"And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God"
-- Micah 6:8

"The duty of the prosecutor is to seek justice, not merely to convict."
-- American Bar Association Standard 3-1.2(c)

"There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia."
--Pope Benedict XVI, June 2004

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Church to Jettison Limbo?

The Catholic teaching of Limbo is nothing if not logical: if you accept the premises, the conclusions are sound.

1) Baptism (of either blood, desire, or water) is required for entry into heaven

“Whoever believes and is baptized, will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mk 16:16).

"The Lord himself affirms that baptism is necessary for salvation" (Catechism of the Catholic ChurchCC 1257).

2) Hell is reserved for those who merit eternal punishment

"In a flame of fire, giving vengeance to them who know not God and who obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ." (2 Thess. 1:8)

"But the fearful and unbelieving and the abominable and murderers and whoremongers and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, they shall have their portion in the pool burning with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." (Rev. 21:8)

3) A child therefore who dies without Baptism cannot "enter into the kingdom," but neither can he be condemned to hell.

4) Therefore there must of necessity be an intermediate state of neither punishment nor beatitude.

Faced with this logical conclusion, the Church has always proposed the solution of Limbo. The Greek Fathers, St. Augustine, St. Anselm, St.Thomas Aquinas, the Schoolmen, and the predominant weight of Catholic opinion up until and through the 1960's all accepted this teaching and condemned the view that the unbaptized infant could gain heaven as Pelagianism, a view that denigrates the doctrine of Original Sin and attacks the real necessity of infant baptism.

Now it seems that Pope Benedict and a commission of theologians think that the teaching of limbo needs updating to a "'more coherent and illuminating' doctrine in tune with the modern age... It is understood the commission will recommend that Limbo be replaced by the more 'compassionate' doctrine that all children who die do so 'in the hope of eternal salvation'."

If all the Pope and the commission can offer is that they don't like the idea that Limbo sounds harsh and they wish God would let unbaptized souls into heaven, then sorry, I'll stick with the perennial teaching, which as seen above, is more authoritative than merely an "old theory" or "just a theory." Mark Shea's opinions about torture are "just a theory." The firmly stated teaching of Church Fathers, the Medieval Schoolmen, and the modern Popes up until the post-conciliar years are more than "just" a theory.

Let us hope and pray that the Pope does not denigrate infant baptism and fall into an effectively Pelagian view that would imply a denial of Original Sin. He no doubt feels denying Limbo would make parents feel better and ease people's fears about the fate of aborted children. In reality, he would be imperilling not just the teaching of Limbo, but the doctrine of Original Sin and the necessity of baptism for salvation, further eroding the already attenuated distinction between nature and grace.

But that is definitely another topic for another forum.

MORE on this here.


Steve Golay said...

This is much about a reconciliation with the Orthodox CHurches, is it not?

Marty Helgesen said...

Although the existence of Limbo was widely taught and widely believed Limbo was never part of Catholic dogma. It was just a theological opinion. The _Catholic Encyclopedia_ (published 1907-1912) article on Limbo devotes several pages to the history of the belief, but at the end refers to "the prevailing Catholic notion of the children's limbo." (v.9 p.259) And the theological manual _Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma_ by Ludwig Ott (2d ed., 1957) says, "Theologians usually assume that there is a special place or state for children dying without baptism which they call limbus puerorum (children's Limbo)." (p.114)