Many of you know, I’m in the process of completing my next book, “The Catholic’s Guide to Miscarriage,” and I have been researching many topics. The purpose of the book is not necessarily to bring comfort or closure to anyone’s loss. It’s a reference guide at best and may bring some comfort through knowledge of what to do and options a family has through pregnancy loss.
But I have a chapter entitled, “Where’s My Baby?” and I wanted to be sure I provided sound Catholic teaching because after all, this is a Catholic’s Guide. So where do miscarried babies go? Or rather, where do babies go who have not been baptized?
WARNING: This content may be disturbing to you. For further clarification, I recommend speaking with a Traditional Priest. You may also utilize the links below for assistance in understanding Limbo.
Five years ago I was assisting a Catholic client through her miscarriage. It was also about that time where I was undergoing a “reversion” in my Catholic faith. Although looking back at this, I wouldn’t call it a reversion per se; but more of a wanting to know my true Catholic faith. You have read about some of that reversion in my Traditional Latin Mass series and now I will go into more detail in this post.
While working with this client, I made the assumption she believed in what I believed, after all, she identified as Catholic. I realize this sounds odd but now I have full knowledge there are many heretical and Catholic hypocrites. The last few elections have certainly shown this but it’s important to note that she and her family were NOT one of them…I came to learn that I was. I wasn’t a democrat (Catholic’s cannot be democrats, FYI: This does not mean they are republican). She identified as a Traditional Catholic, something I would later identify as and it’s quite humbling.
While attempting to comfort her and her family through this pregnancy loss, I shared her baby was in Heaven. She graciously said her baby was in limbo. She did not “correct” or “admonish” me, she merely stated, “as Traditional Catholics, we hold to the long standing tradition of limbo. Not as a place of deprivation, but a place of complete and natural joy.”
Limbo? I had heard this term before from my mother. She described the miscarried baby she had as in limbo. I didn’t think much more of it because I had never heard teaching on limbo. Therefore, I surmised that limbo was one of the “old concepts” of the Church and just a theory. Time passed and nothing more was learned about limbo until about three years ago when I was learning about The Four Last Things. Limbo isn’t mentioned here but in my research about The Four Last Things, I learned about the four levels of hell.
Oh boy! What? There are levels of hell? I seemed to be on some sort of a quest. One topic lead to another, which lead to something even deeper and more difficult to understand or grasp. I began the Denver Catholic Biblical School in this time as well so I was on a fast track to learning the Bible and the Catholic faith.
Fast forward to now and the research for my book. I reached out to one of the traditional Catholic priests I know for help. I knew Taylor Marshall had information on limbo but he was by no means and “expert” on this topic but I did search for more information on limbo written by him1.
His paper was helpful but I needed more; which is when I reached out to Father Nix. With his background and history, I knew he would be a great resource. I was also already aware of what my parish priests would say, “your baby is in limbo,” so I didn’t necessarily need to reach out to them. (I have since reached out to one of my priests and I was corrected – see below).
Father Nix provided me with a talk by Father Wolfe, FSSP on limbo2. I found this talk to be very enlightening. The topic of limbo has been addressed for centuries and while it’s one of those “old concepts,” I thought about when my own mother discussed limbo for her baby, I now realize that the Catholic faith IS OLD. Seems silly to say that but the Catholic faith is unchanging. The Catholics who want the Church to “get with the times,” are not Catholics. There is a Protestant church down the street for you.
The list of popes and church documents discussing this was astonishing! Some use the word limbo. Most reaffirmed that infants who die without baptism cannot receive salvation. I was especially intrigued by Pope Sixtus V statements in 1588 with regards to abortionists who should be sentenced to death, not merely for killing an unborn child, but also for damning these unborn babies souls and denying them the Beatific Vision (See Taylor Marshalls paper referenced below).
The timing of such statements by popes, saints, and councils are not without question, after all, such statements are usually issued for specific reasons attributed by societal considerations. Meaning, were these statements issued because society was denying baptism was necessary for salvation? Were parents delaying baptism for illegitimate reasons? That is research I do not have the time for at the moment but I am certain I will revisit this topic.
So the final verdict? Babies, including the unborn, lack reason so they cannot have a “Baptism by Desire.” This is why parents must present their babies for baptism soon after birth. Deceased babies cannot be baptized, so therefore, unborn babies who die in the womb cannot be baptized.
If baptism is required for salvation; which is Catholic Doctrine and scriptural (See John 3:5), then we must surmise that miscarried and stillborn babies would not go to heaven.
The concept is not hard to accept if you believe that Baptism is required for salvation; which, EVERY Catholic SHOULD believe because it’s been revealed through Scripture. Not to believe it, is called Pelagianism and is heresy. It is also heresy to believe there is no such thing as original sin.
It seems this might be a “cut and dry” answer, but it’s not; because of Matthew 9 – Jesus Heals the Paralytic. What could this healing have to do with where unbaptized babies go? It could have everything do to with the answer. In discussing this with a friend, who has also lost a son to miscarriage, he shared that vicarious faith saves. A new term for me to research = Vicarious Faith. It’s not an easy search.
Matthew 9, “they brought to him (Jesus) a paralytic.” The place where Jesus was teaching was so full, no more people could enter the area, so they cut a hole in the roof and lowered the paralytic. “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart my son, your sins are forgiven.” Jesus recognized the faith of those who brought the paralytic but did not recognize the faith of the paralytic.
This is vicarious faith. The paralytic was healed through the faith of those who brought him to Jesus. Is it then safe to surmise that a faithful parent would have brought their baby to be baptized and their faith in Jesus and the Sacrament of Baptism would be enough to save the baby from hell? I don’t know.
This is never-ending research. Research on one topic leads to rabbit-hole after rabbit-hole. All of which I want to research but lack the time. In researching vicarious faith, the following subjects also came up.
*I do not know what is Catholic teaching on these subjects so do not assume they are in-line with Catholic teaching. Some are Mormon, Wesleyan or Calvinist.
It is extremely difficult to believe that our ever-merciful God would damn an innocent child to hell because they lacked baptism. This is not a correct way of viewing this though. The nature of man did this. It’s a consequence of the fall of man. But why would an all-knowing God allow this to happen to unborn babies?
This is a mystery, likely not to be revealed until the end of time. Limbo is not a place of punishment but it is not a place where God is. I do not find comfort in this though, nor do I know anyone who would. I have found comfort knowing Jesus holds my children and learning that is likely not true is painful. But I entrust my children who died without baptism to the mercy of God.
Nothing I have found says that at the end of time, those in limbo would join God but nothing says they won’t. After all, those in purgatory will. At the end of time, all that is to exist is Heaven and Hell and if purgatory is a level of hell and all in purgatory will join those in Heaven at the end of the earth, why then wouldn’t those in limbo?
Limbo is tradition. Unbaptized babies going to heaven is liberal church teaching. It is a relatively “new concept” since the 1990’s. If unbaptized babies receive saving grace, what would the point of baptism be at all, other than initiation into the church?
UPDATE (11/23/2021): Then there is what my priest sent me. It was also very enlightening. He brings up a few points I have pondered yet failed to mention in this post. St. John the Baptist leaping in his mothers womb at the presence of Christ in HIS mother’s womb. This implies that Our Lord and Savior was recognized. Much can come from this revelation and I shall ponder it more. My thoughts will go into the book so I hope you’ll pick up a copy when it’s ready.
The answer remains to be found. If you know it, share it.
1 The Doctrine of Limbo in Catholic Tradition by Taylor Marshall
2 Contra Sedevacantism & the Recent Document on Limbo by Father Phil Wolfe