St Thomas Aquinas & Limbo


I’m confused on St. Thomas Aquinas’ teaching on Limbo. I have 2 questions…

  1. What happened to the Limbo of the fathers after Jesus brought them to heaven? Is it just empty space now?
  2. What will happen to the unbaptized babies in the Limbo of the children on the day of judgement?


Hi! Surprised to see no one has answered, yet. Are you speaking of the place Jesus describes in his parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man? If so, some refer to it as Abraham’s Boosom.

It seems logical to me that it and Purgatory are one and the same, or that it is a part of Purgatory.

As for infants who have passed, it would make sense that they would find them selves with adult minds in Heaven, or at least spen little time in Purgatory, indeed! For they would have likely no sin they’d be culpable for.

Whether I’m correct, partially correct or mistaken depends on the official teaching of the Church, if there is one.


LOL. I haven’t heard it called Limbo since I was a kid.


It is a good question, though! Right? :slight_smile:


Yeah, if it’s something you’re curious about.


Limbo is not a place of doctrine, so much as it’s a postulated place, or perhaps the idea of a portion of hell in which there is no punishment where the souls of the innocent unbaptized reside, and where perhaps after the resurrection they may experience a world of natural goods if not the supernatural good of the beatific vision of God. This is theological speculation.

However, the Church has not taken a position on the fate of unbaptized babies. We entrust them to God’s care and mercy. God may still very well bring them to Heaven.


Of course he would surely ?


1: Yes, the limbo of the fathers is empty. That’s my understanding anyway.

2: I suppose those who believe in the limbo of the infants believe that they’ll stay there.


Catholic Encylopedia

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.:


1028 Because of his transcendence, God cannot be seen as he is, unless he himself opens up his mystery to man’s immediate contemplation and gives him the capacity for it. The Church calls this contemplation of God in his heavenly glory “the beatific vision”: …
1057 Hell’s principal punishment consists of eternal separation from God in whom alone man can have the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.
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.
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,"64 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.


Speaking more of St. Thomas Aquinas’ opinion, which is not dogma of the Church or binding, keep in mind he never finished the Summa Theologica. He did hold that children who died in the womb would be resurrected.

Reply to Objection 5. We are born again by the grace of Christ whereby it came about that He took our nature, since it is by this that we are conformed to Him in natural things. Hence those who die in their mother’s womb, although they are not born again by receiving grace, will nevertheless rise again on account of the conformity of their nature with Him, which conformity they acquired by attaining to the perfection of the human species.

The Appendix, Question One, seems to address this more fully.

But [unbaptized] children were never adapted to possess eternal life, since neither was this due to them by virtue of their natural principles, for it surpasses the entire faculty of nature, nor could they perform acts of their own whereby to obtain so great a good . Hence they will nowise grieve for being deprived of the divine vision; nay, rather will they rejoice for that they will have a large share of God’s goodness and their own natural perfections. Nor can it be said that they were adapted to obtain eternal life, not indeed by their own action, but by the actions of others around them, since they could be baptized by others, like other children of the same condition who have been baptized and obtained eternal life: for this is of superabundant grace that one should be rewarded without any act of one’s own. Wherefore the lack of such a grace will not cause sorrow in children who die without Baptism, any more than the lack of many graces accorded to others of the same condition makes a wise man to grieve.

Reply to Objection 5. Although unbaptized children are separated from God as regards the union of glory, they are not utterly separated from Him: in fact they are united to Him by their share of natural goods, and so will also be able to rejoice in Him by their natural knowledge and love.

There is a lot more text to it than that, but I believe that captures St. Thomas Aquinas’ view.


To speak more directly to the actual numbered questions.

(1) TA held that the limbo of infants and the limbo of fathers were/are distinct, for the latter were ordered towards receiving the beatific vision still.

(2) TA held that they will be resurrected and be without grief or even pain of loss. They will rejoice in the natural goods God has shared with them, and what participation in God’s Creation has been made available to them.


Is it possible that Jesus looks at the unbaptized and knows who would have lived a heroically virtuous life and welcome them into the home of His Father?


I don’t think “looking at their future” is how it works. We’re judged on what we’ve done and our current disposition, not what we would have done if we lived longer. All unbaptized babies are innocent of actual (personal) sin. Therefore God may very well welcome all unbaptized babies into the beatific vision in Heaven.

We don’t know with certainty, but we can trust that God will be both just (and so not unjust) and merciful.

I would look to the Catechism, which Vico quoted, for what the Church has to say on this topic.


Well… it’s not “space”, per se, as we think about it, because, after all, how much “space” is needed for non-physical souls? :thinking:

“Limbo of the children” is a theological opinion, not a doctrinal teaching of the Church. If you want to ask the question “on the day of judgment, what will happen to those children who died without baptism?”, then the Church would answer “we hope and trust in God’s mercy, that He will save them by His own initiative and will.”

Perhaps… but not for the reason of a “potentially heroically virtuous life”. The horrifying flip side of this is that, for those whom “he knows would not have lived a virtuous life”, He allows them to be damned. And, to be damned for things you never did? That’s hardly merciful and just…


Abraham’s Bosom was a place for the righteous souls before Christ, where there is no punishment. The poor Lazarus went there yes, but the rich man went to Hell or Purgatory, depending on the interpretation.


Limbo for unbaptized children isn’t even mentioned in the current Catechism. Not doctrine, but it was taught for years (it’s in the old Baltimore Catechism I believe). It’s not part of the Church’s theology at all now.


It was NEVER part of the Church’s theology. It was NEVER taught by the Church. It was only ever a theological hypothesis that Catholics were free to believe in or not.


Dude. I never said it was the Church’s theology. In fact, I said it WASN"T doctrine. However, it WAS in the Baltimore Catechism, and priests and nuns did teach it.


You said it is not part of the Church’s theology NOW. By using the word now you mean it was previously part of the Church’s theology. It has NEVER been part of the Church’s theology and has NEVER been taught by the Church.


I said: “Not doctrine, but taught for years.” It was taught for years by priests and nuns and by the Baltimore Catechism.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit