Friday, May 11, 2007

More on Limbo

Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, editor-in-chief of the journal First Things, offers his always cogent commentary on this Friday in a post over on Observations & Contentions, entitled Stirring the Potpourri. Among the issues he tackles at the end of this week is the International Theological Commission's recently released document The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die Without Being Baptized, section 3 of which begins: "The idea of limbo, which the church has used for many centuries to designate the destiny of infants who die without baptism, has no clear foundation in revelation even though it has long been used in traditional theological teaching. Moreover, the notion that infants who die without baptism are deprived of the beatific vision, which has for so long been regarded as the common doctrine of the church, gives rise to numerous pastoral problems, so much so that many pastors of souls have asked for a deeper reflection on the ways of salvation."

Fr. Neuhaus sums up the commission's findings concisely:

"Limbo was not a doctrine of the Church but a theological opinion that emerged from wrestlings with the question of what happens to babies who have been deprived of the 'ordinary' means of salvation in baptismal regeneration. The idea was that they dwelt in a state of eternal felicity, called Limbo, that is short of the Beatific Vision. The ITC report, to put it too simply, suggests that the idea of Limbo should be retired in favor of a permissible hope that all will be saved in ways known only to God." He also addresses an interesting footnote, number 72 to be exact, that resonates a bit with my post earlier this week The forthcoming of the this-worldly "new humanity".

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