Rorate Caeli

Limbo of the Infants - dedicated thread

We ask all who wish to discuss the Limbo of the Infants to do so in this comment thread exclusively.

Our previous posts on this matter were the following:
The Roman Church teaches [...] that the souls of those who depart in mortal sin or with only original sin descend immediately to hell, nevertheless to be punished with different punishments and in disparate locations...
Nequaquam sine dolore
November 21, 1321 [690 years ago today]

...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.
Decree for the Greeks (Laetentur Caeli)
Ecumenical Council of Florence
July 6, 1439

[Errors of the Synod of Pistoia.] The doctrine which rejects as a Pelagian fable that place of the lower regions (which the faithful generally designate by the name of limbo of the children) in which the souls of those departing with the sole guilt of original sin are punished with the punishment of the condemned, exclusive of the punishment of fire [...] is false, rash, injurious to Catholic schools.
Auctorem Fidei
Pius VI
August 28, 1794


  1. David9:44 PM

    The reality of original sin is fundamental. As a consequence of original sin, every human being without exception is conceived under the judgment and sentence of Divine Justice. There is no escape from the just punishment of original sin except by the Mercy of God that is poured out in the Blood of Jesus Christ and communicated through Baptism. We must accept this infallible doctrine. If we deny its corollary, the limbo of the infants, we in effect deny an immutable truth of the Catholic Faith.

  2. Prof. Basto9:53 PM

    What is more left to say? This is a matter of Faith, on which, as the quotation shows, the Magisterium of Popes and of Ecumenical Councils has spoken.

    It is a matter of Faith related to the question of Original Sin, related to the Sacrament of Baptism, and related to the requirements for eternal Salvation: and the Church has defined that those who die with original sin alone go to that place of Hell called the Limbo of the Infants, where they are punished with different, lesser penalties (they do not suffer the punishment of fire, but are nevertheless excluded from the Beatific Vision).

    If the Church were ever to repudiate Her docrine on the Limbo of the Infants, the whole edifice of Catholic religion would fall, for it would then be certain that the not even the Supreme Authority's solemn pronouncements on matters of Faith and Morals are irreformable.

    That is why an official denial of the Limbo of Infants is impossible. They are "saved" only in the sense that they go to a different place within Hell, and are therefore not under the power of the Enemy, and do not suffer the punishment of fire.

    But if the Church were to say that those who die with original sin only enter the Kingdom of Heaven, She would be denying her previous teaching that they go to a special place within Hell.

  3. I thank Adfero and Rorate for creating a specific post for this topic.

    As I related in a previous post, I know of some good priests who recommend prayers for aborted children. This hit home to me in particular - I manage people in a corporation and one lady who reports to me informed me last year that the 2 week paid leave of absence she had just returned from was for the purpose of aborting her unborn child. I was devastated by that news, albeit needing to be careful how to manage that reaction in a corporate setting. A confessor advised me to "pray for the soul of her aborted child". I refused but he insisted, and I still refused although I prayed for the family of that child.

    This woman is a work in progress. I was able to sneak Our Lady's Green Scapular - within a few months this atheistic woman decided to become a protestant Christian and receieved baptism. In short, my prayers for that aborted child's mother may slowly be drawing her to grace although she is still nowhere near the ark of salvation called the Catholic Church.

    I often come across pro-life Catholics praying for the souls of aborted children, and also came across that in some recent Rorate Caeli Purgatorial Society lists.

    Well meaning as these intentions are, I am led to believe that are in conflict with perennial Catholic teaching.

    Even the modernistic tendencies in the Church have not definitively stated that one should pray for the aborted or deceased unbaptized pre-born. All one sees in the Catechism is that one may hope for their salvation.

    In my next post, I explain my own (very limited) thought process as to how specifically one may hope for salvation in these cases.

    But no matter what one thinks, God had no obligation to save Adam and his seed - He could easily have willed to damn all humankind and closed gates or paradise forever to them as he did to the fallen angels.

  4. To continue my previous post ...

    Catholics MUST NOT forget that God is not obliged to save any creature.

    And in light of Adam's original sin, all his seed, from the least to the greatest, are justly condemned by the all-just Judge of Mankind.

    In providing a Saviour to us in the fullness of time, God shewed His infinite mercy to us. But He was never obligated to do so - He could easily have desired to dispense his judgment against Adam's seed as He did to the Fallen Angels: once and for all.

    This is an infallible dogma of the Church. Not an idea or an opinion.

    All the Church Fathers have agreed that human innocence aside, the stain of Adam's sin on our tiniest babies merits damnation. And this is seen in the Apostolic Tradition of baptizing infants.

    From this follows the singular grandeur of the grace poured out upon the precursor and the Immaculata.

    Where the opinions flow and the dogma has not been formalized is to what extent such innocents in their particular damnation merit suffering if any at all.

    StThomas Aquinas posited that not even the slightest shred of suffering at all was experienced, whereas St Augustine opined that a certain sense of loss does pervade these souls. The Church has leaned much more favorably towards the Thomastic view, a damnation consisting strictly of the loss of beatific vision.

    While we are free to posit on this count, I would humbly state that we are not free to question the dogma that Adam's original sin damns all his human seed who perish unbaptized.

    For the faithful Catholics struggling through a dangerous pregnancy, a child stillborn might be saved if baptized before the soul has lost the body.

    Also, Catholic parents can pray profusely for the protection and salvation of their unborn children throughout the pregnancy, whereas after the miscarriage, may have faith that their prayers prior to the death of the child were efficacious towards a certain "baptism of desire" at the death of the child.

    But a child who is aborted, likely, does not have parents praying for that child's salvation. It could be that pro-life Catholics, praying generally for all the unborn at risk of being aborted or miscarried, may somehow procure a "baptism of desire" for those unborn as well.

    But this in fact does not bear at all on a notion of PRAYING for the deceased souls of aborted unborn POSTMORTEM.

    For if they had been supernaturally graced, through the prayers of the faithful, to receive a salvific "baptism of desire" at the moment of their demise, they would have gone straight to heaven, being innocent of personal sin, and thus would not be in need of prayers.

    Whereas if they had not been graced with salvific grace they would be barred from the beatific vision for eternity and thus cannot avail any benefit from our prayers.

    In either case, there is simply no point to praying for or offering Masses for the deceased unbaptized.

    As such, I cannot see any reason to pray for the souls of aborted or miscarried pre-natal souls who either way could not have been guilty of *personal* sins and thus could never have incurred temporal punishment to be remitted through the prayers of the faithful.

  5. If God is not required to save, then why is the converse not true -that God is not required to condemn?

  6. Fr. Joseph Lee FSSP put it best when he told me about aborted infants: "They are not in hell, like Hell; but being without God is hell."

  7. James the Lesser,

    The strict logic of Justice demands that sin be condemned. It does not demand Mercy.

  8. CredoUtIntelligam11:22 PM

    The fate of the souls of unbaptized infants is not a trivial matter. Why can't the Church speak with clarity on this issue?

    In order to have our third child baptized, my wife and I had to attend a Baptism class at our new Novus Ordo parish. We were informed there that, among other things, the Church had "abolished Limbo" and that the Church had also "changed its teachings on Original Sin."

    So we had to listen to a good-willed but ill-informed layman teach error before he would sign our paperwork that is a precondition of Baptism for our child.

    I am a convert. When I converted, I placed my hand on a Bible and swore to accept the teaching authority of the Roman Catholic Church. Frankly, I feel like an idiot. If the Church can "update" its teachings in contrast to the previous ordinary Magisterium, then I swore an oath to believe in contradictions.

    (As an aside, what on earth is the current status of the teaching on the death penalty? I was in a position to accept an internship working on criminal appeals in a prosecutor's office, and I was asked if I had moral objections to the death penalty as one of the appeals was a capital case. I babbled for about five minutes. Can a Catholic work on an appeal for a capital case for the state? I know the "current" Magisterium prohibits the death penalty, but this is in contradiction to the previous Magisterium. What am I bound to adhere to? If I can't trust what the current Pope says, by what am I to be guided?).


    VI. The Necessity of Baptism

    1257 The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation.59 He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them.60 Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament.61 The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are "reborn of water and the Spirit." God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.

    1258 The Church has always held the firm conviction that those who suffer death for the sake of the faith without having received Baptism are baptized by their death for and with Christ. This Baptism of blood, like the desire for Baptism, brings about the fruits of Baptism without being a sacrament.

    1259 For catechumens who die before their Baptism, their explicit desire to receive it, together with repentance for their sins, and charity, assures them the salvation that they were not able to receive through the sacrament.

    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."62 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.

    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.


    261. Is Baptism necessary for salvation?


    Baptism is necessary for salvation for all those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament.

    262. Is it possible to be saved without Baptism?


    Since Christ died for the salvation of all, those can be saved without Baptism who die for the faith (Baptism of blood). Catechumens and all those who, even without knowing Christ and the Church, still (under the impulse of grace) sincerely seek God and strive to do his will can also be saved without Baptism (Baptism of desire). The Church in her liturgy entrusts children who die without Baptism to the mercy of God.

