Today's reading and the question of children going to heaven

Periodically we are asked about whether children, and particularly unbaptized infants, go to heaven?
Today’s reading (Mt 18:1-5, 10) seems to answer that question for me…but I’d like to run it by the group.

Jesus places a child in the middle of the Apostles and tells them they must become like children or, “you will never enter the kingdom of heaven”.

This appears to clearly state that a child (and the younger the better) is innocent and therefore able to enter heaven…And what can be more innocent than a newborn - baptized or not?

So - my take away on this is that fetuses, infants and toddlers will almost invariably go to heaven.

Thoughts?

Peace
James

I think the Catechism says it best:
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,” **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.
vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P3M.HTM

We cannot “know” since God has not revealed it to us, but we can “hope”.

Circumcision cleansed children of original sin in that time (see St. Thomas here), and this child would have been circumcised.

All need grace to be saved, even children–whether that grace comes through the Sacrament of Baptism or some extraordinary way known only to God. You can’t deny the dogma of original sin.

The child does represent the child-like attitude of faith in our Father that we should have. Similarly, some of the ECFs also saw the child as representing the spirit of poverty–as a child has little of his own and is reliant on his parents.

Note, Scripture also tells us in another place that we eventually put away the things of a child as part of our growth in faith (1 Cor. 13:13). As my priest once said, there’s a difference between a child-like faith and a childish faith.

Unbaptized infants have original sin, thus limbo.

Limbo is not actually Church teaching–it is the informed idea of many theologians which certainly fits into everything we know. However, it may turn out not to be the case.

I have to admit that the current way of teaching about this subject does to me lead to the possibility of people’s delaying baptism, til all the relatives can be there, til they save enough money to take everyone to lunch, whatever, not realizing that much as it might possibly be that infants who die go to Heaven, it *equally *might possibly be that they do not.

Limbo is finished.

reuters.com/article/2007/04/20/us-pope-limbo-idUSL2028721620070420

If they die in original sin, it’s “limbo” at best. As far as I know, the Church hasn’t definitively ruled out the pain of sense for those who die in original sin only, just that their punishment is different from those who die in actual sins.

Of course, the Church also hasn’t ruled out the possibility of God cleansing them of original sin, whether by a simple gratuitous privilege or by virtue of the vicarious faith and desire of the parents or Church, or some other extraordinary means.

All innocent children go to Heaven, without a doubt. Extremely young children, babies, and infants do not know religion, do not know sin, and do not know hate. They are pure and 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 all good children go to Heaven as the song goes :slight_smile:

Wouldnt it be unjust for God to allow very young children and infants entrance into Heaven, since they have not out of their own free will, accepted to be with Him? It is effectively forcing them to go to Heaven, which God does not do.

With ya on this.
100%.

A baptized newborn is more innocent than an unbaptized newborn.

So - my take away on this is that fetuses, infants and toddlers will almost invariably go to heaven.

Thoughts?

Peace
James

It’s a sweet thought, but we cannot simply say with any definitiveness that all infants, including the unbaptized will enter heaven. The Lord is very clear about the necessity of baptism for salvation.

On the swing side, limbo has only been ever a theory and never taught as doctrine. It would also be an error to thrust this on fellow Catholics as if it were Church teaching. It’s a reasonable hypothesis, but not definitive.

As for the state of deceased baptized infants and children below the age of reason, we can be absolutely certain of this. The Church affirmed this by specifying white vestments and selecting joyful texts for the funeral Masses of such children (as opposed to black vestments, sombre and sorrowful texts and the omission of blessings for the livng at funeral Masses for adults).

For those infants who die without baptism, I would simply defer to the Catechism: we entrust them to God’s mercy. It is not forbidden to hope for their salvation, on the basis of the Scripture telling us of Jesus love for children and holding them up as an example of the Kingdom. But we cannot simply hold on to this because equally forceful, or even more so, is Jesus’ statement about the absolute necessity of Baptism. The truth is, it has never been revealed to us and so we simply do not know.

Thanks for all the great replies. Pretty much followed the line I expected.
Just need to comment on a couple of things…

Unless it was a little girl…the Gospel only says “child”.

All need grace to be saved, even children–whether that grace comes through the Sacrament of Baptism or some extraordinary way known only to God. You can’t deny the dogma of original sin.

