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April 23, 2007

Comments

Barbara

The majority opinion of a commision, to advise Pope Paul VI, on the issue of artificial birth control, advised that he should change the church's teaching. The minority opinion, led by then Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, advised that the church should not change it's teaching.

So much for the advice of papal commisions. It's not over till the fat lady sings....and she's just warming up.

Limbo and the Church's teaching on contraception aren't even in the same ballpark when it comes to doctrinal value. The former was a long-held theological opinion, the latter a perennial moral teaching held by all Christians until the twentieth century (and, in fact, was restated back in 1930 as well as in 1968). It would be very wrong to assume that the Pope is going to come out against the Limbo report and that if that doesn't happen every real doctrine would be up for grabs.

SDG

So much for the advice of papal commisions. It's not over till the fat lady sings....and she's just warming up.

However, in this case B16 apparently prodded the theological commission in precisely this direction, as per Jimmy's earlier post.

My local paper carried the following Gledhill-worthy headline: "POPE BUCKS CHURCH TENETS ON FATE OF UNBAPTIZED KIDS." So, yeah, take the MSM reporting with a whole salt lick!

Joey

"Doctrine" of limbo?

Jeb Protestant

This is a good example of how the Catholic church "reformulates" its previous teaching rather than dropping it.

"No salvation outside the church" remains the teaching, but "church" includes just about everyone from Bultmannian protestants to Mohamadens; "Biblical inerrancy" means that the Bible is inerrant in its intent, but it doesn't intend to be factually or theologically accurate (there are at least 3 Isaiahs according to Benedict). JP even hinted that he accepted von Balthasar's gibberish on universal salvation.

The whole tenor of this report (if the news story can be trusted) is that modern man can't handle the idea of unbaptized children in hell, so let's dumb the doctrine down. As someone once said, "God is not so mad and man isn't so bad."

Dan Hunter

So Was St Augustine a bumbling idiot to say that unbaptised infants go to limbo?
What other dunder-headed declarations did he make?
If he,the greatest Father of the Church was wrong about this,what else was he wrong about?
Until the Holy Father pronounces The Limbo of the Infants non-existant,from the Chair of Peter,we are not obliged to believe that what has been taught for over one thousand years by Popes and Fathers is no longer true.
God bless you.

Dave

What is MSM?

Jeb Protestant

MSM = "main stream media." The leftist pukes who deliver 90% of the news.

So Was St Augustine a bumbling idiot to say that unbaptised infants go to limbo?

Actually, St. Austine taught that unbaptized infants suffer the worst pain, the pain of loss, in Hell. They might have been spared some physical pain, thus that is what Limbo meant to him, but that's hardly significant. And no, Augustine doesn't have to have been a bumbling idiot to be quite wrong about this.

SDG

This is a good example of how the Catholic church "reformulates" its previous teaching rather than dropping it.

This is a good example of how Jeb Protestant "reformulates" facts to fit his anti-Catholic worldview.

Any honest Protestant who has spent as much time as you have reaching Catholic apologetics, Jeb, knows by now that limbo was never church teaching, only theological speculation.

If you insist on describing it as "teaching" anyway, I can only conclude that it's not for lack of clear information, but lack of intellectual honesty and basic fairness toward a theological system you disagree with.

It would be easy to refute your additional comments, but hardly worthwhile, unless you prove yourself more willing to dialogue in honesty than you've been willing to in previous discussions.

bill912

JP is back, desperately grasping at any club with which to bash the Church, as is his usual knee-jerk behavior.

SDG

P.S.

The whole tenor of this report (if the news story can be trusted) is that modern man can't handle the idea of unbaptized children in hell, so let's dumb the doctrine down.

This only shows your ignorance of the history of the idea of limbo, which was origianlly proposed precisely because the Church clarified centuries ago that unbaptized babies could not be in hell, because only personal sins, not original sin, damns people to hell.

So it's got nothing to do with "modern man" not being able to accept the idea of unbaptized children in hell. Medieval man knew that too. But they couldn't see how they could get to heaven either, so they proposed the idea of limbo.

I happen to agree with B16 that there is good reason to hope that unbaptized babies do go to heaven, so the construct of limbo seems dubious at best.

So Was St Augustine a bumbling idiot to say that unbaptised infants go to limbo?

Actually, Augustine believed they went to hell, not limbo. He lived too early to benefit from the Church's later clarity on original sin not damning anyone. So while he was not a dunderhead, he did the best with what he knew at the time, but he was wrong.

bill912

"...that what has been taught for over one thousand years by Popes and Fathers is no longer true."

Sigh. Limbo was *never* taught as being "true".

PNP, OP

I was watching some lefty bozo on TV last night and he was arguing that if the Catholic Church (the CATHOLIC CHURCH FOR GOD'S SAKE!!!) can change its doctrine on unbaptized babies going to Hell, then Bush (sic) can change his policy in Iraq. I've been wondering why the MSM has been making such a big deal out of this relatively obscure theological issue. Now I know. It provides those with a revolutionary ecclesial agenda with the appropriate rhetoric for challenging the Church on her real doctrines and dogmas. See! The Church can change long-established doctrine. If the pope can abolish limbo, he can certainly abolish the all-male priesthood. Predictable. Sadly, sadly predictable.

Fr. Philip, OP

Dan Hunter

So far, we are still allowed to believe in the limbo of the infants.
God bless you

So far, we are still allowed to believe in the limbo of the infants.

And, so far as I know, we are still allowed to believe that unbaptized babies are chucked into the fiery river. What's your point?

SDG

So far, we are still allowed to believe in the limbo of the infants.

Sure. FWIW, though, I agree with the following from Pre‑16, cited in Jimmy's earlier post:

"Limbo was never a defined truth of the faith. Personally — and here I am speaking more as a theologian and not as Prefect of the Congregation — I would abandon it since it was only a theological hypothesis. It formed part of a secondary thesis in support of a truth which is absolutely of first significance for the faith, namely, the importance of baptism. …. One should not hesitate to give up the idea of 'limbo' if need be (and it is worth noting that the very theologians who proposed 'limbo' also said that parents could spare the child limbo by desiring its baptism and through prayer); but the concern behind it must not be surrendered. Baptism has never been a side issue for the faith; it is not now, nor will it ever be."

And, so far as I know, we are still allowed to believe that unbaptized babies are chucked into the fiery river.

Actually, AFAIK this is not the case. Only those guilty of personal sin are damned to hell. Original sin alone will not get you to hell. So the only question is whether unbaptized babies get to heaven or whether God does something else with them, which we call limbo.

