Doctrinal Errors on Salvation Theology at ProLife 365

Catholic prolife blogger Kevin Kukla wrote an ironic article titled I Stand Corrected on the Definition of Limbo, which itself contains several serious doctrinal errors in need of correction. Kukla ordinarily does good work on his blog, writing against abortion and in favor of life, chastity, and good morals. But his writing on the topic of salvation for aborted babies is terrible.

First, he claims that limbo “of the children” is an infallible teaching.

“THE LIMBO OF THE CHILDREN IS AN INFALLIBLE TEACHING OF THE CHURCH”

Then he cites and quotes two Ecumenical Councils to support this claim, Lyons II, and Florence:

“Now, the souls of those who depart in mortal sin, or only with original sin, immediately descend into hell, but to be punished differently.”

But notice that the Councils said nothing about prenatals, infants, or young children. Some persons die in a state of original sin alone, others die in a state of unrepented actual mortal sin. Both types of sinners are sent to Hell, and both are punished, but differently. Children and infants are not mentioned.

For my book, Forgiveness and Salvation for Everyone, I researched magisterial teaching on salvation, and I found no teachings of the Magisterium that the limbo of Hell contains any prenatals, infants, or young children. Kukla, along with many other authors, assumes that only children die in that state, but the assumption is nothing more than an assumption.

Second, Kevin Kukla states the obvious, that aborted babies die without baptism, meaning without the formal Sacrament of baptism with water. But he also assumes that they cannot receive either of the two other types of baptism, the baptism of desire or the baptism of blood. Therefore, he concludes that they must go to the limbo of Hell. That conclusion depends on the omission of the other two types of baptism as paths to salvation. And since the Church does in fact teach that the Holy Innocents received a baptism of blood and went to Heaven, the omission of that possible path to eternal happiness is a substantial error. He is not justified in assuming that no path to Heaven remains, merely because a baptism of water was not available to aborted babies.

Yes, the Church has not yet definitively answered the question as to whether prenatals, infants, and young children receive a baptism of desire or blood, when they die without a baptism of water. But in my book, synthesizing all of the teachings of the Magisterium on salvation, including the most recent teachings of Pope Saint John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, I conclude that no other final destination except Heaven fits the sum total of those teachings. So aborted babies, and all prenatals, infants, and young children who die without a baptism of water cannot be assumed to die in a state of original sin alone.

Pope Innocent III: “For God forbid that all children, of whom daily so great a multitude die, would perish, but that also for these, the merciful God, who wishes no one to perish, has procured some remedy unto salvation.” [Denzinger 410]

Pope John Paul II: “The universality of salvation means that it is granted not only to those who explicitly believe in Christ and have entered the Church. Since salvation is offered to all, it must be made concretely available to all.” [RM 10]

CCC: “The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.” [CCC 1035]

Aborted babies cannot receive a baptism of water. But according to the teaching of Pope Saint John Paul II, they must nevertheless have salvation made concretely available to them. Therefore, they must receive a baptism of desire or blood. Can they be sent to the limbo of Hell, to be happy while separated from God? No, for the souls there receive the chief punishment, which is deprivation from God, “in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness….” Thus, the position of Kukla (and many others) on salvation for the unborn is incompatible with magisterial teaching.

Third, Kukla asserts the opinion of St. Thomas, that the limbo of Hell is a place of perfect natural happiness. This opinion of the Angelic Doctor, though, has been rendered untenable by teachings subsequent to his lifetime (700 years ago). The two Ecumenical Councils cited by Kukla (Florence, Lyons II) teach that the souls who die in original sin only — the only situation ever considered for the limbo of Hell — go to Hell to be punished. And their punishment in Hell is the punishment of deprivation, which the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches is the chief punishment of Hell. So it is untenable and quite ridiculous to say that they have perfect natural happiness while also receiving the chief punishment of Hell. That theory was tenable when Thomas wrote, but at the present time, it is not.

Therefore, all the souls in Hell are punished, to one extent or another, some more and some less, but none are punished so lightly that they can also be said to have perfect natural happiness.

