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Church banishes limbo
April 20, 2007 8:33 PM   Subscribe

An entire realm chained and locked shut. Who shall inherit all the lost souls? (Especially since it apparently contains everyone who died before the coming of Christ.)
posted by aletheia (83 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
So would I have been burned at the stake for denying the existence of limbo 500 years ago?
Oh and - LOL XIANZ
posted by 2sheets at 8:39 PM on April 20, 2007


It's like they just made the shit up

then *poof* its gone

just like your life, wasted to religion. . .
posted by four panels at 8:42 PM on April 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


And just what does the Pope propose we call that thing where they dance under the pole?
posted by CynicalKnight at 8:42 PM on April 20, 2007 [9 favorites]


Always did enjoy the tune about the limbo rock.
posted by mss at 8:44 PM on April 20, 2007


I'm really not trying to be a dick here--I work in a Catholic hospital--but c'mon. There is no mention of limbo in the Bible. It's too ficticious, even for Papa Ratcatcher.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 8:44 PM on April 20, 2007


Where's Jimmy Cliff gonna sit now?
posted by kuujjuarapik at 8:45 PM on April 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


So, do you round up or round down?
posted by ColdChef at 8:45 PM on April 20, 2007 [8 favorites]


Dante's great and all, but he's not considered to be an actual theological authority by anyone, to the best of my knowledge. He's more like one of those dudes on TV who only plays a doctor.

Honestly, though, this whole "all babies go to heaven" thing stinks of theological wimp-out to me. I thought you were hardcore, Pope Benny.
posted by phooky at 8:48 PM on April 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Can just see the pearly gates opening up now, letting in hordes of unbaptised babies. St Peter, smiling serenely, telling them that their long wait is over. The babies, crawling in on all fours and gurgling, having no idea what the hell is going on.
posted by kisch mokusch at 8:52 PM on April 20, 2007 [5 favorites]


...what the hell...

heh.
posted by niles at 8:55 PM on April 20, 2007


How about doing away with the concept of "going to hell"?

Afterall, look around.
posted by humannaire at 8:55 PM on April 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Yeah, this is lame. The worst part is that they explicity say "people find this part of our doctrine hard to swallow" - dude, that's why it's doctrine. Faith needs to be really difficult to maintain otherwise nothing seperates you from the unrighteous! It's a slippery slope... if you discredit a notion because it's unpopular you may start discarding them for lack of evidence, and we all know where that leads.
posted by phrontist at 8:55 PM on April 20, 2007 [3 favorites]


It said the study was made all the more pressing because "the number of nonbaptised infants has grown considerably, and therefore the reflection on the possibility of salvation for these infants has become urgent."

So it looks like the place was getting crowded with babies. Apparently these spiritual domains are not limitless but perhaps have something equivalent to a fire code imposed maximum?
posted by vacapinta at 8:59 PM on April 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


if you discredit a notion because it's unpopular you may start discarding them for lack of evidence, and we all know where that leads.

Cardinal Bernard Francis Law?
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 9:01 PM on April 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


ya know this is the kinda stuff you get when you try to apply logic to arbitrary fantasy.
posted by MrLint at 9:13 PM on April 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


gesamtkunstwerk: unlike protestant versions of Christianity, Catholicism has never particularly espoused the whole sola scriptura thing. The words, interpretations, & ideas of theologians, popes, etc. can be taken into account. Limbo wasn't the best of ideas, perhaps, but it was originally conceived as an attempt to deal with stuff that the Bible didn't really address, namely what happened to people who died (or, for that matter, die) without having heard of Jesus or having been baptized.
posted by ubersturm at 9:15 PM on April 20, 2007


First, let's get this straight: limbo was never part of the official doctrine of the Catholic church. (Like the article said.) What happened with this document was the Pope officially saying that this old speculation which never was part of the church's official theology never will be. It's a long overdue (IMHO) shutting down of the theological equivalent of an urban legend.

Second, I know how delightful it is to bash religious types. That's a game I used to play a lot, before I switched teams. But, good grief, all this HURF DURF WAFER EATER stuff is really getting ridiculous. If the Pope authorized a document saying limbo is now official RCC doctrine, you'd all be sniping about how ridiculous you think that is. If we can't have any kind of intelligent discussion at all of these issues, maybe we should just stop the Christianity-related posts. Everyone knows from the get-go that it's going to be another snarkfest.