Matthew L. Martin


Jimmy--you expected anything better? ;-)

As for limbo, I think it's an article of faith or nearly so that the limbo of the fathers [i]did[/i] exist. I'm inclined to think there's a good argument that the limbo of infants [i]does[/i] exist. What gives me pause is the question of what [i]will[/i] exist come the eschaton--I can't see Limbo fitting into the new heavens and the new earth.

I once saw a speculation online (I think it was by Edwin Tait, an Anglican on Steve Ray's message board) that the Harrowing of Hell might have been transtemporal--affecting those born [u]after[/u] the Redemption in time who were unbaptized or invincibly ignorant. There might be something to that . . .

francis 03

Doesn't the Commission itself recognize that extra ecclesiam nulla salus "needs interpretation?" And how does this not resonate pretty squarely with Jeb's concerns?

I was first introduced to real Catholicism by Catholic Answers back when I was in junior high school, and I was and remain incredibly impressed by their tours de force on just about every apologetical issue-- except this one. I hope someone can point me to a satisfying treatment of it.

Jordan Potter

The teaching on Limbo was universally accepted as true in the Catholic Church for many centuries, and only began to fall out of favor last century. As late as the 1950s, the Holy Office condemned the proposition that all unbaptised babies go to heaven. So, while it may not be a teaching of the infallible magisterium, it's wrong to downplay it as "nothing more than a popular theological speculation." Until last century, just about the only doubt Catholics had about Limbo was whether or not the souls there suffered pain, or rather existed in a state of natural happiness.

http://www.seattlecatholic.com/a051207.html

Jordan Potter

"Only those guilty of personal sin are damned to hell. Original sin alone will not get you to hell."

No, SDG, the Catholic faith is that even original sin alone would send someone to hell. This is found in the creed that Pope Clement had Emperor Michael Palaeologus sign in 1274 at the Second Council of Lyons. It was then reiterated by Pope John XXII in 1321, and was formally promulgated by the Oecumenical Council of Florence in 1439.

Until last century, just about the only doubt Catholics had about Limbo was whether or not the souls there suffered pain, or rather existed in a state of natural happiness.

Which, if the position that they do feel pain were permissible, would mean that we were at least then allowed to believe that unbaptized babies are chucked into the fiery river. Remember: Limbo is technically a part of Hell. The word means borderland or margin and since it involves lack of the beatific vision...

Dan Hunter

Bottom line here is that;No one gets to Heaven without removal of Original Sin.
God bless you.

Heartland Catholic

Contrary to what anyone else says on the topic, the Catholic Church has NOT changed it's teaching on Limbo. The official position is as it has always been: limbo exists and to deny it is to adhere to heresy. The paper issued on Friday by the International Theological Commission is has absolutely no bearing on Church teaching because (1) the commission itself is only an advisory panel with no official teaching office in the Catholic Church, and (2) Church teaching on limbo is a doctrinal fact which has been infallibly declared on many occasions throughout history. Please allow me to refer you to a discussion on the topic by a Catholic priest who makes numerous quotes of historical Church teaching affirming the existence and reality of limbo:

http://www.audiosancto.com/audio/20070422_Sermon_GoodShepherdSunday_OnLimbo.mp3

SDG

Doesn't the Commission itself recognize that extra ecclesiam nulla salus "needs interpretation?" And how does this not resonate pretty squarely with Jeb's concerns?

Extra ecclesiam nulla salus has always been subject to various caveats and asterisks, e.g., baptism of desire, baptism of blood, baptism of heretics to name a few.

The 1949 Letter of the Holy Office to Father Feeney puts the Church's teaching in perspective in a way that puts a very different face on things from Jeb's sneering comments about the Church "including everyone from Bultmannian protestants to Mohamadens [sic]" (which it does not, though we may still hope that they can be saved).

Cf. also of course Lumen Gentium 15-16 and CCC 1257-1261 (LINK FIXED) as well as Dominus Iesus.

No, SDG, the Catholic faith is that even original sin alone would send someone to hell. This is found in the creed that Pope Clement had Emperor Michael Palaeologus sign in 1274 at the Second Council of Lyons. It was then reiterated by Pope John XXII in 1321, and was formally promulgated by the Oecumenical Council of Florence in 1439.

References/quotations, please.

The official position is as it has always been: limbo exists and to deny it is to adhere to heresy.

Any time anyone calls the Bishop of Rome a heretic, I have no trouble knowing whom I'm going to listen to. Thanks for playing.

Josh Hood

No, original sin does damn a person. There are two punishments in hell, the poena damni, or separation from God, which is the punishment of original sin; and the poena sensus, the punishment of the senses, which is the punishment for actual sins. The limbo postulation basically says that unbaptized infants suffer the pain of separation because they are in original sin, but that they do not suffer the pain of the senses because they have no personal sins.

I also think its proper to point out that the document is not saying that all unbaptized infants go to heaven. It explicitly says that the fate of unbaptized children is not a matter of public revelation - which does imply that limbo is not de fide. It simply calls into question the existence of the limbo of children as an answer to the question of their fate and says that there are good reasons to think that God saves them. Again, how this happens we do not know, as it is not a matter of public revelation.

Of course this will be taken to mean that all unbaptized children go to heaven, which while this is a possibility of this theology, is not the necessary result. The real danger of this is not the loss of a particular theological opinion, but that people will become lax in baptizing their children.

Marty Helgesen

The article on Limbo in the original Catholic Encyclopedia, in the volume published in 1910, concludes, "Thus the Council of Florence, however literally interpreted, does not deny the possibility of perfect subjective happiness for those dying in original sin, and this is all that is needed from the dogmatic viewpoint to justify the prevailing Catholic notion of the children's limbo, while from the standpoint of reason, as St. Gregory of Nazianzus pointed out long ago, no harsher view can be reconciled with a worthy concept of God's justice and other attributes."
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09256a.htm

Note that children's limbo is referred to as, "the prevailing Catholic notion", not as defined dogma.

francis 03

Wikipedia contains a long list of apparently-infallible statements of "extra ecclesiam" that don't seem to include any exceptions at all. I guess this is what I'm looking for an explanation of.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extra_Ecclesiam_Nulla_Salus

SDG

Bottom line here is that;No one gets to Heaven without removal of Original Sin.

Certainly. The question is simply under what circumstances original sin can be removed from individuals who remain outside the Church.

Among these can certainly be counted the martyrdom of catechumens, the desire for baptism of catechumens who die without the sacrament, and those who receive the baptism of heretics.

The deaths of the Holy Innocents would seem to count, and victims of the abortion holocaust seem to me to have a similar claim.

In my personal opinion, the proposal that in their deaths unbaptized babies are united with Jesus' saving death as they would be through baptism is more consistent with fundamental dogmatic theology than the speculation of limbo.

