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Limbo in limbo?

CNS reported a short snip about the Church's latest look at what it calls the  "theory" of Limbo, the place of perfect natural happiness where unbaptized infants go.

According to the International Theological Commission this week, there is "serious theological and liturgical grounds for the hope that unbaptized infants who die will be saved and brought into eternal happiness even though there is not an explicit teaching on this question found in revelation."

An AP report also said Pope Benedict and his predecessor, John Paul II, had encouraged the study because of ' "the pressing pastoral needs" ' sparked by the increase in abortion and the growing number of children who die without being baptized."

The history of Limbo is an interesting one (though I confess most theological issues just make my head hurt). The Catholic Encyclopedia suggests that up until the time of Abelard (1079-1142), most theologians agreed with St. Augustine, that unbaptized infants went to Hell with the unrepentant, unbaptized sinners.

Abelard suggested that perhaps unbaptized infants suffered the punishment of loss for original sin, but were exempt from the torments of Hell. While some of Abelard's ideas were slapped down, the Scholastic theologians picked up Abelard's notion, and eventually Limbo was envisioned as a place where infants could live happily in the love of God, without actually being in Heaven.

The theological debate over Limbo has cropped up several times in the intervening centuries.

Practically speaking, I don't know what long-time Catholics (as opposed to us relative newcomer converts) believe about Limbo. But despite the Church's ambivalence about the fate of unbaptized babies, we might take comfort from one of the prayers in a special rite for the blessing of parents who have suffered miscarriage, a rite that is perhaps not offered enough:

Lord, God of all creation, we bless and thank you for your tender care. Receive this life you created in love, and comfort your faithful people in their time of loss with the assurance of your unfailing mercy. Amen

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Don't trust the Catholic Encyclopedia. Most theologians from the Eastern Church were free of the baneful influence of Augustine on the topic of original sin. Apparently Photius suggested that it was heretical. You might want to consult John Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology, pp. 143-149. The idea that sin can be inherited derives from a mistaken Latin translation of Romans 5:12. Not that the Reformers, who read the New Testament in Greek, understood the text any better that Augustine did.The idea that pressing pastoral needs have suddenly emerged seem rather bizarre to me. Miscarriages are hardly a new phenomenon. Infanticide as well as the exposure of unwanted infants, which must often have resulted in death, are hardly novelties. Why not just admit that "we" have been (without formal definition, but widely) propagating a doubtful doctrine for some time.

A text prepared for the Second Vatican Council would have repeated the teaching about limbo. But when it was brought before the Central Commission whose task it was to review the prepared texts and recommend which should be approved by Pope John XXIII for discussion at the Council, the majority of members were opposed to the text and favored simply reserving to the mercy of God the fate of children who die without baptism.

With the passing of limbo (I hope), one wonders how long it will take for other changes to occur?Probably not in my lifetime (unfortunately.)

"...sparked by the increase in abortion and the growing number of children who die without being baptized."Strange, no mention was made of the millions of zygotes lost spontaneously.

Everyone, thanks for those perspectives. But I'm a bit confused about Bob's reference to "the passing of Limbo."It's my understanding that the statement by the commission merely comes down on the side of what Fr. Komonchak described as "reserving to the mercy of God the fate of children who die without baptism," adding to that "serious theological ... grounds for hope" that unbaptized infants are with God.This neither confirms nor denies the existence of Limbo, merely seems to lead people away from the notion of Limbo.Moreover, the commission's statement only talked about theological and liturgical grounds, not Scriptural ones, about the fate of those chldren. So it cannot, really, say anything definitively about Limbo either way, can it? (And now my head hurts.)I read the statement as a move toward squaring the fate of unbaptized children with the Church's emphasis on respect for life. I know no Catholic who has ever claimed that aborted babies are frying in hell because they didn't get to be baptized. But I know some outsiders think we think that.

