Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 1453, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
The Best of The Question Box
by Father I.J. Mikulski
(From the May 21, 2015 edition of the Inland Register)
Q. When we were in Catholic school we were told that un-baptized babies went to Limbo. My daughter and I talked about the miscarriages we have had. She stated she cannot believe an innocent un-baptized baby is in Limbo. Does the church still teach this?
A. Limbo is not, and never has been, a defined doctrine, although many people may have thought it was. The entire structure of Catholic theology fits together nicely with tight tolerances, but Limbo has never found a place where it might fit in.
In fact, the root meaning of the word is a borderline holding area at the outermost circle of paradise. John Milton in Paradise Lost wrote, “A Limbo large and broad since called a Paradise of Fools.”
Theologians, who never met an issue they could not sub-divide, suggested Limbo was for good people who waited for the Resurrected Jesus to liberate them, another Limbo for un-baptized infants, and yet another Limbo for inculpable fools, as Milton imagined.
In reams of theological statements on doctrinal development, there’s just one passing comment about Limbo. In 1794, Pope Pius VI rejected the Jansenist theory that un-baptized infants went to hell. Not true, he said. Catholics may believe Limbo exists as a place of natural happiness without the vision of God. We say that’s not acceptable.
The plain truth is that we don’t have enough information to arrive at a reasonable answer about the plan of God for miscarriages and unbaptized infants. But where is it written that we must know everything?
“Let the little children alone and do not stop them coming to me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:14). The full weight of the Gospel suggests that God gives preferential treatment to children.
Q. We talked about the seven deadly sins. We named them all and had a great discussion. The only thing we could not figure out was where they are stated. Please?
A. If you don’t mind, why stop at seven? Jesus Christ expanded your list to nearly double the number of major deadly sins.
“He called the people to him again and said ‘Listen to me, all of you, and understand .... For it is from within, from men’s hearts, that evil intentions emerge: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within and make a man unclean” (Mark 7:21). You might call it the deadly dozen.
There seems to be a fixation with symbolic numbers. You listed the seven deadly sins. The Book of Revelation mentions the seven last plagues and the seven bowls and other topics that come in neat sevens. Sacraments.
Compensate with the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. Start a discussion on these: wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, piety, fortitude, and fear of the Lord. You can see some of those virtues seem to be nearly duplicates.
Q. I attend meetings with others who have an interest in spiritual growth. At our last meeting we tuned in to whether God has a sense of humor. We agreed on Yes but can you give a logical explanation?
A. The logic is easy. A Latin motto is: Nemo dat quod non habet: “No one gives what he does not have.” It might make a fine letterhead.
God has gifted his creatures with delightful humor, little chuckles and loud guffaws, wide smiles and twinkly eyes and many merry symptoms in between. God is the source of every variety of humor. We are ‘’wonderfully and fearfully made” and it shows.
Good humor is a grace of God, a powerful psychological medicine, and it’s cheaper than pills. We worship a loving God who smiles a lot.
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