Limbo and Pope St. Zosimus's Tractoria
People seem to think Limbo has been erased from Catholic teaching. Not so, it is of Apostolic origin. As St. Augustin says :
St. Augustine, Letter to Jerome, (415AD), Letter 166:
"Wherefore whosoever tells us that any man can be made alive in the resurrection of the dead otherwise than in Christ, he is to be detested as a pestilent enemy to the common faith. Likewise, whosoever says that those children who depart out of this life without partaking of that sacrament [of Baptism] shall be made alive in Christ, certainly contradicts the apostolic declaration, and condemns the universal Church, in which it is the practice to lose no time and run in haste to administer baptism to infant children, because it is believed, as an indubitable truth, that otherwise they cannot be made alive in Christ. Now he that is not made alive in Christ must necessarily remain under the condemnation, of which the apostle says, that "by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation." Romans 5:18 That infants are born under the guilt of this offence is believed by the whole Church."
Augustine seems pretty sure it is a teaching from the Apostles thus making it "of the Faith" --de fide, so to attack it is to attack the Faith itself. Below we will deal with commission who seems to ignore the Apostolic teaching and the authority of Councils and Popes.
"#3....Moreover, the notion that infants who die without Baptism are deprived of the beatific vision, which has for so long beenc regarded as the common doctrine of the Church,....The necessary reconsideration of the theological issues cannot ignore the tragic consequences of original sin. Original sin implies a state of separation from Christ, and that excludes the possibility of the vision of God for those who die in that state."
"#35. a) The Pelagian understanding of the access of unbaptised infants to “eternal life” must be considered as contrary to Catholic faith."
"#40. In summary: the affirmation that infants who die without Baptism suffer the privation of the beatific vision has long been the common doctrine of the Church"
"#41. Therefore, besides the theory of Limbo (which remains a possible theological opinion)"
Then it contradicts the well established traditions that unbaptized babies cannot be saved by this conclusion:
"#102. ....Our conclusion is that the many factors that we have considered above give serious theological and liturgical grounds for hope that unbaptized infants who die will be saved and enjoy the Beatific Vision."
This commission is similar to the one that approved contraception under the watchful eye of Pope Paul VI. We believe the Limbo document is getting people's hopes up for nothing just like the contraceptive one did in the 1960's.
("IN JULY 1968 POPE PAUL VI CLEAVED the Catholic Church into irreconcilable factions. With his decision to ignore the majority's findings on the Birth Control Commission that contraception could and should be allowed, and instead adopt for the conservative minority report, Pope Paul issued the encyclical Humanae Vitae and dashed the hopes of Catholics who hoped for artificial contraception." http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_hb064/is_2_29/ai_n31060784/)
Why we think unbaptized babies cannot go to heaven and this is an infallible teaching:
We have two Councils Lyons and Florence that point to Limbo of infants:
Council of Florence: “…Moreover, 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.— (Denzinger 693)
The suffering of hell's fires is the manifestation of punishment for one's actually committed sins. So this is why Thomas Aquinas keeping to the teaching of Zosimus that infants dying without baptism can't be in ANY level of Heaven. So he says these infants are in the highest level of hell and suffer only the loss of the Beatific Vision but are in a kind of natural paradise. He tempers the theory of Augustine who speculated these infants suffered some kind of the fire of hell.
The debate about Limbo was never if it exists but what kind of suffering these infants suffer.