Sorry, Jean -guess I took too seriously the Reuters lead that, after centuries, the church had effectively buried limbo.On the other hand, saying "I don't know" seems to to deny any affirmation of a state of limbo.Also strikes me that it's ever so haaaaaaaard for an admission of change to be made

Hello Jean (and all),I'm afraid I must confess I was outraged when I first learned a while back that the last pope had ordered a new commission to revisit the theory of limbo. With so many pressing problems facing the church, I asked myself how it could make sense to spend the millions of dollars it would cost to run a commission devoted to an idea that has never been a doctrine of the church and that no longer serves much purpose.I recall another moment of outrage when as an eight year old when my CCD teacher presented the limbo theory to our class. I was appalled, and for reasons similar to those expressed by others who have commented on this thread. To calm me down, my CCD teacher told the class that Catholics are not obliged to believe the limbo theory, even though many do. Much later as an adult I realized how such an idea could have spread. If one thinks that the only alternative is to believe that all the unbaptized, born and unborn, are bound to suffer hell, then one might quite naturally find the limbo theory appealing.But this is not the only alternative. While I am no theologian, I have read a number of sources that state that a Catholic may remain within the boundaries of orthodoxy and believe that all people will be saved. (I'd appreciate being corrected on this if I am wrong by the theologians who contribute here.) The documents of the Second Vatican Council explicitly state that it may be possible for atheists to be saved, which plainly implies that unbaptized people could be saved. So why do we still need to consider the limbo theory? The only reason I can think of is that limbo might be a comforting idea to those who are more at ease with the ideas presented on EWTN than those I have just stated. Is this a good enough reason? (I can't cite statistics because I don't even know if there are any, but I do not personally know any other Catholics who believe in limbo, and I think it's fair to say that belief in this idea dropped dramatically after the Second Vatican Council. I suspect many people drew the same conclusion I, and perhaps some others here, drew.)I'm not trying to be provocative here, or to suggest that baptism is unimportant. And I also don't mean to mock people who like EWTN. The two questions I raised in the last paragraph are honest questions.

Try this. One objection to Limbo conceived of as a state of perfect natural happiness is that it may be--I think it is--impossible to conceive of a state of perfect natural happiness. A person in that hypothetical state would certainly have the full and unimpeded use of her intellectual faculties. She would therefore see that someting was missing in her life, namely the cause of her being, which is what we call God, and eveything else that goes with natural theology. In other words, I do not think the question of God can be ruled out but in a purely natural state one cannot get very far, certainly not far enough, with it. One would never have what Dante, I think, calls il ben del intelletto. (Fr. Imbelli may help here.) The result would be a defective happiness at any level for an intellectual creature. So Limbo in the sense of the "Limbo of infants" would be logically impossible, and so could not exist.

In the Pre-Vatican 2 period the notion of a limbo of infants was commonly taught, although it was said, as far as I can remember, that it nad never been formally defined. But it was commonly believed. I have a sister, Helen, who died before I was born, but was baptized, and I remember that this seemed to be considered as very important.

Let me try to spackle together Joseph and Peter's comments, because it seems to me that any discussion of Limbo, as antiquated and medieval as everyone seems to feel it is, always leads to uncomfortable questions about other church teachings.If Limbo is not needed to warehouse unbaptised souls in perfect natural happiness without God (which Joseph aptly points out is logic that turns back on itself), and if they do not go to Hell (which does not tally with our notion of a loving God who creates life in the first place), then they must go to Heaven.And if they go to Heaven, then why does Baptism matter for infants and children. Let's say under the age of 7, which has traditionally been the age of reason, when a child can discern right and wrong, and when they go to First Confession and Communion.And if Baptism doesn't matter for anybody under 7, then why do we Baptise infants and small children?Now my head REALLY hurts, and I'm sure somebody can explain this all, and I will shut up until that occurs.