  10. I remember being shocked when I read "The Ratzinger Report" and I discovered just how fervent the then Cardinal was to cast down Limbo; (p 147) "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..."

    And I was perplexed when I read the then Cardinal say; (P. 79) "It's always very dangerous to change religious language. Continuity here is of great importance. I hold that the central concepts of the faith, which derive from the great utterance of Scripture, cannot be altered; as, for example, "Son of God," "Holy Spirit, Mary's "virginity" and "divine motherhood." I grant, however, that expressions such as "original sin," which in their context are also biblical in origin but which already manifest in expression the stage of theological reflection, are modifiable..."

    ++++++++++ end of quotes. ++++++++

    Much like John Prine who, in "The Sins of Memphisto," wondered if he was still capable of blushing, I wonder if I am capable of being shocked; but, I do confess that since 1962 I have been perpetually perplexed.

  11. God is not obliged to save, but He makes Himself obliged to save, 1 Tim 2:4; Ez 18:23, 32; 33:11.

    He is not a passive.

  12. The most convincing non-theological, non-technical argument in support of this teaching: Should it be false, the intrisically evil act of abortion would, therefore, confer salvation.

  13. Credo,

    The Church's teaching on original sin and limbo has not changed. Your baptism class instructor was a heretic, plain and simple.

    The Magisterium has not explicitly condemned capital punishment. This is not a matter of moral doctrine, but the opinion of theologians, bishops, and the Pope. It is not binding.

  14. "The most convincing non-theological, non-technical argument in support of this teaching: Should it be false, the intrisically evil act of abortion would, therefore, confer salvation."

    I would think that should it be true, it is not the intrinsically evil act of abortion that would confer salvation, but rather the limitless mercy of God.

  15. Anonymous12:04 AM

    The most convincing non-theological, non-technical argument in support of this teaching: Should it be false, the intrisically evil act of abortion would, therefore, confer salvation.

    I don't particularly see the Crucifixion of Christ as being a charitable act by those who carried out the deed.

  16. "The strict logic of Justice demands that sin be condemned. It does not demand Mercy."

    It may not demand Mercy, but Mercy does not destroy justice. "And Mercy exalteth itself above judgment". James 2:13

  17. James the Lesser,

    All that you've said is true, but beside the point. God has passed sentence on the entire human race for original sin. Unbaptized infants are under that sentence. Tragic, but TRUE.

  18. "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..."

    Tragic statement. God save the Pope.

    Slightly off topic, but have you ever noticed that Benedict XVI rarely if ever speaks about the SALVATION OF SOULS? Another "theological hypothesis", I suppose.

  19. Credo, the current magisterium does NOT forbid the death penalty, qua death penalty. There is no "in principle" argument against it. The argument is a prudential one; that is, nowadays it should not be applied for various reasons. But NEVER that it is in itself an evil.

  20. Credo,

    Re: the Death Penalty, like Limbo, this teaching has been hacked away at, minimized, all but consigned to flames, but like Limbo, it cannot be changed without touching upon the Church's indefectibility.

    For particulars, I recommend my blog to you, if the good folks here don't mind me saying so.

  21. CredoUtIntelligam12:38 AM

    David said,

    The Church's teaching on original sin and limbo has not changed. Your baptism class instructor was a heretic, plain and simple.

    The Magisterium has not explicitly condemned capital punishment. This is not a matter of moral doctrine, but the opinion of theologians, bishops, and the Pope. It is not binding.

    Thank you for your response. If you are correct, however, then I feel as if I am a practical sede vacantist. That is, I feel that I must independently verify any statement coming from Rome against, say, a pre-Vatican II handbook of dogmatic or moral theology.

    To return to the issue of the death penalty, I am aware of several Catholic prosecutors and solicitors here in the state of Georgia. Our Archbishop Gregory of Atlanta tirelessly campaigns against the death penalty. The Pope himself said in his recent Apostolic Exhortation on the Church in Africa:

    Together with the Synod members, I draw the attention of society’s leaders to the need to make every effort to eliminate the death penalty and to reform the penal system in a way that ensures respect for the prisoners’ human dignity. #83.

    If all of this is Magisterial teaching, then the Catholic prosecutors in the state of Georgia should be excommunicated, or at least would incur mortal sin in prosecuting a capital case. If it is not Magisterial teaching, but is, as David says, a Pope's "opinion", then I would like to know how this does not lead to "practical sede vacantism." That is, the requirement that every Catholic independently verify a statement of the Pope in the light of perennial Catholic teaching.

    Is that the upshot of all of this, whether we are talking about Limbo or the death penalty? We are not "taught" any more by Rome, unless the Pope chooses to make an act of the extraordinary Magisterium. Rather, we are independently guided by Tradition regardless of the current trajectory of the hierarchy.


  23. Bernonensis12:46 AM

    Of course the unbaptized can be saved. All they have to do is be animated by perfect charity, make a perfect act of contrition and have a desire for something they may never have even heard of (the sacramental laver of regeneration) and ...presto! ... heaven is theirs.
    The real question is whether anyone since the institution of the sacrament of Baptism has ever acually been, or ever actually will be saved in this way; a careful consideration of the magisterium's solemn teaching strongly suggests that the answer is "No."

  24. A Loyal Reader12:51 AM

    A timely Ad Rem from Br. Andre. "The Real Gospel of Life"

  25. Anonymous12:59 AM

    "The real question is whether anyone since the institution of the sacrament of Baptism has ever acually been, or ever actually will be saved in this way ..."

    Forgive my forgetting the exact one, but I read a story of a priest saint who was a Jewish covert and prayed for years that his mother would convert. She wouldn't and died a Jew.

    This said begged Mary day after day to save her and, according to his vision, Mary prostrated herself before Jesus and interceded. And, of course, Jesus cannot say no to His mother, and the woman was saved.

    This is obviously private revelation and you don't need to believe it. But, there it is, nonetheless.

  26. David1:04 AM


    "Trust but verify" does not make you a practical sedevacantist. It makes you prudent and wise. :-)

  27. Anonymous1:23 AM

    David has it right, as sad as that is. Trust but verify is, unfortunately, what we must do during this crisis -- especially as most of what comes out of the Vatican never gets the blessing of the Holy Father.

  28. Anonymous1:36 AM

    For the last Anon that tried to post, please repost your comment with a name attached. Directions are above the comment box. Thank you.

  29. Bernonensis1:41 AM


    Can our love for our friends, even the love of a son for his mother, justify a refusal to accept God's judgments?

    I pray for someone who was very close to me and who died suddenly after many years living in what objectively must be judged a state of mortal sin. My hope is that some psychological quirk made him less than fully responsible, or that in the last second of consciousness he turned back to the faith he'd abandoned more than four decades before, even though I have no good reason to hope these things. I would never dare presume, though, to ask God to become a liar and welcome someone unrepentant into heaven. It seems that the priest in your example was driven by love for his mother to presume to ask God to contradict himself.

  30. CredoUtIntelligam1:57 AM

    I was not trying to instigate a "debate" on the death penalty, my dear New Catholic. I simply want to know if, when I put my hand on the Bible and swore to accept the Church's teachings as a convert, I was required to engage in Orwellian double-think.

    Apparently the death penalty is not condemned "in principle", even though the universal message I receive from priest, bishop, and pope, with whom I am supposed to be in communion, is that the death penalty should be abolished. Problem solved!

    I suppose that Limbo is not abolished "in principle," and the teachings on religious liberty in Libertas and the Syllabus of Errors are not abolished "in principle,", etc., etc.

    Yes, now I feel like MUCH LESS of an idiot for placing my hand on the Bible and professing adherence to whatever the CURRENT, VISIBLE Church now teaches, even if it quite clearly teaches things that contradict (but not IN PRINCIPLE!) what came before.

  31. Anonymous1:59 AM

    Bernonensis, is it really asking God to contradict Himself, if you start with a true belief that his mercy is limitless?

    Now, don't get me wrong, I can't imagine this happens often and, of course, God will not be mocked. However, it surely is possible, so I would assume we should pray for it, which is why we take all faiths who die into the Purgatorial Society. Because, if only slight, there's always a chance with God's mercy, especially if asked by His mother.

  32. Our FSSP priest was talking about justification one time, and he was saying that in the Old Testament, once someone reached the age of reason, they were given a choice between either good or evil. If they chose good, then they were essentially baptized by desire. If they chose evil, there is no natural way they will ever get to heaven. He used the case of a little Muslim girl who had tried to help others, but had died at a young age. He said it was possible for her to be in heaven because of the baptism of desire.
    He also said that there is a hypothesis that perhaps God, in His mercy, grants reason to unborn infants who will die, and then gives them this choice. He didn't give his personal opinion on it, but he did say that whatever happened, God was right.

