Is Limbo a Capital 'T' Tradition & de fide?

In the discussion on universalism, TNT suggested that I start this thread. I’m not trying to argue one way or the other. As some of you know, I was raised Protestant, so this whole limbo concept is fairly new to me, even if it is not new to the Church.

My understanding of the issue is that people like St. Augustine theorized that the unbaptized infants were damned, though with less “pain of sense” than those who had committed personal sin. As time went by, theologians, troubled by the apparent lack of God’s mercy in such a position, theorized that maybe there was some sort of alternate destination, between Heaven and Hell (perhaps a part of Hell, separate from all the nastiness), where the unbaptized infants could experience a sort of natural happiness. I think I’ve read somewhere that some people thought that righteous non-Catholics might possibly go here as well, though I may be wrong.

This teaching became very popular, though my understanding is that it was never made a dogma of the Church.

In the Catechism produced after Vatican II, the Church simply states that we entrust unbaptized infants to the mercy of God and hope and pray that they may somehow attain to salvation. While many Catholics find this belief encouraging, and a sign of true humility on the part of the Church, being willing to admit it does not know something, others believe this stance will lead to universalism. Some even seem positively horrified at the thought that unbaptized infants (or ignorant pagans, following God to the best of their knowledge) *may *somehow go to Heaven.

So, to repeat the post title, “Is Limbo a Capital ‘T’ Tradition & de fide?”

Thanks and God bless!

The unanimous consent of the Church Fathers is that limbo is the place to which souls go who die in the state of Original Sin but without having committed any personal sins against Almighty God (babies and persons who never attain the use of reason). The Fathers disagreed about whether or not they suffered pain, but they were clear that they don’t go to heaven. Moreover, a couple Church Councils also issued declarations on the topic. In short, limbo is de fide.

My parish priest preached on this yesterday; you can listen to the sermon here:

Good commentary on recent events that I read, regarding Limbo.

Grace and Peace pavenu74,

I was under the impression that this is not unanimous among the Church but was championed by Jesuits and certain Schoolmen contrary to St. Cyprian, St. Augustine and others who appear to condemn the unbaptized (including infants) to the ‘fires of Hell’ (poena sensus) and the pain of loss (poena damni) due to the lack of Sanctifying Grace.

Limbo is a ‘relaxing’ of this original teaching by separating material torment (poena sensus) and the pain of loss (poena damni). This is not a unanimous opinion from my point of view and at the time was considered quite ‘novel’.

Limbo is not a de fide.

It is a theological speculation and one is free to believe or disbelieve it.


In Traditional texts of dogmatic theology, there are various Latin expressions which identify the status of a given proposition, in fact there are many. For our purposes there are two which concern us; De Fide Definita is a teaching of a Pope or Council which must be believed as an article of faith, while a “hypothesis” as the Commission means it, is defined Dogmatically as Sententia Communis which is a free and debatable opinion but accepted by theologians generally. If what the Commission was saying is true, (or the current Pope when he was Cardinal Ratzinger) then dogmatic theology textbooks, Denzinger, or Fundamentals of Catholic dogma which put together the work of numerous dogmatic theology textbooks would have listed Limbo as a Sententia Communis. They don’t, they list it as a De Fide Definita. Two Ecumenical councils defined the following:
Illorum animas, qui in actuali mortali peccato vel solo originali dcedunt, mox in infernum descendere, poenis tamen disparibus puniendas.

The souls of those who die in Original sin as well as those who die in actual mortal sin go immediately into hell, but their punishment is much different.
-2nd Council of Lyons (1274) and the Council of Florence (1438-1445)**

Apparently they didn’t realize they were making a hypothesis! In reality this is an infallible Catholic dogma to which we must adhere. It is not a hypothesis. It is based on this, the Council of Trent and Pope Pius VI’s condemnation of the Council of Pistoia that we know Limbo is not an intermediary place between heaven and hell, but apart of hell itself, though in the outer reaches, hence its name which in Latin means a border zone of sorts. This is terribly important to understand. Limbo is not its own place like purgatory. It does not have its own existence. It describes the state of being deprived of heaven but not suffering the pains of hell, or, as the statement says, going to hell but with different punishment. Why must this be so? Because in John III:5, our Blessed Lord says “Unless a man be born again by water and the Holy Ghost, He can not enter the kingdom of heaven.” This is because Baptism actually forgives Original Sin, which is a real and true sin, simply not a personal sin. That one does not have a personal sin fails to impart a positive virtue, like faith or a positive good such as the remission of original sin.

Since all proof otherwise will not change your mind, I will simply say that LIMBO of the infant is de fide from the Perennial Ordinary Magisterium of the Catholic Church. In other words, it is Doctrine.

To a reasoning Catholic who seeks the truth, without regard of it being joyful or painful or somewhere in between, knows there is a Limbo Of Infants.
It is that Limbo wherein, since the New Covenant, those without the faculty of normal adult reasoning but void of ALL sanctifying Grace as a result of Original Sin reside after death. It is a place that provides all contentment possible for these who have no supernatural faculty to enter into the Beatific Vision of God.

