Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Disputed Question on Limbo--Positive Exposition.


1) IT IS ASKED: Whether we can hope for the salvation of those people (especially infants) who die without baptism?

2) THESIS: No, because:

-That baptism is necessary to all (even babies) for their salvation is de fide divina et catholica definita. (Cf. Theological notes.)

-Moreover, that the souls of those who die in original sin go immediately to hell (and undergo different “punishments”) is also de fide divina et catholica definita.

-Moreover, the doctrine of the “limbus puerorum” is at least at the level of doctrina tenenda and sententia communis (there are some theologians who consider it theologice certa or even doctrina catholica).

3) PROOF from the loci theologici, that is:

a) From Sacred Scripture: “Amen, Amen, I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5)

b) From Sacred Tradition, that is:

From the consensus of the Fathers:

Tertulian says: “It is prescribed that no one, without baptism can attain salvation from that highest pronouncement of the Lord: Unless one is born of water, he will have no life.” (On Baptism 12.)

Origen: “Whichever soul is born in the flesh is polluted by the stain of iniquity and sin... according to the observance of the Church to give baptism even to little ones; since if there were nothing in little ones that owed to remission and pertained to forgiveness, the grace of baptism would seem superfluous.” (On Leviticus, Homily 8.3.)

St. Ambrose: “Unless one were reborn from the water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. He, thus, does not make an exception for anyone, not the infant, no one is excused from the necessity. Unless they have that immunity of punishment open to them, I do not know that they can enter the honor of the kingdom.” (On Abraham II, 11.79.84.)

St. Augustine: “Whosoever says that those children who depart out of this life without partaking of that sacrament shall be made alive in Christ, certainly contradicts the apostolic declaration, and condemns the universal Church, in which it is the practice to lose no time and run in haste to administer baptism to infant children, because it is believed, as an indubitable truth, that otherwise they cannot be made alive in Christ. Now he that is not made alive in Christ must necessarily remain under the condemnation, of which the apostle says, that "by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation. That infants are born under the guilt of this offense is believed by the whole Church.” (Letter 166.7/21.)

Idem: “If you wish to be a catholic, refrain from believing, or saying, or teaching that ‘infants which are forestalled by death before they are baptized may yet attain to forgiveness of their original sins’.” (On the Soul and its Origin III.9/12.)

St. Prosper of Aquitaine: “It is obvious that all who die without baptism are lost.” (On the vocation of all peoples II.24)

And the rest of the fathers are in agreement.

From the consensus of the theologians:

S. Thomas teaches: “The limbo of the Fathers and the limbo of children, without any doubt, differ as to the quality of punishment or reward. For children have no hope of the blessed life, as the Fathers in limbo had, in whom, moreover, shone forth the light of faith and grace. But as regards their situation, there is reason to believe that the place of both is the same; except that the limbo of the Fathers is placed higher than the limbo of children, just as we have stated in reference to limbo and hell.” (ST III-Supp. 69.6)

Idem: “The souls of children are not without natural knowledge such as is proper to a separated soul according to its nature, but they are without supernatural knowledge, which is here implanted in us by faith, because in this life they neither actually had faith nor received the sacrament of faith. Now it pertains to natural knowledge that the soul knows it was created for happiness and that happiness consists in the attainment of the perfect good. But that that perfect good for which man was made is that glory which the saints possess is beyond natural knowledge. Hence the Apostle says in the First Epistle to the Corinthians 2, 9 that "Eye has not seen nor ear heard neither has it entered into the heart of man, what things God has prepared for those who love him," and afterwards in verse 10, he adds "But to us God has revealed them through His Spirit." Which revelation pertains to faith. And therefore the souls of children do not know that they are deprived of such a good, and do not grieve on account of this; but this knowledge which they have by nature, they possess without grief.” (On Evil 5.3c.)

Idem: “[Whether Baptism is to be Deferred]: I answer that... if they be children, Baptism should not be deferred. First, because in them we do not look for better instruction or fuller conversion. Secondly, because of the danger of death, for no other remedy is available for them besides the sacrament of Baptism.” (ST III.68.3c.)

