One of the numerous things that bemused me in Catholic grade school was the fate of “pagan babies,” as the nuns tended to call them. The story was that infants who died unbaptized ended up in limbo. That was part of the reason we had to raise money for missions. We needed to help save the pagan babies.
Now, however, the Vatican evidently has convened a closed door meeting of Catholic theologians who are discussing abolishing the concept. (Via The Revealer). Yet it seems to me that if you buy the concept to begin with, you face a new thorny theological issue: If not limbo, where? While word is pagan babies would now proceed directly to heaven, do departed Catholics really want to be rubbing elbows with the unbaptized and have pagans wandering around the place?
And mightn’t the babies be a bit concerned? After all, the Catholic Encyclopedia declares that “it may confidently be said that, as the result of centuries of speculation on the subject, we ought to believe that these souls enjoy and will eternally enjoy a state of perfect natural happiness[.]” I’m not quite clear on how centuries of speculation lead to something now being “confidently” said, but if eternal perfect happiness is a sure thing, why would the babies want to move?
Fortunately, the burden of this enigma rests with better (and less sardonic) minds than mine.
Theology is the effort to explain the unknowable by putting it into terms of the not worth knowing.
H.L. Mencken, A Mencken Chrestomathy