When did the Church allow Catholic burial for unbaptized babies?

I was wondering - When did the Church begin to allow Catholic burial for unbaptized babies? In what manner was this restriction lifted (encyclical? Holy Office?)

The 1917 Canon Law Can. 1239 did not accord an ecclesiastical burial to those that died without baptism, except catechumens who through no fault of their own die without baptism. The 1983 canon law is different, so that the local ordinary can permit ecclesiastical burial to “children whom the parents intended to baptize but who died before baptism”.

CIC Canon Law (1983)Can. 1183 §1. When it concerns funerals, catechumens must be counted among the Christian faithful.
§2. The local ordinary can permit children whom the parents intended to baptize but who died before baptism to be given ecclesiastical funerals.
§3. In the prudent judgment of the local ordinary, ecclesiastical funerals can be granted to baptized persons who are enrolled in a non-Catholic Church or ecclesial community unless their intention is evidently to the contrary and provided that their own minister is not available.

The Church didn’t allow Catholic burial for unbaptized babies until 1983???

And a priest needs his Bishop’s permission???

The wording seems to imply ‘children’ rather than babies. What of stillbirths? Or babies who die shortly after birth? Do they fall under the category of ‘intended to baptize’?

God never has, nor never will, arbitrarily block a child from heaven because of lack of Baptism, regardless of whatever canon law EVER said.

To believe God would is about as blasphemous as one get!

I’m grateful you said that. Thank you.

Yes, thank you. I had two siblings die within hours of birth back in the 1960s. I can’t imagine the pain my parents–all parents–would have gone through to have had an infant child die and then be told by the Church that their children’s souls were lost for all eternity. Rubbish.

Yes, that was one of the things changed in the 1983 canon law. Also there is now a specific funeral rite for such children.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that infants who die without baptism are entrusted by the Church to the mercy of God, that it, there is hope but not certainty, that they may have the Beatific Vision.

I’ve played plenty of stillborn baby funerals.
I know no one ever asked permission.
Priests are pretty compassionate when it comes down to it.

Well, it was rubbish before 1983, then. I wonder if the legislators in the Vatican can make salvation retroactive for the unbaptized babies who died in the preceding 1,982 years? Do they have that kind of mojo?

It’s stuff like this that makes me roll my eyes at the Church. They have no idea, but they’ll spend centuries trying to convince themselves that they do.

I could be really wrong, but sometimes I think that these things came about in order to ensure that people baptized their kids, and didn’t begin to think it didn’t really matter for children. :shrug:

Sort of a hold your feet to the fire thing.

I remember one priest said to a couple that couldn’t stop sobbing at the funeral for their stillborn child:

*Just remember how many times, you, Joe’s mommy, received Eucharist during your pregnancy. Surely your child knew God, and surely the God who loves you both acknowledges that. *

It may be criticized by some, but it was the only thing that comforted her, poor woman.

The Catholic funeral liturgies (for anyone) do not assume the deceased is in heaven but pray that they may be forgiven any sins and enjoy eternal bliss.

Oddly enough, it was probably something they didn’t even think about when writiing the 1917 Code of Canon Law. I don’t know why, but it’s one of those things. We can’t fault the bishops for overlooking things. But that’s one reason why many of the Church Fathers (including Augustine) actually recommended getting a child baptized as close to birth as reasonably possible (and why Canon Law allows anyone - even nonbelievers if the proper intent and form are present - to baptize in case of emergency).

So where does Limbo come into this? The liminal place of unbaptized babies?

When did it come into fashion? I would imagine during a time when babies did not often survive. And didn’t it recently disappear from standard teaching? Do people talk about it anymore?

Miscarried or stillborn babies don’t fall into this. “Born into original sin.” They aren’t born alive, so no original sin. My priest said that he couldn’t even do a “real” funeral for my still born daughter because she had no original sin, thus no need to pray for her salvation.

I leave the theology to the Jesuits, however, I find it extremely difficult to believe that a God Who could love me, would reject an innocent baby. I don’t think we really conceive the Love that God is. It is a rational part of this faith in a loving Father that firms me in my belief that all children who die before Baptism are in Paradise nestled in His arms. To deny this would be the denial of the salvific power of the Sacrifice of our Saviour, Who came that all men might be saved.
However, a Funeral is not only for the dead but as a part of the grieving process of anyone who has lost a loved one. It should be accorded to a still born child on this basis alone. We all deserve the dignity of a loving farewell.

From the Old Testament Psalms 51:5 “Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me” so the unborn child possesses a sinful, fallen nature at the time of conception. The child a complete human being from conception.

I am so sorry to hear about your daughter. It seems that rituals are so important at this time. A funeral is more than praying for a soul. It is also commending the body back to the earth. I wonder why the priest framed the ritual in the way he did. Is this typical?

We are conceived in sin, Original Sin. The Church teaches that Mary was concieved in a singular act of God without Original Sin. I pray, along with the church, that some or all of the unbaptized babies may received the beatific vision. There is no guarentee, it has not been revealed.

Thus one theological option is Limbo (recently upheld as an option by the Vatican), the fringe of hell or heaven (I don’t know which) where natural happiness is received (Not supernatural happiness).
Of course several church fathers taught damnation of infants. but the Church prays that all may be saved.

I don’t believe that is correct. We inherit original sin upon our conception. The Church says that Mary was “*conceived * without original sin”. We say “the Immaculate Conception” when we speak of Mary being without original sin. Of course, this is different than actual sin which children do not commit and therefore don’t suffer in Hell. There is no need to pray for your daughter since she is not in Purgatory.

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