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It is evolutions like this one, which while supremely positive, give pause as to the "Godliness" of church doctrine. Essentially, because this practice has been unpopular, the church is now revising it. Is the impetus for this evolution coming from God? The article didn't say. If not, then how is the church justified in amending God's word in this way - however popular or logical? Shouldn't there be a tablet or burning bush or something to spark this change? Perhaps empty pews is the sign! Roll Eyes


Life After Limbo

Closing it will send more souls to heaven, but will baptism lose its primacy?

By DAVID VAN BIEMA


Forget about the cute headlines proclaiming that limbo is in limbo. In fact, limbo, the incomplete afterlife postulated by the Roman Catholic Church for infants who die before being baptized, is on the skids. After a commission of top Catholic theologians wrapped up a December conference that examined the topic, the prognosis was apparently grim: the group's secretary-general told Vatican Radio that the church's teaching on limbo was "in crisis."

Beyond being headline news (how often does a major faith admit to retooling its take on the afterlife?), the shift, telegraphed in the 1994 Catechism, should strike most believers as a very good thing. For centuries, Catholic couples lived in fear that in the tragic event that their newborns perished, the infants would go not to heaven but to a cheery yet inaccessible outer parking lot, a locale where they would enjoy eternal happiness but be denied the actual presence of God (and, presumably, of the parents, assuming they reached heaven).

That scheme had come to seem impossibly harsh. Says the Rev. James Martin, an editor at the Jesuit publication America who has performed many baptisms: "My idea of God is not a God who would condemn a baby to an imperfect life for eternity." Many priests have downplayed limbo out of similar concerns, and Martin lauds the Vatican panel for "bringing theological development in line with pastoral application."

Shutting down limbo also aligns nicely with the church's activism on abortion. On last week's Feast of the Holy Innocents--honoring children murdered by the evil King Herod--Pope Benedict XVI emphasized that the embryo is a "full and complete" human being, despite being "shapeless." If you are going to call a fetus' termination murder, then it seems somehow inconsistent to deny heaven to the blameless, full and complete victim.

In the finely balanced theological universe, however, it's hard to give in one area without taking away elsewhere. In this case, the loser is baptism--or at least the rite's broadest, bluntest definition. Limbo was conceived in the Middle Ages to solve a problem relating to original sin, the inherited stain of Adam and Eve's disobedience. Jesus' death on the Cross is understood to have relieved humanity of the burden of that sin, an immunity Catholicism still considers activated for each human as he or she unites with Christ in baptism.

The question arose, What about babies who died before they were baptized? The church father Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-430), applying more logic than compassion, said that without baptismal grace, they must go to hell. That proved too much for the theologians of the Middle Ages, who counterproposed limbo. The Protestant reformers eliminated it from their theology along with several other postdeath constructs, but it remained a looming staple of Catholic understanding. Says Martin: "I've rarely baptized a baby where [limbo] has not come up, at least as a joke."

Those nervous jests may now end. The original head of the theological commission that met in December was none other than Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, who had written years earlier that limbo was not actually church doctrine but only a "theological hypothesis." Elsewhere he called it "problematic." As Pope Benedict XVI, he will probably approve a document recognizing unbaptized babies' full entrée into heaven.

Yet in the absence of limbo, some theologians have noticed, the rite of baptism may not seem as imperative to many Catholics as it once appeared. Despite its continued centrality as the sacramental entry to the body of Christ, some of its ASAP urgency will presumably fade. Indeed, the expected limbo ruling comes in addition to an older decision that appeared to downgrade baptism's gatekeeping role. The Second Vatican Council of 1962-65 ruled that in the case of some adult seekers of God--even non-Christians--the desire for the divine could take the place of the rite. Or, as the author of the 2002 book God and the World noted, "men who are seeking for God and who are inwardly striving toward that which constitutes baptism will also receive salvation." The writer was, again, Ratzinger.

Together, these developments invite an investigation of baptism's importance beyond simply preventing the worst, and make a statement about the liberality of grace. Both the commission's work, which speaks for unbaptized infants, and the Vatican II language, which speaks for unbaptized adults, remind believers that, as Ratzinger wrote in a paraphrase of his predecessor John Paul II, Christians may hope that "God is powerful enough to draw to himself all those who were unable to receive the sacrament." Limbo was a vestige of an overfastidious exclusivity. Eliminating it affords a better view of God's many mansions, their doors wider than some of his followers have historically admitted.

© MBM

Original Post
quote:
Originally posted by MBM:
[i]It is evolutions like this one, which while supremely positive, give pause as to the "Godliness" of church doctrine. Essentially, because this practice has been unpopular, the church is now revising it. Is the impetus for this evolution coming from God? The article didn't say. If not, then how is the church justified in amending God's word in this way - however popular or logical? Shouldn't there be a tablet or burning bush or something to spark this change? Perhaps empty pews is the sign! Roll Eyes

Which of God's words are they amending?
But isn't this last response a contradiction to the original posting?

