Friday, December 30, 2005


Apparently the Roman Catholic Church is backing away from the concept of limbo. Limbo is a medieval workaround for the theological problem created by the doctrine that all humans are born into a sinful condition. Left to ourselves, without baptism into the community of the Church, we sinful creatures are naturally condemned to hell. But infants frequently die without the opportunity for active sin -- or baptism. So progressives such as Thomas Aquinas proposed that that there must be a sort of boundary state, limbo, where deceased innocents would live in "natural happiness."

This sort of effort to parse eternity is out of fashion in contemporary thinking and theologians have been convened to discuss doing away with the notion. Rev. James O'Donnell, provost of Georgetown University and a professor of classics, describes their efforts as essentially saying:

"Let's progress back to ignorance rather than remain mired in assertion that brings with it perhaps more complication and more trouble than it is worth."

This seems like a good principle that might be applied to some other forms of thinking.

We could progress back to ignorance and admit we don't know what combination of hydrocarbon emissions and industrial by-products will so damage our environment as to change our ecosystem irreparably -- so perhaps we should be very cautious about introducing any more of these pollutants.

We could progress back to ignorance and admit we don't know when life begins -- and people of good intention may differ. We could then work to make the lives of those who are unequivocally alive as conducive to both justice and kindness possible.

We could progress back to ignorance and admit we also don't quite know when life ends -- and so people of good intention may differ. RIP Terry Schaivo and all those others whom some would condemn to a "living" limbo.

Hat tip to The Revealer.

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