When babies die do they go to Heaven? This question is addressed in Radio Replies: Third Volume, by Fathers Rumble and Carty (1942).
The foreword to the book was written by none other than the late, great, Blessed Archbishop Fulton Sheen.
The answer Fathers Dr. Leslie Rumble and Charles Mortimer Carty come up with to the above question may surprise you. That’s okay. The truth of the fate of infants who do die needs to provide greater resolve and importance to pro-life efforts.
To answer the question, when babies die do they go to Heaven, I will copy from questions 800, 808, and 805 (pages 190-191) from their work. As the title of the book implies, the work contains replies to a series of questions posed from skeptics or inquirers to the Catholic faith. (Bold emphasis I have added.)
“800. When the child grows up and marries, do not his children inherit original sin? How can this be, if the parents have been freed from original sin by Baptism?
“A right understanding of the Christian doctrine of original sin is that all-sufficient answer to that question. Original sin is not something positive. It is essentially the absence of divine grace. Now by the natural process of generation, parents can transmit human nature as they received it from their own parents. But they cannot, by this merely natural process, transmit supernatural grace which they received, not from their parents, but immediately and individually from God.
“Therefore, their children will be born in a merely natural state, and not in the supernatural state conferred only by spiritual gift from God. Until the children receive that spiritual gift of grace by Baptism, they will be in the state of original sin, sharing in the collective and racial spiritual bankruptcy of unregenerated humanity.
“Remember that Christian parents do not generate children in virtue of their spiritual regeneration by Baptism, but in virtue of the fact that they were generated in a merely natural way by their own of parents. Children, therefore, must to be given the spiritual life of divine grace by Baptismal regeneration individually.”
“808. All infants are saved, and go straight to heaven by the blessed sacrificial work of our Lord Jesus Christ.
“You wrongly take it for granted that no other conditions were appointed for salvation save the death of Christ on the cross. But Christ Himself laid down very definite conditions for the application to souls of his redeeming work. And one of those conditions is Baptism. Every birth means life. A child born of it earthly parents gets a natural life. But Christ offers another life which can’t be got from earthly parents, and which demands, therefore, another birth. And he tells us that it is a rebirth by water and the Holy Spirit [Jn 3:5]. An unbaptized infant lacks that second birth, and the second principle of life given by it. And it is not capable of inheriting the higher density to which Baptismal rebirth gives access.
“805. I think an innocent babies soul, which hasn’t reason to consent to original sin, is left to God’s own way, if it hasn’t gone through God’s form of initiation into His church by Baptism.
“Firstly, whilst of babies soul is innocent of any personally committed sin, it is not innocent of original sin. Every human being born into this world is born as a child of a guilty race. “By nature,” says Saint Paul, “we were children of wrath” [Eph 2:3]. Again, it is enough to be a child of a guilty race to share in its inheritance of guilt. Personal consent, after having attained the use of reason, is not required before original sin becomes operative. Thirdly, it is a contradiction to say that it is left to God’s own way, if it hasn’t gone through God’s form of initiation by Baptism. For if Baptism be God‘s way, if the child be not baptized, it has been excluded from God’s way.”
So, according to the traditional teaching of the Catholic Church, when babies die do they go to Heaven?
Unfortunately, the answer remains no, not if they are unbaptized.
Instead, as they address later in questions 809 and 810 (pages 191 and 192) of their book, Frs. Rumble and Carty affirm correctly that such children go to a state of perfect natural happiness, which has come to be known as Limbo.
Unbaptized infants who die without being baptized are not worthy to enter Heaven on account of their still lacking sanctifying grace. Baptism would have removed the guilt of original sin, but they did not receive that.
However, they have not committed any actual sin against God. That is, they have not willfully rejected Him either, so they are not deserving of eternal damnation by fire and brimstone in the depths of hell. Thus, as the Catholic Church has reasoned out in centuries past, these children go to a third location that is called Limbo.
Okay, I know this is a weighty topic. So, I expect some folks will wish to weigh in.
Please, when you do comment, let us know what you think of the reasoning put forth by Frs. Rumble and Carty.