Friday, April 7, 2017


As I have repeatedly stated, limbo for children is a theological proposition based upon pastoral solicitude for those who have lost a child prior to Holy Baptism. Limbo for children is not a formal doctrine of the Church and neither is it a formal doctrine of the Church that babies who die before baptism go to hell. One, though, if one is a Sola Scriptura person, might make a case for anyone who is unbaptized through no fault of their own, will go to hell. But they cannot use the Catholic Church or her 2000 year tradition or Magisterial statements for supporting such an argument. They can however, use limbo and make an argument for it from the theology of the Church.

This is the most balanced approach supported by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI:


Adds It's a Theological Opinion That Can Be Defended

ROME, 3 MAY 2007 (ZENIT)
The theory of limbo is not ruled out, says a member of the International Theological Commission, commenting on a study from the panel.

Sister Sara Butler, a Missionary Servant of the Most Blessed Trinity, has served on the commission since 2004. The commission is an advisory body comprised of 30 theologians chosen by the Pope. Its documents are not considered official expressions of the magisterium, but the commission does help the Holy See to examine important doctrinal issues.

On April 20, the commission released a document, commissioned under Pope John Paul II, called "The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die Without Being Baptized." Benedict XVI approved it for publication.

In an interview with Inside the Vatican magazine, Sister Butler, who teaches dogmatic theology at St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers, New York, says "the report concludes that limbo remains a 'possible theological opinion.' Anyone who wants to defend it is free to do so. This document, however, tries to give a theological rationale for hoping that unbaptized infants may be saved."

"The [International Theological Commission] wants to give more weight to God's universal salvific will and to solidarity in Christ than to the necessity of baptism, which is not absolute but is qualified in certain ways," she said.

Principles of faith

Sister Butler cited No. 41 of the document: "[B]esides the theory of limbo which remains a possible theological option there can be other ways to integrate and safeguard the principles of faith outlined in Scripture."

She added: "The commission is trying to say what the Catechism of the Catholic Church Nos. 1260, 1261, 1283 has already said: that we have a right to hope that God will find a way to offer the grace of Christ to infants who have no opportunity for making a personal choice with regard to their salvation."

The document "is trying to provide a theological rationale for what has already been proposed in several magisterial documents since the council," Sister Butler said. "Generally, the [commission] documents offer a point of reference for bishops and theology professors in seminaries, for example, to offer an explanation for the development of doctrine.

"But I doubt whether this would lead to a further statement from the magisterium, because it says no more than what has already been said in the [Catechism], in the funeral rites for infants who have died without baptism in the 1970 Roman Missal, and in 'Pastoralis Actio' the document from 1980 from the [Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith] on the baptism of infants.

"It says nothing new; it is simply trying to make explicit the theological grounding for this hope. 'Gaudium et Spes,' 22, and 'Lumen Gentium,' 14 and 16, at the Second Vatican Council, opened the way for this development. Actually, some wanted the teaching on limbo formally defined at the council, but the topic was excluded from the agenda."

Extra-sacramental gift

The theological commission's document, she said, "just indicates that given our understanding of God's mercy and the plan of salvation which includes Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit in the Church, we dare to hope that these infants will be saved by some extra-sacramental gift of Christ."

"We do not know what the destiny of these children is," she said, "but we have grounds for hope."

Sister Butler spoke of the plight of aborted babies.

"I'm sure we never considered suggesting that these infants be declared martyrs," she said. "We were, of course, aware that in many places Catholics remember the unborn babies who have been aborted on the feast of the Holy Innocents. We didn't propose a solution."

She added: "In this particular instance, death is the way these children might be united with Christ: Through the violent circumstances of their deaths, they may be united to his paschal mystery.

"The Council explicitly taught that God provides a way of salvation for those who are invincibly ignorant of the Gospel and therefore have no access to sacramental baptism.

"The [commission] report extends the logic of this teaching to infants. We suggest that the Holy Spirit offers to them, in a way known to God, the possibility of being made partakers in the paschal mystery."

Sister Butler nevertheless warned that "the ordinary means of salvation is baptism, and that infants should be baptized; Catholic parents have a serious obligation."

