V for Victory!: Where Do the Souls of Aborted Babies Go?

Something to ponder- from one of my favorite blogs to read.

V for Victory!: Where Do the Souls of Aborted Babies Go?.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Where Do the Souls of Aborted Babies Go?

A recent conversation turned to the character of baptism as essential to salvation, and from there, to the fate of unbaptized babies — and particularly the souls of aborted babies. A friend and fellow Dominican posited the following for consideration:

a. The Catholic Church teaches that baptism is essential to salvation.

b. Aborted babies are not baptized, and there is no desire on the part of their mothers that they be baptized.

c. The ferocity with which Satan fans the flames of abortion – with roughly a million and a half in the United States each year – suggests that the souls of aborted babies may be lost to Heaven. Otherwise, the reasoning goes, the Enemy would not be so keen for Americans to favor abortion, and for the abortion mills go on churning out so many dead babies year after year.

This gave me pause. Everyone seems to assume, unquestioningly, that babies who die in the womb — whether of natural causes or otherwise — go straight to Heaven. This is to be expected from those who do not accept the necessity of baptism for salvation, but a good many Catholics also seem to make this assumption. Surely, the necessity of baptism for salvation indicates that a mere lack of personal sin, without more, is not enough to gain Heaven; therefore, this question deserves more thought than it is given, lest we suffer an erosion of our faith, and take a position that makes the horror of abortion more comfortable for us to live with.

It is clear that aborted babies are deprived, through no fault of their own, of the opportunity for sacramental baptism. It is also true that they are not guilty of personal sin. The idea of eternal separation from God, with or without suffering, seems insupportable where personal sins and even free will are absent. After considering the matter, I personally cannot come to the conclusion that the souls of aborted babies definitely go to Heaven; however, neither am I persuaded that they are definitely excluded from Heaven. The only thing I can thus far be persuaded of is that there are good and reasonable hopes for the salvation of the unborn, but that, this side of Paradise, we cannot know for certain.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church at 1250 declares:

Born with a fallen human nature and tainted by original sin, children also have need of the new birth in Baptism to be freed from the power of darkness and brought into the realm of the freedom of the children of God, to which all men are called. The sheer gratuitousness of the grace of salvation is particularly manifest in infant Baptism. The Church and the parents would deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God were they not to confer Baptism shortly after birth.

At 1257, the Catechism underscores the necessity of baptism:

The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation. He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them. Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament. The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are “reborn of water and the Spirit.” God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments. [Italics in original.]

With this last sentence, the Catechism launches into a discussion of baptism by blood (undergone by the unbaptized who die for the faith, the prototypical example of which is the Holy Innocents) and baptism by desire (available to those who desire baptism but die before their desire can be fulfilled). These are exceptions to the necessity for sacramental baptism, and suggest that, in the absence of sacramental baptism, and under certain circumstances, baptismal grace may nevertheless find some other channel in which to flow to the soul.

As for the souls of unbaptized infants, the Catechism states at 1261:

As regards children who have died without Baptism, 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,” allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church’s call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism.

Without a definitive teaching on the subject of the fate of unbaptized babies, we are free to form our own opinions on it. The speculation of theologians down the ages has yielded the concept of Limbo, a state in which the unbaptized soul is deprived of the supernatural happiness of Heaven, but enjoys perfect natural happiness. The Church has, however, never defined Limbo as a doctrine to which all Catholics must adhere. I do not know whether there is really such a place or state as Limbo. I do feel sure that unbaptized babies do not suffer, being guiltless of actual sin; in fact, wherever they are, I am willing to bet that their happiness far exceeds anything we can attain on earth. I certainly hope that they find this happiness in Heaven, and the passage from the Catechism that deals with this affirms the reasonableness of such a hope. But we do not in fact know to a practical certainty what their fate is. God has not revealed this to us.

The Church clearly holds out hope for the salvation of the unbaptized who are capable of reason, the full exercise of free will, and the commission of sin. The Catechism at 847-848 teaches that God has ways of saving those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel:

This affirmation [there is no salvation outside the Church] is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:

Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve eternal salvation.

“Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men.” [Quote source omitted.]

Surely, miscarried, aborted and unbaptized babies are ignorant of the Gospel through no fault of their own. It is not clear why the outlook of those who are capable of sinning — and who in all likelihood have in fact sinned — should be more hopeful than those, such as the unborn, who are as yet without free will and therefore have on their souls no personal sins whatsoever. But just as we have a duty to go out and make disciples of all the nations, we have a solemn obligation to baptize our children. If we knew for sure that God has some way of offering salvation to unbaptized babies, we would very likely neglect to have them baptized.

There is precedence, by the way, for God allowing us to remain ignorant for our own good. When you read the Old Testament, it becomes clear that God allowed the Israelites to go on thinking for a very long time that there was really nothing to the afterlife but gray bleakness. C.S. Lewis wrote that this was to train the Israelites to love God for His own sake, rather than for what He could do for them. Similarly, since God has not given us to know for certain what happens to the souls of unbaptized infants, it is clearly more important for us to obey His command, through the Church, to have our children baptized as soon as possible, than it is for us to know where their souls would go if they weren’t baptized. When we baptize a child, we can be absolutely certain that that child has received the gift of sanctifying grace; since we know the child has sanctifying grace, if he dies before reaching the age of reason, we need not suffer the pangs of uncertainty about his eternal fate.

What of the argument that Satan would not be so keen to push abortion if the souls of aborted babies went to heaven? Nothing so delights the Enemy as depriving God, for all eternity, of a soul that He created for Himself, and that He loves as though no one else existed. But Satan likes all sorts of things that do not necessarily result in damnation for the victims: murder, rapine, wars of aggression. And for each aborted soul, there are many other souls hanging by a thread over the Abyss: the mother; the persons who encouraged her to procure the abortion; the doctors and nurses working in the clinic; everyone who cooperated materially in the deed. A rich potential harvest, from the Enemy’s point of view, in exchange for the loss of the aborted.

Are we, then, to be deprived of the consolation we might otherwise have had in this life if we knew for sure that a miscarried or aborted baby went to heaven? It appears so. But this is where the mercy of God, Who loves babies infinitely more even than their parents do, must be allowed to make up for what we lack. For the present, we may hope, but cannot know for sure, and should therefore not presume.

UPDATE: To the ladies of the Daily Strength forum: a reply.

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One response to “V for Victory!: Where Do the Souls of Aborted Babies Go?

  1. “Nothing so delights the Enemy as depriving God, for all eternity, of a soul that He created for Himself, and that He loves as though no one else existed. But Satan likes all sorts of things that do not necessarily result in damnation for the victims”

    True. I think that it’s enough for Satan to sacrifice the child so that the mother will fall into despair (outside of repentance) – and he takes great delight in torturing her with her past sins. I think he’d flat out love that – pathetic, predictable loser that he is.

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