By FATHER KENNETH DOYLE
Editor's note: This column is being repeated by Catholic News Service. Father Doyle is now retired.
Q. Many years ago, when I was in my 20s, a girl I was dating became pregnant by me. She then had an abortion. Not only did I not try to stop her, but I helped to pay for the abortion. I have confessed this and have received forgiveness. Just recently, I have begun praying for the soul of that aborted child.
I was wondering whether I could schedule a Mass intention in my church for the child. (I could make up a generic name like "Jackie" since we didn't know the child's gender, and the Mass intention could be in that name.) I still feel guilty and would like to do as much as I can for that child's soul. (Columbia, South Carolina)
A. What you describe is not uncommon: Parents of an aborted child years later feel regret and remorse. As to having a Mass for the child, I feel quite confident that the child is in heaven and needs no prayers.
The child, of course, bore no responsibility for his or her own death, and the Vatican announced in 2007 that there are reasonable grounds to believe that an infant who dies before being baptized will be brought by God to heaven.
What you might do instead is to have the Mass offered for "a special intention" and have that intention be for the mother, that she will have repented for the sin and, if a Catholic, have sought forgiveness through confession; and next, for our nation, that the scourge of abortion will be lifted from us. (With respect to the hundreds of tiny children who are aborted each day, I believe that historians a century from now will say -- as they now say of the rise of Hitler in Nazi Germany -- "How could a civilized nation have let that happen?")