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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

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Have a Happy & Holy Easter!

As I ponder the mystery of the season, there are twelve themes that I would put forward for reflection and prayer:

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(1) A new day has dawned. (The LIGHT of Christ casts aside the darkness.)

(2) The promise of old has been fulfilled. (The long-awaited Jewish Messiah is the Christ and Savior of the entire world.)

(3) The breech is healed. (Jesus is the New Adam and the bridge between heaven and earth— he is the way to the Father.)

(4) The salvific work of Christ has redeemed us from the devil. (Our Lord paid the price that we could not pay.)

(5) While the primordial trespass brought suffering and death into the world– Christ’s fidelity ushers forth healing and life. (The damage from the primordial garden is repaired and we are called to faith and hope in Christ.)

(6) Nothing will ever be the same again. (The course of human history has changed; Christ’s victory changes everything.)

(7) Death is conquered if not entirely undone. (The war is over but a few battles must still be fought because of our fallen nature and the spite of the devil.)

(8) We no longer need fear the specter of death. (Jesus tells us, “Be not afraid.”)

(9) The grave will not consume us. (Neither the grave nor hell is the end of the story for those who walk with Christ.)

10) No one need live in vain. (Our Lord reveals to us the loving face and mercy of God.)

(11) Like the apostles we are called as witnesses to the saving truth. (Both faith and charity, if real, must be given away or shared.)

(12) Christ becomes the pattern of our discipleship: we must die with Christ if we hope to live with him. (The paschal mystery calls to us as missionary disciples.)
Have a blessed Easter!

—Father Joe Jenkins

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Are the Saints Dressed with More than a Smile?

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Children used to be the only ones to ask the question, “Do the saints in heaven wear clothes?”  However, adults are increasingly asking me the same question.  Dr. Kreeft refers to visions from private revelation:  “They say that it is hard to classify the blessed as either clothed or naked. If clothed, it is as if the clothing were a part of the body, an organic growth, rather than an accidental, foreign covering: it reveals rather than conceals, and it is natural and necessary rather than artificial and accidental. If naked, it is shameless and not arousing erotic desires.”

 

I recall reading a speculative fiction paperback years ago where the people destined for heaven found themselves embodied.  As they went up to heaven their bodies began to change— principally their sexual organs began to shrink and disappear— making them appear as small children but without sexual passion or interest.  Those who went to hell seemed to go through a reverse process and became more unruly and manipulated by their desires and sin.  I really do not think that is the prospect that awaits us after death.  If our Lord could even carry the wounds of his ordeal in his hands, feet and side; then I think it is more likely that we will continue to be who we are, albeit no longer subject to concupiscence or the need to propagate the species.  Indeed, the need for intimacy will no longer require the joining of bodies but will be satisfied with the beatific vision and union with God.  Our souls, if not immediately then at the final consummation, will be rejoined to our bodies glorified and made immortal.  Naked or clothed it will make no difference because there will be no shame, just as it was with Adam and Eve in the primordial garden before the fall.

We will be recognizable and yet different.  Imagine if no one were overweight or starving, weakened by age or handicapped, and no longer anxious about tomorrow or weary from the world’s betrayals and difficulties.  It is no wonder that the women at the tomb did not immediately recognize Jesus.  Remember, they had last seen his scourged and crucified body taken down from the Cross.  Now, suffering and death no longer has any part of him… this is the smiling Jesus… this is the Christ of joy!

There are several instances where the Bible describes the vestiture of heaven as white, indeed when it comes to the Transfiguration (indicative of Christ’s coming victory over sin and death and his resurrection), his clothes are whiter than any bleacher could make them— almost like light itself.  It would make sense that believers would suppose that those who follow our Lord would be similarly attired. “After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him” (Matthew 17:1-3).  Light and truth are interconnected themes.

Clothes are worn in the garden because of a sense of shame or inadequacy.  Clothes are still worn, not only for warmth and comfort, but also to project something about ourselves— an image that may not always be in conformity with the truth.  Some wear tight clothing for reasons of seduction.  Others wear loose or baggy clothing to disguise shape.  Still others wear clothes that inspire or impress others.  Note that the new Adam is virtually stripped when he undergoes his passion and the victory of the Cross.  I suspect any clothing that we may wear or appear to wear in the coming kingdom will not disguise but rather show precisely who we are and what we are about.

A parable is told about a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son.  After his initial guests made excuses so as not to attend, he sends out a general invitation.  “‘Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.’ The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to meet the guests he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. He said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’ But he was reduced to silence. Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’ Many are invited, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:9-14). It is important for us to remember that the wedding garments were readily available and given at the door.  This one person entered the feast unconcerned about honoring the king’s son and lacking any gratitude for the invitation.  There is no answer he can make.  He does not belong.  He is thrown out.  Note that he is tied up.  Turning to Jesus, outside the feast there is only bondage and despair— there is only sin and hell.  The wedding garment, these gowns of white for the elect, signify honoring Christ and that we are participants in the wedding banquet of the Lamb.

Note that brides still often wear white dresses or gowns.  Those who attend the heavenly banquet are more than guests, they are members of the Church and the Church is the bride of Christ.  White is a precious sign of light, purity and marriage.  Groom and Bride wear white, indeed, the bride’s gown has been washed clean in the blood of the Lamb. “Then one of the elders spoke up and said to me, ‘Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?’ I said to him, ‘My lord, you are the one who knows.’ He said to me, ‘These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:13-14).

There is an old saying, clothes make the man.  If this is the case, then wearing Christ means embracing the new man.  We are not what we were before and yet, in a sense, we have become our true self— what God has wanted us to become from the very beginning. The saints of heaven will be spiritually clothed in Christ, in whom nothing is hidden and where truth reigns.  “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection” (Colossians 3:12-14).

ATHEIST COMMANDMENT 5

“God is not necessary to be a good person or to live a full and meaningful life.”

priest-10214-largeWhat does it mean to be a good person? What makes life meaningful or worth living? It seems to me that God is like the paper upon which we write. Without him we do not even have the tools or perspective to answer satisfactory either question. The atheist critic contends that the believer is greedy and wants a better deal than the universe gives. Unhappy with a broken world, he argues that theists imagine another world where there is a God who cares and an order that will make sense of the present mess. Karl Marx made much of this “pie-in-the-sky” interpretation of religion. These critics contend that eternal life and the joys of heaven are imaginary rewards fabricated to placate those who are currently suffering or doing without. Note that the rise of American atheism has followed the fall of Soviet communism and the red threat. Many Americans once viewed socialist leanings and atheism as stripes belonging to the same animal. In contradiction, we still find a lingering merger of faith to patriotism. It is almost always the atheist or secularist who throws down the gauntlet: challenging “under God” in the pledge, public prayer, the Bible in schools, the teaching of intelligent design along with evolution and civic toleration of religious symbols.

It is true that sinners and the godless can know good fortune and a level of earthly happiness. But what happens when things do not go our way? The believer finds consolation in his faith, particularly in the face of disappointments, suffering and struggle. Other than taking a mood pill, what does the atheist do when he is facing the prospect of failure, pain and death? What is the meaning of life when everything must be defined in terms of limited mortality? Apart from God, do we even know what it means to be a good person? Why be charitable or self-sacrificing when it costs us and this is the only life we will ever know? Are fornication and homosexuality good? Is adultery only bad when you are caught? Is it okay to steal if you think you can get away with it and there will be no negative consequences? If life gets too hard is it good to take an overdose of pills and end it all? If drugs make you happy then should it not be a personal decision to take them? Is it good to help a scared girl to have an abortion even if believers contend it is the murder of a child? Christians are confused about such matters, too. Many think that simply being good will save them or that following their conscience, even an erroneous one, absolutely frees them from culpability. It does not.

