Sacrament as early in a child’s life as possible.
Yet, we’ve all heard of the tragedies of early infant loss or abortion and can’t help but wonder what happens to these unsanctified souls. What becomes of the child who is aborted or miscarried before Baptism? Surely there is some consoling answer for these innocents, whose parents had no opportunity to have them Baptized?
Three Types of Baptism
We are taught that there are three types of Baptism.
1). Baptism by water – using the formulaic prayer, ‘I baptize you, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit’.
2). Baptism by blood – as in the case of someone martyred for the Faith, and
3). Baptism of desire – the cleansing received by a soul who, although planning to be baptized, dies before that act can be completed. We also find a caveat to Baptism of desire: if an individual is innocently unaware of God and is provided the grace to make an act of Faith in a provident God, that person’s soul will be cleansed of Original Sin.
What Happens To Babies Who Die Before Baptism?
With God, all things are possible. As the grandmother of five babies who were lost by miscarriage, I have faith that our righteous God provides a just outcome for these babies. By extension, I have faith of the same for babies who die from abortion.
God, Himself has said that He ‘knows us each by name’ before we are born. If we subscribe to the belief that each human soul is given an opportunity to accept or reject God, then I firmly believe our answer lies in such a conviction. After all, these innocents have committed no Actual Sin.
For a God who is Eternal, timeless, why would it be a stretch to conceive Him meeting these children at the hour of their death and giving them a choice? According to our poor human terms, they are ill equipped to make such an eternal decision, at so tender an age – but in meeting with their Maker, who are we to say that a mature choice can’t be made?
While no firm, detailed Dogma has been pronounced for our consolation, a certain amount of comfort can be found in this simple faith. God wants what is good for all of His Children. My heart rests easy, in a childlike faith and hope, that He has made just accommodations for these little ones. After all, they found themselves at the mercy of a loving God.
The Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused him to say: “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,” allows us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without baptism. (CCC 1261)
The Order of Christian Funerals contains a special rite for babies who die before baptism. Within the prayers baby’s soul is entrusted “to the abundant mercy of God, that our beloved child may find a home in his kingdom.” The opening prayer also contain an option that begins with, “God of all consolation, searcher of mind and heart, the faith of these parents . . . is known to you. Comfort them with the knowledge that the child for whom they grieve is entrusted now to your loving care.” In the Prayer of Commendation B, the priest says, “We pray that you give [the child] happiness for ever.”
Lex orandi, lex credendi: As we pray, so we believe.
The commission is trying to say what the Catechism . . . has already said: that we have a right to hope that God will find a way to offer the grace of Christ to infants who have no opportunity for making a personal choice with regard to their salvation. It’s trying to provide a theological rationale for what has already been proposed in several magisterial documents since the Council.