CNS reported today
that the Pope approved a statement by the International Theological Commission suggesting that sending unbaptized babies to Limbo is not the best understanding of God's loving plan.
In a document published April 20, the commission said the traditional concept of limbo -- as a place where unbaptized infants spend eternity but without communion 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. [...]
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. [...]
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.
I am glad to see this teaching clarified and in such an open and loving manner. Has anyone else been a student or a teacher and had to muddle through this exchange:
Li'l Catholic: Since God saves us through baptism, what happens if a baby dies without being baptized?
Big Wise Catholic: Well, for a long time people believed they went to a place called Limbo, without God. A lot of people don't believe that anymore.
Li'l Catholic: So do they go to heaven?
Big Wise Catholic: . . .
Other than its catechetical benefits, here are some reasons I'm really excited about this statement:
- From a pastoral standpoint, what a relief to parents who lost an unbaptized child to illness or abortion to believe that God's love is available to their baby.
- From an ecumenical standpoint, this statement is an important reminder of our belief that although all salvation comes through
Jesus, in God's grace salvation may also come to those who are not part of the Catholic Church.
- And simply from a Church perspective, I think it's very good for the faithful to see that the Spirit is still speaking to the church. The evolution of thought on Limbo reminds us that even things people have believed for a long time may not be the best way to express the truth about who God is and who we are called to be.
Labels: grace, life after death, Limbo