People who reject God might stumble upon being good persons, and there are such things as natural virtues, but I suspect it is usually because they have been touched or “contaminated” by the faith of people around them. It is hard to argue for supernatural virtue or ethical principles or defined commandments when there is no belief in God. It strips the law of any genuine imperative. Precepts become arbitrary or capricious. We see this with the current transition of homosexuality from a crime and defect to a right and gift. Instead of civil laws backing up the laws of God, the laws of men become the final authority and they can change at any moment with the current fads and fashions. Politicians become the new priests and prophets, demanding that vice be regarded as virtue and that moral evil be rendered as good. Morality becomes a matter for vote and legislation, not something imposed by a God in Scripture or from a principal agent behind nature and creation.

Liberalism might rule the day at present, but views can change and we may see an atheistic secular world fighting itself over what is right and wrong. A person might tolerate sodomy but condemn pederasty. The pederast or pedophile might object to bestiality. The bar is increasingly lowered but not every atheist may find he can bend so low in reference to certain indignities. Killing the child in the womb might earn his or her remarks of gratitude as a feminist for women’s rights; but kill a three year old that no one wants might make the same critic puke in disgust. Such is the brave new world we are creating. What we have forgotten is that even Hitler and his Nazis thought they were good persons doing good work with eugenics and holocaust. Today we would stamp them as evil although many of their stratagems against the innocent have been put back into place. I will say it again and again. Without God, we do not know how to be good. Of course, this is a different question than, are Christians actually good? The believer acknowledges that he is a sinner who has fallen short. We need the mercy of Jesus. While God’s grace can make us saints; his law reveals how much we have fallen short and how much conversion we still require. If there is no God then there is no sin and no need for forgiveness. We must also then face a universe that could not care less about us. We can live for a few seconds of a hundred years, but eventually the world will get its way and we will die. We are children of nature and we are destined to die. A fallen world will kill us. We will get cancer or diabetes or heart trouble or something else. The atheist says he is not afraid to live and die. I suppose those who feel they have achieved something might feel this way. But what if you are a “nobody” with nothing going right in your life? Suppose you think that nobody loves you. No one wants you. You might conclude, “I would be better off dead,” and if the atheists are right then you would probably be right. In any case, you will get your wish. You will die. We all do. The atheist has to face the prospect that he will be forgotten. It will be as if he never were. Nothing he did will have any permanent significance. How can one be really happy when the transitory is all that one believes to exist? The story of Job was in response to such concerns. The ancient Jews gave little thought to an afterlife. They saw God’s reward in earthly success: wealth, property and family. But what if evil men should flourish and good or innocent people should suffer? Where is the justice in that? Here is the conundrum and it leaves us with one of two possibilities. Either there is no God or at least none that cares a damn for us or there is a good God who will balance the scales in another life where some will be rewarded and others punished. The former argues that we live in a universe where ultimately there is neither justice nor mercy— a prospect that many of us find too terrible to conceive. The latter claims that there is more to reality than we know and that a just God has given us an innate desire for life and happiness that he will satisfy— not in this world but in the kingdom of Christ.

The Situation We Face

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I have been giving some thought to the pressing issue of keeping our young people Catholic and in the Church. Before I lay fault at the proper doorposts, it must be said that many of our parents are faithful in raising their children in the faith and insuring the opportunity for the sacraments. When their kids abandon the faith and Mass attendance, these good people are the first ones who feel guilty and wonder if there be more they could have done. But they did their duty and there comes a point where we have to let go and trust the Holy Spirit. Similarly, there are pastors and catechists who try program after program in hoping that the next one might turn matters around. They join their tears to those of heaven praying that prodigals might come home and that the children might be counted among the saints. Too many have forgotten God. Too many have turned their backs on the practice of their faith.