Fourth, after claiming that aborted babies go to the limbo of Hell, Kukla then contradicts himself, without realizing it, when he claims that they go to “a separate, final resting place for these children outside of Heaven and outside Gehenna. We call this area the limbo of the children.” But the term “limbo of the children” is used to refer to a part of Hell, not limbo as a third final destination, which is neither Heaven nor Hell. So Kukla has confused and merged two different opinions on the final destination of unbaptized infants.

The idea of limbo as a third final destination is also untenable. For when Christ separates all nations into the sheep on his right and the goats on his left, He indicates that there are only two final destinations. And it is an infallible teaching of two Ecumenical Councils that the souls of those who die in actual mortal sin or in original sin alone go to Hell, to be punished. So, then, who would go to this third final destination, which is not Heaven or Hell? No one is left. For if unbaptized babies do not receive any type of baptism, then they die in original sin alone and are punished in the fringe (limbo) of Hell. They cannot have eternal natural happiness in a third place, for that opinion contracts the two Councils. And no one can have eternal happiness of any kind without the state of grace, received at baptism (any of the three types).

All that is left is for the prenatals, infants, and young children who die without a baptism of water, to receive a baptism of blood, like the Holy Innocents. A baptism of desire is excluded for them by the teaching of Pope Pius XII (Address to Midwives 21a). But if we narrow the definition of baptism of blood, so that only the very young killed explicitly because of Christ receive salvation, we fall into a type of Feeneyism, where — for the young — only a formal Baptism can save them. Moreover, this narrowed version of baptism of blood, which would make that path of salvation unavailable to the vast majority of those who die at such a young age, contradicts the teaching of Pope Saint John Paul II on the availability of salvation to everyone.

We are left with no tenable theological position other than salvation for all prenatals, infants, and young children who die at that young age. Perhaps they go to the limbo of Purgatory, to receive the spiritual development that they were denied on earth, prior to entering Heaven. But they certainly have Heaven as their final destination. Any other answer to the question contradicts one teaching of the Church or another.

The Church is on the threshold of a new definition on the topic of salvation. All the past teachings of the Magisterium on the topic are leading to that point. And the definition will very likely be that all little children go to Heaven, if not by a baptism of water, then by a baptism of desire (for older children), or at least a baptism of blood.

{18:3} And he said: “Amen I say to you, unless you change and become like little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

{19:14} Yet truly, Jesus said to them: “Allow the little children to come to me, and do not choose to prohibit them. For the kingdom of heaven is among such as these.”

by
Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

Please take a look at this list of my books and booklets, and see if any topic interests you.

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2 Responses to Doctrinal Errors on Salvation Theology at ProLife 365

  1. doctormaniax says:

    Dear Ron, it is my theological opinion that Limbo exists, as many private revelations such as those to Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerick or the visionary Natuzza Evolo witness to its existence. Still, I agree that Limbo as traditionally taught, ie as an eternal compartment of Hell, is completely wrong. Bith the seers I mentioned described the Limbo of infants as a part of Purgatory that, lijke the rest of this place, will be suppressed after the universal conflagration. All souls in there suffer exclusively for the absence of God but are joyful because theyvknow they will ascend to heaven one day. Being in Purgatory, prayers and Masses on their behalf may be effective to help them anticipate their ascent to Heaven. Girolamo Savonarola also believed in the temporal nature of Limbo. I should quote here the curious prayer used at the tridentine funeral of baptized infants as an indirect proof: “Almighty and all loving God, we know that whenever a little child, reborn in the font of baptism, departs this life, you forthwith bestow on him the gift of everlasting life, for no merits of his own; and so we believe that you have given it today to the soul of this child.” I think that the word Forthwith says it all. What do you think?

    • Ron Conte says:

      I agree that the Limbo of Purgatory still exists. It did not pass away when it was no longer used as the waiting place for those who departed this life in a state of grace but before Christ. I think that unbaptized babies go there, and then subsequently go to Heaven. So, they don’t go to the limbo of Hell, nor to limbo as a third final destination that is neither heaven nor hell.

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