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The afterlife

Limbo: The destination of unbaptized
newborns and infants if they die?

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"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.

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Topics covered in this section:

bullet Introduction: Catholic theological beliefs on the fate of unbaptized fetuses, newborns, etc.

Catholic statements about the fate of unbaptized infants, newborns, etc.

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Reference used:

  1. Fr. Brian W. Harrison, "Could Limbo be 'abolished'?" The Seattle Catholic, 2005-DEC-07, at:

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Copyright 1999 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 1999-DEC-19
Latest update: 2010-DEC-09
Author: B.A. Robinson

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