Limbo is not believed anymore?

I just came back from our Baptism class. We’re going to be Godparents, and so the sister wanted to teach the group of parents and prospective Godparents “about” baptism. All and all, it was bad, considering we’re in the Diocese of San Diego (like saying that kids are not born with “sin” , which was why, obviously, Original Sin wasn’t discussed:eek:; her emphasis was that it made us a Christain of a particular denomination, that’s all-and since we are Catholics it makes us Catholics:p). But the question I have today is about something she said. The question is was “What happens to babies who aren’t baptised at death?” I, still TRYING to keep my mouth shut about the religious instruction given by the sister, mentioned Limbo and then mercy of God. She then said that the present Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, wrote an encyclical a few years back that finally announced that Limbo is no longer part of the Catholic Faith.;Moreover, ALL unbapized babies go “straight back” to God:confused:. Could anyone inform me about which encyclical this was in??

Hi, the first thing you should do when anyone says “The pope said …” or “The Catholic Church …” is to ask them to produce an official Church document which confirms what they claim.

If sister said “Pope Benedict XVI, wrote an encyclical a few years back that finally announced that Limbo is no longer part of the Catholic Faith.” ask her to tell you the name of the encyclical and which paragraph.

Limbo was never an official teaching of the Church although it was a popular tradition. Limbo was one of a number of theological speculations as to what happens to a child who dies before the age of reason. Limbo was held to be a state of natural happiness (similar to the happiness we can attain on earth) in which these children would remain.

Current Church teaching is as follows:

Catechism of the Catholic Church

“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” (Catechism, 1261).

Evangelium Vitae, paragraph 99, 1995
Pope John Paul II

This extract was in the context of babies who had been aborted i.e. died without baptism.

The Father of mercies is ready to give you [the mother] his forgiveness and his peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. To the same Father and his mercy you can with sure hope entrust your child.

You may be challenged on this one because there is another translation on the Vatican website but this translation is not in accord with the official Latin version. Probably Translation B was made by someone attempting to be pastoral but it contradicts both the Catechism and the most recent (2007) document.

LATIN. Infantem autem vestrum potestis Eidem Patri Eiusque misericordiae cum spe committere.

The Hope of Salvation for Infants who Die Without Being Baptized
International Theological Commission

101. “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 should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused him to say: ‘Let the children come to me, do not hinder them’ (Mk 10:14; cf.1Tim 2:4), allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism.

102….Our conclusion is that the many factors that we have considered above give serious theological and liturgical grounds for hope that unbaptised infants who die will be saved and enjoy the Beatific Vision. We emphasise that these are reasons for prayerful hope, rather than grounds for sure knowledge. There is much that simply has not been revealed to us (cf. Jn 16:12). We live by faith and hope in the God of mercy and love who has been revealed to us in Christ, and the Spirit moves us to pray in constant thankfulness and joy (cf. 1 Thess 5:18).

Hope that helps. :slight_smile:

Limbo has always been a sensitive issue. I’m rather surprised that it was considered a tradtion. The nuns, many years ago, taught it as doctrine. I’m wondering why the priests, who also taught at the same school, never corrected the teaching. Certainly was a cause of many discussions.

But they also taught there were three types of baptism: water, blood and desire. It would seem to me that unbaptized babies would receive the baptism of desire and would be totally with God in heaven. The fear was the parents would never see them again. They will.

Here is the ITC essay on this issue (this is probably what was confused as an encyclical; the media ignorantly said it “abolished limbo”)–it’s a good read:

NB: in regards to Limbo, it says, “It remains therefore a possible theological hypothesis.”

IIRC limbo is no longer universally believed and it’s not longer required that you believe it: we just don’t know what happens to unbaptized babies. Maybe they go to Limbo, maybe they go to Heaven.

It’s not like Limbo’s too bad of course, it’s a paradise and all :slight_smile:

I don’t think limbo was ever advanced as anything more than a theological hypothesis. Certainly it was the standard position, but I don’t believe it was anything more than “We know God loves them, but we aren’t quite sure what happens…this might be it.”

