In an earlier letter (February AD2000) I stated that the question as to the salvation of unbaptised infants had been referred to a theological commission whose advice had not then been issued.
On 20 April the International Theological Commission published its document entitled 'The hope of salvation for infants who die without being baptised', a lengthy document of 27 pages, which is well summarised in an Inside the Vatican interview with a member of the Commission, the American nun, Sr Sara Butler MSBT.
The Commission's document is said to have 'sparked a lot of controversy' but 'is trying to say what the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 1260, 1261, 1283) has already said: that we have a right to hope that God will find a way to offer the grace of Christ' to such infants, and 'trying to provide a theological rationale for what has already been proposed in several magisterial documents since the Council.'
In paragraph 37 of the document a line from the Council of Lyons II is cited: 'as for the souls of those who die in mortal sin or with original sin only, they go down immediately to hell to be punished with different punishments'. It says that these magisterial statements do not oblige us to think that these infants die with the stain of original sin for the reason that 'the focus was not on the destiny of unbaptised infants who die but on when the soul was judged'.
This would also apply to the same statement of the Council of Florence. Also, 'the affirmation that infants who die without Baptism suffer the privation of the beatific vision has long been the common doctrine of the Church, which must be distinguished from the faith of the Church' (paragraph 40).
Finally, Sister Butler says: 'The report concludes that Limbo remains a 'possible theological opinion.' Anyone who defends it is free to do so.'
I make no comment about the foregoing or the other contents of the report, especially as space does not permit me to do so, but I hope some of your other readers will do so, particularly as it is strange that no comment has been made in AD2000 on the document despite the considerable correspondence in the September 2006 to December 2006/January 2007 issues.
LAWRENCE R. HURLEY