Leo

From the Second Vatican Council and Papal teaching we know that adults who have not explicitly professed Jesus as their Lord in this life can be saved.

If we can hope that unbaptized adults who have personally sinned can enter heaven, then our hope for unbaptized infants who have not personally sinned must be greater.

The widely-held but 'unofficial' pious hope of Limbo (rather than Hell) has developed into a better hope.

The mass media ought to be glad that the Catholic Church was claiming that more people were in Heaven. They would certainly have complained if Limbo or Hell for unbaptized infants was affirmed. But for some, even good news is a stick with which to beat the Church.

SDG

Wikipedia contains a long list of apparently-infallible statements of "extra ecclesiam" that don't seem to include any exceptions at all. I guess this is what I'm looking for an explanation of.

The Bible itself contains infallible statements about salvation that must be understood as carrying implicit exceptions, even though there is no mention of such.

Take John 3:18: "He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God."

Interpreted strictly, this verse would seem to imply that anyone at all who "does not believe" -- i.e., anyone who lacks personal faith -- is "condemned already." This would even include baptized babies, who lack personal faith.

Esau

JIMMY AKIN:

The BACKGROUND link seems to be broken.

Any chance of fixing it?

THANKS!!!

Jimmy Akin

Link fixed. (It's the same as the "AS ANTICIPATED" link on top.)

Esau

Thanks Jimmy as always!!!

Jordan Potter

References/quotations, please.

They are found here (the 1274 reference I added in a comment at the bottom):

http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2006/10/roman-church-teaches.htm

Let me make clear, however, that I am not opposed to theological speculation that God can remit the original sin of unbaptised babies through extraordinary means. The Church isn't opposed to such speculation, so there's no basis for my raising any objections to it. I do, however, think the traditional teaching on Limbo is solidly grounded, even though it's not an infallible doctrine of the faith.

Jordan Potter

"No, original sin does damn a person."

On the contrary:

"The souls of those who die in mortal sin or with only original sin soon go down into hell, but there they receive different punishments." (Creed signed by Emperor Michael Palaeologus, written by Pope Clement during the Second Council of Lyons, 1274)

"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)

"... 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." (Laetentur Caeli, Council of Florence, 1439)

There is no question that the souls of those who die in original sin go to hell. The question is whether or not God has extraordinary means to remit the original sin of unbaptised babies. We don't know if He does, but the International Theological Commission advises that it is good to hope that He does.


Jordan Potter

Sorry, Josh, my brain wasn't working just now. Just delete the words "on the contrary." I was agreeing with you, not disagreeing.

Esau

Jordan Potter:

Could it be that it was not 'Hell' that was meant but 'Sheol'?

I just can't imagine that there are different regions in Hell with differing punishments.

Also, I cannot accept that a merciful God, such as He who sent us His Son for our very salvation, would actually send innocent babies to Hell.

I mean, I can accept folks who've lived a life of Sin and Evil -- these send themselves to Hell.

But I cannot fathom innocent babies who have committed no actual sin of their own to be sent to the same fate.

Jordan Potter

Esau, those who have the stain of original sin are not innocent. We all need Jesus to save us, even babies who have not committed actual sin.

Anyway, no, there is no chance that they were referring to "Sheol" rather than "Gehenna," the hell of the damned. There is no other way to interpret those words -- those who die in original sin go to hell, but the damned do not all experience the same punishments. For some it is worse than others. Traditionally it was suggested that for unbaptised babies, there was no pain at all, but even a state of natural happiness. No, not heaven, but the mildest of hells imaginable.

Esau

Traditionally it was suggested that for unbaptised babies, there was no pain at all, but even a state of natural happiness.


Jordan Potter:

I really appreciate all your info!

But, how can there even be a state of natural happiness when there is a separation from God?

It just doesn't seem theologically acceptable.

Isn't one of the reasons why the souls in Hell suffer so is due to their separation from God, which, thus, results in apparent pain?

SDG

Thanks for responding, Jordan. Some clarifications:

First, I've been doing some further research, and even before you posted I realized that my earlier statements about original sin and damnation were too strong, and you and Josh have a point.

It is certainly true that original sin alone does exclude the soul from the beatific vision. Thus, as Dan Hunter said and I agreed with above, no one gets to heaven without the removal of original sin.

On the limbo postulate, unbaptized infants are excluded from the beatific vision, and are thus in a sense on the "border" (limbo) of hell.

Josh is also correct as regards the traditional distinction between the poena damni and the poena sensus.

If limbo postulate is understood to exclude positive punishment in the sense of the poena sensus, then it seems that Augustine taught that unbaptized infants go to hell, not limbo, since he held that they do suffer positive punishment, though in a very mild degree.)

However, apparently the prevailing understanding of limbo has been that unbaptized infants neither suffer poena sensus nor experience exclusion from the beatific vision as a painful privation (poena damni).

On this view, though objectively excluded from the beatific vision, subjectively they do not experience this as punishment or suffering. Rather, they experience perfect natural happiness. One version even holds that these souls will be raised with glorified bodies and will occupy the new earth in eternity, what might be called a quasi-beatific state.

When I said that original sin does not send anyone to hell, I should have said something like "Those who die in original sin only do not suffer eternal punishment." Even though the magisterial teachings cited above speak of punishments, apparently this is widely understood to refer to the objective exclusion from the beatific vision rather than any experience of suffering, spiritual or otherwise.

Looking back at Jimmy's earlier post, I see I've already written at length on my own ideas about the regeneration of the unbaptized, from martyred catechumens to catechumens who die naturally to the Holy Innocents to victims of abortion to unbaptized infants who die naturally.

FWIW, I'm gratified to note that some of the theological considerations mentioned in my earlier post seem to have been cited also in the ITC's document.

SDG

Could it be that it was not 'Hell' that was meant but 'Sheol'?

No, apparently what is meant is separation from God.

I just can't imagine that there are different regions in Hell with differing punishments.

I don't know about regions, but I'm confident that there are differing punishments, at any rate. Some of the damned surely suffer more grievously than others, just as some of the Blessed are more glorious and honored than others.

Also, I cannot accept that a merciful God, such as He who sent us His Son for our very salvation, would actually send innocent babies to Hell.

Neither have most Catholic theologians, at least where hell is understood as positive suffering.

Esau, those who have the stain of original sin are not innocent. We all need Jesus to save us, even babies who have not committed actual sin.

The second statement is true, but not the first. Even babies who have not committed actual sin need Jesus to save them, but it's also true that even in original sin they are innocent, i.e., without personal guilt.

