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Limbo: Catholic teaching?

25 Feb 2015, by Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA in Doctrines

Somebody asked me a question after reading my article on infant baptism; she asked; what happens to infants who died before they were baptized?limbo 1 Will they make Heaven or not? What do you think? Well, the answer to this question is God’s; the Church does not judge or decides who enters Heaven or not. From my human judgment, however, I think they will make heaven.

I strongly believe that this question is not about unbaptized dead infants making heaven; I feel this person asked the question because she wants to know more about teaching associated with the Catholic Church called Limbo. The teaching about Limbo is actually associated with the Catholic Church, but it was never really Catholic teaching. Limbo is from the Latin word limbus, which means ‘edge’ or ‘boundary.’ In English, the word Limbo is used to refer to “an unfinished or uncertain state.” From its Latin root to the English translation and understanding, one could draw some conclusions about the religious usage of the word Limbo that was very common amongst many Catholic theologians.

Limbo was considered an edge or boundary between Hell and Heaven; it was considered a state or the abode of unbaptized dead infants and even righteous adults that died before the coming of Jesus. This theological reflection may have been influenced by the scriptures itself, yes; the bible tells us that Jesus died and was buried, and the third day he rose from the dead. I am sure you do not doubt this, but the question is, those three days of his absence, where was he? Heaven or Hell? He couldn’t have to be in Hell because it is a place for the condemned, and he did not go to Heaven until the day he ascended before his apostles. So, where was he? The bible says he went to the abode of the dead to preach to the imprisoned Souls (1Peter 3:19-20 and Eph. 4:8-10). Where were these Souls? These questions may have led to the belief in Limbo as a place or state of the unbaptized dead infants and righteous adults that died before Jesus Christ.

This teaching is believed to be that of the Catholic Church, and you don’t blame those who think that way because it was widespread amongst Catholic theologians. But the truth is that it was “only a theological hypothesis and never a defined truth of faith.” It was a theological opinion that was never defined as a dogma. The Catholic Church did not officially condemn it as wrong teaching; neither did the Church accepted it as a truth of faith. However, not too long into history, the Vatican’s International Theological Commission says that Limbo reflects an “unduly restrictive view of salvation.” Though this body has no right to proclaim a dogma of faith, their statement, we can say, put to rest the argument whether Limbo exists or not. I hold on to the word “restrictive.” We cannot restrict the mercy of God; we cannot restrict the salvation Christ won for us through his death and resurrection. The mercy of God is so great that he opened the gates of Heaven to a dying repentant thief on the Cross. That is why no human being can judge because the mercy of God can do anything. So, Limbo or no Limbo, please, hold on to your faith in Jesus Christ and know that the Catholic Church does not teach it as a doctrine and it is conspicuously excluded from the New Catechism of the Catholic Church. limbo2It remains a theological opinion, a theological hypothesis, and the expression of intellectual freedom. One can go on and on arguing for or against its reality but let us not forget that Heaven is our home and not Limbo.

The Catholic Church has a rich heritage and tradition; let us not confuse it for something different. Know your faith, Catholics, be proud of it, and share your faith.

  • Nickicripses Reply

    Amazing Post! Love it….

  • ADAEGO. Reply

    A detailed explanation very educative.