To the OP: I do like your username. Hadn't noticed it before.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 9:18 PM on April 20, 2007 [3 favorites]


So does this mean they're going to stop opposing abortion?
posted by delmoi at 9:21 PM on April 20, 2007


Tommorow's headline:

NAZI POPE OPPOSES BURNING BABIES!

/one ticket please.
posted by delmoi at 9:23 PM on April 20, 2007


If I say it's silly to declare that bats are birds and whales are fish, that doesn't make saying whales are birds and bats are fish any less silly.

But if it make you feel better we can pretend we're talking about Scientology.
posted by words1 at 9:27 PM on April 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


If the Pope authorized a document saying limbo is now official RCC doctrine, you'd all be sniping about how ridiculous you think that is.

Well of course, both sides of the debate are ridiculous. The reason limbo existed in the first place was to avoid feeling bad about dead infants going to hell. Now the pope is saying that unbaptized babies get to go to heaven and we no longer have to figure out how to avoid imagining them in hell is ridiculous.
posted by delmoi at 9:29 PM on April 20, 2007


"If the Pope authorized a document saying limbo is now official RCC doctrine, you'd all be sniping about how ridiculous you think that is."

That's because to us poor unwashed heathens it sounds, well, so arbitrary. If the pope in the 15th century spoke for God, why would the message or the doctrine change in the 21st century?
You want to play your little make believe games and then whine like a baby when the obvious flaws in your logic are pointed out.
But if I was so damned sure about this whole god thing I would at least be a man about it and not cry in public because somebody made fun of me. Sheesh, they used to throw people to lions, now it's mean people on the internet. The horror.
posted by 2sheets at 9:33 PM on April 20, 2007 [3 favorites]


I'm glad someone took them. I love babies for a little while. They make funny faces and cute little noises. But for an eternity? That would drive me up the wall.
posted by gordie at 9:34 PM on April 20, 2007


If we can't have any kind of intelligent discussion at all of these issues, maybe we should just stop the Christianity-related posts.

Ok. I'm genuinely curious. Whats the definition of "children" in this case? Can a teenager be saved too because his parents never got around to baptising him?
posted by vacapinta at 9:40 PM on April 20, 2007


I'm prepared for the coming controversy because I read DC comics. Losing Earth-2 and the multiverse and hypertime were all blows to the doctrine, but we made it through.

This is what happens when a new creative team takes over a franchise. Gotta make some changes and shake things up a bit. Oh snap, limbo collapsed! I gotta pick that book up again!
posted by EatTheWeak at 9:44 PM on April 20, 2007 [9 favorites]


I don't think this is doctrine at all, I think it's budget cuts. Nobody ever mentions that Limbo is in fact like the coolest day care center ever. Everything Fisher Price or Playskool ever made is in there. It's like McDonalds Playland and TubbyTown and the Backyardigans neighborhood all rolled into one. And now they're being evicted! Now they're damned to sit on a cloud with a harp and sing about how great not sinning is, forever! What kind of eternity is that supposed to be for a baby?
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:45 PM on April 20, 2007


How does this relate to the concept of purgatory? I was just reading earlier today about the medieval Catholic Church's practice of charging folks to have priests say special prayers for the newly dead to help them work off their sins faster in purgatory (nice racket, thought Protestants of the time), so I'm curious if "limbo" is related.
posted by mediareport at 9:51 PM on April 20, 2007


First, let's get this straight: limbo was never part of the official doctrine of the Catholic church.

That may be true, but the concept of limbo arose as a logical progression from the concept of original sin (which as far as I understand, still is part of the doctrine of the Catholic Church - although please correct me if I'm wrong about that). So you want an intelligent discussion, write something thought-provoking, rather than getting fired up about a few jokes.

Do you think, for example, that this is the first step of many, and that the very notion of original sin will one day be scrapped by the Roman Catholic Church?
posted by kisch mokusch at 9:51 PM on April 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Give 'em North Dakota.

Er, wait, That's the new USA Muslim State.

They can have South Dakota.
posted by Balisong at 9:51 PM on April 20, 2007


And what about the virtuous pagans like Aristotle? They were supposed to be in limbo, too. Will they become heavenly day care attendants? A peripatetic La Petite Academy de Dieu?
posted by rdone at 9:56 PM on April 20, 2007


I'm sure that I speak for all six year old Catholic girls everywhere when I say, thank god. I always found Limbo to be a profoundly unsettling concept - I imagined Limbo to be a stratospheric layer filled with scared, lost babies just sort of floating around without anyone to look out for them. For little kids who lost infant siblings to miscarriage or pre-baptismal death, that's a horrifying image.

