Answer me this limbo question, please


OK, I understand the theology behind limbo (for infants). I understand that the Church teaches that baptism is necessary for salvation, and I accept that. I understand the the Church recognizes cases where baptism of desire or baptism of blood can substitute for water baptism, and I accept that. And I realize that what has not been revealed to us by God is whether infants can achieve some form of baptism other than water baptism, hence the conjecture of limbo.

But that’s not what I want to discuss. I want to ask a simple question of those who support limbo:

Why would God refuse to offer the means of salvation to these innocents (for they have no personal sin whatsoever)? Explain why God would create these innocents knowing that, unlike every other human being (including those guilty of the most heinous sins), he would never offer them the means of salvation.

I know any such answer will involve speculation, but then so does limbo. So speculate away.


No, the Church has not made a doctrinal statement either way. One is allowed to believe or not believe in limbo. But I want those who believe in limbo to explain why God would treat the innocent in such a fashion, a fashion infinitely worse than he treats the guilty.


Doctrine can be set in General (a.k.a. Eccumenical) Councils. Doctrine can also be set by the pope speaking “ex cathedra”. But the story you reported was simply a commission of theologians (with no doctrinal authority) who said that we should hope these babies are in heaven. It really wasn’t much of a story at all, precisely because the commission had no authority but was merely discussing the issue.


I don’t understand all the outrage many people have expressed over the years with the possibility of unbaptized babies entering a state of “limbo” upon death.
From what I have always understood, limbo is a temporary state (place) where those holy people who were born and died before Christ’s birth, death and resurrection resided. It was necessary because those people did not deserve hell, but could not yet enter heaven. This would include those from the old Testament (Moses, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and countless others) as well as Elizabeth, Joseph (Jesus earthly father) and any of Jesus’ followers who would have died before the Resurrection. I was never taught that limbo was a place of suffering like purgatory, but a place of imperfect happiness.
Limbo also was taught (though not infallibly) as a haven for unbaptized innocents and those “good” people who through no fault of their own did not have the option of baptism.
Limbo should not be considered a permanent state or residence for a soul, because we as Catholics believe in the second coming of Christ and the final judgement. At the end of this world, when Christ returns, there will be no more purgatory and no more limbo. All will be judged-those in heaven, hell, purgatory and those in “limbo”-and all will spend eternity in either heaven or in hell. It seems most Catholics don’t thinik about the second coming of Christ and the final judgement in relation to limbo, so they are disturbed by the thought of unbaptized innocents being forever separated from God.
Having lost one child to miscarriage, I am comforted to know that our loving God is taking care of that little one, whether in limbo (for now) or in heaven. After all, time is an earthly restraint which has no hold on us after death.


The thing is, I’m pretty sure there’s always been a division considered between the “Limbo of the Infants” and the “Limbo of the Fathers”… the latter of which would have indeed entered into Heaven upon Christ’s death (Adam, Moses, Abraham, and everyone else from the Old Testament) either through Baptism of Blood or Desire. So the “Limbo of the Infants” is the only thing we’re reallly holding in consideration here.

I’ve never heard that idea expressed before. But the same problem essentially remains: how will Christ judge those unborn children who died with original sin yet having commited no actual sin? And if they can be judged (and/or given a choice) at the general judgement, then why would they not also be given a particular judgement upon death?

Yeah… because I’m pretty sure that’s always been the general idea. I mean, perhaps it’s just me, but I’ve never ever heard the idea that the “Limbo of the Infants” is anything less than a place of eternal happiness deprived of the Beatific Vision.


I think you’re confusing the two types of Limbo. The Limbo of the Fathers, where the virtuous souls who died before the time of Christ were kept, was a temporary state which was abolished after the death and resurrection. The other Limbo is indeed eternal as it is a part of hell, and therefore its inhabitants are counted among the damned. The Councils of Florence and Lyons II infallibly declared that those who die in original sin only descend immediately into hell, but to undergo a different punishment from those who die in mortal sin. This “different punishment” is what we mean when we speak of Limbo.

Having said that, there are two issues:

First, we’re not sure of what this different punishment consists. The popular opinion is that those in Limbo are separated from God, but through His mercy are spared most, if not all, the suffering associated with such a state and are even granted a degree of peace.

Second, we don’t know who it is who dies in original sin because God did not choose to reveal this information to us. The popular opinion for quite some time was that unbaptized infants are included in this category, but it has never been official church teaching. It is very possible that God has a plan for the salvation of these infants that He has not revealed, and for that reason we are encouraged to pray for them and have reason to hope that they are (or will be) with God in Heaven.

Continued below…


Even if infants are not among those who go to Limbo, its existence cannot be discounted. Many people fall into the trap of believing that infants are the only ones who can die in original sin without mortal sin. I would venture to guess that there are adult Non-Christians who could also fall under this category. Imagine a Non-Christian who according to the principles of his own faith and his conscience has never committed what would be considered a mortal sin, but for whatever reason does not fall under the heading of “invincibly ignorant” and is therefore at least partially culpable for not seeking baptism. Because dying unbaptized was at least partially his own fault, he cannot attain the supernatural charity necessary for salvation and must therefore be sent to hell. However, we know that in hell we are punished in proportion to our sins. Because this individual’s guilt (again, while sufficient to be denied salvation) was mitigated by his ignorance, he cannot be justly tormented in eternal fire. He is therefore sent to Limbo where he is denied union with God but spared the pain and suffering associated with it. (Note here that his ignorance has a type of double effect. While he is partially responsible for his ignorance of the truth, his ignorance is also what prevents him from seeking it. In other words, what he is guilty of both condemns him and at the same time spares him from the harsher sentence). Is my view correct? Maybe, maybe not. That’s the fun of vaguely defined teachings. We can come up with as many interpretations as our minds will allow. :thumbsup:

