Q: I received a call this morning from a gentleman who said he and his wife had been told their in utero baby had been diagnosed with Turner’s Syndrome and that it was not expected to live to term. If the child is born alive, ought it be baptized (I would say “yes” if it brings comfort to the parents but “no” as a soteriological necessity)? If the child is stillborn should it be baptized (I would say definitely not)? Ought the child be given a funeral (I would “yes” and to the extent the parents wish)? Do you have any comment to make on this? Am I missing something?
A: God bless you for stepping in to offer pastoral care in this difficult situation. My heart breaks for these parents.
If the child is born alive, yes, baptize. It does more than bring comfort. Sadly, the Catholic Church only offers “hope” of salvation to children who die without baptism, not “certainty” of salvation. Assign godparents, too.
And confirm – if you can be there. In this situation a priest has the faculty to confirm, so bring chrism. You do not need permission from the bishop; it comes from the law.
If the child is stillborn, and it is clearly dead, then, no, no baptism. But if there’s any question at all, then baptize as usual.
And you may school the parents in how to baptize in case a priest or deacon is not available at the moment of delivery.
Then the baptism (and confirmation) should be recorded in the parish where the baptism took place. It may console the parents to receive a baptismal certificate.
Yes, offer a funeral, regardless of the baptismal status of the child. The Order of Christian Funerals offers prayers for each situation. I find that many parents do not want a funeral, but I really think it helps, sad as it is.
And I offer prayers for all of you dealing with this.