Abolishing Limbo?
Open Letter to Pope Benedict XVI

from The Remnant


(Posted Thursday, October 5)

Most Holy Father,

Yet again the Catholic world is disturbed by rumors that the International Theological Commission (ITC), with the approval of Your Holiness, is about to “abolish” the doctrine of Limbo. As one English reporter has claimed, the announcement of the “abolition” of Limbo has been scheduled for tomorrow, October 6, when Your Holiness will supposedly “cast aside centuries of Catholic belief” by “approv[ing] formally” the putative conclusion of the ITC that “all children who die do so in the expectation of ‘the universal salvation of God’ and the ‘mediation of Christ,’ whether baptized or not.” The reporter quotes an anonymous source, who states that “in effect, this means that all children who die go to Heaven.”

Holy Father, at the moment this open letter is being published we find these sensational reports of the “abolition” of Limbo to be unworthy of credence, for it is of course quite impossible for the Church to declare that “all children who die go to Heaven” with or without baptism.   Quite the contrary, as the members of the ITC would know, the entire Tradition of the Church is against such a conclusion. 

Indeed, absent the doctrine of Limbo, the Church would have no answer to the question “What is the fate of unbaptized infants?”, other than that they descend into hell.  As a contemporary German theologian has noted in commenting upon his own recently published doctoral thesis on this subject, concerning Limbo “there is a firm tradition in the ordinary magisterium that can not simply be discarded. It is insufficient to state that limbo was never defined, and therefore unbaptized children might equally be thought to be in heaven. Historically the doctrinal alternative to limbo never was infant salvation, but a stricter Augustinian interpretation assigning also pain of sense to the state of the children.”  

That is, absent the doctrine of Limbo, the Church would have no basis in her Tradition on which to state that infants who die without baptism even avoid the pains of hell, much less that they all attain eternal beatitude.  There is no alternative to Limbo in the constant teaching of the Church.

Hence, as informed Catholics know, the Catechism of Saint Pius V, commonly known as “The Roman Catechism,” declared without the least ambiguity the grave duty of parents to have their newborn children baptized as soon as possible in order to avoid their damnation:

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: infants, unless baptized, cannot enter heaven, and hence we may well conceive how deep the enormity of their guilt, who, through negligence, suffer 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.

As the ITC must surely know, the Roman Catechism only reflected the Church’s constant teaching on the urgent necessity of infant baptism. For example, as 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 sons of God, it advises that holy baptism ought not be deferred for forty or eighty days, or any time according to the observance of certain people.[1]

There is no question, then, that the Church has always counseled that it is gravely dangerous to delay the baptism of infants for any considerable length of time because of the risk of eternal damnation. It is quite inconceivable that the Church founded by Christ Incarnate as the infallible guarantor of His truth could, for so long, have wrongly imposed the debt of guilt on parents who negligently failed to baptize their children.  No present-day commission, obviously, would have any authority to declare that the Roman Catechism—and with it, the entire teaching of the Church until now—was in error.  Such a conclusion would destroy the very credibility of the Church as a divinely founded institution—a result that perhaps accounts for the eagerness of the secular press to herald the “abolition” of Limbo.    

What is more, Holy Father, the “abolition” of Limbo, leading to the conclusion that all infants who die without baptism must enter into eternal beatitude, would only encourage the abominable crime of abortion. For if all unbaptized infants are saved, then abortion would be far easier to rationalize, especially for opponents of the Church’s moral teaching. Even many Catholics would come to see abortion as a veritable gateway to heaven.   Such would be the monstrous consequence of this novelty.

Holy Father, informed Catholics know that, as the First Vatican Council solemnly declared, “the Holy Spirit was not promised to the Successors of Peter that by His revelation they might disclose new doctrine, but that by His help they might guard the revelation transmitted through the apostles and the deposit of faith, and might faithfully set it forth.”[2]  To declare that there is no Limbo, however, and that infants who die without baptism may be thought to be saved, would be precisely to announce new doctrine, while flatly contradicting the prior teaching of the Church on a matter of salvation.

That a Pope could never do any of this in any binding way gives us confidence that the recent news reports are false.  Indeed, what Pope, as the Vicar of Christ, would impose such a novelty on the Church at the risk of countless souls being lost on account of the neglect of infant baptism this unheard-of teaching would encourage?  Only an infallible ex cathedra papal pronouncement declaring that there is no Limbo could provide the necessary surety in the matter. But such a pronouncement would be impossible for the very reason that there is no traditional teaching against Limbo, but only a tradition in favor of it, so that the “abolition” of Limbo would be a doctrinal novelty the Church has no power to teach. That is why we are convinced Your Holiness will not teach it, or allow it to be taught by his authority.

All of this being true, however, it must also be said that were Your Holiness ever to approve the rumored conclusions of the ITC, Catholics the world over would be scandalized and confronted with a crisis of conscience without precedent in the history of the Church, for then the Pope, just as the reporter claimed, would have “cast aside centuries of Catholic belief.” Such a development would mean that a duly elected Pope, for the first time ever, had formally approved for the universal Church a contradiction of the Church’s own Tradition on a point of doctrine that touches the very salvation of souls. As this letter is published, we can only pray that the “diabolical disorientation” in the Church remarked by Sister Lucia of Fatima will not extend this far.

Your servants in Christ,

The Remnant


 [1] Denzinger, 712.

 [2]Denzinger, 1836.