For me, rejecting Limbo was the first step on my path away from the Church, and religion in general. Grownups taught me about Limbo, but clearly didn't believe in it themselves.
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 10:11 PM on April 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


So there is no longer a delicious dish of shrimp, rice, okra, and other found items to be had?

Wish I had ordered it last time I was in the 74th Street Ale House...
posted by maxwelton at 10:23 PM on April 20, 2007


kisch, you are correct: limbo is the logical extension of the concept of original sin. As hellenistic philosophical works were recovered and the Scholastic theologians tried to come to grips with the fundamental inequity of damning souls that existed before the Redemption, it seemed better to posit a place where these souls--like Artistotle's--could hang out for eternity, sans the Beatific Vision, of course, but without the sorts of eternal torments that were imagined for the permanent residents of Gehenna. The notion of filing limbo with unbaptized babies is a later popular accretion: if original sin really applies, they're all screwed anyway.

It is my suspicion that the real reason why limbo was done away with was the need to accommodate the increasing numbers of innocent blastocysts generated by in vitro fertllization procedures. If the soul attaches at the moment of conception, and a blastocyst is done in for embryonic stem cells, does it not get to go to heaven, too? Does heaven now require a Petri dish zone in addition to a massive day care center?
posted by rdone at 10:24 PM on April 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


That may be true, but the concept of limbo arose as a logical progression from the concept of original sin (which as far as I understand, still is part of the doctrine of the Catholic Church - although please correct me if I'm wrong about that).

I wouldn't call it a logical progression. It was an attempt to figure out a way for infants to avoid Hell, if they died without baptism (and thus still carried the original sin)- a hope, not a statement. So again, this is another nail in the coffin of limbo as a cultural reference, but not a doctrinal change by the church.

Do you think, for example, that this is the first step of many, and that the very notion of original sin will one day be scrapped by the Roman Catholic Church?


I doubt it. I see this more as a manifestation of this pope's penchant for doctrinal clarity... we'll probably a lot of minor clarifications like this from his Rome. The Church has had hundreds of years to find and resolve doctrinal warts, with the predictable legalistic results. They already have caveats for those who die without having been shown the gospels, those without the faculties of reason, those who intend to get baptized but die before the ceremony is performed, and those that die unbaptized in the service of the faith. If a new problem spot crops up, they'll just add another.

That's because to us poor unwashed heathens it sounds, well, so arbitrary. If the pope in the 15th century spoke for God, why would the message or the doctrine change in the 21st century? You want to play your little make believe games and then whine like a baby when the obvious flaws in your logic are pointed out.

Again, did you read the article? I can't find anything in it, wikipedia, quick scanning of the Catholic Catechism or my own experiences with the Catholic Church to suggest that any popes ever accepted limbo. It was a theory proposed by St. Augustine to explain a doctrinal edge case, and given the natural hope of parishoners that little babies wouldn't go to hell, it proved to be a popular idea, despite it's lack of doctrinal approval.
posted by gsteff at 10:31 PM on April 20, 2007


In other news, tiny seismic tremors were reported in the vicinity of Ravenna, Italy, today. Witnesses at the scene say that they could distinctly hear what can only be described as "a rolling sound" coming from within Dante's tomb.
posted by shmegegge at 10:44 PM on April 20, 2007 [3 favorites]


gesamtkunstwerk: "I'm really not trying to be a dick here--I work in a Catholic hospital--but c'mon. There is no mention of limbo in the Bible. It's too ficticious, even for Papa Ratcatcher."

Uhm... I AM a dick, okay. Not gonna pretend otherwise. Have you read the thing yourself? Even the parts that ARE in the Bible are pretty fictitious. Even for a (albeit denominationless) Christiian like myself.

Coldchef: "So, do you round up or round down?"

Naturally, the modern catholic church is going to round down. This is all part of the Vatican's attack against women having the right to choose what happens to anything inside their own bodies. Take away Limbo, naturally a devout Catholic pregnant lady has no choice but to go to full term. Her God decreed it. And if the baby dies anyway before its christened, naturally that's because the mother wasn't worthy of God's love.

Man, I thought the protestant anti-abortionists were bad. They'd just shoot the occasional doctor in cold blood. Here the pope is shooting down entire alternate realities. I hope Saint Thomas Aquinas haunts Benedict and hits him upside the head with his own hat.

