Tuesday, April 24, 2007

No More Limbo

After much investigation and discussion since the inauguration of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI, the realm of Limbo has been eliminated from Roman Catholic theology. In effect, the Church has "realized its emptiness." Slate has a good article explaining the final ruling which was announced last Friday:

The End of Limbo

Actually, the ruling is not all that surprising given the current Pope. In the mid-1980's Cardinal Ratzinger researched the concept at the behest of John Paul II and concluded that there was no real doctrinal evidence for the otherworldly realm into which people who were basically good but unbaptized would arrive upon their deaths.

I was raised ELCA Lutheran and attended an Episcopal high school, so the idea of a "realm of Limbo" has always struck me as a little silly. It is based on two pillars of Catholic theology - Augustine's concept of original sin and Jesus' statement that baptism was necessary for salvation. Augustine's theology is tenuous at best, and reading the Bible as literally as you would have to in order to treat the second point as an absolute you find that the consequence of Adam and Eve's original sin was mortality. This consequence was indeed passed down to their progeny, but it is not "wiped away" by baptism - after all, baptized Catholics still get old and die, right?

In fact, both the Genesis narrative and the words of Christ lend themselves to a more metaphoric reading. The legalism that necessitated the creation of Limbo is actually a rather narrow view of salvation, and it's good to see the Catholic Church putting forth this more reasonable ruling. Looking at his comments from the 1980's my guess is that Joseph Ratzinger has wanted to issue such a ruling for a long time and now that he's Pope he finally has the requisite doctrinal authority.

Technorati Digg This Stumble Stumble

No comments: