I have a friend who ia moving towards Catholicism (as am I). They lost a child at 4 days old years ago and at the time went to a protestant Church that practiced adult baptism. When it was clear the child wouldn’t survive they had the Anglican chaplain in the hospital come and pray with them and the child, but didn’t have the baby baptised as it wasn’t in their belief system.
Concern over the Church’s teaching on the issue of unbaptised infants is probably te biggest thing holding them back from converting.
1261 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 come to me, do not hinder them,"64 allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for 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.
Unfortunately, the fate of unbaptized babies is not part of the Deposit of Faith - ie, it has not been revealed to the Church.
Various theologians throughout history have confronted this question. Some protestant theologians (especially Calvinists) adhered to a very strict interpretation of Our Lord’s instruction - unless you are born of water and the Holy Spirit you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Thus, all unbaptized babies are consigned to hellfire. The great Calvinist preacher, Jonathan Edwards, preached a famous sermon, “Sinners in the hands of an angry God,” in which he said that “the road to hell is paved with the skulls of unbaptized babies.” What a grim image.
For the benefit of those who might think that ALL protestants don’t accept the idea of infant Baptism, I would refer you to the Institutes of Christian Religion, by John Calvin - which presents the best defense of infant Baptism that I have ever read - and his influence continues in protestant denominations with a strong Calvinist influence - such as the Anglicans, Methodists, and Presbyterians - all of whom accept infant Baptism.
Catholic theologians have never accepted that such a literal interpretation of Scripture means that all unbaptized Innocents are condemned.
For many centuries, Catholic theologians speculated (but the Church never taught) that unbaptized innocents went to a place of natural happiness (ie, as happy as we could possibly be on earth - but not as happy as supernatural happiness, which we can achieve only in heaven). This speculative place was called “limbo.” This seemed to be a reasonable compromise between the mercy of God (which would suggest that the innocents are not condemned) and the teaching of Scripture, which (if read in a plain sense) would suggest that anyone who has not received Christian Baptism cannot be saved.
Most modern Catholic theologians no longer accept the idea of limbo. You cannot find the term mentioned in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Instead, more recent theological opinion has favored an optimism that unbaptized innocents might enjoy a greater measure of happiness than envisioned by the idea of limbo - perhaps comparable (or even identical) to the experience of people who are Baptized. According to the Catechism:
1261 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 come to me, do not hinder them,” allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism.
Baptism is an outward symbolic sign that we have enterred into the Lords family. I am 100% certain he would not turn away a baby or an adult based on that they haven’t been baptised. In fact I personally think that God wouldn’t turn away anyone at all and absolutely everyone is in heaven. So for me, I would be able to reassure the parents that their baby is in fact in heaven. There is no doubt about that in my own mind. As God loves us all and he don’t select how we select.
I can’t answer the second half of the question since by religion I am classed as anglican and go to an anglican church which does. The first part of the question is my own thoughts on the question and sorry if anyone thinks its against church teaching etc. I am not being disrepectful, just have a very liberal outtake on church - hence will always be anglican unless we change or something… I personally believe absolutely everyone, yes, everyone is in heaven as God does love us all.
My daughter was baptized in the United Church of Christ when she was about a week old. I also think we can apply 1260 here:
1260 “Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery.” Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity.
All babies are “men” though we don’t tend to think of them that way. And while too young to consciously seek the truth as it says, they certainly fall within the group who would seek baptism if they knew of its necessity.
The great God of mercy is not allowing any innocent children to be lost.
My wife and I lost a baby, too. I have never stopped thinking of that little one.
I believe very much in the Limbo concept, unlike others here. I believe that the Limbo concept is innately necessary in theology.
The reason why the grace of salvation is innately necessary is that without grace man is a “desperately wicked” “sin machine,” untouchable by God. Jeremiah 17:9. Do you remember those horrible creatures in the movie “I Am Legend” with Will Smith (not the book). Well, without grace, that’s essentially a good portrayal of what we really are, inside. God created us to be “en-graced,” to cure our innate dsperate wickedness, but that does not happen until we reach the Age of Reason.
Though cute little babies lack the ability to sin, so that they are cute, they are still “incipient sin machines,” without grace. They are “not-yet-switched-on” “desperately wicked sin machines.”
So, Mary, so that the ovum in her reproductive tract would be “touchable” by God the Son when He became the Hypostatic Union at the moment of the Incarnation, had to be immaculately conceived.
In effect, MARY’S OWN IMMACULATE CONCEPTION IS VERIFICATION OF THE LIMBO CONCEPT.
Why Limbo? Because Limbo is a place of “respectable niceness” – not some horrible Hell-like place, contrary to the way our medieval ancestors referred to it.
I believe that the Apostle Paul indirectly refers to Limbo when he says that he was taken up into the Third Heaven to converse with God. 2 Corinthians 12:2.
