The Catholic Church and Limbo


Mr. Likoudis writes to "Letters to the Editor" of "Homiletic and Pastoral Review", a fine Catholic periodical, in regard to questionable assertions published in a letter by that magazine in its May 2004 issue concerning Limbo.  Mr. Likoudis' letter appeared in H & PR, issue of October 2004

June 14, 2004

Letter to the Editor
Homiletic and Pastoral Review
50 S. Franklin Turnpike
P.O. Box 297
Ramsey, N.J. 07446

Dear Editor,

In her letter to H&PR (May 2004), Sheila M. Kippley quotes Pope John Paul II as stating in "Evangelium Vitae" (n. 99) regarding unbaptized babies who have been aborted:

"You will come to understand that nothing is definitively lost, and you will also be able to ask forgiveness from your child, who is now living in the Lord".

Unfortunately, as the "Faith Fact" "The Concept of Limbo" published by Catholics United for the Faith notes (it is available by calling toll-free- 1-800-693-2484), Mrs. Kippley's quotation is not found in the official Latin text. The latter has instead: "You can entrust your infant with hope to the same Father and to His Mercy" (Infantem autem vestrum potestis Eidem Patri Eiusque misericordiae cum spe committere). The Pope's words cannot be construed (as some writers have precipitously concluded) as an outright denial of the existence of Limbo for unbaptized children. It may be that in the mercy of God perhaps not all unbaptized infants go there (one may think of those aborted as a result of malicious contempt for the moral law of God and the teaching of Christ), but as much as we are permitted to hope that the unbaptized unborn and unbaptized infants be granted the Beatific Vision, the Church gives no assurance that they are, in fact, guaranteed Heaven.

In an article in Envoy (January 1997) Fr. Hugh Barbour, O. Praem., has attracted attention to the book "The Salvific Will of God Towards Infants and Small Children" by a great modern theologian Charles Cardinal Journet (1891-1975) who has explained the doctrine of limbo in terms of salvation:

"According to Journet, children in limbo share in salvation because of the resurrection of Christ, in which it is absolutely certain they will share. Thus along with the natural happiness which is theirs because of their innocence, they will have the gifts of immortality and a happy social life with the rest of the human race, in particular with their parents. The fact that they do not share in the Beatific Vision does not deprive them of other real and necessary elements of human happiness, or the happy association with those who do possess the Beatific Vision. Cardinal Journet says they will know and love Christ as the cause of their resurrection. Their resurrection will be their share in the salvation won by Christ for the human race of which they are a part. This view has the happy characteristics of being based only on dogmatic certainties: the resurrection of the dead, the necessity of baptism for supernatural life, and of emphasizing that our salvation consists not only in the supernatural Beatific Vision, even though this is its essential aspect, but also in the miraculous restoration of natural life, the survival of our person because of Christ's triumph over death".

It is true that the existence of Limbo has never been a defined doctrine of the Church, but it is equally true that Limbo remains a legitimate theological conclusion that can help explain the fate of unbaptized embryos and infants who die in the state of original sin.

Sincerely yours,
— James Likoudis,
P.O. Box 852,
Montour Falls, NY 14865

See Mr. Likoudis' article "Abortion and Limbo"
Mr. James Likoudis' Homepage