Just to reassure Peter: the commission that studied this was the International Theological Commission. I'm not aware that it was the Pope who asked them to study this particular question, which is one of several under study; and I can assure you that nowhere near a million dollars, and probably not a twentieth of that, was spent on the meetings during which it was discussed. So on that ground, you can calm down.

Jean, you have no idea what a headache is. Some of us had to study this stuff. Check out the Catholic Encyclpedia on line and you will find that there are many contradictions. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02258b.htmI am amazed how hierarchs quote the words of Jesus so absolutely on some nebulous things while ignoring the clear things that he defined. Like who is our neighbor. But of course we can ignore this since this is only for saints or whatever.You are right, I believe, in questioning infant baptism. What it does is add to one's army by virtue of birth without any true committment which is usually lacking from the parents also.Baptism, as I see it, is a commitment to the royal priesthood of Jesus Christ in which we unite with Jesus in offering to God all that we are. Water is a suitable symbol since life in the Spirit is involved.Too much of the literature is concerned with disputes and indeed stresses dogma over the life in Christ and the church. To place things in perspective we have to understand how things operate in Rome where there are many wanabees in and around the Vatican and the Curia who manage to get things in the news which are not that important. But since they come from the Vatican the significance is overkilled.John Cornwell, before he wrote "Hitler's Pope" and "The Pontiff in Winter" was commissioned by John Paul II to investigate John Paul I's death. (They wanted an objective voice to declare that he was not murdered)The book "A Thief in the Night" , while clearing the Vatican, gives detailed information about life in the Vatican. http://www.amazon.com/Thief-Night-Life-Death-Vatican/dp/0141001836We have to take things coming out of there with the proverbial grain of salt.When Ratzinger was elected, Joe K repeated a couple of times that "the pope is not the church." If we bear that it mind we will have less headaches.

Bill, quick before Mass: I DID lookit the Catholic Encyclopedia (refer'd in my jpost), so whence my headache.In AnglicanLand, I came to the conclusion that baptism is largely for the parents and godparents--a sacrament that shows THEIR intention to raise the child a Christian and to symbolize the washing away of sin, because I have a hard time wrapping my head around what sin needs to be washed from a baby.Confirmation is the informed commitment of the child to the Church later on.I know this is really not "kosher" by Catholic beliefs, but that's how I think of it.A practical reason to baptize infants before they get to be ambulatory:A friend's kid was baptized when she converted. He was 4, it was the Holy Vigil, he was bone tired, and when the priest put the oil on his head, he pulled out his shirt tail and wiped hi head off with a loud "yuck."

From the beginning, the idea of limbo has represented a movement toward hope. It was first suggested to avoid portraying God as punishing the innocent. The current ITC report should probably be read as another step in that direction, toward faith in a merciful and loving God.The whole question of how this fits in systematically with other beliefs is probaly not r"ipe" yet. We need another couple of thousand years, where parents are told their dead children are with God rather than consigned to eternal isolation,, before we get a good grasp on the question.Or maybe we only need a few minutes.Jim M

Hello Fr. Komonchak (and all),Thank you for the helpful information. While I am sure you are right, the costs to which I was referring are principally the costs of preparing for the meetings, not the costs of the meetings themselves. You have better information than I, so perhaps you also have some idea of how much the research the International Theological Commission needed to complete prior to the meetings cost.Parallel examples occur in many other institutions. For example, in my former university academic departments were reviewed every three years by a panel of twelve external individuals, including university trustees, professors from other institutions and members of the local business community. These reviews occurred over a period of only one and a half days, and each officially cost less than $20,000 to cover the travel and lodging of the reviewers and room rentals, meals and other direct costs of hosting the meetings. However, each time my former department was externally reviewed, the true cost of each of these external reviews was well over $300,000 because the fifteen faculty and five staff each had to spend at least the equivalent of a dedicated month preparing for the day and a half meeting of fewer than thirty participants (the reviewers and faculty). The preparatory labor costs, which were hidden, were at least fifteen times the costs of the meetings themselves. Perhaps wrongly, months ago I concluded that the preparatory costs of these International Theological Commission meetings would run into millions because the participants need to meet over a much more extended period of time and I presume do a lot more than a month's worth of research apiece for each day they must meet.

