Limbo

From a Teutonic word denoting the hem or border of a garment, limbo (or Limbus infantum) is the place between heaven and hell to which unbaptized babes are assigned at death. In the time of Augustine and for many centuries after, limbo was held to be a place of torture, but the torture was later replaced by natural bliss. The Jansenists in 1786 revived the torture theory, but Pius VI (1794) permitted Catholics to think that such children feel a pain of loss but not of the senses in the life to come. More liberal views (e.g., that unbaptized children may after all be saved) were first heard about 1900, but are still regarded as heterodox by most Catholics. In 1958 the Holy Office reiterated the urgent necessity for child baptism since the church still teaches the “absolute necessity of Baptism for eternal salvation.” Fear that children might suffer in limbo led Catholic gynecologists to invent syringes so that baptism might be administered (under condition) before birth.