I can't wait till Pope Bennie takes a stand and tells us where all those unchristened babies' souls supposedly went. This should be amusing. Or it would, if he weren't more politician than pontiff. I doubt we'll ever get a real straight answer on this.

Fortunately for me I'm not catholic. I'm a SubGenius. In my belief structure it all exists. If you still want limbo, I've single-handedly moved it into the SubGenius dogma. How do ya get there? Well just take a left turn at Alberquerque, third star on the left and straight on till morning. Can't miss it. If you get to Neverland you've gone too far.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:51 PM on April 20, 2007


How low can you go, Pope? How low can you go!?
posted by kirkaracha at 10:57 PM on April 20, 2007 [5 favorites]


gsteff: "I can't find anything... to suggest that any popes ever accepted limbo. It ...proved to be a popular idea, despite it's lack of doctrinal approval."

I recently asked a buddhist why she believed in rubbing Buddha's tummy for good luck. Did Buddha ever go around when he was alive telling people to rub his tummy?

She didn't know. She just has always done it. Something in a theology or philosophy doesn't have to be accepted by its leaders to become accepted by the masses.

So what if Limbo is not Catholic gospel? Is wearing those stupid hats gospel? Is having sex with the choir boys gospel? Why must we get bogged down in semantics? Limbo exists if you believe it, and if you clap your hands Tinkerbell won't die. Every time a bell rings, an angel gets dysentery. Apollo Eleven happened on a soundstage. Hash is good for you. Reality is subjective.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:58 PM on April 20, 2007


The Discordians accepted Saint Nicholas when the Church booted him for the entirely petty reason of having never actually existed. We'd be more than happy to take Limbo off of Rome's hands.

Finally, a place for Dr. Van Van Mojo to stash his stuff...
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:38 PM on April 20, 2007


Mediareport: Limbo is something entirely different from Purgatory. The really simplified version of things is this: If you accept Christ as your lord and savior (and thereby repent of your sins) you go to Purgatory, in which you cleanse yourself of your earthly sins and align yourself with the will of God as preparation for admittance into heaven. I'm pretty sure this purgation is required of all human beings before entrance into heaven, vis a vis original sin (as well as simply by nature of having been an earthly being). If you don't accept Christ etc etc, you go either to limbo or to hell. If you are righteous and just, and just didn't accept Christ by circumstance (i.e. you didn't know better by way of being too young, living before Christ's time, etc) then you go to limbo. If you're not, well, then you know what happens.

rdone: I'm pretty sure virtuous pagans, at least the ones that lived before the coming of Christ, are thought to have been given access to heaven by way of Jesus' descent into hell during the three days between the crucifixion and the resurrection. See the Vatican's account, as well as the relatively interesting wikipedia article on the "Harrowing of Hell."
posted by gignomai at 11:44 PM on April 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


The value of real estate in Purgatory just went up.

And, let's not kid ourselves about "Oh, well, it was never official ..." The Catholic Church had centuries, centuries in which to shut down the "equivalent of an urban legend." And this was at a time during which the Catholic Church was not exactly what you'd call shy about stomping out heresies, doctrinal differences, etc. These folks put entire villages to the sword (God will know his own, right?) and then went to the trouble of covering it up, all over some theological issues. The idea that they somehow just let this one go for a while doesn't cut it with me and seems a lot more like weaseling.
posted by adipocere at 11:46 PM on April 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


adipocere, I think they didn't "shut down" the Limbo idea because it was rejected, it just wasn't accepted either. There is a big difference between not accepting something as doctrine and saying it's untrue. The church was open to the possibility that it was true, but hadn't made up its mind. Given that its not that important an issue, it makes sense that most Popes wouldn't bother to devote too much time to the issue. This Pope is a theologian, he cares about things like this, and so he decided to make it a priority.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:55 PM on April 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Obviously that should be "wasn't rejected", not was.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:03 AM on April 21, 2007


alla you whalebirds are batfish insane. alla ya.
posted by Hat Maui at 12:05 AM on April 21, 2007


As a "fallen Catholic", this just reaffirms my suspicion that a a lot of our doctrine is basically RPG with a multigenerational social threat of exclusion attached. My dad has a lot of faults, but he did good by telling me early on, "Watch out fer yer ma's Cat-licks. They're fullah beans, them."