St. Bonaventure says: “ . . . the punishment of being deprived of the sight of God and the loss of heavenly glory affects both adults and children who are unbaptized. The children are punished with the others, but by the mildest punishment because they deserve punishment of loss, but not the punishment of the senses. ” (St. Bonaventure, Breviloquium, Part III, Ch. V, n. 2.)

Likewise St. Albert as well as Scotus, and almost all the scholastics, in their commentaries on Peter Lombard’s Book of the Sentences, Book II, distinction 33, question 2, articule 3), agree. Also almost all theologians who had Magisterial sanction before the 1960’s agree as well. (But I have not had the chance to collect their passages on the subject.)

From the doctrine of the extraordinary Magisterium:

PP. Gregory X, in the 2nd Council of Lyons, declared: “Now, the souls of those who depart in mortal sin, or only with original sin, immediately descend into hell, but to be punished differently.” (Denzinger 464 [858].) This doctrine was infallibly defined and ratified by Eugenius IV, in the Concil of Florence. (Denzinger 693 [1306].)

The Concilium of Trent infallibly taught the following: “If anyone says that baptism is optional, that is, not necessary for salvation, let him be anathema.” (Denzinger 861 [1618]).

From the doctrine of the ordinary Magisterium:

PP. Siricius says “we want to succour with all haste those infants who yet could not speak... [by bringing them to] the sacred waves of baptism, lest Our own soul be in danger if, as a result being denied the saving font, ... each one of them, on leaving the world, loses both [eternal] life and the kingdom.” (Denzinger [184].)

PP. Innocent I says: “That children can receive the reward of eternal life without the grace of baptism is utterly foolish. For if they do not eat of the flesh of the Son of Man and drink of his blood, they will not have life within themselves [cf. Io. 6:53]. Those who claim they will without regeneration seem to me to want to render baptism itself vain, by preaching that they have what the faith professes is conferred only by baptism. If, therefore, they do not want to impede anyone from being reborn, then they necessarily profess that the holy waters of regeneration are useless.” (Denzinger [219].)

Council of Carthage XVI: “Not one of our children is held innocent until he is freed through baptism.” (Denzinger 109a [232].)

PP. Innocent III moreover distinguished between the poena sensus (the physical suffering of those who descend into hell with actual sins) and the poena damni (the deprivation of vision of all those who are in hell, even of children who descended there only with original sin): “The penalty of original sin is the loss of the vision of God; the penalty of actual sin is the torment of everlasting Hell.” (Maiores Ecclesiae Causas, AD 1201; Denzinger 410 [780].)

PP. Pius IX: “God, who sees distinctly, who searches into and knows the mind, spirit, habits and thoughts of all men, would never of His supreme goodness and mercy permit anyone to be punished with eternal torments (aeternis puniri supplicis), who has not incurred the guilt of voluntary sin.” (Encyclical Quanto Conficiamur, 10 Aug. 1863; Denzinger 1677.)

The Council of Florence declared: “Regarding children, indeed, because of danger of death, which can often take place, when no help can be brought to them by another remedy than through the sacrament of baptism, through which they are snatched from the domination of the Devil and adopted among the souns of God, it [the synod] advises that holy baptism ought not to be deferred for forty or eighty days, or any time according to the observance of certain people, but it should be conferred as soon as it can be done conveniently.” (Denzinger 712 [1348].)

The provincial Council of Cologne: “Faith teaches us that infants, since they are not capable of this desire, are excluded from the kingdom of heaven if they die [unbaptized].” (Collectio Lacensis, V. 320.)

PP. Pius VI also condemned as temeraria the doctrine of those who deny the existence of the “limbum puerorum”: “The doctrine which rejects as a Pelagian fable, that place of the lower regions (which the faithful generally designate by the name of the limbo of children) in which the souls of those departing with the sole guilt of original sin are punished with the punishment of the condemned, exclusive of the punishment of fire, just as if, by this very fact, that these who remove the punishment of fire introduced that middle place and state free of guilt and of punishment between the kingdom of God and eternal damnation, such as that about which the Pelagians idly talk,—false, rash, injurious to Catholic schools.” (Auctorem Fidei; Denzinger 1526 [2626].)

