Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.
Does the Church have a well-defined position on this in the wake of its recent pronouncements on Limbo? I am just wondering if we know that 1) all these children are in heaven, 2) none of these children are in heaven, 3) something else or 4) nothing at all since the Church hasn’t really defined it. I am presuming that they can’t be baptized because they’ve already passed away by the time anything can be done about the situation… which may or may not be correct.
Since my sister has had several miscarriages, this question is more than just academic for me.
Basically, what the Church teaches is 4, with the strong counsel to hope in the love and mercy of Christ who, after all, desires our salvation more than we do. Here is the Catechism:
1261 As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused him to say: “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,” allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church’s call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism.
How can we say that baptism is necessary for salvation and yet hold out hope for the unbaptized? Because as CCC 1257 puts it, “God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.” We are bound to receive grace through the sacraments, God is not bound to only give it through the sacraments. Sacraments are not reducing valves designed to keep the dispensation of grace to a minimum. They are the kisses of God: the place where he promises us he will always meet us. If he wishes, he can meet us other places as well. In the case of, for instance, the Holy Innocents, we know he met them for they are saints of the Church, despite never having been sacramentally baptised.
So there’s always hope. Commend all such little ones to the mercy of Him who said to let the little ones come to Him.