Wednesday, December 28, 2005

If Limbo Is Out, What’s In?

The NYT reports this morning that the Roman Catholic Church is on the verge of ridding itself of the concept of Limbo, which has been a popular bit of RCC lore since the church said it was The Church. Pope Ratz loooooves St. Augustine and Augustine started the whole idea of Limbo. But Ratz said way before he became pope that the concept should be dropped. See, back in the 4th century Augustine made up the idea of Original Sin out of whole cloth. He decided that since Adam and Eve sinned, they passed their sin on to all of us. Augustine called his fanciful notion of inherited sin, Original Sin. According to Augustine, the only way to be saved from the eternal hell of Original Sin was to be baptized in the Roman Catholic Church. Ergo, unbaptized babies went to hell. Later on, Augustine decided the hell that unbaptized babies lived in was a mild hell. During the middle ages St. Thomas Aquinas opined that the hell of unbaptized babies should be called “limbo”, which was not exactly heaven, but it wasn’t hell either. Or, as Pope Pius X said in 1905 "Children who die without baptism go into limbo, where they do not enjoy God, but they do not suffer either." That certainly sounds like the Roman Catholic Church had accepted the concept of Limbo as fact. But The Church says, No. The Church says Limbo was never official church doctrine. In the 1960’s the Second Vatican Council advanced the idea that the redemptive power of Christ could save everyone, baptized or not. But Ratz is not a fan of Vatican II or Pope John XXIII who was responsible for it. So if Pope Ratz boots out Limbo, where do unbaptized babies go? This is a particularly important question for the RCC to answer since the RCC is growing in Africa and Asia where the rate of infant deaths is high. Come to that, where do aborted fetuses go? The Church hasn’t decided. It’s important for the RCC to claim that the Church never officially accepted the concept of Limbo. Because now that The Church wants to rid itself of Limbo, it doesn’t want to put the infallibility of Popes in question, or be accused of change. "Limbo has never been a definitive truth of the faith," Ratz said when he was a Cardinal. Well, that clears that up. For a minute, it looked like St. Augustine, St.Thomas Aquinas, Pope Pius X and John Paul II had all, one way and another, been wrong. Never. There are shades of the truth in the RCC: Kind of true, unofficially true yesterday but officially not true today, definitively true, more or less true, not true but not untrue. That sounds so familiar. True is false, false is true, illegal is legal, we may not be right but we’re never wrong. Oh yeah, right. It’s the litany and cant of the lying, deceiving, ungodly Bush administration.

2 comments:

Aweena said...
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Barry Schwartz said...

My view in these matters is impenetrable to the Pope. Aborted fetuses are gone, and there is no 'God'. To believe that there is a 'God' is to believe that primitive religions have been evolving towards a 'Truth', which is empirically contradicted: religions are dragged, kicking and screaming, by the progress of scientific and engineering knowledge. Also it seems to be non-empirical ideologies (the quasi-religion of Nazism being the most notable example) that cause the worst abuses of science and technology. It is much, much simpler and reassuring (because it is consistent with experience) to conclude that all religions are creations of pre-scientific humankind, and that we are in a transition period in which primitive systems of belief and scientific systems of belief overlap.

(I think that if this were sufficiently widely realized then humankind would enter a lasting period of unprecedented peace and prosperity.)