  33. David2:40 AM

    Here is the story to which Adfero refers:

    The unrepentant Jewish woman in the story was properly remembered in the prayers of her convert-priest son, because she had the use of reason (even at the penultimate moment of death) and God is infinite Mercy.

    Lacking in the case of the unbaptized infant is the use of reason. For this reason, it seems that we cannot properly pray for the departed souls of fetuses and unbaptized infants.

  34. Jerry2:44 AM

    Everyday I light a candle for Our Lady's intentions for the unborn, that the abortions would stop. I beg God's forgiveness for killing them. I pray that somehow the unborn, those that die in the womb, that are murdered in the womb, that die without baptism can get to heaven through her intercession. I say an ave and St. Michael's prayer.


  35. Tradical2:58 AM

    Granted that St. Don Bosco dreams are private revelation, but there is one dream in which he witnesses St. Dominic Savio playing with some other children.

    He assumed he was in Heaven, but St. Dominic Savio corrected him - they were in limbo.

    Perfect natural happiness and yet it paled compared to the sliver of Heaven that he was allowed to see.

  36. "But if the Church were to say that those who die with original sin only enter the Kingdom of Heaven, She would be denying her previous teaching that they go to a special place within Hell.'

    I heard with my own ears and verified it with my wife, a Byzantine Catholic priest say that all aborted babies go directly to heaven.

  37. Prof. Basto3:14 AM

    1) Isn't the teaching contained in the Ecumenical Council of Florence's Bull of Union with the Greeks (Laetentur Caeli, promulgated by Pope Eugene IV) part of the EXTRAORDINARY Magisterium?

    The whole purpose of the bull is to establish a common profession of Faith as the basis for the reunion of Greeks and Latins. And the paragraph mentioning the punishment of those who die with Original Sin only is one of the paragraphs of that profession of Faith, that begins with the words: "In the name of the holy Trinity, Father, Son and holy Spirit, we define, with the approval of this holy universal council of Florence, that the following truth of faith shall be believed and accepted by all Christians and thus shall all profess it"

    To me, clearly, this Bull, this most solemn bull, that was assented to also by the Bizantyne Emperor and the Eastern Fathers, is surely an act of the Extraordinary Magisterium, and the language that begins the statement of the Faith clearly requires full assent of Faith.

    2) That God could theoretically admit to His Beatific Vision the unbaptized who die with the stain of Original Sin only is obvious, for God is all-powerful.

    But if God were to do so, then why would His Church have stated, in several solemn magisterial documents (including the Bull mentioned above), so clearly and unanbiguously, that those who die unbaptized, even with Original Sin only, go to Hell (those who die with Original Sin only going to that special part of hell called the Limbo of the Infants, where they suffer the punishment of not having the Beatific Vision)?

    3) The Church cannot teach error. And Her docrine indeed states, de fide, as the above Bull proves, that even Original Sin alone deprives one of the Beatific Vision, and that those who die in such a state (with only the Original Sin), do indeed go to Hell, even if to a special place within Hell.

    4) The teaching of the Church is the proof that this is a serious matter, and that therefore those who die in the state of sin, even only of Original Sin, merit and do receive the punishment of Hell.

    5) Christ's mercy is boundless but He, the King of Kings, did indeed establish Baptism as a condition for entering the Kingdom; He surely could establish conditions and he did, by requiring Baptism; therefore, the Sacrament of Baptism, or at least the Baptism of desire, or the Baptism of blood, are necessary unto salvation.

    The unanbiguous doctrine of the Church, that was believed and held universally without equivocations before the Second Vatican Council, is clerly stated in the Catholic Encyclopedia:

    The fate of infants who die without baptism must be briefly considered here. The Catholic teaching is uncompromising on this point, that all who depart this life without baptism, be it of water, or blood, or desire, are perpetually excluded from the vision of God. This teaching is grounded, as we have seen, on Scripture and tradition, and the decrees of the Church. Moreover, that those who die in original sin, without ever having contracted any actual sin, are deprived of the happiness of heaven is stated explicitly in the Confession of Faith of the Eastern Emperor Michael Palæologus, which had been proposed to him by Pope Clement IV in 1267, and which he accepted in the presence of Gregory X at the Second Council of Lyons in 1274. The same doctrine is found also in the Decree of Union of the Greeks, in the Bull "Lætentur Caeli" of Pope Eugene IV, in the Profession of Faith prescribed for the Greeks by Pope Gregory XIII, and in that authorized for the Orientals by Urban VIII and Benedict XIV. Many Catholic theologians have declared that infants dying without baptism are excluded from the beatific vision; but as to the exact state of these souls in the next world they are not agreed.

  38. Regardless of what happens to unbaptized infants, can one only imagine, after reading just a little, how terrible a crime abortion really is? This should be an incentive to pray more fervently for abortionists, seeing on what a precipice their souls and the souls of infants depending on their decisions hangs.

  39. David8:09 AM

    Very well said, Prof. Basto. "Limbo" -- defined strictly as the place reserved for those excluded from the beatific vision but not necessarily punished by hellfire -- is no mere "theological opinion", but a matter of Faith. The former Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was clearly wrong on this matter, albeit only in his imprudent statements as a private theologian.

    How poignant it is to consider that a mother who aborts her unborn child, repents of her sin, is absolved, makes atonement, and enters heaven, will never see that child -- not now, not in eternity. How very sad, yet the necessarily consequence of the infallible truth that we have been considering here.

  40. Sussex Catholic9:30 AM

    To all those who claim that all the souls of aborted or miscarried babies are in Hell (albeit Hell without punishment by fire), please indicate one example in the history of the Church where the Church has declared any individual soul to be in Hell? Is it not actually the case that the teaching of the Church has been consistently that the souls of these children deserve Hell but never to go so far as to state that any particular soul is actually there? To state otherwise would be a kind of reverse Canonisation whereby the Church defined infallibly that a particular person's soul was in Hell and I cannot think of any occasion when that has happened. Even in the case of someone excommunicated during their lifetime the Church would shrink from stating authoritatively that the person's soul was now in Hell and thus eliminate the possibility that he or she had been reconciled at the moment of death. Hence the need to entrust the souls of the infants to the mercy of God in the hope that He may have given them the means of being saved.

  41. All of the definitions of the Church in this area refer to those who depart in original sin. The question is not so much whether what is called "limbo" (ie Hell with no punishment due to actual sin) is a potential destination, but whether any particular person or persons can be said with certainty to end up there.

    Ott cites various theological opinions stating how God may cleanse infants of original sin so that they might be saved (vicarious desire, enlightenment at the instant of death, etc.)

    St. Thomas wrote of how those who died in the womb might be saved--I think his reasoning could be extended to similar circumstances outside the womb. This is in response to the objection that the sin of Adam reaches into the womb, but the salvation of Christ cannot enter there:

    "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."

  42. Prof. Basto11:42 AM

    The Angelic Doctor posited that those who die with original sin only but with no personal sin of their own are "only" deprived of the Beatific Vision, that but apart from this great punishment of separation from the vision of God they suffer no other punishment in the Limbo of the infants. In line with that, several theologians have held that the souls of innocent babies are sustained in the Limbo of the infants in a life of perfect natural happiness, but without being admitted to the presence of God.

    If that is so, that is, if the souls in the "limbo of the children" are spared from contact with the Enemy; if they are secluded from the fallen Angels, if they (except for lacking the Beatific Vision) do not suffer the several torments of Hell, and notably are excluded from the punishment of fire, being instead sustained in a special abode where they can have a natural form of happiness, then I believe that this is a great sign of God's mercy towards those souls.

    For, in virtue of the orininal sin, the entire Human race fell, and merited the pains of Hell and the domination of the Enemy. The ancestral fault results in the corruption of all mankind, of the entire seed of our first parents, and thus in strict Justice God needed to do nothing to ameliorate the situation of this fallen race.

    God then provided the means for our salvation, by the merits of Our Lord Jesus Christ and of his sacrifice on the Cross.

    That salvation extended also to the just of the Old Convenant, that were secluded in a limbo of their own, and who were liberated when the Lord descended unto Hell (precisely to that part of Hell that was the Limbo of the Fathers); because they had done Good and had respected the Convenant, God thus established a path of Salvation for the just souls of the old Testament, and they are now in the Kingdom of Heaven.

    Now, in the new and everlasting Convenant, salvation requires Baptism, that has been the constant teaching of the Church, based upon Scripture and Tradition. That those who die without Baptism but with no personal fault of their own are secluded from the fallen Angels in a special limbo of their own for eternity is therefore also a result of the mercy of God.

    Thus, by providing for the limbo, God shows His mercy even for the souls who die in Original Sin only. They are not given the supreme reward, but still, by sparing them from the fire, etc, God is merciful towards them.

  43. Andrew12:39 PM

    What about the traditional concept of baptism of desire? Could one not argue that this could also apply to infants who, through not fault of their own,have been denied baptism. The Baltimore Catechism teaches that baptism of desire is sufficent for salvation. As such, isn't it better to entrust the care of infant souls to God's mercy (as the Church presently teaches) rather than make a definite statement of where the baby's soul is (which we cannot possible know). I have a difficult time believing that God would create a soul only to automatically consign it to limbo. I mean, what's the point of that?!

