This is big news. The design of the cosmos is about to change: the Catholic Church is dismantling limbo.
Theologically speaking, of course. In David Van Biema’s TIME essay that I read last night, “Life After Limbo,” there’s no hint the Vatican believes that its theological ponderings have any effect on reality, per se. Whatever limbo actually is or isn’t, Papal pronouncements have no causal connection with its state of existence.
The whole debate over whether there is a half-baked afterlife in between heaven and hell further proves the ridiculousness of religion. Nobody knows! Most likely, there is no limbo. And no heaven or hell either. But again: Nobody knows!
When I read the story, “Limbo appears doomed by Vatican theologians,” I had to smile at this paragraph:
“Limbo has never been a definitive truth of the faith,” Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI earlier this year, said in an interview in 1984, during his long term as Pope John Paul II's doctrinal watchdog. "Personally, I would let it drop, since it has always been only a theological hypothesis.”
Are you kidding me? Every single doctrine of the Catholic Church, 100% of it, is “only a theological hypothesis.” Ditto for Christianity as a whole, Judaism, Islam, and every other faith-based religion (which means, in effect, every religion).
Christianity, especially, is the product not of divine revelation but of all-too-human men. Modern Christianity isn’t the teachings of Jesus. No one knows what Jesus taught. What we do know is how over many centuries Church leaders made decisions about what doctrines to accept or reject after lots of horse-trading, jostling for power, heated debate, and infighting.
Which is still going on today, as evidenced by the decline of limbo. The Catholic teaching has been that babies born unbaptized are, to state it bluntly, screwed. In the Catholic Encyclopedia, it says:
The fate of infants who die without baptism must be briefly considered here. The Catholic teaching is uncompromising on this point, that all who depart this life without baptism, be it of water, or blood, or desire, are perpetually excluded from the vision of God.
This sounds pretty harsh. So to improve the Church’s marketing efforts in third-world countries, where many babies die before they can be baptized, limbo is being deleted from afterlife possibilities. Heaven and hell then become the only two alternatives, and who believes that an innocent newborn is destined for hell?
So limbo is on the way out. But only the theological variety. Caribbean tourists won’t be affected by the Vatican’s action.