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Limbo! How Low Did They Go?

pretty damned low

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, April 25, 2007.

I used to work with a crazed Catholic. By this, I don’t mean religious or excessively so, or devout, or kind, or even very Christian. I mean he actually gave a rat’s posterior not only about the angel population of pinheads, but what they wore as they waltzed and their gender, if any. When I got exasperated in argument about notional concepts like angels, he provided me with the English translations of books that were written by the members of the Vatican Curia. Pinch faced rats in Roman collars on the flyleaf, with bright intense eyes that produced volume upon volume of absolute twaddle in mind numbing detail that was impossible to laugh at. We don’t laugh at the insane as a society.

I do, but that’s just me. While my disgust with religious nitwits includes all religions, there was something about the surety and insanity of those books that elevates them beyond the most bacteria inflamed brains of Islam or Judaism, and give the multi-level marketing scams of America’s braying Protestant churches a run for their money.

In 1965, I believe, the Roman Church weighed nineteen hundred and thirty two years of evidence and concluded that the Jews hadn’t killed Jesus, and that they were innocent of the crime. The aural landscape remained devoid of slapped foreheads, except in the more sinister cul-de-sacs in France and in the inner book storage units of the Vatican, populated by rat faced men with insane eyes, that is, where a small but vibrant counter-revolution puttered along, issuing screeds and arguments that once allegedly prompted Pope Paul the VI to whisper: “They’re crazy, these people.” His remark was devoted exclusively to the far right French church, but when in Rome, even parenthetically…. Um. Well, let’s pretend he meant the Vatican rodents as well.

Last week, the Vatican – apparently with a straight face and with all the swinging smoke lamps and rumbling acappella male choirs – announced to a tense world that the concept of Limbo was, um - how to put this - a notion without turgor. A concept whose time had passed. An idea without merit. It cannot be a viewed as an actual mistake, because Popes are infallible in such matters, and the Church is the living spirit of Christ, after all, but as of that moment Limbo ceased to exist.

For those unschooled in such essentially recondite matters that unaccountably affect your soul’s eternal zip code, Limbo was the place envisioned between heaven and hell where unbaptized babies would go. Eventually, it was the place that anyone who was righteous but not baptized could go, but don’t get your hopes up. You see, babies or anyone not baptized bear the original sin, which prevents their joining God in heaven. None of this is anywhere in the Bible, of course, but emerged from the demented mind of Augustine of Hippo, who I envision as Father Rat. I call him this because, among other unchristian conclusions, he felt that infants denied baptism must be punished with hell’s fire, but with what he called "mildest condemnation," apparently just a light eternal blistering for being born and having the bad taste to die before being baptized. Suffer the little children, indeed. Some more.

It took a real deep thinker, this time Thomas Aquinas, to flense a distinction for newborns. This great man thought unbaptized infants couldn’t go to heaven, but it might be unfair if they suffered. So, those who we laughingly call theologians settled on the idea of Limbo. This was widely accepted, and Dante depicted Limbo in his Divine Comedy. Noah and Moses are there, along with Aristotle and, eh, Saladin. Saladin was the Muslim warlord who defeated Richard the Lionhearted on the Third Crusade. He’s in Catholic Limbo. Hey, I only report, you decide.

This was announced last Friday, when the news cycle could be hoped to let it lay, but since the Catholic Church has admitted that ten percent of its priests were sexual predators on both genders, and the Pope brought Cardinal Law to Rome to avoid arrest and questioning, and because said Church doesn’t hesitate to point out the splinters in our eyes, I thought it might be fair to call attention to one of the serious Sequoia log jams that affect their vision.

Although I don’t think any Protestant Church officially believed in Limbo, this monumental downsizing of the Afterlife Eternal Alternatives has to have an affect on all Christians, because Christianity is a linear concept. A beginning, middle, end. In the East, where cyclic concepts and thinking predominate and from which Christ himself arose, they have small problems handling conceptual dichotomies, but once an error or a change in linear thought is made, the whole concept is open for destruction. What they can’t deny, like the Papal Schism, they ignore. When their logic provides them with problems like imperfect planet movement or damnation of the utter innocent, they insert absurdities like epicycles or Limbo.

I’m an atheist, but I dare you try to convince me Christ would exclude infants from heaven. I doubt he could listen to these absurd constructs without losing it. If Christianity means anything, it means the most utter innocent get bumped to the front of the heaven line. That this is open to discussion has always damned the whole thing to me.