In a bit of a coincidence, the very moment I am trying to sort out my feelings about Christian theology, especially the Catholic version, this little tidbit comes in. Frankly it is so riotous that I don’t even know where to begin.
Let us start with AOL, who asks the readers of this post to vote on where unbaptized babies go and whether the Church should change their teaching. I didn’t know that sort of thing was subject to democracy, but I could be wrong. Along the same lines, I guess I am confused about how changing the teaching changes whatever underlying metaphysical reality there might be in the situation.
This quote cracked me up:
“All of us have hope for the babies” that they will go to heaven, under the revised thinking on limbo, said the Rev. Luis Ladaria, a Jesuit who is secretary-general of the Vatican’s International Theological Commission.
It is almost like the folks in the Vatican are a committee trying to change a corporation’s health insurance, “We are hopeful the board will grant employees health insurance immediately rather than making them wait six months…” Yadda, yadda, yadda.
I guess Biblically speaking, the folks in the Vatican are sort of right, with the whole, “that which you bind on earth gets bound in heaven” thing to Peter, but it still strikes me as funny that the Vatican is bascially going to tell God what to do or something. But there is a very serious issue here and it is one of my big problems with Christianity, especially the Catholic flavor. Original Sin.
This to me is one of those confused theological questions the implications of which all sound wrong to me.
Basically the Catholic Church teaches that each of us is born with the “stain” of Original Sin and that baptism washes away that stain. Original Sin is basically handed down from Adam and Eve to the entire human family. But this question of limbo is just the sort of thing shows how confused the teaching is.
Limbo is thought to be a place of eternal happiness that is not heaven. Unbaptized babies can’t be sent to Hell, of course, that just wouldn’t be fair. But they also can’t go to Heaven because they have the stain of original sin. Seems that the only way to remove the stain of orignal sin is to have a priest pour water on your forehead. Apparently, as of now anyway, Jesus’s death and resurrection cannot remove Original Sin. And apparently God himself could not waive the rules — well, unless the Vatican says He can. Seems silly to me. But there is a serious objection to Original Sin.
This doctrine bascially says that we human beings have a defect that only God, through the Church, can correct. We are basically damaged goods until we go through the “soul wash” at baptism. This leads, I believe, to the prevelent Western view that people are basically bad. Violent, lazy, have to be controlled and so on. Now, I agree that as a species we are pretty screwed up, but I don’t think it is inherent in our nature.
This is one area where I find the outlook of Buddhism far superior to my Catholic raising. Buddhists believe that not only every person, but every creature great and small has a Buddha nature. That with effort and training that we can each become enlightened — each become a Buddha. Pretty much without any supernatural intervention too. Buddhism approaches mankind as basically good (although unfortunately deluded by our own egos) and that each person is infinitely perfectable by their own efforts.
This sounds much better to me than arguing over what happens up in the sky to an unfortunate baby who died before the priest got there.