Read this article from Fr. Harrison:

Fr Harrison’s private opinion came out in 2005. The official Church position via the International Theological Commission was released in 2007.

Incorrect, the ITC is only an advisory body, its statements have no authoritative weight.

Fr Georges Cottier, O.P., General Secretary of the ITC has said as much. It is not part of the authoritative Magisterium.

From the Baltimore Catechism

Q. 631. Is Baptism necessary to salvation?

A. Baptism is necessary to salvation, because without it we cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Q. 632. Where will persons go who – such as infants – have not committed actual sin and who, through no fault of theirs, die without baptism?

A. Persons, such as infants, who have not committed actual sin and who, through no fault of theirs, die without baptism, cannot enter heaven; but it is the common belief they will go to some place similar to Limbo, where they will be free from suffering, though deprived of the happiness of heaven.

Q. 633. Who can administer Baptism?

A. A priest is the ordinary minister of baptism; but in case of necessity anyone who has the use of reason may baptize.

In the early 1950’s I was most certainly taught by nuns in parish school in Baltimore that Limbo might exist for unbaptized babies but we didn’t know for sure. It was an attempt to reconcile God’s justice and his mercy. We knew that with baptism the baby would go to heaven.

Even in my child’s mind I thought that an eternity without God but with a type of natural happiness in Limbo wasn’t a human destiny. I hypothesized that God would offer those infants an opportunity at some point to choose Him. I still think that’s a possibility and if I were the mother of an unbaptized baby I would pray that God would, in His mercy, somehow apply Jesus’ merits to him and bring him to heaven.

It is dogmatic that the punishement for original sin is the deprivation of the beatific vision, with the pains of damnation due to actual sin. So a theoretical person who died only in original sin, but without personal sin would ecperience the state known as Limbo.

The only people who really fit the bill are unbaptized infants and others without the use of reason. If they are not cleansed of original sin, they will be deprived of the beatific vision. However, God may cleanse them of original sin and offer them the means of salvation in some way known only to Him. That is the hope expressed in the ITC essay.

So in sum, “Limbo” (ie loss of the beatific vision without pain from actual sin) is dogmatically a *potential *existence for souls, but we cannot make any kind of dogmatic judgment as to whether any particular soul experiences it–the Church only makes such judgments in regards to those who do receive the beatific vision(ie canonizations). Declaring defitively that a specific person is not experiencing the beatific vision is not within the Church’s competency.

Yeah, you know, another thing with the sister’s presentation concerning the meaning/reason for Baptism (i.e., babies are not born with sin, so when they die w/o baptism they go straight to heaven AND that we are baptised in order to make us Catholics or bring us unto the Church–when Lutherans baptise you you are brought into the Lutheran Church, etc.—it’s sort of an initiation only) , was that Gahdhi wasn’t baptised but we **know ** he is in heaven because he was such a holy person. I guess he is Saint Ghandi :eek: ?? What an interesting but extremely harmful brand of Catholicism (if I could call it that) she is teaching. I’m really scared to ask her or probe more into what she actually believes and teaches her students.:eek:

Ultimately, the Pope has just said what has been said all along: We don’t know what happens to unbaptized infants. Hey, Saint Augustine agonized over this question, and if he didn’t reach a satisfactory answer it is not too likely that anyone else will come up with any better piece of speculation.

       Will they go to hell? Maybe: The church has definitively taught that those wo die not with actual sin, but original sin only do not enjoy the vision of God. This would include Infants, Small Children, and some lunatics/mentally handicapped.

They would then go to a place of natural happiness where the vision of God is not enjoyed: The only problem is, is it possible to exist in such a state at all?

Not likely, because When Jesus returns in the second coming, his goal is to be all in all, where could these people in limbo be where they DON’T see God? Or , what spiritual condition could they possess in ressurected bodies that leaves them blind to God? Limbo cannot be eternal, because death and hades will be destroyed, hades being the temporal abode of the dead before the second coming.

