The Hidden Heresies on the Catholic Right

This article is not about sedevacantists, who have left the Catholic Church by formal schism and formal heresy. Instead, it is about Catholics who purport to accept Vatican II and the recent Popes. However, they make a similar mistake as the sedevacantists. They exalt themselves about Popes and Councils, above the Magisterium, in order to judge what is and is not correct Catholic doctrine. At no time and in no case do they accept a teaching of the Magisterium which is contrary to their own understanding. And this has put them on the edge of schism, in their readiness to reject Pope Francis. But even before Pope Francis, many of these ultraconservatives had developed a set of heresies, which they mostly keep quiet. They know that these positions are not acceptable to the vast majority of mainstream Catholics, including many ordinary conservative Catholics. And so they keep these ideas on the backburner, hinting at them from time to time, but refusing to state their position with all cards face up on the table.

Salvation of Infants

The ordinary and universal Magisterium teaches the universal salvific will of God, that God wants all human persons to be saved (1 Tim 2:4) [Dominus Jesus, 13]. The teaching is not merely that God wants all to be saved, in some abstract sense, but that God makes that offer of salvation accessible to all. In Redemptoris Missio, Pope Saint John Paul II taught:

“The universality of salvation means that it is granted not only to those who explicitly believe in Christ and have entered the Church. Since salvation is offered to all, it must be made concretely available to all.” [RM 10]

The holy Pontiff then goes on to cite Vatican II as supporting this view. God does in fact give every human person a path of salvation. Certainly, some refuse the offer of salvation, and by unrepentant actual mortal sin lose eternal happiness, and suffering eternal punishment in Hell. But, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: “God predestines no one to go to Hell; for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end.” [CCC 1037]

What about unbaptized infants? First, consider the situation of prenatals who die in the womb, whether from early pregnancy loss, miscarriage, abortifacient contraception, or abortion. They cannot be baptized with water. They cannot desire baptism (per Pope Pius XII in Address to Midwives 21a). The only concretely available path of salvation would be a baptism of desire, like the Holy Innocents. And since the universal salvific will of God is dogma, they must have that path. God cannot possibly send the billions who are killed by abortifacients and abortion, along with the billions who die of natural causes (early pregnancy loss plus miscarriage takes 40 to 50% of prenatals, not counting abortion), to Hell, nor to the limbo of Hell, nor to limbo as a third final destination. For the universal salvific will of God refers to eternal happiness, and no one can be happy without God:

Pope Benedict XVI: “Human beings cannot completely fulfill themselves, they cannot be truly happy without God.” [Homily, Sunday, 24 May 2009]

Pope John Paul II: “Without God, man cannot fully find himself, nor can he find his true happiness.” [Homily, 9 November 1999]

Therefore, prenatals receive a baptism of blood and the state of grace, prior to death, by virtue of the suffering and death of Christ on the Cross. They thereby become (non-formal) members of the Church, just before they die.

As for infants and young children, if billions of prenatals who die in the womb are given a baptism of blood, then it is widely available and must also be given to infants and young children,

So what is the heresy on the far right? That prenatals, infants, and young children go to the limbo of Hell, where they will have perfect natural happiness forever. This is based on the opinion of Saint Thomas Aquinas, who was writing before the second Council of Lyons.

The Council decided that all the souls in Hell have the chief punishment of Hell, the deprivation of the Beatific Vision and all the other joys of Heaven. The Council infallibly taught that all are punished in Hell, even though who have only the deprivation. The Council therefore decided against a Limbo of Hell with perfect natural happiness. It is dogma that all in Hell are punished, including in the limbo of Hell.

But most on the far right reject this infallible teaching, along with the teaching of the CCC that unrepented actual mortal sin is the only path to Hell, and that none are predestined to Hell. It is heresy to say that there is any soul in Hell which has perfect happiness, even of a supposedly natural type. For all the souls there receive the chief punishment of Hell, therefore, they cannot be perfectly happy. The Council of Florence taught the same dogma.

The Council of Florence: “But the souls of those who depart this life in actual mortal sin, or in original sin alone, go down straightaway to hell to be punished, but with unequal pains.”

The Second Council of Lyons: “The souls of those who die in mortal sin or with original sin only, however, immediately descend to hell, yet to be punished with different punishments.”

The Church has NEVER taught that infants who die without baptism therefore die in a state of “original sin alone”. The Church has NEVER taught that these infants go to Hell or the limbo of Hell. Who then goes to Hell for the sin of dying in original sin? Those persons only who die unrepentant from the actual mortal sin of omission of never having found sanctifying grace in this life, despite ample opportunity. And no child or infant has had that ample opportunity, so the limbo of Hell does not contain any young children or infants. The CCC is correct that only actual mortal sin condemns to Hell. And the Councils are correct that dying in a state of original sin alone sends a person to Hell (since that is a mortal sin of omission).

St. Thomas erred on this topic because he wrote prior to the Councils of Florence and Lyons II. But modern-day authors have no excuses for refusing to believe the teachings of two Ecumenical Councils. Thus, the claim that the souls in the limbo of Hell (who died in original sin alone) are perfectly happy is a heresy, which reject the teaching that they are “punished” with “different punishments”, that is, with “unequal pains”. That’s not perfect happiness of any kind.

In the next installment of this set of articles, I’ll cover heresies on the far right about Judaism and about Islam. Then subsequently, their heresies on the Second Vatican Council, and on development of doctrine.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian
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