About Rationally Speaking
Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
What, no more Limbo?
Limbo (from a Latin word meaning “edge,” as in between Hell and Heaven) allegedly also hosts unbaptized children, those who died after the coming of Christ but didn't have time to go through the sacrament – usually because God in his infinite (but rather inscrutable) wisdom decided to kill them with cancer or a genetic defect within days from their birth.
The theological conundrum, such as it is, consists in the fact that Plato, the children, and others, don't deserve to go to Hell, because they didn't do anything immoral. But thanks to Adam and Eve and their “original sin” (which, as you might recall, consisted in eating from the forbidden fruit of knowledge, obviously a no-no for jealous gods), they can't go to Heaven without been cleansed by baptism.
The decision is the result of discussions that have been ongoing since last year among “experts” at the Vatican (rhetorical question: how can someone be an expert about things that don't exist?), with the new Pope having been on the side of eliminating the idea since he was head of what used to be the Holy Inquisition (it now has the slightly more reassuring name of “Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith”). While it is true that Limbo never really achieved the status of official doctrine within the Catholic Church, I can't help but being concerned for Plato and company. Perhaps more importantly, the abolition of Limbo would make a large and beautiful section of Dante's Divine Comedy, well, doctrinal heresy. Will the classic Italian poet be put in the Index Librorum Prohibitorum (the list of books forbidden to Catholics)? Fortunately, that shameful list was abolished in 1966. There is progress, after all.