Thursday, December 29, 2005

Limbo Going Away?

A number of news sources (The Detroit News, the Chicago Tribune, and Science Daily among others) are reporting that the Church is prepared to dump Limbo. File this under non-issue.

Limbo was to the Church what Einstein's Universal Constant was to physics, a way to reconcile an apparent contradiction. But that isn't to say it was a critical doctrine (as Science Daily and the UPI indicate); it was what the present Holy Father said it was back in 1984, an hypothesis. Consider what the Catholic Encylopedia of the early 20th century had to say on the topic (under Limbus Infantum). It outlines the apparent contradiction, and the thinking down the ages.

You'll also note ...You'll also note that unlike the negative caricaturist's brush with which we're so often painted, this was not a harsh or overly negative "doctrine." What is so harsh about "...we ought to believe that these souls enjoy and will eternally enjoy a state of perfect natural happiness ..." Nor is it clear to me that abortion is the impetus for continued reasoning and discussion on the topic. We have been wrestling with this for centuries. What to make of what happens to those who die unregenerate but who have not committed any actual sin is of great import to those at a pastoral level.

I think the final word, if there is a truly final word, will look a lot like this:

1261 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,"[63] 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.

From the Catechism

EDIT: Change made for accuracy regarding nature of "hypothesis".

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