Thursday, December 08, 2005

Limbo Decertified by Catholics

A commission of Catholic theologians, which was convened by Pope John Paul II last year, was prepared to recommend to a new pope, Benedict XVI last week that the concept of Limbo be relegated to history.

Limbo is, or was, the place where babies go if they die before they are baptized. It is also thought to hold the souls of those who died prior to Jesus, since it is he who Christians believe makes salvation possible for all mankind.

But if Limbo is closed down by official Catholic doctrine, it begs the question, where do all the souls go from there? Ever since the Middle Ages, Limbo has been the accepted afterlife location of souls who couldn’t enter Heaven but who were not bad enough to go to Hell.

So does that mean all those souls have to be evicted? Or is the new church doctrine one of those, “Oops, we goofed again,” admissions? There never really was a Limbo.

The modern concept of Heaven, at least to most Christians, is as a place where souls are at one with God. It is supposed to be a place of everlasting life and joy.

We see images of Heaven as a place with streets paved with gold, with entry only through the Pearly Gates. Angels are abundant and the souls of those who have passed on float around singing praises to God for all eternity.

Of course, no one really knows what Heaven is like. The traditional view of it would actually be more like hell to me. I don’t want to float around the skies singing praises forever.

Perhaps heaven is a different place for different souls. Since few people on Earth agree about what is pleasurable or joyous, it stands to reason they won’t agree about what Heaven should be like.

But if the Pope can change his mind on Limbo, even though Catholic doctrine says he’s infallible, just maybe he has the concept of heaven wrong, too.

Heaven wasn’t always a place where saved souls went. To the early Jews, it was a place inhabited only by God and his band of angels. When people died, they all went to a place that was cold and dry and all souls were eternally thirsty.

In addition to Heaven, Hell, and Limbo, Catholics also have Purgatory. It is supposedly a place where those who have died in grace can go to make amends for their sins – a sort of waiting room for Heaven.

It’s comforting to believe that our minds, or souls, still exist in a sentient state after we die, especially if that place is a pleasant one. But even if such a place, or places, exists, there is precious little evidence about what it is like.

No one has ever been to Heaven and came back to relate the experience. The same is true of Hell. It happens frequently in movies, but never in real life.

So what is the afterlife like, if it indeed exists? Not only does nobody know for sure, nobody really has a clue. It’s all speculation.

And where will un-baptized babies now go if they die? I guess the Catholic Church will leave that decision in limbo.

9 comments:

Megan said...
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Megan said...

Hello.I'm an avid reader of you're column in the courier.I always find you're topics curious and interesting.But I feel you've taken this one too far.I realize you are an opinion columnist,but did you not realize that there is Catholic church right in your home town?I'm sorry if I'm wrong,but I was highly offended by this article.You have talked about Catholicism in a few of you're previous articles, but I got over that.But this was just too much.Im sorry sir,but until you become Catholic and actually study the religion,I think you should stay out of it and stop mocking a religion you are not even a part of.You ridicule and demean Catholicism between the lines throughout the entire thing.Comments about the Pope and the religion itself,come on.Grow up,and write about something you are actually educated on,not just something you decide is worthy of degrading.Thanks.

Jerry Wilson said...

You're right, Megan. I'm not a Catholic nor am I an expert on Catholicism. But, as you know from my columns, I typically take all religion with a grain of salt. I have no respect for any form of organized religion. And since the Catholic Church was the original, it gets into the firing line once in awhile, too. Fundamentalists, however, remain my main target. Thanks for your comment.

megan said...

I can understand if you disagree with all organized religion.Whatever floats your boat.But what gives you the right to ridicule a religion you know hardly anything about?It makes no sense.I dont care if you're an "opinion" columnist or not.Why dont you let something you have knowledgable information on fall into you're "firing line" It just makes no sense to me.It's almost like you are puposely trying to 1.degrade the religion and 2.Annoy anyone who is affiliated with it.I'm assuming that being an opinion columnist automatically gives you the right to write about whatever you want,correct?But,by being an opinion columnist,shouldnt you write about things that the Majority of the community would like to read about?Write about the weather,I heard that's what you were good at.

megan said...
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Monica said...
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Jerry Wilson said...

Monica,

Thanks for your post. The thing is, I don't want to waste any more of my time looking for ultimate truth in what I believe to be nothing more than a very complex fairy tale. I don't look at myself as a lost soul in need of salvation, but as a human looking for enlightenment. I won't find it in some ancient collaboration of Catholic lawyers who, under pressure for a dictator, hurriedly put together a canon we call the bible.

Monica said...
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Jerry Wilson said...

I'm sorry Monica, but I don't want to take any "theological path." I prefer real science. Intelligent design is in no way science. It is the opposite of science in that it starts out with a supposed answer then works back to find evidence that seems to fit.

Religion is a belief in mythology. Sure, there may be people and places in the bible that really existed, but that doesn't mean it's all true. It is mostly allegory.

If religion is so simple, why are there multitudes of religions instead of just one? There is only one way to do science, and it has nothing to do with believing what can't be proved with evidence.