Saturday, April 21, 2007

Catholics alter doctrine on unbaptized children

Catholic Church shifts its thinking on limbo

Report cites hope' for unbaptized infants
Saturday, April 21, 2007

Nicole Winfield Associated Press

Vatican City -- Pope Benedict XVI has revised traditional Roman
Catholic teaching on so- called "limbo," approving a church report
released Friday that said there was reason to hope that babies who die
without baptism can go to heaven.

Benedict approved the findings of the International Theological
Commission, which issued its document on limbo in Origins, the
documentary service of Catholic News Service, the news agency of the
American Bishops' Conference.

"We can say we have many reasons to hope that there is salvation for
these babies," said the Rev. Luis Ladaria, a Jesuit who is the
commission's secretary-general.

Catholics have long believed that children who die without being
baptized are with original sin and thus excluded from heaven, but the
church has no formal doctrine on the matter. Theologians have long
taught, however, that such children enjoy an eternal state of perfect
natural happiness, a state commonly called limbo, but without being in
communion with God.

Pope John Paul II and Benedict had urged further study on limbo, in
part because of "the pressing pastoral needs" sparked by the increase
in abortion and the growing number of children who die without being
baptized, the report said.

In the document, the commission said there were "serious theological
and liturgical grounds for hope that unbaptized infants who die will
be saved and brought into eternal happiness."

It stressed, however, that "these are reasons for prayerful hope,
rather than grounds for sure knowledge."

Ladaria said no one could know for certain what becomes of unbaptized
babies since Scripture is largely silent on the matter.

Catholic parents should still baptize their children, as that
sacrament is the way salvation is revealed, the document said.

The International Theological Commission is a body of
Vatican-appointed theologians who advise the pope and the Vatican's
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Benedict headed the
Congregation for two decades before becoming pope in 2005.

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