I believe the Holy Gregory of Nyssa solves this problem with his teaching about The Love of God being all-encompassing and Sinners experiencing the love as Fire that eternally burns them (“a river of fire issued from his throne…”) and thus eternally tormented, and the holy experience the Love of God as illuminating light: Those who have been purified can no longer be burned, but only illumined, While those who have set their face against God definitively, can only ever smolder under the awesome majesty of His love, for “Our God is a consuming Fire.” And thus infants, being innocent of all sin, except the effects of original sin (Death and corruption) would perhaps undergo a purification that is analagous to purgatory but unique to their own experience?


THIS IS WHY WE HAVE to baptize our children: God is Silent.

Did you read the ITC document on the subject? It admitted that limbo is the common teaching of the Church.

Putting aside something believed by such great and holy minds as Augustine, Aquinas, Gregory Nazienzen, Robert Bellarmine, Pius X, etc. should not be done lightly. Fr. Harrison’s article is a very good treatment of the subject.

It was never required that you believe in it. It is simply the most logical conclusion about what we know about the role of Baptism in Salvation.

There is no such encyclical. Pope Benedict XVI’s list of writings is very short and I have read them all except the last encyclical…and none deal with Baptism.

It wouldn’t matter anyway…since there are teachings of Ecumenical Councils, which are teachings of the highest authority…that tell us that anyone who dies without being baptized goes to hell.

The Council of Florence:

Bull of Union with the Copts

With regard to children, since the danger of death is often present and the only remedy available to them is the Sacrament of Baptism by which they are snatched away from the dominion of the devil and adopted as children of God, it admonishes that sacred Baptism is not to be deferred for forty or eighty days or any other period of time in accordance with the usage of some people, but it should be conferred as soon as it conveniently can; and if there is imminent danger of death, the child should be baptized straightaway without any delay, even by a lay man or a woman in the form of the church, if there is no priest, as is contained more fully in the decree on the Armenians.

The Council of Trent:

Session 5

If any one asserts, that this sin of Adam,- which in its origin is one, and being transfused into all by propogation, not by imitation, is in each one as his own, - is taken away either by the powers of human nature, or by any other remedy than the merit of the one
Mediator, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who hath reconciled us to God in His Own Blood, made unto us justice, santification, and redemption; or if He denies that the said merit of Jesus Christ is applied, both to adults and to infants, by the Sacrament of Baptism rightly
administered in the form of the Church; let him be anathema: For there is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved.

If any one denies, that infants, newly born from their mothers’ wombs, even though they be sprung from baptized parents, are to be baptized; or says that they are baptized indeed for the remission of sins, but that they derive nothing of original sin from Adam, which has need of being expiated by the laver of regeneration for the obtaining life everlasting,- whence it follows as a consequence, that in them the form of Baptism, for the remission of sins, is understood to be not true, but false, - let him be anathema.

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; or even asserts that the whole of that which has the true and proper nature of sin is not taken away; but says that it is only rased, or
not imputed; let him be anathema.

For, in those who are born again, there is nothing that God hates; because, There is no condemnation to those who are truly buried together with Christ by Baptism into death; who walk not according to the flesh, but, putting off the old man, and putting on the new who is created according to God, are made innocent, immaculate, pure, harmless, and beloved of God, heirs indeed of God, but joint heirs with Christ; so that there is nothing whatever to retard their entrance into heaven.

So, it is obvious from the last paragraph of the quote from Trent that the Sacrament of Baptism is necessary to make man innocent and to open his entrance to heaven.

The Council of Trent:

Session 7.

Canons on Baptism

If any one saith, that true and natural water is not of necessity for Baptism, and, on that account, wrests, to some sort of metaphor, those words of our Lord Jesus Christ; “Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost;” let him be anathema.

If any one saith, that Baptism is free, that is, not necessary unto salvation; let him be anathema.

– Nicole

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