BAPTIZE A MISCARRIED BABY

Barnhardt

Judica me, Deus, et discerne causam meam de gente non sancta.

Barnhardt

IMPORTANT RESOURCE: Form For Conditionally Baptizing a Miscarried Baby

What graces are flowing from this discussion!  A couple of listeners, including SuperMommy herself, sent in this EXCELLENT little document that explains how to go about Conditionally Baptizing a miscarried baby person.  It is a Conditional Baptism because, of course, it can’t be known if the little person is dead, or if the soul still dwells in the body.  So the form is, “IF YOU ARE ABLE TO BE BAPTIZED…”

Since most miscarriages occur in the first trimester, it is important for Mom and Dad to both learn how to identify the tiny person in the tiny amniotic sac, usually concealed in a blood clot, and open the sac thus exposing the baby – because the waters of baptism need to touch the baby.  Of course, some miscarriages happen so early that the mother doesn’t even know that she was pregnant, and just thinks it is a menstrual period.  There is nothing that can be done about that, and we rely on the Divine Providence.  HOWEVER, it is a great consolation for the parents to know that if a miscarriage occurs, that they did everything they could.  Then they know that if the soul of the baby was still with the body that they did, in fact, baptize their child.  If not, then, again, it goes to the Divine Providence, but what a consolation to know that every effort was made!

————This entry was posted in Uncategorized on November 10, ARSH 2018 by Ann Barnhardt.

HOW TO BAPTIZE IN CASE OF MISCARRIAGE

By Alana M. Rosshirt

Reprinted from Marriage: The Magazine of Catholic Family Living, May, 1959

ALANA ROSSHIRT (Mrs. John L.) is a graduate of St. Mary's College, Notre Dame.
Indiana. Her husband is a lawyer and member of the Illinois, Indiana, and 
Florida Bars. They lost a baby last summer, but have a year- and-a half old son. 

"In every case of miscarriage, no matter at what stage pregnancy, the fetus
must be baptized; absolutely, if it's certainly alive; conditionally, if the 
presence of life is doubt."

This quote from Canon Law could not be clearer and yet many Catholics
are ignorant of the Church's teaching in this matter. My husband and I
were made aware of it almost by accident.

Shortly before we were married, we stopped at St. Peter's Church in
Chicago's Loop for confession. When I mentioned to the priest that I was
about to be married, he told me I should know how to baptize in case of a
miscarriage. He suggested my asking a Catholic doctor or nurse how to
recognize the fetus and how to baptize it. He told me to be sure my
husband knew too.

I followed his advice and explained the procedure to Jack. We supposed
that every couple received the information much the same way, as we
had. It was only after we had lost a. baby that we found out how few
couples know what to do in such a case.

After my first miscarriage we told our close friends how happy we were
that Jack had been able to baptize the fetus. The amazed looks of our
friends made us wonder. We decided to mention it to more of our friends
and see what their reaction would be.

Many young couples who had never lost a baby actually thought it was a.
rather rare occurrence and that it always happened in a hospital. Others
never thought of the fetus as a real person until the very late stages. Still
others assumed a layman would never be able to recognize an embryo or
fetus.

A few thought we were rather silly to make such a production of it,
because the fetus was undoubtedly dead. Only a small number realized
too late that they should have attempted baptism and felt badly that they
hadn't known what to do.

What surprised us most were the couples who had had several
miscarriages and never thought of baptism. If all these had been
uneducated Catholics, we would have understood how such a thing could
be, but they weren't.

Everyone we talked to wanted to know how Jack found the fetus and
what he did. Even some of our non- Catholic friends who feel that
baptism is only ceremony to officially name a child, were interested
because they didn't like the idea of their baby being disposed of in any
disrespectful manner.

Some of these views became even more amazing when we looked up the
frequency of miscarriages - about one out of ten pregnancies, and some
reports estimated as high as one out of six. Most of us know from our
own experience and that of our friends, that it is not a. rare occurrence, 
and that it doesn't matter how many children a woman has carried
successfully, the next one might be a miscarriage.

