baptism of babies

Does the church teach that if a baby isn’t baptized and it dies it will go to hell? If so is it because of original sin?


The traditional teaching is that the soul that dies in mortal sin (original or actual) goes straight to Hell - however, to suffer different punishments. The adult who is in mortal sin goes to Hell proper, whereas the soul of those with no actual sin but original only, go to “that part of hell” called Limbo. Theologians generally have taught that the infants dying with original sin only were in a state of natural happiness. The chief punishment of Hell is seperation from God. No one can go to heaven with sin. Therefore, although they do not go to suffer Hell fire as it were, they are still seperated from God which is why it is still part of Hell, even if they are in a state of natural happiness. This Limbo is not the Limbo of the fathers - the fathers went to heaven;

St Thomas wrote: "The limbo of the Fathers and the limbo of children, without any doubt, differ as to the quality of punishment or reward. For children have no hope of the blessed life, as the Fathers in limbo had, in whom, moreover, shone forth the light of faith and grace. But as regards their situation, there is reason to believe that the place of both is the same; except that the limbo of the Fathers is placed higher than the limbo of children, just as we have stated in reference to limbo and hell "

Theologians differed as to what extent the souls detained there knew of the loss of Heaven, or their degree of natural happiness.

Just a note - while this is a theory that was popular for a time (and is slightly less popular now), it is not known for certain whether or not it is true.

Of course, since the only other theory I have heard is a sort of hopeful uncertainty (we entrust them to God’s mercy and hope that He will take them to heaven), I don’t have much to add. I just wanted to point out that the limbo theory is not an infallible dogma or anything (although it certainly makes a certain amount of sense).

Here is the Church’s teaching as stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

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. All the more urgent is the Church’s call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism.

I think you stated the situation well. I personally find the concept of limbo atrocious. If we were made for God, how can we have “perfect natural happiness” without the slightest bit of God’s presence?

The Catholic teaching in general is that God has revealed a specific path to salvation, but we can hope for other paths to salvation for those who, through no fault of their own, do not avail themselves of the revealed path.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit