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« The New "Secret" English Mass Translation Is Receiving Praise | Main | More On Limbo »

Friday, April 20, 2007



Sounds like nothing has changed in regards to the teaching. Christ said a person must be baptised to enter heaven, so what happens to babies who die without it? Limbo, theologians of old speculated. But since we don't know for sure, we can hope that there is a way they can go to heaven. Sounds like Benedict is stressing the hope part of it, without explicitly rejecting Limbo. Am I right?


I have not read the entire document, but from the press release I see this statement: “baptism is the ordinary way of salvation for all people.” The word “ordinary” is a technical term which means something like the “rightly ordered” method. However, implicit in that term is “extra-ordinary” or outside of the ordinary. My sense is that the Church is moving from “hope” as was the position in the CCC to one of “most likely” or “probably” without actually using the words most likely or probably. They would be saying that putting babies in hell or limbo would not appear to be consistent with God’s mercy.

One must read the entire document, however, to get a sense of any theological expansions.

At the common sense level, I would think that God would rush forward to these babies and bring them into the full communion of heaven. He is absolute love and absolute power. If he wants to baptize these babies, he surely can do it.

Qualis Rex

I've always had a problem with Limbo too. But just because I have a problem with it doesn't make it any less true or false. I just think it would have been odd for God to create a life knowing that it would never have the chance to be baptized. So, in essence God is creating a life on earth and at the same time banishing it from heaven. Doesn't add up.


In "Mystical City of God," wherein Mary of Agreda set forth the life of Mary as revealed to her by the Virgin herself in a series of visions, it is told that, upon learning of the impending slaughter of the Holy Innocents, Our Lady prayed that God might sanctify them (i.e., remove the stain of Original Sin)so that they could go into Heaven. This request was granted. For me, that has always been the beacon of hope for babies that die unbaptized, especially those who are murdered by abortion. While I haven't yet read the Pope's instruction (my computer's having trouble digesting links right now), the fact that he has issued one is good news and a reason for us to hope for those children.


Qualis Rex, despite our differences about the Mass, I completely agree with your comments above.

Benedict XVI firmly believes that God is reason (see his speech "Faith Reason and the University" delivered at Regensburg last year). As you assert, there is a logical inconsistency with God's loving, merciful nature and a belief that unbaptised babies (inluding unborn humans) do not go to Heaven. So the Pope is right to say there is great hope that unbaptised babies do go to Heaven.

There is also another logical flaw with Limbo. RCs believe Heaven is eternal communion with God (CCC §1023) and Hell is eternal damnation and separation from God (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). I can't see how there can be a half-way point, such as an "eternal state of perfect natural happiness". After final judgment, you're either in God's presence or not, there's no third option (bar any discussion of Purgatory, since I'm speaking here of final judgment not of a transient period of soul purification).

Perhaps the Pope will go further and reject Limbo altogether?

Fr Raymond Blake

What exactly does "approved" mean?
Certainly there is every reason to believe that the unbaptised can enter heaven, even adults, "of goodwill". Nevertheless the Lord himself says "Unless a man is born of water and the Holy Spirit he cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven".
These two facts are an important tension in Catholic theology and led the Church to "discover" limbo, or at least a place of "natural happiness". Limbo seems to be a third way, a middle way for those unable to live tension of God's desire for our salvation and the necessity of baptism, this document doesn't seem to change anything, except to point to the tension.


Dear friends:
could anybody point me to the original document?
I'd love to read the whole original document but I couldn't find it.
God bless


The angels were given, and we are being given, an opportunity to choose the object of love; some have chosen God for their eternal glory, while others have chosen self to their eternal shame. I suspect something similar happens to the children discussed, though the exact mechanism of this alludes us all. God does not have to offer these children any mercy for the cruelty of their parents...but I really doubt this dooms them from God's mercy. I understand the teaching of limbo, and it would be just and merciful, but I suspect God's mercy may definitely extend to these children to receive even more of God--like the precious Innocents.