The Third Heaven would be that place of perfection where God dwells, above the Beatific Vision.
The Second Heaven would be where we will dwell below God if we are found worthy of salvation. This is where the Beatific Vision will taken place.
The First Heaven would be Limbo. It’s best described as the “basement” of Heaven," I think. I figure that a person in Limbo gets about the same deal as a nice place here on Earth, so that for Paul it was “the First Heaven” – not a bad deal!
So, your friends can relax. Their baby, and mine, are okay.
How does human free-will come into play in the Church’s teaching that we don’t know their fate for certain but that there is a well-founded hope that even the unbaptized who die as babies will go to heaven? For that matter, how does human free-will come into play in the Church’s teaching that the baptized who die as babies will go to heaven?
Doesn’t it make more sense to think that the soul of anyone who dies as a baby will, at the moment of death when he becomes like an angel, be given the opportunity to exercise his free-will and individually choose for himself either to serve God and go to heaven or to rebel against God and go to hell? Or are we to believe that those who died as babies and are now in heaven are there not of their own free-will?
Yes, this is the situation. God has not chosen to reveal what happens to these babies, so the Church does not know. Furthermore, no other Christian church or pastor knows, despite what they may claim.
However, God loved that baby infinitely more than the parents did, and desired from before time that that baby should be with him. The God of the New Testament will not, in my strong opinion, place obstacles in the way of that baby’s salvation. We are bound by the sacraments, but God is not. Somehow that baby will be given the capacity to choose for God or against God, just as we all are given the capacity to choose. It may further be that the faith of the parents, or the merits of the Church, supply further grace to guide that baby towards the right choice, just as the faith of the parents and the merits of the Church guide newly-baptized babies who die towards the right choice.
Although I believe in Limbo, and I believe that Limbo is a respectably nice place, I believe that God is bound by His Own teaching. When God says, “Baptism is necessary,” we can rely that “Baptism is necessary.”
I disagree with this. I believe that Scripture itself implicitly refers to Limbo. When Paul reports having been taken up to the Third Heaven, the Third Heaven would be where God dwells. The Second Heaven would be where the saved dwell in the Beatific Vision. The First Heaven would be “Limbo.”
So you believe. You may be right. But there may have been 4 or 5 or a 1000 heavens and Paul only got to number 3.
I respect your right to make sense of this issue for yourself, but the OP asked about what the Church teaches, and what the Church teaches is: there are circumstances where water baptism is not necessary to see Heaven and that we have reason to hope that ALL can be saved. That’s pretty much it: “we don’t know for sure but we trust in God’s mercy.”
From the Catechism:
1261 "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 come to me, do not hinder them,“64 allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for 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.”
Church Militant has the answer here. Thank you for reminding us of the Catechism, which we always look to for truth, rather than trusting in myriad personal opinions. God’s mercy is seen here in the Catechism, and the parents who lost their child can rest in this and be drawn even closer to His holy Church.
If Catholics don’t address this, out of loyalty to the Church, then while the rest of the world LAUGHS at the Church for declarations of doctrine like CCC#1257, the Church will go on in its own little world, twisting doctrine to avoid telling bereaved parents that their deceased little ones are not enjoying the Beatific Vision, while excessively loyal Catholics will “prove” their loyalty to the Church by functionally saying, “WHAT THE CHURCH SAYS IS TRUE! ‘YES’ IS NOT THE OPPOSITE OF ‘NO’!”
1257 The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation. He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them. Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament. The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are “reborn of water and the Spirit.” God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.
This is not a sola scriptura Church. If you read the op, you will see the thread concerns what to tell those outside the Church. That means we are requested to define Church teaching. That teaching is most readily available in the CCC. I’m sorry for your loss. It is my opinion that it is inappropriate for you to argue for your personal, private, opinion in a thread asking for the Church’s position. Perhaps you should start a thread of your own about this for dialogue with other forum members.
I believe your child went straight into the arms of Jesus. But that isn’t Church teaching, either.
Yet Christians have also always realized that the necessity of water baptism is a normative rather than an absolute necessity. There are exceptions to water baptism: It is possible to be saved through “baptism of blood,” martyrdom for Christ, or through “baptism of desire”, that is, an explicit or even implicit desire for baptism.
It is clear that there are exceptions to baptism by water - and when you consider the Catechism also says (as a little Google research after reading this thread showed me ) :
However, one cannot charge with the sin of the separation those who at present are born into these communities [the separated churches] and in them are brought up in the faith of Christ, and the Catholic Church accepts them with respect and affection as brothers… All who have been justified by faith in Baptism are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers in the Lord by the children of the Catholic Church. 818
I would suggest that the intention of baptism, which was prevented from being water baptism due to the condition described in the Catechism above, is sufficient in this case.
As a gradual traveler to crossing the Tiber (I will get there soon!), this is just my insufficient attempts to grasp it.