In brief, Jean, I think we baptize infants because we believe they receive some grace thereby and not merely to affirm that they are along with us part of God's people. The Orthodox confer "confirmation"--they call it chrismation--right after baptism. This seems to consistent with what appears in Acts. Confirmation complements baptism and social amentities do not seem to be grounds for separating them. As for unbaptized infants or fetuses, it seems clear to me that Jesus has saved everyone who does not positively refuse to be saved. It seems equally clear that infants who die unbaptized have not had an opportunity to say no. How they get to say yes to God is necessarily speculative--as are many other things--but surely God provides.

Let me try again, Jean. Baptism is a "new birth" which we receive as a gift from God. God can give this gift without human help or consent. However it would be presumptuous to delay it for an infant until the age of seven, say, when we are in a position of responsibiity for that infant. God allows us to be partners. It would be wrong to refuse to cooperate.

Jim, beautifully said. Some of us know what the Church is still hesitant to say. While I agree that Limbo began as a movement toward the notion of infant salvation, I think it is now an obstacle to that idea. And apparently the Church has something of the same notion or it wouldn't be trying to play it down. Joseph, I don't think we're at odds here. Good point about the child receiving grace. Your statement that it would be "presumptuous to delay it ... when we are in a position of responsibility" underscores my belief that the sacrament is as much for the parents as it is for the infant. And for everybody there witnessing and repeating their baptismal vows.In my parish, there are a lot of elderly people worried about their grandchildren. The parents are lapsed Catholics and have never had the kids baptized. I think the grandparents' worries are misplaced.Peter, I can see your point about expense, especially if you think the whole idea of Limbo is a dead horse anyway. This is what happens, though, when legalistic thinking takes over--a whole other conversation. I recall a piece several years ago by Joe Bob Briggs, the funny writer, "reporting" about the Southern Baptist Convention's debate about whether Elvis was in Hell (he was, but he could get hisself out'n Hell if his Gospel record went platinum). This debate didn't really take place, of course, but illustrates how stupid these debates look to outsiders.

I see no problem in eleiminating limbo and having infant baptism as an initiation rite - the celebration of this rite at our Cathedral with baies raised high at Mass after immersion with shouts of Alleluia from a congregation of folks from all over the countrty is a beautiful statement of truth of the total Church community.Limbo belongs in the past in so many ways , for the babies who die so young, for the literalistic reading of Genesis and original sin, and as some of my confreres here sem to think ,for a needed moving away from medieval cosmology. May limbo rest in peace and may more openness to change grow.

Peter:Having served on one international commission involving the Vatican's Secretariat for Christian Unity, I can assure you that no such astronomical sums enter into typical projects undertaken by scholars. The scholars, of course, receive no compensation; the staff in Rome get sub-minimal wages; everybody stays in clerical residences or their equivalents. The biggest expense is probably travel and food, but you'd have to go some, even in Rome, to approach a million dollars!

Hello All,First, I'm sorry for clouding the discussion by bringing in the cost issue. I shouldn't have assumed that the monetary labor costs for commissions such as the International Theological Commission are comparable to those of conferences in the corporate world and in academia. (Though it sounds like the labor is quite considerable.)But I have a substantive worry I have not seen raised on this thread. At the risk of giving Jean more head pain. . . Could one be in heaven with the knowledge that a loved one is in limbo? My nieces and nephew won't be baptized till they are much older, being raised in evangelical churches. If, God forbid, something were to happen to my nephew or one of my nieces now while they are still very small, and they were in limbo, then I cannot see how I or any of the rest of my family could ever be in heaven. I'm surprised this question does not seem to get raised a lot more in CCD or other contexts - maybe people are too embarrassed to raise such an obvious problem. But at least for me, my inability to answer "Yes." to this question is one more reason I'm skeptical about the very idea of limbo.