Qualis Rex

FR RAYMOND, thank you so much for those comments. I think the church is indeed reaching a very mature stage in its existence. During the dark to middle ages, the church was the sole authority in many parts of the world, meaning the faithful turned to it and it alone for answers an all aspects of life; from science, finance politics and of course religion. But now I believe the church is taking what in MY view is a much more honest approach, given the vast resources of communication and education of today's hoi polloi.

It no longer has to say, "We are the source of all information on all matters, and therefore we have all the answers." The themes of limbo, Mary Magdalen, cosmology etc are traditionally attempts by individuals within the church to explain away questions through hypotheses based on scripture, tradition and perhaps profane inspirations. But as they were never de fide dogma, the church can now make statements with confidence such as the Pope did, seemingly contradicting earlier attempts at answering such questions without having to worry about damaging its credibility of being "all knowing" to an ignorant peasant population.

Very interesting days.


I have not read the document and I know the theologians can go over this until the end of time and may never get to the bottom of it.
What I am comforted by is the reality that God is perfect and whatever he does with these immortal souls will be perfect. He is capable of things we can't even imagine. He loves these babies more than we can fathom. His love is perfect and his decisions are perfect. That's enough for me.


This was clearly an appeasement of growing third world catholic countries who are having babies like crazy (with many different wives but that is for another blog) and whom have a huge death rate. Once again the church of V2 bends to the secular worlds desires and changes teachings and is a slap to tradition and St Augustine, whom JPII the Least can not be compared to

For that matter, would B16 even be remembered 100 years from now as compared to St Augustine?

Hold fast to the faith, teachings, tradition, catechism, canon law, mass and customs before the catholic reformation of 1962-1965 and one would stand a better chance of being saved than following this wishy washy V2 popes who are loved by the modern world and stand for nothing

Alan Simmons

Question? Why would our Lord Deny a baby who is without sin the welcome mat to heaven? I do not believe a Loving God would refuse a baby into Heaven.

Annie Witz

It seems very hard to imagine that a mother who would baptize her baby and then loses her baby in the womb would never be allowed to see her baby again. The East doesn't have these conversations. They don't even question where the baby will be. Limbo gives hope to the third party and not to the mother who lost her baby.


The problem, Alan, Annie, is that we are born with the stain of sin. There is no 'right' to heaven.

I would very much like to believe what you do, and believe also that God can wipe the stain of sin from that unbaptized baby.

However, the Church cannot assure people that God will do that (since it has no revealed truth that He will).



And for me, it comes down to what carolg said above.

We are to love and trust God. Any mother or father with an unbaptized child who has died should continue to love and trust God and to know that what is truly loving and truly just will be accomplished.



Pope Pius VI’s famous Apostolic Constitution Auctorem fidei, which condemned the Errors of the Synod of Pistoia, denounced the rejection of Limbo as "false, rash, slanderous to Catholic schools."

The theologian Father Joseph Le Blanc, in his 1947 article "Children’s Limbo, Theory or Doctrine?", summarized two central points taught in this Papal constitution:

(1) There exists a Children’s Limbo, where the souls of children dying with original sin are detained;
(2) the doctrine of Limbo as commonly accepted by the faithful, and taught by the schoolmen, is not a Pelagian fable, but an orthodox teaching."

It is de fide — an unchangeable article of Faith — that souls who depart this life in the state of original sin are excluded from the Beatific vision.

The Second Council of Lyons (1274) and the Council of Florence (1438-45) taught infallibly:

"The souls of those who die in original sin as well as those who die in actual mortal sin go immediately into hell, but their punishment is very different."

The teaching of Limbo flows logically from this infallible truth. Unbaptized babies, as cute as they are, possess souls stained by original sin, the sin inherited from Adam. Since "nothing defiled can enter Heaven” (Apoc. 21:27), these innocent souls who die before baptism, deprived of sanctifying grace, cannot gain Paradise. Now the good God, being just, will only punish a soul for sins he has personally committed. Since the unbaptized baby is guilty of no personal sin, he will not suffer pain of punishment. Rather, his soul will go to Limbo an eternal place of natural happiness in which he is deprived of the Beatific Vision.

