Fate of Unbaptized Infants

I have come across, in Denzinger, pronouncements by the Councils of Florence and Lyons that say, in effect, that unbaptized infants go into hell (or limbo conceived as being part of hell). How do these teachings of the Councils square with other teachings that suggest the possibility of salvation for unbaptized infants? Here are the statements,

“The souls of those who die in actual mortal sin, or only in original sin, immediately descend into hell.” ( Denzinger # 693 )"

" The souls of those who die in mortal sin, or with original sin only, however, immediately descend to hell, yet to be punished with different punishments." (Denzinger # 464)"

From the Catechism of the Council of Trent,

" If then through the transgression of Adam, children inherit original sin, with still stronger reason can they attain through Christ our Lord grace and justice that they may reign in life. This however, cannot be effected otherwise than through baptism. Pastors therefore should inculate the absolute necessity of administering baptism to infants, and of gradually forming their minds to piety by education in the Christian religion… The faithful are earnestly to be exhorted to take care that their children be brought to the Church , as soon as it can be done with safety, to receive solemn baptism. Since infant children have no other means of salvation except baptism, we may easily understand how grievously those persons sin who permit them to remain without the grace of the sacrament longer than necessity may require, particularly at an age so tender as to be exposed to numberless dangers of death."

And from Pope Pius VI “” The doctrine which rejects as a Pelagian fable, that place of the lower regions ( which the faithful generally designate by the name of the limbo of the children ) in which the souls of those departing with the sole guilt of original sin are punished with the punishment of the condemned, exclusive of the punishment of fire, just as if, by this vary fact, that these who remove the punishment of fire introduced that middle place and state free of guilt and of punishment between the kingdom of God and eternal damnation, such as that about which the Pelagians idly talk , - false, rash, injurious to Catholic schools."

Now I know one could possibly make the argument that unbaptized infants can be “baptized” by desire or blood (for example the Holy Innocents). But it seems to me that the argument of those who reject this opinion is strong. The Holy Innocents died as martyrs for Christ. Baptism of desire was always intended to apply to those who were catechumens who desired baptism but died before reaching the font (hence they had faith).

It seems difficult for me to believe that these Councils and Popes intended to include a kind of baptism of desire for unbaptized infants, but perhaps there is an argument I haven’t seen. Does anyone know of a good argument that can reconcile these conciliar and papal teachings with the current Church teaching on the matter?

I think I found the answer to my own question. Here is a great article on this by Fr. William Most. What do you all think?

ewtn.com/library/SCRIPTUR/INFANT.TXT

[quote=amateurthomist]I have come across, in Denzinger, pronouncements by the Councils of Florence and Lyons that say, in effect, that unbaptized infants go into hell (or limbo conceived as being part of hell). How do these teachings of the Councils square with other teachings that suggest the possibility of salvation for unbaptized infants? Here are the statements,

“The souls of those who die in actual mortal sin, or only in original sin, immediately descend into hell.” ( Denzinger # 693 )"

" The souls of those who die in mortal sin, or with original sin only, however, immediately descend to hell, yet to be punished with different punishments." (Denzinger # 464)"

From the Catechism of the Council of Trent,

" If then through the transgression of Adam, children inherit original sin, with still stronger reason can they attain through Christ our Lord grace and justice that they may reign in life. This however, cannot be effected otherwise than through baptism. Pastors therefore should inculate the absolute necessity of administering baptism to infants, and of gradually forming their minds to piety by education in the Christian religion… The faithful are earnestly to be exhorted to take care that their children be brought to the Church , as soon as it can be done with safety, to receive solemn baptism. Since infant children have no other means of salvation except baptism, we may easily understand how grievously those persons sin who permit them to remain without the grace of the sacrament longer than necessity may require, particularly at an age so tender as to be exposed to numberless dangers of death."

And from Pope Pius VI “” The doctrine which rejects as a Pelagian fable, that place of the lower regions ( which the faithful generally designate by the name of the limbo of the children ) in which the souls of those departing with the sole guilt of original sin are punished with the punishment of the condemned, exclusive of the punishment of fire, just as if, by this vary fact, that these who remove the punishment of fire introduced that middle place and state free of guilt and of punishment between the kingdom of God and eternal damnation, such as that about which the Pelagians idly talk , - false, rash, injurious to Catholic schools."

Now I know one could possibly make the argument that unbaptized infants can be “baptized” by desire or blood (for example the Holy Innocents). But it seems to me that the argument of those who reject this opinion is strong. The Holy Innocents died as martyrs for Christ. Baptism of desire was always intended to apply to those who were catechumens who desired baptism but died before reaching the font (hence they had faith).

