Limbo?

Limbo?

Lawrence R. Hurley

I am surprised that in all the correspondence in the September to December/January issues of AD2000 as to whether or not unbaptised infants "go to heaven" no one has addressed the following.

The pronouncements of the Second Council of Lyons and the Council of Florence quite clearly state that those who die in original sin "go down to hell", which Mr Young explains as Limbo, a place of natural happiness.

It has been the constant belief and teaching of the Church that these pronouncements were infallible (like all teachings of Ecumenical Councils) until the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which states that we are allowed "to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without baptism." It is noteworthy that as to this question the Catechism makes no reference to either of these pronouncements or to Limbo.

Either the Catechism is in error or the pronouncements mentioned are no longer regarded by the Church as infallible.

Moreover, in The Ratzinger Report Vittorio Messori stated to Cardinal Ratzinger (as he then was), "'Limbo' has actually disappeared ... For instance, we find no trace of it any longer in the official catechism of the Italian episcopate."

The Cardinal replied: "Limbo was never a defined truth of faith. Personally - and here I am speaking more as a theologian and not as Prefect of the Congregation [of the Doctrine of the Faith] - I would abandon it since it was only a theological hypothesis. It formed part of a secondary thesis in support of a truth which is absolutely of first significance for faith, namely, the importance of baptism.

"One should not hesitate to give up the idea of 'limbo' if need be (and it is worth noting that the very theologians who proposed 'limbo' also said that parents could spare the child limbo by desiring its baptism and through prayer); but the concern behind it must not be surrendered. Baptism has never been a side issue for faith; it is not now, nor will it ever be" (pages 147-148).

A search of the Internet on 29 November under "Catholic Church - Limbo" netted ten items on a proposed "abolition" of Limbo. The best of them was an article by Fr Brian W. Harrison OS, "Could Limbo Be 'Abolished'?", in the Seattle Catholic, to the effect that Limbo cannot be "abolished".

Meanwhile, it appears Pope John Paul II referred the question to a theological commission whose advice has not yet been issued.

LAWRENCE R. HURLEY
Cooroy, Qld

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