A 1588 Constitution on abortion, for example, signed personally by Pope Sixtus V, declares that the victims of abortion, being deprived of baptism, are “excluded from the Beatific Vision." This is one of the reasons Pope Sixtus V denounced abortion as a heinous crime. The 1960 theology text, Christ and His Sacraments, speaks of Limbo as follows:

"Under the name of ‘Abraham’s bosom’ (Luke 16:24), mention is made of a dwelling place of the just who died before the coming of Christ. But the only scriptural justification for a limbo of unbaptized infants and others must be sought in the general teaching of God’s eternal justice. On the other hand, the traditions of the Church, expressed in the writings of the Fathers, pontiffs and great theologians, asserts that there is a place in the next world for the unbaptized wherein they neither see God nor suffer any pain.

"While there has never been an authoritative declaration positively teaching the existence of limbo, the denial of its existence has been censured, and its existence is held as theologically certain.

We must remember that God is not bound to give His Beatific Vision to anyone. No man in his natural state can declare he has a right to Heaven, so there is no injustice on God’s part. And in the economy of salvation established by God and wrought by Christ’s Passion and Death on the Cross, no one can enter Heaven without sanctifying grace, which is a created participation of the Divine Nature which makes the just man an adopted child of God, an heir to Heaven, and a Temple of the Holy Ghost.

Our Lord died on the Cross to make this grace available to us, which comes to us through His Seven Sacraments and through prayer. The one and only way Our Divine Lord established to cleanse original sin from our souls and to initially give sanctifying grace is Baptism.
Mortal sin, which destroys grace in the soul, may be recovered by a worthy confession. The other sacraments, particularly the Holy Eucharist, are established to preserve and increase grace in our souls.

Every human person who ever lived, with the exception of Our Lord and Our Blessed Mother, was conceived and born with original sin. Thus baptism is necessary for everyone who wishes to attain Heaven. This is the simple reason why the solemn magisterium of the Church taught the sad truth that the souls of unbaptized babies — that is, those who die in original sin — cannot see the Beatific Vision. It is also the reason why pre-Vatican II texts on Moral Theology are unanimous that babies must be baptized as soon as possible, for if they die before baptism, they will not attain Heaven.


It isn't true that everyone except Jesus and Mary were "born with Original Sin".

Sacred Scripture plainly teaches that the Prophet Jeremiah and St. John the Baptist were sanctified in the womb.

The Limbo of the Unbaptized is theological speculation. It is not de fide doctrine, as it has never been formally defined by the Church as binding on all Catholics for belief.

There is no question that Sanctifying Grace is necessary for heaven. Original Sin involves the privation of Sanctifying Grace, and if one were to die in the state of Original Sin, they could not enter heaven.

There can be no doubt about those things.

However, God can provide Sanctifying Grace outside of the Sacrament of Baptism. The Church teaches that, as well. Whether or not God's Mercy provides a means of acquiring Sanctifying Grace for those who die in the state of Original Sin (and who are innocent of all actual sin) is a mystery.

If it were de fide that there is a Limbo of the Unbaptized, Pope Benedict XVI would not have commissioned the recent study on Limbo by the International Theological Commission, and the commission would certainly not have been allowed to publish their findings with Pope Benedict's blessing.

In the 1985 book-length interview, "The Ratzinger Report," the future Pope Benedict said, "Limbo was never a defined truth of faith. Personally -- and here I am speaking more as a theologian and not as prefect of the congregation -- I would abandon it, since it was only a theological hypothesis.

"It formed part of a secondary thesis in support of a truth which is absolutely of first significance for faith, namely, the importance of baptism," he said.

In "God and the World," published in 2000, he said limbo had been used "to justify the necessity of baptizing infants as early as possible" to ensure that they had the "sanctifying grace" needed to wash away the effects of original sin.

Nobody is denying the dogma of Original Sin or the reason for water Baptism, and nobody is saying that anyone can be admitted to the Beatific Vision without Sanctifying Grace.

All that has been suggested is that it is possible for God to supply Sanctifying Grace in some other way than through water Baptism, Baptism of Desire, or Baptism of Blood, which is unknown to us. Nobody is even saying that is definitely what happens. All that is being suggested is that it is possible, and an examination of Sacred Scripture and authoritative Church teaching supports this possibility.

