Wednesday, November 02, 2011
Do babies go to Hell if they die before they are baptised?
My students know how to ask good questions, and questions that often deal with issues that are very delicate. So do unbaptised babies go to Hell if they die?
To first answer that question, we need to answer this question: what does a person have to do to go to Hell? Commit a Mortal Sin, right? Furthermore, you would need to be unrepentant of that Mortal Sin in order to go to Hell. And when is a sin considered to be "mortal"? It has to meet these three criteria:
1.) Mortal sin is a sin of grave matter;
2.) Mortal sin is committed with full knowledge of the sinner; and
3.) Mortal sin is committed with deliberate consent of the sinner
Scripture tells us:
"The soul that sins shall die." - Ezekiel 18:20a
And now, this question: can a baby commit a Mortal Sin? The answer very simply is 'no'. A baby does not have the intellectual capacity to know what sin is nor the faculties to commit sin personally. In fact it may not even be possible for a child up to the age of seven years to commit a Mortal Sin as they have only reached the age of reason at this particular stage.
So does this mean that a baby will go to Heaven if they should die before being baptised? This is what our holy and most wonderful Catholic Church teaches us:
"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. All the more urgent is the Church's call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism." - Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1261
What we have, in conclusion, is absolute certainty that if a baby should die before it is baptised it will not end up in Hell, for God is merciful and desires that all should be saved (1 Timothy 2:4).
You can read more about Mortal Sin over at this blog entry.