Way back in 400 AD, St. Pope Zosimus was tricked by Pelagian to think his position was orthodox. Pope Zosimus wrote to the African Bishops saying they had dealt too hastily with Pelagian in 411 AD. The African bishops in response held the 16th Council of Carthage saying 'no we made no mistake and that he has tricked You.' Zosimus being a humble man agreed and published his "Tractoria"
St. Pope Zosimus published a condemnation of Pelagianism called the "Epistola Tractoria" Unfortunately this document has been lost but the document was infallible. The existence of the document does not change its authoritative teaching as Vat. II says "But the task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ."(DV 10) The "Tractoria" taught authoritatively condemning heresy and incorporated the 16th Council of
"Having received the Acts of the Council of Carthage, Zosimus sent to all the bishops of the world his famous "Epistola tractoria" (418) of which unfortunately only fragments have come down to us. This papal encyclical, a lengthy document, gives a minute account of the entire "causa Caelestii et Pelagii", from whose works it quotes abundantly, and categorically demands the condemnation of Pelagianism as a heresy. The assertion that every bishop of the world was obliged to confirm this circular by his own signature, cannot be proved, it is more probable that the bishops were required to transmit to Rome a written agreement; if a bishop refused to sign, he was deposed from his office and banished." http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11604a.htm
Traditionally it is held Zosimus published Carthage's canons as his own. It is referred to in the Council of Ephesus:
The "Tractoria" was sent to the whole world:
" ...Pope ZOSIMUS of blessed memory directs us, when writing to the bishops of the whole world..." (
"The same teacher ZOSIMUS trained us , who, when he spoke to the whole world...." (
Zosimus accepted the council of
" ' We[Zosimus], however, by the inspiration of God...have referred all things to that of our brothers and co-bishops.' " This is the beginning of his "Tractoria" and it tells us ALL things are referred to African bishops and which was the Council of Carthage received this great praise:
"Furthermore that which was determined in the decrees of the synod of Cathage, [418 AD] we have embraced as the Apostolic See's own..." (Ephesus; Denzinger 136)
and The council of Ephesus says that :
"But although we do not dare to esteem lightly the deeper and more difficult parts of the questions which they [Augustine and Zosimus] have treated in more detail who have restrained the heretics, we do not consider it necessary to add what their writings, according to the aforementioned regulation of the Apostolic See, have taught us..."(Ephesus; Denzinger 142)
So What is so important that was written in the 16th Council of Carthage? Here it is:
"It has been decided likewise that if anyone says that for this reason the Lord said: "In my father's house there are many mansions"(JN14:2): that it might be understood that in the kingdom of heaven there will be some middle place or some place anywhere where the blessed infants live who departed from this life without baptism, without which they cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven, which is eternal life, let him be anathema. For when the lord says :"Unless a man be born of water and the Holy Ghost, he shall not enter into the
This quote was always understood to be Zosimus' own, although it is from the 16th local council of Cathage, but as seen above how Ephesus confirms he called Carthage the Holy See's own: "Furthermore that which was determined in the decrees of the synod of Cathage, [418 AD] we have embraced as the Apostolic See's own..." (Ephesus; Denzinger 136). Zosimus Published and condemned those opposed to
"The practice has arisen in some places of delaying the conferring of Baptism for so-called reasons of convenience or of a liturgical nature--a practice favored by some opinions, LACKING SOLID FOUNDATION, concerning the eternal salvation of infants who die without Baptism....Therefore this Supreme Congregation, with the approval of the Holy Father, warns the faithful that infants are to be baptized as soon as possible. . . . Pastors and preachers are exhorted to urge the fulfillment of this obligation." (Catholic Encyclopedia "Limbo" 1967)
who asserted that those dying with only original sin on their souls will suffer "no other pain, whether from material fire or from the worm of conscience, except the pain of being deprived forever of the vision of God”(Corp. Juris, Decret. l. III, tit. xlii, c. iii -- Majores). (Denzinger 410)
"...the souls...of those who die in mortal sin, or with only original sin descend immediately into hell; however, to be punished with different penalties and in different places." (Denzinger 493a)
Pope Pius VI, Auctorem Fidei, Aug. 28, 1794,
"Baptism" section 3:
"The doctrine which rejects as a Pelagian fable, that place of the lower regions (which the faithful generally designate by the name of the limbo of the children) in which the souls of those departing with the sole guilt of original sin are punished with the punishment of the condemned, exclusive of the punishment of fire, just as if, by this very fact, that these who remove the punishment of fire introduced that middle place and state free of guilt and of punishment between the kingdom of God and eternal damnation, such as that about which the Pelagians idly talk,--[this Jansonist theory]--false rash injurious to Catholic schools." [Denzinger 1526]
Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, Session 11, Feb. 4, 1442, ex cathedra: “Regarding children, indeed, because of danger of death, which can often take place, when no help can be brought to them by another remedy than through the sacrament of baptism, through which they are snatched from the domination of the Devil [original sin] and adopted among the sons of God, it advises that holy baptism ought not be deferred for forty or eighty days, or any time according to the observance of certain people…”[Denzinger 712]
Some may say well there are different ways not known to us that God could save unbaptized babies and that is not Pelagianism, because Pelagian denied original sin but "we are not saying that". They say, "the baby is conceived in original sin but receives some special secret grace that will bring the infant to the beatific vision." If we accept this premise then there could be a "secret grace" for almost anything in the Church:
" Women can be ordained because secretly God wants it because there are more women canonized saints than men." This method of thinking is Gnostic at best but share confusion if accepted. We could never know if there was some secret teaching hidden away for anything!
One point can squelch this error at least in this Limbo debate: