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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Unbaptized Children and Heaven

The priest in this video is incorrect.

It is NOT the case that the Church teaches that we KNOW all unabaptized people go to hell.

Rather, the Church has always taught that we DO NOT KNOW any way, through our work here on earth, any way by which we can bring to those who die without baptism the grace they need to enter heaven. So, from our point of view, we cannot do a thing to help them avoid hell.

However, the Church DOES NOT teach that souls who have not received water baptism descend into Limbo (the outer fringe of hell). Limbo is not mentioned in either the Catechism of Trent nor in the Universal Catechism that followed Vatican II. It is NOT a concept taught by the Church in a formal way.

A Catholic can believe in Limbo if s/he wants, but no Catholic is under obligation to accept Limbo because the Church does not formally teach that such a place exists.
Catechism of the Catholic Church 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,"64 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."
We hope, not with human hope, but with DIVINE hope, that these children enter heaven. Human hope accomplishes nothing at all in terms of salvation, so having human hope alone is stupid and pointless.

Liturgy is not a human work, it is a divine work done by human hands. Liturgy instills divine hope, not human hope. Only divine hope holds out the possibility of heaven to the unbaptized, and that divine hope is instantiated in the Church's liturgy, as the Catechism attests. So, if that hope is present in the Church's own liturgy, then it must be present in us as well.

We do not pray for the devil because he cannot benefit from our prayers - no one can be prayed out of hell. But we do pray for the unbaptized, that God grants them the grace to enter heaven. The fact that this prayer is not only permitted, but enshrined in the Church's own liturgical prayers demonstrates that those who die unbaptized die with the possibility of entering heaven through means known only to God.

This grace is all the more pertinent on the Feast of the Holy Innocents. Their parents knew nothing of Christ, they knew nothing of Christ, they knew nothing about dying for Christ, yet they DID die for Christ as mute witnesses to the goodness of God. And who can look on an infant without seeing the goodness and glory of the life-giving God? Every infant is a testimony to the Life-giving God Who is infinitely Good.

We cannot know with certitude that these children enter heaven, but we can hope with divine hope that they do, and the Church requires us, through Her liturgy, to maintain in prayer this divinely-founded hope.

The FSSP teaching on this is quite, quite wrong.
Pray for every FSSP priest, that they may one day begin to teach what the Church teaches on this point.

50 comments:

Kevin Mayberry said...

Actually that is a perennial teaching of the Church, the FSSP priest WAS correct.I have provided just a few ex cathedra statements from previous popes and councils regarding infant baptism. EX CATHEDRA means we must accept it. So in short one can find that without baptism a babe is lost.
Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, Session 11, Feb. 4, 1442, ex cathedra: “, 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, , it advises that holy baptism ought not be deferred for forty or eighty days, or any time according to the observance of certain people…Pope Julius III, Council of Trent, On the Sacraments of Baptism and Penance, Sess. 14, Chap. 2, ex cathedra: “But in fact this sacrament [Penance] is seen to differ in many respects from baptism.  For, apart from the fact that the matter and form, by which the essence of a sacrament is constituted, are totally distinct, there is certainly no doubt that the minister of baptism need not be a judge,  entered it by the gate of baptism.  For what have I to do with those who are without (1 Cor. 5:12), says the Apostle.  It is otherwise with those of the household of the faith, whom Christ the Lord by the laver of baptism has once made ‘members of his own body’ (1 Cor. 12:13).

Jericho said...

I'm glad that it is an open theological question, because Limbo as it is thought of by Church Fathers and Aquinas is essentially natural heaven - non beatific vision heaven. It seems just and merciful to me, but maybe that is because I'm not a squishy modernist.

Mike said...

All - Steve is remaining a heretic on water baptism ...

Council of Florence, Session 6, 6 July 1439 -- Ex-Cathedra Dogma >
"But the souls of those who depart this life in actual mortal sin, or in Original Sin alone, go down straightaway to Hell to be punished, but with unequal pains."

Council of Florence, Session 8, 22 November 1439 -- Ex-Cathedra Dogma >
"Holy baptism holds the first place among all the sacraments, for it is the gate of the spiritual life ... unless we are born again of water and the Spirit, we cannot, as Truth says, enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The matter of this sacrament is true and natural water."

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Ah, gentlemen, if it was as cut-and-dry as you portray, then the CCC article wouldn't exist.

If unbaptized children went to hell as a matter of dogma, then the liturgy would not be permitted to pray for them, nor would we be permitted to hope for their salvation.

They would be as unequivocally damned as satan. We can't pray for satan, we can't hope for satan's salvation in any sense, the Church doesn't ask us to because there is no hope of him entering heaven.

Since we CAN pray for unbaptized children, there IS hope they can enter heaven. Thus, you mis-understand those papal statements.

The Magisterium cannot be broken. You cannot set Magisterial statements against one another. The CCC is Magisterium, so are the statements you quote. Therefore, all the statements must be interpreted together in such a way that they do not contradict.

That means the FSSP is wrong.

Jericho said...

I'm not really interested in who is "wrong" or "right" here, since it appears to me that the FSSP priest believes in Limbo, and Limbo has not been ruled out or ruled in as far as the Church goes. Yes, we trust in the mercy of God for those souls, but Limbo is an open theological question that will not be answered, of course, but may be speculated on.

I agree, Steve, that those who say that it is the official stance of the Church are indeed wrong. But those who say that it may exist, and that the Church leaves it open as a possibility, are not incorrect. I personally love the arguments for Limbo and find them convincing, but I will not teach my kids or students that it is official Church teaching when it is not. It is an unknown and we trust in God. Whatever else is theological speculation...interesting, but speculation nonetheless. The good priest above would have been wise to present this as such, for it would have eliminated confusion.

Are you getting me? BTW, love your site and your style. Sometimes you ruffle feathers, and that is good. You are a son of the Church, I have no doubt. I enjoy these conversations because they are open, and I know how much you love theology as well.

God bless!

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Jericho, if the man had said that it was an open theological question, laid out his reasons for teaching Limbo, and ended by pointing out that you don't have to agree with them, I wouldn't have written the post.

I wrote it because there are a lot of parents and grandparents who have lost children. Telling those parents that the Church teaches these children are infallibly in hell is not only wrong, it's cruelly wrong.

The Church doesn't teach that, these parents have a right - even a duty - to hope that those children are NOT in hell. They have a right to trust in God's mercy. No man, not even a priest, has a right to take away a well-founded hope, grounded in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the teaching of several of the Doctors of the Church.

It's unjust to ignore mercy. The priest needs a lot of prayers, as all priests do, especially FSSP priests.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

And, btw, Limbo means "fringe." As it was taught by Augustine, Limbo is hell, not heaven. It is the outermost circle of hell, which is why Dante portrayed it in exactly that fashion in his Divine Comedy.

If it were the fringe of heaven, it would be Purgatory. If you tell me that unbaptized children may go to Purgatory, I agree that this is quite possible, and then I lapse into silence.

Andrew said...

What is the basis for calling this the "FSSP teaching" as opposed to the position of one or more priests who are members of the FSSP? Pax.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

I've heard it exclusively from FSSP priests. In fact, they are the only ordained men I know who apparently refuse to quote the CCC for anything.

I only know one FSSP priest that I have respect for. The rest of them don't refer to anything post-1950.

Kevin Mayberry said...

So when these councils explicitly teach this, we are not bound to believe it(though it was an ex cathedra statement) because it contradicts Vatican II? If the Episcopal offices of the Church are to hand down the Gospel, and not bring innovation as the Apostle Paul says; then maybe something is wrong with the council that taught the innovation. For we can clearly surmise from the extensive teachings of all the prior councils and popes that this was a Dogma, imperative to ones salvation to submit to, and Vatican II would seem to clearly contradict what was handed down. So, if a council and the leadership of the Church would teach contrary to these dogmas, then we as faithful catholics must adhere to what was taught before, and not forfeit our salvation to innovation

Steve Kellmeyer said...

What these councils teach must all be read in the light of one another.

While you're busily quoting about how all unbaptized infants go to hell, you're ignoring the conciliar and papal statements that also point out that God's saving grace is not limited to the sacraments because God is not bound by the sacraments.

God is not bound by the sacraments. He can save someone without the sacraments. That's dogma too.

You're proof-texting the Magisterium in EXACTLY the same way a Protestant proof-texts the Bible, and for the same reason: you want to make a doctrinal point that the Catholic Church doesn't allow you to make.

The Magisterium cannot be broken. As long as we know God is not bound by the sacraments, we have the right to hope for the salvation of unbaptized infants.

Believing that we do NOT have this right is an innovation which the Church condemns.

Jericho said...

Notion of Limbo Isn't Closed, Expert Says

Adds It's a Theological Opinion That Can Be Defended

ROME, 3 MAY 2007 (ZENIT)

The theory of limbo is not ruled out, says a member of the International Theological Commission, commenting on a study from the panel.

Sister Sara Butler, a Missionary Servant of the Most Blessed Trinity, has served on the commission since 2004. The commission is an advisory body comprised of 30 theologians chosen by the Pope. Its documents are not considered official expressions of the magisterium, but the commission does help the Holy See to examine important doctrinal issues.

On April 20, the commission released a document, commissioned under Pope John Paul II, called "The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die Without Being Baptized." Benedict XVI approved it for publication.

In an interview with Inside the Vatican magazine, Sister Butler, who teaches dogmatic theology at St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers, New York, says "the report concludes that limbo remains a 'possible theological opinion.' Anyone who wants to defend it is free to do so. This document, however, tries to give a theological rationale for hoping that unbaptized infants may be saved."

"The [International Theological Commission] wants to give more weight to God's universal salvific will and to solidarity in Christ than to the necessity of baptism, which is not absolute but is qualified in certain ways," she said.

Principles of faith

Sister Butler cited No. 41 of the document: "[B]esides the theory of limbo — which remains a possible theological option — there can be other ways to integrate and safeguard the principles of faith outlined in Scripture."

She added: "The commission is trying to say what the Catechism of the Catholic Church — Nos. 1260, 1261, 1283 — has already said: that we have a right to hope that God will find a way to offer the grace of Christ to infants who have no opportunity for making a personal choice with regard to their salvation."

The document "is trying to provide a theological rationale for what has already been proposed in several magisterial documents since the council," Sister Butler said. "Generally, the [commission] documents offer a point of reference for bishops and theology professors in seminaries, for example, to offer an explanation for the development of doctrine.

"But I doubt whether this would lead to a further statement from the magisterium, because it says no more than what has already been said in the [Catechism], in the funeral rites for infants who have died without baptism in the 1970 Roman Missal, and in 'Pastoralis Actio' — the document from 1980 from the [Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith] on the baptism of infants.

"It says nothing new; it is simply trying to make explicit the theological grounding for this hope. 'Gaudium et Spes,' 22, and 'Lumen Gentium,' 14 and 16, at the Second Vatican Council, opened the way for this development. Actually, some wanted the teaching on limbo formally defined at the council, but the topic was excluded from the agenda."

Jericho said...

I found this commentary a bit more balanced than Steve's:

http://veneremurcernui.wordpress.com/2013/12/03/a-good-exegesis-on-limbo-of-the-infants/

Jericho said...

"One more small addendum. To claim that arguing strongly that unbaptized babies go to Limbo makes one a heretic is simply untenable. The great St. Augustine, one of the two or three most influential theologians in the history of the Church, posited an even “stronger,” if you will, belief – he claimed it was certain Doctrine that unbaptized babies, and all unbaptized souls, go to hell. If strongly supporting Limbo makes one a material heretic, I guess the Church is really screwed up, because one of her greatest and most influential lights was even more in “error.”

But in reality, one can believe very strongly for Limbo (or even hell) in this matter and remain a faithful Catholic, because the Church has no authoritative Dogma on the matter. However, the conservative position, if you will, is that unbaptized but sinless children most likely go to Limbo. Thus, the traditional Catholic practice of quickly baptizing newborn infants has a strong theological basis, and is not just a superstitious act as some modern theologians try to claim."

Lack of beatific vision does not mean fire, gnashing of teeth, and eternal torment in the case of those in Limbo. It is a natural happiness without beatific vision - no pain or suffering or death, but no beatific vision. I find this quite plausible. Again, this is not official, but a personal belief, much in the way one may choose to buy into Marian apparitions or not.

Jericho said...

I know there is emotion attached for some on this, myself included. But my children do not belong to me, but rather to God. I trust them to Him. If Limbo exists, it is His doing and His providence. My opinion matters not on it. I simply trust.

Does that make sense, Steve?

Steve Kellmeyer said...

If you want to believe in Limbo, you can. You cannot do what this priest did - you cannot proclaim Limbo as doctrine.

The veneremurcernui commentary is essentially an Augustinian take. It completely ignores the CCC and the great tradition of the Eastern Fathers. Gregory of Nyssa, for instance, was not a fan of the Limbo idea, nor was early Christian writing like the Shepherd of Hermas.

Veneremurcernui mis-represents my position. I DO NOT say that advocating Limbo makes one a heretic. Obviously, that's an acceptable position.

What I say is that insisting that Limbo is a doctrine is heretical. It is NOT a doctrine. We do not know, de fide, where any person ends up.

Presenting it as a doctrine when it is NOT a doctrine - THAT is heresy.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Cardinal Ratzinger on Limbo:

"Limbo was never a defined truth of faith. Personally - and here I am speaking more as a theologian and not as Prefect of the Congregation - I would abandon it since it was only a theological hypothesis. It formed part of a secondary thesis in support of a truth which is absolutely of first significance for the faith, namely, the importance of baptism... One should not hesitate to give up the idea of 'limbo' if need be (and it is worth noting that the very theologians who proposed 'limbo' also said that the parents could spare the child limbo by desiring its baptism and through prayer); but the concern behind it must not be surrendered. Baptism has never been a side issue for faith; it is not now, nor will it ever be.'

Exactly, precisely, perfectly correct. Anyone who teaches differently is in error.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

And here's Helen Hull Hitchcock of Adoremus saying the same blessed thing, quoting Ratzinger while she's doing it.

http://www.adoremus.org/0507Limbo.html

alphatronshinyskullus said...

Jericho:

You've provided a very good explanation for Limbo and why we might believe in it. That said, I still prefer to trust in God's mercy and hope that unbaptized, sinless children can go to Heaven. St. Thomas Aquinas provides the seeds for this hope in the Summa where he talks about the unbaptized being potentially in the Church. See Part 3, Question 8, article 3. Aquinas teaches elsewhere that God is not limited to the visible sacraments, and so some of those who have not visibly been baptized can be saved, such as catechumens who die or are martyred prior to baptism, or people living prior to the Incarnation like Moses and Aaron. And so while we don't have certainty, we do have hope which is based on the Fathers of the Church. In this case, those who potentially are in the Church become actual members of the Church through a mystical baptism after death. It is a hope, and some are uncomfortable with anything less than certainty. But Limbo sits on similar hope and lack of certainty. Personally, I hope they go to heaven, and if not that then limbo. Either hope is reasonable, but the first is more charitable.

Ron Van Wegen said...

Commenters here throw around the word "Hell" so easily. If you had even the remotest idea of what that entailed you would do all that you possibly could to avoid ANYONE ending up there. Let God decide and let the Church teach. The ease with which you throw people in terrifies and sickens me. You seem to have NO idea of utter horror. You remind me of people who advocate for abortion and have never seen one. May God have mercy on you.

MDL said...

I'm not sure why you'd question the existence of Limbo when it is part of the Creed--when we say that Christ "descended into hell" we really mean Limbo, where the souls of all the just who had died without Baptism awaited Him. The priest actually went to considerable effort to define the meaning of Limbo, and if you listen to the homily to the end he also considered the possibility of praying for them. I don't see what the problem is--are we not supposed to know how the Church has defined things over the centuries?

Steve Kellmeyer said...

MDL, that's a common misunderstanding. The Limbo Patrum referred to in the Creed is DOCTRINE, it is the Limbo of the Fathers.

Prior to the opening of the gates of heaven accomplished in the Ascension, those who died without hearing the Gospel did not go to heaven, but neither did they go to hell. They went to the Limbo Patrum. Once Christ descended into hell to preach to the spirits in prison (1 Peter and the Creed), those who accepted the Gospel entered heaven with Christ, those who did not entered hell, and the Limbo Patrum disappeared or was transformed into Purgatory, depending on how you want to look at it.

The Limbo of the Infants, on the other hand, was theorized to exist even AFTER heaven's gates were opened. There is no support in revelation or apostlic teaching for this theory - it was just something Augustine came up with to deal with the problem of unbaptized infants.

The Eastern Catholic Church never bought that aspect of Augustinian theology. *NONE* of the Eastern Fathers or Doctors agree with Augustine on this point.

The priest DID go to considerable effort to define Limbo. Sadly, he is entirely wrong about it being a doctrine of the Church. Furthermore, if he is correct that all such infants go to hell, then we can no more pray for them than we can pray for satan. So his theology is entirely inconsistent, i.e., not Catholic.

MDL said...

I suppose then that I misunderstood your article, because I thought that you'd advocated prayer for the unbaptized. If the babies just go straight to heaven, then there's no need to pray for them. But that position doesn't make sense in light of the Bible's teaching that Baptism is necessary to enter the kingdom of heaven. The idea of Limbo or some similar state seems to make more sense in light of Scripture. And since the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the continuation of Calvary in our own time, then perhaps Christ would continue to descend into Limbo to rescue those who accept Him. That would be why we can offer Masses for them. At any rate, don't think belief in Limbo is heresy--there's room for a difference of opinion in this matter.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

MDL, we don't know where they go. The doctrine and dogma of the Church do not tell us.

If you WANT to say that they go to Limbo, you may. If you WANT to say that you HOPE they go to Purgatory or even Heaven through some extraordinary grace granted by God, you may.

We pray for them because we don't know.

The priest said he knew.
The priest is either ignorant or a liar.

The Church does NOT dogmatically guarantee unbaptized children go to hell or to heaven. The Church doesn't know what happens to them. That's all we can say for sure.

Jericho said...

May we pray that he is merely mistaken? Your tone suggests that you have a problem with the FSSP. I happen to love these men and think they have done a great deal of good. Infallible they are not, but they're not dangerous either.

Steve, do you have a problem with them beyond this situation? If so, as someone who likes the FSSP, I would like to know what others who do not like them think. It is always nice to hear the other side of the story.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Jericho, we don't have to pray that he's mistaken. HE IS MISTAKEN. This is NOT doctrine.

Your tone suggests you have a problem: you like to support heretical doctrine.

Why would you support priests who present their own personal opinions as infallible Magisterium? Especially on a topic that would make a lot of parents think their children were judged to be in hell by the Church?

In what world is that JUST?

Jericho said...

Wow, Steve. I can assure you that I made my post with 100% charity and was truly asking. You stated in a post above that the priest was either ignorant or a liar. Now, the latter is a heavy charge to make. Since you were speaking about hoping and praying for those whose salvation is unsure, why should we not hope and pray that this priest, in good standing, is just merely mistaken instead of committing a sin such a lying?

And why the wild accusation that I like heresy? I agreed with you that Limbo is not an official teaching of the Church, but neither is the salvation of unbaptized infants either. The official line is that we do not know and hope for the best. Well, I do and I agree with the Church. So why the heresy charge? Is it because I like the FSSP? Well, the Holy Father must as well, since he has not thrown them out.

