Catholic teaching on unborn right to eternal life ‘pathetic’, says McAleese

Former president claims the church is failing those who die unbaptised before or at birth

Former president of Ireland Mary McAleese: ‘Even people whose knowledge of the Catholic Church is negligible are aware of its views on abortion.’ File photograph: The Irish Times

Former president of Ireland Mary McAleese: ‘Even people whose knowledge of the Catholic Church is negligible are aware of its views on abortion.’ File photograph: The Irish Times

 

The Catholic Church’s failure to reflect its concern for the right to life of the unborn with a smilar concern for the right to eternal life of those who die unbaptised before or at birth has been highlighted by former president Mary McAleese.

“These are not rare or exceptional cases. There are tens of millions of them every year. They die by clinical abortion, spontaneous miscarriage, still-birth or from fatal conditions which cause them to die in utero or soon after birth. The vast majority are unbaptised,” she said in an article for the current edition of the Tablet weekly.

“This great assertive champion of the unborn, never short of powerful words in defence of their right to life, retreats into mumbling hesitancy on the subject of their right to life with God after death,” she said.

The church teaches that “baptism wipes away all prior sin and even though the unborn child and the born infant are incapable of sin the Church teaches that, thanks to the sin of Adam, everyone is born ‘with a fallen human nature and tainted by original sin’,” she added.

The church taught that a person “who dies in a state of original sin ‘receives his eternal retribution . . . at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgement that refers his life . . . to everlasting damnation.’ In other words they go to hell,” she said.

‘Grounds for hope’

The former president added that since this seemed glaringly harsh in the case of blameless babies, and caused untold additional grief to bereaved parents, theologians as recently as 2007 had concluded that there were “grounds for hope” the unbaptised among the unborn and among infants may go to heaven.

“This is where Church teaching stands today: hesitant, unsure, pathetic,” she said. “It needs to do better, much better. The huge effort expended in external advocacy on behalf of the right to life of the unborn has no internal Church equivalent on behalf of the right to salvation of the innocent unbaptised dead child.

“The Catholic Church is known worldwide as a staunch defender of the right to life of the unborn. Its leaders regularly lock horns with governments and pro-choice advocates, challenging the liberalisation of abortion laws and condemning Catholic politicians who fail to defend Church teaching.

“Even people whose knowledge of the Catholic Church is negligible are aware of its views on abortion. They dominate contemporary Church-State discourse, even making their way into a strident warning from the US bishops to the new Catholic President of the United States Joe Biden on the day of his inauguration,” she said.

“Bishops,” she added, “are never more comfortable than when they are preaching to the world from the moral high ground of a Church which believes itself to have been missioned by God. The Church’s mission is the salvation of souls and salvation is fundamentally about life after death.”