Thursday, October 30, 2008

More on the Fate of Aborted Babies

It has come to my attention that a miscarriage support group forum, Daily Strength, has latched onto my post from February of last year speculating about the fate of the souls of aborted babies. To a person, the correspondents on this thread have written me off as heartless, counter-Scriptural, and even anti-Catholic. I don't wish to intrude upon their forum, so I post my replies here, linked back from the original post, for anyone from Daily Strength who cares to read it.

1. I am sorry that you have missed what I actually said. I wish you would go back and read my post more carefully. I did not state that aborted babies go to Hell; nor did I state that the Church teaches that aborted babies go to Hell. In fact, when I wrote that post, I went to great pains to avoid being understood to say either of those things. The Church does not teach that unbaptized babies go to Hell. In fact, the passage I quoted from the Catechism of the Catholic Church says that we may hope for the salvation of unbaptized infants. Their fate, however, is uncertain in view of the necessity of Baptism (more on which later); and therefore, the Church commends them to the mercy of God, who loves these babies far, far more than any human or all humans put together could. It is worth noting that far greater minds than yours or mine in the history of Christianity (for example, St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas) could not declare themselves certain of the salvation of unbaptized infants.

2. I am sorry that you did not notice that my own opinion -- uniformly vilified in your thread -- is actually inclined toward the view that unbaptized babies may go to heaven. I actually mustered several arguments in favor of that view, and against the proposition referred to at the beginning of the post that had originally prompted my thoughts on the subject. Please go back and read this. However, when all is said and done, however much I hope the souls of unbaptized babies enjoy the Beatific Vision, I cannot be absolutely certain that they do. The mercy of God may be trusted in, but not presumed upon. This is why the Church requires her children to baptize babies as soon as possible after birth; and I believe it is why God leaves us uncertain as to their fate if they die without Baptism.

3. If babies who die without Baptism do not go to heaven, it does not follow that they must go to Hell. In fact, the mercy of God runs counter to the idea of damnation for unbaptized infants. This is where the speculation regarding Limbo comes from -- a state in which the soul, though deprived of the supernatural happiness of Heaven, nevertheless enjoys perfect natural happiness. As I said in the original post, this is not a defined doctrine of the Church, but an attempt to reconcile the mercy of God with the necessity of Baptism. My own opinion (which I am accused of superimposing upon Catholic teaching) is that even if unbaptized babies are not in Heaven (though I sincerely hope they are), they are far happier where they are than anyone will ever be in this life.

4. Someone on your thread disputes the necessity of Baptism. Jesus Himself, who did nothing pointless, and everything with a view to teaching us and setting us an example, underwent Baptism. And in the Scriptures, we read:
He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. (Mark 16:16)

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit....(Matthew 28:19)
As to infant Baptism, consider Acts 16:14-15, 27-33, where new disciples are described as being baptized with their entire households -- that would include men, women and infants. Infant Baptism -- which goes back to the beginning of the Church -- is not an addition to Scripture or an unlawful innovation.

5. One person in the thread who posted several entries professes to be a Catholic. I am very sorry to see that you do not assent to all of the Church's teachings, because there is no dichotomy between Christ and His Church ("He who hears you [said Jesus to His disciples and their successors] hears Me, and he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him Who sent me." -- Luke 10:16). I am also sorry that, for the sake of human respect, you feel the need to apologize for what you call the Church's "weird rules." "For whoever is ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of Him will the Son of man also be ashamed, when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels." (Mark 8:38.) Please understand that as Catholics, we are bound in conscience to believe all of the Church's doctrines, whether we understand them or not, whether we like them or not. You admit to not knowing all about your faith; but we all have a duty to inform ourselves about our faith, lest we run the risk of losing it. How can you be so sure I am misrepresenting the faith when you are uninformed about it yourself?

It appears that this post of mine about where aborted babies go has caused some pain and grief to some who have suffered the agony of miscarriage. I am sorry that this is so; however, it was not intended. I am especially sorry, because the pain was needless, as I did not say what I am taken to have said.

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