  44. To all those who claim that all the souls of aborted or miscarried babies are in Hell (albeit Hell without punishment by fire), please indicate one example in the history of the Church where the Church has declared any individual soul to be in Hell?

    The Church does not have the competence to say that this or that individual has gone to hell. The only human we know for certain is in hell is Judas Iscariot, and that only because God revealed that to us in Holy Scripture (recent implausible reinterpretations of those texts notwithstanding, throughout history almost all Catholics have known what Judas' fate was). However, though the Church cannot declare that a particular individual is in hell, the Church does have the competence to teach what would happen to a soul who dies stained even with nothing more than original sin. The only thing we're unsure of about Limbo is whether or not God extraordinarily remits the original sin of miscarried or stillborn infants, not what would happen to such souls if God does not save them through some extraordinary means (apart from Baptism). We may hope that God in His mercy might do that, but we have no way of knowing if He does -- and historically it was held that He did not, or only did it perhaps rarely if at all. After all, if He did remit original sin extraordinarily in every case, then it wouldn't be "extraordinary" and there in fact would be no need to baptise infants at all. But the merciful God can do whatever He wants, and if He wills to save an unbaptised infant, then let us rejoice in His mercy.

  45. Kathleen1:42 PM

    If the poor babies being murdered in the womb were being granted the Beatific Vision, why would Satan battle so mightily to continue the slaughter?

    Excellent posts, I am going to save this page because I have to deal with this question periodically and this material will help.

    As far as why to pray for the poor murdered babies, even after their death, given this reality...

    I pray because there have been cases where God has responded in effect to prayers that would take place later in time at the earlier point in time. And no prayer or sacrifice ever goes to waste.

    I do not dictate to Our Lord what I wish, I simply implore his blessings on the poor babies in the womb and the poor babies murdered in the womb at the abortion mill at which I pray.

  46. David1:52 PM

    In light of subsequent remarks, I would modify my last comment about the mother of the aborted child. We cannot say that it is absolutely certain that she will never see the child, only that she must cling with ever more fervent hope to the mercy of God.

  47. Bernonensis2:18 PM


    A full answer to the points you raise would take more space than I have any right to occupy in this discussion. And I'm not deceived into thinking that I have an unanswerable argument lurking somewhere in my mind that will clinch matters if I can just express it right. Instead I will simply counter your question with another: Would God's mercy for the mother have been any less limitless if the son had not prayed for her?

  48. I have a difficult time believing that God would create a soul only to automatically consign it to limbo. I mean, what's the point of that?!

    When I was younger, I had a hard time believing that Our Lord sent an Angel to bump-off Moses (Exodus 24) because Moses had not yet circumcised his son; but that was before I came to the realisation that my tiny intellect was not intended to act as the explicator of Divine mystery.

    Why does God do thus and such? For me, it always reduces to love, for that is who He is and Love is an action not an emotion.

    What God does, and more importantly, why God does it, not infrequently, remains a mystery to me; and I am fine with that.

    However, this great site - the best Catholic Site on the web - a few days ago had a post about Dom Marmion and confidence in God.

    Check it out and try making those acts of Confidence daily.

    Pax tecum

  49. NoahLuck2:24 PM

    God's mercy and God's justice cannot be opposed to each other. I am much more willing to believe there is rampant confusion over the true teaching of the Church than to believe that there is opposition and contradiction within the very heart of God.

    Thus I reject reasoning based on analogy to human legal systems, like one commenter wrote, "The strict logic of Justice demands that sin be condemned. It does not demand Mercy." The strict logic of the simplicity of the Most High God is far more compelling.

    God's justice and mercy are inseparable.

  50. NoahLuck2:43 PM

    J.C. wrote:
    "The most convincing non-theological, non-technical argument in support of this teaching: Should it be false, the intrisically evil act of abortion would, therefore, confer salvation."

    From the strategic, game-theoretic side, it's easy to show that the problem raised by J.C.'s comment is not specific to denial of Limbo of the Infants. For even if one admits Limbo of the Infants, standard mathematical rationality says that it is always preferable to be aborted and so certainly avoid the pains of Hell than to grow to adulthood and have salvation in doubt. So the "strategic argument" cuts both ways and can't be used to constrain the theology.

    James the Lesser's response is quite accurate from the theological side: with or without Limbo of the Infants, the condition of aborted children is caused by God's mercy, not by the abortion.

  51. Jack O'Malley2:58 PM

    This discussion, inevitably, contains a plethora of hypotheticals, theoreticals, parentheticals and quasi-catecheticals. Let me give you a pragmatic situation that I know of.

    A couple had planned the baptism of their newborn son for a certain Sunday. On the preceding Friday the baby was found dead in its crib, an apparent case of SIDS. The parents were distraught, especially the mother, who blamed herself for delaying the christening until other family members could fly in. Some weeks later, the husband, who was not a Christian but who planned to attend RCIA classes in anticipation of being received into the Church, dropped dead of a heart attack at work.

    It would appear that, unless Cardinal Ratzinger was wrong, the son would be consigned to limbo while the father's eschatological destination is one of the other three places. If he is not in Hell, he will eventually see the Beatific Vision. The son will be deprived. Will the man, who was a sinner, stand in the presence of the Divine and Uncreated Light, while the boy, who never sinned sua sponte, will not?

    Domine, utinam intellegam ut credam.

  52. I agree with Prof. Basto that limbo itself is an expression of God's mercy. However, the pain of loss that is exclusion from the face of God is hardly ameliorated by seclusion from the demons of hell.

  53. Given the fact that there are 2 kinds of sin, Original and Actual.
    There are 4 possible conditions of soul:

    __A | O__
    1. 0 | 0 Innocent (redeemed) and percected
    2. 0 | 1 Innocent (no actual sin), but unredeemed.
    3. 1 | 0 Guilty and imperfect but redeemed.
    4. 1 | 1 Guilty and unredeemed.

    Given that Nothing impure will ever enter it [heaven] (Rev 21:27), only those in condition 1 will enter into heaven.
    Those in condition 4 will be damned for all eternity.
    Those in condition 3 will enter heaven but, must be purified and perfected first (purgatory).
    It therefore follows, that those in condition 2, will find themselves in an altogether different state than all the previous- the limbo of infants.
    The consensus of theolgians teaches that limbo of innocents is a place of perfect natural happines, infinitly happier than the happest person on earth, but infinitly below the beatitute of the least in the Kindom oh Heaven. This teaching flows from reason, and has made it into the Ordinary Magesterium of the Church, and therefore cannot be rejected.

    “The souls of those who die in mortal sin or with original sin only… immediately descend into Hell, yet to be punished with different punishments.”
    -Pope Gregory X, Second Council of Lyons, 1274, ex cathedra

    “...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 Eugene IV, Council of Florence, Laetentur Caeli, July 6, 1439

    "The Roman Church teaches... that the souls of those who depart in mortal sin or with only original sin descend immediately to hell, nevertheless to be punished with different punishments and in disparate locations..."
    -Pope John XXII, Nequaquam Sine Dolore, 1321 AD

  54. Jack O'Malley, I believe that if love of God is the motive force behind all of her thoughts and deeds, this poor mother will find consolation in the preservation of her infant son from the pains of hellfire, while praying that her husband might obtain the promise of the beatific vision. Jesus instructs His disciples not to look back once their hand is on the plow of discipleship. God must be the singular object of our affections and desires.

  55. The solution of the difficult question of the fate of unbaptised children (and of the apparent contradiction of the 2006 Vatican document to the doctrine of limbo) is the following:

    - It is highly probable that Christ hid the answer to the question and did not want to reveal it (as part of the PUBLIC revelation).

    - per se, children dying with original sin go to the limbo, because they do not have the right to the beatific vision; it is clearly stated in the Vatican document of 2006.

    - the former Magisterium of the Church did never teach the limbo as a dogma de fide nor the eternity of limbo, but only condemned Jansenists who rejected it as pelagian and wanted the children to go to the hell of damned, or people who affirmed that, despite the original sin, these children are saved; the the document of 2006 does not contradict the anterior teachings;

    - the solution proposed by the document of 2006 is that, like Christ has merited the salvation of people dying without baptism (by martyrdom or by baptism of desire), he can and should provide a solution for children who, without own fault, are dead without baptism, especially since they are more "innocent" than many adults dying in grace after a long life of sins. The Lord is not obliged to save them, but if one admit the "eternity of limbo", in what manner did the Lord die to provide means of salvation for all? (In the Rituale Romanum, baptism of dying children in their mother's womb was not allowed, excepted "sub conditione"; that means that the Roman Church was not sure of the validity of such a baptism; and then, that there would be another solution for children dying before birth).
    The 2006 document says that the solution does not consist in giving directly salvation to the unbaptized children, but in removing the original sin by an unknown mean. It is explicitly written in the 2006 document.