It is, then, the responsibility of every adult Catholic, and especially every
husband and wife, to know how to administer baptism in such a case.

Theologians say the fetus can and should be baptized even if it appears to
be dead since the soul can remain for a while. It is best not to take any
chances since actual decomposition, which is the only certain sign of
death, is difficult for the layman to determine.

Since about three-fourths of miscarriages occur during the first three
months, it is necessary to know what the embryo looks like as well as
how to administer the sacrament.

Many doctors give expectant mothers pamphlets on pre-natal and baby
care which have descriptions of the size and weight of the fetus at various
stages. These can help immensely in knowing the general size, but there
isn't time to run to the book when a miscarriage occurs. These pamphlets
also give danger signals which can alert the husband and wife to a
possible miscarriage and give them time to review the baptismal
procedure. In a Catholic hospital when miscarriage occurs, the fetus is
baptize immediately by trained personnel. At home it is a different story.
Any emergency is complicated by lack of trained personnel and even
further by emotional involvement.

The mother is generally in no condition to help. and the father is faced
with what seems to be a million things to do at once. The fetus should be
baptized, the mother made comfortable, the doctor notified, and then
whatever else seems necessary, in that order. The most important thing to
remember is that speed is essential. The embryo or fetus does not have
much time. It is not equipped to live outside the womb and it has just
experienced a violent entry into the world.

Most of us know the essentials of emergency baptism: the intention; the
water; the direct contact of the water with the person being baptized by
pouring it over the head in a flowing or washing manner; and
pronouncing the words aloud while pouring the water.

It is the same for baptizing the fetus except when it is not sufficiently
developed to pour water on the head. In such a case it should be
immersed in a pan of tepid water while the words are said. It is very
important that the fetus itself be touched by the water, and not just the
membranous sac that surrounds it. This sac must be broken before
baptism or the sacrament is not valid.

The water must touch the "person," The big problem in the baptism of a
miscarriage is finding the fetus. A membrane surrounds the fetus, but 
both may be enclosed in a blood clot. The membrane can be distinguished
from the blood clot by touch. If not, the whole can be placed in a loop of
gauze and lukewarm water run over it which will remove the blood.
After the membrane is broken so that water can touch the fetus itself, it
should be immersed in the lukewarm water and gently moved around
while the words, usually of conditional baptism, are said: "If you are
capable of being baptized, I baptize you in the Name of the Father and of
the Son and of the Holy Ghost."

After the fetus is baptized, the mother made comfortable, and the doctor
notified, then call your pastor or a Catholic undertaker and he will tell you
what to do with the tiny remains. If possible, they should be placed in the
consecrated ground of a Catholic cemetery, usually in the family lot if
there is one. Catholic cemeteries also have sections for un-baptized
babies.

In no case can the remains be disposed of in any disrespectful manner.
The fetus must be considered a person and be treated with the same
respect and dignity any human being is given.

When a fetus dies without baptism through no one's fault, it is not a great
tragedy. It will live forever in Limbo and have every ounce of natural
happiness of which it is capable. Parents who have failed to baptize
miscarriages are not guilty if they simply didn't know any better. But for
the good of such souls, this ignorance should be eliminated.

Parents can tell sons and daughters who are about to be married, and,
after news of an expected grandchild, they can ask if the parents-to-be
know how to baptize should a miscarriage occur. High school and
college marriage courses can make the students aware that such a thing
can happen and what their duty is. Priests can mention it in their premarital
counseling and even when the couple comes to set a date for the
wedding.

It is not necessary to go into all the details with young people. If they are
just told to ask a Catholic doctor or nurse to explain the procedure at the
first opportunity, or at least when pregnancy is suspected.

Baptizing a fetus is not a pleasant task, but the rewards to the parents, to
say nothing of the eternal gratitude of their child, are immeasurable.

Our first baby was baptized by a priest in our parish church with all the
splendor of the liturgy ten days after he was born. Our second baby was
baptized by an anxious and perplexed father in the bathroom sink
scarcely three months after conception. The glory of it is that the
sacrament was the same, making them both children of God. 

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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