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Theresa Merrival wrote:

Hi, guys —

I have two questions.

First:

  • Why does the Church require a family to attend religious instructions and Mass before the Church will baptize a baby?
  • Did not Jesus say, Let the little children come to me? (Matthew 19:14)

Families are being turned away. I believe that if there is a little light shining somewhere deep within a family's soul, the Church should recognize this and be happy to baptize and claim the child for Jesus. It makes me feel sad that the Church is turning away babies.

This is a man made law. If that had been the case, I would not have been baptized because my parents were of the Native American religion crushed by the government but somewhere in the deep recesses of their soul they believed something about what the Church said.

Second:

  • What happens to little children or an adult who dies unbaptized?
  • Is there still a Limbo where they will never see the Face of God?

That is what we were taught as children.

  • Also, does it make me a bad Catholic to ask this question?

I asked this of our local clergy and they looked at me like I was a bad Catholic and did not answer me. This is a deep concern for me.

Thank you and I hope I get an answer somewhere.

Theresa

  { Why is religious instruction required, does Limbo exist, and is it OK to ask Catholic questions? }

Mike replied:

Hi Theresa,

Thanks for the question.

You said:

  • Why does the Church require a family to attend religious instructions and Mass before the Church will baptize a baby?
  • Did not Jesus say, Let the little children come to me? (Matthew 19:14)

Families are being turned away. I believe that if there is a little light shining somewhere deep within a family's soul, the Church should recognize this and be happy to baptize and claim the child for Jesus.

For the Church to baptize any infant there has to be a good hope that the infant will be raised Catholic. Part of being Catholic is being an active member of the Church who believes in Her teachings.

  • If the parents believe in the Baptism the Church offers, why wouldn't they also believe in the faith they will be raising their children in?
  • How would it benefit the Church to knowingly baptize new members who didn't believe in or practice the faith?

    <It wouldn't. As a matter of fact it would severely hurt the Church!>

  • How does the Church visibly witness to a little light shining somewhere deep in a family's soul?

    They can't unless they have a good visible hope that the children will be raised Catholic.

During the Baptism ceremony, specific questions are given to the parents. You can read everything from this posting:

One portion states:

You have asked to have your child baptized. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training him (her) in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring him (her) up to keep God's commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbor.

  • Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?

    Reply: [We do.]

It is sad that at many baptisms, the parents have an attitude of:

"Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, we will do or say anything you want, as long as our baby is baptized!"

Again, the Church needs to see a good hope that the child will be raised Catholic. The name Jesus Itself is the totality of truth and His Church reflects that Truth in Her teachings and in Her name: Catholic meaning a Christian faith according to its totality. Read CCC 830.

Yes, He does want the children to come to Him, in total, not only accepting a partial set of truths. For this reason, the Church could never baptize an infant of parents who were either atheists or agnostics.

You said:

  • What happens to little children or an adult who dies unbaptized?
  • Is there still a Limbo where they will never see the Face of God?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us:

VI. The Necessity Of Baptism

1257 The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation. (cf. John 3:5) He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them. (cf. Matthew 28:19-20; cf. Council of Trent (1547) DS 1618; Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 14; Vatican II, Ad Gentes 5) Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament. (cf. Mark 16:16) The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are "reborn of water and the Spirit." God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.

1258 The Church has always held the firm conviction that those who suffer death for the sake of the faith without having received Baptism are baptized by their death for and with Christ. This Baptism of blood, like the desire for Baptism, brings about the fruits of Baptism without being a sacrament.

1259 For catechumens who die before their Baptism, their explicit desire to receive it, together with repentance for their sins, and charity, assures them the salvation that they were not able to receive through the sacrament.

1260 "Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery." (Vatican II, Gaudium et spes 22 § 5; cf. Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 16; Vatican II, Ad Gentes 7) Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity.

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," (Mark 10:14; cf. 1 Timothy 2:4) 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.

