Conservative Catholic priest favors return to banishing unbaptized babies to “limbo”

Yesterday morning, I listened to the 1/26/18 podcast of “The Catholic Connection” talk radio show (The Station of the Cross, WLOF (Our Lady of Fatima) 101.7 FM, Buffalo, New York) with moderator, Jim Havens, and priest-host, Shannon Collins (photo right). The topic of the show was unbaptized infants and the existence of “limbo.”

In Catholic theology, baptism is an absolute requirement in the process of attaining salvation.* Catholicism teaches that the baptismal waters actually wash away original sin by working ex opere operato, i.e., baptism and the other sacraments being efficacious in and of themselves rather than dependent on the attitude of either the priest or the recipient. Catholics are usually baptized as infants, but when they mature, they are expected to follow church teaching by receiving the other sacraments in order to receive graces to assist them in obeying the Ten Commandments (impossible!) in order to hopefully merit Heaven at the moment of their death.

Catholic teaching throughout the centuries was that unbaptized babies who died were consigned to a place called “limbo,” an outer-region of Hell where there was no suffering, but neither was the soul in communion with God (i.e., the “Bosom of Abraham” of the Old Testament). Although the teaching on unbaptized babies being consigned to limbo was never officially declared as dogma, bishops, theologians, and even popes sanctioned this belief. When I attended Catholic parochial school in the 60s, the priests and nuns taught unbaptized infants were consigned to limbo. The Baltimore Catechism, the recognized authority on doctrine for American Catholics up until the late 1960s, unequivocally taught that all unbaptized babies went to limbo:

“Limbo: The place where unbaptized infants go.” – The New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism (No. 2), 1991 edition, p. 248., – Imprimatur – Francis Cardinal Spellman, Archbishop of New York

During the radio show, conservative priest Collins bemoaned the fact that many in the church have moved away from the traditional teaching on limbo. In the official 1992 catechism, there is no mention of limbo. Instead, the church states that it “hope(s) that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism” (CCC #1261, see here). In 2006, pope Benedict stated limbo did not exist (photo left). These days, sympathetic priests comfort parents of miscarried fetuses by saying that their child is in Heaven, but Collins is critical of such counsel. He does acknowledge, however, that “some” conservative Catholic priests believe that in cases where a fetus or infant died before being baptized, the desire of the parents for that child to have been baptized “may” suffice in the place of actual baptism.

Oy. Is your head starting to spin yet?

What about fetuses who are aborted? Collins says they are definitely going to limbo. Havens and Collins briefly discussed the “holy innocents,” the male infants in the vicinity of Bethlehem who were killed by King Herod in his effort to murder Jesus. They were actually canonized as “saints” by the Catholic church because they were said to have died as innocent martyrs in the place of Christ. Huh? So Collins agrees with traditional church teaching that the “holy innocents” went to Heaven even though they weren’t baptized, but he holds that aborted fetus babies and other unbaptized babies probably do not. Collins also satisfyingly commented that for centuries the church never allowed unbaptized infants to be buried in Catholic consecrated cemeteries. Even these days, grieving parents of deceased unbaptized infants must submit to a dispensation process through their diocese in order to have their child buried in a Catholic cemetery. See here.

I don’t put ANY stock in what priest Collins or the Catholic catechism says on this subject. God’s Word teaches that children reach an age of accountability when they are responsible for their active rebellion against the Lord. That age is going to be different for each child. Prior to that, infants, young children, and the mentally handicapped are covered by God’s grace. Baptism saves no one. I renounced my Catholic infant baptism by being baptized as an adult 35 years ago as a public witness of my acceptance of Jesus Christ as my personal Savior by faith alone. Trust in Christ by faith alone. Baptism, sacraments, rituals, and religious legalism save no one.

“He said, ‘While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who knows, the Lord may be gracious to me, that the child may live.’ But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” – 2 Samuel 12:22–23

“Then the little children were brought to Jesus for Him to place His hands on them and pray for them; and the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them! For the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’” – Matthew 19:13-14

*The Catholic church holds to two very conflicting teachings simultaneously. On the one hand, it still insists that everyone must be baptized in order to even start thinking about eventually meriting Heaven. On the other hand it grants that people of all religious beliefs and even atheists can also merit heaven if they “follow the light they have been given” with a “sincere heart.” How does the church reconcile this dichotomy? It says all these “good” non-Catholics would have gotten baptized if they only knew how important it was, so they’re also covered under the “baptism of desire.” Hmm. Anyone else hearing, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!” What we really have here is a case of old Catholic tradition (“all must be baptized to be saved”) conflicting with “new school” wide-is-the-way Catholic ecumenism. So unbaptized atheists can merit Heaven but unbaptized babies are barred? I’m confused. Well, not really. It’s just another Catholic rabbit hole.

28 thoughts on “Conservative Catholic priest favors return to banishing unbaptized babies to “limbo”

  1. AMEN!
    “Prior to that, infants, young children, and the mentally handicapped are covered by God’s grace.” Yes they are! That allows makes my heart happy knowing that our two children with Down Syndrome will be safe in Heaven one day! Even though the verbal one does know about God through Jesus as sometimes he joins us as our table during Bible reading time. Once, I heard Harold Camping (sp) give a sermon that babies that die will not enter God’s Kingdom because they have never accepted the Lord as their Saviour…I never listened to him again!
    God is GOOD I will leave it up to Him as to who goes and who does not 🙂
    “Oy. Is your head starting to spin yet?”-LOL! Yes! Sadly, though, many people practicing catholicism just do not get it…there is so much to this religious cult that they have no idea what they are to do-why they do it or how often that they should do it. I know of a few priests that do not know why they do what they do!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Elizabeth, Lord bless your two children with Down Syndrome and your whole family!