(And I know that the nuns at the Cat-lick grade school must be busting thier colostomy bags over this. Serves 'em right, christ-hags.)
posted by maryh at 12:14 AM on April 21, 2007


Bighappyfunhouse writes "Cardinal Bernard Francis Law?"

That's Bernard Francis Cardinal Law, apostate. I don't care what liberal notions the New York Times wants to replace tradition with.
posted by orthogonality at 12:19 AM on April 21, 2007


I don't really understand a lot of the snark in this thread so far.

It seems to me that with his official fancy pope hat on, the pope and his inner circle of bishops have decided that they have a strong, precident-setting, divinely inspired belief that the all-loving god described in the new testament wouldn't doom good people to suffering just because of when or where they were born (even going as far as to counter centuries of under the table theology).

Even if you don't believe in the Christian or any other god (I don't lots of days), I don't see why you wouldn't be happy about a very influential leader over a large chunk of the world essentially saying as long as you're a good person, God's pretty happy with you, even if you never have a chance to espouse belief in him.

If it's nothing more to you than a bunch of media-visible old guys saying they personally think God's ok with unbaptised babies and people who never got missionaried, it's still humanity-positive news.
posted by Diz at 12:48 AM on April 21, 2007


Do you think, for example, that this is the first step of many, and that the very notion of original sin will one day be scrapped by the Roman Catholic Church?

I doubt it.


So do I (the article even makes mention of it).

But if you can still go to heaven if you've got original sin, but not personal sin (even if only under certain circumstances), then what's so bad about original sin? And why is it so central to the Catholic Church? Is it because it makes adopting the ways of Christ more essential (for salvation)? Or is there more to it than that?

[I would also note that (from some quick wikipedia reading) that it appears Jews do not believe in original sin. It's therefore possible to read the story of Adam and Eve, and not believe that we're born to be damned unless redeemed in life.]
posted by kisch mokusch at 1:19 AM on April 21, 2007


Sure, but what's the church's official position on Narnia?
posted by dgaicun at 2:20 AM on April 21, 2007 [3 favorites]


So much ignorance on display in this thread! Some historical background might help:

The doctrine of limbo was developed in response to the Augustinian doctrine of original sin (and its corollary, the necessity of baptism for salvation). St Augustine wrote that he could not determine precisely what the fate of unbaptised infants would be, but that they would 'beyond doubt be in eternal fire'. Many Catholic theologians found this hard to accept, but still wanted to hold on to Augustine's insistence on the necessity of baptism. So they developed the notion of limbo, as a way of safeguarding the orthodox doctrine of infant baptism without having to teach that unbaptised infants were condemned to hellfire.

In the sixteenth century (the period with which I'm most familiar) most Catholic theologians taught that unbaptised infants were excluded from heaven. Bellarmine (probably the most influential theologian of the period) held that 'infants dying unbaptised are absolutely condemned, and shall forever lack not only heavenly but even natural happiness', though he believed that their pain would be, at most, 'very slight and mild'. However, there were some theologians who argued otherwise. Cardinal Cajetan, for example, argued that unbaptised infants could be saved through the prayers of their parents, 'for it is reasonable to suppose that God's mercy will provide men, whatever their natural condition, with some means of salvation'. This view was not widely accepted, but at least it was never formally condemned. So there has always been a range of different views on this issue -- the Catholic scholastic tradtion has never spoken with one unanimous voice.

I'm not sure which is worse: MeFi atheists making silly jokes about the doctrine of limbo, or MeFi Christians pretending that it was never very important. To me, it's a deeply repulsive doctrine and I'm glad that it's been rejected. Good riddance to it.
posted by verstegan at 2:27 AM on April 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


it doesn't matter if Limbo was ever dogma or doctrine or, for that matter, dogtrine. Ratso's retcon just points out how supremely fictional any and everything outside the already-unreliable Gospels is. Catholicism today is the accretion of two thousand years of legend, tale, wishful thinking, and rationalization.

it's like lazy comic-book scripting:
"hey, we can't have The Pup in this issue 'cause back in issue 25, we said he and Dogman had been atomized by Ter-Ror."
"so what? it...let's see...it turns out they weren't atomized but had been pulled into the Null Zone at the last minute."
"by who?"
"ahhh...shit, I don't know...did we kill off Phantoma?"
posted by the sobsister at 4:50 AM on April 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


To use that analogy, it's more like comic-book writers still using The Pup even though some really popular fanfic killed him off.
posted by mendel at 6:13 AM on April 21, 2007


"The reason limbo existed in the first place was to avoid feeling bad about dead infants going to hell."

