Limbo was a theological theory that was never adopted dogmatically by the Church.
The article on Limbo in the old Catholic Encyclopedia makes it clear that this theory was not a formal teaching of the Council of Trent--which alone could be considered a binding, dogmatic teaching.
Simply affirming Benedict's professional theological opinions on the subject cannot turn the 2005 International Theological Commission document into a "papal" teaching. There are no accidental ex cathedra pronouncements. The exercise of the papal magisterium must be done explicitly.
Catholics are therefore free to accept the old theory or to follow John Paul II, the Catechism, and Benedict in hoping that God will grant the innocent children full participation in the Beatific Vision.
- Francis Beckwith, "A Doctrine in Limbo"
- In 2005, the pope endorsed the report of the International Theological Commission on the topic, which concluded:
- What has been revealed to us is that the ordinary way of salvation is by the sacrament of Baptism. None of the above considerations should be taken as qualifying the necessity of Baptism or justifying delay in administering the sacrament. Rather, as we want to reaffirm in conclusion, they provide strong grounds for hope that God will save infants when we have not been able to do for them what we would have wished to do, namely, to baptize them into the faith and life of the Church.
- According to a member of the commission, Sister Sara Butler, S.T.D., the main purpose of the study was to explain and defend the following statement in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
- 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. (§1261, 1997 English edition)
- About Francis Beckwith's return to Catholicism: "He Could No Longer Explain Why He Wasn’t Catholic."
- "Closing the Doors of Limbo: Theologians Say It Was Hypothesis."