If Limbo Is Gone -- Then It's On to Universal Salvation

July-August 2007By Dale Vree

Dale Vree is Editor of New Oxford Review

The International Theological Commission, a committee of 30 theologians who advise the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued a document titled The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die Without Being Baptized (April 20, 2007). The Commission's findings are not official expressions of the Magisterium, and they are not authoritative. But this document was signed by Pope Benedict XVI. Who knows what that means?

On the one hand, this document says, "This theory [Limbo]...never entered into the dogmatic definitions of the magisterium.... It remains therefore a possible theological hypothesis" (#1). On the other hand, it says, "This document...[is] speculative theology..." (#1) and is a "theological opinion" (#40). The document also says, "The church does not have sure knowledge about the salvation of unbaptized infants who die" (#79), and "We emphasize that these are reasons for prayerful hope, rather than grounds for sure knowledge" (#102). But the document essentially comes down on the side that there is no Limbo.

You can believe in Limbo -- or not.

The document says that babies who have not been baptized go to Heaven because they have not committed any personal sins. They are not deprived of the beatific vision of God. But this document also says that everyone -- babies and adults, good people and bad people -- is entitled to salvation. Huh? We hear echoes of Hans Urs von Balthasar.

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Is Rich McBrien one of those advising theologians? How about Andy Greeley? Posted by: gespin3549
July 23, 2007 05:10 AM EDT
We are living in a time, sadly, where the Catholic Church is basically in ruins due to the allowance of dissent with impunity. Catholics today have to educate themselves about the faith in order to separate the wheat from the chaff.

God is not bound by the Sacraments, as Saint Thomas Aquinas said. But He did institute the Sacraments for a specific reason, especially Baptism, the necessity of which is clearly indicated via His Inspired Word in Sacred Scripture that is Church dogma.

We get into problems when the exception becomes the rule. I want to stay with the Catholic basics and get away from arguments regarding the worth of different conflicting opinions of Church fathers, and what councils said or did not say. I ask a simple Catholic question.

Why would the omniscient God go out of His way to cause more confusion in a Church already rife with it by disregarding a long held teaching that is solidly based on doctrinal teachings? That the unbaptized will not suffer the pains of hell but rather attain the same paradise that the Good Thief did on the day that he died, a paradise that Jesus visited on the same day that He died, if I recall the traditional Catholic teaching correctly, and I think that I have, makes perfect Catholic sense! Were all those who died prior to the necessary redemptive death of Jesus on the Cross suffering the pains of hell? Not if the Bible can be believed, i.e., Jesus would not have transfigured Himself with those who were damned! Where were they if not in the Limbo of the fathers which is also the Limbo of the infants? We are on thin ice, are we not, if we start saying that exceptions are rules? What some might perceive as being cruel, a traditional Catholic reflecting on centuries of Church teaching sees as the Mercy of God to be consistent with His Word! And is not the worth of Catholic teaching its accepted belief over such a long period of time? That used to be a Catholic “rule-of-thumb.”

The heretical apostates like Notre Dame's McBrien, are already having a field day with what he considers the complete denial of the Church teaching on Limbo, which actually was not the case, but nonetheless widely reported as such, which opened a needless Pandora’s theological box allowing for such fallacious conclusions. As a consequence, McBrien has already denied Original Sin based on this saying Baptism is only necessary as a rite of initiation. Would God have intentionally sought to cause more confusion in His Church by giving the apostates more fodder to put souls at risk of eternal perdition? I do not think so.

One can easily say that the traditional teaching on Limbo is only the opinion of a Church father, a council, or a pope, which does not make it doctrinal. Does that not equally apply to the opinion of Benedict XVI in regard to the approval of the recommendations of the ITC, a body whose recommendations, thank God, are not doctrinal per the sorry recommendations of a similar one to Paul VI for the acceptance of contraception?

John Paul II saw no problem with the approval of giving a forum to the "great thumb," and incensing an idol on the altar of a Catholic basilica, which was subsequently severely damaged by an earthquake, at events where Catholicism was publicly reduced in a syncretistic indifferent sense to be no more important than a myriad of religions worshipping false gods. Does that mean that what is left of the faithful also should see no problems with the Assisis, or the subsequent spectacle of the Vatican repeatedly congratulating the non-Catholic world on the feast days of its false gods in the name of an ecumenism-run-amok that replaces necessary conversion with dialogue ad nauseam? This is in direct conflict with Jesus, Who at the end of Matthew’s Gospel, told His disciples to convert the whole world to the one true faith for salvation’s sake! Benedict XVI, as Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the CDF, saw no problem with Cardinal Kasper saying that the Jews can still wait for the Messiah, when he, not only, did not repudiate Kasper, but also went through when can only be accurately described as a tortured defense of Kasper. To the best of my knowledge, Kasper’s non-Catholic opinions, to particularly include no longer seeing the necessity for conversion per Vatican II, are still on the books having not been corrected by the Pope. Does that mean that what is left of the faithful have to believe that the Jews can still wait for the Messiah?

The problem that I have with the arguments pro the Pope's "approval" of the ITC, implying that Limbo is no longer, in the minds of some, or should have never been a teaching in the first place, in the minds of others, is that what they say regarding the previous popes not declaring something doctrinally somehow carries less weight than the current one who equally has not declared something doctrinally via Limbo! I do not understand that. Popes are not infallible when it comes to their personal opinions, per the previous examples. Thus, I see no problem with what is left of the faithful believing in Limbo.

The bottom lines for me are two things. 1) The argument cannot be made that the teaching of Limbo can be dismissed out of hand because it never was doctrinal, when those who would dismiss the teaching are similarly doing so on nondoctrinal statements. That is a violation of the fundamental philosophical principle of non-contradiction, i.e., something cannot be, and not be, at the same time in the same respect which basically reduces to, you cannot have it both ways. 2) The teaching in favor of Limbo IS based on sound doctrinal statements, i.e., Catholic dogma, while the teaching against Limbo is based on hope alone. There is nothing wrong with having hope on the Mercy of God, but God's Mercy is meaningless without His Justice. As a Catholic I would prefer not to run the risk of error here by ignoring the very Catholic consequences of Catholic doctrine that makes perfect Catholic sense in accord with the Great Tradition of the Church rooted in Sacred Scripture.

Posted by: stlouisix
July 27, 2007 09:26 AM EDT
I was unaware of this international group that advises the CDF - thanks for the information.

As for this document... Whatever be its source, when the sovereign pontiff fixes his name thereto, it acquires a character that makes the personal authority of its source irrelevant.

One may rightly ask about the weight that the Holy Father intended to give the document, but that matter is settled when one discovers the juridical category that is ascribed at the head of the paper. To leave that out is to mislead the reader.
Posted by: cocol
July 22, 2007 03:20 AM EDT

I agree with much of what you say (belatedly).

Remember this: a pope or bishop is a man like you are I; he lives, breathes, and dies.

No one ever said even a pope is perfect. Peter denied Christ three times, and he was the first Pope.

You know, I really, really like Benedict, but I think he is tainted by his time as a peritas at VII (that legitimate, but misleading pastoral council). The Peritii from that unfortunate epoch can't seem to come to grips with the fact that VII is now the dinosaur, and Trent is the ever old ever new reality of the Church.

I think Lefebvre might be made a saint someday....
Posted by: conlee
September 29, 2007 01:53 AM EDT
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