Friday, April 20, 2007

How low can they go?

That was a bad pun, as you will see. The Catholic Church has retired the concept of "limbo," apparently:
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."
Having never been Catholic (and having not been an especially good Episcopalian), I am trying to understand the practical effect of this. Do all of the babies that have spent all this time in limbo now get to go somewhere else? Have they not actually been in limbo all this time? Doesn't that say something about papal infallibility? As in, the Church was for limbo before they were against it. Is it an Orwellian redefinition of reality? As in, unbaptized babies do not go to limbo--they have never gone to limbo...

Just wondering.


Todd Stadler said...

Hmm. I think you've misunderstood several things. I'm no Catholic cheerleader, and would be one of the last people to argue for anything like papal infallibility. But ...

What's effectively being said here is that, while many Catholics have believed in and taught about limbo for centuries, this commission declares that such a doctrine is in error, and reflects a misunderstanding of the Catholic doctrine of salvation. That is, "limbo never existed, and we apologize for Catholics who were taught as such."

Furthermore, you would probably do well to read closely the Wikipedia article on papal infallibility, since your question appears to reflect a common misconception on what it's all about.

Again, there is much about the Catholic church that I find disagreeable, but this all seems consistent with their way of doing things.

cryptic_philosopher said...

Yes, I know I took papal infallibility a bit farther than the doctrine intends, but my bigger point is that if the Pope speaks for the Church, and the Church speaks for God, and the Church suddenly declares that it was wrong about something like this all along, I want to know the current status of the millions, if not billions, of unbaptized baby souls drifting out there. Were they ever in limbo? Are people believed to currently be in heaven/purgatory/hell really there? Is it worth the investment of time to pray for specific things mentioned in Catholic doctrine if the Church is just going to change the rules again? Is now an appropriate time to do an inventory (and would God even cooperate with that?)

I'm being snarky as always, but the Church really painted itself into a lot of corners by making such specific pronouncements about the afterlife, and I feel called to make fun as a result.