    - The exact solution is not indicated in the 2006 document but it can be either a special illumination of the baby soul before death, letting it know its Creator, or a miraculous baptism, or the solution that Mélanie Calvat (seer of La Salette) said to have known by private revelation (Gilbert Combe, Dernières années de Soeur Marie de la Croix, bergère de la Salette).

    Mélanie told that the unbaptized children's souls go to limbo, where they remain till the resurrection of the dead; then, the divine Mercy will give them a full knowledge of their origin and of their original sin, this knowledge will cause in them an act of humiliation and contrition, and by the merits of Our Lord's Blood, they will be given the grace to be rehabilitated in innocence (it does not seem too strange, as we know that several Saints, like S. Agnes, S. Joan of Arc, S. Xaverius, S. Philip Neri have obtained the resurrection of sinners or of unbaptized people to save their souls); she adds that the then-purified souls of the limbo will SEE the Divinity and dwell in the restored world, but living in an inferior state of glory, compared to the blessed, but they will be, like them, immortal, impeccable, and supernaturally happy.

    Ready to submit myself to the judgment of the Church, I think the last solution highly probable, as a perfect alliance between Justice and Mercy, and not contradictory to any doctrine of the Church.
    Even if one does reject eternal limbo, abortion is a mortal sin (killing an innocent), and refusal to baptize children is also a mortal sin (1° because of the precept of Christ and of the Church, 2° because making the child remain in original sin, and 3° because the lower state of glory and beatific love of these souls, in Mélanie's explanation).

  56. God is not bound by his sacraments but we are. To trust in God's mercy (with no assurance that the unbaptized will see the Beatific Vision but with certainty that God will be just and merciful) should not necessarily diminish our duty to fulfill Our Lord's commands. And if God does not command the impossible and if it is equally true that these babies cannot be baptized by water, then we can trust in God's mercy without complete knowledge of how, if God so chooses, such babies may see the Beatific Vision. Faith requires that we baptize but if we cannot we should not place limits on God's mercy.

  57. dominic19556:20 PM

    It seems to me that ultimately, on the pastoral level and then bleeding over to the theological level, this subject is far too contorted by deference to emotionalism. Yes, on some guttural level, the idea of infants going to hell (whether Augustinian or Thomistic in concept) is repugnant to many if not most people. This, of course, is not universally true but it is a fairly common response. However, as we should know from spirituality and spiritual theology, the passions and emotions are very untrustworthy. Thus, all regard for such things should be cast out of the discussion. This is easier said than done because to root out the influence of emotion/passion on reasoning is not easily done because one so afflicted does not recognize that this is, in fact, the case and that their reason is not being clouded by emotionalism. It also doesn’t help that we constantly try to attribute anthropomorphic attributes to God, seemingly unaware that this is not how God works.
    The Lord hath given, the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord. In Divine Mercy God created each one of us at all, let alone decided to share with us Beatitude. Thus, consigning unbaptized infants to hell (Limbo) is both merciful and just even if it doesn’t “feel” (which is wholly irrelevant) merciful.
    As Pope Sixtus V taught in Effraenatam, not only is a life lost through abortion but also a soul to possible Beatitude. This is what makes abortion so heinous. As such, what good does it do to wish and hope that these infants go to heaven when practically all the theological weight is against such an opinion? I would say its emotionalism again.
    Also, as the Council of Florence taught, baptism was not to be deferred. It should be a point driven home that babies should be baptized as absolutely soon as possible. The ritual is one that brings them from the domain of Satan and the World and frees them from Original Sin, it is not a rite of passage or a photo op. I would never castigate a family for failing to baptize as soon as possible like in the above example but only because people are so horribly catechized these days that one can be morally certain that they hadn’t the slightest idea that anything else should have been done and it would thus do more harm than good.

  58. Dominic1955's comment is spot on.

    [Jesus] turning, said to Peter: Go behind me, Satan, thou art a scandal unto me: because thou savourest not the things that are of God, but the things that are of men. (Mt 16:23)

    If we savor God alone, we will be content with the Church's traditional and unemotional teaching on this emotional topic.

  59. I stand corrected on a previous post I sent in which was providentially removed by the moderator in which I attempted to make a case for "baptism by desire" founded upon St Ambrose's personal belief regarding the catechumen Emperor Valentinian II.

    Some important notes on this topic:

    1. The Council of Trent declared anathema on anyone stating that baptism - actual or in voto - is not necessary even for infants.
    2. St Augustine says that one cannot be Catholic and believe that infants unbaptized are vivified in Christ at death. St Ambrose says that someone believing such a thing condemns the Church for her practice of infant baptism.

    The Catholic Encyclopaedia has some very relevant words to this posting:

    Baptism is held to be necessary both necessitate medii and præcepti. This doctrine is rounded on the words of Christ. In John 3, He declares: "Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he can not enter into the kingdom of God." Christ makes no exception to this law and it is therefore general in its application, embracing both adults and infants. It is consequently not merely a necessity of precept but also a necessity of means.

    This is the sense in which it has always been understood by the Church, and the Council of Trent (Sess, IV, cap, vi) teaches that justification can not be obtained, since the promulgation of the Gospel, without the washing of regeneration or the desire thereof (in voto). In the seventh session, it declares (can. v) anathema upon anyone who says that baptism is not necessary for salvation. We have rendered votum by "desire" for want of a better word. The council does not mean by votum a simple desire of receiving baptism or even a resolution to do so. It means by votum an act of perfect charity or contrition, including, at least implicitly, the will to do all things necessary for salvation and thus especially to receive baptism.

    The absolute necessity of this sacrament is often insisted on by the Fathers of the Church, especially when they speak of infant baptism. Thus St. Irenæus (Against Heresies 2.22): "Christ came to save all who are reborn through Him to God — infants, children, and youths" (infantes et parvulos et pueros). St. Augustine (On the Soul, Book III) says "If you wish to be a Catholic, do not believe, nor say, nor teach, that infants who die before baptism can obtain the remission of original sin." A still stronger passage from the same doctor (Epistle 28) reads:"Whoever says that even infants are vivified in Christ when they depart this life without the participation of His Sacrament (Baptism), both opposes the Apostolic preaching and condemns the whole Church which hastens to baptize infants, because it unhesitatingly believes that otherwise they can not possibly be vivified in Christ," St. Ambrose (II De Abraham., c. xi) speaking of the necessity of baptism, says:" No one is excepted, not the infant, not the one hindered by any necessity."

  60. One more that is very relevant to this discussion, also from the Catholic Encyclopaedia:

    "A certain statement in the funeral oration of St. Ambrose over the Emperor Valentinian II has been brought forward as a proof that the Church offered sacrifices and prayers for catechumens who died before baptism. There is not a vestige of such a custom to be found anywhere. St. Ambrose may have done so for the soul of the catechumen Valentinian, but this would be a solitary instance, and it was done apparently because he believed that the emperor had had the baptism of desire. The practice of the Church is more correctly shown in the canon (xvii) of the Second Council of Braga: "Neither the commemoration of Sacrifice [oblationis] nor the service of chanting [psallendi] is to be employed for catechumens who have died without the redemption of baptism." The arguments for a contrary usage sought in the Second Council of Arles (c. xii) and the Fourth Council of Carthage (c. lxxix) are not to the point, for these councils speak, not of catechumens, but of penitents who had died suddenly before their expiation was completed. It is true that some Catholic writers (as Cajetan, Durandus, Biel, Gerson, Toletus, Klee) have held that infants may be saved by an act of desire on the part of their parents, which is applied to them by some external sign, such as prayer or the invocation of the Holy Trinity; but Pius V, by expunging this opinion, as expressed by Cajetan, from that author's commentary on St. Thomas, manifested his judgment that such a theory was not agreeable to the Church's belief. "

    In short, it is not even agreeable to offer prayers and sacrifices for these souls. Surely a guiding principle for all of us Catholics.

  61. John Church8:24 PM

    If the Holy Innocents could be saved without knowledge nor acceptance, nor desire of Christ to fulfill the extraordinary means of baptism by blood or desire.... why not other innocents after the institution of the Sacrament? I feel it is good to warn parents, but saying we know the Judgment on a soul is foolish. We are not the Judge. This is a mystery in which parents of children who have passed can have reasonable hope because God has saved those without baptism by water. St. Dismas and the Holy Innocents are just two examples. The theory that God preached in hades, and that it became Paradise is a nice theory for Dismas, but that extra-biblical theory does not preclude the same thing happening again for those in whom no fault of their own were not received. Some of you are way to eager to play the Judge. Warning is good, but do not deny hope to those parents who have a right to it.

  62. Some of you are way to eager to play the Judge.

    Is that a fair reading of the comments posted here? I think not. It is less an eagerness to "play the Judge" than a certain zeal for the traditional teachings of Holy Church.

    The way to heaven is narrow and sometimes hard. The road to hell is paved with the foam bricks of sentimentalism.

