April 22, 2007
It’s taken only 16 centuries, but:
After several years of study, the Vatican’s International Theological Commission said there are good reasons to hope that babies who die without being baptized go to heaven.
In a document published April 20, the commission said the traditional concept of limbo — as a place where unbaptized infants spend eternity but without com-
munion with God — seemed to reflect an “unduly restrictive view of salvation.”
The church continues to teach that, because of original sin, baptism is the ordinary way of salvation for all people and urges parents to baptize infants, the document said.
But there is greater theological awareness today that God is merciful and “wants all human beings to be saved,” it said. Grace has priority over sin, and the exclusion of innocent babies from heaven does not seem to reflect Christ’s special love for “the little ones,” it said.
“Our conclusion is that the many factors that we have considered ... give serious theological and liturgical grounds for hope that unbaptized infants who die will be saved and enjoy the beatific vision,” the document said.
“We emphasize that these are reasons for prayerful hope, rather than grounds for sure knowledge,” it added.
You mean… all this could be BS? That’s a little discouraging.
The 41-page document, titled “The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die Without Being Baptized,” was published in Origins, the documentary service of Catholic News Service. Pope Benedict XVI authorized its publication earlier this year.
The 30-member International Theological Commission acts as an advisory panel to the Vatican, in particular to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Its documents are not considered expressions of authoritative church teaching, but they sometimes set the stage for official Vatican pronouncements.
The commission’s document said salvation for unbaptized babies who die was becoming an urgent pastoral question, in part because their number is greatly increasing. Many infants today are born to parents who are not practicing Catholics, and many others are the unborn victims of abortion, it said.
Catholic News goes on to note that limbo “has never been defined as church dogma and is not mentioned in the current Catechism of the Catholic Church, which states simply that unbaptized infants are entrusted to God’s mercy.” Which of course is total BS: limbo has been a clear part of Church doctrine since the Council of Carthage in 417 AD. As even Catholic News concedes, “in the fifth century, St. Augustine concluded that infants who die without baptism were consigned to hell.” But what’s equally clear is that in recent years—i.e., the past few centuries—the Church has grown increasingly uncomfortable with such delusionally barbaric thinking… even if its theologians seem unable to express that in logical, fully formed sentences:
A key question taken up by the document was the church’s teaching that baptism is necessary for salvation. That teaching needs interpretation, in view of the fact that “infants ... do not place any personal obstacle in the way of redemptive grace,” it said.
In this and other situations, the need for the sacrament of baptism is not absolute and is secondary to God’s desire for the salvation of every person, it said.
“God can therefore give the grace of baptism without the sacrament being conferred, and this fact should particularly be recalled when the conferring of baptism would be impossible,” it said.
… The document said the standard teaching that there is “no salvation outside the church” calls for similar interpretation.
The church’s magisterium has moved toward a more “nuanced understanding” of how a saving relationship with the church can be realized, it said. This does not mean that someone who has not received the sacrament of baptism cannot be saved, it said.
… The document said the church clearly teaches that people are born into a state of sinfulness — original sin — which requires an act of redemptive grace to be washed away.
But Scripture also proclaims the “superabundance” of grace over sin, it said. That seems to be missing in the idea of limbo, which identifies more with Adam’s sinfulness than with Christ’s redemption, it said.
“Christ’s solidarity with all of humanity must have priority over the solidarity of human beings with Adam,” it said.
I’m glad that’s been cleared up.
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