Theology by the Slice: Does God ever change his plan because of prayer?
On November 5, the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology Newman Center hosted an event titled, “Theology by the Slice.” Students were able to ask a panel questions about the teachings and traditions of the Catholic faith. The following is one of the questions. The panel included Bishop Peter Muhich; Father Mark McCormick, Newman Center chaplain; Sister Christine Hernandez, SCTJM, chancellor; Sister Rachel Gosda, SCTJM, director of Faith Formation; Sr. Maria Belen Musgrove, SCTJM, religion teacher, RCCSS; Seminarian Robert Kinyon; and Michael Pauley, director of the South Dakota Catholic Conference.
Is baptism required for salvation? Think of the infamous example of the thief on the cross. Are there exceptions? If so, why doesn’t the Catholic Church take the liberty to say you have to be baptized to be saved? And then tying that to abortion, do aborted babies go to heaven?
Bishop Peter Muhich: There’s a great paragraph in the Catechism (1261*) that says that while God is joined salvation to the sacraments, God himself is not limited by the sacrament.
God is God. He can move inside the normal means that he establishes for us. It’s good for us to have the sacraments which are these visible outward signs of God’s grace because we are embodied spirits. We need to take in reality with our five senses. The sacraments give us God’s grace in a tangible way through the five senses so we can understand it.
But is God limited by those gifts of the seven sacraments? No. So normally, yes someone should be baptized to be saved but God can operate outside of that. Babies who died without baptism we entrust to God’s mercy. There is a kind of a notion in the church that if the parents have a desire to baptize, that’s enough. So, aborted babies, same thing. They had no opportunity for baptism. Their lives ended tragically before they could even move outside of the womb into the world. God has a place in his kingdom for everyone, and we don’t know how he sorts all those things out, exactly, but we know that God can move outside of the normal means of grace, which he’s established for us.
* “As regards children who have died without Baptism, the church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused him to say: “Let the children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church’s call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism.” (CCC Paragraph #1261)