Nope Can’t deny that dogma. I also can’t deny what Jesus stated in the Gospel reading that I referred to.

The child does represent the child-like attitude of faith in our Father that we should have. Similarly, some of the ECFs also saw the child as representing the spirit of poverty–as a child has little of his own and is reliant on his parents.

I have no problem with this. The Gospel actually refers to humility in the reading. Innocence and humility.

Note, Scripture also tells us in another place that we eventually put away the things of a child as part of our growth in faith (1 Cor. 13:13). As my priest once said, there’s a difference between a child-like faith and a childish faith.

Yes this is true. Yet I think that you will agree that the one “childlike thing” that we should NOT put off is “innocence”. :thumbsup:

Thanks.

Following this line of reasoning, infant baptism will make no difference to a child entering heaven. An infant cannot choose baptism. An infant cannot choose to reject God any more than they can choose to accept Him.
And after all, don’t we regularly say here that the people who go to hell choose to go there?
So - Can an infant "choose to accept satan and spend eternity in hell?

No - I think that this Gospel passage indicates that for a small child - younger than the “age of reason” - the default destination is heaven. The Church may not have declared on it…but that is the way I am leaning. It seems to me the most loving and merciful answer and that what God is - loving and merciful.

Peace
James

There’s a difference between saying, “we can hope for this,” and, “this is definitely the case.”

We also don’t strictly “know” that neutrinos exist, extra momentum and energy in subatomic reactions could be carried off by some undetectable particle. But it is best to go with the most logical and straightforward theory.

ewtn.com/library/encyc/p9quanto.htm

The last sentence of part 7.

Through baptism, the parents are making the choice for the child as well as cleansing them of their Original Sin. Later on when the child is of age, they reaffirm their faith and their baptismal vows through Confirmation.

I also never said anything about unbaptized children choosing Satan. A default destination of Heaven seems unfitting especially if their soul is still under the stain of Original Sin, which brought spiritual death upon all mankind- even infants. They also have neither exercised faith, free will, or good deeds to have done their part in inheriting the Kingdom. I think the theory on Limbo makes a lot of sense and is the most merciful answer, all while remaining just at the same time.

OK - - just to be clear her, in your original comments you said nothing about baptism. What you said was:
Wouldnt it be unjust for God to allow very young children and infants entrance into Heaven, since** they **have not out of their own free will, accepted to be with Him? It is effectively forcing them to go to Heaven, which God does not do.
(Bolding mine)
Perhaps I am misunderstanding you but allow me two points on the bolded.

  1. You referred to “they” - not their parents.
  2. If, as you say, the parents make the choice for them, then isn’t it the parents who are "forcing them to go to heaven?

I don’t mean to be argumentative here…I just truly do not see your logic here. It’s very unconvincing to me.

I also never said anything about unbaptized children choosing Satan.

I am aware that you did not anything about choosing satan, but it certainly seems to follow as the flip side of your logic.

A default destination of Heaven seems unfitting especially if their soul is still under the stain of Original Sin, which brought spiritual death upon all mankind- even infants.

Yet - we expect that we will leave this world imperfect - so that, even if we are forgiven and in a state of grace, our imperfection will not prevent us from entering heaven. Rather we look to God’s mercy. We look to God’s gift of purgation that will perfect us and prepare us for entry into heaven.
Yet - by the logic you present, an infant - and innocent who, through no fault of his own bears the stain of sin but not the actual sin itself - should be denied this gift of merciful purgation. Instead, such an infant should be eternally barred from the beatific vision…even though, as the Gospel states, "their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”

Sorry - I just do not such logic to be just, merciful or loving…

They also have neither exercised faith, free will, or good deeds to have done their part in inheriting the Kingdom.

If an infant is baptized - then you believe they will go to heaven right?
Even though they too have done none of the things you mention above.
So it would appear, for the purposes of your logic…that acts are not the point - but that Baptism is.
Baptized (but not by choice) and the child goes to heaven.
Not Baptized - again not by choice - (but equally innocent of personal sin) and the child is denied heaven.

I think the theory on Limbo makes a lot of sense and is the most merciful answer, all while remaining just at the same time.

Perhaps…but honestly I don’t find limbo to be much of an answer.

