Limbo (and Legitimacy) Lost
That’s because this is a change originating from within the Catholic Church as the culmination of an investigation started by the late Pope John Paul II. Based on recommendations from the Church’s International Theological Commission, Pope Benedict XVI is expected to abolish Limbo, effectively wiping the dimension from the heavenly fabric forever.
According to tradition, Limbo is a region between Heaven and Hell that is distinct from Purgatory in that it offers no passage to other heavenly realms. Whereas Purgatory is essentially “God’s waiting room,” offering salvation to moderate sinners who have burned off their misdeeds, Limbo is a final destination. The concept dates back to the 1200s, where it arose as an answer to the problem of where the souls of unbaptised children go after death. Additionally, the realm was cited as the temporary residence of the souls of those who died before Christ’s resurrection. Though never officially part of Catholic doctrine, Limbo has seen firm support in the past. In addition to appearing in Dante’s Divine Comedy and the works of Renaissance artists like Giotto, Limbo has been decisively recognized by Pope Pius X as recently as 1905: “Children who die without being baptised go to limbo, where they don't enjoy God, but don't suffer either, because whilst carrying the original sin... they don't deserve paradise but neither do they deserve hell or purgatory.” Saint Thomas Aquinas had even gone so far as to describe Limbo, calling it an “eternal state of natural joy” similar to joys felt on earth but less profound than the supernatural joy of the beatific vision.
However pleasant or unpleasant Limbo actually is (or is supposed to be), the Church’s handling of children (who would now be entrusted to “the mercy of God”) is much harsher than rival religions. Under Islam, for example, all children are welcomed in Heaven without any additional requirements. The growing number of more popular alternatives may be one reason for the Church’s relatively sudden change of policy, as telegraph.co.uk implies: “More than six million children die of hunger every year in underdeveloped countries where the Church is keen to see its support continue to grow…It is concerned that the concept of limbo may not impress potential converts.”
If the Church’s motives include wooing new converts to augment its power, then I consider Benedict’s decision one of the most shameful acts in history. How can an organization maintain that it is good when resorting to deception and modern marketing practices to dupe individuals into accepting “Catholicism 2.0, the new and improved version?” And even if the Church’s motives are only to rectify an incorrect assumption, other serious questions arise. How many other concepts does the Church falsely endorse? From where does Church doctrine actually originate? Surely it cannot be God, because Benedict’s action would overrule God’s word. Surely it cannot be from another credible source, because this source has apparently been ruled erroneous. So where does the Church find its teachings?
Perhaps impoverished converts will not stumble upon these questions as they are blinded by Catholicism’s shiny new packaging. Perhaps they will be impressed by the omnibenevolent Catholic God who doesn’t penalize young children for sins they have not fully committed. This is all speculation. But what is definite about Limbo’s elimination is this: Whatever the Church gains in membership, it loses much more in legitimacy.