Lost Souls: Abortion’s Worst Horror

“He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her,” said Our Lord to the sinful woman’s accusers. And they all departed.

All of us, without exception, are weak and foolish creatures, liable to the most shameful mistakes. Remorse is therefore part of the burden of this life – everyone’s life.

The greater one’s sins, the greater the burden. In so terrible a crime as abortion, the realization of its horrors is overwhelming, and the mind all but shuts down at the thought. Can a person in this situation face the brutal truth of what he or she has done, and still continue to function? In order to move forward in life and in grace, it may well be necessary to put aside all such thoughts of what cannot be faced.

But not to deny it.

A certain doctor who is a friend of Our Lady’s Apostolate battles on the front line of the War Against the Unborn. He sees young women in the most vulnerable states of mind being played upon by insidious lies. “It’s just a part of your body that needs to be removed, like a tumor.” Or even more sinister, “It’s a baby, but it will go straight to Heaven to be with God.”

All such lies serve only to facilitate the great evil of abortion. Those who realize this are rightly angered that people in the Pro-Life Movement resort to thinking and speaking in this same way, refusing to acknowledge that the souls of these poor children are eternally lost to Heaven.

Every soul comes into this world in the state of Original Sin.[1] This is a state of enmity with God, devoid of habitual grace and any capacity for supernatural life. For infants, there is only one means of getting out of this state – the Sacrament of Baptism.[2] In past ages when this truth was firmly grasped, the Church denounced abortion as a most heinous crime precisely because its victims, being deprived of Baptism, are “excluded from Beatific Vision.”[3]

Abortion is thus an incalculable evil. It may be the most outrageous assault possible on the reign of Jesus Christ in souls, and we should hardly be able to sleep, given the present scale of this atrocity. In numbers alone, the victims of abortion dwarf the cumulative loss of life in all wars throughout history. But at least those adult war-time victims may have saved their souls and achieved Heaven, the purpose of their existence. Not so the unfortunate victims of abortion. The War Against the Unborn is in every way the deadliest war in the history of the world.

Not an Easy Teaching to Grasp

Over the years, we at The Fatima Center have received an array of questions about the Children’s Limbo, especially from grieving mothers. It must be frankly admitted that this point of Christian doctrine, reaching into the lives of us all, occasions much sadness. But how could it be otherwise?

Truly, the effects of sin – beginning with Original Sin – are heartbreaking, and it is difficult to contemplate the lasting damage done. But surely, too, Our Lord’s was the first Heart thus broken, and no one has suffered more than He to remedy the terrible loss produced by our sins, so far as may be done.

Let’s see what can be learned from some frequently asked questions about, and commonly leveled objections to, this teaching.

Q: “What will happen to the unbaptized after the Last Judgement?”

That will depend on whether they had attained the use of reason in this life, making it possible for them to commit personal actual sins. If they died when they were very young or if they were cognitively impaired throughout life, they would have only Original Sin on their souls, and will go to the Children’s Limbo. But if they did attain the use of reason in this life and were never baptized (by which we mean never baptized with water or “by desire”), then they would necessarily have both Original Sin and personal actual mortal sin on their souls[4], and will go to the hell of the damned.

Q: “Aren’t aborted children martyrs like the babes of Bethlehem who were baptized in their own blood and thereby given the keys to Heaven?”

The Holy Innocents have the distinction of being the first to lose their lives to those acting out of hatred for Our Lord, but they were not martyrs, properly speaking, and they were not saved through the Baptism of Blood. A martyr is one who gives his life in witnessing to the true Faith. Both of these aspects of martyrdom require the exercise of discretion, impossible to infants. As St. Thomas makes clear,[5] there can be no instance of Baptism of Blood except in connection with the Baptism of Desire, which presupposes the use of reason.

Moreover, the Hebrew children slain by Herod had been incorporated into the society of the faithful (of what was the True Faith at that time) through the rite of circumcision, which secured for them the remission of Original Sin and the infusion of sanctifying grace. Their state was comparable to baptized children who die before coming to the use of reason.

Thus we see that in spite of its intuitive appeal, the analogy between the Holy Innocents and all those being slaughtered in the womb today reflects a dangerous confusion of supernatural baptismal innocence (which fits us for Heaven by the infusion of sanctifying grace) with natural personal innocence, which has no claim to the reward of Heaven.

Q: “I am the mother of fifteen children, but only eleven are alive. Two of my children died in late-term miscarriages, and two of my sons were stillborn. Isn’t it possible that babies could be saved by the Baptism of Desire, especially if the parents desired to baptize them?”

