Are all aborted children Saints?
Companion martyrs to the Holy Innocents in Post-Roe America
With Dobbs towering over the American political mind, we should celebrate the recommitment of many Americans to the cause of life and exercise our interest in positive ways that lie above politics.
As Christians, the repugnancy of abortion is so insolent that we react passionately. That does not mean that we must react with anger or resentment of any kind. We aren’t bound to a reactionary position at all. There is a positive direction, always, in Christ.
That God already sees the entire future of that embryo, still an "unformed substance", is extremely powerful. The days which that creature will live and fill with deeds throughout his earthly existence are already written in the Lord's book of life.
Benedict XVI, General Audience of 28 Dec. 2005
We should mourn the murdered victims of abortion and reflect on their lives, as we would for any soul. God is eternal; He is timeless. He sees us past and present, birth and death all at the same time as complete persons, and He looks upon His slain children the same. What meek lives they were allowed by our evil are cherished by Him.
Sadly, their deaths dominate our knowledge of their lives. That exceptional death should make us ask ourselves: are we mourning martyrs?
Infant martyrdom is not without precedent. Saint Augustine professed the martyrdom of the Holy Innocents, the children murdered by Herod, in a homily on their feast day:
In full right do we celebrate the heavenly birthday of these children whom the world caused to be born unto an eternally blessed life rather than that from their mothers’ womb, for they attained the grace of everlasting life before the enjoyment of the present. The precious death of any martyr deserves high praise because of his heroic confession; the death of these children is precious in the sight of God because of the beatitude they gained so quickly. For already at the beginning of their lives they pass on. The end of the present life is for them the beginning of glory.
As children of Bethlehem born Christ’s contemporaries, none of these children had the chance to be baptized by His ministry. However, Saint Augustine stresses the rebirth of their death, their baptism by blood shed in Christ’s name. Unlike all of us who possess but a worldly birth from our mothers’ womb, these children have been born again of the Spirit and seen the Kingdom of Heaven. Augustine continues:
These then, whom Herod’s cruelty tore as sucklings from their mothers’ bosom, are justly hailed as “infant martyr flowers”; they were the Church’s first blossoms, matured by the frost of persecution during the cold winter of unbelief.
What is this world but captured by a cold winter of unbelief? As we shed but one shade of tyranny this week with the repeal of Roe and look to the future, do we not see the calculated evil and intentional persecution of abortion activism?
Our innocents were killed before a birth of the womb, but this does not prevent them an eternally blessed life and a birth in the Spirit. To consider the aborted as a whole for martyrdom is not preempted by their status, and we must move on to other conditions. The only other condition for martyrdom to explore in this exceptional case of infanticide is that of confession of Christ.
The Holy Innocents confessed Christ by default, as objects of direct deadly persecution of Jesus Christ. We cannot directly say the same for unborn children, though we might make a good case for the explicitly anti-Christian motive of all abortion. We can instead take another approach toward an unexplored aspect of the unborn: their will to love.
With the advances of medical science, we know the unborn suck their thumbs, cough, yawn, and stretch like all children do. They move quite a bit before it is palpable to their mother, a fact which would have been unknown to the ancients. We hear their heartbeats at our earliest doctor visits. We can see videos of them playing, and we even can see them instinctively fighting back when threatened by a doctor’s probings.
However, as involuntary acts, none of these testify to their undeniable creation in the image and likeness of God. None of these are acts of the will.
An unborn child’s only human relationship is by default with her mother. It is her voice that she hears, her heartbeat and breath. She can hear faint echoes of the outside world and react to them, but it is her mother that forms the whole reality—the whole world—of her existence. She can dream only of one person, one form beyond reactive stimulus. All she knows is her inescapable embrace and her soothing voice. To the child, her mother is all that exists. She is what comforts her and holds her in a perfect state of contentment—and in a perfect act of trust and will, she sighs her love for her mother.
We encounter motherhood’s exceptional connection to the creative essence of God in this understanding. The creation of a life is the most God-like act of love in which a human can participate—because the Son is the Father’s perfect love incarnate:
They give themselves in a love so infinite that, like the truth, which expresses itself only in the giving of a whole personality, their love can express itself in nothing less than a Person, who is Love. Love at such a stage does not speak; does not cry; does not express itself by words, nor by canticles; it expresses itself as we do in some ineffable moments, by that which indicates the very exhaustion of our giving—namely, a sigh, or a breath.
Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, “The Divine Romance: The Blessed Trinity”
The whole Trinity is in the mother and the child she carries: the mother who loves her child, the child who knows only her mother, and their shared continual sigh of love for each other.
An unborn child has never known or willed anything but this love. It is her only thought. In the case of abortion it will be her only thought ever. Her love for her mother will be the last thought in her mind—before she is taken away and made a martyr-witness of God’s love.
I have no authority to proclaim an answer, but I hope this testimony adds fire to your own mourning of our nation’s 65 million missing souls. God bless you all.