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This was posted by my esteemed co-worker, David W. Emery, on the CHNI forum. I thought it was excellent and informative, and so wanted to cross-post it here.
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The Church has not spoken doctrinally on this topic except to say that we must trust in God’s mercy. Limbo was never more than a theological speculation, and recently the Vatican has de-emphasized it as unlikely, although the idea is not condemned outright.
Original sin is a burden affecting every human being. The “cure” is the sacrament of baptism. From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
“1263 By Baptism all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sin.”Again, the Catechism speaks of unbaptized children:
- 1261 As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused 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. All the more urgent is the Church’s call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism.
- 1257 The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation. He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them. Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament. The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are “reborn of water and the Spirit.” God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments. [Emphasis is in the original text]
- 1258 The Church has always held the firm conviction that those who suffer death for the sake of the faith without having received Baptism are baptized by their death for and with Christ. This Baptism of blood, like the desire for Baptism, brings about the fruits of Baptism without being a sacrament. [Emphasis is in the original text]
Now the text makes one more assertion, and it is a very interesting one:
- 1260 “Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery.” Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity. [Emphasis is in the original text]
Therefore even the infant who dies without baptism apparently has a chance to accept the will of God and be saved. We cannot say that this is a certainty, but the Church has not denied the possibility.
In the same way, many people believe that unborn children who die as victims of abortion are, in a sense, martyrs for the faith and will definitely be saved. This seems to be consistent with what we have seen in the Catechism. As Jesus says in the gospel, “It is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish” (Matthew 18:14); “for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14). This is yet another reason to believe that young infants who perish are with Jesus in heaven.
See related posts:
Dialogue On Salvation After Death (Dave Armstrong vs. Sogn Mill-Scout)