We must be clear in our understanding of what the Baptism of Desire is in order to see why it cannot apply to infants.

Speaking of the process of Justification in adults, St. Thomas explains: “[T]he first beginning of the heart’s purifying is faith; and if this be perfected through being quickened by charity, the heart will be perfectly purified thereby.”[6] Thus, he continues, the Baptism of Desire “is the outcome of faith that worketh by charity… whereby God, Whose power is not tied to visible sacraments, sanctifies man inwardly.”[7]

We find an example of this recorded in Sacred Scripture in the conversion of Cornelius and his household:

“While Peter was yet speaking these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them that heard the word.  …  Then Peter answered: Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, who have received the Holy Ghost, as well as we? [For] God, Who knoweth the hearts, [has given] unto them the Holy Ghost, …purifying their hearts by faith.”[8]  

Theologians rightly refer to this extra-sacramental purification by analogy as the “Baptism of Desire” because the cleansing which it effects is fully the same as that produced by the Sacrament of Baptism, remitting both Original and actual sin, and rendering the soul entirely fit for Heaven.[9] But it is not something that can be conferred by one person upon another. It is the effect of a person’s own explicit, elicited acts of faith, and is thus outside the capability of infants.[10]

Q: “Can’t a priest or bishop or cardinal perform a mass Baptism for all these aborted babies?”

No, since (like all other Sacraments) Baptism can only be administered to a living person, and also since the one who administers the Sacrament must be in the physical presence of the person receiving it, in this case performing an actual ablution with water while he says the words of Baptism.

Q: “God gave us the Sacraments in order to facilitate His grace in our lives. He has not bound Himself by them and restricted His gifts of grace to be had only through them. Why would He not bestow sanctifying grace by some other means to those who are innocently incapable of receiving the Sacrament of Baptism?”

In the above discussion regarding the Baptism of Desire, we saw that God has not restricted Himself to imparting the grace of Justification solely through the Sacrament of Baptism. But we can rightly think of God as being bound by His truthfulness – as having bound Himself by His Revelations to us. He will not act in a manner contradictory to what He has told us.

Saint Paul writes under inspiration that without faith it is impossible to please God.[11] In another place he explains, “The Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise, by the faith of Jesus Christ, might be given to them that believe,”[12] adding that if Justification could be attained by any other means, apart from faith in Jesus Christ, then Christ would have died in vain. 

Addressing this same question, Saint Augustine writes:

“If, however, Christ did not die in vain, then human nature cannot by any means be justified and redeemed from God’s most righteous wrath … except by faith and the Sacrament of the Blood of Christ.”[13]

Q: “I have very hard time reconciling this truth with an all-merciful God. I know it might be because my faith is too weak, but I want really hard to find hope for these children. I heard some theologians say they may have a chance to choose between good and evil at the end of time when Jesus comes back. Could this be true?” 

It is not a question of these souls orienting themselves to the good. Heaven is impossible to the unbaptized not merely by decree of God’s Justice, but as an inescapable fact. Without sanctifying grace, these souls simply do not have the capacity to see God “face to face” as the blessed in Heaven do. Unaided human nature is just not capable of a supernatural union with God.

Q: “Wow, I was getting interested in religion and specifically Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity, but this is the most insane thing I’ve ever heard in my entire life. The Church believes that unborn babies go to hell? Forever? I don’t even know how to respond to this. I would ordinarily think such talk is from someone completely crazy.”

The Church’s teaching[14] is that those who die in the state of Original Sin, but without any personal actual sin, are neither able to enter Heaven nor liable to the punishments of the hell of the damned. These souls are therefore in another place, which we call the Children’s Limbo – a place of perfect, although only natural, happiness. It is the eternal destiny of all unbaptized persons who die without having attained the use of reason. 

The word “hell” is here used in a similar sense as in the Creed, where we speak of Our Lord’s descent into hell after His Passion and Death. In that case, more precisely, we refer to the Limbo of the Fathers, whereas in the case of children who die without Baptism we speak of the Children’s Limbo. Both can be considered a part (the “vestibule”) of hell insofar as they represent places or states of exclusion from Heaven, but they are in no other way similar to the hell of the damned. In Old Testament times, the Limbo of the Fathers was seen as a place of rest where the souls of the saints were detained until Christ had opened Heaven to them by His Death. Saint Peter referred to it as a “prison,”[15] but in other places it is called “Abraham’s bosom”[16] and, with Our Lord’s own presence, “paradise.”[17]

Q: “I thought that after Our Lord’s Ascension, Limbo didn’t exist anymore.”

