Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Limbo in the news again

And what a take the Times has on it: all part of a competitive rush for the souls of infants in the developing world.

Do what?

Pope to win hearts and minds by saving souls of unbaptised babies. [Hat tip to Dogwood.]
All the evidence suggests that Benedict XVI never believed in the idea anyway. But in the fertile evangelisation zones of Africa and Asia, the Pope — an acknowledged authority on all things Islamic — is only too aware that Muslims believe the souls of stillborn babies go straight to Heaven. For the Church, looking to spread the faith in countries with a high infant mortality rate, now is a good time to make it absolutely clear that stillborn babies of Christian mothers go direct to Heaven, too.
Oh Lord have mercy. This is a news item? Or a column or op-ed piece? So that's why the Pope asked the International Theological Commission to look into the concept of limbo. Yes, so that we can finally compete with Muslims on this front. 'Cause you know, there are hordes of Muslim preachers out there in Asia going, "Become Muslim so your babies can go directly to heaven if they die!" One would think that Ruth Gledhill of all people would be a little more familiar with the development of Catholic practice since the Council ... which has nothing to do with Islam. Anyway, if he'd made up his mind, why ask his theological advisors anything? He's this autocrat after all, isn't he? Let him just sweep it away, and cue the theatrical music.

And what does "formally abolishing" mean? I think he's just going to accept the findings of the ITC and add a statement of his own. As far as I know, there's no Rite for Discarding Outdated Traditions and Outmoded Ideas.

And I love the breathless reporting: centuries of tradition being cast aside, like some old garment not quite in vogue anymore. Well, the limbo thing has been in the news before, not that long agao. Here's a summary from the WSJ by Ken Woodward from January.
But this is a case of a pope validating a change in the church, not creating one on his own. Time was when infants were routinely baptized at birth or shortly thereafter to ensure that they would not, through crib death or other misfortune, be denied access to heaven. Now, Catholic priests and parents wait weeks or even months to perform the ceremony--a clear sign that they no longer take the idea of limbo seriously. The limp reaction of the Catholic press--a nod here and there, but mostly a yawn--is further evidence that limbo has already died the death of indifference.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

When I was planning to fly home with my three-month old daughter for my sister's wedding, my mom made sure to remind me that I can baptise her "just in case something were to happen." Oh, I was also told that I should use some of the holy water my sister brought me from Lourdes. I guess she was using the idea that under extreme circumstances that we can act as the priest. Well, I quite frankly forgot to do it. So, before we took our return flight to Virginia, my mom and I took Allison into the bathroom, turned on the sink and baptized her. It never made sense to me that the most innocent could be kept out of God's eternal presence because someone else didn't do something. My mom takes the concept of limbo very seriously. I could have been annoyed over the whole thing, but I saw it as sweet and nurturing.

I'm not sure what my point is, but I guess I agree with the editorial from the WSJ. That concept died somewhere between my mother and me.