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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

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The Mission of Making Converts

moslemconvert

The RCIA team and this Muslim family in Bethesda has done that which would earn them rebuke and imprisonment in many non-Christian countries: making possible their conversion to Catholicism this Easter. Given religious intolerance elsewhere, even the Pope told the Christians of Morocco that their mission was NOT to make converts. Speaking for myself… God bless this family for having the courage to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in coming to the true faith! And God bless those Catholics who have walked with them on this journey of faith!

The family above also comes from a non-Christian nation. What will happen to them should they return?

All the first believers were Jews. If they had not converted their own then there would be no Church. The early Christians were persecuted by a pagan Rome that worshipped multiple deities and the emperor. We do not stand outside the doors of Hindu or Buddhist temples, Islamic mosques or Jewish synagogues tearing down the faith of others through proselytization. But much of the non-Christian world has criminalized any evangelization and/or conversion. The mission of proclaiming the Good News is a systemic element of Catholic faith.

We may remember that the whole fight with the Obama administration was on this topic of religious liberty… that the Church has a mission beyond the walls and doors of her places of worship. Given the oppressive yoke of either Communism or Islam, many of the Orthodox churches of the East (unlike Western Catholicism) opted to emphasize ritual and liturgy over any missionary outreach or social gospel. How can the Church be a genuine “yeast” in any society where we are hesitant to share the full message and person of Jesus with others… the one and only Savior and Lord? Is the preservation of harmony in society worth the price of people’s immortal souls? The truth must be proclaimed… to our own and the fallen away, to non-believers and to those who belong to religions where truth and error are mixed.

Part of the problem we face as Americans is that we are too insular, interested in Hollywood or feminism or gay marriage or other local concerns while ignorant to the crises faced by believers throughout the larger world.

Given personal integrity, each of us is called to pursue the truth as he or she sees it. Silence does not always promote truth or equate immediately to faithfulness. The witness of Christ is not a passive or disinterested docility but an aggressive and countercultural pursuit for the truth and for justice. Catholicism is a global faith and we need to open our eyes to the plight of believers everywhere.

Granted his singular position, the Pope speaks not for himself but for Christ and the world-church. This makes anything he says important for reflection and guidance. We show respect to him personally and render religious assent to what he teaches all the while knowing that the charism of infallibility does not apply to every practical decision or policy. Cardinals Burke, Mueller, Sarah and Zen and others have rightfully offered their concerns about this papacy, all the while doing so in fidelity to Petrine authority and Church teaching. While we are not part of the Magisterium, I would suggest this is a pattern for “thinking” and “caring” believers.

Trouble Finding Godparents for Baptism

downloadQuestion

I am a Catholic and my wife is a non-Catholic.  We had a son together and I am facing a dilemma about choosing his godparents. My best friend is a pastor at a Protestant church and he and his wife would be great role models for my son. I have family members who could be his godparents but they would not be as exemplary in their witness for Christ.  What should I do?

Response

Were you married in the Catholic Church and are you practicing your faith? If so, then the child should be baptized in a Catholic Church. Given that your friend is baptized, he can stand in as a Christian Witness at the baptism in place of one Catholic godparent. The other sponsor should be a Catholic godparent in good standing. Of course, everyone affirms the Apostles’ Creed. Would your pastor friend be okay with this?  Your friend may be a wonderful role model as a Christian, but the Catholic godparent is also a witness for the Church. Granted this spiritual bond, the godparent pledges to pray for the child and to do all in his or her power to assist the parents in raising the child in the Catholic faith.  During the early days of formation, this means insuring that the child receives religious education and the other sacraments.  The Catholic godparent should be practicing the faith and in a state of grace.

Infant Baptism & Coerced Baptism

baptism-clipart-with-bkgrnd

Questions from Dina:

Why does it make sense to baptize a child who doesn’t know what is happening, or what about forced baptism over the centuries? Why does either have an effect? In one case the baby knows nothing and int he other you have an unwilling “convert” who wants nothing to do with the Catholic faith?  Thanks!

Response from Father Joe:

We do not force baptisms upon adults. Missionaries often endured great hardships and even suffered martyrdom in bringing the faith to others around the world. Unwilling converts cannot be validly baptized or received into the Church. This has always been the case. The situation with children depends upon several points:

1. The apostolic and patristic tradition of baptizing whole households, including the children of believers.

2. While a child has not yet reached the age of reason, parents may profess faith on behalf of a child with the expectation that they will raise the child in the faith and insure the sacraments of penance, holy communion and confirmation. There are three sacraments of initiation, not one: BAPTISM, EUCHARIST, and CONFIRMATION. At confirmation that person will make for himself the profession and promises made by parents at baptism.

