(L. Infans expositus); children forsaken or who are without a legal guardian.

Abandoned children are presumed to be baptized, unless contrary is proven. Thus, abandoned children are to be baptized only after diligent inquiry whether they were baptized earlier (cf. CIC, c.870). This is an exception to the rule that the infant baptism is to be conferred on the assurance that the children are brought up in Christian faith by the parents or guardian. However, abandoned children should not be baptized until it is ascertained that the child will be entrusted or brought up by Catholic persons.

Abandoning physically and mentally handicapped children or illegitimate children to die had been common in both ancient Roman Empire and in Greek world. Law and the thinkers of the time like Cicero justified it. The Twelve Tables of Roman Law held: “Deformed infants shall be killed” (De Legibus, 3.8). Tacitus condemned the Jews for their opposition against infanticide saying, “sinister and revolting practices” of the Jews. Even Seneca, known for his relatively high moral standards, stated, “We drown children at birth who are weakly and abnormal” (De Ira 1.15). Christianity right from the early days condemned the practice of killing the orphans and unwanted children. The Didache (90-110 AD) commanded, “You shall not commit infanticide.”

In many instances, the Christians rescued the abandoned children, baptized them and brought them up by the Christian funds. After the edict of Milan, Emperor Constantine enacted two measures targeting the problem of infanticide: 1) Constantine provided funds out of the imperial treasury for parents over-burdened with children: and 2) Constantine gave all the rights of property of abandoned infants to those who saved and supported them. Constantine also gave funds to the churches to support the poor, the widow and orphans (see: adoption”).