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Thread: Burial of Stillborn Child - Catholic Church Rules

  1. #1
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin ebwatt's Avatar
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    Burial of Stillborn Child - Catholic Church Rules

    My apologies for the macabre subject.

    I'm interested in learning if a stillborn baby or one that died immediately after birth would be eligible for burial in a Catholic graveyard. Assume no baptism took place by anyone (priest or otherwise).

    Would the rules vary depending on the time and place? My story takes place in 1900-1920 rural eastern Canada.

    Thoughts?

    Eb
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  2. #2
    practical experience, FTW Joycecwilliams's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ebwatt View Post
    My apologies for the macabre subject.

    I'm interested in learning if a stillborn baby or one that died immediately after birth would be eligible for burial in a Catholic graveyard. Assume no baptism took place by anyone (priest or otherwise).

    Would the rules vary depending on the time and place? My story takes place in 1900-1920 rural eastern Canada.

    Thoughts?

    Eb
    Yes... I don't know about Canada though. My mother had a boy who was still born in 1953 and he is burried in a Catholic Cemetery with my grandparents and other brother.

  3. #3
    Hot bug on doll action! Use Her Name's Avatar
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    Similarly, some also
    have recollections that unbaptized children in the past were not permitted to have a
    funeral. This is not the case any longer and a Funeral Mass may be celebrated for an
    unbaptized infant.

    As of when? It was once the case that unbaptized infants were not allowed a Christian burial. When the year was, I do not know. In 1960, Pope John Paul (the one before the latest John Paul) had the Second Vatican Council. I am betting it comes from that time. Quite a few huge changes were made at that time.

    Look here: You need to join this archive service I don't know how much money it costs. There are quite early articles, 1905 and such.

    http://www.newspaperarchive.com/Land...\32198318.html

    [May 4, 1926] Burial within the cemetery is a privilege reserved to those who have died in communion with the Roman Catholic Church. The certificate of ownership delivered to the purchasers of plots expressly so provides, and provides also that the right of burial shall be subject to the rules and regulations ...
    From New York Court of Appeals Reports - YOME v.... - New York Court of Appeals Reports ($$)
    Last edited by Use Her Name; 06-02-2008 at 11:01 AM.

  4. #4
    Oponionated PastMidnight's Avatar
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    One that died immediately after birth could have been baptized the moment they came out, and then would be allowed to be buried in a Catholic cemetary. I remember the priest telling us this in the class we took before our children's baptisms, that, especially if the baby was in distress, anyone could perform the baptism.


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    I'm nearly sure...

    for the time frame the OP asked about that an unbaptised child was not allowed Catholic burial in consecrated ground.

  6. #6
    Seanachie johnnysannie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ebwatt View Post
    My apologies for the macabre subject.

    I'm interested in learning if a stillborn baby or one that died immediately after birth would be eligible for burial in a Catholic graveyard. Assume no baptism took place by anyone (priest or otherwise).

    Would the rules vary depending on the time and place? My story takes place in 1900-1920 rural eastern Canada.

    Thoughts?

    Eb

    Yes, although a devout parent would have most likely baptised the stillborn infant, which can be done in the event of emergency. The long standing Catholic belief (and definitely at the time ofyour story) was that unbaptised infants go to Limbo rather than Heaven. So it would be very likely that a parent would have sprinkled water on the stillborn child and done a very simple, basic rite of baptism.

    FYI When I suffered a miscarriage in 1995, I baptised the fetal matter that I passed so that my child, although not advanced enough to be stillborn, would be baptised.
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  7. #7
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin ebwatt's Avatar
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    Smile

    Thanks everyone - especially those who shared personal experiences. This was exactly the information I was looking for.

    Eb
    Attitude: the difference between and ordeal and an adventure.

  8. #8
    PatMc
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    I tried to message you yesterday, but don't know if my 'newbie' effort worked or not. I'm writing a novel set in Ireland of the 1970s and an American woman suffers a stillbirth there. It was easy to get information through ISANDS about the Irish Catholic procedures at the time. Can't find much about U.S. Catholic procedures, though. Would love to know if you have any luck tracking reliable information. Will be happy to let you know any sources I can find. PatMc

  9. #9
    fantasy dweller
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    The custom of not interring unbaptized infants in consecrated ground was once a common practice. The Second Vatican Council did not address this, however, the RCC states in the 1992 Catechism "Rather the Catechism teaches that infants who die without baptism are entrusted by the Church to the mercy of God, as is shown in the specific funeral rite for such children. The principle that God desires the salvation of all people gives rise to the hope that there is a path to salvation for infants who die without baptism..."

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  10. #10
    The cake is a lie. But still cake. shaldna's Avatar
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    traditionally unbaptised babies were not supposed to be burried in the church plot, but that was usually down to the Father, and if he was fine with it then he would permit it, especially in small communities where he would know the parents intimately.

    the official view on it though was that the unbaptised did not get buried in the catholic church cemetary.
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  11. #11
    Seanachie johnnysannie's Avatar
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    Burial of an baptised baby in a Catholic consecreated cemetery might have been allowed - up to the discretion of the parish priest - IF it was a given that the parents would have baptized the child if possible and at least one parent was a practicing Catholic.

    Lay people - inlcuding parents - have long been able to baptize a child in the event of emergency (such as stillbirth) and the absence of a priest to do the sacrament.
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  12. #12
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    President & Mrs. Kennedy had a stillborn daughter (1956) and a son that died at two days old (August 1963). The son, Patrick, was given a full funeral service, although it's likely that he was baptized and received the last rites almost immediately given his grave condition at birth.

    The Second Vatican Council was opened by Pope John XXIII and closed by Paul VI. Paul VI died in early August 1978 - John Paul I was chosen in late August and only reigned for one month.

    For centuries, Catholics informally believed that unbaptized babies went to "Limbo," which was similar to but not as unpleasant as Purgatory. There was no official doctrine covering this, and Pope Benedict has officially stated that Limbo does not exist and unbaptized babies go directly to heaven.
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