"God is not bound to the sacraments," she said, "and therefore, just as we understand there are other possible ways for adults who are in invincible ignorance of the Gospel to achieve salvation, so we presume there are other ways, known to God, open to infants who unfortunately die without baptism." ZE07050301


Regular Reader said...

It is a defined and formal doctrine of the Church that "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" (Pope Eugenius IV, Council of Florence, "Laetentur coeli", sess. 4, 6th july 1439)

It is also a definite doctrine of the Church that abortion "excludes a soul created in the image of God and for which Our Lord Jesus Christ has shed His precious Blood [...] from the blessed vision of God" (Pope Sixtus V, Apostolic Constitution "Effraenatam" against abortion).

That is what the Church has taught for almost 2000 years.

Theories and conclusions from the 'International Theological Commission' are not doctrine or Magisterium of the Chuch at all, and personal thoughts or beliefs from Benedict XVI are not either.

Anonymous said...

But what of the Second Vatican Council's statements on this? These are not the teaching of a Commission or the personal thought/beliefs of a Pope.

George said...

'The limbo of the Fathers and the limbo of children, without any doubt, differ as to the quality of punishment or reward.

For children have no hope of the blessed life, as the Fathers in limbo had, in whom, moreover, shone forth the light of faith and grace.
But as regards their situation, there is reason to believe that the place of both is the same; except that the limbo of the Fathers is placed higher than the limbo of children, just as we have stated in reference to limbo and hell.'

St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church


All the strength of the child's body comes, of course, from the seed of its father and mother; however, if it is conceived without due strength, because of some weakness of its father or mother, it dies quickly. As a result of the negligence or carelessness of the parents as well as of my divine justice, many times it happens that what was joined together comes apart quickly. *Yet a soul is not brought to the harshest punishment for this reason, however little time it had for giving life to the body, but, rather, it comes to the mercy that is known to me*.
Just as the sun shining into a house is not seen as it is in its beauty - only those who look into the sky see its rays - so too the souls of such children, though they do not see my face for lack of baptism, are nevertheless closer to my mercy than to punishment, but not in the same way as my elect.'

If any of them die before reaching the age of discretion, given that they cannot come to know me face to face, they go instead to a place that it is not permitted for you to know but where they will live without suffering. Those who have advanced from the one road, reach those two roads, that is, the age of discretion between good and evil. It is then in their power to choose what pleases them most. Their reward will follow the inclination of their will, since by that time they know how to read the sign written at the crossroads telling them that it is better to experience a little pain at the start and joy ready and waiting for them than experience joy at the start and pain at the end.'

The Lord Jesus Christ, from 'The Revelations of St. Bridget of Sweden'


While the torment of these latter consists in the lack of the beatific vision and of the light of the elect, still they come close to mercy and joy in the sense that they do not experience horrible punishments, since they bear no effects of any evil deeds of their own doing.

Our Lady, to St. Bridget of Sweden, 'The Revelations


'The common teaching of the scholastic theologians is the within the earth there are four inner chambers: one for the damned, another for those being purged of sin, a third for those infants who have died without receiving Baptism, and a fourth which is now empty but once held those just men who died before the passion of Christ.'

St. Robert Bellarmine, Doctor of the Church


George said...

If man, sinful and imperfect creature as he is, allows exceptions to his own laws, why would it be unreasonable that God, who is Mercy itself,would not allow exceptions to His own laws?

Man, because of mitigating circumstances, in the interest of justice, does allow exceptions. Why would not God, in the interest of mercy, not also do likewise?

God, being God, will in every case do what is right, fair and proper, since He is both just and merciful.

Gene said...

Limbo is not a Biblical concept by any stretch...but, it is an early Church attempt to understand God's justice and mercy. The Limbo concept expanded when Augustine adopted it in his battle against the Pelagians, and this was followed by further speculation on the part of Medieval theologians. It is probably not a necessary concept, and it is tacky theology. God is just and merciful...His mercy extends particularly to the poor, children, and His martyrs. We do not need Limbo.

Dialogue said...

Why does anybody care about this topic? What difference does it make to anybody?