3. The Church is the sacrament of salvation. Catholics are called both to a CORPORATE faith in Jesus as well as a PERSONAL one. This corporate element, linked to the communion of the saints, is why parents can profess faith for a child. We do not come to the Lord alone.

4. After the age of reason, an unbaptized child must take catechesis and make the baptismal promises himself.

5. The sacraments, including baptism, do what they are intended to do. They were instituted by Christ for his Church.

6. Baptism is more than an acknowledgment or affirmation of saving faith, it accomplished the following:

  • Makes one a temple of the Holy Spirit;
  • Accesses sanctifying grace;
  • Conforms a person to the likeness of Christ;
  • Washes away sin (original sin);
  • A person is spiritually adopted as a son or daughter of our heavenly Father;
  • Incorporates us into the Catholic Church;
  • We become a Christian; and
  • We enter the doorway to the sacramental life.

 

Baptizing the Babies of Same-Sex Couples

How should the pastor proceed when a same-sex couple comes forward, wanting their child to be baptized?

baptism

It is already the case that we get many heterosexual couples wanting their children baptized, even though they are married outside the Church or even cohabitating. In these situations, I will not absolutely forbid baptisms, but I will beseech the couples to do what they can to regularize the relationship. Of course, if the couples have broken up or were only casual with which to begin, then it would be madness to insist upon them marrying. The child should be the fruit of a bond that has blossomed, not an element to manipulate in favor of a marriage that would otherwise never occur. These couples sacramentally married or not, still signify bonds that are in accordance with natural law.

Same-sex unions violate both divine positive law and our understanding of what is and is not “according to nature.” There is no way to make it right unless the couple separate. I had a situation of this sort back in the 1990’s. The grandfather came to see me quite upset because his daughter and her female lover had asked to have their child baptized and the priest said no. They did not know where to turn. The grandfather begged that something might be done. I asked that he send his daughter “and her friend” to see me. I had to disguise the revulsion I felt in hearing their story. They wanted a child and so made an appeal to a gay man. He masturbated into a spoon and then the lesbian couple used the semen to amateurishly inseminate the willing partner. As it turned out, she conceived and they had a little boy. Sometime later I heard there was legal wrangling with the homosexual neighbor who wanted his rights as the biological father. It is my understanding that today many lesbian couples do not even know the source of the seed and the insemination is accomplished through fertility clinics.

Both of the ladies who came to see me were raised in the Church and had attended Catholic schools. The grandfather of the mother had told me that he would do all in his power to make sure the child received a Catholic upbringing. I was blunt with the women, but no one was in the dark about how difficult a situation this was. I asked them point blank, “Can you promise me that despite your relationship you will raise this child as a Catholic, teaching him his prayers and taking him to Mass? They were both polite and agreeable. They both promised. It was not a compromise with which I was happy, but the alternative would punish the child for the sins of others. It seemed to me there was sufficient hope that the child would be raised as a practicing Catholic. I ended up baptizing the child. A person’s salvation might be at stake. In retrospect, I cannot recall what was written in the baptismal registry. I think only the name of the mother was inserted. I did tell them that the choice they made would be difficult. Because of their union, they would not be welcome to receive the Eucharist themselves. Nevertheless, they were adamant that they would still go to Mass and make sure their boy would receive all his sacraments. I recommended that they quietly live their lives, respecting the moral teaching of the Church even though they felt unable to realize it in their relationship. Here too they were agreeable. They felt no need to make their baby the poster child for a cause. I instructed them about how baptism makes the child an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven, a member of the Church, an adopted son or daughter of the Father, kin to Christ and a temple of the Holy Spirit. I added that baptism washes away original sin and invokes saving grace.

Despite their dissent and self-imposed alienation from the Church because of their lifestyle, I urged the couple to pray daily, placing their needs and weakness before the Lord for healing. I wanted them to know that while I disagreed about their personal lifestyle choices; God still loved them and that the Church would not turn her back on them. While their living together was a public statement against Church teaching, it did not have to be a deafening announcement. I urged them to do all they could to avoid scandal, both for themselves and the Church. I felt they had been truthful with me. Otherwise, it is doubtful that I would have offered the sacrament. The godparents were Catholics who were living their lives wholly in accordance with the commandments and precepts of the Church. While always important, here it was absolutely crucial.