But, how can there even be a state of natural happiness when there is a separation from God?

With God all things are possible. Like you, I don't find it a fitting fate for a creature made in God's image and called to know and love Him forever; but there's no question that God could make us happy forever without Him, if He wanted to.

Joey

Hardon defines doctrine as "Any truth taught by the Church as necessary for acceptance by the faithful." Limbo isn't and never has been "doctrine".

Jordan Potter

"But, how can there even be a state of natural happiness when there is a separation from God?"

Those on earth today who are still in their sins can experience natural happiness: joys and pleasures, even if they are fleeting. The traditional teaching on Limbo suggests that because babies cannot know that they have been deprived of supernatural happiness, and because they had not committed any actual sin, they would exist eternally in a state of natural happiness. They would never get to enjoy heaven, but as SDG has said, their punishment would be nothing mnore than being deprived of the Beatific Vision.

Even St. Augustine couldn't bring himself to admit anything worse for unbaptised babies than the mildest of pains in hell. Subsequent theologians wouldn't even go that far: no pain at all, just exclusion from heaven. That's why it is called "limbo" -- "fringe" or "hem." It's conceived of at the outermost "region" of hell, where there is separation from God but no pain.

A Catholic Mama

Of course we know that this idea on Limbo is not new, but reading the media spin, which is what most americans and I guess the rest of the world will go by, it sure seems to me that there will be even FEWER baptisms of babies --and subsequent teaching and passing on the faith to those children--than ever before. If it is all just "theological opinion", I think it was very imprudent on the pope's part to announce this as he did.

Yes, I know he had abortion in mind, but I mean, really, didn'g he realize what every devout catholic mom and dad already knows: That if you teach that definitely unbaptised children go to heaven anyway, your average person will assume that means there is no original sin, therefore no need for baptism, therefore no need to be catholic, therefore no need to go to Mass, etc, etc, etc.

And if you push this thinking (as a lot of people will do) it sorta makes the abortive woman and the abortion doctors a bunch of "mystical heroes" ; afterall, they are sending 5000 souls to heaven each day, helping them to avoid any chance of commiting one mortal sin and going to hell! In fact, they are actually saving souls, if you think about it; they could be saving the world from another stalin or hitler, and sending that little hitler straight to heaven while they are at it-- "so, what's wrong with abortion?"

What WAS the pope thinking? sigh.

Jordan Potter

"Even babies who have not committed actual sin need Jesus to save them, but it's also true that even in original sin they are innocent, i.e., without personal guilt."

Okay, if by innocent we mean "without personal guilt of actual sin," then yes, babies are innocent. I was referring to their lack of justifying grace, however.

Catholic Mama, I do hope that Pope Benedict forcefully urges the need to baptise babies. If we don't know that God has extraordinary means of saving unbaptised babies, but can at best only hope He does, then we must be safe and not presume on God's mercy: parents, bring your children to the font of life with all speed!

Jordan Potter

"And if you push this thinking (as a lot of people will do) it sorta makes the abortive woman and the abortion doctors a bunch of 'mystical heroes' ; afterall, they are sending 5000 souls to heaven each day, helping them to avoid any chance of commiting one mortal sin and going to hell!"

Yes, there are those who would make such twisted arguments. But the Catholic faith affirms that we may NEVER do evil that good may come of it.

John

This was an appeasement to the growing third world catholic countries, where catholics, at least by birth (not by practice) have a high birth rate (not to mention one man with countless wives but that is for another thread where the church looks the other way) and a huge infant mortality

St Augustine was clearly teaching defined dogma, as defined in as defined in several Dogmatic Councils: that the sin of Adam and Eve, the earlies of the human race, mankind lost grace through the Original Sin and that this sin dwells in every unbaptized human soul.

Therefore souls, such as the unborn who die in the state of Original Sin are excluded from the the vision of God.

This teaching was codified at the Sixteenth Council of Carthage in 418, the Second Council of Lyons in 1274, the Council of Florence in 1438-1445, and finally the Council of Trent (1546) and is based on the dogma of Original Sin.

But once again the church of Vatican II, under immense pressure from the only part of the world where catholics are growing, turns the other way and appeases the secular world instead of "holding fast to faith and tradition" and asking these secular world to be in line with Catholic teaching

Maybe having a catholic priest or someone to baptise these infants upon birth immediately would be the answer, but I guess that would just make to much sense for a church now bent on Modernism

Esau

SDG:

Thanks for many of your insights and info above!

You and Jordan Potter have provided me with a lot of info to reflect on.

But, in regards to your comment:

...there's no question that God could make us happy forever without Him, if He wanted to.

And Jordan's:

...there was no pain at all, but even a state of natural happiness.

Though I know, just as you've mentioned, with God, all things are possible.

It's just I often thought that the very pains suffered by those in Hell were actually due to their being physically/spiritually separated from God.

If babies do go to Hell, even in a lesser region, I cannot imagine that they can actually experience even an imperfect form of happiness since, being in Hell, they are separated from God and would, therefore, suffer similar pains.

Eileen R

A Catholic Mama:
And if you push this thinking (as a lot of people will do) it sorta makes the abortive woman and the abortion doctors a bunch of "mystical heroes" ; afterall, they are sending 5000 souls to heaven each day, helping them to avoid any chance of commiting one mortal sin and going to hell! In fact, they are actually saving souls, if you think about it; they could be saving the world from another stalin or hitler, and sending that little hitler straight to heaven while they are at it-- "so, what's wrong with abortion?"

This makes as little sense as saying that our belief that children under the age of reason can be baptized encourages infanticide.

Jordan Potter

"It's just I often thought that the very pains suffered by those in Hell were actually due to their being physically/spiritually separated from God."

Again, since babies have no awareness of what they have lost, the pain of loss and separation would not be something they would experience. That is how it has traditionally been explained anyway.

Oh, and Esau and everyone, our old friend John has chimed in with his stale old church bashing rhetoric. For once could we all please just ignore him?

SDG

And if you push this thinking (as a lot of people will do) it sorta makes the abortive woman and the abortion doctors a bunch of "mystical heroes" ; afterall, they are sending 5000 souls to heaven each day, helping them to avoid any chance of commiting one mortal sin and going to hell! In fact, they are actually saving souls, if you think about it; they could be saving the world from another stalin or hitler, and sending that little hitler straight to heaven while they are at it-- "so, what's wrong with abortion?"

What WAS the pope thinking? sigh.

In the first place, I doubt very many people are going to argue along these lines. In general, I think anyone seriously thinking about the question "Where do aborted babies go when they die?" has already admitted the personhood and divine image of the fetus, and is not going to be making a principled argument for abortion.