Well yeah, but it became a particularly compelling dilemma when all those unbaptised, indigenous populations were found in the new worlds by 16th century explorers. Even the Church then didn't want to be too quick to doom them all to hell.
posted by klarck at 6:18 AM on April 21, 2007


My idea.. we use this new doctrine, and combine it with the Bush administration's pro-life policies.. We convince W that now that limbo is gone, the only sure-fire way to save the billions and billions of non-christian babies across the world is to drop our restrictions that no U.S. federal aid can go to support family planning services.

The more non-christian babies that get aborted, the more souls we save. Otherwise they will end up all muslim or hindu or something. ewww.

Think about it, abortion AS evangelism.
posted by jlowen at 6:45 AM on April 21, 2007 [3 favorites]


Limbo was structurally unsafe and had to be closed down for its own good as evidenced by the Great Purgatory Stampede of ought-four.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:59 AM on April 21, 2007


It seems to me that with his official fancy pope hat on, the pope and his inner circle of bishops have decided that they have a strong, precident-setting, divinely inspired belief that the all-loving god described in the new testament wouldn't doom good people to suffering
Choose one to remove:
  1. "all-loving" in "all-loving god";
  2. "good" in "wouldn't doom good people to suffering".
One or the other. You don't get both.
posted by Flunkie at 7:16 AM on April 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


verstegan wrote:

So much ignorance on display in this thread!

I'm sure you meant that in the nicest possible way. ;-)

So there has always been a range of different views on this issue -- the Catholic scholastic tradtion has never spoken with one unanimous voice.

Like any religion ever does... they all splinter into little sects, bickering over imagined differences.

I'm not sure which is worse: MeFi atheists making silly jokes about the doctrine of limbo, or MeFi Christians pretending that it was never very important. To me, it's a deeply repulsive doctrine and I'm glad that it's been rejected. Good riddance to it.

There are atheists on MeFi? Perish the thought! Anyway, I vote for the Christians being worse. Who wouldn't? Hypocrisy is always detestable, especially when it comes to what I call 'salad bar Christianity' (I'll take Psalms but no Leviticus, thanks).

Personally, I think the whole thing is just as hilarious as the ridiculously childish notion of 'Hell' always has been. This IS Hell, kids, and Ratso is its latest in long line of men selected to stoke the fire.
posted by chuckdarwin at 7:31 AM on April 21, 2007


Ah -- dead babies. Dead Baby Jokes.
posted by ericb at 7:33 AM on April 21, 2007


Wasn't the concept of limbo really just created to fill in a few biblical logic holes and connect a few unanswered questions? I've always thought of limbo as more of fictional device that made for some great stories (and a great sequence in Beetlejuice). I didn't realise that the Church had actually paid much attention to it anymore.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 7:42 AM on April 21, 2007


The church pays attention to a lot of stupid things.
posted by Flunkie at 7:44 AM on April 21, 2007


mediareport, to add to what gignomai said, purgatory was like a waiting room for the not-quite-worthy. The nuns used to make us kids pray for the "poor souls in purgatory" to move them along faster in their soul cleansing. We used to picture a ladder and if we prayed a lot, we could move them on up. Rather boring, but you hoped that when you were stuck in Purgatory, some kids would be trying to get you out.

The nuns also made us go around the neighborhood to collect money to save pagan babies from winding up in Limbo. No Limbo? Damn, I want my money back!
posted by madamjujujive at 7:47 AM on April 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


I would also note that (from some quick wikipedia reading) that it appears Jews do not believe in original sin.

It depends on which Jews you're asking (doesn't it always?). Jews usually believe some variant of the following: original sin marked all human beings with the tendency to commit sin, but they are not indelibly marked by the original sin. (This is why substitutionary atonement, in whatever form, actually makes no sense in Judaism.) Moreover, humans are perfectly capable of keeping this tendency under check through the exertion of their own will--with, of course, an assist from religion.

(Other Jews wandering into this thread may wish to correct me...)
posted by thomas j wise at 7:49 AM on April 21, 2007


The nuns also made us go around the neighborhood to collect money to save pagan babies from winding up in Limbo. No Limbo? Damn, I want my money back!

madamjujujive -- silly girl. You should have just pocketed your coins back then. I suspect you also got duped into handing over your orange UNICEF box at Halloween, right?