  63. @ John Church

    The Church has its Tradition from Jesus Christ Himself.

    She has always held that:
    1. Infants cannot be saved by a baptism of desire, since they are incapable of the acts of charity required for such a baptism - they can only be saved by baptism of water or of blood.
    2. Infants CAN become martyrs - they may be martyred for Christ or the faith, as was the case of the Innocents in the Christmas story of the Gospel.

    In this case, these unbaptized innocents are saved by a "baptism of blood" having been martyred specifically on account of Christ - this has been the perennial teaching of the Church.

    As the Catholic Encyclopaedia states:

    "The Church grounds her belief in the efficacy of the baptism of blood on the fact that Christ makes a general statement of the saving power of martyrdom in the tenth chapter of St. Matthew: "Every one therefore that shall confess me before men, I will also confess him before my Father who is in heaven" (verse 32); and: "He that shall lose his life for me shall find it" (verse 39). It is pointed out that these texts are so broadly worded as to include even infants, especially the latter text. That the former text also applies to them, has been constantly maintained by the Fathers, who declare that if infants can not confess Christ with the mouth, they can by act. Tertullian (Against the Valentinians 2) speaks of the infants slaughtered by Herod as martyrs, and this has been the constant teaching of the Church.

    Another evidence of the mind of the Church as to the efficacy of the baptism of blood is found in the fact that she never prays for martyrs. Her opinion is well voiced by St. Augustine (Tractate 74 on the Gospel of John): "He does an injury to a martyr who prays for him." This shows that martyrdom is believed to remit all sin and all punishment due to sin. Later theologians commonly maintain that the baptism of blood justifies adult martyrs independently of an act of charity or perfect contrition, and, as it were, ex opere operato, though, of course, they must have attrition for past sins. The reason is that if perfect charity, or contrition, were required in martyrdom, the distinction between the baptism of blood and the baptism of desire would be a useless one. Moreover, as it must be conceded that infant martyrs are justified without an act of charity, of which they are incapable, there is no solid reason for denying the same privilege to adults. (Cf. Francisco Suárez, De Bapt., disp. xxxix.) "

  64. What about the traditional concept of baptism of desire? Could one not argue that this could also apply to infants who, through not fault of their own,have been denied baptism.

    A few years ago I had been given to understand that a few decades ago, then-Cardinal Ratzinger proposed that just as the faith of the parents is imputed, as it were, to the baptised infant, so perhaps the intention of the parents to have baptised their miscarried or stillborn child might be imputed to them as an extension of the principle of baptism of desire. And so our pastor sought to assure me and my wife that the child we lost through miscarriage this year was without doubt in heaven. I appreciated his good will and solicitude for us in our grief, but nevertheless I find the "baptism of desire" speculation not only unconvincing, but subject to serious objections for its logical implications.

    To wit, if parents can effect the salvation of their unbaptised infants through an imputed baptism of desire, why cannot the Catholic Church effect the salvation of every unbaptised baby through an imputation of the Church's desire and intention that every child be baptised, and thus anyone who is born is automatically "baptised" without being baptised? Voila! No more need for missionaries to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles and bring pagan babies to the saving font of baptism!

    This "baptism of desire" speculation creates more problems than it solves. I think the wisest course is to listen to the teaching of the great Doctors of the Church in this matter, and commit our little ones who die without baptism to the justice and mercy of God, who can do no wrong and whose love for us overflows. I cannot be assured that my child is saved, and expect that unless God has done something extraordinary, my little one is in the limbus infantium -- and I am resigned to God's holy and unimpeachable will whatever it may be. I would like to see my child again someday so that together we can enjoy eternity with God, but not my will but His be done.

  65. Jordannes,

    You have spoken as a true disciple of Our Lord Jesus Christ -- hand to the plow, no looking back. Several of us have attempted to defend a hard teaching in the abstract. You have demonstrated the truth of it from hard experience. God bless!

  66. What I amaze reading this thread is people try to put as doctrine what the church herself says "don't know."

    The problem is, baptism is the ordinary and normal venue of salvation. But the Lord able to work outside the regular venue he established.

    Objectively we know, someone died in original sin alone, will not have beatific vision.
    But we don't know, when a baby died, what the Lord done to this person outside the regular venue of Baptism.

    We can only say, God has a plan, God knows what he is doing, we trust God. End of story.

  67. Fr. Brian W. Harrison, O.S.3:45 AM

    Your readers who are rightly concerned about the apparent dismissal of Limbo to the 'dustbin of history' since Vatican II may be somewhat mollified to learn that the 2010 Supplementary volume of the authoritative "New Catholic Encyclopedia" has a completely revised entry on "Limbo" which is much more traditional than the very liberal-leaning one found in the previous edition (itself a revision of the original 1967 entry). I am the author of the new revision.
    The new entry takes note of the "agnostic" (but cautiously hopeful) position on the destiny of unbaptized infants that is currently favored by church authorities (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1261, and the 2007 document of the International Theological Commission).
    But it also cites little-known magisterial statements (never mentioned in previous editions of the NCE) which teach clearly that unbaptized infants - including victims of abortion - definitely do not reach the beatific vision. The new entry points out that even though hope for the salvation of these infants prevails at present among prelates, theologians and other Catholics, several theological studies in the new millennium (including my own in the Roman journal 'Divinitas', referenced in the bibliography) continue to argue that Limbo is the destiny of these infants.

    Fr. Brian Harrison, O.S.,S.T.D.
    Oblates of Wisdom Study Center,
    Saint Louis, Missouri.

  68. Jeremiah 1:5 -

    "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee..."

    If it could be done once. If a person can be set aside as holy in the womb just as Jeremiah and John the Baptist, so it is also reasonable to hope that God will extend his mercy to other unborn. It can happen again. None of us know what the Judgment of God will be. Just as St. Dismas was saved not having done one act of charity for the reparation of his temporal sins as a thief. A sinful, unbaptised man. He merely asked God when he saw Him face to face. And the babes who perish will have that same opportunity to beg for extraordinary mercy.

    On the one hand, we say that baptism of blood for the Holy Innocents is correct, even though they did not accept Christ. They did not get baptized with water and spirit. They did not even have the cognitive ability to offer their sacrifice as a martyrdom to Christ, so as to distinguish it from any other senseless tragedy. But we confess they died on account of Christ. What if one of those swords instead struck a 12 year old pagan... would we have counted him a holy innocent martyr too? Since when does an evil act become the cause of the crown? Never. It is the selfless, sacrificial love for Christ, willed at the price of one’s own life. We know canonized saints are in heaven by the infallible teaching of the Church, but the individual arguments for a particular saints sanctity are NOT infallibly taught. So to say the Holy Innocents were justified by an act of evil without any cooperation of their own does not make it a normal martyrdom. I claim it was an extraordinary act of God above and beyond any normal martyrdom, because martyrs cooperate. The Holy Innocents were incapable of that. Yes they were martyrs, but they were martyrs who received extraordinary mercy because they were innocent children.

    And if we count the number of saints we have definite knowledge of through the Church, the thousands of Holy Innocents make up a large portion of that total. So I dont think a parents hope for their lost child is in vain.

  69. Thank you, Fr. Harrison, and welcome.

    If I might be so bold, would it be possible to email New Catholic a transcript of the updated New Catholic Encyclopedia entry on the limbo of infants? It would be a valuable resource, I'm sure, for preparing a future Rorate Caeli blog post on this subject.

  70. Liturgical Cow,

    The Church says that she "doesn't know"? That claim doesn't square with the facts, which have already been presented in this thread, but apparently bear repeating:

    “The souls of those who die in mortal sin or with original sin only… immediately descend into Hell, yet to be punished with different punishments.”
    -Pope Gregory X, Second Council of Lyons, 1274, ex cathedra

    “...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 Eugene IV, Council of Florence, Laetentur Caeli, July 6, 1439

    "The Roman Church teaches... that the souls of those who depart in mortal sin or with only original sin descend immediately to hell, nevertheless to be punished with different punishments and in disparate locations..."
    -Pope John XXII, Nequaquam Sine Dolore, 1321 AD

  71. dominic19556:29 AM

    Something happening millions of times is no longer "extraordinary" in the sense that it is used for the sanctification of St. John the Baptist or Jeremiah.

    From the Angelic Doctor-

    "Nor are we to believe that any others, not mentioned by Scripture, were sanctified in the womb. For such privileges of grace, which are bestowed on some, outside the common law, are ordered for the salvation of others, according to 1 Corinthians 12:7, The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man unto profit, which would not result from the sanctification of anyone unless it were made known to the Church.” (ST III, q.27, a.6)

    If it wasn't for all the fuzzy nouvelle theologie nonsense that had taken almost everyone by storm (both liberals and neo-cons), we wouldn't even be having this conversation, would we? Would anyone imagine any catechism saying anything other than Limbo pre-Rahner, von Balthasar, et al? No we wouldn't.

