Original Sin and Hell


I was just watching CAL on YouTube and Tim Staples was the guest for the two hours today (9/25/18).

During the second hour (at around 1 hour 45 minutes of the upload currently on YouTube)Tim Staples: Catholic Answers Live - 09/25/18

He is responding to a caller asking about whether or not original sin is God’s fault. Mr. Staples of course takes the negative, saying that it is not. He goes on to talk about their preternatural gifts and how they were taken away.

MY QUESTION: Mr. Staples then goes on to state that a soul does not go to hell because of original sin. He references the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1037, which talks about mortal sin and being unrepentant unto death.

I was under the understanding that we could go to hell because of Original Sin. I already understand the concept of baptism by desire, but Mr. Staples stresses the fact that one does not go to hell strictly because of Original Sin.

Can someone explain this or point me to something that expands on this?


The Second Council of Lyons infallibly teaches:

“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)



It should also be noted that the Council of Florence taught that both those who die with mortal sin or original sin only descend to hell, but have unequal punishments.


Thank you!


Consider that all are born (not Virgin Mary) with the stain of original sin, but not actual sin, so need baptism for salvation. However baptism takes forms both sacramental and non-sacramental.


1257 The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation. …
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.
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.
1260 … Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity. …
1261 … "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,"64 allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. …


Unfortunately, Mr. Staples is mistaken here; it is a very common error to say that original sin itself cannot be the cause of damnation if the person has not committed any personal sins. Our Lord Himself affirmed the necessity of baptism for salvation, because baptism is the means of incorporating someone into the Mystical Body, the Church, outside of whom there is no salvation (Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus).

Because baptism—received with the correct interior disposition—removes the stain of original sin (and personal sins if the person has committed any), it would be contradictory to state that baptism is necessary for salvation, but meanwhile someone can enter heaven while still in a state of original sin. That stain of original sin must be removed by baptism, either baptism of water, blood, or desire.

Yes, this is absolutely correct. Although certain aspects of the Limbo of Infants need to be formally defined, what we already know is that 1) Limbo is much more than simply a theory, and 2) the Church teaches against the idea that those who die in a state of original sin alone can go to heaven.


Are we to understand Limbo to be a part of Hell? I thought it was either a third destination for a soul to be purified before entering heaven or a process of purification for a soul already on its way to heaven?


According to the Second Council of Lyons and the Council of Florence, yes, this is how Limbo must be understood. It is the speculation of many theologians that Limbo is the uppermost region of hell where the people there, having no personal sin, are not punished by punishments of the senses, but that their only punishment is not having the Beatific Vision.

You’re thinking of Purgatory.


Ha! :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: I am. Thank you.


Also see Catholic Encyclopedia:

Finally, in regard to the teaching of the Council of Florence, it is incredible that the Fathers there assembled had any intention of defining a question so remote from the issue on which reunion with the Greeks depended, and one which was recognized at the time as being open to free discussion and continued to be so regarded by theologians for several centuries afterwards. What the council evidently intended to deny in the passage alleged was the postponement of final awards until the day of judgement. Those dying in original sin are said to descend into Hell, but this does not necessarily mean anything more than that they are excluded eternally from the vision of God. In this sense they are damned; they have failed to reach their supernatural destiny, and this viewed objectively is a true penalty. Thus the Council of Florence, however literally interpreted, does not deny the possibility of perfect subjective happiness for those dying in original sin, and this is all that is needed from the dogmatic viewpoint to justify the prevailing Catholic notion of the children’s limbo, while from the standpoint of reason, as St. Gregory of Nazianzus pointed out long ago, no harsher view can be reconciled with a worthy concept of God’s justice and other attributes.

Toner, P. (1910). Limbo. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09256a.ht


Original sin is sufficient, in itself, to separate someone from God. As such, if someone merely possesses original sin, there is still reason enough for them to remain eternally separated from God in hell. However, none of us can claim that we alone possess original sin at the exclusion of personal sins, so no one can say that they are going to hell solely because they have original sin.

This, of course, gets a bit more difficult when considering unbaptized children who die. They possess all that is necessary to go to hell, that is original sin, but they also do not have personal sin and have never had a chance to respond to God’s grace. This is partly why modern Catholic teaching, expressed in CCC 1261, tends to be more hopeful than simply declaring them as going to hell. From what we know of God, He wouldn’t unjustly send them to hell without at least giving them a chance to turn to Him, but we also don’t know what goes on with regards to them.

As far as I’m aware, it is simply a theory that has never been officially accepted or rejected by the Church. It’s certainly valid, but it’s also not required.


Let me ask you a question… Why are there no footnotes in that entire section in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, aside from a Scripture quote whose relevance in this context is questionable?

I’m not saying it’s necessary to believe in the Limbo of Infants, since it has not been dogmatically defined, that is, explicitly. However, the theory has the support of both the Extraordinary Magisterium (declarations from ecumenical councils that those who die in original sin alone still cannot go to heaven) and the Ordinary Magisterium. Since the Church has already defined that those who are unbaptized and die in a state of original sin with no personal mortal sin still do not go to heaven, there are two options: either accept the theory of Limbo, or take St. Augustine’s position that they go to the same regions of hell as those who die in mortal sin. The Church has said that these unbaptized persons do not suffer the same punishment as those who die in mortal sin, lending greater credence to the theory of Limbo—therefore it is more than simply a “possibility”.


Why hasn’t the Church come down against it, and even supports it, if it, as you claim, is so clearly against her doctrine?


It is fallacious and misleading to simply say that the Church supports the idea that unbaptized infants can go to heaven. Pronouncements of the Extraordinary and Ordinary Magisterium have said no such thing. This is simply the opinion of individual theologians and ecclesiastics, and besides, the Catechism of the Catholic Church is simply an exercise of the non-infallible authentic Magisterium. I wouldn’t expect any condemnations for formal heresy against those who hold this opinion; my point is simply that such an opinion is less well-grounded in tradition than the theory of Limbo.


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