We must distinguish between the Limbo of the Fathers and the Children’s Limbo. The Limbo of the Fathers, into which Christ descended after His Passion, no longer exists now since all of the justified souls who were previously detained there were liberated at the time of Our Lord’s Resurrection, and entered into Heaven with Him at the time of His Ascension.

Q: “Didn’t Pope Benedict XVl recently say that there is no Limbo?”

Not exactly, but that is probably a fair take-away impression from what unfortunately transpired in 2004 and 2007.

As Cardinal Ratzinger in 2004 (having been appointed by Pope John Paul II to lead an International Theological Commission in exploring the possibility of salvation for unbaptized infants), he made a public statement of his own opinion on the doctrine of the Children’s Limbo, saying: “Limbo has never been a defined truth of faith. Personally, speaking as a theologian and not as head of the Congregation, I would drop something that has always been only a theological hypothesis.” Then in 2007, as Pope Benedict, he authorized the publication of the Commission’s report which claimed (in view of today’s greater theological awareness of God’s mercy, and recognizing the incompatibility of Christ’s special love for the little ones and their exclusion from Heaven) to have found “serious theological and liturgical grounds for hope that unbaptized infants who die will be saved and enjoy the Beatific Vision.”[18]

It should be noted, however, that Pope John-Paul II’s Catechism of the Catholic Church (published in 1992) had paved the way for these disasters:

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.”

The propositions advanced on each of these three occasions have no basis in Catholic theology, and have done great harm to the faith of Catholics. Shortly after the New Catechism’s publication, Fr. Michel Simoulin of the Society of St. Pius X well assessed the scandalous manner in which the doctrine of the Children’s Limbo had been treated:

“This negation of Limbo is very grave. The Catholic doctrine on Limbo is not defined, but it is certain. Let us recall it briefly. The punishment for Original Sin is the privation of the Vision of God. Those who die with Original Sin go to Limbo where they will remain for all eternity. In Limbo, they enjoy a natural happiness, without hatred of God or pain of sense. These three affirmations are not defined, but they are taught as certain.”[19]

Precisely. Not all dogmas of the Faith have been defined. The Deposit of Faith was entrusted as a body to the Apostles, who were commissioned by Our Lord to teach those divine truths to all nations. Solemn definitions have been issued throughout the centuries as needed to precisely clarify many of those teachings, but the definitions did not make those specific teachings into dogmas of Faith. The dogmas of Faith were such from the beginning.

There are many teachings of the Church which have not been made the specific subject of solemn definitions, but which are nevertheless certain and obligatory beliefs – dogmas of the Faith. These include the doctrines of Limbo, of the Blessed Virgin as the Mediatrix of all graces, of the immorality of contraception, of the impossibility of ordination of women, etc.

These teachings are part of the Deposit of Faith, clearly expressed in the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium of the Church. No Catholic, not even the Pope, is free to reject them on the grounds that they have not been defined, as this infallible decree of the 1st Vatican Council states:

“Moreover, by divine and Catholic faith everything must be believed that is contained in the written word of God or in Tradition, and that is proposed by the Church as a divinely revealed object of belief either in a solemn decree or in her ordinary, universal magisterium.” (Dz. 1792)

Father Gruner wrote to the same effect in his book, Crucial Truths to Save Your Soul:

“We know many of the dogmas of Faith through solemn pronouncements of the Extraordinary Magisterium, in which these teachings are precisely and infallibly defined. We also know the dogmas of Faith through the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium, which is also infallible and which is seen in the constant, consistent and universal teachings of the Church in all times, in all ages all over the Catholic world.  …  So whether we find these dogmas taught by the Church’s Ordinary and Universal Magisterium, or whether we are given solemn and explicit definitions of these teachings by the Church’s Extraordinary Magisterium, we can be absolutely certain that these dogmatic teachings are true, and we give to them the assent of divine and Catholic faith.”[20]

Personal Innocence Assures Natural Happiness

Abortion is horrifying – more horrifying even than the unthinkable murder of one’s own innocent and helpless child. The truth is that these poor victims are deprived not only of their mortal life, but even of their divinely intended eternal destiny, salvation.

This is the Church’s authentic teaching, as difficult to fathom as it may be. Truly, abortion is an unfathomable evil, and we need to fight against it with all our might. To this end, we must not allow ourselves to be deluded about the most heinous aspect of this great crime, and we must never pretend to mitigate its evil, even if our goal is to console and help the living. We will search in vain for any real consolation at the expense of truth.