  72. David,

    Yes the Church teaches that those who die in mortal sin go to hell. But to know that someone is in mortal sin requires "definite knowledge". So God's judgment will be a mystery until all is accomplished.

    God has already revealed extraordinary examples of His mercy both in and outside of the womb. So blanket statements as to the definite state of all un/newborn souls does not serve the truth. God has the power to remedy a lack of grace even without a Sacrament.

    "God is not bound to the visible sacraments." -- St. Thomas Aquinas

  73. Irenaeus: in mortal sin or in original sin only; this is actually the whole point of the thread. Mortal sin is completely irrelevant to this discussion - we actually ask our readers not to discuss the effects of actual sin, including mortal sin, here, since it is clearly impertinent, unless as part of their argument on the matter of the thread.

    Clearly, God is not bound by many things... However, with that blanket argument, all our religious life and moral decisions can be dismissed as pretty much irrelevant: to paraphrase Saint Paul, "let us eat and drink," for tomorrow the boundless mercy of God will remedy everything.

    The Church is bound to teach what she knows, and what she knows is what God has revealed to her. We are bound to believe, hope, and act upon what the Church teaches us, and she can teach us no more, not a single point (iota unum...), than what she received. This is the whole point of Tradition.


    Dear Fr. Dr. Harrison, it is a great honor to have you here. It would indeed be wonderful if you could send us that text.


  74. dominic19557:51 AM

    OK, did you even read what he posted? It clearly says that those who die in mortal sin AND original sin descend to hell but to be punished with different punishments. That's not some random theologian spouting off, that's the magisterial definition of (a couple actually) Ecumenical Councils.

    Yes, God is not bound to His Sacraments-either way. He's not bound to save you either way. Also, just because something is possible does not mean it is the norm or even probable. It is possible that I become Emperor of America, and I can hope for that all I want but its not very likely at all.

    The Lord hath given, the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord! What was God's response to Job? Who is this that wrappeth up sentences in unskillful words? "Gird up thy loins like a man: I will ask thee, and answer thou me. Where wast thou when I laid up the foundations of the earth? tell me if thou hast understanding."

    Yes, Limbo is not defined dogma, but all we can go on is the weight of the orthodox Popes, Councils Doctors, Saints, through the centuries who weigh in on some form of Limbo. What degree of hubris and rashness does it take to reject this "opinion" with practically no evidence weighed in its opposition? What do we have to go on? Teilhard's cosmic convergence of Christ with creation or what other nonsensical musing of the nouvelle theologie? Emotionalistic whining because we cannot fathom that God would condemn "innocent" (which they are not!) children to hell (albeit a pretty cushy hell, mind you...) and thus we become mushy headed in our theologizing?

    This once once a fairly minor issue, it has come to a far greater degree of importance because it is a miner canary if you will. If we are so willing to kowtow to the spirit of the world and seek to chase after the approval of the fleeting respect of men for a venerable theological premise, just how far are we going to go? Are we going to consign all "uncomfortable" pre-Vatican II teachings to the dustbin or reinterpret them out of practical existence by redefining them completely out of their original context, contra Vatican I?

    Limbo might not be dogma, but its implications are far reaching. You tread through a minefield in denying it...

  75. Irenaeus,

    It doesn't require a secret decoder ring to know that an unborn child or an unbaptized infant is stained with original sin. Setting aside speculation about the Almighty's "extraordinary" acts of mercy, we must rely on the infallible teaching of the Catholic Church to infer the fate of those unfortunate souls that are separated from their bodies in the state of original sin.

  76. A Loyal Reader11:26 AM

    The Holy Innocents and St. Dismas were NOT required to be baptized because they died BEFORE the New Law took effect. They fulfilled the requirement for salvation of their time by being circumsized males and/or, in Dismas' case, by His recognition of Christ as Lord. Therefore, there was NO special dispensation for them. The necessity of water baptism began with the promulgation of the Gospel, usually understood as the 1st Pentecost.

  77. A Loyal Reader11:34 AM

    "The Limbo of the Children". Sentimental Theology

  78. I tell you. As a new convert, what I find most frustrating is the ambiguity in most modern Vatican documents as opposed to the older ones. I would prefer to protest against a harsh teaching then to see the Church change its teaching with the times.

  79. Prof Bastio said, "If the Church were ever to repudiate Her docrine on the Limbo of the Infants, the whole edifice of Catholic religion would fall, for it would then be certain that the not even the Supreme Authority's solemn pronouncements on matters of Faith and Morals are irreformable.

    This is how we get ourselves in trouble. Really? Should the religion fall based on one teaching? Why can't it be considered a clarification or that the Church is "growing" in understanding as in so many modern teachings.

  80. A Loyal Reader12:45 PM

    OldTimeCatholic, Welcome to the True Church! One of the marks of the teaching Church is CLARITY! If a statement can be taken one way by one person and another way by another person, it is NOT BINDING on the conscience of either and, therefore, not a legitimate teaching of the Church. That one needs to be a "Philadelphia lawyer" or a Hegelian to try to figure out what the churchmen are even saying is very discouraging to everyone who recognizes that the Catholic Church is the Divine Instrument instituted by God for the sanctification and salvation of the entire Human Race. "Fear not; believe only." Luke 8:50.

  81. apstemp3:24 PM

    How can it be wrong to pray for the souls of aborted babies?

    We have been continually told that no prayer is wasted.

    This is speculation, but since Original Sin is passed to all people, and since, for example, the children of Fatima were urged to pray, do penance, and make reparation to save souls from falling into hell, it seems clear that there is a possibility to help souls through prayer. I see no exclusions to this fact.

    God is outside of time, so the "when" of our prayers should not determine when He hears them or what His actions with respect to them should be. Prayers, late or early, must have some effect, since God hears them in an eternal "present."

    Clearly, men are bound by and to His Sacraments, but He is not. He can act in mysterious ways, and may do so. We must pray for his mercy.

    That having been said, we must not presume that He will act according to our desires or our limited and biased ideas of justice and mercy. Rather, we must act in accordance with His revealed will and do our part to ensure that every soul has an opportunity to gain Heaven. This means fighting against abortion, fervently promoting baptism, and continuously praying.

  82. John Church5:19 PM

    @A Loyal Reader

    St. Dismas died after Jesus. That is why they broke his legs and not our Blessed Lords. The debt was paid and the New Law existed whether or not the nascent Church understood it. The requirement for baptism began with Jesus' words about water and spirit. That is why Jesus baptised the apostles and the apostles baptised the disciples. The divine command to baptise all nations was not when it became obligatory to have the sacrament, it is when it became obligatory to offer the sacrament.

  83. @apstemp who stated:
    "How can it be wrong to pray for the souls of aborted babies?

    We have been continually told that no prayer is wasted. "

    The fact that no genuine prayer is wasted does not mean that every prayer is "right". As an example, one can imagine a personal in spiritual darkness for example praying for something that God does not want him to pray for. The prayer will not be waster since God can use that person's disposition to draw them to pray for the right things.

    Similarly here.

    In my previous post of Nov 22 18:50 I quoted the Catholic Encyclopaedia's summary that it is not even agreeable to offer prayers and sacrifices for these souls.

    That is the 2000 year Catholic and Apostolic Tradition.

    Entrust them to God's mercy, and move on.

  84. Not sure if Fr. Brian Harrison will see this post, but I'm huge fan of your website entitled "Living Tradition" and more so on the topic of Neo-Patristic exegesis of Sacred Scripture.

    Is there any movement within Benedict's Vatican towards Neo-Patristics and towards the condemnation of historico-critical (aka modernistic) exegesis?

    Honoured to have you with us Fr Harrison.

  85. Lopes6:21 PM


    My goodness! The Church is 'growing' in understanding? We all know the result of this process: Vatican II!

    No, the Church is NOT growing in understanding. We need to grow in humility instead and accept what has always been taught in all places. And nothing else.

    Too much speculation around here, by the way.

  86. @Lopes: My comment was sort of tongue-in-cheek, but not really.

    Unfortunately, there have been so many clarifications of doctrine, I believe it is best to take a more moderate view of these changes; otherwise you will indeed fall.

    And for a new convert,it is quite confusing!

  87. apstemp1:02 AM

    Hi MKT,

    I read your note, and the encyclopedia quote referred to extra-baptismal theories of salvation as not agreeable with Church teaching.

    As I read it, it was your summary that prayers on the behalf of dead unbaptized infants was not agreeable.

    I didn't say these prayers would be effective in gaining salvation for the lost little ones, but that I can't see how they can possibly be wrong, nor how they can be disagreeable to either God or His Church.

    If salvation is indeed as rare as some saints make it out to be, then we have all prayed for damned souls, those of our relatives and friends who have been lost. I don't think this is a danger to our salvation.

    Essentially, we leave everything in God's hands, even those things for which we pray, if we trust in divine providence.