On the contrary, I think the new declaration is actually much more likely to be a source of comfort to repentant and grieving mothers who have committed abortion in the past, than to encourage anyone to commit abortion in the future.

Just think if you were a repentant mother who had an abortion how much better you would feel if you could hope that someday you might meet your baby in heaven. (Maybe the pope was thinking of that!)

In the second place, the argument is too patently flimsy. For one thing, it would equally justify and even encourage murder of children up to the age of reason.

For another, the possibility of "saving the world from another Hitler" would have to be weighed against the danger of depriving the world of another St. Francis or Mother Teresa.

Most importantly, God creates souls in this world, not to be sent willy-nilly to heaven, but to exercise freedom and ideally to exercise heroic virtue and glorify God in this life and win eternal glory for themselves in the next.

Even if aborted babies go to heaven, which I believe they do, they are deprived of all opportunity to merit, to have something of their own to offer their Creator. Thus, although perfectly happy in heaven, they are deprived of the happiness of having pleased God by their works.

That is an offense against the fetus for which everyone who cooperates in abortion must beg their victim's forgiveness, even if in so doing they have sent them to heaven.

A Catholic Mama

Eileen R:

Ah, but infanticide is not legal, whereas abortion, sadly, is.

Perhaps you have never encountered pro-abortion fanatics; I think they will use this.

SDG:

I wish that most people in our culture today did look at the potential good that each person has, as you point out, the good that a child can do which he can later offer to the glory of God in Paradise. Unfortunately, in this cutlure of death, most people only look at the potential bad.

A Catholic Mama

Ooops, that last anonymous response was from me.

Esau

Jordan Potter:
Thanks for the Info yet again!
About the HH -- agreed, no response here.


SDG:
This was very well-said:

Most importantly, God creates souls in this world, not to be sent willy-nilly to heaven, but to exercise freedom and ideally to exercise heroic virtue and glorify God in this life and win eternal glory for themselves in the next.

SDG

Perhaps you have never encountered pro-abortion fanatics; I think they will use this.

I really, really doubt this. Pro-abortion fanatics do not want to come within a million miles of admitting that the fetus has a soul that "goes" anywhere at death, or even that "death" is occurring at all. It's just a pregnancy being terminated. Nothing to see here, move along, move along.

Esau

Unfortunately, in this cutlure of death, most people only look at the potential bad.

Actually, one of the biggest problems is that they see the baby as an object (to be done away with according to the wishes of the 'owner') and, even worse, an inconvenience.

Esau

Pro-abortion fanatics do not want to come within a million miles of admitting that the fetus has a soul that "goes" anywhere at death, or even that "death" is occurring at all. It's just a pregnancy being terminated.


SDG:

Right On!

Actually, to even admit that 'it' has a 'soul' would be too much an inconvenient truth!

(sorry... just had to work that in) ;^)

A Catholic Mama

SDG:

Yes, as I meant to say in my first post, I know that comforting those who regret abortion was the intention of the pope's announcement. I am lamenting the outcome of its spin in the media and how I know that majority of the world will, and is, interpreting it.

As Jordon Potter (above) points out, let us hope that the Holy Father will reiterate the importance of infant baptism (and the potential spiritual danger of presumption) and that Original Sin is a defined doctrine.

A Catholic Mama

Esau,

Apparently you have never encountered pro-abortion "Catholics"--including nuns and priests. They do indeed think this way.

A Catholic Mama

Oops again...my last comment was meant for SDG

Esau

Apparently you have never encountered pro-abortion "Catholics"--including nuns and priests. They do indeed think this way.

You've got to be kidding me?

There are actually nuns and priests who are pro-death?

Never heard of such folks. All the ones I know are active Pro-Life folks who even march Pro-Life and engage in various Pro-Life activities.

David B.

John,

I thought that if the child died before baptism the desire of the mother to have her infant baptized sufficed.

A Catholic Mama

Esau:

Yep, hate to burst your bubble, but there are lots of wolves in sheep's (or is that shepherd's?) clothing.

I envy your innocence! :)

TomA

Wow, what great timing for this discussion (for me). My wife and I are preparing another group of parents Wed night for the baptism of their children. Here I had been debating taking out the discussion on Original sin (due in part to a comment made by someone in clergy). Instead methinks it bears even lenghthier discussion based on this topic.

Thanks as always to those here that provide an intelligent and helpful dialogue about meaningful topics.

BillyHW

Is there a "limbo of the journalists" where even those journalists unworthy of eternal damnation experience only natural sufferings for all eternity?

Paulo

If there is even a chance that an unbabtized infant would go to hell or be deprived of the beatific vision why don’t we have a priest waiting in the labor room to baptize as soon as the baby is born?

Pseudomodo

Fr. Brian Harrison O.S. in 2005 wrote a very interesting article on Limbo. I quote

"...It should be clear from the above survey of relevant Catholic magisterial statements that those who now talk about Limbo as only ever having been a mere "hypothesis", rather than a doctrine, are giving a very misleading impression of the state of the question. They are implying by this that the pre-Vatican II Church traditionally held, or at least implicitly admitted, that an alternate 'hypothesis' for unbaptized infants was their attainment of eternal salvation — Heaven. Nothing could be further from the truth. Limbo for unbaptized infants was indeed a theological "hypothesis"; but the only approved alternate hypothesis was not Heaven, but very mild hellfire as well as exclusion from the beatific vision! In short, while Limbo as distinct from very mild hellfire was a 'hypothetical' destiny for unbaptized infants, their eternal exclusion from Heaven (with or without any 'pain of sense') — at least after the proclamation of the Gospel, and apart from the 'baptism of blood' of infants slaughtered out of hatred for Christ — this was traditional Catholic doctrine, not a mere hypothesis. No, it was never dogmatically defined. But the only question is whether the doctrine was infallible by virtue of the universal and ordinary magisterium, or merely "authentic". "

http://www.seattlecatholic.com/a051207.html

Leah

If there is even a chance that an unbabtized infant would go to hell or be deprived of the beatific vision why don’t we have a priest waiting in the labor room to baptize as soon as the baby is born?

Of course, anyone can baptize in an emergency. I know a number of emergency hospital baptisms when it was feared the infant wouldn't survive.

Most parents wait 4-6 weeks before baptizing their child. There can be some unforeseen circumstances where the child dies. Why take that chance? Why not baptize as soon as the child is born, right after you cut the cord? In fact, if there is a chance that unbaptized children go to limbo, why aren’t Catholics lined up outside of hospitals to baptize every non-catholic child as they go home and save them from possible hell?