      RE: God is GOOD I will leave it up to Him as to who goes and who does not

      Amen, Elizabeth! We know that Jesus is the only Way, and when it comes to specific individuals and their salvation, we’ll just leave that all up to Him. But little children and the mentally disabled, we commend them to the safekeeping of our Savior as He told us.

      RE: Harold Camping

      I haven’t heard that name in awhile. Yeah, he got more than a few things wrong!

      Yes, praise our Savior that we can rest in Him and His salvation by faith alone rather than trying to follow the complicated religious legalism that Catholic prelates and priests can’t even agree on.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. The ironic thing is that pope Benedict is considered a very conservative pope, but this ultra-conservative priest breaks with him over this “unbaptized babies go to limbo” man-made tradition.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Catholicism is a complicated system and there are a wide range of opinions from the ultra-conservative to the doubting liberals. Praise the Lord for His Gospel which is so simple even a child can understand it!

        Liked by 2 people

      2. True, but it must be hard for the Catholic that is deep into their beliefs not to be skeptical of all that is churning around.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Hope! Yup, this dogma of unbaptized babies being consigned to limbo is very strange but it was an outgrowth of Catholicism’s great emphasis on baptismal regeneration. I can remember being a young Catholic in grammar school thinking it was very unfair that God would treat babies in that way. We had our oldest child baptized but the second one we didn’t because I was a “non-practicing” Catholic at the time. This worried my mother tremendously. I heard later that she baptized him when she was babysitting, which is allowed by the Catholic church. Non-priests and even non-Catholics(!) can perform this ritual and it will supposedly still be effective as long as water is used (all other liquids forbidden) and the exact incantation is followed, i.e., “(Name), I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

      Liked by 2 people

      1. What did the great Protestant reformers teach? They taught predestination of the elect to heaven and predestination of the reprobate to hell, not only with adults but with unbaptized infants as well. The Catholic Church simply teaches that She knows of no other way than baptism that an infant can be saved. The Bible is clear that without Faith you cannot please God. How can infants have Faith unless it is infused into them? Once again the naturalism and Pelagianism of Protestants comes out. Unless one is born of water and the Spirit one cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Your notion that Baptism does not save is not only heresy but pure blasphemy. Christ said to go out to all the nations and to preach the Gospel AND to Baptize.


      2. Silly. Your church teaches baptism is mandatory for salvation yet also teaches all religionists can merit salvation if they are “good” and “follow the light they have been given. Pope Francis even says atheists can merit Heaven if they “follow their conscience.” Catholicism is (c)hristianity without Christ.


  2. Excellent post, Tom! I have never heard of this Catholic tradition before. Thank you for bringing this to our attention, and setting things straight.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Wally. The restrictions about unbaptized babies not being allowed into Heaven and even barred from Catholic cemeteries is, for me, one of the most egregious things about Catholicism.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I do not think one realizes how truly strange it is until they have practiced it and then been led out by The Shepherd!!! \o/ \o/ \o/
    That is why it is SO aggravating to people that have formerly practiced to see blind “Protestants” embracing catholic~ism 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are so right about those who were once in Catholicism knowing the truth about it. In our ecumenical era, most evangelicals believe that Catholicism is Christian at its core, but maybe has a few quirky practices.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. EXACTLY! I hear of that quite a bit. This is the point we reach sometimes:
        Matthew 7:6 )
        6 Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.

        That being said we can’t stop sharing God’s GOOD NEWS! It is not our responsibility to how they re-act to the Truth but it is our responsibility to share what we have so lovingly had shared with us 🙂

        Using discernment (which is not always easy) we are to shake the dust off our feet and move on as Jesus has said!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes, I agree! We are to keep sharing the Good News and the truth about Roman Catholicism despite the negative reception. As you’ve pointed out, I generally avoid enmeshing myself in prolonged debates with defenders of Catholicism. I find that diverts me from what the Lord has called me to. And we shouldn’t be surprised that many “evangelicals” are embracing Catholicism. The Lord asked if He would find faith when He returned.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I think you noted the tension right on: “*The Catholic church holds to two very conflicting teachings simultaneously. On the one hand, it still insists that everyone must be baptized in order to even start thinking about eventually meriting Heaven. On the other hand it grants that people of all religious beliefs and even atheists can also merit heaven if they “follow the light they have been given” with a “sincere heart.””
    In regards to Limbo…with pun intended I think that at the moment the doctrine of limbo is in…a limbo.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Jim! A few days ago we were commenting on a certain evangelical who held conflicting viewpoints simultaneously. Today we have Roman Catholicism. This is getting to be a regular theme!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. How true! Catholicism boasts that it alone has a divinely-led magisterium to guide it, although Francis is challenging that concept, as we’ve discussed often. But why hasn’t the magisterium ever weighed in on this limbo question definitively? The same question could be asked on hundreds of theological issues. It’s all a sham.

        Liked by 1 person

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