I would not want to condemn anyone, even parents who are themselves “fallen away” Catholics. God will be their judge. But of course, we can target many sources for the current problem. Whole generations of Catholics were poorly catechized. Poor text books and an air of dissent infected the Church. I recall tried-and-true books being thrown away because they represented the thinking of “the old pre-Vatican II Church.” And yet, this mentality betrayed a false dichotomy. There are no two churches. The accidentals may change but the deposit of faith is faithfully transmitted generation after generation in the one true Church instituted by Jesus Christ. The later publication of the universal catechism was an attempt to correct any false thinking about this issue. Our appreciation of doctrine can develop but the public revelation is fixed. What is objectively true will always be true. The false “spirit of Vatican II” has been exposed and in many circles has increasingly lost sway as a general segment returned to orthodoxy. This is cause for hope.  Those resisting it have necessarily found themselves set adrift.  The truths of faith were never denied by the Magisterium, but progressive theologians and their enthusiasts wrestled to place the whim of men over the wisdom of God.

There is no denying that the dominoes began to fall. The damage was done.  Religious relativism, a false view of universal salvation, and the moral failure of churchmen to live out the faith compounded the situation. People fell away from the Church. The stakes did not seem as high as they once did. Meanwhile, the world was changing and Western Christian culture was collapsing. The process had begun prior to Vatican II. Indeed, the Enlightenment and later the French Revolution were signposts to what was fast approaching. Pope Pius IX promulgated his Syllabus of Errors. Pope Pius X confronted Modernism. When Vatican II arrived, many had hoped that there might be a dialogue with the modern world. Unfortunately, the world did not play fair and the council was unable to forestall the many negative agencies poised against her. A secular humanism was quickly taking hold. Man would be regarded as the measure of all things. The degree of hubris involved here would have been unthinkable in much of our earlier history. The “God is Dead” movement of the 1960’s and 70’s was thought by many as the final result of this movement. But there was more to come. Today many do not consider God as dead but rather, while rejecting the incarnation, declare that Man is God. The love of science, which in its place is a good thing, becomes a kind of idolatry where technology and the media are secular sacraments. There is the fantasy and/or pseudo-science that even death will one day succumb to man’s genius. Paralleling all this there has been the ascendance of a new paganism, expressed through heightened eroticism (homo- and heterosexual) and a general vulgarity in speech, music and behavior. Pleasure is sought as an ends to itself, not as an element of a greater good.

What does the baptized Catholic believe today? It is amazing how many false assumptions are made about the faith. While the Church teaches intelligent design and the complementarity between science, theology and philosophy; many view Catholicism through the prism of Protestant fundamentalism. Enthusiasts for evolution ridicule the Church for a literalism which she does not profess. Neither does Catholicism embrace a blind faith, which is rightly decried as mindless. While recognizing mystery, we espouse a faith seeking understanding and as a true companion to human reason. The Church argues for modesty and yet is not puritan in her aesthetic appreciation for the human body and the beauty of sexual love as a part of the divine plan. Nevertheless, some critics (even Catholics) mock the Church as if it is a Calvinist congregation or one knotted to Jansenism. The Church seeks to work with non-Catholics for a better world and for the remittance of human suffering; however, despite false allegations from traditionalists, lays hold to no ecumenism that would compromise her singular faith claims. It has also been a sad discovery that many Catholics suffer an impoverished understanding of the Trinity, the meaning of the incarnation, the value of the Mass, the mystery of the real presence in the Eucharist, the nature of the afterlife and the prayers for the dead, etc. Indeed, some believers deny the existence of hell despite the biblical testimony and the presence of evil that demands the full measure of divine justice. The occult has also infected believers, substituting magic for supernatural faith. It is ironic that atheism and the occult should simultaneously infect members of the Church. We need to do all we can to correct the errors of our times. There is no reincarnation. There is no parallel oriental bad force that counterbalances the good. We do no become angels after death as popularized in movies. The dead human body is a corpse. The human soul is a ghost. We are promised restitution in the resurrection of the dead. I cannot begin to say how many Catholics do not know the truth about these matters. Yes, even those in the pews need correction and a renewed formation. But, other than with preaching how do we do this? Many will not attend special classes or even online workshops. They fail to attend bible study or instruction classes. As for those not in the pews, is there any way left to bring them and their children home? How can the message of the Church compete with the many voices of the world?