J.R. Stoodley

Esau,

I personally know one priest who thinks abortion should stay legal, though I think he is "personally opposed" to abortions. I know however that there are many downright pro-death priests and religious. It's a sad state of affairs.

SDG

Of course, anyone can baptize in an emergency. I know a number of emergency hospital baptisms when it was feared the infant wouldn't survive.

But this doesn't really answer the question. Why is it only when there is a specific reason to fear for the infant's survival that we baptize immediately? Just because there's no known medical emergency doesn't mean the child won't die suddenly on the way home from the hospital, say.

Just think, if the whole family dies in a car crash, you could have spent enternity with your baby if you had it baptized in the delivery room, but now, oh well, your child is IN HELL because you assumed that you could get it safely to church within a week or two.

To delay baptism by a single day or a single hour if there is risk of eternal damnation seems an intolerable dereliction of parental duty. Yet AFAIK the Church has never remotely encouraged parents to insist on baptism on the delivery bed; instead, parents are encouraged to have their child baptized within the first few weeks of life.

It is hard for me to see how this practice is defensible unless we are to assume that we can safely entrust the souls of our unbaptized children during those weeks to the mercy of God, rather than fearing that they are a heartbeat away from eternal perdition.

Esau

Why is it only when there is a specific reason to fear for the infant's survival that we baptize immediately? Just because there's no known medical emergency doesn't mean the child won't die suddenly on the way home from the hospital, say.

SDG:

Isn't it that unless there are extreme circumstances (such as immediate death) one (i.e., a lay person) cannot baptize the baby and that as a normal course of action, it should only be performed by a priest?

Esau

Here's a citation:

"The bishop, priest or deacon is the usual minister of Baptism, but when a person is in danger of death anyone may and sometimes should baptize. No one, however, may baptize him or herself. (1256)"

Paulo

You're right Esau, only a priest can perform a babtism unless there is danger of death, but you are missing the point. If the loss of contact with God is at stake why do we have to have immediate danger of death? The family could drive head on into an 18 wheeler on the way home and everybody could die in an instant. There would be no chance to baptize the infant and he/she would be lost forever. To delay baptism for even one second is too much of a chance if limbo is a real possibility.

SDG

Isn't it that unless there are extreme circumstances (such as immediate death) one (i.e., a lay person) cannot baptize the baby and that as a normal course of action, it should only be performed by a priest?

Well, in the first place, if I were truly afraid that my baby was in danger of hell until I got it baptized, why wouldn't I arrange to have a priest (e.g., a hospital chaplain) available to baptize it in the delivery room? Why wouldn't that be the Church's standard practice?

In the second place, if I were truly afraid that my baby was in danger of hell until I got it baptized, I don't think I would dare to drive it home in a car just because a priest wasn't available. I would probably consider that practically a violation of conscience, and have no choice but to perform the baptism myself rather than risk my child's eternal soul on my own driving and the driving of everyone on the road at the same time as me.

My point is that the fact that the Church's practice is for parents to make arrangements for baptism to take place within the first few weeks of life points toward having confidence that during those weeks we can safely entrust the souls of our unbaptized children to the mercy of God rather than fearing that they are a heartbeat away from eternal perdition.

Esau

To delay baptism for even one second is too much of a chance if limbo is a real possibility.


Paulo:

I'm not saying that there was actually something wrong with SDG's intention.

I was merely giving answer to him as regards: Why is it only when there is a specific reason to fear for the infant's survival that we baptize immediately.

I was only pointing out that a lay person (that is, 'we') aren't supposed to baptize our children ourselves (or anybody else for that matter) unless there is imminent danger of death, as pointed out by the citation.

Now, SDG's most recent comment of actually having the hospital chaplain baptize the baby in the delivery room is a splended suggestion!

Dr. Eric

So, let me get this straight. If a baby dies without being baptized, he goes to limbo (according to those who subscribe to this view.) Limbo is forever without the Presence of God. That's supposed to be God's mercy, right.

I thought the worst pain of Hell was eternal separation from God. How is this view of Limbo any different from St. Augustine's hypothesis that unbaptized infants go straight to Hell?

No One Father is Infallible. St. Augustine was wrong.

Esau

I thought the worst pain of Hell was eternal separation from God.


Dr. Eric:

EXACTLY!!!

That's precisely the point I was alluding to in my earlier remarks.

I often thought, from things read (of course, this was way back from my early days in casually studying such topics), that the pains suffered by those in Hell was the result of actually being separated (physically/spiritually) from God.

J.R. Stoodley

Dr. Eric,

St. Gregory the Great and other Fathers who were Popes were infallible :-p

Anyway, in hell there is a complete absense of God. Perhaps in Limbo there is a presence of God to the person, just not the complete beatific vision. Some ideas at least of Limbo had it as something of an earthly paradise, with great natural happiness just no beatific vision.

Also, some believed that Limbo was only temporary, and that at the Second Coming they would go to heaven.

SDG

I was only pointing out that a lay person (that is, 'we') aren't supposed to baptize our children ourselves (or anybody else for that matter) unless there is imminent danger of death, as pointed out by the citation.

And my reply is that if our unbaptized babies are all a heartbeat away from hell, then that is an unconscionable precept. If unbaptized babies go to hell, it is imperative to baptize them immediately. No other principle, including the priest's role as ordinary minister of the sacrament, should be permitted to keep a child in danger of eternal perdition for a single hour, let alone weeks on end.

And while having a hospital chaplain in the delivery room to perform the baptism may seem to you like a splendid idea, it's not one the Church has advocated in any vocal and consistent way -- which, again, would be unconscionable unless we may safely entrust the souls of our unbaptized babies to the mercy of God.

Because I do not believe that the Church's practice is unconscionable, I conclude that we may safely entrust the souls of our unbaptized babies to the mercy of God.

JoAnna

When I had a miscarriage in December of 2006, my priest assured me that our baby was indeed in heaven, because s/he had been baptized via baptism of desire given that both my husband and I had fully intended to have the baby baptized very shortly after his/her birth.

As the Catechism says:

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," 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.

Regardless of Limbo's existance, I believe my baby is in heaven with God right now. I ask him/her to pray for us daily.

Esau

J.R. Stoodley,

I would be more willing to accept some of the ideas you laid out in your comments.

That's why I originally envisioned it more like 'Sheol'.

Though Jordan Potter made a reasonable assertion that it cannot be 'Sheol'.

It was said that limbo was actually a part of Hell, except that it was perhaps a lesser region with milder forms of punishment.

I'd more likely defer to those with greater knowledge on Limbo such as perhaps Jordan Potter and the like.

