In limbo

Apparently, top Catholic theologians are meeting in Rome to review the entire concept of "limbo." The note in the Guardian mentioned deep papal interest in the matter:

John Paul II was deeply troubled by limbo and had it dropped from the church’s 1992 catechism, a summary of its beliefs. He also asked the International Theological Commission, which advises the Vatican, to take up the issue. When he was still a cardinal, the present pope, Benedict, said he was in favour of dropping the concept so it is unlikely that the theologians will decide otherwise.

I rooted around the Catechism this morning, in search of limbo or its traces, and suddenly remembered an incident from about 10 years ago. We had asked an esteemed relative to serve as our second daughter’s godfather, but he had declined, in a touching two-page letter, out of his own religious convictions. His position led me back to the Catechism (the English translation of which had just come out); I had the sense he had a better idea of what my own church thought about infant baptism, and wanted to understand. As it turned out, he didn’t, not exactly, but one particular provision in the Catechism struck me:

As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God …

I thought then, as I think now (having been led to the very same passage), about my faith’s (new-found, or newly recovered?) humility in the face of uncertainty. Instead of confidently offering the concept of limbo, the Catechism makes an admission: We do not know. We really do not know what happens to children who have died without having been baptized. But our faith makes us put all our hopes in God’s limitless mercy.

Now I don’t know about you (I am the kind of reader moved by the language of Gaudium et Spes!), but I found and still find this admission of ignorance and childlike faith deeply moving.

PS. The idea of writing about this topic suggested itself naturally; after all, having been away from this blog for more than two weeks, I thought I was already in, well, some kind of limbo.

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4 Comments

Filed under Readings in Religion

4 responses to “In limbo

  1. Finally, Virgil brought you up from the depths!

    As you travel through the blogosphere, we hope it will not be marked by intermittent prolonged disappearances. Better yet, may Beatrice guide you and lift you up when you falter from blogging.

  2. Resty O.

    I understand the Church has also softened its position in a similar way when it comes to people who commit suicide.

  3. Thanks, Dawin! Now Dante, for me, is a true classic, in Mark Twain’s sense: Something one has been meaning to read for a long time, but somehow hasn’t gotten around to.

    Yes, Resty, I think so too.

    Thanks, Mayon. Interesting stuff, yes. I wish we had much stronger religious reporting here, beyond the devotional, like the stories one reads in http://www.therevealer.org

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