It seems difficult for me to believe that these Councils and Popes intended to include a kind of baptism of desire for unbaptized infants, but perhaps there is an argument I haven’t seen. Does anyone know of a good argument that can reconcile these conciliar and papal teachings with the current Church teaching on the matter?
[/quote]

These doctrinal statements from Denzinger do not conflict with what the Church teaches in the CCC. In her funeral liturgy the Church currently has two different Masses for infants who die. One for those who are Baptized and one for those who are not Baptized. The wording of the prayers in these liturgies shows the belief of the Church.

I myself find the section addressing this matter in The Great Means of Salvation and Perfection by Alphonsus De Liguori to be very helpful.

[quote=amateurthomist]I have come across, in Denzinger, pronouncements by the Councils of Florence and Lyons that say, in effect, that unbaptized infants go into hell (or limbo conceived as being part of hell). How do these teachings of the Councils square with other teachings that suggest the possibility of salvation for unbaptized infants?
[/quote]

Here’s what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says on this issue:

CCC 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.

CCC 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.

[quote=amateurthomist]Now I know one could possibly make the argument that unbaptized infants can be “baptized” by desire or blood (for example the Holy Innocents). But it seems to me that the argument of those who reject this opinion is strong. The Holy Innocents died as martyrs for Christ. Baptism of desire was always intended to apply to those who were catechumens who desired baptism but died before reaching the font (hence they had faith).
[/quote]

You are reading this correctly. Baptism of blood or desire requires faith and/or martyrdom.

CCC 1258 The Church has always held the firm conviction that those who suffer death for the sake of the faith without having received Baptism are baptized by their death for and with Christ. This Baptism of blood, like the desire for Baptism, brings about the fruits of Baptism without being a sacrament.

CCC 1259 For catechumens who die before their Baptism, their explicit desire to receive it, together with repentance for their sins, and charity, assures them the salvation that they were not able to receive through the sacrament.

[quote=amateurthomist]It seems difficult for me to believe that these Councils and Popes intended to include a kind of baptism of desire for unbaptized infants, but perhaps there is an argument I haven’t seen. Does anyone know of a good argument that can reconcile these conciliar and papal teachings with the current Church teaching on the matter?
[/quote]

Very tiny infants not yet capable of desiring heaven or baptism are entrusted by the Church to the divine mercy of God. God recognizes that they do not have the capacity to desire Him, and does not condemn them for this. For those little ones who die unbaptized, we are reminded that God created sacraments for the sake of men, but God is not subject to the whims of men who would deny the sacraments to the innocent either out of malice or ignorance. This is completely consistent with God’s ruling in the book of Deuteronomy:

Deut 24:16 The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, nor shall the children be put to death for the fathers; every man shall be put to death for his own sin.

Remarkably, however, even very small children are capable of understanding the difference between right and wrong, that God is good, and thus desire to be with God. For little children such as these, a baptism of desire argument could be advanced.

CCC 847 …Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.

[quote=Br. Rich SFO]These doctrinal statements from Denzinger do not conflict with what the Church teaches in the CCC. In her funeral liturgy the Church currently has two different Masses for infants who die. One for those who are Baptized and one for those who are not Baptized. The wording of the prayers in these liturgies shows the belief of the Church.

I myself find the section addressing this matter in The Great Means of Salvation and Perfection by Alphonsus De Liguori to be very helpful.
[/quote]

Thanks Brother Rich, I’ll take a look at the liturgies.

[quote=Nan S]Here’s what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says on this issue:

CCC 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.

CCC 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.
You are reading this correctly. Baptism of blood or desire requires faith and/or martyrdom.

CCC 1258 The Church has always held the firm conviction that those who suffer death for the sake of the faith without having received Baptism are baptized by their death for and with Christ. This Baptism of blood, like the desire for Baptism, brings about the fruits of Baptism without being a sacrament.

CCC 1259 For catechumens who die before their Baptism, their explicit desire to receive it, together with repentance for their sins, and charity, assures them the salvation that they were not able to receive through the sacrament.
Very tiny infants not yet capable of desiring heaven or baptism are entrusted by the Church to the divine mercy of God. God recognizes that they do not have the capacity to desire Him, and does not condemn them for this. For those little ones who die unbaptized, we are reminded that God created sacraments for the sake of men, but God is not subject to the whims of men who would deny the sacraments to the innocent either out of malice or ignorance. This is completely consistent with God’s ruling in the book of Deuteronomy:

Deut 24:16 The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, nor shall the children be put to death for the fathers; every man shall be put to death for his own sin.

Remarkably, however, even very small children are capable of understanding the difference between right and wrong, that God is good, and thus desire to be with God. For little children such as these, a baptism of desire argument could be advanced.

