Rorate Caeli

Limbo under siege

From Zenit:

A Call for Rediscovery of Sacrament of Baptism

Father Cantalamessa Comments on This Sunday's Gospel

"Moreover, no one today says that, by the simple fact that a person is not baptized, he will be condemned and go to hell. Children who die without baptism, as well as people who have lived, through no fault of their own, outside the Church, can be saved (the latter, it is understood, if they live according to the dictates of their conscience).

"Let us forget the idea of limbo as the place without joy or sadness in which children who are not baptized will end up. The fate of children who are not baptized is no different from that of the Holy Innocents, which we celebrated just after Christmas. The reason is that God is love and 'wants all to be saved,' and Christ also died for them!"

Europe is dechristianized, the proper and dignified Worship of God has collapsed, the vocations' crisis is still as strong as ever -- and the great issue of the day is abolishing Limbo?... Give me a break!

Why this sudden concern with the concept of the Limbo of the Infants? Perhaps because it is a thorn in the side of Universalism? From what we read today, it seems almost as if it is a cruel place made up by evil theologians, when it is just the opposite: it is the best possible place serious theologians could fathom based on what was revealed by God.

An ORTHODOX Catholic simply cannot say that the fate of an unbaptized baby is THE SAME as that of the Holy Innocents, whom Apostolic Tradition has always considered as martyrs for the sake of Christ and as saints (that is, surely in Heaven), because he does not know that; he cannot know that, as that is beyond what God has revealed to His Church.

An orthodox Catholic may hope, through the mercy of God (as the Catechism of the Catholic Church states), but not more than that. Limbo was never a place "without joy or sadness" in Catholic doctrine, but a place of perfect natural happiness, without pain of loss (i.e. those who are there do not feel the absence of the beatific vision as a loss), because, as Garrigou-Lagrange reminds us, "they do not know that they were supernaturally destined to the immediate possession of God".

Why search for an artificial universalism when Tradition provides us with so many answers? As Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange taught (Life Everlasting):

Theologians in general are inclined to fill out what Scripture and tradition tell us by distinguishing the means of salvation given to Catholics from those that are given men of good will beyond the borders of the Church.

Restricting the question to Catholics, we find the doctrine, generally held especially since Suarez, that, if we consider merely adults, the number of the elect surpasses that of the reprobate. If adult Catholics do at one time or another sin mortally, nevertheless they can arise in the tribunal of penance, and there are relatively few who at the end of life do not repent, or even refuse to receive the sacraments.

But if we are treating of all Christians, of all who have been baptized, Catholic, schismatic, Protestant, it is more probable, theologians generally say, that the great number is saved. First, the number of infants who die in the state of grace before reaching the age of reason is very great. Secondly, many Protestants, being today in good faith, can be reconciled to God by an act of contrition, particularly in danger of death.
Thirdly, schismatics can receive a valid absolution.

If the question is of the entire human race, the answer must remain uncertain, for the reasons given above. But even if, absolutely, the number of the elect is less great, the glory of God's government cannot suffer. Quality prevails over quantity. One elect soul is a spiritual universe; Further, no evil happens that is not permitted for a higher good. Further, among non-Christians (Jews, Mohammedans, pagans) there are souls which are elect. Jews and Mohammedans not only admit monotheism, but retain fragments of primitive revelation and of Mosaic revelation. They believe in a God who is a supernatural rewarder, and can thus, with the aid of grace, make an act of contrition. And even to pagans, who live in invincible, involuntary ignorance of the true religion, and who still attempt to observe the natural law, supernatural aids are offered, by means known to God. These, as Pius IX says, [n. 679: Denz., no. 1677. Cf. St. Augustine, De nature et gratia chap. 43, no. 50.] can arrive at salvation. God never commands the impossible. To him who does what is in his power God does not refuse grace. [n. 680: Children who die without baptism go to limbo. They do not suffer, since they do not know that they have been called to see God face to face. They know Him with a natural knowledge and have a certain natural beatitude, though they cannot, by reason of original sin, attain an efficacious love of God, author of nature. This truth shows indirectly the glory and the grandeur of baptism.]


  1. New Catholic, I would point out that St. Augustine thought something different about limbo than did St. Thomas Aquinas. The opinion of the Angelic Doctor seems to be by far more preferable, but St. Augustine did think that those in limbo would suffer the pain of sense.

    I completely agree with you that Fr. Cantelamessa's remarks are off the wall. Thanks for sharing those portions from Garrigou-Lagrange's Life Everlasting. They are definitely worth pondering.

    Have you read "Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus" by Orestes Brownson?

  2. New Catholic, I wanted you to see this material as well; I would be greatly interested to know what you think.


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