(function() { (function(){function c(a){this.t={};this.tick=function(a,c,b){var d=void 0!=b?b:(new Date).getTime();this.t[a]=[d,c];if(void 0==b)try{window.console.timeStamp("CSI/"+a)}catch(l){}};this.tick("start",null,a)}var a;if(window.performance)var e=(a=window.performance.timing)&&a.responseStart;var h=0=b&&(window.jstiming.srt=e-b)}if(a){var d=window.jstiming.load;0=b&&(d.tick("_wtsrt",void 0,b),d.tick("wtsrt_","_wtsrt", e),d.tick("tbsd_","wtsrt_"))}try{a=null,window.chrome&&window.chrome.csi&&(a=Math.floor(window.chrome.csi().pageT),d&&0=c&&window.jstiming.load.tick("aft")};var f=!1;function g(){f||(f=!0,window.jstiming.load.tick("firstScrollTime"))}window.addEventListener?window.addEventListener("scroll",g,!1):window.attachEvent("onscroll",g); })();

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

"If you wish to be a Catholic, do not believe, nor say, nor teach, that infants who die before baptism can obtain the remission of original sin."

So says St Augustine. It is fashionable these days to dismiss the doctrine of limbo, to point out that it is no more than a Mediaeval Theological Opinion. This may be true, but if the overview presented by the Catholic Encyclopaedia is anything to go by it is the optimistic upper limit on theological speculation. If you want anything else it will have to be nastier. What are the consequences of ditching the apparently unanimous consent of the fathers and going for a more optimistic position than limbo? A wholly unprecedented claim is often bandied about at the moment that "no one will be lost without consciously rejecting salvation". That is to say: anyone who dies before the age of reason will be saved.

In order to remain faithful to the Church's teaching concerning original sin and uphold this new doctrine, one would have to suppose that children are conceived without sanctifying grace and, if they are un-baptised or un-evangelised but will reach the age of reason, live until the age of reason without sanctifying grace; and yet, those who will die before the age of reason without baptism or evangelisation (for it must be possible to receive propositional knowledge before reaching the age of moral responsibility) will have faith, hope and charity infused into them without a visible human act of preaching or baptism. As the non-evangelised world has not been and is not filled with five-year-olds tragically doomed to an early death but reciting the Athanasian Creed, the new doctrine must imply that the explicit belief required of an adult wholly ignorant of the Gospel to possess the virtue of supernatural faith does not exceed in any appreciable way what can be attained by natural reason. This would technically 'save' the doctrine of original sin, but at the price of making it trivial.

De facto the human race would be in the same position as Adam: they are definitely saved unless they perform an actual sin. Doubtless the conditions in Eden were more conducive to the avoidance of sin than those in the world as it now is, but this is not an essential point. There would in fact be no true distinction between the objective and subjective redemptions. All men would be saved from the moment of the crucifixion onward (and perhaps retrospectively too); the Catholic Church would provide helps to the avoidance of sin and the world would provide many occasions of sin, but as such man would be saved already. In fact, given that the failure to accept the Church's teaching would itself be a sin, it would be impossible to exclude in theory the possibility that the missionary activity might be counter-productive, providing numerous occasions of sin and imperilling the salvation of the virtuous pagan. The saving rump of the Church's teaching would be present in many other religions. What had been considered central - viz, the Trinity and the Incarnation - would be frills: true, but not important for the individual's salvation. The raison d'etre of the visible Church would have become very thin.

It seems to me that men are far more logical than may people or even the individual himself believes. Once a logical keystone is taken away from some intellectual edifice, very precise adjustments to the whole are made subconsciously without the individual ever noticing. Limbo is just such a keystone; false ecumenism and many other ills the Church is now facing are the consequences of the adjustments required by its removal.