My Facebook friend, Ted, posted this to his Facebook wall. It was accompanied by the following post:
Does it not have a “soul”, yet? I’m curious about the 2nd-5th Ys on this one.
Is this [dead] baby a sacred human or not?
(Ooo, wild guess: despite Original Sin, the baby has not had a chance to *actually* sin, yet, and so does not need sacraments. Am I close?)
NOTE: I’m not interested in Catholic/Christian/pro-life bashing; I really want to know what The Church thinks about this.)
I have been interacting with Ted for almost 25 years. He claims to be an atheist, but has a curiosity about the Catholic Church, and asks pointed questions while actually listening to the answers. We have had a number of theological discussions in the past.
When I read this it was on my phone while I was on my deck enjoying a bowl of Sutliff Creme Brulee in my late father-in-law’s Israeli Alpha freehand pipe. I’m going to address the points one by one.
The stillborn baby had a soul. She is currently dead, so her soul had traveled to be with Jesus. What is left is a body. A body cannot be baptized since without a soul the sacrament of baptism is not efficacious. You can no more baptize a body than give it holy communion or anointing of the sick (formerly known as extreme unction or “last rites”).
However, you will get posts from atheists who try to do a “gotcha” by linking to an article about a priest or deacon who “baptized” a dead baby or fetal remains found by abortion clinics. This brings to mind a class I had with a deacon who will remain nameless who was teaching us pastoral care. He claimed that he would baptize dead babies and would even anoint the dying (even though he was not a priest and did not have faculties to do this). He was putting his soul in danger to make people feel better, because simulating a sacrament incurs Latae Sententiae (automatic) excommunication.
As for the funeral of a stillborn child who was unable to be baptized, our “Occupy Democrats” have again gotten it wrong. Canon 1183.2 allows for the funeral of an unbaptized stillborn baby with the permission of the local ordinary (usually involves a simple phone call to the Chancery).
So once again, they have gotten Catholic theology completely wrong. The neat thing about the Catholic Church is that what we believe can be found in the Catechism, and Church law can be found in the Code of Canon Law.