MORE on Do Animals Go to Heaven?

See Previous Post:  Do Animals Go to Heaven

Some time back I made a post in response to inquiries about people’s pet dogs and the question as to whether they would be given entry into heaven. It is amazing how long the subsequent thread became. My answer was essentially to stress human immortality and our hope for heaven. Animal substantial forms would continue to exist as paradigms in the divine mind. Anything more would be up to God’s mysterious providence and I would not presume to give an answer where the Church has not. Others were free to speculate, but we would not know anything more for sure until or if we find ourselves among the saints.

All sorts of responses were elicited. Some were angry with me and thought I was mean-spirited. (I could not post all of these comments.) Others made arguments for the continued existence of animals because they are a part of our affection and shared existence in this world and thus would add to our happiness in the next. Others cited Scripture and argued for a literal new earth. Some ridiculed the whole notion of an afterlife, for anyone or anything. Others agreed with me that the stress had to be upon the beatific vision and how we (people) are made for God. In any case, the whole gambit of responses was made. It actually makes for an interesting discussion. I mention it again here, in case anyone new might like to see the comments or add some.

I would not worry much about the fate of animals after they die. If we love animals we should do what we can now to protect them from abuse and suffering. We live in a world where many species are rapidly becoming extinct.

Further, some may err by the sin of presumption about their own salvation. Are you sure that you are going to heaven? Speaking for myself, I have faith in Christ and try to be a faithful disciple in the Church. I worship God and seek to serve him through my charity and sacrifices for others. However, if people forget God, discount obedience to the commandments, and hate their fellow man… well, they may be in for a terrible surprise!

While I do not agree with everything in the fundamentalist Protestant message, here is an interesting clip from a Christian Scare Video that was shown to me in HS Bible Club…

COMMENTS

MISTER FLAPATAP:

With the prospect of looking at God face to face, we are wondering about Muffy and Fido? For the love of Pete!

My mother passed away last week and I was even wondering about meeting our loved ones in Heaven. Since our love will be perfected in God, there should not be any preference or degrees of love towards others. Will we care more about spending time with an old relative than someone who is now a stranger? I am inclined to think not. But I may be mistaken…

JOHANNES:

God works in mysterious ways, a billionth times into billions beyond the reach of any technology from this world or beyond this world we live in.

In my belief, most of his wonders are never exposed to those with a proud consciousness but to those who humbly accept and welcome him into their life with a deep appreciation and understanding of this GIFT that cannot be made nor created, this gift called LIFE.

So, one out of these wonders, I believe that our God Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, time and space, had reserved somewhere a space for our animals especially those who share our life and amuses us in time of great misery.

Animals, especially those who understands us are not cars or machines that have no souls and simply rust in time when abandoned, but, they have a living life, a soul and an understanding, that is why they are welcome by most of us humans to relish and share our life, some of us even treated them as our own family members.

In my opinion, I have no doubt our Father somewhere in his Bag of Mysteries had reserved a special place just for them in their afterlife.

BETTY:

This is such an interesting question and as we have several pets. The kids want to know the answer. I think your point about being stewards of animals on earth is what we should be focused upon. I recently picked up a book called Animals in Heaven? Catholics Want to Know! by author Susi Pittman. As a devout Catholic and steward of creation, she offers compelling evidence for animals to be present in heaven.

CHRISTIAN:

I wonder if dogs might go to heaven, but in some lesser sense than humans do. We are created by God, and in a subsidiary way we created dogs, i.e. we use the creativeness we receive from God to create things ourselves. Maybe through our efforts, God gives dogs a primitive “pneuma,” to go along with the “anima” they received directly from God.

