Unbaptized Babies and Salvation

Just to start off, I am in full communion with the Church and accept all of its teachings… however, there is one thing left which still bothers me. And I do not understand why the Church does not declare this as doctrine:

That unbaptized babies, who, through no fault of their own, die prior to baptism, may or may not go to heaven or may not get to have the beatific vision.

I understand the utter importance of baptism, so that we can wipe away original sin. And without that, we are lost. But at the same time, an aborted baby or a baby lost to illness in the womb, or a baby who is not baptized and dies immediately after birth or even on it’s way to baptism, may not spend an eternity with God, is EXTREMELY difficult for me to understand and accept. Why would the Church not declare that when through no fault of its own, the soul would go to Heaven? I’ve heard over and over again from priests (on EWTN) and other apologists state that we simply have to trust in the mercy of God.

By saying this, it leaves it open to unborn aborted babies spending an eternity in hell.

Is it possible the Church is indirectly saying that because God is omniscient that He knows if that soul which was never baptized would have chosen Him or not if he had lived and therefore the question is left open?

Please help on this one. It really bothers me.


The Church cannot declare as doctrine that which is not part of divine revelation. For whatever reason, this was not revealed.

The Church cannot declare this because she does not know for sure. That is why we say that we must trust in God’s mercy.



Because it’s an illogical view to have. A soul has to accept the gift of divine mercy in order to experience the Beatific Vision. That’s a very basic tenet that nobody here would care to debate. A person - including an infant - can do this, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will do it. People have the capacity to love which means they also have the capacity to choose not to love. An animal, in the theological sense, doesn’t love or hate. Only creatures with rational souls do this, so that’s a choice every person has to make prior to the soul’s departure from the body. So, just like any other deceased, we commit them to our prayers and hope that they used their rational soul & free will to choose love. If it were to be declared doctrine otherwise, which it won’t be ever, we would cease to give them our prayers because, God forbid, we would have already canonized them.

Either way, people go to where it is they belong. Nobody goes to Heaven or hell without having justly received it (in the case of Heaven, this is received through the merits of Christ).

This is my explanation in light of Catholic teaching on free will, salvation, and grace, and not a Magisterial explanation. There is no such official teaching hemmed out.

I don’t believe baptized babies automatically go to Heaven either, since although they have received sacramental grace & initiation into the Church, they can - the same as any other person - still use their faculty of free will to choose to reject divine mercy upon their death, which is a mortal sin and it would remove them from their state of grace.

This is my explanation and not a Magisterial explanation. There is no official teaching on what happens to us after we die, except that we have to be in a state of grace, which is either acquired in the ordinary means through the sacraments or through the extraordinary means

What helps me is the theological posit of limbo. Which satisfies my logical and theological mind and brings me peace. A Catholic may or may not believe in limbo…

I think molinism explains that.

In such situations God uses His middle infinite perfect knowledge: the if-then scenario.

If this soul was in Adam’s position in the Garden of Eden then it would choose to obey. And so on…

The key to understand this situation is the “middle knowledge” explained by molinism.

Limbo simply means; neither here nor there! They are not in Heaven fully. nor are they in Hell. The Church teaches us that those in Hell, go there of their own will. I have lost 2 babies before birth and I know they are NOT in Hell. That is a BLESSING! What God has for them is entirely up to Him and I TRUST in Him. One of God’s GREAT Mysteries. There may be a special place for them. Not all of us will recieve the same joys in Heaven. But I do believe we will all see each other and know. As a priest told me, God Loves my babies more than I ever could. Trust Him. So I do! God Bless, Memaw

Given that it is church teaching that a baptised baby will go straight to heaven, this argument is incorrect as baptised children choose nothing and have not ‘earned’ salvation per sae.

My personal belief is that they go to heaven as I cannot imagine a God who would allow billions of people to go to hell for not being baptised, given that God is not bound by the sacraments. I don’t really know about limbo, since it isn’t church teaching I don’t really accept it personally. The big caveat here is that it’s my opinion, but personally I’m confident in it.

May we all trust the Lord; He is infinitely perfect.

Catholic teaching–assuming that babies at conception are human.:slight_smile:

Paragraph 1260 of the universal Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition.
Please notice the words I put in bold. Thank you.

1260 “Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery.” 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.

Last line of paragraph 1257. Perhaps it is time to stop limiting the actions of God.

1257 last line
God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but He Himself is not bound by His sacraments.

There is NO such thing as “assuming” at conception babies are human as long as they are of human parents!!! They ARE human and have a soul !!!
God Bless, Memaw

I’m uncomfortable with the idea that God will judge souls based on how they “might” respond if given the opportunity, without actually giving them the opportunity. God allows many, many miscarriages - most are so early that the parents aren’t even aware of them. There must be a purpose for these souls.


The brain is a material organ that serves mechanical-electrochemical functions (memory storage, information processing, sensory input & output, motor control, balance, etc.) the same as an animal brain, and is not what constitutes a person as a creature with a rational soul, which is a supernatural faculty and not a natural one. Everybody is given the choice to accept God. Their physical stage of development is not relevant.

If we want to draw another analogy, a person with severe brain damage that is put into a vegetative state does not cease to be - in the theological sense - a creature with a rational soul, and nor is a zygote, fetus, or infant something less than a creature with a rational soul merely because of their physical stage of development. This purely materialistic perspective is an argument used by secular liberals to justify abortion, euthanasia and even infanticide or systematic genocide of undesirables, and is not something accepted by the Church. **

This ability of God is infinitely perfect because of His omniscience.

With His omniscience He can search all possible worlds.

There’s no difference between God knowing through His middle knowledge and the real thing.

Do you really think than there is a possibility that unborn aborted babies will spend an eternity in hell? It may help if you ask yourself this question- “Am I more compassionate than God?”

I’ve said it before, and will say it again. We don’t know.

Why isn’t “we don’t know” acceptable for many Catholics where this question is concerned?

All the Church says is “we entrust them to God’s mercy” and she can teach nothing beyond that because it has not been revealed.

In essence, the only real answer the Church has is this :shrug:

The Lord is all-good and merciful. I need to trust Him and not question His ways.

He is infinitely more compassionate than I can be.

We DO know they do NOT go to Hell. The Church has NEVER taught that and never will. If you say that about unborn babies do you also include unbaptized children?? We cannot limit God’s MERCY and LOVE. Only those who freely choose to turn away from God risk Hell. God Bless, Memaw

If the assumption is that God will provide the child the opportunity to accept Him or reject Him, then there is the possibility that a child would reject Him (as some pure spirits did - aka angels).

Considering that the Church holds that a child does not reach the age of reason until about 7 (give or take), that seems to fly in the face of current thought.

So what some have posited - that the child is given some choice - seems contrary to current thought.

What it seems to come down to is that either the child is simply accepted into heaven, or alternatively, that there is some state, referred to by theologians in the past, as limbo, and they either all go to one or the other.

For what it’s worth, St. Thomas Aquinas taught the following with regards to those in the womb. I don’t see why the logic couldn’t be extended to those impeded from baptism in other ways:

Children while in the mother’s womb have not yet come forth into the world to live among other men. Consequently they cannot be subject to the action of man, so as to receive the sacrament, at the hands of man, unto salvation. They can, however, be subject to the action of God, in Whose sight they live, so as, by a kind of privilege, to receive the grace of sanctification; as was the case with those who were sanctified in the womb.

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