You wrote:
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It is evolutions like this one, which while supremely positive, give pause as to the "Godliness" of church doctrine...If not, then how is the church justified in amending God's word in this way - however popular or logical?
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Which assumes that everything that the Catholic Church says it says as if coming from God. But that is not the case. There are teachings that it has that it never says are from God. They are thoughts based on theology, conclusions on subjects held a bit loosely, but not so crucial that you cannot be a Catholic if you do not agree with them. Here is an excerpt from the conclusion of the Catholic Encyclopedia entry on the subject:

"We must not confound St. Augustine's private authority with the infallible authority of the Catholic Church; and...Finally, in regard to the teaching of the Council of Florence, it is incredible that the Fathers there assembled had any intention of defining a question so remote from the issue on which reunion with the Greeks depended, and one which was recognized at the time as being open to free discussion and continued to be so regarded by theologians for several centuries afterwards. What the council evidently intended to deny in the passage alleged was the postponement of final awards until the day of judgement. Those dying in original sin are said to descend into Hell, but this does not necessarily mean anything more than that they are excluded eternally from the vision of God. In this sense they are damned; they have failed to reach their supernatural destiny, and this viewed objectively is a true penalty. Thus the Council of Florence, however literally interpreted, does not deny the possibility of perfect subjective happiness for those dying in original sin, and this is all that is needed from the dogmatic viewpoint to justify the prevailing Catholic notion of the children's limbo, while from the standpoint of reason, as St. Gregory of Nazianzus pointed out long ago, no harsher view can be reconciled with a worthy concept of God's justice and other attributes."

The Catholic Church, then, has never seen the subject of Limbo as the Word of God or as God's words (which was kresge's point in his question), and thus makes the original question irrelevant, based as it was on a mistaken assumption. If you accept, as you did in your reply, that the subject of Limbo is not God's words, your whole objection has no point, since the Catholic Church agrees with you. Limbo always has been a thought, a concept, a conclusion, an extension of a line of theological thinking, but it has never been on a level with, say, the Bible.

Therefore, if the Catholic Church wishes to change its mind about Limbo, it is certainly entitled to do so, with no harm done to its teaching or standing as a part of the Church of Jesus Christ.
That seems rather beside the point. There are plenty of teachings that are not "inconsistent" with Scripture that are not in Scripture: the veneration of Mary, prayer to the saints, the infallibility of the Pope speaking "ex cathedra," the "filioque" clause of the Nicene Creed, are four examples. None of these are inconsistent with Scripture, but they are not found in Scripture and thus are not necessary to being a Christian. The Catholic Church holds them, and one can believe them without doing violence to one's Christianity, but they are not necessary. Therefore, to judge the Catholic Chruch as lacking authenticity or integrity because they change an unnecessary teaching seems to me to be using the wrong stick to beat this particular dog.

Now, about Limbo--the point of your thread:

The Catholic Church's teaching on Limbo they have long acknowledged is not a neccessary teaching. It is a conclusion based on the best thought that the medieval Roman Church could develop, but it was always a point of argument. So if they change their thinking on it, it's no big deal. They excommunicated no one because he thought that Limbo didn't exist. They didn't demand it as a condition of baptism.

Your choice of Limbo to criticize the Catholic Church was interesting because it was a tempest in a teapot.
quote:
Originally posted by Melesi:

That seems rather beside the point. There are plenty of teachings that are not "inconsistent" with Scripture that are not in Scripture:


Great. Are they consistent with scripture or not?

quote:
Therefore, to judge the Catholic Chruch as lacking authenticity or integrity because they change an unnecessary teaching seems to me to be using the wrong stick to beat this particular dog.


Unnecessary . . . interesting. It is "unnecessary" now because some old dinasours in Rome say it is. 100 years ago was it? Has God's word changed in those 100 years? Confused

The point is that religion can be as much about man's quest for power and control as about God and salvation. IMO this is an example of a foolish practice dying (thankfully) at the hands of the people.

Integrity? No - there are FAR meatier examples of the Catholics being out of touch than this: no women priests, abstinent priests, no contraception - including a ban on condoms when millions die of aids), no masturbation, being able to buy yourself out of purgatory, etc., etc.

As with this limbo foolishness, all of these other anachronisms will fall soon enough.
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Great. Are they consistent with scripture or not?
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Wrong question because it is too general. That they are not inconsistent means that they are consistent under the right circumstances or with the right and possible interpretation.


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Unnecessary . . . interesting. It is "unnecessary" now because some old dinasours in Rome say it is. 100 years ago was it? Has God's word changed in those 100 years?
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No--you're not reading. The teaching was never, ever considered by the Catholic Church as necessary. Not 100 years ago, not now, not ever. They have always said so. So this has no bearing on your last question about God's Word changing.


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The point is that religion can be as much about man's quest for power and control as about God and salvation. IMO this is an example of a foolish practice dying (thankfully) at the hands of the people.
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"Can be," yes, and the Bible shows that repeatedly. It should not be, but sinful people will do that. That's why we have to be on constant watch against it--especially in ourselves.

