Whither Limbo?

Dear Baruch,

The article in the IHT about how the Pope has abolished limbo begins hopefully. Indeed, what a silly idea limbo is. How could Catholics have been so wrong all these millennia? Best to be conservative in one’s claims about knowledge about what happens when the unbaptized die:

The document traces centuries of Church views on the fate of unbaptized infants, paying particular attention to the writings of St. Augustine — the 4th century bishop who is particularly dear to Benedict. Augustine wrote that such infants do go to hell, but they suffer only the “mildest condemnation.”

In the document, the commission said that such views are now out of date and that there were “serious theological and liturgical grounds for hope that unbaptized infants who die will be saved and enjoy the beatific vision.”

It stressed, however, that “these are reasons for prayerful hope, rather than grounds for sure knowledge.”

No one can know for certain what becomes of unbaptized babies since Scripture is largely silent on the matter, the report said.

Pointing out that interpreting Scripture is not a good way of attaining adequate knowledge is a positively Spinozan thing to do. But then the Vatican went and read God’s mind anyway, without bothering with Scripture:

It stressed that none of its findings should be taken as diminishing the need for parents to baptize infants.

“Rather … they provide strong grounds for hope that God will save infants when we have not been able to do for them what we would have wished to do, namely, to baptize them into the faith and life of the church.”

Still, Spinoza did tell his landlady once that her very ordinary religion was perfectly acceptable as a guide for ethical living, as he didn’t think most people were cut out for philosophizing, and we also have this added benefit for Spinoza:

He said the document also had implications for non-Christians, since it could be seen as suggesting that non-baptized adults could go to heaven if they led a good life.

If I understand that right, being baptized and good = 100% chance of going to Heaven. Being unbaptized but good = 0 < x% < 100% chance of going to Heaven, depending on how nice you think God is.

As somebody who, against my will, was baptized, this at least provides hope I’ll get to meet Spinoza in Heaven — if I can ever find him amid that ocean of fetuses the place has turned out to be.

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One thought on “Whither Limbo?”

  1. Well, if limbo was more an optional add-on to the theology, one has to wonder what else is next. Transubstantiation not to be taken literally? Virgin birth? Less said about that the better. Resurrection? Not strictly necessary, but by all means believe if you want to.

    We should be happy, Bento. Doctrinal drift is not a mark of strength for a religion. See the 2nd Parris post below.

    The only real problem is that these incumbent sects, Catholicism, Anglicanism, are being supplanted by newer, more vibrant ones, which in general are less tolerant — they have less need to be. Just look at the Archbishop of York.

    Truly, they are the hydra. We need to find some way to cauterize the stumps.

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