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April 24, 2007

Catholicism puts limbo on back burner

After several years of study, the Vatican's International Theological Commission said there are good reasons to hope that babies who die without being baptized go to heaven.
Really? It seems kind of odd to backtrack on a few hundred years of dogma.
Unbaptized babies now have a fighting chance to enter the pearly gates but the Church was careful not to say that they were wrong about it.
The commission's document said salvation for unbaptized babies who die was becoming an urgent pastoral question, in part because their number is greatly increasing. Many infants today are born to parents who are not practicing Catholics, and many others are the unborn victims of abortion, it said.
So, to make us feel feel better about aborted babies and increased baby death, the ITC decides to make limbo not such a big deal?

I am corrected in this next paragraph, specifically that limbo is not official dogma:
Limbo has never been defined as church dogma and is not mentioned in the current Catechism of the Catholic Church, which states simply that unbaptized infants are entrusted to God's mercy.
So it isn't an official piece of dogma concerning limbo- however,
limbo has long been regarded as the common teaching of the church.
So, it's taught on the down-low so thte church cannot be held responsible for this 'feel-good' optimism.

I find it curious that in the 5th century, St. Augustine concluded that
infants who die without baptism were consigned to hell
. But, in 800 years,
theologians referred to the "limbo of infants" as a place where unbaptized babies were deprived of the vision of God, but did not suffer because they did not know what they were deprived of.

Since the Roman Catholic Church is imbued with the Holy Spirit, then it can never be wrong. So, does this backtracking count? Will the Church backtrack on some other issues in the future?


  1. From what I have gleaned about the Roman Church's "physics" of Heaven and a timeless God, "it" sorta means "it all" happens at once and in the same space-time event - or something like that. Since God in Heaven is the ultimate simultaneity where "now" is always happening, they can back up and do over - they operate with Deming's "just in time" theological manufacturing and engineering! :-)
    Which is more intellectually advanced than Islam's belief that whatever happens is instantaneously the whim of Allah, as he sleeps dreaming-up reality, second by second. That's a very linear plod to the Horizon.

  2. This is sort of like 'purgatory', which is not mentioned at all in the Bible, and is a creation of some long gone Pope... likely as a fund-raising thing for the church (Pay more, get to Heaven faster)


  3. What the Church has stated about Limbo doesn't mean that all of a sudden babies can go to heaven, but couldn't before. What it means is that our understanding of God and His mercy is flawed, and that we are continually striving for that understanding. Knowledge and wisdom can and does grow over time. Unbaptized infants always had "a fighting chance to enter the Pearly Gates". We just didn't understand it.

    Purgatory, while not spoken of explicitly, is implied in many places in the Scriptures:

    Mt 5:48 ~ be perfect like heavenly father
    Hb 12:14 ~ strive for holiness, w/o none see God
    Jm 3:2 ~ we all fall short in many respects
    Rv 21:27 ~ nothing unclean can enter heaven
    1Jn 5:16-17 ~ degrees of sin distinguished
    Jm 1:14-15 ~ sin reaches maturity, brings death
    2Sm 12:13-14 ~ David, though forgiven, was punished
    Mt 5:26 ~ not released until offender pays last penny
    Mt 12:32 ~ sin against HS unforgiven
    Mt 12:36 ~ account for all idle words
    2Mac 12:44-46 ~ atoned dead to free from sin
    1Cor 3:15 ~ suffer loss, but saved thru fire
    1Pt 3:18-20, 4:6 ~ Jesus preached to spirits prison
    1Tm 1:16-18 ~ Paul prays for dead friend
    1Cor 15:29-30 ~ baptized themselves for dead

    Purgatory is also discussed in many early writings of the church, as early as the 1st two centuries(See "The Faith of the Early Church Fathers - Volumes I,II,and III", by Jurgens,). Contrary to many misconceptions about this and other church teachings, Purgatory was not something that was "made up by a pope", for the purposes of raising revenue, which you are confusing with the practice of indulgences, which was an abuse by corrupt priests. Indulgences were never a "doctrine".

    "Since the Roman Catholic Church is imbued with the Holy Spirit, then it can never be wrong. So, does this backtracking count? Will the Church backtrack on some other issues in the future?"

    Examining our beliefs is not "backtracking". It is a normal process that continuously occurs, not just in the Catholic Church, but in many other mainstream faiths. The essay "An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine ", by John H. Cardinal Newman, was written before he converted to Catholicism. Here, I think you're refering to the doctrine of Papal Infallibility, which is defined as "Although the individual bishops do not enjoy the prerogative of infallibility, they can nevertheless proclaim Christ’s doctrine infallibly. This is so, even when they are dispersed around the world, provided that while maintaining the bond of unity among themselves and with Peter’s successor, and while teaching authentically on a matter of faith or morals, they concur in a single viewpoint as the one which must be held conclusively. This authority is even more clearly verified when, gathered together in an ecumenical council, they are teachers and judges of faith and morals for the universal Church. Their definitions must then be adhered to with the submission of faith" (Lumen Gentium 25).

    Infallibility belongs in a special way to the pope as head of the bishops (Matt. 16:17–19; John 21:15–17). As Vatican II remarked, it is a charism the pope "enjoys in virtue of his office, when, as the supreme shepherd and teacher of all the faithful, who confirms his brethren in their faith (Luke 22:32), he proclaims by a definitive act some doctrine of faith or morals. Therefore his definitions, of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church, are justly held irreformable, for they are pronounced with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, an assistance promised to him in blessed Peter."

    Lastly, while you more or less correctly quote Augustine "infants who die without baptism were consigned to hell", he was not speaking infallibly (in union with the bishops and Pope on maters of faith and morals), and therefore what he said was just his opinion.

    Many folks have a misunderstanding of what the Church teaches and does not teach. Furthermore, faith in the Church does not mean that one is unintelligent. Da Vinci was Catholic, as was Copernicus. So was Hillaire Belloc, one of the preeminant Oxford historians of the late 19th/early 20th Century. To state that one must "check their brain at the door of the Church" implies that one is incapable of making a decision for themselves. For someone who is entering the church as a convert, it is a long and patient process. We don't ask you to commit now, as other religions do. We want you to take time, and decide for yourself, examing our history and doctrines in an inquiry class which may last a year or longer. We never ask for a committment. That is only for you to decide. That reality doesn't mesh with "checking your brain at the door of the Church".

  4. Thank you for your well thought out post Sonarman. I appreciate the time involved in constructing such an in-depth response to my post.

    I should have stated somewhere in my post that I don't have anything against the Catholic church and was raised Baptist. My knowledge of Catholicism is limited by what I've read, having not experienced the process leading up to confirmation.

    You made a comment in your first paragraph that indirectly sums up the point I was trying to make:
    Unbaptized infants always had "a fighting chance to enter the Pearly Gates". We just didn't understand it.

    That is a fair analysis but it falls on the same parallel as people not understanding why the sun raced across the sky so they invented the chariot wheel to explain it. This is an exaggerated example, of course, but it appears the Church did the same thing with unbaptized babies- if only to make people feel good about the high mortality rates at that time in history?

    Maybe I make too big a deal about all the traditions and procedures Catholicism has embraced because perhaps I am just too lazy to have been able to do all that stuff.