FACT CHECK: Viral Post Misstates Facts About Catholic Rites For Stillborn Babies

Trevor Schakohl | Legal Reporter

An image shared on Facebook claims the Catholic Church will not baptize or hold funeral masses for stillborn children because they “never took a breath.”

Facebook post

Verdict: Misleading

While a stillborn baby cannot be baptized in the Catholic Church, they can receive a funeral mass, according to church officials.

Fact Check:

The image shows what appears to be a photo of the inside of a church along with text that claims the Catholic Church will not baptize or allow a funeral mass for a stillborn child since “the baby never took a breath.”

“Tell me again how the Catholic Church believes life begins at conception,” reads the image’s final line of text. (RELATED: No, This Sculpture Was Not Made By A Father Whose Wife And Unborn Child Were Killed By A Drunk Driver)

This claim is partially false. While the Catholic Church does not baptize the deceased, according to Catholic canon lawyer Cathy Caridi, the church can and will provide funeral masses for stillborn children. Mike Hayes, the director of young adult ministry in the Diocese of Cleveland, writes on his website Busted Halo that “Indeed, you can and should have a funeral for your child and any miscarried baby can have a Catholic funeral.”

Patricia Zapor, the media director for The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, said the claim about the church not allowing funeral masses for stillborn babies was “in short…not true,” in an email to Check Your Fact. A miscarried child’s funeral mass can be performed with their parents’ consent, according to an archdiocese booklet she referenced.

The Catholic Church’s catechism says an embryo “should be treated as a person from conception,” describing every human life as sacred from that moment “until death.” Unbaptized children are commemorated with different church funeral rites and prayers than those who received baptism, according to the Boston Archdiocese.

Trevor Schakohl

Legal Reporter
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