Obviously, Augustine got to a lot of people because the fear everywhere was that it is wrong not to baptize infants as soon as possible. Many would not let their children out of the house until they were baptized. Certainly limbo was thought of, but no one was willing to take the chance. With that kind of thinking one wonders why baptism did not take place the first week.

Peter, Your proposal about relatives or for that matter, people dear to us, is based more on wishes than reality, perhaps. On the other hand the reality is that whatever we receive from God is a gift. Further, there are those who do not believe in hell. Whether, hell exists or not, certainly those who are cruel to others will receive due punishment. Finally, Prof. Richard McBrien writes that by discarding Limbo Ratziner confines to the dustbin the concept of original sin. Now there's another headache for you, Jean.

It's interesting that Augustine's argument was from the universal practice of infant baptism to the theology of original sin. If baptism is for the remission of sins, he argued against the Pelagians,then children must have a sin that needs remission.

This question does come up in RCIA. The answer generally runs something like this--and I think someone else covered this earier--is that in Heaven our happiness is perfect, and if our happiness could not be perfect without our children then ... draw conclusion here.I note as a point of interest that this is the same answer I have heard given to children who are disconsolate about losing a pet and want to know if it is in Heaven.I have always viewed original sin to mean that being born means you're going to sin eventually, inevitably, and in some ways that only God can forgive. But whether that means we are automatically in a state of sin when we are conceived--or simply bring that sin on our own heads through our imperfect natures later on is a matter of debate, no? What strikes me as wholly illogical about Limbo is that most of the time, those children, however short their lives, made us mothers better people, made us value life more, and to fear death less. In that regard, aren't those children instruments of grace? And if so, why would God separate us from them in Heaven?

My understanding is the same as Joseph K.'s And I always thought that the nature of "original" sin was defined by, in fact, the word "origin," that is, we all have our origin in sin therefore we aren't sinless even at the moment of birth. I think this is an illogical leap, conferring as it does responsibility on a third party for the sins of others, but I've always thought it was straightforward. I could of course be wrong about these things.

OK my head hurts again. I thought Fr. K was saying that infant baptism was the custom, and Augustine argued that the custom indicated infants were born with sin.In other words, Augustine was saying, well, we've always done this, so there must be a reason, and the reason is that the infants have the stain of original sin. And if that's so, they must go to hell if they're not baptized.Barbara, pardon my being dense, but I don't understand what you mean: "I think this is an illogical leap, conferring as it does responsibility on a third party for the sins of others, but I've always thought it was straightforward." Care to explain further?

For those of you who enjoy the experience of contrast, you may want to check out the thread on Limbo over at Amy Welborn's blog. There, one can find references to the Council of Trent, the Council of Florence and the Second Counicl of Lyons, among other pieces of timely note.The issue that really has most of them vexed is Richard McBrien saying that the recent document on Limbo shows that all children are born in a "state of grace." For some on the thread, this shows that McBrien has gone even beyond Pelagianism (I think one of the Lutheran participants noted this). Above all, McBrien has produced a conclusion that if true would render the sacrifce of Jesus on the Cross "meaningless."Happily (to my mind), there are some voices of dissent in the thread. My favorite is this:"Are educated people really discussing the idea that dunking a baby in water may or may not have an impact on infinity and eternity?"Now, some readers of this thread may find this a bit too flip. I, however, find it entirely on point. Christianity is alone among the three great Western theistic traditions in its hyper sensitivity to the status of the human soul. Judaism and Islam both are concerned about judgment before God, but they are also both far less willing to presume what exactly it is that God will consider in the judgment of a person. Importantly, they also make the community of believers, and even the wider human community, the primary unit of salvation, with the individual's salvation being understood as a component of the community.

