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Faith/Spirituality Forum: Re:- Souls of aborted babies

by Catherine Frakas 12 Feb 2001

Re:- Souls of aborted babies QUESTION from S. Jarvis on February 9, 2003 With reference to the question by Shala (23rd. January), I wonder if you have come across the practice of Baptism of the Unborn?
I first encountered this devotion some years ago in a Catholic bookshop in London, when I bought a picture of Our Lady, Mother of the Unborn.This depicts Mary holding in her hand the body of an aborted foetus, and crying; her fingers are shown dirty from searching amongst the hospital garbage, and a figure of a guardian angel appears in the background - a sad and powerful image.
In addition to the picture, I was given a leaflet published by the Divine Mercy Centre in Belfast, which describes Baptism of the Unborn, which I understand has the approval of the Church, although not formally promulgated (presumably it is approved as a private devotion?). The leaflet gives some background of the devotion's revelation by Our lord in a vision, then goes on to state the following:-
Our Lord: Everyone can baptise the children killed in their mothers'womb, and those children who died without baptism! At first you will pray the Apostles' Creed. Then you will take the Holy Water and sprinkle it in all directions, saying: 'All of you who were born dead, and are still to be born dead, by day and at night, all of you, who were killed in the womb of your mother, and are still to be killed, so that all of you will be given eternal life by Our Lord, Jesus Christ, I baptise N (give the child a baptismal name, generally the name of Mary, Joseph, John or the name of a Saint, whose feast happens to fall on the day) In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.'
God permits the baptismal water to wet the head of the child to be baptised, and also decides on a name for each child. At the end pray the Lord's prayer and a 'Hail Mary' And a 'Glory be to the Father....'
Presumably the devotion is intended as a petition to Our Lord to receive the souls of these children, or possibly linked to the old doctrine of Limbo.
Have you heard of this practice?
Can you confirm that it has ecclesiastical approval?
Also, I would be interested in your opinion as to its value as a devotion.
Thank you in anticipation of your reply.
Yours in Christ,
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, OLSM on February 16, 2003 Dear Steven:
Yes, I have heard of this practice. It is mentioned by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:29-30. St. Paul merely make reference to this as a practice that was known to the Corinthians as an argument even those who baptize on behalf of the dead implicitly believe in the resurrection by such practice.
The Bible does not mention anything about what this custom was and St. Paul does not speak for or against it. It was merely a rhetorical illustration for an argument.
Baptism of the Dead, however, is not approved by the Church. Mormons do this, but no legitimate Christian faith group baptizes on behalf of the dead.
St. Aquinas gives one reason: Baptism is a spiritual regeneration, wherefore just as by generation being does not accrue save to the object generated, so Baptism produces its effect only in the person baptized...
This means that the Sacrament of Baptism is ordered directly to the person being baptized. The person himself must undergo the baptism. No one can be proxy. Thus a person dead from this earth cannot be baptized since he cannot personally participate.
No one can make confession on behalf of another either, for example.
There is no way that I beleive that this practice you came across is approved by the Church. The people supporting this practice have the burdon to prove such approbation.
I am not sure, but this practice may constitute a heresy. At the very least it is not Catholic practice.
One can certainly pray for these babies, but one cannot baptize on behalf of the babies who have died without the Sacrament of Baptism.
From your description this devotion appears to have been started by an alledged vision. Who's vision? When? Was the visions approved by the Church?
When we deal with visions we must automatically presume a LARGE grain of salt. Visions and apparitions are subject to GREAT fraud, trickery, psychological manifestations, and the like. No vision or apparition, especially those that portend events or those that add to our understanding of the Sacraments and of Public Revelation. Thus, such visions or apparitions should not be considered seriously unless it has gone through the scrutiny of the Church sucessfully.
Although this is not stated by the Church, I personally believe that babies killed by abotion may be considered martyrs of the faith. This may be a stretch, but if theologically sound would mean that aborted babies have been baptized by blood.
In any event, baptism for the dead is NOT a Catholic Teaching.
P.S. Limbo for babies, by the way, was never a doctrine. It was a mere theory that was never officially taught by the Church.
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