  • Today the situation is evidently becoming more common. Either through insemination or adoption, lesbians and homosexuals are becoming parents. Despite their battles with the Church, some still feel an attraction to her message of salvation and sacraments. They want to share this with their children. This is no longer a singular aberration. How do we proceed?
  • Do we have Archdiocesan policies to deal with these situations? Should the Chancery be consulted on each and every case that comes forward? I know the local policies in Washington stipulate that there should be two godparents and that they should be representative of each gender.
  • Can a same-sex family structure constitute a true family?
  • Can parents perpetually in a state of mortal sin genuinely witness to the faith and Gospel?
  • Given the canon law problems, should registries list only one partner or can both be acknowledged?
  • It would be easy enough to list the mother alone but in adoption, there is the claim of two mothers. Should one be listed in the side annotation?
  • We were recently informed to stop listing children as legitimate or not legitimate. Should there not be remarks about a same-sex union?
  • As for liturgical adaptation, will we need a special liturgy to get around the language of a mother/wife and father/husband?
  • Priests will routinely omit the blessing over the mother and father when couples are not married in the Church. Is this justified and should the blessing be omitted over same-sex couples? I would think so.
  • While it is probably good to seek out Archdiocesan consultation, would priests need higher permission to perform such baptisms?
  • Do we have programs in place to offer pastoral care to these children and households after baptism?
  • Would these children be welcome in our Catholic schools?

I can well understand that one answer would not fit all. There might sometimes be little or no hopeful sign that the responsibilities that come along with baptism would be fulfilled. Some treat baptism like magic or as an empty cultural rite of passage. Activists might even exploit a request for baptism to ridicule the Church or to make a political statement. This is where it becomes all the more problematical.

Priests are supposed to be good stewards of the sacraments. And yet, many of us are fearful that we cannot even safeguard the Eucharist at Mass because of policies that place a greater weight on public scandal than actual spiritual readiness and ecclesial unity. Here too, there may be times that being a good steward will mean saying no and facing repercussions. Is it a passive capitulation to just throw up our hands and leave it to God to straighten out?  I suspect so.

Why is the Foot Washing Not a Sacrament?

QUESTION:  Given that the washing of the feet (Holy Thursday) was instituted by Jesus and employs the elements of water and ritual, can you give a good theological reason why it is not considered as a sacrament?

ANSWER:  Actually, there were ancient authorities who thought it might be, but the difficulty was as to what it signified.  St. Augustine made a connection with baptism (and yet there was already a formula for that sacrament).  Most authorities and the Church associated it with ordination to the priesthood.  Indeed, it plays something of this role in the (spiritualized) Gospel of John.  There too the apostles adopted the laying on of hands upon the head of a man as the manner in which he was called to holy orders.  Today, the foot washing increasingly refers to our commission as servants or disciples.  That is already sufficiently signified in our baptism and confirmation.  So I guess the short answer is that the sacraments are not capricious.  There was no need for an eighth sacrament.  However, once a year it does function as a “sacramental” that emphasizes both the importance of the priesthood and our call to live out our Christianity with humility and charity.

Another Anti-Catholic Pays a Visit

The following is my response to Steve Thompson who posted comments against the Priesthood, the Church, and Mary.

STEVE:  Joe, you are NOT my father.

FATHER JOE:  I certainly hope not because I do not know your mother.

STEVE:  Jesus said to “…call no man father except Father who is in heaven.”

FATHER JOE:  Yes, and he also said to call no man your teacher, but we have many teachers.  We also have biological fathers.  Saint Paul even spoke about himself as a spiritual father.  Priests are also spiritual fathers.  Jesus uses Hebraic hyperbole so as to make an emphatic statement or emphasis.  It is the Jewish way of adding an exclamation point, by making an outrageous claim.  Our fatherhood should amplify and make clear the reality of God as our Father.  God cares about us.  Similarly, genuine teachers teach in conformity to the truths revealed by God.  Anything else is forbidden.

STEVE:  The Catholic church is full of pedophile priests.

FATHER JOE:  Actually, it is not.  There were as many sick men as in the general population and we have made a real effort to remove them from ministry and to enact policies to protect our children.  But let us be honest, you are not so concerned about the issues and answers as you are eager to pounce on the Catholic Church (large ‘C’).

STEVE:  Jesus Christ is our high priest, and the pastoral epistles (Timothy I & II, Titus) outline the church offices, whereby you will not find monks, nuns, cardinals and popes.