Dr. Ludwig Ott admits of such a possibility in Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma:

"Other emergency means of baptism for children dying without sacramental baptism, such as prayer and the desire of the parents or the Church (vicarious baptism of desire - Cajetan), or the attainment of the use of reason in the moment of death, so that the dying child can decide for or against God (baptism of desire - H. Klee), or suffering and death of the child as quasi-Sacrament (baptism of suffering - H. Schell), are indeed possible, but their actuality cannot be proved from Revelation. Cf. D 712." Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Book 2, Section 2, § 25 (p. 114 of the 1963 edition)

Your quote on the necessity of the reception of the Holy Eucharist only further illustrates the extreme positions people can take if they are overly legalistic and limit God's Infinite Power by holding Him to what is understood in a limited way through select passages of Sacred Scripture. Obviously some who never receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion get to Heaven. Baptized infants who have not received Holy Communion and who die without shedding their baptismal innocence most certainly get to Heaven, even if they have not received Holy Communion.

It is the explicit teaching of Christ that many, many people who never received the sacrament of water Baptism will be admitted to Heaven, as can be seen here:

I tell you, many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth." (Matthew 8:11-12)

and here:

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!" But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." And he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." (Luke 23:39-43)

Moreover, the official teaching of the Church on the matter of children who have died without Baptism does not demand that Catholics believe in the Limbo of the Unbaptized and recognizes that God's Mercy may provide "a way of salvation":

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,"63 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.

The quote you have cited from St. Augustine is the private theological speculation of a saint.

St. Thomas Aquinas denied the possibility of Our Lady's Immaculate Conception in the Summa Theologica, but he was clearly wrong, despite his logical application of what has been revealed by God through Sacred Scripture, since the Immaculate Conception is now a formally defined dogma.

Just as St. Thomas Aquinas was wrong about the Immaculate Conception, St. Augustine may have been wrong about the fate of unbaptized infants.

More food for thought:

The Prophet Jeremiah and St. John the Baptist were sanctified in their mother's wombs.


"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations." (Jeremiah 1:5)

St. John the Baptist:

...for he will be great before the Lord, and he shall drink no wine nor strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. (Luke 1:15)

The Holy Innocents never received the sacrament of water Baptism, yet they are the patron saints of babies, children's choirs, choir boys, and foundlings, and their feast is celebrated on December 28th.

So there are many precedents in Sacred Scripture for the possibility of God supplying Sanctifying Grace without the sacrament of water Baptism.

The dogma of the Immaculate Conception is another precedent that demonstrates that God's Omnipotence is not limited to an unduly restricted view of salvation by an inflexible, legalistic, human interpretation of Sacred Scripture.

The other documents you cite do not carry the same authority as the Catechism of the Catholic Church and are not defining doctrine to be definitively held by all the faithful. They also do not reject the possibility that Sanctifying Grace can be supplied through God's Omnipotence in some other way which is unknown to us.




Thomistic, I also use Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma by Ott. It is one of the most useful reference book on my shelf.

I believe part of the problem regarding limbo is that it was taught as though it were dogma. If I remember correctly, it was included in the Baltimore Catechism. Many people had trouble making the distinction between theological opinion and dogma


God is perfect and only makes laws that are implausible...if this law does not make sense and is implausible(no suprise considering it was made up by man) then obviously it can't be from God...conclusion? THis is gibberrish...I think all wo/men are born innocent and go to heaven. Only from one's actions after becoming consciously able should we be able to be judged for our mistakes? Why should an innocent have to pay for Adam/Eve's sin if Jesus apparently is claimed to have die for all sins?? totally makes no sense to me...


I've just come across this late in the day but can't resist asking where Father Raymond's post is saying that the Church is now reaching a mature stage in its existence....I can't find it but that wants framing! The Church reaching a mature stage in its existence just as it is becoming extinct? Hilarious!


As a child I went to an elementary school run by Irish nuns in the UK. One of their ideas was to hand out little cards with 12 squares and little angels drawn on the top. If you gave up a penny a day, after 12 pence (1 shilling at the time) you were told that you had saved a baby's soul from limbo. Nice way of stealing my pocket money. I want it back with interest...........fool that I was.

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