Tim Brandenburg

Hey John,

I was wondering how long it would take you to weigh in with anti-V2 sentiments. You never fail to disappoint *grin*. However, now that I know the truth about you (you're staying true to the Church via indult masses), I just don't have it in me to get upset about it any more. Your gnarled exterior belies the fact that you are just another Catholic trying to muddle through like the rest of us.

Pax,
Tim

Jeff

I trust Joseph Ratzinger, but I WISH, WISH, WISH that if the Church is going to do these seeming u-turns she would EXPLAIN them first. This sort of thing is precisely what caused so much of the unsettled difficulties about religious freedom and other doctrines at Vatican Two.

We believe not just in infallible definitions but in Tradition and the ordinary magisterium of the Church, which is just as infallible as any definition. I'd like to see the study to see if it takes the previous teaching seriously.

Here are some rather official and high level teachings of Pope and Council on the question which if they are in fact NOT infallible (and they sound to me as if they might just be) are certainly solemn and definitional in character:

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
John XXII
November 21, 1321

...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

(note that this was REQUIRED by an ecumenical council of the Church as a matter of doctrine necessary for unification of Greeks and Latins)

[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

(Note the date on this papal condemnation).

I don't mind believing that the black that I see is white if the Hierarchical Church tells me that it is so, but I wish she would make these shifts a little easier by explaining fully their relation to earlier teaching before launching out into the deep.

I wonder if the commission examined this issue?

TheOther

To put this topic from another perspective, let me ask a few questions,

Is the theological commission positing the possibility that no infant can ever die with original sin, simply because God is too merciful to let that happen?

If the answer is in the affirmative, this unleashes a whole other set of theological problems that theologians and apologists would have to consider.

For starters, what would be the point of the Church's constant emphasis (reaffirmed by the theological commission itself) on the urgency of having infants baptized as soon as possible? Isn't this superfluous if God in reality infuses sanctifying grace every single time an infant were to die without actual baptism?

Secondly, in what sense would water baptism be the "ordinary means of salation" when God, in fact, infuses sanctifying grace (again) every single time an infant were to die without actual baptism? As the theologian Fr. William Most notes: "extraordinary graces are extraordinary, God cannot, without self-contradiction, make the extraordinary to be ordinary. So He does not routinely give the miraculous graces" ("Americans to Hell?" Paragraph 30).

And lastly, in what meaningful way can we interpret Our Lord's words in John 3:5, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God", when in reality an infant's soul is infused with sanctifying grace by default simply because he dies? You see, traditionally the Church has always interpreted John 3:5 to include both baptism by water and baptism by desire or blood (the later two exemplifies the truth that God is not bound by the sacrament itself). Baptism of blood is considered martyrdom for the faith -- meaning, someone is not baptized by blood just because he suffers death. This, then, leads to the question of how we could consider other forms of deaths that infants suffer from as true forms of martyrdom (an example of such a case would be an unbaptized infant dying in a car accident - how is he a martyr?).

The above questions are just some of the problems that the possibility of all non-baptized infants receiving sanctifying grace, raises.

On the other hand, if the theological commission did not mean to open up the possibility that no infant can ever die in the state of original sin, what then happens to those who do? And since the Church teaches that original sin alone can exclude a soul from heaven -- I ask, what is truly the more 'restrictive' view: that such souls go to hell (there to suffer with the company of the damned and the demons), or limbo (a place of natural happiness - happiness, theologians have taught, which is far superior to the kind we can experience here on earth)?

Esau

If unbaptized babies go to hell, it is imperative to baptize them immediately. No other principle, including the priest's role as ordinary minister of the sacrament, should be permitted to keep a child in danger of eternal perdition for a single hour, let alone weeks on end.

That's why I agreed with the sentiment that babies should be baptized immediately.

Because I do not believe that the Church's practice is unconscionable, I conclude that we may safely entrust the souls of our unbaptized babies to the mercy of God.

That's EXACTLY the reason I had stated earlier today:

Also, I cannot accept that a merciful God, such as He who sent us His Son for our very salvation, would actually send innocent babies to Hell.

SDG

I thought the worst pain of Hell was eternal separation from God.

True, but many Catholic theologians have supposed that the souls of unbaptized infants, though in fact separated from the Beatific Vision, do not experience this as a painful privation. God is omnipotent; if he wants to give such souls perfect natural happiness without the Beatific Vision, He can do so.

I do question, though, whether this is a fitting eternal destiny for souls created in the image of God and sharing the human nature assumed and redeemed by Jesus Christ.

Even perdition in a way is more consistent with human dignity, since it turns on the freedom of those who abuse God's gift to reject His love, that is absent in the concept of limbo. Limbo seems to me to reduce human persons to a subhuman state. Perfect natural happiness is a fitting state for animals, not for men. (I don't say it would be contrary to God's justice to leave such souls in limbo, only that it seems to me not fitting. That's a personal opinion, not a theological fact.)

SDG

That's why I agreed with the sentiment that babies should be baptized immediately.

But, again, the Church doesn't seem to consider it as urgent as all that.

J.R. Stoodley

If any connection can be drawn between Sheol and Limbo I suppose it would be that they are the same place, a place where those separated from God by original but not personal mortal sin go, which was emptied by the decent of Christ into hell but now is filling up again.

It makes more sense to me than a separate place just for babies, but it's counterintuitive that after the storming of hell and release of the prisoners in Sheol that God would allow people to go there again, temporarily much less for eternity. The whole point of the decent into hell I thought was so that those with origial but no personal mortal sin would go to heaven ultimately.

Also, I recall encountering a quote from Pope Pius IX saying that God makes sure no one goes to hell who has not freely chosen to do so by personal rejection of God. If Limbo is the fringe of hell certainly no innocents go there.

Esau

When I had a miscarriage in December of 2006, my priest assured me that our baby was indeed in heaven, because s/he had been baptized via baptism of desire given that both my husband and I had fully intended to have the baby baptized very shortly after his/her birth.


JoAnna:

I believe this was what David B. was alluding to in his remarks to John earlier today.

ed

Mr. Akin, as an "MSM" reporter who sought your help on a story regarding the Mass and never received the courtesy of a reply, your "shame on the MSM" cracks grow pretty tiresome.

Esau

But, again, the Church doesn't seem to consider it as urgent as all that.


SDG:

But that's just it -- parents are encouraged to have their child baptized within the first few weeks of life.


They are merely providing a guideline -- a guideline that falls under normal circumstances.

The very fact that the Church allows Baptism to be performed by a lay person under severe circumtances speaks to how significant the Church feels about this important Sacrament.

