Yesterday morning, I was listening to the 4/25/14 podcast of the “Calling All Catholics” talk radio show (The Station of the Cross, 101.7 FM, Buffalo, NY) featuring Jesuit priest, Marty Moleski, and moderator, Gina Zanicky-Weiss. A listener, Ken, called in with a question for Moleski regarding the film, “Heaven is for Real*.” According to Ken, the movie implied that infants who were miscarried or aborted ended up in Heaven. But Ken was troubled by that message because he remembered being taught as a young Catholic in parochial school that unbaptized infants and young children who died didn’t go to Heaven but were consigned to a place called “Limbo” and he asked Moleski for clarification.
Moleski replied that Catholic theologians of years past proposed the existence of Limbo as a place for unbaptized young children. He wrongly stated that Limbo was thought to be a compartment of Heaven, adding the caveat that those who were consigned to Limbo were not able to “participate fully in the beatific vision.” Moleski went on to say the Catholic church never endorsed the theory of Limbo as official dogma. The current Catholic catechism states that the church hopes unbaptized young children go to Heaven when they die.
However, Moleski’s assertion that Catholic theologians taught that Limbo is a part of Heaven is certainly NOT true. Most Catholic theologians taught that Limbo was either a part of Hell, on the edge of Hell (limbus means “hem” or “border”), or between Hell and Heaven, but definitely NOT a part of Heaven. See here. Baptism is such an important part of Catholic salvation theology that it was inconceivable to Catholic theologians that any soul could achieve Heaven without it (with the exception of martyrs).
Also, while Catholicism may have never “officially” endorsed the notion of Limbo for unbaptized infants, the teaching was widespread throughout Catholicism and appears in my copy of the Baltimore Catechism with the imprimatur of Cardinal Spellman (“Limbo: The place where unbaptized infants go.” – from The New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism, No. 2, 1991 edition, p. 248 with the imprimatur of Francis Cardinal Spellman, Archbishop of New York).
The concept of Limbo was taught century after century by the church and was promoted by such notables as saint Thomas Aquinas. If the teaching was incorrect, as the church now admits, why didn’t one of the many “infallible” popes step in and correct the error? And if the church now hopes all unbaptized infants go directly to Heaven if they die, why are workers at Catholic hospitals still instructed to baptize infants who are in danger of dying?
Evangelicals believe from God’s Word that young children and others who are incapable of accepting Christ go to Heaven when they die.
“Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 19:13-14
Do babies and others incapable of professing faith in Christ automatically go to heaven?
*Endnote: I have never seen “Heaven is for Real” and I don’t endorse it.