March 15, 2022 (Edward J. Barr) – At a recent meeting with a pro-life group the question of whether the souls of aborted babies go to heaven was discussed. To some this may seem a nonsensical question. How can a good God compound the evil of abortion by denying the victims entrance into His kingdom? However, it isn’t as straightforward as we would like to believe. The Church has not formally spoken on this issue and many saints have offered different opinions. With an administration hell-bent on accelerating the scourge of abortion within the US and worldwide, more and more parents, grandparents, and relatives will be concerned about the fate of their loved ones. I would like to offer one theological opinion based on the realities of mankind’s often forgotten or ignored friends, the angels.
The Church teaches that baptism is necessary for salvation. However, the hope for the souls of aborted babies is expressed in paragraph 1261 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC). “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 little 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.” This recent commentary by the Church was not so prominent in times past. Many remember the term “limbo.” Its common reference meant a permanent place where unbaptized children (and others) who died with no mortal sin on their soul resided. This was the opinion of St. Thomas Aquinas, perhaps the greatest theologian in the history of Christianity. He taught that unbaptized babies went to the Limbo of the Children (Summa Theologica. III, Q. 52, a. 7). While theologically sensible, many believe the term doesn’t conclusively settle the issue. Neither does the Church. In 2007, the International Theological Commission said limbo reflected an “unduly restrictive view of salvation.”
The more optimistic view of the eternal fate of aborted babies still provides no certainty. There are several theological views on how these souls can reach the beatific vision. They all recognize the necessity of baptism. The simplest theory is that God is not bound by his sacraments and can correct the injustice of abortion. This theory has failed to satisfy many theologians over the years since it contradicts the necessity for baptism as taught by Jesus. Some hold God would be contracting Himself if this theory were true, which makes it impossible.
Another theory views the souls of aborted babies being accorded baptism by blood. Those who die for the faith before baptism are granted entry into the beatific vision. There are many martyrs that have received this glory. However, this entails that the martyr had the desire; unfortunately, babies in the womb do not have the intellect to make such a choice. A similar problem arises with baptism by desire. The Church teaches in CCC 1260 that “Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God…can be saved.” Here the use of the will and intellect are applied in a way that doesn’t fit the realities of the early life of the baby in the womb. Yet there is another way to look at baptism of desire that would offer salvation to these poor souls. Enter the angels.
The existence of angels is a dogma of the faith. CCC 336 teaches that “From its beginning until death human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession. Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life.” This instruction is impactful but not completely clear. It requires an answer to the question of when does the guardian angel take charge of the soul. On this matter theologians differ. St. Thomas believes that the guardian angel is appointed at the time of birth. He believed that the mother’s guardian angel protects the child while still in the womb. He probably didn’t envision a time when society was so depraved that it is commonplace for a mother to purposely harm her own child. St. Anselm had a different opinion, believing that the appointment could occur in the womb since the baby is a separate person.
The Church has a long tradition of infant Baptism; “There is explicit testimony to this practice from the second century on, and it is quite possible that, from the beginning of the apostolic preaching, when whole ‘households’ received baptism…infants may also have been baptized.” (CCC 1252). It is the faith of the child’s guardians that allows the Church to baptize infants. The parents’ role is to guard the child’s physical and spiritual health. This responsibility begins the moment they are aware of the child. Eliminating the stain of original sin and bringing them into the mystical body of Christ as soon as possible is a loving act of mercy. Therefore, infant baptism is desirable; if the guardian is aware the child may die prior to birth, baptism is equally desirable, and more urgent.
One of the ways in which our guardian angels assist us is by defending us at the hour of death. In whatever way that death approaches. If the soul has no parent to defend it from the abortionist, it still has an angel assigned by God to protect it. Whether we take the Thomistic view that that angel is the mother’s guardian angel, or Anselm’s view that the baby has its own angel, there is a spiritual being assigned by God to lead that soul to heaven. Many of the most learned angelology theologians believe that our guardian angels were assigned to us at the start of creation. They have been waiting for us – and us alone – from their beginning. Surely their love would know no bounds.
Angels have superior intellects than man. They would be aware of the danger to the baby in the womb – whom science affirms is a separate person – and take immediate action just before death if allowed by God. Just as St. Raphael was sent by God to save the life of Tobias, our Lord could allow the guardian angels to save the eternal soul of the precious life that they were assigned to protect through an angelic baptism of desire. There is precedent for angels participating in the administration of sacraments. During the third visit of the Angel of Portugal to the children at Fatima in the Fall of 1916, he gave them holy communion (source: World Apostolate of Fatima, USA). Could this be the path of God’s mercy? To ensure divine justice is in accord with His teaching that baptism is essential for salvation. Could guardian angels blunt the horror of abortion through the desire of baptism for the sacrificed child? I believe it is possible. Let us pray for the salvation of the souls of babies killed by abortion, and the conversion of those who sent them to such an unjust fate.