Pope Pius XII: “All that we have said about the protection and care of natural life is with even greater reason true of the supernatural life, which the newborn child receives with baptism. In the present dispensation there is no other means of communicating this life to the child, who has not yet the use of reason. And yet the state of grace is absolutely necessary for salvation: without it supernatural happiness, the beatific vision of God, cannot be attained. In an adult an act of love may suffice to obtain him sanctifying grace and so supply for the lack of baptism; to the child still unborn, or newly born, this way is not open. If therefore we remember that charity towards our neighbor obliges us to assist him in case of necessity; that this obligation is graver and more urgent according to the greatness of the good to be procured or the evil to be avoided, and according to the inability of the needy one to help himself; then it is easy to understand the importance of providing for the baptism of a child, devoid of the use of reason and in grave danger or even certainty of death.” (Acta Apostolicae Sedis, December 20, 1951, p. 854.)

From the consensus of the faithful:

(As is known through the catechisms, both universal and particular.)

The Roman Catechism teaches: “[On the necessity of baptism] If the knowledge of what has been hitherto explained be, as it is, of highest importance to the faithful, it is no less important to them to learn that the law of Baptism, as established by our Lord, extends to all, so that unless they are regenerated to God through the grace of Baptism, be their parents Christians or infidels, they are born to eternal misery and destruction. Pastors, therefore, should often explain these words of the Gospel: Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. [Necessity of Infant Baptism] That this law extends not only to adults but also to infants and children, and that the Church has received this from Apostolic tradition, is confirmed by the unanimous teaching and authority of the Fathers. If, then, through the transgression of Adam, children inherit original sin, with still stronger reason can they attain through Christ our Lord grace and justice that they may reign in life. This, however, cannot be effected otherwise than by Baptism. Pastors, therefore, should inculcate the absolute necessity of administering Baptism to infants.... The faithful are earnestly to be exhorted to take care that their children be brought to the church, as soon as it can be done with safety, to receive solemn Baptism. Since infant children have no other means of salvation except Baptism, we may easily understand how grievously those persons sin who permit them to remain without the grace of the Sacrament longer than necessity may require, particularly at an age so tender as to be exposed to numberless dangers of death.”

The Baltimore Catechism (n. 3): “Q. 631. Is Baptism necessary to salvation? A. Baptism is necessary to salvation, because without it we cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven. Q. 632. Where will persons go who -- such as infants -- have not committed actual sin and who, through no fault of theirs, die without baptism? A. Persons, such as infants, who have not committed actual sin and who, through no fault of theirs, die without baptism, cannot enter heaven; but it is the common belief they will go to some place similar to Limbo, where they will be free from suffering, though deprived of the happiness of heaven.... Q. 642. Is it wrong to defer the baptism of an infant? A. It is wrong to defer the baptism of an infant, because we thereby expose the child to the danger of dying without the Sacrament.” Catechisms nos. 1 & 2 also taught the same, although less explicitly.

The Greater Catechism of PP. St. Pius X: “11 Q. When should infants be brought to the Church to be baptised? A. Infants should be brought to the Church to be baptised as soon as possible. 12 Q. Why such anxiety to have infants receive Baptism? A. There should be the greatest anxiety to have infants baptised because, on account of their tender age, they are exposed to many dangers of death, and cannot be saved without Baptism. 13 Q. Do parents sin, then, who, through negligence, allow their children to die without Baptism, or who defer it? A. Yes, fathers and mothers who, through negligence, allow their children to die without Baptism sin grievously, because they deprive their children of eternal life; and they also sin grievously by putting off Baptism for a long time, because they expose them to danger of dying without having received it.... 16 Q. Is Baptism necessary to salvation? A. Baptism is absolutely necessary to salvation, for our Lord has expressly said: "Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.” His Lesser Catechism (for children) teaches the same, although less explicitly.

And many others teach likewise.


Even if the doctrine of the “limbus puerorum” is not itself de fide (i.e. to be believed with the theological virtue of faith), nevertheless it is sententia communis, doctrina tenenda and doctrina catholica, and as such, it is to be held by all with religious assent—such that a doctrine that is opposed to it is, at the very least, offensiva piarum aurium, temeraria and iniuriosa scholis catholicis, and perhaps savoring of a greater error.


Anonymous said...