My understanding is that Augustine theorized the doctrine of original sin to explain and more important, to validate, the practice of infant baptism. We cannot create ourselves, therefore, we cannot be the author of our own origin. Our origin is the result of actions of others. Original sin ascribes the sins of our creators to us as a result of an act we could not possibly have authored, and is, therefore, illogical and at odds with our understanding of personal responsibility for sin in any other setting. That's how I see it.

Joe notes: The issue that really has most of them vexed is Richard McBrien saying that the recent document on Limbo shows that all children are born in a "state of grace." For some on the thread, this shows that McBrien has gone even beyond Pelagianism (I think one of the Lutheran participants noted this). Above all, McBrien has produced a conclusion that if true would render the sacrifce of Jesus on the Cross "meaningless."Jean says: The statement on Limbo says nothing like what McBrien is saying, assuming McBrien is being quoted accurately.The statement simply says there are theological and liturgical reasons to hope infants are in Heaven. As far as I could see from the original statement, the commission went no further than that, and did not extrapolate from its "hope" that anything about the teaching of original sin or infant baptism ought to change. As far as I can see, the official church line is now (and really always has been) that we just don't know, we have nothing in Scripture to go on. The only thing that's new is that the church now feels that perhaps there are some problems with the whole Limbo idea.Barbara, thanks for clarifiying your point. I just wasn't following the dots to your conclusion.Question: Can unbaptized babies be buried in the church and in consecrated ground? Seems like the answer to that indicates the practical attitude on this matter.

Jean:I know that your last question seeks to explore "the practical attitude" regarding the Limbo discussion. However, I could not help but see it as indicative of a different kind of practical issue; namely, to what extent do certain doctrines and practices 1) provide a self-serving rationale for the church, creating pastoral problems rather than responding to them; and 2) use fear (in this case a fear that burial in unconsecrated ground imperils the salvation of one's soul, or of a family member's soul) as a tool for buidling membership? These two questions seem especially relevant when the doctrinal issues and practices are difficult to defend on non-mysterious grounds (e.g. Barbara's discussion of the ethical incoherence of the doctrine of original sin).Let me be clear that I am not suggesting that you are doing either 1 or 2. I find your original post on this thread and much of the subsequent discussion to quite moving and searching. However, I think the history of Christianity is loaded with both 1 and 2, and the discussion of Limbo and your closing question provide an opportunity to address these issues. Perhaps, however, some other thread would be a better place to address them.

To be clear: the notion of "sin" as used in regard to original sin is only analogous to the notion used with regard to sins personally committed by a responsible individual. We are not to imagine infants as personally guilty of original sin.For Thomas Aquinas, original sin referred primarily to a lack, the lack of the righteousness that ought to be part of our human heritage: we are not what God created us to be, and the fault lies with us and not with God. It is an etiology of evil, and it was set in contrast to those religious or philosophical views that posited some divine origin of evil--e.g., in Gnostic views of a Demiurge who created this evil world of matter and of a salvation that consists in our being liberated from evil matter. .All of this has to be re-imagined in our day and age, I think.

Joe Petit, some of my questions are precipitated by a discussion about the nature of salvation I had with a Jewish student. So your items 1 and 2 are in the back of my mind.But I will desist, as you suggest.Thanks, Fr. Komonchak, for the explanation above.

Jean,The Eastern Church has never really accepted Augustine's reasoning. and it is incoherent to speak of forgiving a sin which an infant has not committed. So I think we can forget about that.However I don't think that baptism is really for the parents I think our action there is efficacious in a secondary way although God is the primary agent. I don't think we are in a position to say how God handles the cases of people who for no fault of their own have never been baptised. What we can say, I think, is that his ways may not be our ways but surely he is not vindictive or legalistic.I wonder why Fr. McBrien says children are born in a state of grace, if that is what he actually said. I am sure he is a wise man but has he not considered those who are miscarried?