JoAnna

The Church's Code of Canon Law states that for an infant to be baptized licitly:

there must be a founded hope that the infant will be brought up in the Catholic religion; if such hope is altogether lacking, the baptism is to be delayed according to the prescripts of particular law after the parents have been advised about the reason.

So does limbo only apply to Catholic babies, and Protestant babies go straight to hell?

I don't think so.

I would agree with previous posters in that the same God who sent his Son to die for us would not consign innocent babies, who through no fault of their own have never had a chance to hear the Gospel and learn about Jesus, to hell OR limbo. Theologically, it does not make sense.

Esau

JoAnna --

When I said earlier this morning:

Also, I cannot accept that a merciful God, such as He who sent us His Son for our very salvation, would actually send innocent babies to Hell.

It didn't apply to just CATHOLIC babies.


Also, the Sacrament of baptism is also valid under certain some Protestant denominations as well (specifically, those who baptize in the name of the Trinity).

This notion of yours that seems to present the Church as being bent on sending Protestants to Hell is unfounded.

JoAnna

Esau - maybe I'm not being entirely clear, but I completely agree with you. I don't think God sends any babies to hell, Catholic, Protestant or any other religion.

SDG

For starters, what would be the point of the Church's constant emphasis (reaffirmed by the theological commission itself) on the urgency of having infants baptized as soon as possible? Isn't this superfluous if God in reality infuses sanctifying grace every single time an infant were to die without actual baptism?

Good question. My answer is: No, it would not be superfluous.

Let's say that whether my baby dies the day before it is baptized or the day after, it goes to heaven either way. In that sense, perhaps my child winds up the same whether it makes it to baptism or not -- if it dies.

Yet what about the state of our living child? As a father, I don't want my baby living in original sin -- I want it to have sanctifying grace as soon as possible (i.e., within the first few weeks of life). I want Jesus living in my baby's soul. I want the Holy Spirit and the theological virtues in my baby's soul. I want my baby to be a Christian, to be a member of Christ's body.

Thus, I am not going to be complacent about baptism and say, "Sure, my baby may be dead in original sin now, but as long as I can trust Jesus to give it sanctifying grace at the moment of death." Jesus has provided the means for the Church to give that child sanctifying grace as soon as possible (again, within the first few weeks). As a father, I am constrained by love and duty to bring my child to Jesus.

Secondly, in what sense would water baptism be the "ordinary means of salation" when God, in fact, infuses sanctifying grace (again) every single time an infant were to die without actual baptism? As the theologian Fr. William Most notes: "extraordinary graces are extraordinary, God cannot, without self-contradiction, make the extraordinary to be ordinary. So He does not routinely give the miraculous graces" ("Americans to Hell?" Paragraph 30).

All graces, whether sacramental or otherwise, are miraculous, to begin with. That seems a rather sloppy bit of writing from a good theologian.

In any case, baptism is the normative means of salvation, and certainly among Catholics it should be the exception rather than the rule that a child dies without baptism. So in that sense it would be extraordinary for a child to need salvation at death. I do not think it can be inferred that the ordinary or usual fate of an unbaptized baby is to be denied entrance to heaven.

Jordan Potter

"I thought the worst pain of Hell was eternal separation from God."

It would be, for those who are capable of sensing such a pain.

"How is this view of Limbo any different from St. Augustine's hypothesis that unbaptized infants go straight to Hell?"

The hypothesis that souls in limbo suffer pains of sense and of soul would not be different from St. Augustine's hypothesis. However, most Catholics came to believe that souls in limbo do not suffer any torments.

"St. Augustine was wrong."

Very probably, at least about the souls of unbaptised babies suffering mild pains in hell.

"So does limbo only apply to Catholic babies, and Protestant babies go straight to hell?"

Not sure what you mean. Limbo is said to be the outermost fringe of hell, so any baby that goes there would "go straight to hell." Also, a baby that is not baptised would in one important sense not be either a Catholic or a Protestant, but would still be a pagan, so it is nonsense to distinguish between a Catholic unbaptised baby and a Protestant unbaptised baby.

"The Church's Code of Canon Law states that for an infant to be baptized licitly: there must be a founded hope that the infant will be brought up in the Catholic religion;"

Correct: that applies to "licit" baptism. However, even an illicit baptism is a valid baptism. So the Church is saying please don't baptise if there's no real chance the infant will be raised a Catholic, but is not saying that the baptism doesn't remit original sin in such cases.

"And while having a hospital chaplain in the delivery room to perform the baptism may seem to you like a splendid idea, it's not one the Church has advocated in any vocal and consistent way."

Indeed, although in the past haven't there been womb baptisms when it was believed the baby would be stillborn?

"I do not think it can be inferred that the ordinary or usual fate of an unbaptized baby is to be denied entrance to heaven."

SDG, I think it's not quite right to use "ordinary" as another word for "usual." "Ordinary" in a theological sense should imply something that has been "ordered" by God, and in that sense the "ordinary" fate of an unbaptised baby would be to be denied entrance to heaven. Thus, baptism is the "ordinary" means by which original sin is remitted, but not the only means -- there are extraordinary means for those who have attained the age of reason, and, one hopes, for potentially all of those who have not yet attained the age of reason. (We know, for example, that Baptism of Blood can apply to unbaptised infants. Baptism of Desire, though, that's a bit harder to reason through.)

Now, if we say, "I do not think it can be inferred that the *usual* fate of an unbaptized baby is to be denied entrance to heaven," then I would not quibble with that. It's possible, surely, but we can't say that with certainty.

"The whole point of the descent into hell I thought was so that those with original but no personal mortal sin would go to heaven ultimately."

Actually, I was under the impression that Christ's descent into hell liberated the souls of the righteous pre-Christians: the Old Testament saints or the righteous Gentiles such as, arguably, Socrates. I had never heard anything about a liberation of all souls that had died with only original sin but no mortal sin. My understanding it that it applied to those who had reached the age of reason. But I will be very happy to be better informed on this matter.

"Regardless of Limbo's existance, I believe my baby is in heaven with God right now. I ask him/her to pray for us daily."

And I very much hope you are right, and I wouldn't want anybody to ever dare tell you not to seek your baby's intercession.

Esau

Jordan Potter:

Great post above!

Although regarding the following:

Actually, I was under the impression that Christ's descent into hell liberated the souls of the righteous pre-Christians: the Old Testament saints


I thought that 'hell' used in the sense above was actually 'sheol', which is what led me to think likewise in terms of your utilization of 'hell' as regards the fate of babies.

The reason being is that I thought Jesus had actually gone to sheol to free the Old Testament Patriarchs in order to grant them entry into Heaven.

However, in the early Church, the Latins had translated that word (at least, that's what I thought) to 'Hell' when it came across to the Creed.

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