Roman Catholic limbo in limbo?

Vatican puts limbo in state of, er … limbo

Panel appointed by Pope John Paul II wants the concept banned from church teachings.

Doug Saunders / Toronto Globe and Mail

LONDON — In Latin, it means “the lip,” and for centuries devout Roman Catholics have tried to avoid thinking about its full meaning: the edge of hell, where those who have died without baptism — notably babies — are sent for eternity.

Now it seems that limbo, a place invented in the Middle Ages that soon became a well-known part of the architecture of the cosmos, is about to be struck from the theological blueprints as part of the Vatican’s lengthy renovation of its heavenly layout.

Its place, alongside such well-known medieval additions as the gates of heaven, the nine circles of hell, purgatory and the heavenly vestibule, has become increasingly shaky, and this week, the Italian media reported that an international commission of high-ranking theologians intends to advise Pope Benedict to banish the notion of limbo from all teachings of the Catholic catechism.

Last October, seven months before he died, Pope John Paul asked the commission to come up with “a more coherent and enlightened way” of describing the fate of such innocent babes.

It was then headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who was elected Pope in April.

It is now headed by his successor at the Vatican’s doctrinal department, Archbishop William Levada, an American from San Francisco.

If the commission recommends banishing limbo, it will put an end to more than 700 years of fear, unease and ambiguity in one of the church’s most awkward and embarrassing areas of faith. The last four Popes have tried to eradicate it from church teachings.

The Second Vatican Council in 1962 diminished the importance of limbo, and Pope John Paul II issued a new catechism in 1992 that appeared to settle the issue: “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.”

The Roman Catholic apologists will say that limbo was never an official doctrine of their church, therefore, this cannot be used to say that infallibility is false. This may very well be, however, if limbo has never been an official teaching then why worry so much about it? Why does it need to be banished from RC teachings? If the RC authority does teach with infallibility then why would this teaching show up by RC ordained teachers at all?

tagged as , in roman catholic,theology

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 pilgrim December 4, 2005 at 1:34 am

I don’t think you’ll get a very good answer.
I grew up in a RC family–and never got a definitive view of limbo–there didn’t seem to be one.

There are more important issues with RCism, and those have definitve RC views.

Limbo was driven by some of those views–primarily views on baptism and justification.

So your question is valid–just don’t expect a very good answer.–>


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