Dear Catholic Exchange:
I just lost my third baby to miscarriage in the first trimester. What happens to a miscarried baby’s soul, and will I be united with my children in Heaven?
Peace in Christ! The Catechism, no. 1257, states: “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.” Clearly, a child in the womb has neither had the Gospel proclaimed to him or her nor “had the possibility of asking” for Baptism. Faith must trust that a miscarried child would not be excluded from the everlasting mercy of Jesus—who went to the extent of leaving His Father’s right hand, assuming human flesh, and suffering horribly on the Cross because He desired so much to redeem. This is why the Catechism notes in the same paragraph that “God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but He Himself is not bound by His sacraments” (emphasis original; cf. no. 1261).
How might the effects of Baptism come to a child, even still yet in the womb? The Church teaches that a person who is prevented from Baptism, but who desires to be Baptized, either explicitly or implicitly, receives the effects of Baptism, i.e., salvation (Code of Canon Law, Canon 849). Baptism is not just what happens to an individual; Baptism is bound to the “community of believers. It is only within the faith of the Church that each of the faithful can believe” (Catechism, no. 1253). In other words, Baptism is not just the faith of the individual, but also the faith of the Church. Thus, a “catechumen or the godparent is asked: ‘What do you ask of God’s Church?’ The response is: ‘Faith!’” (Ibid). Inasmuch as a child is baptized because of the faith of the parents and godparents, it would seem reasonable to assume that parents who would have baptized their child, but were prevented, have an analogous situation. After all, it is the faith of the parents and godparents that is presented at baptism, not the child’s. It would seem, then, that a parents/godparents’ desire to baptize a child/godchild if the child is not able to receive Baptism should suffice. This idea, referred to as the “vicarious desire for baptism,” was put forth by Cardinal Cajetan, who lived during the years of the Reformation. Though this theory is considered theological opinion and not a part of the Church’s official teaching, it is a reasonable inference from Church teaching—one in which we can find consolation.
God’s mercy is everlasting!
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United in the Faith,
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Catholics United for the Faith
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