FATHER JOE:   Cardinals are the electors for Popes.  The Church at one time selected the Bishop of Rome in other ways.  Most Cardinals are bishops or at least priests.  Your mistake is a failure to discern that the titles or labels attached to ministries and sacraments have changed over time.  Everything that the Church is today is planted by Christ and grew up during the apostolic period.  Ministers are called pastors, a name originally associated with shepherds.  Our bishops to this very day carry the shepherd’s staff or crozier as a sign of their office.  Men are ordained, elders (presbyters) are appointed and the qualifications for bishops (episcopoi) are detailed.  Deacons are selected to care for the Greek widows and they preach the Good News.  St. John would become a part of an ascetic community.  The desert fathers would trace their piety to him.  Early Christian monastic communities would model themselves on the Jewish communities as at Qumran.  Like St. Paul, many would embrace a celibate way of love and life.  While the title was not always used, all the Popes are successors of St. Peter.  The charge given him by Christ is also given to them.  “You are Rock!  Feed my sheep!  I give to you the keys of the kingdom.”

STEVE:  Christians do not need human priests, popes, nor the “mother of God,” since God has no mother.

FATHER JOE:

The unique mediation of Christ as our great High Priest does not preclude the extension of Christ’s ministry through his priests.  Indeed, the Bible makes this point.  Our Lord told his apostles to perpetuate the Eucharist (Lord’s Supper) in remembrance of him.  He gave Peter universal jurisdiction over the Church.  He gave his priests the awesome power to forgive sins.  Read 2 Corinthians 5:14-21:  “Brothers and sisters: The love of Christ impels us, once we have come to the conviction that one died for all; therefore, all have died. He indeed died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. Consequently, from now on we regard no one according to the flesh; even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know him so no longer.  So whoever is in Christ is A NEW CREATION: the old things have passed away; behold new things have come. And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ AND GIVEN US THE MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them AND ENTRUSTING TO US THE MESSAGE OF RECONCILIATION.  SO WE ARE AMBASSADORS FOR CHRIST, AS IF GOD WERE APPEALING THROUGH US.  We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.”

As for the title MOTHER OF GOD given to Mary, it is the language or communication through idioms.  What are you, a heretical Nestorian?  Mary’s title defends the divine identity of her Son.  Mary is a blessed creature preserved from sin and chosen by God to be the vehicle through which the Messiah and Lord would enter our world.  Your rebuke against her is most foul and unbefitting a Christian.  But are you a Christian?  Do you believe in the Trinity?  Do you believe that Jesus is the Second Person of the Trinity made incarnate by the power of the Holy Spirit?  Do you believe that he is the eternal Word made man?  Those who argued that Mary was only the mother of the man were interpreted as denying that Jesus was a divine Person.

STEVE:  Catholic Jesuits endorsed the Inquisitions, and their banana republic nations in South America reflect what this religion is really all about.

FATHER JOE:  Jesuits, Franciscans and Dominicans were involved with numerous Church courts.  Many of these functioned as civil courts do today, seeking to preserve public order.  Various nations misused particular inquisitional authority, but in some kingdoms the efforts were very mild.  Protestant and Catholic nations both sometimes misused religion.  The numbers of people wronged are often exaggerated, some pushing from a few thousand to other critics ridiculously suggesting millions (which would have emptied Europe of any and all population).  People also suffered in the ancient prisons from poor health conditions.  You wrong the Jesuits who died to bring the faith back to England.  Priests have also suffered torture and execution in Mexico, Central, Latin and South America from the very tyrants with whom you associate them.

STEVE:  Catholics/Popery signed a Concordat with Adolf Hitler during World War II.

FATHER JOE: 

The Concordat was signed in 1933, a number of years before World War II.  Hitler’s Germany would break such agreements just as it would with France, Russia and other nations.  The Concordat was to protect the status and work of the Church in a totalitarian fascist state.  The Church was very much at odds with Hitler and was seeking breathing room.  The Church wanted to insure the spiritual care of 20 million German Catholics.  It was not approval for a Socialist state that was philosophically antithetical to Catholic faith and values.   Pope Pius XI issued the encyclical Mit brennender Sorge in 1937.  It was drafted by Pope Pius XII and read in all the Catholic churches.   It criticized Hitler, National Socialism, and the persecution underway.  Catholics were warned that Nazism was incompatible with Catholic Christianity.

Your insinuations or perjury to the contrary is a gross violation of the commandment against false witness.  This was one of the strongest condemnations ever offered by the Vatican!

STEVE:  Furthermore, your Maryolatry is based on the pagan “Queen of Heaven” cult going back to Nimrod/Semiramis, Venus, Diana, Isis and Aphrodite. Get yourself a copy of the Two Babylons by Alexsander Hislop and you will learn what I already know about your religion.

FATHER JOE:  I have a first edition hardback copy on my anti-Catholic bigotry shelf.  The book Two Babylons by Alexsander Hislop is a joke and represents the worst of twisted logic and poor scholarship.  Only anti-Catholic bigots take it seriously because it fuels their hatred against Catholicism.  He equates similarities with an absent historical progression.  It is up there with spurious works like Chariots of the Gods by Erich von Däniken, although his fancy are ancient alien astronauts.

STEVE:  The Catholic Church is all about the Babylonian religion, priestcraft and sacraments (Your so called 7 saving sacraments could not save anyone from anything).

FATHER JOE:  The Catholic Church is the most authentic and original form of Christianity.  The apostles were the first bishop-priests.  The sacraments or as they were once called, the divine mysteries, are sacred signs instituted by Christ to give grace.  They enter us into the Paschal Mystery of Christ.  It is because of this that they have saving value.  The priests of the Church participate in the one priesthood of Jesus Christ.  Jesus offers the Eucharist.  Jesus forgives sins.  There is no contradiction.

STEVE:  Anyone can have access to Jesus Christ directly without your pagan plumbing, including but not limited to Maryolatry, Popery and your priestcraft.

FATHER JOE: 

The Church encourages both a personal and a corporate faith in Jesus Christ.  You would shortchange others just as you do to yourself.  Separated from the Church, believers are liable to lose their way just as you have.  We do not come to God alone.  You are deceiving yourself if you think otherwise.  Without the Church, you would have neither a Bible nor someone to translate and pass it on.  The Holy Spirit watches over the Pope and bishops to insure the faithful transmission of the deposit of faith.  As for Mary, precious biblical prophecy is preserved in Catholicism that you out-rightly reject:

Prayers and Intercession of Mary

Luke 2: 33-35:  “The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) SO THAT THE THOUGHTS OF MANY HEARTS MAY BE REVEALED.’”

Honoring Mary

Luke 1: 46-49:  “And Mary said:  ‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.  For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; BEHOLD, FROM NOW ON WILL ALL AGES CALL ME BLESSED.  The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. ’”

STEVE:  Peter was married and there was no “pope” for 300 years.

FATHER JOE:  The Church began with many married ministers but later decided that celibate love was more desirable for our Christian shepherds.  So what?  But there were indeed Bishops of Rome or Popes, extending from Christ to the present day.  Clement of Rome wrote an epistle or papal letter to the Corinthians in 96 AD!  The Popes and the Church was proclaiming the Gospel even though the New Testament had not been completely written and the biblical canon had yet to be formed.

STEVE:  Your religion is mostly man made.

FATHER JOE:  Sorry, but such is the charge that convicts you.  You have made yourself into the great authority of the divine and arbiter of truth.  You oppose the Pope by making yourself a false Pope.  You strip Christianity of its richness and truths.  Yours is a religion of hate and bigotry.  You define your faith by what you oppose and offer little of lasting value.  You poison the mix.

STEVE:  You killed people during the Middle Ages for owning a Bible or part of one, and read the services in Latin so no one could understand them.

FATHER JOE: 

Me?  Actually I was not born until the last century.

Your charges do not stick against the Church, either.  Disagreements I can understand, but I am always challenged to keep my cool in the face of bigoted ignorance.  Before the printing press, bibles took years to make and churches preserved them so that all might benefit.  Many people could not even read which is why bible stories were told with images in stained-glass windows (something else I suspect you hate).  Latin was originally used as the language of the people.  Church language transitioned from Aramaic/Hebrew to Greek to Latin.  Modern English did not even exist as a language.  The languages of man changed over time and the Romance languages grew from Latin:  Italian, French and Spanish.  Latin was preserved as the language of the Church reflecting the changeless quality of faith.  Jesus is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  Today the liturgy is translated into the vernacular.

STEVE:  I was blessed by God to have never been born into this religious institution.

FATHER JOE: 

People are not born into the Church as through nature; rather, they are reborn into the Church through faith and baptism.  Some as children and others as adults are initiated.  Parents and sponsors witness for a child and we trust that the same baptismal promises will be personally professed in Confirmation.  We become temples of the Holy Spirit, members of a priestly people and a holy nation.  We are fashioned by grace into the likeness of Christ.  We become adopted sons and daughters of our heavenly Father.  Jesus who is our King becomes our elder brother and Mary is the Queen Mother.  The saints are our spiritual brothers and sisters.  We become members of Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church.  We become inheritors of the kingdom of heaven.