So I ask again, in all charity Steve, why the harsh tone against this priest and the FSSP? Is there something more to it, or are you just that passionate about an open theological question that we can disagree upon and remain in good standing?

Jericho said...

As for my take on Limbo, I see it as consistent with God's justice, that baptism by water, desire, or blood is required for beatific vision, yet also consistent with God's mercy, in that Limbo is a state of perfect natural happiness, sans beatific vision. This is plausible to me and makes sense in terms of justice and mercy. Sure I still hope that all are saved, just like God does. But given that we don't know and ARE ALLOWED to speculate, I consider Limbo to be plausible.

So again, Steve, why such vitriol over an open theological question that two Catholics like us are allowed to disagree upon, especially given that I absolutely agree that this priest should not have declared it as doctrine (any more than you could declare that all unbaptized infants are saved is doctrine)?

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Jericho, why do you perceive vitriol in a simple statement of fact?

You want to find some way to accept what an FSSP priest said, even though there is no way to make it acceptable. He is either ignorant or a liar. Those are the two logical choices available. I didn't say he was one or the other, I merely pointed out the only logical possibilities.

And, of course, if he is ignorant, it is due in no small part to his seminary training. So, if he isn't a liar (and I'm willing to believe he isn't) then the FSSP seminaries are deeply defective on at least this point concerning eternal salvation.

That's pretty serious.
You seem to want to make this about me. Why? Can't you handle the fact that the FSSP seminaries might be deeply defective?

As for whether Limbo is a good idea, I'll go with the Pope on that one:

"The question of what it means to say that baptism is necessary for salvation has become ever more hotly debated in modern times. The Second Vatican Council said on this point that men who are seeking for God and who are inwardly striving toward that which constitutes baptism will also receive salvation. That is to say that a seeking after God already represents an inward participation in baptism, in the Church, in Christ. To that extent, the question concerning the necessity of baptism for salvation seems to have been answered, but the question about children who could not be baptized because they were aborted then presses upon us that much more urgently. Earlier ages had devised a teaching that seems to me rather unenlightened. They said that baptism endows us, by means of sanctifying grace, with the capacity to gaze upon God. Now, certainly, the state of original sin, from which we are freed by baptism, consists in a lack of sanctifying grace. Children who die in this way are indeed without any personal sin, so they cannot be sent to Hell, but, on the other hand, they lack sanctifying grace and thus the potential for beholding God that this bestows. They will simply enjoy a state of natural blessedness, in which they will be happy. This state people called limbo. In the course of our century, that has gradually come to seem problematic to us. This was one way in which people sought to justify the necessity of baptizing infants as early as possible, but the solution is itself questionable. Finally, the Pope [John Paul II] made a decisive turn in the encyclical Evangelium Vitae, a change already anticipated by the Catechism of the Catholic Church, when he expressed the simple hope that God is powerful enough to draw to Himself all those who were unable to receive the sacrament." (God and the World, Ignatius. pp. 401-402, emphasis added)

Steve Kellmeyer said...

And Jericho, let me repeat, yet again, what you seem to want to willfully ignore: A Catholic can accept or reject Limbo.

That's not the problem here.

The problem here is that this FSSP priest represents that we MUST accept Limbo as a doctrine of the Church.

The problem isn't Limbo.
The problem is that this priest presents a teaching as doctrine WHEN IT IS NOT DOCTRINE.

He's either a liar or ignorant of the Faith. In either case, he is deliberately representing something as a Church teaching when it is most certainly NOT a Church teaching.

THAT is the problem - he is misrepresenting the Faith.

MDL said...

I have listened to this priest's homily carefully a second time because I didn't remember whether he'd defined Limbo as infallible doctrine or just something that has been taught. I still have not been able to pick out him talking either about infallible doctrine or that he personally KNOWS that the unbaptized children are in Limbo. But what he did say, and I will agree that it would be misleading, is that the Church has always taught that these children go to Limbo. He then mentioned two Church counsels. So I suppose the first problem would be that he used the word "always", as literally defined would mean going back to the time of Christ when the counsels that he mentioned do not go back that far. The other thing would be what did he mean by "teaching"? Now when I was in Catholic school taught by nuns, they taught us that the unbaptized babies go to Limbo. I suppose they were taught the same by others in the Church. And for that matter, if this was what St. Augustine wrote, and he is considered to be a church Father and is a canonized saint, so would not his writing be a form of teaching, so to speak, although not to be considered infallible doctrine? So the question I have is, when he said that the Church teaches this, did he really mean that it was infallible doctrine? Now I know that when you write something or speak something it's hard to find the perfect why of explaining it so that your meaning is clear. I write quite a few things, and then like to go back over them, and sometimes when I do, I find that what I really meant to say is pretty unclear, so I have to go back over and rephrase things. I did think that, except for that one sentence, that his explanation of this issue was better than most, and didn't differ that much from what you wrote about it, except that he went into more detail about just what is meant by the state of Limbo.

