Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Kudos to the Catholic Church

Who ever thought I'd write a title like that? Credit where credit is due, though. I read this morning that the Pope is set to abolish the concept of "Limbo", the neither heaven-nor-hell place where Catholic doctrine dictates the souls of unbaptized babies will stay in perpetuity.

Ever since I was a child, I've been bothered by the concept of Limbo. How could God, who is benevolent and compassionate, not welcome the souls of innocent babies into heaven? Looking back, this was probably marked the first of many doubts I would have about Catholic doctrine.

And yet, I have to admit that one of my lingering concerns about not having the boys baptized was the tiny voice in my head that said, "What if you're wrong?"

The cynic in me wants to mock this about-face by the Church. Faith is supposed to be based on the word of God, and yet it was men who created the concept of Limbo, and men who have decided the concept is no longer congruent to our world view. (Men, I note specifically. Not women.) So because men pronounced it so, millions of souls of babies will be saved? Hardly.

Even more troublesome is this paragraph from the Ottawa Citizen's version of the story today. (I'd link to them, but they didn't bother to put the story in their online edition.)
Pope John Paul II pointed to the mistake of thinking of [Heaven, Hell, Purgatory and Limbo] as places, rather than states of being, said [theology professor] Mr Coyle, who doubts whether the [Vatican] committee would make a statement on how to "reroute" the souls in question.

To me, this is a huge reminder of the vast number of people who still take so much of the Church's teachings as completely literal. I can't help but laugh at the image of millions of unbaptized souls being herded from some cosmic waiting room into the garden of eternal salvation upon the signing of some Vatican writ. While I am happy to see the Church taking such public and important steps toward moderation, it's clear they still have a long way to go.

If we could just get some movement on the concepts of birth control, women in the clergy, assisted reproductive technologies and gay marriage, I could get the boys baptized with a relatively clear conscience.

I'm not holding my breath...