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If Limbo Is Gone
Then It's On to Universal Salvation

Dale Vree
Published in the July-August edition of the New Oxford Review

The International Theological Commission, a committee of 30 theologians who advise the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued a document titled The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die Without Being Baptized (April 20, 2007). The Commission's findings are not official expressions of the Magisterium, and they are not authoritative. But this document was signed by Pope Benedict XVI. Who knows what that means?

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No more Limbo
On the one hand, this document says, "This theory [Limbo] ... never entered into the dogmatic definitions of the Magisterium.... It remains therefore a possible theological hypothesis" (n. 1). On the other hand, it says, "This document ... [is] speculative theology ..." (n. 1) and is a "theological opinion" (n. 40). The document also says, "The church does not have sure knowledge about the salvation of unbaptized infants who die" (n. 79), and "We emphasize that these are reasons for prayerful hope, rather than grounds for sure knowledge" (n. 102). But the document essentially comes down on the side that there is no Limbo.

You can believe in Limbo - or not.

The document says that babies who have not been baptized go to Heaven because they have not committed any personal sins. They are not deprived of the beatific vision of God. But this document also says that everyone - babies and adults, good people and bad people - is entitled to salvation. Huh? We hear echoes of Hans Urs von Balthasar.

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The ITC document echoes von Balthasar's
universal salvation
Actually, this document is a mess. It's an embarrassment.

The phrase "universal salvific will of God" is endlessly repeated (nn. 1, 2, 10, 33, 41, 60). The phrase "God's universal salvific will" is also repeated (nn. 4, 41). As are similar statements implying universal salvation (nn. 4, 6, 7, 8, 33, 43, 46, 52, 54, 57, 67, 69).

The document also says, "Damnation, however, is deserved, because it is the consequence of free human choice" (n. 7), and "There are two possible ends for a human being in such an order: either the vision of God or hell" (n. 95). There are similar statements implying that some or many go to Hell (nn. 2, 57, 93). But the New Oxford Review [NOR] feels this is just a ruse, to cover their bases.

The document is overwhelmingly in favor of universal salvation. It says, "The necessity of sacramental baptism is a necessity of the second order compared to the absolute necessity of God's saving act through Jesus for the final salvation of every human being" (n. 10); "God's grace reaches all people and his providence embraces all" (n. 81); "At all times and in all circumstances, God provides a remedy of salvation for humanity" (n. 83); "Humanity, and indeed all creation, has been objectively changed by the very fact of the incarnation and objectively saved by the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ" (n. 88). There are similar statements implying or guaranteeing that all go to Heaven (nn. 31, 46, 48, 69, 73, 78, 101).

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The Descent into Limbo by Andrea di Bonaiuto, 14th c.
We repeat, this document is not authoritative, and is only speculative.

In our June 2006 Editorial, we examined Pope Benedict XVI's first encyclical, God Is Love. We said, "In the first part of God Is Love...Benedict says that [his ruminations on love] are ‘more speculative.' But we look for teaching in an encyclical, not speculation." Again, Benedict signed The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die Without Being Baptized, which is also a speculative document. The document is a theological novelty, and speculation has no power to teach the Church. We do not need speculation. We need sound teaching.


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Posted on August 8, 2007

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