All Souls In Purgatory, Or Not?

What do I say when my child asks what happens to aborted babies who aren't baptized?

What about Catholics who say my baby is NOT in heaven?

Many have asked these questions, especially on All Souls' Day.

After a Rachel's Vineyard Retreat, I formed a possible answer. Nevertheless, I asked three spiritual and faithful priests to help me understand what the Church teaches.

They all directed me to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, specifically paragraphs #1257 – 1261. In 1261, we are taught that

children who have died without Baptism, the Church entrusts to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus' tenderness toward children which caused Him to say: “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,” allows us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church's call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism.
One priest said, “For most of history, the Church taught that unbaptized babies go to 'limbo.' This was not hell, but a place of peace. They can not enjoy the eternal blessedness of the Lord because original sin was not wiped away.

“The Church's understanding has been stated differently in the last thirty years. 'Limbo' is no longer used. We know that God is abundantly merciful, and desires that all children come to Him (Matt 19:14, 1 Tim 2:4). Therefore, our great hope is that they are in heaven, but we cannot say with certainty. You are encouraged to pray for your baby.”

I have wondered, as I am sure many mothers of aborted babies have asked, “How can we think of limiting God?” The Catechism answers this question in this way: “God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism [which “is necessary for salvation”] but He himself is not bound by His sacraments” (CCC 1257).

On All Souls' Day, another priest spoke directly to mothers who have lost their babies before baptism and said, “If we are to celebrate this Holy Day, we ought to speak of and pray for them all.” He implored us, “Please, if you lost a child through stillbirth or miscarriage, or if you chose not to carry your baby to term, for whatever reason, please, give your baby a name. It is OK to do this. They all have souls, and I believe that our God is too good and merciful to keep them away from Him. Please, pray for and acknowledge your child, so that when you meet that child, hopefully, one day when you meet God, you can greet and welcome your child by name.”

Women at every Mass he celebrated quietly cried as he spoke these words, myself included. It was the first time I heard any priest from any pulpit ever acknowledge the souls of our aborted children being able to meet us someday.

Later, when we talked about this, he said, “We know that Jesus was baptized though He had no sin. Baptism, therefore, must be for more than just cleansing from sin (as John the Baptizer offered the experience). Baptism is an acceptance of a life's mission to seek conversion in our own lives and call others to a more Christ-like life. The moment the child is conceived, he or she begins to impact the parents' lives and challenge [the parents] to conversion and to love. Because there is no deliberate act against God, there is no personal sin. By virtue of their lack of deliberate sin, and their participation in mission, the child merits everlasting life.”

In my heart and soul, I understand that these aborted children “died in God's grace and friendship,” and that we need to pray, attend and offer Mass for them and in hope can ask them to pray for us.

In great hope, I exclaim, “How could it be any other way?”

(Annie Banno is the Connecticut State Leader of OPERATION OUTCRY: SILENT NO MORE. To contact her or sign up to receive her free newsletter, e-mail [email protected].)

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