Catholic statements about the fate of
infants, etc., during the 21st Century
Recent developments about Limbo:
Circa 2004: In an article on 2005-NOV-30, the Scotsman
newspaper states that Pope John Paul II had written:
"The Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God. In fact
the great mercy of God, who wants all men to be saved, and the
tenderness of Jesus towards children allow us to hope that there is
a way of salvation for children who die without baptism." 1
Week of 2005-NOV-27: An international commission of Catholic theologians met in the Vatican to discuss the Church's stance on Limbo and on the fate of unbaptized infants. They were expected to recommend to the pope that
Limbo should be definitively abandoned by the Church, in favor of the belief that pre-embryos, embryos, fetuses, and unbaptized babies who die will go directly to heaven.
2005-NOV-29: John Haldane is a professor of philosophy at St
Andrews University in Scotland. He is also a consulter to the
Vatican's Pontifical Council for Culture. According to the Scotsman
"He said that the issue of limbo was 'something of a medieval
curiosity' that no longer preoccupies people. He said that the
reason the Catholic Church was clarifying its position was that
people still wrongly perceived heaven as a place and not as a state
"The idea of limbo conjures up the image of God as some kind of
government bureaucrat who says to people, not just babies, 'Sorry,
you don't have your passport stamped with baptism, you'll have to
wait over there'."
"Instead, God's powers are such that He can overcome the issue of
Original Sin as He chooses, according to special circumstances."
Judging from the numbers of distressed parents and
family members who send us Emails concerning the state of their deceased
infants, the issue of limbo is far more than a "medieval curiosity" among
the Catholic laity. The lack of a clear statement by the church appears to have caused incredible levels of anxiety among
devout Catholic parents for millennia without any resolution.
2007-APR-19: The Church's
International Theological Commission finally issued its long-awaited
report on the status of embryos, fetuses and newborns who die without having
been baptized. The 41 page document is titled: "The Hope of
Salvation for Infants Who Die Without Being Baptised."
It says that the study was made in part because of "the
pressing pastoral needs" caused by the increase in the numbers of abortions
and the growing number of children who die before being baptized." Pope Benedict XVI has
approved the report. The Rev. Luis Ladaria, a Jesuit who is the
secretary-general of the Commission said "We can say we have many reasons
to hope that there is salvation for these babies." He said that we
cannot know their fate with any certainty because Scripture is largely
silent on the matter.
The report itself stated that there were:
"... serious theological and liturgical
grounds for hope that unbaptized infants who die will be saved and
brought into eternal happiness [with God in Heaven]. ...these are
reasons for prayerful hope, rather than grounds for sure knowledge."
The report noted that:
"People find it increasingly
difficult to accept that God is just and merciful if he excludes
infants, who have no personal sins, from eternal happiness, whether they
are Christian or non-Christian."
It stressed that its conclusions should not be
interpreted as questioning original sin, or "used to negate the necessity
of baptism or delay the conferral of the sacrament." It
urges that parents should have their
children baptized because this sacrament is the way that salvation is
Protestant belief about Limbo
To our knowledge, no Protestant or Eastern Orthodox denomination accepts the concept of
Limbo. None even offers it as a possibility. They believe that the souls of
babies who die before baptism, and some others, are immediately translated to the presence of
At the time of the Reformation, John Calvin (1509 - 1564) rejected Limbo. He based his beliefs
on the principle of Predestination. He believed that
God decides in advance which individuals will be eternally saved and which will be eternally
lost. This would be true not only for adults but also for infants and children who had died before reaching
the age of accountability: some would go to be eternally tortured in Hell while others would go to Heaven.
Ulrich Zwingli (1484 - 1531) disagreed. He was opposed to the concept of the "necessity
of baptism to infant salvation." With unusual generosity, he taught that "all elect
children who die in infancy are saved whether they are baptized or not, whether
pagan or Christian."
The Westminster Confession (Chapter X, Section 3) states "Elect
infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated and saved by Christ." 2This seems to imply that there are elect infants who
go to Heaven and unelect who go to Hell. The Presbyterian Church in the
U.S.A. cleared up this confusion among its members by issuing a Declaratory Statement in 1903
which stated, in part,: "We believe that all dying in infancy are
included in the election of grace, and are regenerated and saved by Christ
through the Spirit, who works when and where and how He pleases."
Other Protestant leaders agree with the Presbyterian position:
Presbyterian Charles Hodge, 19th century preacher and author of Systematic
Theology : "The common doctrine of evangelical Protestants is...all
who die in infancy are saved."
Presbyterian Lewis Chafer: "It may be definitely asserted...that
infants who die before accountability begins are saved."
Baptist William L. Pettingill: "I am convinced that unaccountable
children are saved by the blood of Christ"
Brethrenite Harry Ironside: "Little ones who die go to be with
Independent M. R. DeHaan: "Little children who die in infancy are
[never] lost." 3