As CCC 1257 stated:

One that knows the necessity of Baptism and has the ability to get baptized, is responsible for getting baptized and cannot be saved without it. Remember Jesus told us this in the Scriptures:

"Unless you are baptized you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven." (Mark 16:16)

The Church is just preserving Jesus' teachings. This web posting addresses the issue of limbo.
It should clear up any questions you have on that topic:

You said:

  • Also, does it make me a bad Catholic to ask this question?

I asked this of our local clergy and they looked at me like I was a bad Catholic and did not answer me. This is a deep concern for me.

From one Catholic to another, let me apologize for the scandalous behavior on the part of your local clergy. I understand that seminary training is focused mainly on serving the local Catholic parish community and administrating the sacraments but part of it also includes preaching the Gospel. This preaching is not restricted to our local clergy but is an obligation we all have.

For this reason, when we have problems being able to explain the Gospel or any part of the Catholic faith, any local priest should always be open to questions from the faithful and encourage them to dialogue among their fellow Catholic friends and parishioners. This way we learn from our clergy and well as from each other.

St. Peter tells us in his epistle:

15 but in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence;

1 Peter 3:15

As I have said in previous answers:

The only dumb question any one can have, is the one that is not asked!

When anyone has faith-oriented questions it is a manifestation of the Holy Spirit moving in the person's soul. The answer to these questions should always be nurtured.

Any local clergy that gives you the type of look you were given, sadly, probably doesn't know the answer to your question but that's no excuse for such behavior. They should just be honest and say they don't know the answer and try to find one for you in the future.

My motto: Humility destroys the demonic in one's life.

I hope this helps,

Mike

Theresa replied:

Good Morning!

I received your reply and was very surprised. I respect your point of view and firmly believe in the depths of my soul that you and I will never know the true answer to this question until we stand before the Lord.

The little light refers to the depth of their belief that the child should be marked with the sign of Christ and perhaps, somewhere in the future, the Lord will do the rest.

I still believe that if a child is turned away, because of a man-made law, the child should not be in Limbo forever yearning to be with the Lord. I come back to what Jesus said:

"Let the little children come unto me." (Matthew 19:14)

No argument, Sir. I respect your opinion but will probably always ponder this and as I said — we will know when we stand before the Lord. : )

Theresa

Mike replied:

Hi Theresa,

I'm not sure whether you read all the posting attached to my answer.

You said:
I still believe that if a child is turned away because of a man-made law the child should not be in Limbo forever yearning to be with the Lord.

Did you read what my colleague Eric said:

It is possible that someone is getting Purgatory confused with Limbo.

Limbo was speculative theology and was never official doctrine of the Church. The Church has in fact been revisiting Limbo with a view toward eliminating it; there was a moment not too many months ago when Pope Benedict had the opportunity to act in that regard, but opted not to do so, just yet.

Limbo is the teaching that babies who die unbaptized necessarily are consigned to the highest level of Hell, a place of natural happiness without torment or pain.

The reason for this is because theologically, Baptism cleanses us from our sins, grants us divine life, and establishes us in a right relationship with God. Without baptism, formally speaking, we cannot be saved. However, it is possible for the desire for Baptism to count as Baptism.

The classic example is the catechumen (a non-baptized person studying for the faith with the expectation of entering the Church) who dies before he has a chance to be baptize. The Church believes he intended to be baptized, and planned to do so, so that counts as Baptism. A similar argument can be made for infants whose parents had every intention of baptizing them.

Even the Catechism published a decade ago refused to acknowledge Limbo saying, about unbaptized infants, that the Church commends them to the Mercy of God.

And again you said:
I still believe that if a child is turned away because of a man-made law the child should not be in Limbo forever yearning to be with the Lord.

Hmmm. <Scratching my head>

  • Wasn't Jesus a True Man?
  • Didn't He (True God and True Man) delegate His divine authority to other men?

It appears the problems you are struggling with are not with the Catholic Church but with Jesus, Himself!

You said:
The little light refers to the depth of their belief that the child should be marked with the sign of Christ ...

Correct! Baptism is a celebration of their belief in the Church. Because the parents naturally want what is best for all their infants, who cannot speak for themselves, the parents speak for the infant and promise to raise them Catholic. Later at Confirmation, the infant, who is now an adult, will make this decision on their own.

  • Why would the Church bring anyone into the Church who wouldn't believe and practice what She believes?

It would be like bringing atheists into the Church and officially telling them they can continue not to believe in God. That said, Yes, there are many, many members in our Church who have fallen into Practical Atheism.

Practical Atheism says we can go about knowing there is a God, but behaving like there isn't one. There's an old saying:

  • If you were arrested for being a Catholic, would there be enough evidence against you?

And a Pro-Life bumper stick on the car or a Rosary in the window is not enough. I just wanted to clear these issues up.

You can call me Mike, I hate it when people call me, Sir.

Mike

Theresa replied:

Hi Mike —

I just happened to be by the computer when your response came through. I am not an argumentative person but I was raised in the old ways of Catholicism, during the era when
the priest told us that if we ate meat on Friday and went out and got ran over by a car and died, we would go straight to Hell because we committed a mortal sin.

This was eventually overturned by the Church, I believe in the 1960s when I was at a parochial school. I asked the priest at that time if all the people who went to Hell would now go to Heaven.

Needless to say I was reprimanded. :) That is probably why I said man-made laws.

In the same instance, we were also taught unbaptized children would never see the face of the Lord. We were taught the children would be very happy there (in Limbo). And later in life,
we are now told there is a loving God who forgives those who seek His forgiveness and who sincerely try to not commit their sins again. These are just thoughts that play through my mind. I know there is a baptism of desire but you would need to be an adult to have that desire for they themselves to get baptized. A child would not know this.

I know you are strong in faith and believe that parents should take the instructions and whatever else the Church requires but not all people have that depth of faith. They will walk away and won't turn back. Some I know go the Native American religion, interdenominational faith churches, or perhaps none at all.

In my heart, I wish the Church would let a parent baptize a child without all the other stuff. That is why I say there is a little light somewhere in the depths of their spirit desiring this for the child. That is probably why I say it is a man-made law.

I guess perhaps I am wrong but I believe no matter who they are, or what they are, the Church should embrace and welcome all children.

  • Am I wrong?

I do not think so because, Mike, I was on that path.

Theresa

Mike replied:

Hi Theresa,

My goal is not to argument either but to clarify misperceptions you have about Catholic Church teachings. That's what I do.

Eating meat on Fridays, even during Lent, is a matter of discipline, not doctrine.

During Fridays of Lent you have to abstain from eating meat and if you do eat meat knowingly,
it is a mortal sin if it meets the criteria for a mortal sin:

  • done with full consent, and
  • Serious reflection

but that doesn't change the fact that it is a discipline, something that can change over time, and not doctrine which can never change.

Outside of Lent, Catholics are not bound to abstain from meat on Fridays but have to perform some act of penance on every Friday outside of Lent.

  • Doesn't Jesus' dying on the Cross mean anything to you!!

The Church isn't asking much.

  • Why is Baptism important?

Jesus tells us right in the Scriptures:

5 Jesus answered, "Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit
[a] gives birth to spirit.

John 3:5-6

As Eric said in another answer:

Except in case of emergency, only a priest or deacon may lawfully baptize into the Catholic Church.

You should make an appointment with the pastor of your local parish for any one who has not been baptized by a priest or deacon:

  • to ensure the Baptism is administered validly, and
  • to ensure the Baptism is formally recorded in the parish where you are baptized.

The Sacramental life of the Church is extremely important so you should ensure these issues related to our salvation are done correctly.

In case of emergency anyone, even an atheist, can baptize if he uses the correct Trinitarian words and follows the intent of the Church.

You said:
I know you are strong in faith and believe that parents should take the instructions and whatever else the Church requires but not all people have that depth of faith.

  • If you believe the faith you belong to, have you though about buying a copy of the Catechism and learning more so you can have that deep faith too?

I hope this helps,

Mike

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