Partly I think that my position on these matters is effected by a view that divides at the cross. Under the old covenant I can see heaven being barred…sort of guilty until proven innocent. But under the new covenant - with Jesus redemptive act and the conquering of death, I just do not see the “guilty until proven innocent” idea as valid.
Yes - as we grow and reach the age of reason (which will vary from person to person) we inevitably fall into personal sin but infants and small children remain innocents - with their angels in heaven beholding the face of God and protecting them.

Anyway - Those are my thoughts…

Peace
James

No, the parents of a child who is baptized are washing away Original Sin through Baptism. A child in such a state is clean and the choice has been made by the parents. A child who hasn’t been baptized has not been cleansed of Original Sin.

Yes, but we’ve made choices to get to that point. An infant has not made any choices, good or bad. It appears to be unjust to send this child to either Heaven or Hell based on the fact that they have chosen neither. Hence why the theory of Limbo makes more sense, since it is neither here nor there. I suppose that’s what makes acts such as abortion, apostasy, and irresponsible parenting so atrocious; since it may affect the eternal well-being of the innocent children. I suppose that’s how serious A&E’s sin was too, for it to carry over an affect our eternal well-being too. If what you are saying is true, I would see no reason for Baptism at any point in one’s life, if it can easily be glossed over and ignored.

This rationalization doesn’t hold up, although I can see how you would want it to because of the nature of this topic. We human beings, through no fault of our own, were born into a broken world of sin caused by Adam & Eve, and therefore we too, sin. Had A&E not done so, we would be perfect beings ourselves. So perhaps God would understand all of our sins (mortal and venial alike) and not deny us of the gift of merciful purgation either? Somehow I don’t think so.

God’s ways are not our ways. We all share in A&E’s sin and are equally to be blamed for it. All of creation was turned upside down. Just because they are infants with their cute cuddly imagery, still share in this Original Sin that has introduced spiritual death into this world. It doesn’t seem fair, but God is not fair, He is just.

Except their sin has been washed away.

Depends. Once a child is baptized, it’s not necessarily that they are “good” in a moral sense, they are now “not stained” That’s probably the bare minimum to be granted access to Heaven. The parents are to thank for making this choice.

If a child remains unbaptized, they have made no free will choices just like the first child. However, they are still under the stain of Original Sin. So they can’t be considered “not stained” or “clean” like the child in the first example. So considering that only purity can enter Heaven, it does not seem like this child has met the bare minimal criteria. And since they are incapable of making choices or expressing Baptism of Desire, I would think that granting unwarranted access to Heaven sort of unjust, as cruel and odd as that might sound.

Pretty much. At least those who are capable of making choices may save themselves through their faith, their good actions, and their desire to be united with God. Of course if they are capable of these things, they are also capable of seeing to it that they are baptized at some point as well. A helpless infant has no such power or voice for himself sadly.

I am not speaking as a know it all, just blabbing my thoughts. I would really hope that this is one of those “Man not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath made for man” instances and that God is not a robot and can break His own rules as He sees fit. I really cannot imagine God allowing cute, adorable infants to burn or suffer in any way either, but then again there’s a lot I am still learning about God and His ways that are not like ours. A lot that I find odd and callous even, but yet the truth is the truth.

[quote=Eternal One;12383353
]I am not speaking as a know it all, just blabbing my thoughts.
[/quote]

I would really hope that this is one of those “Man not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath made for man” instances and that God is not a robot and can break His own rules as He sees fit. I really cannot imagine God allowing cute, adorable infants to burn or suffer in any way either, but then again there’s a lot I am still learning about God and His ways that are not like ours. A lot that I find odd and callous even, but yet the truth is the truth.

Me too…Just babbling thoughts…:thumbsup:

I’ll need to go through your post more thoroughly later…but I suspect that our two perspectives will likely not meet.

Yet I think that both of our bottom lines are the same…God is both merciful and Just.

Peace
James

Good point! It seems like with a girl, the vicarious faith of the parents would be sufficient, since, according to St. Thomas, circumcision sanctified, not of its own power, but as a sign of faith in the future passion of Christ.

As an aside, there is an ancient tradition that this child was St. Ignatius of Antioch.

Would you say the same thing if you were born a Muslim child?

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