We are the ones truly blessed and we would pray that you might know such blessing!

Limbo in Limbo, or Suburb of Hell?

nurp-playground.gifCan children, and notably infants, go to hell?

It seems that St. Augustine (354-430 AD) and some of the early fathers of the Church thought so and for this reason they mandated infant baptism. While they were not guilty of personal sin, they still suffered from the effects of unremitted original sin. St. Augustine’s opinions held sway at the Council of Carthage (418 AD) which rejected even a limbo existence or place of happiness for unbaptized children. The Catholic Encyclopedia states: “St. Augustine thought that unbaptized infants went to hell, although he conceded that, due to their lack of personal responsibility and guilt for original sin, the pains of hell were in some way diminished for them” (vol. 8, p. 590). St. Anselm (1033-1109) sided with St. Augustine on the matter of “positive suffering” in hell for unbaptized children. Origin challenged the notion. But the problem was Jesus commanded that unless we were born again of water and the Spirit we could have no part of him.

A sentiment for infant damnation has been revisited in some of the Protestant churches, especially those with a Calvinistic flavor. We recall that Thomas Hardy’s TESS in literature was turned down by an Anglican clergyman when she begged for her child to have a Christian burial. Similarly, the Puritan Johnathan Edwards in his fiery sermons and Sir Isaac Wattes’ in song declared that “the floor of hell is paved with the skulls of unbaptized children.”

After the fathers, as the Church continued her reflection on this matter, the scholastics detailed their own theory of a LIMBO PUERORUM. St. Thomas Aquinas (1226-1274) conjectured that this limbo was a middle state of perfect natural happiness; however, they would be deprived of the Beatific Vision. Italian Jansenists would return to St. Augustine’s view at the Synod of Pistola (1786) and argue as revealed doctrine that unbaptized children are damned to the eternal fires of hell. Pope Pius VI came out with Auctorem Fidei (1794) siding with the more moderate scholastics and condemned the view that unbaptized infants suffer hell fire.

Those of us who cherished and memorized our Baltimore Catechism, remember limbo, from the Latin “limbus” meaning hem or border, as a teaching that preserved the necessity of baptism while excluding unbaptized babies from the full severity of God’s justice, since they had committed no personal sin. The universal catechism today says nothing about limbo. Rather, it states: “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 mercy 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’ (Mark 10:4), allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who haved died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church’s call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism” [CCC 1261]. 

baby4.gifThe subject of LIMBO was in the news about six years ago with a report from the Vatican’s International Theological Commission. Like so much else, it was being misreported. Various news organizations wrongly said that the Pope and the Vatican were officially nixing Limbo and yet the Holy Father was simply signing off with allowing the commission to publish its findings after years of investigation. Further, the commission did not totally close the door to the long-held theory, only that it was unlikely and seemed an overly “restrictive view of salvation”. The commission contended that there were good reasons to hope that babies who die without the benefit of baptism (might) go to heaven.

John Thavis of the CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE reports:

http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/0702216.htm

In a document published April 20, the commission said the traditional concept of limbo — as a place where unbaptized infants spend eternity but without communion with God — seemed to reflect an “unduly restrictive view of salvation.”

The church continues to teach that, because of original sin, baptism is the ordinary way of salvation for all people and urges parents to baptize infants, the document said.

But there is greater theological awareness today that God is merciful and “wants all human beings to be saved,” it said. Grace has priority over sin, and the exclusion of innocent babies from heaven does not seem to reflect Christ’s special love for “the little ones,” it said.

“Our conclusion is that the many factors that we have considered … give serious theological and liturgical grounds for hope that unbaptized infants who die will be saved and enjoy the beatific vision,” the document said.

“We emphasize that these are reasons for prayerful hope, rather than grounds for sure knowledge,” it added.

nurple-mothersmilk.gifThe document is not very large, only 41 pages and is entitled, THE HOPE OF SALVATION FOR INFANTS WHO DIE WITHOUT BEING BAPTIZED. Thirty experts from around the world sit on the international commission. It only has an advisory role and such documents do not represent “authoritative” teaching that mandates assent.

The question is increasingly important given that more and more couples are laxed or dismissive of baptism and because of the holocaust of abortion. Limbo was never defined Church teaching but was a highly regarded theory taught in old catechisms. It is not in the official Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The CNS article states:

The Church’s hope for these infants’ salvation reflects a growing awareness of God’s mercy, the commission said. But the issue is not simple, because appreciation for divine mercy must be reconciled with fundamental Church teachings about original sin and about the necessity of baptism for salvation, it said.