I'd like to just for the sake of discussion post an opposing viewpoint on this argument as well as try to get a better understanding of what the Church has taught and what it has not taught. Obviously, then the position I am taking is that one can hope for the salvation of those that die without "baptism". I use quotes in this instance because I want to make it clear that I am aware and assent that no one can be given salvation if they have the stain of original sin on their soul. However, baptism can and clearly does include not only the baptism of water but also baptism of blood and desire. I think it is only here that there could be any hope.
I would also like to say that I am totally comfortable with the doctrine of limbo. It seems that it is a great sign of God's mercy. We are all born guilty, even as our mothers conceived us (Psalm 51) and therefore would justly be condemned if it were not for the saving act of Christ. But this being said, I do not know if all babies that die before a baptism of water can be said to certainly still have the stain of original sin.
It seems upon reading all of the teaching on limbo, although they seem to show that limbo does exist, do not necessarily prove that all children who are miscarried go there. My proposition is the same one of Cardinal Cajetan. He proposed that babies could be baptized by the desire of their parents (this was removed from his commentary on the Summa but it was not condemned which would still leave it open to possibility even if only a very slim one). We know that the faith of others can affect the saving grace of Christ for a person who does not profess anything for himself. This is shown in Mark 2:5, "When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, 'Child your sins are forgiven.'"
Now, it would remain to be seen whether this extension of baptism of desire would apply if only the parents desired it or if another desired it as well. Canon law says that baptism must be consented by the parents except if the child is in immediate danger of death (can, 868). It would remain to be seen if this could apply to a baptism of desire as well because it is safe to assume that the parents of an aborted child do not desire baptism.
I am throwing this out there because I am not convinced that this position is contrary to the constant teaching on limbo. It contains the necessity that original sin be relinquished. It also does not deny that limbo exists. It would, however, make it possible to hope, even if it is a slim hope, that salvation is possible for infants who die before a baptism of water. I, obviously, have not looked at all the Church's teaching on the matter and even with what I have looked through there is possibly something that I have overlooked. If someone knows of a teaching that would show otherwise than what I have explained, please correct me, for "he who hates reproof is stupid" (Proverbs 12:1).

Nobel Savage said...

A point on Mark 2:5

- Unless I recall incorrectly: The Master does lay out the instruction for us that the Circumcision of the Jews under the Old Law- in effect until the New Law was given- was good for the remission of the punishments of Original Sin.

God bless you.
Holy Mary protect you.

Geremia said...

Have you read the article “Where is the New Theology Leading Us?” You should do an entry on it; it is very good and the first thing I have ever read of him. I definitely want to read more Garrigou-Lagrange, though!

Don Paco said...

Dave, the Catechism of the Council of Trent teaches explicitly that there is no other way for infants to be saved than sacramental Baptism. This is in contrast to adults, whose desire for baptism and repentance for their sins may be a substitute for the reception Sacrament. (Granted, the Catechism of Trent is not imposed on the faithful as binding, but it does express both the common teaching of the theologians and the meaning of the universal practice of the Church.) Here is the text, with my emphasis added.

Baptism Of Infants Should Not Be Delayed

The faithful are earnestly to be exhorted to take care that their children be brought to the church, as soon as it can be done with safety, to receive solemn Baptism. Since infant children have no other means of salvation except Baptism, we may easily understand how grievously those persons sin who permit them to remain without the grace of the Sacrament longer than necessity may require, particularly at an age so tender as to be exposed to numberless dangers of death.

Baptism Of Adults

With regard to those of adult age who enjoy the perfect use of reason, persons, namely, born of infidel parents, the practice of the primitive Church points out that a different manner of proceeding should be followed. To them the Christian faith is to be proposed; and they are earnestly to be exhorted, persuaded and invited to embrace it.

They are also deprived of the abundant fruits of Baptism, the waters of which not only wash away all the stains and defilements of past sins, but also enrich us with divine grace which enables us to avoid sin for the future and preserve righteousness and innocence, which constitute the sum of a Christian life, as all can easily understand.

Ordinarily They Are Not Baptised At Once

On adults, however, the Church has not been accustomed to confer the Sacrament of Baptism at once, but has ordained that it be deferred for a certain time. The delay is not attended with the same danger as in the case of infants, which we have already mentioned; should any unforeseen accident make it impossible for adults to be washed in the salutary waters, their intention and determination to receive Baptism and their repentance for past sins, will avail them to grace and righteousness.

Andrew Christman said...

