The Catholic Church abolishes Limbo

| April 22, 2007 | 9 Replies

Dead unbaptised infants throughout the universe are undoubtedly breathing a sigh of relief at this breaking news from the Vatican (as reported by Reuters):

The Roman Catholic Church has effectively buried the concept of limbo, the place where centuries of tradition and teaching held that babies who die without baptism went. In a long-awaited document, the Church’s International Theological Commission said limbo reflected an “unduly restrictive view of salvation.”

Pope Benedict, himself a top theologian who before his election in 2005 expressed doubts about limbo, authorized the publication of the document, called “The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die Without Being Baptised.”

So, it took the Catholic church 2000 years to figure out the inequity of Limbo.  I’ve got to give the Church credit, though.  Those theologians showed their true character when they put their collective heads together and got the job done.  Check out the key parts of the Commission’s report:

“The conclusion of this study is that there are theological and liturgical reasons to hope that infants who die without baptism may be saved and brought into eternal happiness even if there is not an explicit teaching on this question found in revelation,” it said.

“There are reasons to hope that God will save these infants precisely because it was not possible (to baptize them).”

Limbo, which comes from the Latin word meaning “border” or “edge,” was considered by medieval theologians to be a state or place reserved for the unbaptized dead, including good people who lived before the coming of Christ.

“People find it increasingly difficult to accept that God is just and merciful if he excludes infants, who have no personal sins, from eternal happiness, whether they are Christian or non-Christian,” the document said.

So let’s see if I can follow the Catholic Church’s new-fangled reasoning here . . . hmmmm . . . Don’t punish innocent babies.  I think I understand . . .

Now that the Church has figured out that God should be kind to innocent babies, perhaps the Church (as the supreme teacher of morals for hundreds of millions of people) can turn its attention to some other important issues.  For example, 1) whether it’s OK for a priest to have sex with a young altar boy and 2) whether it’s OK for a married couple to use birth control to decide how many babies to have in a world that is already congested.  I’ll be setting my clock for a few thousand years to give the Church sufficient time to ponder these additional issues.

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Category: Good and Evil, Religion

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (9)

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  1. Ben says:

    Actually this sounds big. This means that Christians in high-places are thinking with empathy. At least that's how they are spinning it. I wonder how long to they go ahead and agree with Dawkins that "there is no such thing as a Christian child".

    I guess Muslims also will find their place beside Christians in Heaven?

  2. Yadda, yadda, yadda… How come a couple of people who have never been dead, gone to hell/limbo and come back, know so much about it?

  3. grumpypilgrim says:

    "…even if there is not an explicit teaching on this question found in revelation."

    That is the most telling part of the entire story: the Church is changing a position for which it *never had any scriptural basis in the first place*. What the pope is really saying is, "I'm sorry…we, um…we made it all up. That whole thing about Limbo was just something we fabricated to scare people into bringing their bablies to us to be baptised. That way, we could get our hooks into…er, I mean, save the souls of…both the parents and the children. But now that so many people find it 'increasingly difficult to accept that God is just and merciful if he excludes infants,' we realize we need to tone down our rhetoric…er, I mean, our lies…er, I mean we need to take a less 'restrictive view of salvation.' Yeah, that's all it is…a less restrictive view. So, now that you know we're nice guys and everything, can I…um…can I pass you our donation plate?"

  4. Erika Price says:

    I don't get it. So they can change the entire structure of heaven and the way that God enacts his grand plan by merely deciding they don't like the idea?

  5. Erich Vieth says:

    Ben: I think you are making a bit of a leap of faith. Some people just want others to THINK that they are empathetic. Or it might all be a Machiavellian leap to a place that is only relatively more empathetic: "If we stop dooming innocent babies, they'll think we're nice."

    projektleiterin: Such a quaint idea, that people should be well-informed before rendering opinions. Shame, shame.

    Grumpy: Amen to what you write! But based on the way you've been scolding the Church (the evidence is contained in many posts and comments), you will be going to a place so bad that you'll fantacize about the possibility of someday getting a promotion to limbo.

    Erika: Yep (or so they say . . .).

  6. Erich Vieth says:

    BTW, the Catholic church is still thinking about morality. In this recent story, "The Vatican's second-highest ranking doctrinal official on Monday forcefully branded homosexual marriage an evil and denounced abortion and euthanasia as forms of 'terrorism with a human face.'" http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070423/wl_nm/pope_ga

  7. grumpypilgrim says:

    I think I have as good a shot as anyone of getting into heaven: zero, because it doesn't exist. Like Limbo, it was invented by humans to serve a purpose.

    BTW, an interesting story about religion came out of Madison, WI, today: the Wiccan pentacle has been added to the list of emblems allowed in national cemeteries and on government-issued headstones of fallen soldiers. The Veteran's Administration now lists 39 different religious symbols, including the symbols for Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Judaism, as well as for smaller religions, such as Sufism Reoriented, Eckiankar and Seicho-No-Ie. Needless to say, the Bush Administration opposed the addition of Wiccan to the approved list, and had been fighting against it in court:
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070423/ap_on_re_us/w….

    Another Bush legacy: first he sends our soldiers to die, then he won't even respect their spiritual beliefs concerning how to bury them.

  8. grumpypilgrim says:

    “The Vatican’s second-highest ranking doctrinal official on Monday forcefully branded homosexual marriage an evil…”

    Well, of course, the Vatican "forcefully branded" homosexual marriage an evil: that is what we all have to do when we have no data to support our opinions. If homosexual marriage were, in fact, harmful, then the Vatican would simply point to the data.

    “…and denounced abortion and euthanasia as forms of ‘terrorism with a human face.’”

    Likewise, playing the "terrorism" card is an obvious gambit, too: just look how well it enabled George Bush to convince people of HIS idiotic beliefs.

    I just wonder why Vatican hasn't "forcefully branded" pedophilia an evil and denounced its pedophilic priests as "terrorism with a human face."  Oh, that's right, because there *is* data to support this opinion.

  9. Erich Vieth says:

    Here's a bit more on limbo, from a recent BBC article:

    According to the BBC's Religion and Ethics site [see internet links, right], the church held that before the 13th Century, all unbaptised people, including new born babies who died, would go to hell. This was because original sin – the punishment that God inflicted on humanity because of Adam and Eve's disobedience – had not been cleansed by baptism.

    This idea however was criticised by Peter Abelard, a French scholastic philosophiser, who said that babies who had no personal sin didn't even deserve punishment.

    It was Abelard who introduced the idea of limbo. The word comes from the Latin "limbus", meaning the edge. This would be a state of existence where unbaptised babies, and those unfortunate enough to have been born before Jesus, would not experience pain but neither would they experience the Beatific Vision of God.

    and, by the way, "Muslims believe the souls of stillborn babies go straight to heaven."

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