The document traced the development of church thinking about the fate of unbaptized children, noting that there is “no explicit answer” from Scripture or tradition.

“God can…give the grace of baptism without the sacrament being conferred, and this fact should particularly be recalled when the conferring of baptism would be impossible,” it said.

In this and other situations, the need for the sacrament of baptism is not absolute and is secondary to God’s desire for the salvation of every person, it said.

This does not deny that all salvation comes through Christ and in some way through the Church, it said, but it requires a more careful understanding of how this may work.

How might unbaptized babies be united to Christ?

  • A “saving conformity to Christ in his own death” by infants who themselves suffer and die.
  • A solidarity with Christ among infant victims of violence, born and unborn, who like the holy innocents killed by King Herod are endangered by the “fear or selfishness of others.”
  • God may simply give the gift of salvation to unbaptized infants, corresponding to his sacramental gift of salvation to the baptized.

Later we read:

The findings of this report should not be used to “negate the necessity of baptism, nor to delay the conferral of the sacrament.”

“Rather, there are reasons to hope that God will save these infants precisely because it was not possible to do for them that what would have been most desirable — to baptize them in the faith of the church and incorporate them visibly into the body of Christ.”

“It must be clearly acknowledged that the church does not have sure knowledge about the salvation of unbaptized infants who die,” it said.

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ORIGINAL SIN
Catholic Belief by J. Faa Di Bruno, D.D.

nurple-devilchild.gifORIGINAL sin is distinguished from actual, or personal, sin in this — that actual or personal sin is the sin which we personally with our own free will commit whilst original sin is that which our human nature committed with the will of Adam, in whom all our human nature was included, and with whom our human nature is united as a branch to a root, as a child to a parent, as men who partake with Adam the same nature which we have derived from him, and as members of the same human family of which Adam was the head. The difference between original and personal sin is that the latter is committed with our own personal will, whilst original sin was committed with the will of another, and only morally our own, because it forms with that other (Adam, who is our head) one moral body — humanity.

If our hand strike a fellow-creature unjustly, though the hand have no will of its own, yet it is considered guilty, not indeed as viewed in itself, but inasmuch as it is united to the rest of the body, and to the soul, forming one human being; and thus sharing in the will of the soul with which it is connected.

In the same manner the sin committed inwardly by the human will, by a bad desire, belongs to the whole human being.

Of original sin, in which we are born, we are not personally guilty with our own personal will, but our nature is guilty by the will of Adam our head, with whom we form one moral body through the human nature which we derive from him.

It is a point of Catholic faith that original sin does not consist in what is called concupiscence, which is a propensity to evil of the inferior part of the human soul.

Sin, to be a sin in the strict sense of the word, must be within the sphere of morality, that is, must depend upon free will; and hence the noted principle in moral philosophy and theology, that there is no sin where there is no will.

Concupiscence, therefore, which is not will, but a blind, involuntary inclination of our lower nature (and therefore an irresponsible tendency to evil), is not of itself sinful unless it be consented to by the will, or rendered strong by bad and unrestricted habit.

Concupiscence is indeed sometimes called sin in Holy Scripture (Romans 7:7; Galatians 5:24), but it is called so as the holy Council of Trent explains, not in a strict, but in a wide sense, that is, inasmuch as it is a consequence of original sin, and an incentive to actual sin.

This concupiscence, or inclination to evil, still remains in those from whom the guilt and stain of original sin has been entirely washed away by the Sacrament of Baptism. Moreover, strictly speaking, no one is regarded as a sinner merely because he feels tempted to sin. This miserable propensity to evil excites the compassion rather than the anger of God; who said to Noah: “I will no more curse the earth for the sake of man; for the imagination and thought of man’s heart are prone to evil from his youth” (Genesis 8:21).

The Catholic Church teaches that Adam by his sin not only caused harm to himself, but to the whole human race; that by it he lost, the supernatural justice and holiness which he received gratuitously from God, and lost it, not only for himself, but also for all of us; and that he, having stained himself with the sin of disobedience, has transmitted not only death and other bodily pains and infirmities to the whole human race, but also sin, which is the death of the soul.
The teaching of the Council of Trent (Session 5) is confirmed by these words of St. Paul: “Wherefore as by one man sin entered into this world, and by sin death; and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned” (Romans 5:12).

The Royal Psalmist (Psalm 1:7) says: “For behold I was conceived in iniquities and in sins did my mother conceive me.” (In the Hebrew text it ia in the singular, i.e., conceived me in sin.)

