Jan 19, 2015
Asked at 04:13 pm on January 19th 2015
The idea of what was called “Limbo” where the souls of those babies who died without being baptized was never defined by the Church, but was a subject of debate by theologians. This is something different from Purgatory, which is still very much a part of Catholic doctrine.
A few years ago the International Theological Commission of the Vatican published a statement on this matter. It says that the Church is aware that salvation only comes through Christ in the Holy Spirit. At the same time, it says:
“The conclusion of this study is that there are theological and liturgical reasons to hope that infants who die without baptism may be saved and brought into eternal happiness, even if there is not an explicit teaching on this question found in Revelation.”
It goes on to say that:
“The idea of Limbo, which the Church has used for many centuries to designate the destiny of infants who die without Baptism, has no clear foundation in revelation, even though it has long been used in traditional theological teaching. Moreover, the notion that infants who die without Baptism are deprived of the beatific vision, which has for so long been regarded as the common doctrine of the Church, gives rise to numerous pastoral problems, so much so that many pastors of souls have asked for a deeper reflection on the ways of salvation.”
Today, many infants are killed through abortion or are kept suspended in time through IVF, being frozen in the early stages of conception. The document from the Theological Commission said that:
“86. b) Some of the infants who suffer and die do so as victims of violence. In their case, we may readily refer to the example of the Holy Innocents and discern an analogy in the case of these infants to the baptism of blood which brings salvation. Albeit unknowingly, the Holy Innocents suffered and died on account of Christ; their murderers were seeking to kill the infant Jesus. Just as those who took the lives of the Holy Innocents were motivated by fear and selfishness, so the lives particularly of unborn babies today are often endangered by the fear or selfishness of others. In that sense, they are in solidarity with the Holy Innocents.”
It continued saying that:
“87. c) It is also possible that God simply acts to give the gift of salvation to unbaptised infants by analogy with the gift of salvation given sacramentally to baptized infants.We may perhaps compare this to God’s unmerited gift to Mary at her Immaculate Conception, by which he simply acted to give her in advance the grace of salvation in Christ.”
The Church still maintains the importance of baptism, but for those who have not had the benefit of this there is still hope. This is not defined doctrine, but a hope in the love and mercy of God.
“Our conclusion is that the many factors that we have considered above give serious theological and liturgical grounds for hope that unbaptised infants who die will be saved and enjoy the Beatific Vision. We emphasise that these are reasons for prayerful hope, rather than grounds for sure knowledge.”
Replied at 01:15 am on January 20th 2015
Fr. Flynn: Excellent explanation. I would also like to add “Baptism of Desire”. That is, the committed desire for Baptism prior to one’s (or a child’s) death, is understood to join “Baptism of Blood” in its efficacy. We experienced this as our little +Jack who died at 10 days of life on the 28th of December-The Feast of the Holy Innocents, only a couple of days prior to his already scheduled Baptism. Our own prayer warrior in Heaven.
Replied at 03:53 am on January 26th 2015
“I thought Catholic faith stopped teaching about Purgatory…”
Thank you Fr Flynn .. but for me, the bigger question is, how has it come about, that Marie has needed to ask such an important question; so Marie, thank you too.
Obviously its not Marie’s fault when so little has been explained (by those whose task it is to explain) about Purgatory (amongst other critical theological concepts .. eg the 4 last things?)
So again, thank Heavens for your efforts Father, and also to Xt3.
Replied at 02:49 pm on January 26th 2015