What to Do For Unbaptized Infant?
  • Last year, I came scrambling to the forum, for assistance with a funeral for a baptized infant. Now I need some direction regarding the death of an unbaptized infant. Our priest is also learning as we go. The family has requested an EF Low Mass this Saturday, and wished to have a booklet printed up. They had also asked about including any special prayers for the infant. I know that this doesn't involve any music questions, so this probably isn't the appropriate topic for this venue, but since I have been asked for direction, I was hoping that perhaps the collective wisdom of the forum contributors could give some guidance to a rubrics-challenged director such as myself?

    Would the Mass be that of the BVM, or would it be that of the Chair of St. Peter? Fr. Fortescue's book states that infants who die without baptism may not be buried with any ecclesiastical ceremony. However, I am confused now, having read this article:
    http://www.cantius.org/go/sacraments/baptism/unbaptized_infants/
    The last paragraph of the article, particularly the last sentence, has me wondering if there was a change in canon law:
    Such persons, by the ordinary law of the Church, may not receive Catholic funeral rites. The reason of this regulation is given by Pope Innocent III (Decr., III, XXVIII, xii): “It has been decreed by the sacred canons that we are to have no communion with those who are dead, if we have not communicated with them while alive.” According toCanon Law (CIC 1183), however, catechumens “are to be considered members of the Christian faithful” as regard funeral rites. The Plenary Council of Baltimore also decrees (No. 389) that the custom of burying the unbaptized relatives of Catholics in the family sepulchers may be tolerated. [Editor’s note: The 1983 Code of Canon Law excepts an unbaptized child of Catholic parents, if the parents had intended to have him baptized.]


    I would be most grateful for any directives.


  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,234
    Was there an intent to baptize the child by the parents?
  • francis, I think that I could say with 100% assuredness, that the intent would have been there on the part of the parents.

    At the risk of revealing myself to be the most ignorant among the forum members, are all changes in canon law binding upon EF and OF alike?
  • I see that the Code of Canon Law (Can. 1183) says the following:

    §1. When it concerns funerals, catechumens must be counted among the Christian faithful.

    §2. The local ordinary can permit children whom the parents intended to baptize but who died before baptism to be given ecclesiastical funerals.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • BruceL
    Posts: 1,002
    yeah, Fortescue isn't the source you want for this. You want the 1983 Code.
    Thanked by 1expeditus1
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,764
    The updated version of Fortescue (ed. Reid, OSB) says that the question is treated in Mahoney, Questions and Answers II (1949), Q. 623. Does anyone have it?

    The old Roman Ritual book says, like the 1983 Code, that catechumens are counted among the faithful for funerals, and in case of doubt, the pastor should consult the local Ordinary. I assume he'll grant the permission.

    Is there a reason why the Mass of the Dead would not be used?
  • I just found this, taken from the “Faculties for Priests and Deacons in the Diocese of Madison”, given March 20, 2008: On page 15, #13, it states “[the bishop grants the faculty] to pastors and parochial vicars assigned to a parish, to allow ecclesiastical funeral rites for an unbaptized child, if the parents had intended to have the child baptized (canon 1883.2)”.

    I'd be interested in an answer to chonak's question(s) above.
  • The Order of Christian Funerals (USA 1989) is the current book for the Ordinary Form. In accord with the canon law given earlier, it has options throughout the rites (vigil, Mass, committal) for an unbaptized child. Obviously, the options avoid mentioning the child's baptism.

    In the EF, the texts presuppose baptism. For example, looking at a prayer in the Liber Usualis in the Burial of very young children, one reads: Omnipotens et mitissime Deus, qui omnibus parvulis renatis fonte baptismatis etc.

    If the parents want the Mass of the Dead, they should use the OF.
    Thanked by 2expeditus1 chonak
  • If the parents want the Mass of the Dead, they should use the OF.


    Why? The Mass of the Dead in either form of the Roman rite is offered for the same intentions. In the EF, Mass of the Dead is not celebrated for baptized children who died before the age of reason, and the burial rite is performed in white vestments. From the posts above it follows that even in the liturgical books of OF there is no rite assigned for unbaptized children, on good theological grounds, as it seems (see above the decree of Innocent III), or is there one? If not, the canon 1183.2 would only mean permission to bury him/her in a blessed cemetery (gravesite).
  • in the liturgical books of OF there is no rite assigned for unbaptized children

    You are mistaken. If you read through the 1989 Order, Part II is devoted entirely to children, with options throughout for unbaptized children. In the same Part, there is a Rite of Final Commendation for an Infant, "which may be used in the case of a stillborn or a newborn infant who dies shortly after birth." (# 318)