Throwback Thursday: Sorry, no unbaptized babies allowed!

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on December 17, 2015 and has been substantially revised.


The Roman Catholic church boasts that it’s Semper eadem, always the same, but even a
casual student of church history knows that Catholic theology has always been evolving. Case in point:

The RCC has taught baptismal regeneration for 1500 years. It was a doctrine of the church that an unbaptized person could not enter into Heaven except in the cases of martyrs and catechumens. This belief extended to infants who had died without being baptized. Although it was never “official” doctrine, it was widely disseminated by the church that the souls of unbaptized babies went to a region in Hell called “Limbo” (Latin: limbus infantium) where there was allegedly no suffering, but neither “supernatural happiness.”

“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.

Because of that teaching, Catholic hospital personnel were instructed to go to great lengths to baptize all newborns who were in danger of dying. If babies were not baptized prior to their death, they were not permitted to be buried in Catholic cemeteries.

[Long pause for effect]

You read that right. Babies who were not baptized were refused burial in “blessed” Catholic cemeteries.

“If (the fetus or child is) not baptized, it should be buried in unconsecrated ground, without any religious rites.” – Quizzes on Hospital Ethics (1946), pp. 57-58. See also the Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), pp. 11, 267, Administrative Legislation (1930) p. 87, and Medical Ethics (1949), p. 245.

The 1917 Code of Canon Law strictly forbade the burial of an unbaptized infant in a Catholic cemetery (Can. 1239). It was taught that burial in a “hallowed” Catholic cemetery accorded the deceased greater graces in the attainment of Heaven as well as ensuring that Catholic burial practices were adhered to.

As Catholic theologians and prelates were increasingly influenced by liberal ideas in the 20th century, the church began to relax its teaching on baptismal regeneration, and at the Second Vatican Council the church granted that all religionists – Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, etc. –  could also merit eternal life (Lumen Gentium, para. 16, November 21, 1964).

But what about the infants of Catholic families who died without baptism? The Catholic church gradually changed its teaching on unbaptized babies going to Limbo as well. The church now states that it “hopes” all unbaptized infants will go to Heaven:

“…allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism…” – CCC 1261.

Regarding the previous cemetery restriction on unbaptized infants, the 1983 revision of the Code of Canon Law lifted the fifteen-century-long ban and allowed for the burial of unbaptized infants in Catholic cemeteries, although the mourning family is still required to obtain the permission of the local bishop.

There is no salvation for any Catholic in the Roman church’s false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit, but I shake my head in sadness for all of the grieving Catholic families over the centuries that were not allowed to bury their dead, unbaptized infants in their cemeteries. Keep in mind that while the Catholic bishops would not allow the burial of unbaptized infants in their cemeteries, they did allow the burial of pedophile priests and notorious members of organized crime. I can also easily imagine that exceptions to the rule were granted in the cases of unbaptized infants of wealthy contributors such as the Kennedys.

“For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.” – Matthew 23:4-5

“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 19:14

“And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 18:3

Contrary to the complex and ever-changing legalism of the Roman Catholic church, the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone is unchanging and so simple even a child can understand. Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone. You cannot merit your way to Heaven.

“Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” – Romans 3:20-22

25 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday: Sorry, no unbaptized babies allowed!

    1. Thanks, Cathy. I remember being utterly fascinated with this fictional place called “Limbo” when I was in Catholic grammar school. For a place that the RCC now says doesn’t exist, the nuns taught about it quite a bit back in the day.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Nope, I don’t remember that scene, but I can see why they would bring it up. Thanks! Yeah, this business about dead unbaptized babies not being allowed in Catholic cemeteries and then being allowed, and teaching Limbo and then denying Limbo; so revealing.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Catholics taught that unbaptized infants went to “Limbo” which was identified as the same place or a similar place as “Abraham’s Bosom” the abode of the righteous who died before the coming of Jesus Christ.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Norman Geisler’s and R.C. Sproul’s favorite theologian, Catholic or otherwise, Thomas Aquinas, makes a hazy distinction in his “Summa Theologiae” between “Limbo of the Fathers” and “Abraham’s Bosom” which is undecipherable theological rigmarole of the highest order, concluding in article 4 that the two were “one place accidentally and not essentially.” Huh? He goes on to say in article 6 that the limbo of unbaptized children is the same as the limbo of the Fathers.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yeah, his abstract distinction between the “Limbo of the Fathers” and Abraham’s Bosom being the same yet different is indecipherable poppycock.

        Liked by 1 person

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