A Day at UNICEF Headquarters, as I Imagined It in Third Grade
(UNICEF sits on a throne. He is wearing a cape and holding a sceptre. A servant enters, on his knees.)

UNICEF: Halloween is fast approaching! Have the third graders been given their little orange boxes?

SERVANT: Yes, your majesty!

UNICEF: Perfect. Did you tell them what the money was for?

SERVANT: No, sir, of course not! We just gave them the boxes and told them to collect for UNICEF. We said it was for “a good cause,” but we didn’t get any more specific than that.

UNICEF: Ha ha ha! Those fools! Soon I will have all the money in the world. For I am UNICEF, evil king of Halloween!

SERVANT: Sir . . . don’t you think you’ve stolen enough from the children? Maybe you should let them keep the money this year.

UNICEF: Never! The children shall toil forever to serve my greed!

(He tears open a little orange box full of coins and rubs them all over his fat stomach.)

UNICEF: Yes! Oh, yes!

SERVANT: Wait! Your majesty! Look at this! Our records indicate that there’s a kid out there—Simon—who’s planning to keep his UNICEF money this year.

UNICEF: What?! But what about my evil plans? I was going to give that money to the Russians so they could build a bomb!

SERVANT: (aside) I guess there’s still one hero left in this world.

UNICEF: No!

(He runs out of the castle, sobbing.)

SERVANT: Thank God Simon is keeping his UNICEF money.

SECOND SERVANT: Yes, it’s good that he’s keeping the money.

THIRD SERVANT: I agree. Simon is doing a good thing by keeping the money from the UNICEF box.

SERVANT: Then we’re all in agreement. Simon should keep the money.
posted by ericb at 8:00 AM on April 21, 2007 [3 favorites]


So, wait... babies go straight to heaven now? Whew, that's a load off my conscience.

/Fires up wood-chipper
posted by quin at 9:29 AM on April 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Right now some of the people in heaven are bitching about the influx of pre-0k n00bs.
posted by brundlefly at 10:43 AM on April 21, 2007 [3 favorites]


So do babies grow up in heaven or do they stay babies for all eternity? What about mental development? Does ongoing experience and interaction result in mature mind in an infant body? And what about things that involve both mind and body, like bladder and bowel control?
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:50 AM on April 21, 2007


"So much ignorance on display in this thread!"
Which is then followed up by a bunch of old men speculating about who gets to go to heaven so the proles don't have to worry their little heads about it.
Great Job!
posted by 2sheets at 11:22 AM on April 21, 2007


The entrances to hell remain untampered with.
posted by Anything at 11:24 AM on April 21, 2007


verstegan: So much ignorance on display in this thread!

Ignorance of religious nonsense is no vice.
posted by oncogenesis at 11:32 AM on April 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Great. Now where are the slaadi going to live?
posted by YoBananaBoy at 12:54 PM on April 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


So it looks like the place was getting crowded with babies. Apparently these spiritual domains are not limitless but perhaps have something equivalent to a fire code imposed maximum?
posted by vacapinta at 8:59 PM on April 20 [+]
[!]


As usual, vacapinta, your explanation points toward what I believe may be the real reason, which I would never been able to see without you, even when you think (may think, please pardon my presumption) you're just making a joke.

Most of the growth of the Catholic Church is now taking place in regions of the world with very high rates of infant mortality. If you're trying to convert people, you're going to have trouble with some family who've had a bunch of kids die, if the first thing they have to swallow is that the souls of their lamented dead babies are stuck in Limbo. With this change, that family is now much more likely to convert because of the comfort of the idea of the dead babies' souls in Heaven, rather than much less likely, as before.

In areas which are highly Catholic but have high infant mortality, such as many parts of Latin America, it has labor-saving features for a depleted priesthood (the Pope needs them in the US to gather all those donations), so that the remaining priests don't have to run around so frantically baptizing babies before they have a chance to die, not to mention reducing the chance some families may leave the church because of the cruelty of consigning their babies to Limbo, merely because the priest couldn't get there in time.

All in all, a clear gain in efficiency. Who says the Cardinals were merely getting senile when they chose a German?
posted by jamjam at 2:00 PM on April 21, 2007


And just what does the Pope propose we call that thing where they dance under the pole?