Your last statement is a speculation without causation.


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Integrity? No - there are FAR meatier examples of the Catholics being out of touch than this: no women priests, abstinent priests, no contraception - including a ban on condoms when millions die of aids), no masturbation, being able to buy yourself out of purgatory, etc., etc.
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These are not examples of being wihtout integrity. These are merely examples of issues with which you disagree with teh Catholic Church. Very well. The logical choice has always been open to you and to everyone else: don't join. These are consistent teachings held with as much principle as any that you hold.


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As with this limbo foolishness, all of these other anachronisms will fall soon enough.
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"This limbo foolshness" is according to your interpretation, which flatly contradicts the plain statements made for many decades by the Catholic Church about this, their own teaching. It was never foolshiness. It was an honest attempt to think through their theology.

Perhaps you shouldn't be so quick to prophesy, especially where your clear and obvious emotions are involved.
quote:
Originally posted by Melesi:

These are not examples of being wihtout integrity. These are merely examples of issues with which you disagree with teh Catholic Church. Very well. The logical choice has always been open to you and to everyone else: don't join. These are consistent teachings held with as much principle as any that you hold.


Principle? Since when is principle the guiding light of religion? Those people who committed suicide to link up with a comet about 10 years a did so out of principle. So what?

For the sake of argument, whether you believe the argument or not, could you concoct a logical religous argument against condoms in a world where millions upon millions of people could save their lives with them?
I think that you are changing the definition halfway through the argument. My point was that the Catholic Church holds the teachings that it does out of principle. You and I do not agree with all the teachings or with all the principles. Very well. That still does not make those beliefs unprincipled. You have yours, the Roman Catholics have theirs.

As for constructing ("concocting"? Your biases are showing again) a consistent and logical theological argument against condoms, sure, but the Catholic Church has already done that. I doubt that my doing so would make any difference to you, especially since it would no doubt look very Catholic. I would not agree with it,now, and so I can only hope that I would do the argument justice, but given the worth and importance of human life, and given the Catholic idea of the sovereignty of God, then condom use is a denial of God's role and rule in your life, and the denial of life to those children who would be born if condoms were not used.

The Catholic argument is an argument for life and living. AS to diseases like AIDS, there is a simple answer to that one. It's just one that most people do not wish to hear and to follow.

I saw a cartoon some years ago in which a young man asked his grandfather, "What did you wear to prevent sexually transmitteed diseases?" Grandpa answered, "A wedding ring."

So the problem with AIDS is not just condoms or the Catholics. The principles of the Catholic Church are not absent just because we disagree with them.
Melesi - becuase something is done out of principle does not say anything about whether it is right or just or valid. Principle can be wrong, immoral, even sacrilegous.

Also - the argument about condoms is wanting. On the one hand you value the human decision to marry or abstain, yet you do not value the equal human decision to use equally man-made "tools" to prevent unwanted pregnancy and disease. In each instance, someone is making an affirmative decision to do something. Why is it appropriate to do some things and not others to effect the same outcome?
MBM,

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becuase something is done out of principle does not say anything about whether it is right or just or valid. Principle can be wrong, immoral, even sacrilegous.
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Does this include our principles, too? If so, how can we discern between the good ones and the bad?

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Also - the argument about condoms is wanting. On the one hand you value the human decision to marry or abstain, yet you do not value the equal human decision to use equally man-made "tools" to prevent unwanted pregnancy and disease.
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Perhaps, but you seem to be forgetting the constraints on this argument that you made:

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For the sake of argument, whether you believe the argument or not, could you concoct a logical religous argument against condoms in a world where millions upon millions of people could save their lives with them?
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For the sake of argument, I did so as you requested. I also said:

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I would not agree with it,now, and so I can only hope that I would do the argument justice
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It is not my argument. It is the Catholic argument. I fear that I could not be a Catholic, so I have to make Catholic arguments with a certain tentativeness, for I could very likely get the nuances wrong. Still, I think I got the hub of their argument.

You may not agree with the argument, but it does have the virtue of consistency and logic. Your rebuttal does not deal with logic, which your previous post asked for. You disagreed with the argument on the basis of what appears to be utilitarianism, that is, on the basis of a different philosophy. Very well. But your choice of a different first principle does not negate the argument, for you do not demonstrate the validity of that principle, whatever it may be. It seems to be a utilitarian principle (which could be evil, according to your previous post), but you do not explicate it.

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Why is it appropriate to do some things and not others to effect the same outcome?
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That's put a little generally. The short answer would be, "Because some things are evil." It depends on what those "some things" are. To the Catholic way of thinking,

1. Human life is supremely important, second only to God
2. Many solutions that we manufacture are wrong, based on selfishness and not on love. The refusal to learn self-control and self-denial is a clear example of that.
3. Condom usage is an attempt to:
A. Thwart God's will in the making of human life
B. Replace God's deciding with our own, which is the sin of pride.
C. Avoid self-control.

Therefore, condom usage is a worse decision than abstinence.

Whatever else we may think of it, it is logical.

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