Was limbo a doctrine?


Surely if Limbo was taught universally throughout the church by all the bishops and accepted by the faithful (as it was, for hundreds of years) then it is infallibly true, by the universal ordinary magisterium?


I was never defined as doctrine, only as a possibility.

The Church has never made a definitive statement regarding the fate of the souls of unbaptized children. Limbo was a popular position because there’s nothing inherently un-biblical about it, and it allows for the eternal happiness of the unbaptized innocents. It’s fallen out of favor recently for the idea that God would allow unbaptized innocents to enter Heaven, or that He would present them with some manner of choice and allow them to chose. None of these positions is dogmatic though, and we are free to hold varying opinions.


I think there are two propositions that need to be considered separately. First, is the idea that those who die in original sin only experience the state we call “Limbo” (aka the outskirts of hell with no beatific vision, but no actual punishments due to actual sin). The second is whether any particular soul dies this way and actually experiences it.

I think an argument can be made for the first proposition–it is dogmatic and infallibly taught that those who die in original sin cannot be saved and at the very least the Church teaches the punishments of those who die in original sin only are less than those who die in actual sins.

The second proposition can’t really be an infallible judgment of the Church, since the Church doesn’t pass infallible negative judgments on the final destination of any particular souls. The Church has always allowed for the possibility of God granting the grace of the sacraments outside of the actual reception of the sacraments–He just has not promised to do so.


Limbo was proposed as a solution to the dillema posed by the teaching that Baptism is necessary for salvation. But infants who die in the womb or shortly after birth are not baptized. The Church also recognized Baptism of Desire, and Baptism of Blood. But these infants were unable to desire baptism nor to be martyred voluntarily for the Faith. Limbo was proposed as a possible solution. But current theological speculation has proposed other solutions.


I do not believe this is accurate. The Church teaches that anyone in a state of mortal sin cannot be saved, and that original sin is enough to preclude someone from Heaven, but it does not teach that everyone who is unbaptized will be denied Heaven. We hold out hope for those who are innocent apart from original sin. (Which is not itself sin, but rather an absence of saving grace.) Given that the grace of salvation is a gift freely given by God, commuted to us through the cleanings sacraments of Baptism and Confession, there is no reason that He would be unable to apply it to those people who were not able to receive baptism in life.

That being said, I personally believe that Limbo is probably as close to right as we’re going to get in this life. Jesus is pretty clear that baptism is necessary for salvation, but also that God is a loving father who desires the salvation of all. It doesn’t make sense to me that someone would be denied eternal happiness simply because they died before they were baptized, but I also have to take Jesus at His word. Limbo is the only proposition I’m aware of that satisfies all the criteria we’re aware of.


And was it not abolished in 2007? Everything I googled about it says it was. Our Priest even did a homily on it.


I think we are saying the same thing. I did not say “everyone who is unbaptized will be denied Heaven” but rather everyone who dies in original sin will be denied Heaven. As you note, and as I noted in my post, God can gratuitously sanctify a soul that hasn’t actually received the Sacrament so that the soul does not die in original sin and therefore will be saved.

As an aside, the dogmatic part was defined at the Council of Florence (among other places) as follows:

But the souls of those who depart this life in actual mortal sin, or in original sin alone, go down straightaway to hell to be punished, but with unequal pains.


No. There was a paper published by the International Theological Commission (an advisory body of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith) that provided the arguments for the hope of the salvation of unbaptized infants (by their being sanctified extra-sacramentally). But the paper itself noted that believing that they instead go to Limbo “remains therefore a possible theological hypothesis.”



It wasn’t abolished. Since it was never a doctrine, there is nothing to abolish. It was and is a theological speculation. One is free to consider it as a possibility. One is also free to consider that God has a way to bring unbaptized infants into heaven by some other means.

Here is a full discussion:



Are you sure this was part of the Dogmatic proclamation, and not simply part of the overall body of documents? Not doubting you, just surprised I’d never heard it before.


Well I can’t tell you how many people that missed Mass that weekend and still actually believe that it is actually still Taught by the Church as FACT.


It’s pretty much the main “point” of original sin: every single person needs the grace of God to be saved (even those who have not committed an actual sin). You can’t be saved without the grace of God. Normally, this grace is first infused in baptism, but as we both agree, God can also infuse it in extraordinary ways.


Lol you can’t abolish a doctrine. That’s not how it works.


But it was a doctrine. I something is universally taught, it is an infallible doctrine. This is called the universal ordinary magisterium.


It was universally taught. Therefore it has been infallibly defined. Am I wrong?


What is the difference between dogma and doctrine?


Was it taught from the Chair of Peter?


Yes, you are incorrect. Limbo was never a doctrine or infallibly defined.


And not merely never a doctrine or infallibly declared. It wasn’t even universally taught and never constituted part of the ordinary magisterium. It remained nothing but a theological theory.


Yes you are, unfortunately. The claim you are making is incorrect. Limbo was never part of the ordinary magisterium and was never universally taught. It was nothing more than theological speculation; it was never magisterial teaching even under the ordinary magisterium.

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