If I understand the quotes correctly, it seems to me like they say that baptism is necessary for salvation. I'm not sure that limbo logically follows from this alone. It makes sense that a soul must be perfect to see God, and therefore the soul must be cleansed of original sin, but is there any reason to think that baptism by ritual water is the only way for God to do this? It seems to me that even if baptism is absolutely necessary for salvation, this does not mean that our normative sacrament by water is the only possible way God could cleanse infants of their original sin and baptize them. Isn't the current debate not so much over the necessity of baptism as over whether or not any sacramental means exist aside from our normative ritual baptismal sacrament?

Don Paco said...


1) You are right in saying that limbo does not follow from the dogma alone that baptism is necessary for salvation. Yet your interpretation of the quotes as saying merely that baptism is necessary for salvation is not correct. They do not say this alone. Maybe you did not notice, but many of the quotes explicitly teach that infants who die without baptism go to limbo, and the one from Pope Pius VI authoritatively condemns those who reject the existence of limbo. Hoping for the salvation of infants who die without baptism seems to be an implicit denial of these teachings.

2) Such extra-sacramental 'substitutes' do exist, such as baptismus flaminis (aka, 'baptism of desire'), but they all require a subjective disposition (a desire of salvation) on the part of the person to be saved, which infants cannot ordinarily have. Thus, there is no other way for infants to be saved than sacramental Baptism, as the Catechism of the Council of Trent, and countless other sources explicitly teach.

Andrew Christman said...

Dr. Paco,

I'm somewhat confused as to what you consider infallible in regards to these quotes. Is the quote from Pius VI infallible? If my understanding is correct, numerous criteria must be met for that to take effect. Is it your view that such pronouncements fell under the scope of infallibility? If this is so, how can the Vatican be so open to considering the possibility of infant salvation? It seems to me that whatever principal enables us in theory to dismiss the current viewpoint as not infallible could be used to call the old pronouncements not infallible. Of course, the details of each situation could be different, and I am not fully aware of these details. This is more detailed than you probably intended to write, so please don't feel obligated to respond.

In regards to the question of desire in non-normative baptisms, is it not possible that infants be somehow given a choice before judgement? In addition, is not possible that there is some involuntary analog to our infant baptism used by God that is wholly unknown to us?

I suppose my real difficulty with the doctrine stems from trying to explain it in light of God's goodness. It seems to me that for God to deny someone salvation because of a condition they neither individually merited nor had any opportunity to remit would be somewhat unjust. In addition, it seems strange to me that God would attach so much importance to the actual ritual of baptism that someone would be damned regardless of their ability to love, which is the main point of our creation. Is this not somewhat superstitious? If you were ever to write a post on the philosophical nature of original sin and limbo, as opposed to the history of the doctrine, I would be greatly interested.

Andrew Christman said...

From the International Theological Commission, I found the following characterization of Pius VI's Bull. What do you think of it?

"38. d) The Bull “Auctorem fidei” of Pope Pius VI is not a dogmatic definition of the existence of Limbo: the papal Bull confines itself to rejecting the Jansenist charge that the “Limbo” taught by scholastic theologians is identical with the “eternal life” promised to unbaptised infants by the ancient Pelagians. Pius VI did not condemn the Jansenists because they denied Limbo, but because they held that the defenders of Limbo were guilty of the heresy of Pelagius. By maintaining the freedom of the Catholic Schools to propose different solutions to the problem of the fate of unbaptised infants, the Holy See defended the common teaching as an acceptable and legitimate option, without endorsing it."


Don Paco said...

That characterization of the bull simply does not match up to the text (quoted above). It sounds like just more of the same shameless deconstruction of pre-conciliar authorities that is so characteristic of the nouvelle theologie. As is evident from what has been said, no one has ever interpreted that text in that way.

Don Paco said...

That is to say, the text clearly condemns those who reject limbo as a pelagian fable. Their view is "false, rash, and injurious to Catholic schools." It is absolutely clear.

Don Paco said...

The practitioners of the nouvelle theologie can say all the way about this or that text not being infallible, but the reality is this: the denial of limbo is an innovation. It is them vs. the entire tradition prior to Vatican II.

Don Paco said...

Andrew, et al.

I invite you to continue this discussion in the Quaestiones Disputatae forum.