Infant Baptism

Q. Our Catholic faith calls parents to baptize their newborns shortly after birth to absolve original sin. My question is what happens if a baby is stillborn or dies before being baptized. What’s the Church’s view in this circumstance?

Al, via e-mail 

A. Here is a reply from Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:

That’s right. The Church asks us to baptize children “within the first weeks of their birth,” and traditionally that means within the month, or before 30 days, since baptism is necessary for salvation according to Jesus’ words and instructions.

The Catechism says: “As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them 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,’ allow 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” (No. 1261).