Exciting News for Virtuous Pagans — Agnostics Don’t Know and Atheists Don’t Care

Vatican abolishes the concept of limbo By Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times

ROME — Limbo has been in limbo for quite some time, but is now on its way to extinction. …

That could reverse centuries of Roman Catholic traditional belief that the souls of unbaptized babies are condemned to eternity in limbo, a place that is neither heaven nor hell, giving rise to the popular usage meaning “in between.”

Limbo is not unpleasant, but it is not a seat alongside God. [mjh: and you really do want the best seat for all eternity.]

In his 14th-century work “The Divine Comedy,” the Italian poet Dante famously placed virtuous pagans and great classical philosophers, including Plato and Socrates, in limbo.

Catholic doctrine states that because all humans are tainted by original sin thanks to the experience of Adam and Eve, baptism is essential for salvation. But the idea of limbo has fallen out of favor for many Catholics, who see it as harsh and not befitting a merciful God. [mjh: isn’t that convenient.]

Catholic conservatives criticized any effort to relegate limbo to oblivion.

Removing the concept from church teaching would lessen the importance of baptism and discourage parents from christening their infants, said Kenneth J. Wolfe, a Washington-based columnist for the traditionalist Catholic newspaper The Remnant.

It makes baptism a formality, a party, instead of a necessity,” Wolfe said. “There would be no reason for infant baptisms. It would put the Catholic Church on par with the Protestants.”

It would also deprive Catholic leaders of a tool in their fight against abortion, Wolfe said. Priests have long told women that their aborted fetuses cannot go to heaven, which in theory was another argument against ending pregnancy. Without limbo, those fetuses would presumably no longer be denied communion with God.
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Pope revises limbo, says there is hope for babies who are not baptized By Nicole Winfield

“If there’s no limbo and we’re not going to revert to St. Augustine’s teaching that unbaptized infants go to hell, we’re left with only one option, namely, that everyone is born in the state of grace,” said the Rev. Richard McBrien, professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame. [mjh: holy crap, there goes our monopoly!]

[Rev. Thomas Reese] said the document also had implications for non-Christians, since it could be seen as suggesting that non-baptized adults could go to heaven if they led a good life.

“I think it shows that Benedict is trying to balance his view of Jesus as being central as the savior of the world … but at the same time not saying what the Evangelicals say, that anyone who doesn’t accept Jesus is going to hell.”