Thursday, 6 May 2010
Limbus Infantium...Part Two
It has been a little longer than I expected since my last article on this topic - Limbus Infantium. In that period of time, I have considered further what course this should take, including what my own beliefs are on this matter. As yet, your blogger is still greatly undecided, but at the outcome I may have cleared my mind of confusion.
For a number of years since the death of the most blessed Augustine, his opinions reigned supreme and were simply assumed by many people. Saint Anselm on the other hand, disagreed with the venerable Father on what the very essence of original sin was, contrary to Augustine's position that it was concupiscence, he stated it was rather privation of justice. This lack of a perfection due to sin which should have remained within human nature, gives rise to a disordering of the passions and a proclivity to evil. Yet the Archbishop of Canterbury readily accepted the view that the unbaptised will share in the positive misery of the damned.
Afterwards Abelard did away with sensible punishment and propounded the theory that they would suffer 'loss', and this view received the approbation of the scholastics who built upon it.
The human person is created by and for God and is sustained by Him. Within man and his nature, there is implanted a thirst for the divine, for the One who brought him out of nothing and calls him to serve the Creator with a love above all things. In this valley of tears, we often experience emptiness, a lack of fulfilment, either through our own iniquities, but occasionally God withdraws sensible consolation from us in order to purify our souls. Pope Innocent III wrote that those departing this earthly realm without joining Christ in death through the laver of regeneration will suffer "no other pain, whether from material fire or from the worm of conscience, except the pain of being deprived forever of the vision of God". However, what a pain that is! The human person would be deprived of his fulfilment, the whole purpose of his existence which is to magnify the glory of the Good Lord and share in His Kingdom. Would this lack not bring about indescribable sorrow? They would not however feel resentment at their own actions, and have their conscience pricked as their fate was out of their hands.
This 'pain of damnation' actually was allowed by many of the scholastics but it was of a mild variety. The Angelic Doctor completely cut himself off from this, by approving the principle of the Greek Fathers, through the medium of Pseudo-Dionysius that as a result of the Fall, human beings did not lose any of its rights and powers. This basis therefore led to the belief that Limbus Infantium was a state of purely human happiness, devoid of all 'pain' in any meaningful way. The soul would be united to God through love and knowledge of Him, which is tailored to the creature's capacity. The unbaptised would not suffer as a complete resignation to the will of God would take place and the soul would realise that nothing could be done better on their part, they are innocent, yet not worthy of the beatific vision. They will rejoice in the goods that they possess, without feeling any bitterness or anger.
As the soul had never acquired knowledge of the supernatural, the unfortunate are perfectly happy with their natural lot.
The question of Limbus Infantium has had a complicated history even after this period, however it is almost forgotten about by modern-day Catholics.
The reigning Pontiff, Benedict XVI has wished to end discussion on this matter, after a Vatican Commision of thirty theologians wished for this belief to be dropped. Contary to what certain media outlets have set, His Holiness did not remove this from Catholic Church teaching as it has never been offically declared to be a revelation of God.
The Catechism currently states regarding the fate of the unbaptised, "As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the Mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mystery of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus' tenderness toward children which caused him to say: 'Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,' allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism." (1261).
God is not bound by His sacraments in infusing grace, let this does not mean that they can be spurned. He wishes that all be saved, and children are especially beloved in His eyes, yet no creature can deserve merely by existing the immediate and direct vision of God.
In conclusion, although I am undecided, and I would love to accept the view that those who die unbaptised enter the heavenly kingdom, I for the moment will concur with the view of Saint Augustine that souls of those who depart this earth with original sin alone, will experience a mild punishment as their nature remains not fufiled. They are deprived of the essence of God which man can delight only truly in. A level of human happiness is not so blessed as a soul would be ignorant of the delights that they should receive (which is condition of false felicity). The soul yearns for the living and true God and can only be satisfied when it clings to Him in love, and love that can only occur as God loved and called us first.
My view is open to change, but here it stands for the time being.