On Freeing Children From Limbo
The Vatican has reconsidered at great length the fate of children under the age of reason who die without baptism and are therefore condemned by the “common doctrine of the Church” to Limbo — a “state” of being in which they are punished, at least by being deprived of the beatific vision enjoyed by baptized children in Heaven. The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die Without Being Baptized (hereinafter Hope), a document issued last year by the International Theological Commission, recognizes that, due to factors ranging from the failure of parents to practice their faith to abortion, “the number of infants who die unbaptized is growing greatly” (#2). Further, the Commission acknowledges that this is a serious and poignant pastoral problem because “parents experience great grief and feelings of guilt when they do not have the moral assurance of the salvation of their children, and 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” (#2). And the deprivation such children may experience is no less of a pastoral problem.
After a close review of 2,000 years of theological musings about the problem, the Commission produced a 43-page document that dances all around it, ultimately bringing forth the proverbial mouse. The “mouse” is its conclusion, depreciated as “speculative theology,” which merely expresses a pious “hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without baptism” (#101; italics added). The Vatican thus squandered the opportunity to definitively proclaim that there is indeed a way to salvation provided by the Church, one which will free those children from Limbo, and their parents from grief and feelings of guilt.
The fact that people want to assure Heaven for their loved ones does not oblige the Church to accommodate them, for example by declaring acts proscribed by Jesus, such as fornication and adultery, not to be mortally sinful, or by proclaiming the universal salvation of mankind regardless of personal conduct. However, in the case of unbaptized infants, if there is a roadblock barring their entry into Heaven, it was created by the Church herself and not by Jesus Christ. The Commission failed to accept responsibility on behalf of the Church for finding a way around the roadblock, totally ignoring the Church’s Christ-given authority to “loose bonds” here and in Heaven (Mt. 16:19, 18:18).
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