Thursday, February 19, 2009
All unbaptized children go to Heaven when they die, Pope Benedict had finally declared. Earlier saints believed otherwise; but they were not writing "de Fide," -- from faith. In early Christianity, that doctrine was not yet well defined. This contradiction was understandable as explained by St. John Newman in his "Development of Christian Doctrine." Just as the complete man is not recognized while still in the womb, it is the same with Catholic Doctrine: the early saints did not comprehend the full form of certain doctrines at first. Then because of need to defend doctrine (as in defending life) when heresies arise, it becomes a common occurrence in the Catholic Church that knowledge or explanation of doctrines increases as a response to those heresies. In the case of the doctrine about unbaptized children, there were little errors to clarify in the past; it was just a lack of understanding of the most difficult doctrine of the Catholic Church: the theology of grace.
What Pope Benedict announced about this doctrine should not encourage abortion. Someone could say, 'since anyway the child would go to heaven, let's kill it.' Well, true, the child would indeed go to heaven, but you will surely go to hell. All efforts to stop abortion consist in refuting the stupidity of this reasoning. Efforts are not meant to save the soul of the child but to save the soul of the parents, the abortionist doctors, the cooperating nurses, the owners of drug companies and the advertisers. The announcement of the Holy Father is meant to console all who are stricken by the great tragedy of children being aborted, children dying in wars and children starving in famine-stricken areas. And it is meant to stop those who would ask: why would a good God allow this? Obviously, it is a better arrangement to bring those souls sooner to Heaven, if we consider that they would be growing up in an evil modern culture or a pagan country or heretical family.
St. Augustine was one of those who thought that unbaptized children were condemned to hell if they die in that state. Of course, his reasoning was logical: If grace was needed to go to heaven and that this grace can only come earliest to us through baptism, therefore without baptism we would be without grace and death would mean condemnation. But St. Augustine himself began to have some reservations. And if we follow his trend of thoughts regarding those reservations, we would see that it leads to the same conclusion as Pope Benedict's.
St. Augustine's thoughts went this way: God gives graces to all men because His will is the salvation of men. These graces are given without man meriting it. So it is given 'gratis.' However, man has to co-operate with this grace. God gives these graces to a child who can not yet co-operate at baptism that's why the child has god-parents standing by to answer for him. The unfortunate pagan child, on the other hand, has no god-parents . Will not both deserve the same graces since both cannot cooperate with God's grace? St. Augustine believes both children deserve the same graces. And in his treatise on anti-Pelagianism, the presence or absence of a god-parent (or parents) cannot influence God's will of giving that needed grace; and to believe otherwise would be heresy.
To be able to respond favorably to that grace that will enable the child to benefit from Baptism, he has to consent to the grace WITH HIS WILL. But the baptized child has no will just like the unbaptized pagan child. The accompanying parent or god-parent cannot be a variable to dictate the worthiness or unworthiness of the child to receive the needed grace which God is so desirous to give all men.
But wait, weren't the heroes of the Old Testament unbaptized adults? They not only had original sin but actual sin. Yet, after a short stint in Limbo they all went to heaven at the Resurrection of Christ! St. Augustine repeatedly stated 'how deep are the ways of God," as an excuse why he could not explain it fully.
Scriptures often repeated the three main things we must do to have eternal life. First, to be born again through Baptism, secondly, to eat the Body and Blood of Christ and, thirdly, to believe. These are the three common ways to get God's graces. Shall we limit God's greatness to these three ways of giving graces? God could have a thousand other ways to give graces that we do not know of. Maybe Pope Benedict has found one.
That unbaptized children go to heaven, as taught by Pope Benedict, is a very consoling teaching. We see the children of the world dying because of man's inhumanity to man; dying within a pagan or heretical religion and even without religion. But we also see that, as God always does, He produces great good from what seems to be a great evil. But that would be another blog.