What is the Destiny of Children Who Die Without Baptism?


Limbo is one of the most difficult questions in theology.

Newsdesk (08/07/2021 22:46, Gaudium Press) How can we reconcile the necessity of Baptism to attain eternal life – in the case of children who have died without having been baptized – with the salvific Will of God?

This difficult question appears unsolvable at first sight, for Revelation offers no explanation on Limbo.

What is Limbo?

Limbo is a ‘place different from Purgatory’; true, God cannot be seen in either of them, but in Purgatory souls suffer punishments that do not exist in Limbo. These ‘places’ must not be confused with hell, a place where souls are also deprived of the sight of God, but where real torments are suffered.

“The souls in Limbo did not suffer any punishment, (Roman Catechism) and they were not without a certain happiness, as we see in the parable in which poor Lazarus is consoled (Lk 16:25), because in the Private Judgment they had received the certainty of their eternal happiness. They could not, however, enter into the eternal joys of Heaven, because Heaven was not yet opened (Heb 9:8). Therefore, they sighed continually for the Saviour”.

Limbo is thus understood as different from Purgatory. Purgatory: a place to which, having been saved, “the soul goes immediately after the Particular Judgment” to purify itself, satisfying with temporal punishments that which it owes for its sins. Limbo is also understood as different from hell. Hell: a place to which a soul, which is not in friendship with God, goes immediately after the Particular Judgment.

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Thus, Limbo differs from these other places, for in Limbo there is no temporary punishment as there is in Purgatory, and certainly less eternal suffering.

In Limbo, one has a natural happiness (though not the supernatural happiness of Heaven), but with the privation of God, whose beatific vision is only seen in the Heavenly Paradise. It would appear, then, that this happiness is not complete, since one does not have the possession of God, for which we were created and called.[1]

Unbaptized children

Many theories on this topic have been put forward by theologians over the centuries, with the best known being that of St. Augustine, whose teaching is that children who died without Baptism would be deprived of the full happiness of the vision of God, but would enjoy a natural happiness in Limbo.

While the Greek Fathers preferred not to question or scrutinize the designs of God, the Latin Fathers advanced the theory of Limbo. This theory evolved, from a previously mitigated hell, to a place where there would be no suffering, since the unbaptized children, who have not consented to the commission of any sin, would have no faults that would justify punishment.

This doctrine was defended by St. Thomas Aquinas and accepted by the majority of theologians for many centuries.

However, this opinion was not unanimous in the Church, for Pope Innocent III invoked the argument that in every circumstance, God always has a remedy of salvation for humanity:

“It is not permissible that all the little children, who in so great a multitude die every day, should be lost, without the merciful God, Who wills no one’s perdition, having also sought for them some means of salvation.”

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The salvific Will of God

Baptism matters because there is no salvation outside the Church.

Among many other arguments-such as the analogy with the Holy Innocents, who were not baptized, or Jesus’ love for children-the doctrine of St. Thomas Aquinas is called upon, supporting the claim that God does not necessarily need the Sacraments to confer their effects upon someone.

Such was the case with the Blessed Virgin Mary, to whom God applied the effects of the Redemption before the birth of Jesus, totally exempting her from Original Sin: this is the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.

Similarly, God can apply the effects of Baptism to infants who died prematurely without having been baptized.

We conclude with the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which states: “The Church can only entrust children who have died without Baptism to the mercy of God.”

Indeed, the great mercy of God, Who “wills that all men should be saved (1 Tim 2:4), and the tenderness of Jesus for children, prompting 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”, and who may come to enjoy the beatific vision.[2]

[1] Cf. Spirago, Francis. Popular Catholic Catechism: First Part. Trad. Arthur Bivar. 2nd ed. Portugal: Typography of the Company Veritas, s/d, p. 152.

2] Text extracted, with adaptations, from the magazine Heralds of the Gospel n. 67, July 2007.

The post, What is the Destiny of Children Who Die Without Baptism? appeared first on Gaudium Press.

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Read More: Spirituality, Baptism and Limbo, Limbo, What is the fate of children who die without Baptism? Gaudium Press

Compiled by Sandra Chisholm

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