How about the Miracle of John-Paul?
posted by jamjam at 2:22 PM on April 21, 2007


Also, I'd like to note that I am neither a MeFi atheist nor a MeFi Christian. I'm a non-christian who has a healthy respect for and interest in christian theology. Crazy, I know.
posted by gignomai at 2:27 PM on April 21, 2007


Y'all rippin' on the Catholics for suddenly getting rid of limbo are off base. Ya see, they carefully constructed a probability sample of the souls of all babies that have died, including those aborted, and followed up to see where they were residing. After sampling nearly 300 souls, they found the lower 99% limit of the credibility distribution on the existence of limbo was less than 1%, so being good Bayesians as well as good Christians, they eliminated limbo from their model.

I love the way they use evidence to determine their theology. Ask me sometime about the transubstantiation experiments. Very clever methodology.
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:34 PM on April 21, 2007


Hmmm. I remember hearing that Limbo was out years ago, just like St. Christopher. It's hard keeping track of Catholic doctrine when 1) you're not Catholic and 2) you're not even a lapsed Catholic.

The concept of original sin obviously created Limbo, and anyone who lets go of their theological constructs and gazes into the eyes of a small child should have their doubts about that one.
posted by kozad at 3:24 PM on April 21, 2007


Hey, Mental Wimp, how about the transubstantiation experiments?
posted by Flunkie at 3:33 PM on April 21, 2007


Kozad -- Original sin is definitely involved in Limbo, but it's not as if limbo is just for little babies whose only sin could ever possibly be "original sin." Limbo is where everyone goes who doesn't believe in Christ (hasn't been "saved," in some current parlance), who is otherwise a good, virtuous person. And it's not like everyone who DOES believe in Christ automatically jumps right up to heaven, at least not according to Catholic belief -- you all still have to clean all that dirty earthliness off of yourself in Purgatory before you're fit to enter heaven.


What's always confused me, personally, is the idea that anyone would be stuck in limbo after the Harrowing of Hell (mentioned above). I mean, if Jesus made heaven accessible to souls in limbo then, it seems like that ought to be a permanent change. I wonder if the vatican talks about this in their theological argument for getting rid of limbo?
posted by gignomai at 3:51 PM on April 21, 2007


This worries me a lot.

I am really worried about all of limbo's Boggles, Chaos Beasts, Darkweavers, Dopplegangers, Elementals,Tempest Composites, Gibberlings, Githzerais, Gremlins, Hakeashar, Halflings of Barnstable, Chaos Imps, Khaastas, Lillends, Mimics, Minion of Chaos, Peltast, Petitioners, Phileet, Raggamoffyns, and Slaad jumping into the Prime Material Plane and ruining my my weekend. I hope someone from Sygil shows up and helps us clueless banish them.

Unless of course you are talking about the other Limbo, I tend to confuse my RPGs.

I was taught at age 6, by a Salesian priest preparing me for my first communion, that limbo was a fiction. But the hospital where I was born still has a priest on call to baptize babies the moment they are born. He was called in when my cousin suffered oxygen deprivation during birth, and doctors were not sure if she would make it. It seems that even after 50 years of Catholicism having dropped the teaching of the theory of Limbo (it was only a a hypothesis, The Vatican says), people still beleive it. I give it another 300 years before the hospital drops the practice.
posted by Dataphage at 3:54 PM on April 21, 2007


If God is unfathomable and beyond reason, what happens when one applies human reason to His works?

Hail, she what done it all.
posted by modernerd at 9:31 AM on April 22, 2007


Thanks to the folks who clarified purgatory and limbo. I think I side with the early Protestants who thought the whole thing was a ridiculous charade designed to get the Church more money (madamjujujive, petitioners used to have to *pay* priests to pray for the souls of their loved ones waiting to move on - you wuz robbed!).

So, wait... babies go straight to heaven now?

Apparently, the Pope's not sure about that one, but he's willing to go so far as to say he thinks maybe his God would allow that. Maybe.
posted by mediareport at 1:48 PM on April 22, 2007


I think I side with the early Protestants who thought the whole thing was a ridiculous charade

Actually, having a Purgatory makes a whole lot more sense to me than not -- why should we get to go to heaven just because we happened to die? There being a process that one goes through after death in order to achieve beatitude requires more specific dogma I guess, but seems a lot more respectable to me (and less prone to more generalized stupidity) than the "You die and go to heaven because, uh, Jesus loves you!" stuff I've seen from the Protestant side. (Someone correct me if I've completely missed some key theological point here).
posted by gignomai at 12:51 AM on April 23, 2007


Everyone's so concerned about the babies ... but what about the vampires? Where will they go???
posted by rottytooth at 6:16 AM on April 23, 2007




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