By now I'm sure you've all heard the news. Limbo is gone. Again.
I have to admit, I'm confused. I didn't know Limbo had re-opened again in the first place. I thought it was closed for the second time back in the sixties, even though not long ago I heard good old Mother Angelica do a whole show about how stupid it was for anyone to think there was no Limbo. I was only half paying attention to the program because Sister Mary Fiacre identifies with Mother Angelica on some level and was being noisy about it. Perhaps Mother Angelica looks like someone Sister Mary Fiacre once knew. I'm not sure what Sister Mary Fiacre was trying to say. Perhaps it was, "Mother Angelica, PLEASE, we closed Limbo back in the sixties!"
I've also read this stupid remark, "Limbo is in limbo." No, it's not. It's gone. Again.
1. Limbo was never doctrine in the church. It was an idea that was bandied about by St. Thomas Aquinas because he was worried about what happened to all the little unbaptized babies and the Aborigines who died with Original Sin on their souls. "Hmmmmm, " thought Thomas, "Surely the innocent and the un-Catechized would not go to hell with all the other unbaptized people who knew better but were too lazy and sinful to be baptized? But you can't go to heaven if you're not baptized. " So, Thomas surmised, God must have some really nice place for them to go. All the little babies and their Aborigine baby sitters. They would all be happy, but they would never see God.
Although Limbo was never really doctrine in the Catholic Church I can tell you for a fact that for a very long time not many Catholics knew that. All the nuns I knew, the ones who taught me, the ones with whom I taught, right up to good old Mother Angelica, never mentioned anything about Limbo being just an idea. They taught us about Limbo, period.
2. There was a Limbo before that Limbo. It's where everyone who died before Jesus opened the gates of heaven landed. That's what Jesus was doing on all day on Holy Saturday while he was dead. He went to Limbo and let everyone out. That's what we mean when we say "He descended into Hell". We don't really mean "hell", we mean the "Limbo of the Fathers."
It must have been really weird for Judas to arrive in the afterlife just as Limbo closed and hell opened. One of the other things my grade school nuns taught me as though it was a fact was that Judas went to hell because he hanged himself and suicide is a mortal sin. (They shouldn't have gone around saying that because we don't know if Judas is in hell. In fact, we never say anyone is in hell, not even Hitler. We give everyone the benefit of the doubt. At the last second anybody could have said, "What was I thinking!!??" But Judas could well be the first permanent resident of Hell. What timing!)
So there was the Limbo of the Fathers.
Then there was no Limbo.
Then there was the idea of Limbo.
And if we are honest with ourselves, we'll have to say Limbo re-opened for the babies and the Aborigines in the minds of millions of Catholics. We'll call it:
Wishful thinking Limbo.
Then I thought that Limbo was permanently closed after Vatican II. That's why I'm so surprised with yesterday's announcement that Limbo was closed. Again. It should be covered in cobwebs by now, musty and unusable.
Perhaps some people would just not let go. People who actually have their own television show.
Anyhow, now it is closed. The babies and the Aborigines all went to heaven right away, they never were in Limbo because the church is saying there was never a baby Limbo in the first place. I think a lot of people are going to be really happy to hear that. A lot of people.
But not everyone.