Jericho said...

Wow, Steve. I guess that through the internet, it seems like you're jumping down my throat. I guess I cannot leap to the conclusion, as you have, that FSSP seminaries are teaching heresy. I'll go with Occam's Razor and simple charity and consider that this priest simply made a mistake or was unclear.

I am not willing to go further than that. Apparently you are. In that case, I disagree.

And I still disagree with you on Limbo as well. I can live with that. God bless!

Jordanes551 said...

This is what we know:

"The Roman Church teaches [...] that the souls of those who depart in mortal sin or with only original sin descend immediately to hell, nevertheless to be punished with different punishments and in disparate locations..." (Nequaquam sine dolore, John XXII, 21 Nov. 1321)

"...the souls of those who depart this life in actual mortal sin, or in original sin alone, go down straightaway to hell to be punished, but with unequal pains. (Decree for the Greeks (Laetentur Caeli), Ecumenical Council of Florence, 6 July 1439)

Errors of the Synod of Pistoia: "The doctrine which rejects as a Pelagian fable that place of the lower regions (which the faithful generally designate by the name of limbo of the 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 [...] is false, rash, injurious to Catholic schools." (Auctorem Fidei, Pius VI, 28 Aug. 1794)

That's what we know. This is the faith of the Church. Those quotes represent the unchangeable, perennial doctrine of the Church. (Notice that the Church's teaching differs from then-Cardinal Ratzinger's statement, "Children who die in this way are indeed without any personal sin, so they cannot be sent to Hell . . ." On the contrary, the Church has formally declared that even if one has only original sin, one will end up in hell. Cardinal Ratzinger misspoke in that interview. It happens.)

We DON'T know that every unbaptised baby necessarily dies with original sin. But we do know that IF a baby dies with original sin, that baby goes to hell, not heaven -- specifically, that part of hell which, per the Magisterium, the faithful call the limbo of the children.

We don't know of any way by which a baby's original sin may be taken away except for by Baptism. God could remit their original sin without Baptism, but we don't know that He does that, and He has given us no sure and solid reason to think He does, only indications that we could possibly hope that He sometimes might (though not in the sense of the cardinal virtue of hope). This is why the Church in her ancient liturgies has never prayed for unbaptised infants specifically, but only generally prays for the salvation of all men.

And that is why the prevailing belief of Catholics throughout the ages is that unbaptised babies do not go to heaven, but rather go to that part of hell called the limbo of the children -- deprived of the Beatific Vision, but not suffering pain (as they have no actual sins to be punished).

In terms of determining whether limbo is doctrine, it doesn't matter that the new Catechism doesn't mention limbo, since the new teachings found in the Catechism, while a magisterial document, are not of a uniform authority. As then-Cardinal Ratzinger explained in "Introduction to the Catechism of the Catholic Church," the various magisterial texts cited and quoted in the CCC have different levels of authority, and they retain their respective levels of authority even though they are cited or quoted in a catechism presented to the Church via an apostolic constitution. Neither the CCC nor the Roman Catechism were intended to mention each and every single belief and doctrine of the Church is full detail -- and so the lack of an explicit reference to limbo in those catechisms doesn't mean that limbo is not a doctrine of the Church, but is only an optional theological speculation or only a theory, as the non-magisterial ITC document called it.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

When someone says "the Church has always taught" they mean that what they have just said is part of the infallible Magisterium.

He's wrong.
It isn't.

As for the priest, I have heard three separate FSSP priests make exactly the same mistake in exactly the same way.

That points to a training issue - either those men entered seminary with the wrong idea and seminary failed to remove it OR seminary actively instilled the wrong idea in their head.

Either way, it's a problem I have only seen among FSSP priests. I literally don't know any other ordained man (or men) who teaches that Limbo is a doctrine.

Jordanes551 said...

BTW, Limbo of the children wasn't only St. Augustine's idea, but was also affirmed and elaborated upon by Aquinas. Augustine held that unbaptised infants suffered pain in hell, but Aquinas showed that Augustine was mistaken about that.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

"that part of hell which, per the Magisterium, the faithful call the limbo of the children."

Limbo is NOT part of the Magisterium.

"we could possibly hope that He sometimes might (though not in the sense of the cardinal virtue of hope)."

I've heard this argument from FSSP priests. It's stupid.

If it isn't a theological hope grounded in the divine action of God, then it is no hope at all. The quoted sentence above makes no sense since it contradicts itself: you can't have a human hope of salvation for ANYONE. You can only have a theological hope that anyone is saved, even with the sacraments.

"the prevailing belief of Catholics throughout the ages"

Western Catholics, to some extent. Eastern Catholics (who ARE in communion with the Pope) would not agree that it was a prevailing belief in the East at any time.

"Neither the CCC nor the Roman Catechism were intended to mention each and every single belief and doctrine of the Church is full detail"

I have heard FSSP priest's use EXACTLY this argument.

