Limbo...A Kinder, Gentler Gawd?

So I’m watching the Today Show and a Vatican City scholar priest guy is talking about the church easing up on the Limbo thing because it sounds like way too harsh to send innocent unbaptized infants somewhere bad when they haven’t done anything wrong.

He’s saying they thought about sending them to the equivalent of “Hell Lite” where they wouldn’t be treated as badly as grown up sinners, but that still wasn’t kind enough.

Then he said they thought about sending them straight to heaven, but then everyone would say, “why bother to be baptized?”

So they’re looking for a gentle alternative. I guess my question goes to the Catholics in the crowd: How do you feel about (1) the Limbo thing, and how do you feel about (2) the “politically correct” church picking and choosing what to observe (or believe). Why limbo and not female priests? Why Limbo and not divorce? Why Limbo and not birth control?


I’m confused by your message, and I suspect you may be a bit confused, too. But I didn’t see the show you’re talking about.

“Limbo” is already a “kind, gentle place”, not “someplace bad” . It can be viewed itself, I suspect, as “Hell Lite”, where they wouldn’t be treated as badly as grown up sinners", although the nuns at St. Mary’s were always a bit vague about Limbo and what went on there. “Good” pagans, especially those born before the time of Christ, were supposed to be there, too. So the image to seem to have of Limbo as a bad place certainly isn’t supported by what I was taught in school.
Limbo lacks scriptural support. I think I finally learned where it came from when I stumbled across the notion of “Limbus Patruum”, the sort of vestibule of Hell where the Good Pagans went in some Medieval theologies and in Dante’s Inferno. There’s no tormenting going on there, and the chief defect is that you are separated from the Presence of God. At the End of Time those residing here were thought to be liberated and sent on to Heaven, or at least that’s my understanding.
I can’t imagine a Vatican expert saying that the Church is changing the reality of the afterlife. More likely he was saying that there was some alteration in the Church’s understanding of the way this all worked.

I would be generally opposed to the opinion that anybody in the Catholic church, up to and including the Pope, gets to decide where the souls of unbaptized infants get to go when they die.

I am slightly less opposed to the idea of the Pope deciding where baptized Catholic souls go, under the theory that the Pope selection process is to figure out who god wants to be the next pope, but I am under the impression that the whole purpose of baptism was to moot the point and dropkick them straight to heaven.

That’s about it for my understanding of Catholicism.

-Jesus Christ, as interpreted by George Carlin

I always thought that Heck was for people who don’t believe in Gosh.

I couldn’t find the Today Show’s account of it, but here’s another:

No, it’s for those that don’t believe in the Trinity (Gosh, Cripes, and the Holy Moley)

The truth is, we don’t know. I believe God is all-loving and would do right by unbaptized infants. Although Catholic, I think heaven is for righteous men of all faiths and there is no such thing as hell. But that’s a cafeteria Catholic viewpoint, obviously not Church doctrine.

I suspect most people, deep down, have the point of view of the protagonist’s mom in H.G. Wells’ In the Days of the Comet – there’s a Hell, but, goodness, nobody ever goes there.

(Except maybe a few Dudes like Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, etc.

Without actually seeing the text of the “Vatican City guy”'s remarks, I am not going to address them. However, Limbo has never been church doctrine, but theological speculation and it sounds a little bit like he was giving the history of the speculation, rather than decalring any current changes in church teaching.
(From the Globe and Mail link posted while I was digging up my citations, it appears that the Church is getting ready to officially declare that we ought to stop talking about it–which works for me.)

Originally, some theologians did wrestle with the conflicting concepts of the need to accept Jesus, in Baptism, for salvation and the problem with a just God damning infants and pagans to Hell when they never had the opportunity to accept or reject that salvation. From this developed the concept of Limbo, in which those souls would abide in a place with no torture or pain, but always separated from the presence of God. This place, Limbo (Dante’s First Circle of Hell), never made it into church teaching. All the ideas written about it were the result of theologians expressing personal opinions.

More recently, the church has decided that we really cannot know the mind of God on the issue and has stopped talking about it except when someone brings it up in a historical discussion.

The current Catechism, relying on commentaries regarding Pope Paul VI’s 1964 declaration, Lumen Gentium says:


Lumen Gentium, itself says, (among a whole lot of other things):

Well, without being able to link (maybe they’ll post it tomorrow?) I can just give you the gist of what he said. Basically, they’re talking about re-phrasing it. The church bought into it for a very long time, regardless of any biblical connection. And now they’re not exactly saying it doesn’t exist; the more or less want to make god appear to be more compassionate to innocent babies. Now…the situation still doesn’t bode well for innocents who aren’t catholic, but it makes the christian god sound a lot nicer than he did, say…last week.

AFAIK, Limbo has never been a thoroughly defined Catholic doctrine, but more of a permissible opinion. However, Limbo was not considered “somewhere bad”, just “somewhere less Good”. Unbaptized children & virtuous heathen did not suffer forever there, but neither did they advance in spiritual growth nor behold the Presence of God. Rather, they existed forever in a comfortable but incomplete state, the incompleteness of which perhaps the adults realized, but the children didn’t.

Fortunately, Christian theology- Catholic, Protty & Orthodox- also sees other options which make Limbo superfluous.

From the Globe and Mail link, it appears that they are not re-phrasing it so much as ordering off the table for discussion.

It has never been “taught” by the church (although I am sure that any number of teachers presented the speculation of theologians as part of the church’s belief) and now they are saying, “it was a bad speculation and now is not even up for discussion.”

If it wasn’t taught by the church, how do so many catholics know about it and presumably believe in it?

(And a lot of them read Dante.)

From the 1910 Catholic Encyclopedia: Limbo. Note that with the single exception of the Council in Florence–the meaning of which declaration is disputed–there is not a single reference to a Council, Synod, or promulgated dogma in the entire article. All the discussion happened among theologians without ever making it to the point of being accepted as Doctrine (and it remained in dispute, even among the theologians).

You must understand that Catholicism is taught by all Catholic parents as well as priests. That means that a lot of ideas which aren’t neccessarily part of our theology get passed around. These are often popular ideas, which preists are reluctant to quash because they have some support or logic, but aren’t accepted generally. Also, much of Catholic theology makes up the lower intellectual orders; it’s not things we believe for sure, and believing in them is not required by the Church.

Um…to me that sort of negates the purpose of bibles and spiritual leaders. If everyone just fills in the blanks with meaningless drivel, what’s the point? No one’s right and everyone’s making it up!

I’d like to add that every catholic I know believes in the Limbo thing. In fact, it’s so widely believed that I’d bet every last one of them thinks it’s written in the bible.

Nah, no one is saved until they die. Baptism is essential but living a moral life and being truly repentent when you don’t are pretty gosh-darn important too. If you’re referring to the “Pope deciding” who is a saint, there are a number of requirements apart from the Pope’s opinion that substantiate good-faith guess that someone is in heaven.

Until, of course, a Catholic attempts to hold to an umpopular yet theologically correct belief, at which time they will be dismissed as an unthinking minion of the Whore of Rome.

Catholics don’t surrender free will nor the responsibility to seek the truth when the water hits their heads. That being so, that means many of them will be wrong from time to time.