Friday, 23 November 2007

Why do we baptize infants; and why is abortion so wrong?

It's interesting to take a look at the GCSE mark schemes for various questions. Take the question, 'Why do Catholics believe in infant baptism?' Answers to be credited include:
  • Baptism brings someone into the Church
  • It takes away original sin
  • It brings the family and community together
  • It shows the faith of the parents

At no stage is it ever mentioned that baptism is necessary for salvation. This is the reason why Catholic mothers get nervous with unbaptized babies; not because they feel that they haven't had the opportunity to display their faith or bring the baby into the parish community, but because unbaptized babies may not be able to enjoy the Beatific Vision.

A friend of mine recently argued that the real issue with abortion isn't the humanitarian one - the vulnerability of the innocent lives so cruelly taken - but the theological one, the impossibility of salvation for the souls of those babies who have been denied baptism and therefore go to Limbo. If we believe in Limbo...


Felix Randal said...

I don't think the Church has ever defined that salvation is *impossible* for the unbaptised...

The Holy Office said...

Yes I think I perhaps overstated it there. But there is a conspicuous silence affirming that they can enjoy the beatific vision, isn't there. Obviously 'natural happiness' sounds fine really (why is it that people find the sound of merely natural happiness so awful?). But we were made for eternal beatitude and we can't frankly - as far as I know - promise it to the unbaptized.

Felix Randal said...

No indeed, eternal beatitude can't be promised to the unbaptized (or to anyone for that matter). But I think the 'conspicuous silence' on this matter is theologically appropriate, don't you? It reminds us that our words and concepts are inadequate to the task of talking about God and the mystery of salvation. (I know what you're thinking - 'Try telling that to a class of 15 year olds'!).

The Holy Office said...

First, yes, I think it definitely is appropriate to be silent on this matter, because nothing definite has been revealed.

Second, I think you are also right to say that we face a problem putting mysteries into words. I probably don't emphasise the mystery very much, always 'trying to give a reason for anyone who asks of you etc.'

Third, surely eternal beatitude is promised to the souls who die in a state of grace; we are not Calvinists after all, never sure that we can have a grounded hope for salvation!

I think we agree!