Limbo go boom!



Looks like limbo will soon go the way of the hoop skirt and the hula hoop.

A panel of theologians, set up by the former pontiff John Paul II, is studying what to do about Limbo. Never officially a Church teaching, in the same way as the Resurrection of Christ or the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Limbo nonetheless figured heavily in the beliefs of Catholics for perhaps centuries. Catholic mothers, especially, were terrified about the prospect that their children would die without baptism and be sent to Limbo. Though Limbo was a "happy" state, thanks to the harsh and inflexible mercy of the Almighty it did not include sharing in the Beatific Vision. Only the baptized got that.

Limbo as a concept was made necessary by the idiotic equation of salvation with Christian baptism. Without baptism, non-Christians and those born prior to Christ's salvific death were in peril of damnation. The Church, realizing the incompatibility of such a view with the message of a loving God, couldn't rightly send these innocents to Hell. But, rules were rules, and only the baptized got to Heaven. So, the Church invented the limbus patrum ("Limbo of the Fathers") and Children's Limbo to allow for pious unbaptized pre-Christians and unbaptized children to go somewhere after death other than Hell. While this was a compassionate response of sorts, it did involve the Church in creating, out of whole cloth, a cosmic reality found neither in the Bible nor in Tradition.

Limbo, it turns out, could never be forever.

While ditching Limbo is welcome (if horribly overdue) one wonders whether the Church will address the anxiety and dread it caused millions of parents of the centuries, who were certain that their children would be denied Heaven. Perhaps some of these suffered lifelong grief and terror for their own souls if they were the least bit guilty for their child's late baptism.

One also has to wonder whether the Church will ask Catholic hospitals to calm down about the need to baptize every infant in danger of death. Surely, if Limbo does not exist and the innocent are in Heaven, nurses and chaplains can put away their Holy Water and put their trust in God.