29 December 2005

Ian Fisher of The New York Times News Service, undertakes a thoughtful investigation of the Vatican’s plans to remove the theory of limbo from Catholic doctrine — a question that was discussed at this month’s meeting of 30 Catholic theologians who advise Pope Benedict XVI. Though the Pope has not weighed in on the debate as Pope, he’d long opposed limbo doctrine while a Cardinal, calling it a theological hypothesis rather than a definitive truth of the faith. Fisher traces the new concern over limbo back to two places: Benedict’s admiration for St. Augustine, whose “grim doctrine” of a strict divide between heaven and hell made no exceptions for unbaptized babies and pre-Christians, and, more recently, Pope John Paul II’s interest in the fate of the souls of aborted fetuses, whom he said would be waiting for their mothers’ apologies while “‘living in the Lord.'”