Edward J Barr is a Catechist, an attorney, an intelligence officer, and a Marine. He earned a Master of Theology degree from the Augustine Institute. He is currently in formation for consecration to his guardian angel through Opus Sanctorum Angelorum. Mr. Barr is a contributing writer for the Roma Locuta Est blog (www.RomaLocutaEst.com)
14 thoughts on “On Angels and Abortion”
why are comments not accepted?
VC…hi…comments are accepted. Not sure what you mean. I checked the comments queue, and I don’t see any of yours that I missed “approving”. Last comment, before this one, was received and approved in mid-February. Let me know if somehow we’re missing comments from you. If so, I’ll check into it. I have had issues before where I wasn’t receiving notifications of new comments.
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Like many theologians, I can not give a definitive statement on the subject of the abode of the aborted. I do have some level of confidence on the destination of the knowing individuals responsible for the action.
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Thanks Donald. Yes, of the two questions that is the more clear.
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I follow the teaching of St Vincent of Lerins who observed that because God allows prelates to advance novelties as a way to test us us , Catholics must hold to what was once taught and believed by all
Limbo is such a believed doctrine
I fear the ready acceptance of a change in doctrine by modern man for emotional reasons – who wants to be the big true blue meanie that tells the mom who aborted her baby that her baby will never be in heaven in the presence of His glory enjoying the Beatific Vision – means that other doctrine will also be up for grabs and changeable for x reason
Us Catholics must be willing to die on the hill of Tradition
If we are expected to accept a change in what was morally universally accepted as true – such as Limbo – then we are accepting the “truth” that the Catholic Church taught error
Hi VC, As always your comments are thoughtful and insightful. The reason for “suppressing” the theological opinion of limbo is not very strong. Yet I do not believe it was part of large T tradition, hearkening back to the Apostolic era. I see Thomas’ view as plausible but not part of doctrine or Apostolic Tradition.
Do not the souls of aborted infants reside in purgatory ?? Philip
Hi Philip, The Church has not been specific on this topic. They leave a lot of room for pious theological opinion. This surely is one such possibility. The only thing I am 100% certain of is that a loving God would have mercy on these poor souls. Blessings, Ed
Dear Mr Barr
The Catholic Encyclopedia’s entry on Limbo summarises the matter justly and so if we are going to ditch limbo, what next?
The Ten Commandments are nit dogmatically defined or are our Guardian Angels or any number of truths us Catholics have always believed in
You know I value this blog and the contributions of you two and so this is not personal or tinged with rancor it’s just my Catholic way of expressing the old conservative concept – when it is not necessary to change it is necessary not to change
Hi VC, I am in favor of keeping Catholic traditions. I just wanted to point out the difference between big T tradition and lower t. Undoubtedly, eliminating lower t tradition (to include disciplines) has been horrific for the Church. It opened the door to many of the abuses we see today in the Church, most damaging the liturgical abuses that are commonplace in most parishes. I agree 100% with your last statement! Blessings!!!
Thoughts. First: we are all conceived as sinners. Second: sinners do not go to heaven without the sacraments and penance. Third: if the unborn go automatically to heaven because of abortion, one would be doing them a favour in killing them before birth. Therefore, St Thomas’s idea is the happiest we can hope for. But, our God is an awesome God, nothing with Him is impossible.
You last sentence says it all, which is why theological opinion can be both hopeful and uncertain. As the Church teaches children cannot sin before the age of reason, your third point.could allow for infanticide and filicide as also be doing them a favor. Perhaps St. Thomas’ idea is the best. In further discussion some have likened it to the levels of heaven (mansions, rooms, etc.) many of the saints have written about. Maybe both opinions can be merged? Thanks for your thoughts.
The best theory that I have read on this topic is the one where God provides an infusion of knowledge to the baby’s intellect at the moment of death so that the baby can make a choice for or against God. If the baby chooses God then God will provide an extra sacramental baptism to wash way original sin and let the baby in heaven. If the baby chooses against God then it has committed a mortal sin and will go to hell. What I like about this theory is that every human being no matter what their circumstances in this world are will have a choice of heaven or hell while keeping intact the doctrine of baptism that all those that go to heaven need to be baptized in some way. I know this theory is very speculative but I don’t believe it contradicts any official doctrine of the Church.
Thanks Claudio, I had not heard this theory. Blessings, Ed