Can we baptize the dead?

A friend and I are arguing about baptism. He knows of an 11 year old girl who was raped and tortured. She became pregnant and died a month later. My friend maintains that someone should have delivered the one month old fetus and baptized him/her. I say there was no point because the baby would have died with the mother. I am pretty sure I was taught that we cannot baptize the dead. My friend said that the Church has never defined death and we don’t know when that soul left the body. What is the correct Church teaching on this?

Dear mom,

You are correct. Sacraments are for the living. The Church has never defined death because it is not a matter of faith. We all have a pretty good grip on what death is. When the MD declares that a person is dead, the Church accepts this fact. When the soul leaves the body, the body dies. The soul is the life principle of the body. No life means the soul has left.

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

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