Oct. 07 ( - Pope John Paul II met today with the 30 members of the International Theological Commission, and told them that their studies on the fate of children who are not baptized could help Church leaders to develop "more coherent and clear pastoral practice."
The problem of children who die without being baptized-- one of three themes chosen for the work of the International Theological Commission in the coming months-- “is not simply an isolated theological problem,” the Pope observed. He said that “many other fundamental themes are closely related,” including God’s desire to bring salvation to all men, the universal redemption offered by Jesus Christ, and the particular role of the Church.



Not a good title for this thread. “Limbo” was NEVER a doctrine / dogma, but an opinion.

Interestingly, Pope John Paul II said something about unbaptized babies in a comment about women who’ve had abortions: that they should know that their aborted babies are with the Lord, praying for their mothers’ conversions.

As for the question of whether unbaptized infants can ‘go to Heaven’, there are some interesting hints in the Church’s history that may help the discussion. The first is Scripture: recall the “Holy infants” - those murdered by Herod in his attempt to kill the Lord. They were, in effect, ‘pre-martyrs’ for Jesus! Agustine proposed the idea of Limbo - but this goes against Scripture. An interesting view was posited in the early middle ages: that when infants died they were then like the angels and would know they were created and would be free to choose or reject their Creator.
And, most recently the Pope’s comment (referred to above).

In seminary one student asked a professor what he should say to the anguished Catholic father of an unbaptized baby that had died. The theologian replied that the Church “commends them to the (infinite) mercy of God”. The student priest wasn’t satisfied that this answer would console the grieving parents. I suggested the young priest ask the baby’s father whose fault it was that the baby was unbaptized - his or his child’s? Obviously, it wasn’t the child’s fault. And God is certainly NOT going to condemn a baby who dies unbaptized because of the parents’ neglect. The Church has always taught that ANYONE - even adults - who through no fault of their own die unbaptized may still be saved (by the “Baptism of dsire” for example) through God’s Grace. God is not limited by His Sacraments.

The Church’s challenge is to continue exhorting the faithful to baptize infants while at the same time explaining that, despite God’s insistence upon its necessity for salvation, babies are not condemned MERELY because they are not baptized.


Limbo - Theological speculation and nothing more.


[quote=thomist]John Paul II said something about unbaptized babies in a comment about women who’ve had abortions: that they should know that their aborted babies are with the Lord

That’s misleading. You are thinking of a supposed statement in Evangelium Vitae, but in the official Latin text the previous text was corrected and that statement was deleted.


I was just recently doing some studying on Limbo. There are 2 main sources that I looked at for information regarding Limbo.

Denzinger: The Sources of Catholic Dogma

Dr. Ludwig Ott: Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma

Under Denzinger, there are only 2 passages that form the basis of the theological opinion of Limbo.

The first one is D 464, from the 2nd Council of Lyons in 1274 in which it says that souls who die in the state of mortal sin or with original sin only immediately descend into hell, yet to be punished with different punishments.

Ott states that this teaching is de fide, meaning that it is an infallible dogma. (Ott page 113-114, 4th edition, 1960)

The other Denzinger citation is D 1526 in which Pius VI (1775-1799) condemns the errors of the Synod of Pistoia. In it, Pius holds to the opinion of the existence of Limbo in condemning those who reject that original sin deprives us of the beatific vision.

Here Pius VI is not making an infallible declaration (not everything the pope says is infallible).

Now, turning to Ott, he states that this dogma from II Lyons is supported by the words of Christ in Jn 3:5, “Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.”

He then goes on to explain various theological opinions.

In it he says that the spiritual re-birth of young infants can be achieved in an extra-sacramental manner through baptism of blood.

Other emergency means of baptism for children dying without sacramental baptism such as prayer and the desire of the parents or the Church (vicarious baptism as described by Cajetan), or the attainment of the use of reason in the moment of death so that the dying child can make a decision for or against God (baptism of desire, H. Klee) or the suffering and death of the child as a quasi-sacrament (baptism of suffering, H Schell).

In these, Ott says that these are indeed possible, but cannot be proved from Revelation.


Then when you look at the Catechism from 1983, there is no mention of Limbo. CCC 1261 and 1281 says this:

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,”[63] 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.

1281 Those who die for the faith, those who are catechumens, and all those who, without knowing of the Church but acting under the inspiration of grace, seek God sincerely and strive to fulfill his will, are saved even if they have not been baptized (cf. LG 16).

While these citations are still only theological speculation, they indicate the thinking of the Church regarding infants who die before baptism.

So how does this square with the Denzinger passages I mentioned above.

D 464 is de fide, but only IF those dying infants have not extra-sacramentally obtained justification through baptism of desire or any of the other modes described. If they indeed have received justification that the dogma promulgated at II Lyons doesn’t even apply here because they no longer have the stain of original sin.


John Allen’s current column carries the following blurb:

“Infant baptism and Christian hope: The theologians who just completed their terms left behind the topic of “limbo,” the traditional term for a resting place for souls excluded from the fullness of the beatific vision but otherwise not condemned to punishment, e.g., unbaptized babies. As one new ITC member put it to me this week, however, “This kind of group didn’t come together just to talk about limbo.” The commission therefore decided to put the subject of infant baptism into the broader context of eschatology and Christian hope – “the universal salvific design of God, the unicity of the mediation of Christ and the sacramentality of the church in the order of salvation,” to quote the official Vatican news release.”


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