    I certainly hope that those outside of abortion clinics, as well as those who have aborted their own children pray for their souls. In the latter case, it could be an essential part of healing. To suggest otherwise seems to have the attitude of "sucks to be them," which while quite possibly true, we can both agree is a bit uncharitable.

    God Bless you.

  88. Mariana2:20 AM

    what is the church's position on cases such as this? Kristina Keneally is a former premiereof NSW Australia

  89. A Loyal Reader3:54 PM

    John Church 17:19, Huh?? Trent says that, "Baptism by water (Baptismus fluminis) is, SINCE THE PROMULGATION OF OF THE GOSPEL, necessary for all men without exception, for salvation. (De fide) [Ott; Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma.] The Promulgation of the Gospel is understood as being from the 1st Pentecost, 50 days after Christ's death and Resurrection. St. Dismas and the Holy Innocents were NOT under the New Law requirement of water baptism for salvation and, therefore, they should NOT be used to bolster the baptism by desire theory.

  90. Hi apstemp,

    The reason prayers for the souls of aborted babies is wrong is that there is no hope for their salvation that we have been given.

    As the links provided by Rorate demonstrate the tradition of the Church is that unbaptized infants do not go to heaven.

    The theoretical part is whether they actually suffer in eternity or live simply with the loss of beatific vision.

    Ergo, there is no point of praying for their soul.

    Even if one presumes that by some supernatural means God gives these souls the light of reason and the grace of charity in sufficiency to have a baptism of desire, by virtue of such a momentous baptism of desire, they would immediately be whisked to heaven, since baptism would wash away all temporal punishment and therefore any need for purgation. Along these lines do note that the Saints have declared it wrong to pray for a martyr's soul for example, because the martyr is already in heaven. Similarly, if the aborted child's theoretical ex-sacramental salvation took place, it would be heaven and should not be prayed for.

    So, in either case, it would be wrong to pray the soul of an aborted.

    On a final note however, the Church has taught rather definitively that infants before the age of reason cannot possibly have a baptism of desire since they lack the faculties of reason to perform the acts of charity required for such a grace.

    Infants can experience baptism either by water or by blood, as in the case of an unborn child murdered on account of Christ. A situation of this nature might arise for example in the Middle East where a Muslim terrorist might desire to kill Catholics in a Church because of his hatred for Christ, and spraying all and sundry with deadly bullets kills a pregnant Catholic mother and her unborn. In such a case, there may be a case to hope that said unborn died a martyr's death and went to heaven. And if so, and in heaven, should not be prayed for.

    Finally, it is important to note why we pray for faithful departed. It is to assist them in the expiation of their temporal punishment. There is no possible way an infant who dies has any temporal punishment to purge. Ergo, there can never be a reason to pray for a dead infant, even one who was baptized before death. In such a case we can be assured that the infant is in heaven.

    God bless you too.

  91. I haven't read all the comments, so forgive me if this has already been suggested. I recall hearing that St. Faustina said Christ told her that just that before the death of every person, He comes to them and "knocks" one last time. Could this not also be true of infants? If it is, then none of the definitive statements of the Church would be falsified. They simply say that every one who dies with Original Sin alone or Original and mortal sin will go to a place of punishment (although with infants it would be objective suffering but not subjective suffering).

    This would still be true in the case I postulated above because, in fact, no one would actually die with only Original Sin. The infants would be given a choice before their death and the ability to make that choice - for or against - Christ. If they chose to accept Him, they would be given baptism of desire and sanctifying grace and therefore they would no longer have Original Sin on their souls, while if the rejected Him, they would have committed a mortal sin. Would this not be an orthodox solution to the problem?

  92. Observer4:48 PM


    About the most pious, devotional, and moving post I've ever witnessed on this site. God bless!

  93. A Loyal Reader9:22 PM

    Mr Hummel, Sounds a lot like universal salvation to me. Unfortunately for your theory, the Church has defined that "Baptism by water is, since the promulgation of the Gospel, necessary for all men WITHOUT EXCEPTION, for salvation." (De fide) Further, Pope Pius XII wrote, "Caution must be used when there is a question of theories in which the doctrine contained in Sacred Scripture or Tradition is involved. If such conjectural opinions are DIRECTLY or INDIRECTLY opposed to the doctrine revealed by God, then the demand that they be recognized CAN IN NO WAY BE ADMITTED." (Papal Teachings:The Church) There is WAY too much reckless speculation on this, and related topics.

  94. The lack of solid doctrine on aborted souls and indeed, on unbaptised neonates occupied me for many years, for a personal reason.

    Eventually, I said to myself, just trust in the love of Our Divine Lord for His Creation.

    Quite a few in SSPX disagree with me – and I with them.

    There is room for differing.


  95. The lack of solid doctrine on aborted souls and indeed, on unbaptised neonates occupied me for many years, for a personal reason.

    Eventually, I said to myself, just trust in the love of Our Divine Lord for His Creation.

    Quite a few in SSPX disagree with me – and I with them.

    There is room for differing.


  96. The lack of solid doctrine on aborted souls and indeed, on unbaptised neonates occupied me for many years, for a personal reason.

    Eventually, I said to myself, just trust in the love of Our Divine Lord for His Creation.

    Quite a few in SSPX disagree with me – and I with them.

    There is room for differing.


  97. Loyal,

    How is it universal salvation, when I clearly said that some would be damned for their own choice? As for the other issue you raise, I sympathize with people who question implicit baptism of desire (although I don't - when it is properly understood as the recent pre-Vatican II popes have taught it) but I have no sympathy with those who deny even explicit baptism of desire. Feeneyism is a 20th century American error but unfortunately, its adherants seem as hard to convert as radical muslims. No matter what one says, they always have some legalistic loophole or some mental gymnastic routine that they feel proves they are right.

  98. A Loyal Reader1:39 PM

    Mr. Hummel, "That a scholar is not to be censured if he constructs premises from which it follows that dogmas are false or doubtful, if he does not DIRECTLY deny the dogmas themselves, is condemned as error." Pope St. Pius X, "Errors of the Modernists," cf. no.24, DNZ;2024

  99. Pope Sixtus V's Papal bull "Effraenatam" states:

    "Noticing that frequently by various Apostolic Constitutions the audacity and daring of most profligate men, who know no restraint, of sinning with license against the commandment 'do not kill' was repressed; We who are placed by the Lord in the supreme throne of justice, being counseled by a most just reason, are in part renewing old laws and in part extending them in order to restrain with just punishment the monstrous and atrocious brutality of those who have no fear to kill most cruelly fetuses still hiding in the maternal viscera. Who will not detest such an abhorrent and evil act, by which are lost not only the bodies but also the souls? Who will not condemn to a most grave punishment the impiety of him who will exclude a soul created in the image of God and for which Our Lord Jesus Christ has shed His precious Blood, and which is capable of eternal happiness and is destined to be in the company of angels, from the blessed vision of God, and who has impeded as much as he could the filling up of heavenly mansions, and has taken away the service to God by His creature? Who has deprived children of life before they could naturally see light or could be protected by maternal body from ferocious cruelty? Who will not abhor the cruelty and unrestrained debauchery of impious men who have arrived into such a state of mind that they procure poisons in order to extinguish the conceived fetuses within the viscera, and pour them out, trying to provoke by a nefarious crime a violent and untimely death and killing of their progeny. Finally who will not condemn to a most grave punishment the crimes of those who with poisons, potions and evil actions sterilize women or impede that they conceive or give birth by pernicious medicines and drugs? Sorcerers and evil magicians says the Lord to Saint Moses, you will not suffer, allow and tolerate to live: because they oppose overly shamefully against God's will and, as St Jerome says, while nature receives seed, after having received nurtures it, nurtured body distinguishes in members, meanwhile in the narrowness of the uterus the hand of God is always at work who is Creator of both body and soul and who molded, made and wanted this child and meanwhile the goodness of the Potter, that is of God, is impiously and overly despised by these people. Saint Ambrose says that it is no small and trivial gift of God to give children in order to propagate mankind. It is a Divine gift the fecundity of childbearing woman and at the same time by this cruel and inhuman crime parents are deprived of their offspring that they have engendered; the engendered children of their life; mothers of the rewards of maternity and marriage; earth of its cultivators; the world of those who would know it; the Church of those that would make it grow and prosper and be happy with an increased number of devoted faithful. Therefore for a good reason the Sixth Synod of Constantinople has decreed that persons who give abortive medicine and those who receive and use poisons that kill fetuses are subject to punishment applied to murderers and it was sanctioned by the old Council of Lleida that those that were preoccupied to kill fetuses conceived from adultery or would extinguish them in the wombs of mothers with potions, if afterwards with repentance would recur to the goodness and meekness of the Church, should humbly weep for their sins for the rest of their lives and if they were Clerics, they should not be allowed to recuperate their ministry and they are subject to all Ecclesiastic law's and profane law's grave punishments for those who nefariously plot to kill fetuses in the uterus of childbearing women or try to prevent women from conceiving or try to expel the conceived fetuses from the womb."

    A translation of the bull can be found here:


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