“Pope Francis prays at Korean cemetery for aborted babies”
So runs the headline at the Catholic News Agency website [here]. But the article fails to support the headline. Indeed, while it is clear that Pope Francis prayed at a monument for aborted babies, the text of the prayer is not given – it seems that the prayer was offered in silence, and perhaps we won’t ever hear exactly what our Holy Father said.
There is a theological problem when we it comes to praying “for” aborted babies – Are we to suppose that they are in purgatory? If so, What sin did they commit for which they must suffer purification? If not, Why would they need our prayers?
Did the Pope pray for aborted babies? Does he think they are suffering in purgatory?
If we were to pray “for” aborted children, we must be assuming that they are not in heaven, but are in need of our prayers. The only dead people that we pray “for”, are those who may be in purgatory suffering for their sins from which they were not yet sufficiently purified in life. But there is no reason to think that these children are suffering in purgatory – in fact, we can be quite certain that they are not suffering, for they committed no sins.
We have no reason to suppose that Pope Francis believes that aborted children are suffering in purgatory or are in need of our prayers. Indeed, while it is clear that a number of lay people in Korea state that they visit the monument to pray “for” aborted babies, the Holy Father has said no such thing.
No news agency has yet given any evidence to the effect that the Pope was praying “for” the aborted children – though it seems that he was praying for conversion of heart for society and for the respect of all life. We also may assume he was praying for an end to abortion and the healing of those involved in the abortion industry. This certainly would be in accord with all that he has ever said about abortion.
To date, the Holy Father has never stated that he prays “for” aborted children, or that he thinks that they are in need of our prayers, or that they are in purgatory. But he does ask that we pray for healing and forgiveness, an end to abortion and the victory of the culture of life.
All we know is that Pope Francis stopped to pray AT a monument which is dedicated to the remembrance of aborted children. Exactly what he prayed “for” is not clearly known, but we have no reason to suppose that he thinks the children are in purgatory or in need of an indulgence.
The official prayer of the Church
In previous articles, we have defended that traditional (immemorial) doctrine of limbo – we will not repeat those arguments here, as they are not essential to the topic.
What we must admit, however, is that the Church has never prayed “for” children who died before the age of reason. If the child had been baptized, the official liturgy of the Church (in the funeral Mass) has always supposed that the child attained directly to the glory of heaven – and this is a truth about which we can be certain, for those who die without original sin and without any actual sin must certainly attain straight away to heavenly glory.
On the other hand, for those children who die before the age of reason and who were not baptized (as in the case of aborted children), the Church yet still prays not for the child, but for the parents and family of the child. The Church (again in her official funeral liturgy) entrusts the soul of the child to God’s mercy, but in no way prays “for” the child. Indeed, it is clear that the child has no need of our prayers – for he is either in heaven (as many today think) or he is in limbo (as we maintain), there to remain in perfect happiness (either supernatural or natural) for all eternity.
Catholics don’t pray “for” aborted children, we pray for an end to abortion and for conversion of heart. And we have no reason to suppose that Pope Francis has done anything other than this.