Baptism of a stillborn?


#1

I had heard of a nurse at a Catholic hospital who would baptize the stillborn infants that she delivered.

To me, this seems pointless. The orginal sin that keeps us out of Heaven is found on the soul, not the body, and in the case of a stillborn, the soul is gone.

Thoughts?


#2

It may be possible, the stillborn child is not completely dead. There is no harm. For if the child is dead, then no sacrament occurs. If the child is still alive, then there is the guarentee of heaven.

We describe death by 'the heart has stopped beating' or 'the person has stopped breathing'. But in both cases, people can be brought back to life. Even if we cannot bring them back, they may still be alive in God's eyes. We don't know when death occurs in the eyes of God.


#3

Some theologians have speculate that the soul "lingers" with the body for some amount of time after death (and this notion is somewhat supported by the experiences reported by people who have been revived from (apparent) death). If the soul is present, the Sacraments may yet be effective. Some priests will administer Unction as long as an hour after death.

The idea is that it cannot hurt, and could possibly be of great benefit.


#4

[quote="LaMusicaSenior, post:1, topic:297560"]
I had heard of a nurse at a Catholic hospital who would baptize the stillborn infants that she delivered.

To me, this seems pointless. The orginal sin that keeps us out of Heaven is found on the soul, not the body, and in the case of a stillborn, the soul is gone.

Thoughts?

[/quote]

It is true that the sacraments are for the living. We do not give sacraments to people who are already dead. Howvever, if there is any doubt as to whether the person is dead, it is generally better to err on the side of giving the sacrament rather than not giving it. At least, that's how it is with Anointing of the Sick (canon 1005).

For Baptism, Canon Law says:

Can. 867

§2. An infant in danger of death is to be baptized without delay.

Can. 868

§2. An infant of Catholic parents or even of non-Catholic parents is baptized licitly in danger of death even against the will of the parents.

So it seems like it could be a gray area. In any case, hopefully the nurse isn't doing this of her own volition but in cooperation with the hospital's chaplain.


#5

Let’s consider the options here.

BAPTISM IS IMPOSSIBLE…
…but you baptize anyway: you waste water and 5 seconds of your time.
…but you don’t baptize: nothing happens.

BAPTISM IS POSSIBLE…
…and you baptize: the child goes to Heaven.
…and you don’t baptize: the child is potentially denied the Beatific Vision for all eternity.

So, worst case scenario, you baptize them fruitlessly. Best case, they go to Heaven and pray for you out of gratitude.

The standard practice for much of history was to treat a dead person as alive until they visibly showed signs of death. That meant being cold, stiff, and blue. This sounds reasonable to me. At this point, the person is clearly irreversibly dead. At anything short of that, there is still some possibility that the person is living or capable of being returned to life. So baptize. No harm in it.


#6

Do any Catholics honestly believe God would allow a stillborn child to go to hell because of lack of a baptism? I would think it would be more like all of the aborted children who are never baptized. God will welcome them home.


#7

[quote="WingsOfEagles, post:6, topic:297560"]
Do any Catholics honestly believe God would allow a stillborn child to go to hell because of lack of a baptism? I would think it would be more like all of the aborted children who are never baptized. God will welcome them home.

[/quote]

Why bother with baptism at all, then?

At any rate, no one anywhere believes unbaptized babies go to "Hell" in the fire and brimstone sense.


#8

[quote="WingsOfEagles, post:6, topic:297560"]
Do any Catholics honestly believe God would allow a stillborn child to go to hell because of lack of a baptism? I would think it would be more like all of the aborted children who are never baptized. God will welcome them home.

[/quote]

Because we honestly do not know, and it is all purely speculation, we rely on the grace of God and leave it at that.

We do not know that aborted children go straight to heaven - do just don't know. That is why we pray for those souls, and the souls of their parents. No one has the ability to presume anything with regard to the state of anyone's soul.

~Liza


#9

[quote="LaMusicaSenior, post:1, topic:297560"]
I had heard of a nurse at a Catholic hospital who would baptize the stillborn infants that she delivered.

To me, this seems pointless. The orginal sin that keeps us out of Heaven is found on the soul, not the body, and in the case of a stillborn, the soul is gone.

Thoughts?

[/quote]

We do not know at what point the soul leaves the body. Better to try than not, right? If it proves to be effective, then we have saved a soul. If not, there is no harm in trying.

Also you should understand that a human being is both body and soul. That is why we keep relics of the Holy men and women who have departed this world.


#10

I’m guessing it’s done on the off chance that either the child is miraculously revived or not quite dead yet. Sounds like a good idea by me.


#11

It may still be done conditionally.

“If you are still alive, then I baptize you in the name…”


#12

[quote="WingsOfEagles, post:6, topic:297560"]
Do any Catholics honestly believe God would allow a stillborn child to go to hell because of lack of a baptism? I would think it would be more like all of the aborted children who are never baptized. God will welcome them home.

[/quote]

Actually, the correct answer is that we do not know what happens to them. Anything else elevates something like abortion to be the level of a Sacrament, wiping out the stain of Original Sin.


#13

[quote="porthos11, post:11, topic:297560"]
It may still be done conditionally.

"If you are still alive, then I baptize you in the name..."

[/quote]

That would be my thoughts as well. If there is any hope the child has life, even at the cellular level, a conditional baptism is warranted.


#14

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