Infants who die in infancy theology

I belong to a Christian Fellowship Facebook group consisting of Catholics and Protestants with a wide diverse view on theology and social issues. One of the Catholic members brought up purgatory which led to a comment on baby purgatory, and eventually a comment was made by an ex-Catholic who had an infant who died in infancy.

The ex-Catholic who lost her infant was told by her Catholic Priest that her infant cannot be in Heaven because the infant was not baptized. I understand the Catholic belief of the sacrament of baptism in which the infant is born from above through baptism. What are your thoughts about the comment of the Catholic Priest? It appears to line up with official Catholic doctrine even though the CCC may have softened that view some.

Thanks for the help and comments,


It is my understanding that the Catholic Church teaches that not even IT can truly know who God does/does not let into heaven. The truth is that although Catholics believe the Church is Christ here on earth, God is always God and is more supreme than anything an individual priest said. However, I am sure there are others more versed on this subject who could be more specific.

As a follow up question and comment, I do believe in original sin; therefore, I do understand the need for the work of Christ to be applied to all infants who die. I’m not sure how the thought of baby purgatory came in my thoughts, but how does that fit in with official Catholic theology?

Here is an article which you may find helpful.

As Catholics, we know God is a God of hate…………er wait, our God is a God of Mercy. I look to my priest, my bishop, my Vicar of Christ on earth for this answer. Something suggests that there was a much left out of the discussion that came to you. :shrug:

Thanks for the postings and article link, they have been extremely helpful. I just like to respond with official Caholic teachings on such matters. If anybody enjoys Christian Facebook Fellowship, feel free to join us.

The fact is we do not know where the souls of unbaptized babies who die go, which is one reason why abortion is so absolutely atrocious and why we should have our children baptized as soon as possible after baptism and not wait months so the entire extended family can witness it; baptism is a crucial sacrament, not primarily a photo moment.

From the article listed above in the link:

“The Hope of Salvation” in fact reiterates and builds upon the Catholic tradition. It neither categorically rejects Limbo nor denies the necessity of baptism. Rather, it offers reasons to hope that God may provide a way of salvation to those little ones whose lives ended before baptism was possible.

We can hope that God may provide a way of salvation for unbaptized babies who die. At the same time, we cannot be certain that there is, in fact, such a way provided. The only possibility other than Heaven that is firmly cemented in dogma is Hell. However, the image of little babies going to Hell proper offends our sensibilities, and rightly so. This is one reason the idea of Limbo was articulated, I believe. It must be stressed that Limbo is a theological possibility and has never been part of official Church teaching.

Any way we look at this problem, we have no certainties. We are only told that we should be hopeful, and I agree.

Would it be fair to say that both historic Protestantism and official Catholic theology both believe in Augustine’s understanding of original sin? What is your understanding of original sin? I believe all are sinners at birth due to our union with Adam.

I’ve never heard the term “baby purgatory” before. But purgatory is temporary and anyone in purgatory will eventually go to heaven. In so far as an infant is concerned, with no possible personal sin, and no control over having been baptized or not, and no opportunity to either accept or reject Christ, the Church commends their soul to God’s mercy…
What should a merciful God do with such a little one?


Someone just posted this link on a related thread…
Thought it might be useful here.


"Fr. Richard McBrien (professor of theology at Notre Dame and noted dissenter) as saying, “If there’s no limbo and we’re not going to revert to St. Augustine’s teaching that unbaptized infants go to hell, we’re left with only one option, namely, that everyone is born in the state of grace . . . Baptism does not exist to wipe away the ‘stain’ of original sin, but to initiate one into the Church.”

That is what we were taught at our baptismal class. That baptism is to initiate one into the church. I personally believe that all children go directly to heaven and Jesus greets them, regardless if they are baptized or even Christian.

It was my understanding that the Catholic Church believes similar like me that infants are sinners in need of Christ on the basis of our union with Adam; therefore, an infant must be born again through the sacrament of infant baptism. Is my understanding of official Catholic theology incorrect? If an infant is guilty based on our union with Adam, then if an infant is not baptized, then dies without baptism, how can the saving work of Christ be applied to that infant? I thought Augustine’s view of original sin is Catholic dogma.

The Church teaches that babies are born juridically guilty of Original sin and therefore are not worthy of Heaven. However, they might qualify for an implicit baptism of desire at the moment of death (in which case they would go to Heaven). Also, purgatory is for personal sins so babies can’t go there.

That statement in particular, if it were taught, would be a heresy. Original sin is a matter of dogma.

How to Baptize in the Case of Miscarriage

Thanks be to you O Lord Jesus Christ, for baptism in cases of miscarriage. +

Interesting… I thought Catholic theology had a very high view of the sacrament of baptism as dogma. The doctrine of infant baptism as a necessity is very significant, correct? We are born with original sin as believed by Augustine. Catholics believe that infant baptism removes original sin and the child after baptism is in a state a grace at that point, correct?

With due respect if this is Fr McBrien’s thoughts, not only is he denying original sin, but he is missing what I would say is God’s true nature: the loving and saving grace given to those who we unable to seek him in the time given to them on this earth.

We may certainly not know what happens to these children of God, but I trust in God more than Fr. McBrien’s alternative.


The Catholic Church does not claim an exact teaching on the destination of the souls of infants who die without baptism or die in the womb, that is to say, they profess that they simply do not know.

There have been many speculations about this throughout the years. One of the most notable is the idea of limbo in where the souls of those unbaptized infants would experience natural joy, but not the beatific vision of God.

However, more recently the Church has spoken about the idea of baptism by desire, in where, the child is baptized by the desire of the members of the Church praying for their salvation.

Though I should reiterate that the official stance is that… we cannot know for sure, BUT, they do not suffer (because they’ve committed no personal sin), and they are being entrusted into an all loving all merciful God, so, we can trust that whatever God deems will be the absolute best. AND we assert that we can hope for their salvation and it is certainly NOT, by any means, out of the question, as some people might insinuate or suggest.

This is not Catholic teaching. Unfortunately Notre Dame has been infected with the likes of Fr. McBrien. While baptism certainly brings us into the family of God, it is because our sins are washed away, including original sin. We have been marked for eternity as belonging to Christ.

This interpretation ignores the sacramental nature of baptism which means that what is signified by the outward actions is actually accomplished in our souls. Water signifies washing and our souls are actually washed clean from the stain of sin. Water signifies death and resurrection. We die to sin and look forward to the resurrection. We are truly “born again” because our souls are infused with God’s own divine life, which we lost through the sin of Adam and Eve. He makes is dwelling within us. This is much different then simply being initiated into the Church.

I want to thank everyone here for your postings. They have been extremely helpful. I am using your answers in our Christian Fellowship Facebook group site consisting of both Catholics and Protestants alike in Christian unity. When I don’t know an official Catholic doctrine or teaching, I will request your help again in the future. – Peace and grace

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