Again, as I told the priest, I call BS.

If Limbo exists, it is an eternal destiny. It is the Church's job to teach us about eternal destinies. We learn of heaven and hell, even of Purgatory (which is not an eternal destiny) only through the Church's Magisterium.

The fact that Limbo is nowhere mentioned in the Magisterium is an excellent reason to think that Limbo does not, in fact, exist.

It is the Church's job to teach us about eternal destiny. Since the Church does not formally teach Limbo anywhere, it pretty obviously doesn't exist.

Jordanes551 said...

"What I say is that insisting that Limbo is a doctrine is heretical."

You are gravely mistaken. The Church has never defined that it is heretical to say the existence of the limbo of the children is a church doctrine. The Church has, however, condemned as an error a certain kind of rejection of the existence of the limbo of the children.

BTW, that St. Gregory of Nyssa didn't like limbo isn't all that helpful, as he favored or tended to the erroneous Origenist speculations of apocatastasis which the Church later formally condemned as heresy. Hermas' ideas on the subject also aren't helpful to us, as his views are unique to himself, not shared by the rest of the Fathers.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

And if you're going to say that Aquinas corrected Augustine, then you'll have to also say that Aquinas corrected the very Council of Carthage that everyone quotes as indicating such infants go to hell:

19. The Council of Carthage of 418 rejected the teaching of Pelagius. It condemned the opinion that infants “do not contract from Adam any trace of original sin, which must be expiated by the bath of regeneration that leads to eternal life”. Positively, this council taught that “even children who of themselves cannot have yet committed any sin are truly baptised for the remission of sins, so that by regeneration they may be cleansed from what they contracted through generation”.[40] It was also added that there is no “intermediate or other happy dwelling place for children who have left this life without Baptism, without which they cannot enter the kingdom of heaven, that is, eternal life”.[41] This council did not, however, explicitly endorse all aspects of Augustine's stern view about the destiny of infants who die without Baptism.

Jordanes551 said...

"Limbo is NOT part of the Magisterium."

Pope Paul VI acknoledged it in a magisterial document.

"If it isn't a theological hope grounded in the divine action of God, then it is no hope at all."

That's a silly thing to say. Everyone knows that words have different senses and can be used in different ways. You are welcome to your opinion that the theological virtue of hope is the only kind of hope, but few will agree with you.

"you can't have a human hope of salvation for ANYONE. You can only have a theological hope that anyone is saved, even with the sacraments."

An interesting opinion, but there does not appear to be any basis for it.

"'Neither the CCC nor the Roman Catechism were intended to mention each and every single belief and doctrine of the Church is full detail'

"I have heard FSSP priest's use EXACTLY this argument. Again, as I told the priest, I call BS."

The FSSP priest and Cardinal Ratzinger are obviously correct about the Catechism, and you are obviously wrong.

"If Limbo exists, it is an eternal destiny. It is the Church's job to teach us about eternal destinies. We learn of heaven and hell, even of Purgatory (which is not an eternal destiny) only through the Church's Magisterium."

Limbo, as you have noted, is a part of hell. The Church does teach about hell. There can be no doubt that there is a part of hell in which the punishment is the lightest of all, just as there is a part of hell where punishment is the worst. The only question is whether anybody is in the so-to-speak outermost part. There is no sure basis to believe all unbaptised babies who die go to heaven, so there is good reason to think some if not most or all go there.

"The fact that Limbo is nowhere mentioned in the Magisterium is an excellent reason to think that Limbo does not, in fact, exist."

See above. Limbo was mentioned by Pius VI in a magisterial document.

"It is the Church's job to teach us about eternal destiny. Since the Church does not formally teach Limbo anywhere, it pretty obviously doesn't exist."

On the contrary, since the Church has formally defined certain doctrines pertaining to grace, original sin, baptism, and hell, it follows that there is good reason to believe there are those who die with unremitted original sin, who must therefore go to that part of hell which the Catholic faithful call the limbo of the children.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

"The Church has never defined that it is heretical to say the existence of the limbo of the children is a church doctrine."

Lex orandi, lex credendi. The Western Church prays for the salvation of unbaptized infants in a special liturgical Mass devoted just to them. Likewise, in the Greek Catholic Church there is only one funeral rite for infants whether baptised or not yet baptised, and the Church prays for all deceased infants that they may be received into the bosom of Abraham where there is no sorrow or anguish but only eternal life.

No Limbo.

"The Church has, however, condemned as an error a certain kind of rejection of the existence of the limbo of the children."

The Church has said you can't reject Limbo by saying that unbaptized children don't need baptism. Since no one but Pelagians say that, it is an irrelevant point.

Jordanes551 said...