CCC 847 …Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.
[/quote]

Thanks Nan for your very thoughtful and thorough post. Your explanations make sense. I tend to be very Augustinian in my perspective and I am occasionally berrated for suggesting that the salvation of unbaptized infants is not automatic.

The souls of those who die in mortal sin, or with original sin only, however, immediately descend to hell, yet to be punished with different punishments." (Denzinger # 464)"

From the Catechism of the Council of Trent,

The fact that there is no occurance of this statement in the scriptures, insures it is safe to assume this was the result of catholic bureaucracy, not the teachings of christ. No one preaching of mercy could teach that non sense, only priests trying to scare people into church and assimilation from birth. Jesus was not baptised before he had a choice, would he have gone to hell as well?

[quote=Wormwood]The fact that there is no occurance of this statement in the scriptures, insures it is safe to assume this was the result of catholic bureaucracy, not the teachings of christ.?
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Unless a teaching of the Church or doctrinal pronouncement of a Council is a quote from Scripture if is of no authority? Christ gave the Apostles and the Church His authority to speak and teach for Him after He returned to the Father. He did not tell them to go write a book of His teachings! However when they decided it was a good idea to do so, the Spirit that had been guiding the Apostles and the Church also guided them in this writing. Nothing indicates that this inspired writing was going to be all inclusive.

[quote=Wormwood]No one preaching of mercy could teach that non sense, only priests trying to scare people into church and assimilation from birth. Jesus was not baptised before he had a choice, would he have gone to hell as well?
[/quote]

He was incorporated into “God’s choosen people” through circumcision before He had a choice!

Unless a teaching of the Church or doctrinal pronouncement of a Council is a quote from Scripture if is of no authority?

Pretty much. Even the divine nature of the scriptures is suspect, but anything outside of that is just speculation. You should not be so willing to accept what you are told without thinking about it. This is true for any matter of faith, but especially one in which the specific doctrine can be used to manipulate and assimilate. I am sure you don’t agree, but can you at least see how it would be in the catholic church’s best interest to create such a doctrine.

Christ gave the Apostles and the Church His authority to speak and teach for Him after He returned to the Father.

This doesn’t work for many reasons. One being your very liberal interpretation of the verse in question. The second is that there is no indication that the church peter started and the catholic church are in fact the same church, but I think the line of succession is an off limit topic so let’s turn away from this point.

However when they decided it was a good idea to do so, the Spirit that had been guiding the Apostles and the Church also guided them in this writing. Nothing indicates that this inspired writing was going to be all inclusive.

Your right, nothing indicated that, nor did anything indicate that the scriptures are “guided by the spirit”.

All these catholic councils are nothing more than Rome’s usual politics seeping into the religion.

All these catholic councils are nothing more than Rome’s usual politics seeping into the religion.

Councils predate Rome’s conversion by a few hundred years, FYI. The first one is actually recorded in Scripture, in the Book of Acts. They are a very biblical practice.

[quote=Wormwood]The fact that there is no occurance of this statement in the scriptures, insures it is safe to assume this was the result of catholic bureaucracy, not the teachings of christ. No one preaching of mercy could teach that non sense, only priests trying to scare people into church and assimilation from birth. Jesus was not baptised before he had a choice, would he have gone to hell as well?
[/quote]

The Scriptures themselves are the product of the Catholic Church. We do not believe in Sola Scriptura.

[quote=Br. Rich SFO]Unless a teaching of the Church or doctrinal pronouncement of a Council is a quote from Scripture if is of no authority? Christ gave the Apostles and the Church His authority to speak and teach for Him after He returned to the Father. He did not tell them to go write a book of His teachings! However when they decided it was a good idea to do so, the Spirit that had been guiding the Apostles and the Church also guided them in this writing. Nothing indicates that this inspired writing was going to be all inclusive.

He was incorporated into “God’s choosen people” through circumcision before He had a choice!
[/quote]

He was also without sin since he was not born of Adam but of the Holy Spirit and the immaculate Virgin Mary.

I take it Wormwood you are obviously an unbeliever. That’s fine, welcome. On the face of it, I do admit that the idea of being born into a state of condemnation does sound absurd. It requires one to accept that one man, Adam, could sin as the representative of the race and that the race could fall under the punishment of condemnation. For Christians, this is revelation (see Romans).

[quote=amateurthomist]He was also without sin since he was not born of Adam but of the Holy Spirit and the immaculate Virgin Mary.
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Of course He was like us in all things except sin. However He also gives us the example, even as a infant of an outward visable sign of incorporation into The People of God. He also didn’t need to be baptized by John. But again He gives us an example to follow.

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