Sunday, December 04, 2005

So Where Does That Leave Us?

[[R E L I G I O N]] * When I first read, in the London Times, the headline “Limbo Consigned to History Books,” I assumed it was merely an error, that some careless editor had intended to write “History Books Consigned to Limbo.” Despite a proliferation of works about our world’s past on the New York Times’ list of the best reads from 2005, most history texts are destined to wind up in dusty attics and the far-flung stacks of libraries.

My other thought, of course, was that some Internet chieftain, some Big Brother of the Electronic Ether, had determined that my time as a blogger was up, that I had committed too many sins of cynicism or overstatement, and that the good ol’ Limbo blog was to be consigned to the sputtering junk pile of Internet failures.

However, neither of those presumptions was correct. Instead, explains Rome correspondent Richard Owen, it is the Middle Ages concept of Limbo as “the place where the souls of children go if they die before they can be baptized” that the Catholic Church wishes to abolish. Assuming that Pope Benedict XVI agrees, Limbo will be cast once and for all into oblivion, to be replaced by a more “compassionate” doctrine maintaining that children who die do so “in the hope of eternal salvation.” Although such a reform seems, well, rather unnecessary and antiquated in our increasingly scientific age (kind of like Pope John Paul II finally conceding--in 1992!--that Galileo Galilei was right, and that Earth revolves about its sun, not the other way around), the London Telegraph explains that Catholic self-interest is involved in this change:

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.

The Church is aware that Muslims, for example, believe that all children go straight to heaven without passing any test.
But, as the Sydney Morning Herald points out, Limbo, according to Catholic tradition, wasn’t populated exclusively by unbaptized children; it was also where a host of other good but unbaptized folk--including Plato, Moses, Abraham “and a legion of others from the ancient world”--went after their deaths. So, if Limbo is no longer to exist, where does that leave Plato, for instance? I suppose the answer is, in limbo.

READ MORE:Limbo to Close: Mass Executions Expected,” by Nicholas von Hoffman (The Nation); “Limbo, an Afterlife Tradition, May Be Doomed by the Vatican,” by Ian Fisher (The New York Times).

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