The Council of Carthage, being a local council, did not speak for the whole Church. Nevertheless, what the council said does not contradict in any way what Aquinas and most Catholics have held regarding limbo, which is a part of a hell, not an intermediate or other place neither heaven nor hell. (Note again the magisterial quotes that show that the Church teaches infallibly that anyone who dies even with nothing more than unremitted original sin goes to hell.) Contra Augustine, Aquinas held that souls in the limbo of hell do not suffer pain or torments, but then the Council of Carthage didn't affirm Augustine's personal opinion about that either.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

"Pope Paul VI acknoledged it in a magisterial document."

Oh, please. You insist that the CCC has different levels within it, but you don't recognize that other papal documents also have different levels of teaching within them? The CCC is a Magisterial document, but you won't buy into article 1261. If you reject the CCC, why should I accept Pope Paul's discussion, which has a much lower level of authority in the Ordinary Magisterium than the CCC does?

"You are welcome to your opinion that the theological virtue of hope is the only kind of hope, but few will agree with you."

Well, Rome agrees with me, and that's good enough, really.

"Our conclusion is that the many factors that we have considered above give serious theological and liturgical grounds for hope that unbaptised infants who die will be saved and enjoy the Beatific Vision. "

Do your homework.

Purgatory is part of heaven. We have extensive Magisterial teaching on it, even though it is only a temporary state/location.

If Limbo is truly part of hell- and an ETERNAL state/location - why do we have only Augustine and NO Magisterial teaching on it?

Hint: it doesn't exist.

Jordanes551 said...

"The Western Church prays for the salvation of unbaptized infants in a special liturgical Mass devoted just to them."

The Mass is a new composition. Historically the Church has not prayed specifically for unbaptised infants. But I'm glad we do now.

"Likewise, in the Greek Catholic Church there is only one funeral rite for infants whether baptised or not yet baptised, and the Church prays for all deceased infants that they may be received into the bosom of Abraham where there is no sorrow or anguish but only eternal life.

"No Limbo."

If there were no Limbo, then the unbaptised babies wouldn't need us to pray for their salvation -- their salvation would be assured simply by having died.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Jordanes, do you understand the difference between "hope" and "knowledge"?

Because you are answering as if you do not.

Jordanes551 said...

"You insist that the CCC has different levels within it, but you don't recognize that other papal documents also have different levels of teaching within them?"

Don't be silly. It should be obvious that I recognise different papal documents have different levels of teaching within them. Pius VI's decrees against the errors of the Synod of Pistoia has a very high level of authority, even weightier than a church-sanctioned catechism, yet even so not all that is said in his decrees is of equal authority.

The point is that you claim falsely that the Magisterium doesn't mention the limbo of the children. Yet Pius VI in a magisterial document refers to it as something the faithful believe.

"The CCC is a Magisterial document, but you won't buy into article 1261."

Who says I don't buy into CCC 1261? Just because I know it's not the only thing the Church and her Doctors have had to say on the subject doesn't mean I think it says anything wrong or that it contradicts what has been believed about the limbo of the children.

"If you reject the CCC, why should I accept Pope Paul's (sic) discussion, which has a much lower level of authority in the Ordinary Magisterium than the CCC does?"

I neither reject the CCC nor do I have the erroneous belief that Pius V's declarations have less authority than the Catechism's brief remark.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

"Who says I don't buy into CCC 1261? Just because I know it's not the only thing the Church and her Doctors have had to say on the subject doesn't mean I think it says anything wrong or that it contradicts what has been believed about the limbo of the children."

Ok, well, that's ridiculous then. You can't hope for someone to go to heaven when you're certain they are going to hell. It's a contradiction in terms.

Jordanes551 said...

"Jordanes, do you understand the difference between 'hope' and 'knowledge'?"

It's funny you ask -- I had almost asked you the same thing in one of my above comments.

Honestly, Steve, you need to stop substituting your personal opinions for the faith of the Church. The Church has never and can never condemn the teaching of limbo -- not without rejecting things that the Church has already infallibly declared to be true.

Jordanes551 said...

"You can't hope for someone to go to heaven when you're certain they are going to hell. It's a contradiction in terms."

True. And since I am not certain about which of us goes to hell, I continue to pray for everyone, even though we know all will not be saved. We have no way of knowing who specifically they will be (apart from the three individuals whom the Holy Spirit has revealed to us as a warning).

Steve Kellmeyer said...

"The Church has never and can never condemn the teaching of limbo "

Well, no one is arguing that She can or will. I'm just pointing out that it isn't part of the Magisterium. As Cardinal Ratzinger said, it's nothing but a theological opinion.

" even though we know all will not be saved. We have no way of knowing who specifically they will be (apart from the three individuals whom the Holy Spirit has revealed to us as a warning)."

We don't know that not all will be saved, nor do we know that any particular person is in hell. Thus, we have the right to participate in the theological hope that all men can be saved. That cannot be a certainty - but certainly it is a hope. Von Balthasar is correct.

Kevin Tierney said...

I just let God take care of that business, and do what I can to give the Gospel in my words and actions to everyone I can.

I don't see how the debate on limbo is or ever has been a fruitful one.