Saturday, October 07, 2006

Limbo: How Low Can We Go?

Well, it's not official, but it's looking pretty weak: Limbo is in limbo, as the popular headline goes.

I'm sad to admit that I didn't know the Church's International Theological Commission has been examining the concept of limbo for over a year, and that Pope Benedict is personally against the idea, calling it only a 'hypothesis.'

I also didn't know that limbo was never even an official doctrine, and that the 1992 revised official Catechism (not the scary hellfire-of-doom Baltimore Catechism) doesn't include the idea at all.

I think eradicating such a frightening and arcane concept is a good step forward for Church doctrine. Since time immemoriam, our R.C. faith has been governed by fear and recruitment sub-agendas. I can just picture gnarled old bishops cackling, 'Quick, rope them in before they die--it's still another notch on the pole!'

I mean, really, what a horrid concept to instill your followers---sad, lonely babies floating aimlessly in space, wondering what the hell just happened. It's completely counter to everything else we're taught (in my mind, the real core of our faith) about the infinite love, compassion, and mercy that is God. Such a divine being would never let any soul, no matter what age, be alone. My God pulls everyone into a huge, warm bear hug, and doesn't let go for eternity.

True belief and true belonging in a faith community requires much more than the simple act of baptism, anyway. It needs the Sacrament in every sense of the word---the grace, the discernment, the searching, the finding, and the ultimate fulfillment of 'coming home' to God.

A baby has absolute purity, yes. That alone should warrant heaven. (Besides, you can't walk around for nine months waxing poetic about this 'precious gift of God', and then condemn it to limbo the minute it arrives and departs without being baptized. Come on, people.)

And those of us who are blessed enough to live achieve a depth afforded by a lifetime of trying to walk with God. Even when marred by sin, as our lives inevitably are, our journey creates a certain purity all its own--more of a baptism by fire. Why should we ever shelve such God-sent growth in an empty, unfulfilling space such as limbo?

We've got bigger and more important issues to grapple with in the Catholic Church. Let limbo go by 2007, and let's get back to the real discussions.

[BTW, this story puts another point on the board for Benedict in my estimation. His decisions and viewpoints continue to surprise me, usually for better rather than worse. I don't know if it's because I had such low expectations at the outset that it's cake for him to exceed them, or if he is truly proving himself to be a thinking, feeling, pragmatic religious leader. I'm hoping it's the latter.]

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