In the meantime, there is real consolation in the Church’s teaching. The souls in Limbo enjoy a state of perfect and complete natural happiness, knowing and loving God to the full extent of their natural powers. Not only are they free of any “pain of sense,” but also, according to St. Thomas,[21] they do not suffer even any “pain of loss” since they have no knowledge of the supernatural destiny they have missed.

This is a great comfort to our minds and hearts, but it should not be taken as grounds for complacency in regard to the great crime of abortion. May God help and forgive our nation for our part in robbing Him of countless millions of helpless souls whom He created for Heaven! As of course He will, given our repentance.


[1] The Council of Carthage condemned the teaching that “infants do not contract from Adam any trace of original sin, which must be expiated by the [baptismal] bath of regeneration.” Also the Second Council of Lyons and the Council of Florence each taught infallibly that the souls of those who depart this life in the state of Original Sin are excluded from the Beatific Vision.

[2] As will be seen further on, for adults the Sacrament of Baptism is a “necessity of precept” since Justification can be had through the Baptism of Desire, but for infants (since they cannot elicit an act of faith) the Sacrament is a “necessity of means,” i.e. an absolute necessity.

[3] Pope Sixtus V, in a Constitution of 1588. For this same reason Pope Leo XIII also fiercely condemned the postponing of children’s Baptism, and trustworthy moral-theology texts have consistently taught that parents sin grievously by delaying the Baptism of their newborns.

[4] St. Thomas explains in his Summa Theologica (I-II, Q. 89, A. 6) that it is impossible for venial sin to be in anyone with Original Sin alone, and without mortal sin.

[5] “The shedding of blood is not in the nature of a Baptism if it be without charity. Hence it is clear that the Baptism of Blood includes the Baptism of the Spirit, but not conversely.” (S.T. III, Q. 66, A. 12, ad 2.)

[6] S.T. II-II, Q. 7, A. 2.

[7] S.T. III, Q. 68, A. 2.

[8] Acts 10: 44, 47; 15: 8, 9

[9] Thereafter, those same dispositions of soul which produced this cleansing effect (namely supernatural faith joined with charity and repentance for sins) will likewise propel the person to fulfill the precept requiring that he receive the Sacrament of Baptism. And with the reception of the Sacrament are added other effects not produced by the Baptism of Desire (namely impression of the indellible mark, remission of all punishment due to actual sins, and incorporation as a member of the Church with a right and power to receive the other Sacraments). If a person thus initially justified by the Baptism of Desire were subsequently to despise and neglect to receive the Sacrament of Baptism, he would lose sanctifying grace by that grievous sin. But if one so cleansed were to die in good faith before having an opportunity to receive the Sacrament, having persevered in that state of Justification, he would be saved – not outside but within the Church, because he is united to it just as he is to its Spouse, Jesus Christ, although not yet a formal member of it.

[10] This distinction explains why infant Baptisms are so urgent, whereas adult Baptisms are routinely delayed for months. (Adult converts are typically received into the Church on Holy Saturday.) As The Catechism of the Council of Trent explains, “[I]nfant children have no other means of salvation except Baptism…. On adults, the Church has not been accustomed to confer the Sacrament of Baptism at once, but has ordained that it be deferred for a certain time. The delay is not attended with the same danger as in the case of infants; should any unforeseen accident make it impossible for adults to be washed in the salutary waters, their intention and determination to receive Baptism and their repentance for past sins, will avail them to grace and righteousness.”

[11] Hebrews 11:6

[12] Galatians 3:22

[13] On Nature and Grace

[14] Twice defined in almost identical wordings at the Second Council of Lyons (Dz. 464) and the Council of Florence (Dz. 693): “The souls of those who depart in actual mortal sin or in Original Sin only descend immediately into hell, but to undergo punishments of different kinds.”

[15] 1 Peter 3:19

[16] Luke 16:22

[17] Luke 23:43

[18] International Theological Commission, “The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die without Being Baptised,” https://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/cti_documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20070419_un-baptised-infants_en.html

[19] Michel Simoulin, SSPX, “The New Catechism… Is It Catholic? Part II,” 1994. http://archives.sspx.org/New_Catechism/new_catechism_is_it_catholic_part_2.htm

[20] Page 37. Available for purchase at https://fatima.org/products/crucial-truths-to-save-your-soul/ The entire book is also available online at https://fatima.org/books/crutial-truths-to-save-your-soul/

[21] De Malo, 5, a.3 and Sent. II d. 33, q. 2, a. 2.