Finally, if there is NO Limbo as described, and those indicated do not go into the torments of hell, then the only conclusion is they all arrive in the Fullness of Heaven.
From this we arrive at the Baptist/Churches-o-Christ heresy that all are naturally born into Sanctifying Grace. From this is concluded that there really is no Supernatural consequence of Original Sin on ALL Humans, but just those who are adult in their reasoning, ie accountable.

If that were the case, then the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox would have it in their Tradition but they do not.
Limbo is NOT the unanimous consent of the Church Fathers.
Nothing could be farther from the truth.

That has been my constant understanding also.

Did the Councils of Florence or Lyons dogmatize limbo?

Well, maybe neither extreme is correct:
St. Gregory of Nazianzus
It will happen, I believe . . . that those last mentioned [infants dying without baptism] will neither be admitted by the just judge to the glory of Heaven nor condemned to suffer punishment, since, though unsealed [by baptism], they are not wicked. . . . For from the fact that one does not merit punishment it does not follow that one is worthy of being honored, any more than it follows that one who is not worthy of a certain honor deserves on that account to be punished. [Orat., xl, 23] circa 370AD

Later, St Thomas Aq. Doctor of Grace:
“Although unbaptized infants are separated from God as far as glory is concerned, yet they are not separated from Him entirely. Rather are they joined to Him by a participation of natural goods; and so they may even rejoice in Him by natural consideration and love,” (In II Sent., dist. XXXIII, Q. ii, a. 5).

Doesn’t this create a 3rd place then? And wasn’t this 3rd place condemned by council?

Thanks for the quotes TNT. God Bless!

Limbo has only been mentioned in one papal document and that is Auctorem Fidei.

Florence and Lyons, infallibly stated that the souls of those who die in personal grievous sin or original sin only descend immediately into hell but with different punishments.

There are some that conclude that babies who die before baptism have absolutely no way of being sanctified, thus applying Florence or Lyons to demonstrate the existence of Limbo.
However, the Church has never affirmed this conclusion that there is no way for extra-sacramental sanctification or a type of baptism of desire. It is an open question that General Revelation has not provided us.

Here are a few relevant answers from some of our Catholic Answers apologists:


Has limbo been abolished?

The souls of Aborted & Miscarried Babies

Infant death

There are more, too, if you feel like searching for them.

All concur that limbo is not official Church teaching, but rather a “strictly theological speculation. It has **never **been an official teaching of the Church.” (emphasis mine)

According to Michelle Arnold: “The Church currently entrusts the fate of unbaptized babies to the mercy of God and does not presume to state that God cannot make provision for their entry into heaven.”

Personally, I find it very sad that some people place a greater amount of faith in theological speculations made by human beings than in the dogmatic truth of God’s infinite mercy and justice. :shrug:

To an earlier question, is Limbo a 3rd Place.
NO, it is what was anciently referred to as the "hem or border edge of HELL, from which the word limbo derives.
All final destinations short of the full Beatific Vision of God is / was considered a territory or realm of Hell.

Poor LUDWIG OTT. The Novus Ordo Conciliar conservative cath’s love to quote his “Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma”
UNLESS he contradicts their pet novel beliefs. Then out the window he goes.
Nevertheless, here he is:
Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Ludwig Ott [St. Louis: Herder, 1954], p. 114.=>It is *de fide *— [an unchangeable article of Faith] — that souls who depart this life in the state of original sin are excluded from the Beatific vision.
[FONT=Comic Sans MS]Where’s he get such a traditional idea?
[/FONT]Second Council of Lyons (1274) and the Council of Florence (1438-45) :
“The souls of those who die in original sin as well as those who die in actual mortal sin go immediately into hell, but their punishment is very different.”

[FONT=Comic Sans MS]The fact is:
There are more quotes, by FAR, on the necessary doctrine of Limbo by Popes, Councils, Church Doctors, than there ever was on the “baptism” of Desire.


Limbo is a speculation and not something that Catholics must believe.
However there are problems in accepting that if a child’s parents do not wish him to be baptised, then God simply nullifies that decision.

People are confusing a couple issues. It is de fide that one must be cleansed of original sin in order to enter Heaven. It is also de fide that the pains of those who die without actual sin, but with original sin suffer lesser pains (if any). It is also de fide that Baptism cleanses one of original sin. It is also de fide that there are extra-scramental ways that this grace may be bestowed (Council of Trent said Baptism or the desire for it is necessary).

The idea that all infants who die without Baptism automatically go to Limbo because God definitely does not grant them that grace extra-sacramentally right before death falls on the theological spectrum under “common teaching” (sententia communis) which pertains still to the field of “free opinion,” and has been accepted by theologians generally. In other words, it has never been formally proposed as doctrine (sententia certa) of the Catholic Church. And it especially has never been definitively proclaimed as a dogma (de fide).

To definitively and infallibly declare the destination of any individual’s soul it would take a formal act of the solemn magisterium of the Supreme Pontiff–such as is exercised in the canonization process. This has not been done for all unbaptized infants.

Not to the best of my knowledge, though I’d have to go back and refresh myself as to the exact language.

If they had though, the Vatican would not have the ability at this time to say what they have.

TNT, if you really believe that the CA apologists are spreading incorrect teachings, perhaps you ought to submit a question to the AAA forum, asking them what they think of these documents you’re citing.

On a side note, avoiding inflammatory rhetoric is generally more conducive to having a productive discussion.

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