BEFORE AND AFTER CHILDBIRTH
[continued from yesterday]
...The doctrine that the child is a separate and distinct human being, from the moment of conception, implies a grave responsibility in the cases of miscarriage. If the embryo which comes away is alive, yea, if it only live for a few moments, it has a right to Baptism. Many people feel a repugnance to this idea. Still the truth must not be shirked. If the soul is there, it must have every chance of salvation, for it is of priceless value.
There is no need for a particular examination as to whether the child is alive or not. The Sacrament is administered conditionally. On the one hand, the child may be dead. If this is certain, no Baptism may take place. On the other hand, it may be alive, yet capable of living only for a few moments. The time is too precious for detailed examination. Let the ceremony be performed as quickly as possible. The doctor, or the nurse, will take the whole being, the embryo with its covering, and put it in a basin of clean lukewarm water. The covering is then broken so that the liquid within flows out whilst clean water flows in. The embryo should then be moved about in the water whilst the person performing the ceremony says these words: "If thou canst be baptized, I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."
When there is danger of death of the child during the process of being born it must be baptized conditionally. Either the nurse or the physician, but not the priest, must pour water (sterilized) on such part of the child as is apparent, though it be only the hand, saying at the same time the words with the condition above stated.
Where there is danger of death to the mother during childbirth, she should receive the last Sacraments. The conditions of danger are well known to the members of the medical profession, and so the doctor must be the guide. This danger is present in all cases where operations are needed. The principle wants emphasizing, however, that the Sacraments are for the sake of men, and not men for the Sacraments. It is much better to run the risk of administering the Sacraments when unnecessary, than to run the risk of missing them when necessary.
It may be well at this point to call attention to the special blessing which the Church is ready to give in the case of dangerous childbirth. She implores the Creator of all things, under the beautiful figure of supreme doctor and nurse. "Accept," she says, "the sacrifice of a broken heart of Thy servant so that, by the obstetric hand of Thy mercy, her offspring may come safely to light, and be preserved for holy regeneration."....
From Marriage and Parenthood, The Catholic Ideal
By the Rev. Thomas J. Gerrard
Author of "Cords of Adam," "The Wayfarer's Vision," ETC.
Copyright, 1911, by Joseph F. Wagner, New York.