Bottom line: Those who are in Limbo are there forever, but we don’t know who is there. We should therefore be praying for all the dead, born and unborn, that they experience eternal life. You have every right and reason to hope that your miscarried child is with God. :slight_smile:


Limbo is an error and an innovation. Jesus Christ said “Let the little children come to me.” And you can bet that is where they go. :slight_smile:


Hopefully you’re right and all unbaptized children do go there. However, as I already stated, even if children do not go to Limbo that does not mean it doesn’t exist. The teaching of the Catholic councils of Florence and Lyons II leaves open the possibility that Limbo may be for certain unbaptized adults. In my opinion, the vague wording of the councils taken together with other Catholic statements on the possibility of salvation for non-Catholics leaves open the possibility that dying in original sin can be conceived of as an act of the will.

Of course, as someone who is converting to Orthodoxy, I wouldn’t expect you to accept this because the Orthodox seem to have a different view of original sin. (Actually I believe that our views can be reconciled to a degree, but that’s not a topic for this forum)


“…ere the other side you’ll see.”



It is a hard question to answer, in fact apart from an infallible decree it is not possible to answer.

We know there are degrees of Heaven and Hell, corresponding to the amount of good or evil you actually committed. This reminds me of last Sunday’s Gospel about the servant who didnt sin willfully and thus got his punishment reduced corresponding to his level of culpability. …Where does an infant fit in here who did nothing more than just exist? It certainly doesnt fit that God would damn them, thats where limbo came up. To me limbo means that somehow, some way things will turn out right, we just dont know how. And what about infants who lived before the time of Baptism?
The Final Judgment is especially interesting here because it is all about works.

Limbo, since it doesnt involve pain cannot be hell BUT does that mean it must be the lowest degree of Heaven?

To further complicate the situation, if Jesus died for all men, yet a miscarriage never had even the slightest chance??

Also in places like 1 Pt 3:19 and 4:6 prove there is a “third” state, one in which the “gospel is preached to the dead”. You could argue this is purgatory, yet would this exclude limbo? Could there be a similar situation for infants that is simply not revealed to us? Can we pray for those in limbo as with purgatory?

What about the possibility of being filled with the Holy Ghost in the womb as was the case with St John the Baptist?? (Lk 1:16)

Limbo makes perfect sense as an “answer”, it “answers” in a way that is consistent with other teachings, yet leaves us uneasy inside as do the other uncertainties in our life that we must live and suffer through until His Return.


I think the problem here, Mike, is your use of the term “innocents.”

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that infants are guilty, not innocent, and thus deserving eternal damnation.

Baptism is primarily for forgiveness. Only a corrupt judge would say they are forgiving an innocent, thus the teaching on infant guilt.


I don’t know where on God’s green earth that you got this idea, Atemi, but you are either woefully misinformed (Edited).

Where did you DIG UP this information? Source, please.



What information exactly are you referring to? Maybe we can go from there.

If it goes off topic, I am not at liberty to respond, so you may want to consider another thread.


Keep to topic and avoid personal assumptions concerning other’s motivations.


And do those who favor adult baptism believe that unbaptized children are sinless and go to heaven upon death? After all, they have not been confirmed and have made no binding affirmation of faith, right?


The Church most certainly does not teach that they are guilty of anything. From the CCC: “Although it is proper to each individual, original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam’s descendants.”

Perhaps you have not heard of the Feast of the Holy Innocents?


People should keep in mind Atemi does not believe in Original Sin.


When babies are baptized, the guilt of original sin is remitted, not the consequences. Otherwise, nothing gets remitted in baptism.

Actually, that is the WHOLE purpose of baptism in Catholicism, so babies can be forgiven:

CCC 403 “Because of this certainty of faith, the Church baptizes for the remission of sins even tiny infants who have not committed personal sin.”

There is no other purpose. Obviously, concupiscence is not remitted. That is plain. Only guilt can be remitted.

Baptism is for the f***orgiveness*** of sins. There can be no forgiveness where there is no guilt.

Does God forgive the innocent? That is not possible.

The Catholic Encyclopedia explains further:

“Concupiscence, which remains after the guilt of original sin is remitted in baptism, is not sinful so long as consent is not given to it”


“In the Sacrament of Baptism not only is the guilt of sin remitted, but also all the penalties attached to sin”

Trent made it even clearer:

“If any one denies, that, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is conferred in baptism, the guilt of original sin is remitted…let him be anathema”

If one says that the very real guilt of original sin is not remitted in baptism, they are anathema, Mike.

Original sin, by definition, is guilt, not just consequences. God does not forgive the innocent. That would make Him an unjust Judge.

Babies are not said to be guilty of personal sin, but of Original Sin…which is damning nonetheless. I personally do not think someone being punished in Hell forever for Original Sin alone will get any solace in the fact that at least they were not guilty of personal sin.


Atemi, several times in the above you’ve conflated terms and frames of reference.

God does not remit guilt of sins, but sins themselves. The catechism passage you excerpted shows the difference.

It is the difference between parole and pardon.

When God forgives us, it is as though the sin never happened in the first place.

Original sin is not like other sins, in that it is a birthright, not a choice. Because it is a birthright, we are not “guilty” of it.

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