What are the places in the hereafter? Are we talking about states of the souls or of real places?
St. Augustine says: “We can answer without hesitation that the soul is not conveyed to corporeal places, except with a body.” Besides Heaven and Hell, there is Purgatory and Limbo. These are real places since, after the resurrection of human bodies, only local places can host bodies.
We have often heard of the three first places. What is the meaning of Limbo?
The term limbo, which signifies the edge or border (of Hell), was coined in the Middle Ages to designate the place of children who died without baptism.
Did not the International Commission of Theologians (ITC), in 2007, issue a statement about Limbo which says that it is only a hypothesis and not a Church teaching?
This is what this Commission says. The truth, however, is that Pope Innocent I, in the year 417, already taught that “[i]t is the height of folly to affirm that children can obtain the reward of eternal life even without the grace of baptism.” St. Augustine at the same time adds: “If you wish to be Catholic, do not believe, do not say, and do not teach that children who die without baptism can obtain the remission of original sin.” In the 16th Century, the Council of Trent taught that it is not possible to pass from the state of sin to the state of grace without baptism or the desire for it (Denzinger 791), and that “by reason of this rule of faith . . . even infants . . . are truly baptized for the remission of sins.”
Does this prove the existence of Limbo?
Yes, Indeed! Two Greek Fathers, St. Gregory of Nazianzen and St. Gregory of Nyssa, were the first to deduce from a truth of faith (the necessity of baptism) and from a truth of reason (the justice of God) that children who die without baptism have a destiny very different from that of the damned in hell. So, this middle place or Limbo is the place assigned to them.
How do the theologians understand the pains of these children?
The children who die unbaptized know the cause of their privation but suffer no anguish because of it. Indeed, one must not be afflicted for lacking something that surpasses one’s own condition. The infants who died without having been baptized were not capable of the supernatural order or eternal life, being deprived of the habitual grace (grace comes from gratuitous) which is the beginning of heaven. Grace surpasses nature; it is not owed to man. Thus these children do not experience grief or anguish because of this privation; they even possess a natural well-being that results from their participation in God’s goodness and the perfections of nature.
Does not the Church grant a funeral Mass for unbaptized infants?
This is a liturgical innovation that began in the 1960s. This change does not constitute a true, homogeneous “liturgical development,” but rather a liturgical corruption because it is in contradiction of the millennium-old doctrine and tradition of the Church. If the Church never allowed a Mass for infants who die without baptism until 1969, it was because the Church professed that these souls do not benefit from the fruits of the sacrifice of the Mass insofar as they lack the capacity for the supernatural order.
Was that ritual change of 1970 the prelude to doctrinal changes in the teaching about Limbo?
In reality, by changing the lex orandi—law of prayer—for unbaptized infants, they sought to change the lex credendi—law of the faith—by effacing the existence of limbo. In 1984, Joseph Ratzinger, while Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, affirmed explicitly that limbo was only a “theological opinion.” And in 2007, the Church’s hierarchy has virtually done away with Limbo.
What are the underlying implications behind virtually shutting up Limbo?
The “new theology,” following Henri de Lubac, opines that the supernatural order is something due to human nature and thus is not gratuitous. On these lines, Gaudium et Spes of Vatican II pretended that, “By his Incarnation, the Son of God has united himself in some way with every human being.” This ambiguous sentence would serve as a wedge to introduce novelty into the Church’s teaching on Limbo. This is what the ITC said in 2007: “A major weakness of the traditional view of Limbo is that it is unclear whether the souls there have any relationship to Christ.” The problem is that the denial of Limbo will always be a leveling down of God or the self-divinization of man. We are finally getting close to the ancient and obscure heresy of the apocatastasis, the final and universal salvation of all things under Christ, including Satan. Now, we are moving closer and closer to the strange “cosmic Christ” of Teilhard de Chardin.
Why is it important to hold on to the teaching of Limbo?
With the Faith all things hang together. Limbo is connected with the universality of original sin, the need of the Redeemer, and the gratuity of grace and Heaven. Besides, Limbo will always be a reminder of the supreme grandeur and the gratuity of supernatural life. No human being as such can claim to have a “right” to heaven. God is God and He is perfectly free to deal with creatures at will and, because He loves, He is discriminatory in his choice of Peter as Pope over the other Apostles, in his predilection for John, and his rejection of Judas.