Upon this text St. Augustine says: “David was not born in adultery, for he was born from Jesse, a just man, and his wife. Why does he say that he was conceived in iniquity, unless because iniquity is derived from Adam?”

That the early Christians believed in original sin, can be gathered from what St. Augustine said to Pelagius: “I did not invent original sin, which Catholic faith holds from ancient time; but thou, who deniest it, thou without doubt, art a new heretic” (De Nuptiis, Book 11, Chapter 12).

It may be said that this belief is as old as the human race, for traces of this ancient tradition are spread among all nations, insomuch that Voltaire had to confess that “The fall of man is the base of the theology of nearly all ancient people” (Philosophie de l’Histoire, chapitre 17).

Besides the guilt of original sin, which is the habitual state of sinfulness in which we are born (because our human nature is justly considered to have consented in Adam to the rejection of original justice), there is also in man the stain of original sin, entailing in the human soul the privation of that supernatural luster which, had we been born in the state of original justice, we all should have had.

As neither Adam nor any of his offspring could repair the evil done by his sin, we should have always remained in the state of original sin and degradation in which we were born, and have been forever shut out from the beatific vision of God in heaven, had not God, in His infinite mercy, provided for us a Redeemer.

COMMENTS

Anita Moore OPL

Here, for what they are worth, are my own speculations on the fate of infants who die without the Sacrament of Baptism.

As for whether children can go to Hell, with or without Baptism, St. Faustina recounts in her Diary a vision in which Jesus asks her to intercede on behalf of children, because children were offending Him very much. (I wish I could cite to the exact section, but the index to the Diary is far from exhaustive.)

In an age when we assume children go to Heaven, despite the greater and greater evils perpetrated by them, should this not give us pause?

Susan

I do not believe infants cause evil. A two week old cannot commit an evil, but alas a 5 year old may be able to. It has to do with reason. A newborn infant does not have that ability. Faustina may have had to intercede on behalf of children, not infants. There is a difference.

Father Joe

Children make first penance and communion in second grade, with the Church judging that by seven to eight years old they have reached the age of reason. No one ever suggested in the debate that infants had committed personal sin. The problem was original sin (passed on from Adam and Eve) and the necessity for faith (even if from parents and godparents) and baptism. Remember, salvation is purely a gift that left to our own devices we cannot deserve or merit apart from Christ.

Susan

In my previous response I was responding to what Anita said, just clarifying that infants do not commit personal sin.

The report said, ““God can…give the grace of baptism without the sacrament being conferred, and this fact should particularly be recalled when the conferring of baptism would be impossible,” I particularly believe this to be true with the unborn that die before they even take their first breath. God is merciful and loving and as our Father I believe he welcomes these little ones who never got the chance.

Anita Moore OPL

I never said infants are guilty of personal sin. I was referring to children who have reached the age of reason.

The reality is that we do not know for certain what happens to infants who die without baptism. Maybe the reason God has kept this knowledge from us is because if we knew for certain that all who die in infancy go to heaven, we might not bother to have infants baptized.

Father Joe

Did not mean to imply you did. I was just trying to be comprehensive.

Donald E. Flood

Father Joe, the ITC report never cited, even as a reference, the Papal Bull “Effraenatam” from Pope Sixtus V, which stated the following:
“Noticing that frequently by various Apostolic Constitutions the audacity and daring of most profligate men, who know no restraint, of sinning with license against the commandment ‘do not kill’ was repressed; We who are placed by the Lord in the supreme throne of justice, being counseled by a most just reason, are in part renewing old laws and in part extending them in order to restrain with just punishment the monstrous and atrocious brutality of those who have no fear to kill most cruelly fetuses still hiding in the maternal viscera. Who will not detest such an abhorrent and evil act, by which are lost not only the bodies but also the souls? Who will not condemn to a most grave punishment the impiety of him who will exclude a soul created in the image of God and for which Our Lord Jesus Christ has shed His precious Blood, and which is capable of eternal happiness and is destined to be in the company of angels, from the blessed vision of God, and who has impeded as much as he could the filling up of heavenly mansions, and has taken away the service to God by His creature?”

http://iteadjmj.com/aborto/eng-prn.html

Clearly, Pope Sixtus V, taught, from the Chair of Peter, that abortion excludes an infant’s soul from Heaven, the Beatific Vision.

Father Joe

The document was a condemnation and censure against abortion.  Peripheral issues are connected but the issue for the Vatican is what the Pope intended to say and to define.  Not everything that Popes include in such documents have the same weight.  It is an exercise of the ordinary authority of the Holy See.  Certain juridical elements would be altered by a later pontificate.