"...the fault lies with us and not with God."I assume the 'fault that lies with us' in this sense must mean an inherited ontological deficiency rather than a culpability. According to this doctrine, the human being that comes into existence at the instant of creation is therefore inherently unworthy of the beatific vision.The thought of a God, that rejects most of human creation because of defects in its very nature is not a comforting one.

No, I don't think it's an "ontological deficiency" or a defect in our very nature, but the absence of a righteousness and participation in God's life that we ought to possess but don't.

Please excuse the following rather lengthy quote from the online Catholic Encyclopedia::"[A]ccording to Catholic theology man has not lost his natural faculties: by the sin of Adam he has been deprived only of the Divine gifts to which his nature had no strict right, the complete mastery of his passions... sanctifying grace, the vision of God in the next life. The Creator, whose gifts were not due to the human race, had the right to bestow them on such conditions as He wished and to make their conservation depend on the fidelity of the head of the family. A prince can confer a hereditary dignity on condition that the recipient remains loyal, and that, in case of his rebelling, this dignity shall be taken from him and, in consequence, from his descendants."Is this settled doctrine? To me, it seems to suggest a 'voluntarist' God rather than Benedict's God of reason.If Aquinas were alive in this age, I wonder if he'd be comfortable with a doctrine that denies the majority of humanity any hope of the beatific vision.

Joseph Komonchak writes, "No, I don't think it's an "ontological deficiency" or a defect in our very nature, but the absence of a righteousness and participation in God's life that we ought to possess but don't."I confess that when reading this I had an experience similar to those that I often have when reading someone like Jean Luc Marion; just when I think I get it, I realize I have no idea what is being said.What is the cause of the absence of righteousness and participation in God's life that we should have but do not? Is it our finitude? My hunch is that Joseph's answer would be "No." Instead, it sounds a bit more like an imperfection, implying some possibility of perfection that we lack. Yet, if ought implies can, and we cannot be perfect in our earthly lives, in what sense should we speak of a righteousness that we "ought" to have? If we cannot, shouldn't we conclude that we ought not believe we should?To switch gears a little, how does thinking about this issue of original sin work from within a framework that accepts most of what cosmologists and biologists tell us about how we got to be the humans that we are (both cosmologists and biologists are still pretty lousy on final causes)? If Adam never existed, then Adam cannot be a cause of anything, however, he could be symbolic of a state of affairs. Yet, what caused that state of affairs? If death is a natural biological process, how can we speak of it as the consequence of original sin?Here is a parting thought thinking this thread to the Latin Mass discussion above. I wonder if increased use of the Latin Mass would provide a kind of intellectual cloister where one could dwell in the various "mysteries" that seem to be required to accept some of the foundational claims of Christian doctrine. That is, instead of confronting very difficult questions head on, one could simply reply, "No, thank you. Now, please excuse me, but I must go to Mass."

The classical theology spoke of supernatural and preternatural gifts to Adam and Eve, which were not owed to them in virtue of their human nature. For them and for their descendants not to possess them is not, then, a defect in their nature, but a loss of something in their condition. And yes, what's being discussed is not reducible to finitude. I agree entirely that this whole issue needs to be rethought and re-imagined in the light of modern scientific thought. I must say I don't agree with the link between the Latin Mass and a closed "intellectual cloister." There was great varieyt, and various degrees of openness, when we were all celebrating Mass in Latin. I think too many links are being made too rapidly between a desire for greater access to the Tridentine Mass and various nefarious movements afoot. There would be nothing illogical for a theological liberal to prefer the Tridentine Mass.... And impatience with banal post-conciliar liturgies is no predictor of one's position on the theological spectrum.

I don't mean to belabor the point, but, apart from the issues of science and technology, it seems to me that Aquinas's approach to doctrine was also shaped by the contigencies of his time, including the feudal order. Foe example, although Aquinas is rightly revered, he did hold slavery to be morally justifiable. Science and technology are only parlty responsible for the fact that we consider it otherwise.