By Greg O’Brien, Codfish Press
As one year ends and another begins, the Catholic Church—in what may be an act of papal clemency—is showing signs it may ultimately abandon Limbo, the neutral resting place of unbaptized infants and hallowed unbelievers where souls, according to a definition in Wikipedia, “are denied the beatific vision, but saved from the torment of hell.” Dante, however, in his Divine Comedy depicts Hades as the “first circle of hell, located beyond the river Acheron, but before the judgment seat of Minos.” Not the kind of place to recharge your batteries.
Braced by the faithful’s growing disparagement of Limbo, 30 of the world’s top Catholic theologians met recently in the Vatican to ponder this netherworld of original sin to discern if it ever existed. Church tradition says yes; Scripture says no.
Even Pope Benedict XVI has his doubts. “Limbo has never been a definitive truth of the faith,” Benedict, quoted earlier this week in a New York Times report on the state of Limbo, said 21 years ago as a cardinal. “Personally I would let it drop, since it has always been only a theological hypothesis.”
That’s good news for me! The oldest boy in a family of ten, I had two brothers—Gerard and Martin—who died, sans Baptism, as infants. Hope the get-out-of-jail cards come soon, and they tiptoe past Purgatory.
But what about all those less fortunate people and issues left in Limbo on the lip of a new year. The list is wide-ranging, from the solemn to the sublime—an eclectic inventory:
- Scores of thousands of people left homeless in 2005 in the wake of the Asian tsunami, the earthquake in Kashmir and hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The billions raised for relief are impressive, but much more will be needed in both money and emotional support.
- The nation of Iraq as it absorbs the bitter fruits of democracy
- Iran and Korea as they plot their nuclear futures
- Americans who were spied upon by their own government, under the wide swath of an eye-raising Big Brother-Big Sister eavesdropping program
- A nervous world wondering if the Avian Flu has wings
- Medicare/Medicaid recipients turning blue over cuts in benefits
- A solar system apparently not what it’s cracked up to be, with astronomers discovering at least eight other planet-like objects in wobbly, distant orbits.
- The mother of all creeps, Saddam Hussein, as he awaits a bus for hell
- Texas Congressman Tom DeLay in legal limbo over allegedly directing corporate donations to Republican candidates running for the Lone Star state’s legislature
- And finally George Bush on a New Year’s break in Crawford, brooding over issues of the nation and the world, and consuming a book on Theodore Roosevelt, “When Trumpets Call.”
On that note, may we all find rapture from Limbo in 2006.