Limbo: The destination of unbaptized
newborns and infants if they die?
"Limbo" is derived from a late Latin word "limbus" which means hem or border.
Many people believe that the term implied that Limbo for unbaptized infants was
at the border of Heaven. In reality, it was adopted
by the Church to indicate that Limbo was at the border of Hell. 1
The Roman Catholic church teaches that there are two main permanent
locations or states after death: Almost everyone will spend eternity in
either Heaven or Hell, depending on their salvation status at the instant of their death. Simple
justice would imply that unbaptized newborns and infants would not be tortured
in Hell. However, the Church has long taught that children suffer from Original
Sin when they are born.
Until 2007-APR, the Roman Catholic Church had never made an
official statement on the fate of embryos, fetuses, newborns and infants who die before being baptized. Some
theologians have taught the existence of a place or state called Limbo which is
intermediate between Heaven and Hell. Belief in Limbo has been suggested by many
popes and Catholic authorities down through the centuries. It has never been an official belief
promulgated by the church.
During 2007-APR, the Catholic Church issued a statement on the fate of unbaptized
infants. It still gives no definitive
answers. Many parents are apparently distressed about the fate of their miscarried embryos,
miscarried fetuses, and infants who die before being baptized. They must
remain in a state of great anxiety in the hope that some future proclamation of the
church will settle the issue. Considering the number of people who die as
newborns, infants, and young children, the agony felt by believing Roman
Catholics must be immense.
Topics covered in this section:
Fr. Brian W. Harrison, "Could Limbo be 'abolished'?" The Seattle
Catholic, 2005-DEC-07, at:
Copyright © 1999 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on
Originally written: 1999-DEC-19
Latest update: 2010-DEC-09
Author: B.A. Robinson