After several years of study, the Vatican’s International Theological Commission said there are good reasons to hope that babies who die without being baptized go to heaven.
In a document published April 20, the commission said the traditional concept of limbo — as a place where unbaptized infants spend eternity but without communion with God — seemed to reflect an “unduly restrictive view of salvation.”
The church continues to teach that, because of original sin, baptism is the ordinary way of salvation for all people and urges parents to baptize infants, the document said.
But there is greater theological awareness today that God is merciful and “wants all human beings to be saved,” it said. Grace has priority over sin, and the exclusion of innocent babies from heaven does not seem to reflect Christ’s special love for “the little ones,” it said.
“Our conclusion is that the many factors that we have considered … give serious theological and liturgical grounds for hope that unbaptized infants who die will be saved and enjoy the beatific vision,” the document said.
“We emphasize that these are reasons for prayerful hope, rather than grounds for sure knowledge,” it added.
This is creepy on so many levels.
The implication of the article is that the VITC is a group of scholars whose members have some sort of expertise that allows them to address this question in a serious way. But there is no indication of what, exactly, the commission studied to reach its conclusion. On what basis do they conclude that limbo represents an unduly restrictive view of salvation? One suspects that there is no basis. They are simply making it up as they go along.
Then we hear about greater theological awareness regarding God’s mercy. Again, from where did this awareness come? Several years of study were insufficient to resolve the question of where dead babies spend eternity. Must be a difficult question indeed.
It gets creepier. After all these centuries, why did the Church pick now for it’s intensive, multi-year study of the question of where babies go when they die?
The commission’s document said salvation for unbaptized babies who die was becoming an urgent pastoral question, in part because their number is greatly increasing. Many infants today are born to parents who are not practicing Catholics, and many others are the unborn victims of abortion, it said.
Confronted with a rising number of dead, unbaptized babies, the Church believes the proper response is an intensive theological study of how God treats their souls in the afterlife. Charming folks.
Atheists are frequently lectured about the subtlety and nuance of religious thought. Sure, there’s the ignorant fundamentalist kind of religion that is deservedly criticized. But there is also the enlightened kind, the kind that’s not so easily dismissed. Devotees of this kind of religion are also fond of speechifying about the wonders of humility, and of how scientists should not be so arrogant to think that their methods are the only route to truth.
So what, then, am I to make of this news report? How should I regard the spectacle of grown men not only discussing the question of the disposition of baby souls in the afterlife, but actually claiming these deliberations give them some basis for a conclusion on the matter? (At least they’re humble enough to admit they have not reached a state of sure knowledge on this question). What could possibly be more arrogant than claiming, on the basis of a handful of ancient documents and centuries of groundless tradition, that we know something about the disposition of our souls in the afterlife?
Does this represent the enlightened sort of religion? The kind I’m supposed to respect? Or is this the foolish sort of religion? It’s so hard to tell the difference.