FATHER JOE:

Huh?

YIANNI:

For God had created the world out of love, the Lord shows his love through everything you see, animals, birds, fish, the sun the moon, and above all MAN. Trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you may receive in heaven openly.

TREVOR:

I looked this up because, at 5:10 today I have to go and have our dear golden retriever “Charlie” put down, as he has a brain tumor.

I am so sad because he has been part of our family for nearly 10 years and has just given love to us all. I think that love is coming somehow from God, and unlike me, he was not tainted with original sin.

Maybe animals already know God, and are therefore already in a state of bliss that we find when we go to heaven.

I shall miss that unconditional love and I pray that someday I will also feel like that.

Priestly Celibacy – Eschatological Sign

When speaking about celibacy, St. Paul often becomes the point man in the argument. Nevertheless, the Gospels also give us much food for spiritual reflection.

Matthew 19:9-12 – “I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.” [His] disciples said to him, “If that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” He answered, “Not all can accept [this] word, but only those to whom that is granted. Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.”

Jesus explains that many misunderstand the true meaning of marriage. Next he talks about those who were born eunuchs, those made so by men, and those who embraced such a life for “the kingdom of heaven.” We hear angry debates these days about homosexuals and whether they were born with the disorientation or it was inflicted by others through trauma or seduction. At least for the so-called eunuch, both scenarios are true. Jesus is acknowledging that some men are naturally inclined to a negligible sexual drive. Some critics contend that he actually includes homosexuals in this category of eunuch since by nature or intervention, they can only live a moral or holy life if they abstain from improper sexual relations. Slaves who watched over harems were sometimes made into physical eunuchs by the removal of their testicles. A similar practice existed in the Western world where young boys were castrated to preserve their high pitched singing voices. Such a practice would rightfully be condemned today as a form of mutilation. Jesus did not approve of such procedures; he merely acknowledged that these interventions happened. His real emphasis was upon the spiritual eunuch or virgin or celibate. The celibate is a living and visible sign of what we shall become when this world passes away and sacramental signs make way for the beatific vision and divine unity.

Matthew 22:30 – “At the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like the angels in heaven.”

While we shall rise from the dead, like the angels, we will find our completion and union directly in God. There will be no more marriage or giving in marriage. We see this teaching also in Mark and Luke.

Mark 12:25 – When they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but they are like the angels in heaven.”

Luke 20:34-36 – Jesus said to them, “The children of this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise.”

Right now, in the mortal world, we must have children to insure the survival of the race. However, in the world to come there will be no more death. Like the angels, the number of men and women will be fixed. There will be no more propagation and thus no need for marriage. The celibate priest seeks a spiritual propagation through the conversion of souls. He finds his joy in the regeneration of new sons and daughters to the heavenly Father through spiritual adoption. Men and women will not become a homogeneous humanity in the risen life of the kingdom and neither shall we be strictly angels or ghosts. We shall share characteristics with angelic beings, no more suffering or death, friendship with God, etc.  But we shall be restored in body and soul.  Angels, properly speaking, were never born and have no physical bodies.  Just as not all angels are the same and they are ranked; it is my thought that maleness and femaleness will be ingredients in our demarcation. Of course, our matter has also been informed by our earthly life, our experiences, choices and perception. In other words, we will still have gender and our real selves will be resurrected; but it will be apart from marriage, the sexual drive and the generation of children. That plainly makes it all very different from how we currently understand, employ and struggle as physical-sexual ensouled beings. We count it as true because Christ has revealed it to us. Nevertheless, how it can be true and what it shall make of gender currently remains a puzzle to us. This is a far cry from the graphic and carnal afterlife imagined by many Moslem men in light of promises from the Koran. This makes the Catholic view one that is “in media res,” between a purely spiritual existence and one that merely mirrors, with some amplification, what we currently experience in the body.

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.