Catholics traditionally believe that infants who die before being baptized, go to a place called Limbo. It is not understood whether the belief comes out of a dogmatic teaching of the Church. My question therefore, is: What do the latest teachings of catholic Church say on the existence or otherwise of Limbo?


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The belief in a place on the edge of hell goes back a long way. Dante depicted Limbo as the first circle of Hell (in his poem Inferno, from the Divine Comedy). Some years ago, there was a rumour that Limbo no longer existed and that the Catholic Church had dispensed with the teaching. However, these rumours were unfounded and it is also worth noting that limbo (for infants) has never been an official doctrine. Here is an extract from an article on it:

In Catholic theology, Limbo (Latin limbus, edge or boundary, referring to the edge of Hell) is a doctrine concerning the afterlife condition of those who die in original sin without being assigned to the Hell of the Damned. ... However, Limbo of the Infants is not an official doctrine of the Catholic Church.

The Limbo of Infants (Latin limbus infantium or limbus puerorum) is the hypothetical permanent status of the unbaptized who die in infancy, too young to have committed actual sins, but not having been freed from original sin. Recent Catholic theological speculation tends to stress the hope, although not the certainty, that these infants may attain heaven instead of the state of Limbo.

While the Catholic Church has a defined doctrine on original sin, it has none on the eternal fate of unbaptized infants, leaving theologians free to propose different theories, which magisterium is free to accept or reject. Limbo is one such theory. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limbo#Limbo_of_Infants

The same article provides information on the 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church with regard to children who have died without being baptised. There is also a detailed official response (2007) to a document originally commissioned by Pope John Paul II, entitled "The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die without Being Baptized." Part of the article says this:

Pope Benedict XVI authorized publication of this document, indicating that he considers it consistent with the Church's teaching, though it is not an official expression of that teaching. Media reports that by the document "the Pope closed Limbo" are thus without foundation... in paragraph 41 it repeats that the theory of Limbo "remains a possible theological opinion". The document thus allows the hypothesis of a limbo of infants to be held as one of the existing theories about the fate of children who die without being baptised, a question on which there is "no explicit answer" from Scripture or tradition. The traditional theological alternative to Limbo was not Heaven, but rather some degree of suffering in Hell. At any rate, these theories are not the official teaching of the Catholic Church, but are only opinions that the Church does not condemn, permitting them to be held by its members, just as is the theory of possible salvation for infants dying without baptism. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limbo#Modern_era

In 2013 Stephen Beale asked ‘Whatever Happened to Limbo?’ and answered “Contrary to what you might have heard, limbo is not dead.” A 2007 report, issued by the International Theological Commission declared:

It is clear that the traditional teaching on this topic has concentrated on the theory of Limbo. … This theory, elaborated by theologians beginning in the Middle Ages, never entered into the dogmatic definitions of the Magisterium, even if that same Magisterium did at times mention the theory in its ordinary teaching up until the Second Vatican Council. It remains therefore a possible theological hypothesis.

More information here: https://catholicexchange.com/whatever-happened-to-limbo

The article also mentions that the limbo of the fathers of the Old Testament, who died believing in a savior whom they had never met or known, was closed after Christ accomplished His redemptive work on the cross.


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