Daycare of the Gods:
Limbo - The Myth About To End

Life After Limbo

from Time

Forget about the cute headlines proclaiming that limbo is in limbo. In fact, limbo, the incomplete afterlife postulated by the Roman Catholic Church for infants who die before being baptized, is on the skids. After a commission of top Catholic theologians wrapped up a December conference that examined the topic, the prognosis was apparently grim: the group's secretary-general told Vatican Radio that the church's teaching on limbo was "in crisis."

Beyond being
headline news (how often does a major faith admit to retooling its take on the afterlife?), the shift, telegraphed in the 1994 Catechism, should strike most believers as a very good thing. For centuries, Catholic couples lived in fear that in the tragic event that their newborns perished, the infants would go not to heaven but to a cheery yet inaccessible outer parking lot, a locale where they would enjoy eternal happiness but be denied the actual presence of God (and, presumably, of the parents, assuming they reached heaven).

That scheme had come to seem impossibly harsh. Says the Rev. James Martin, an editor at the Jesuit publication America who has performed many baptisms: "My idea of God is not a God who would condemn a baby to an imperfect life for eternity." Many priests have downplayed limbo out of similar concerns, and Martin lauds the Vatican panel for "bringing theological development in line with pastoral application."

Shutting down limbo also aligns nicely with the church's activism on abortion. On last week's Feast of the Holy Innocents - honoring children murdered by the evil King Herod - Pope Benedict XVI emphasized that the embryo is a "full and complete" human being, despite being "shapeless." If you are going to call a fetus' termination murder, then it seems somehow inconsistent to deny heaven to the blameless, full and complete victim.

In the finely balanced theological universe, however, it's hard to give in one area without taking away elsewhere. In this case, the loser is baptism - or at least the rite's broadest, bluntest definition. Limbo was conceived in the Middle Ages to solve a problem relating to original sin, the inherited stain of Adam and Eve's disobedience. Jesus' death on the Cross is understood to have relieved humanity of the burden of that sin, an immunity Catholicism still considers activated for each human as he or she unites with Christ in baptism.

The question arose, What about babies who died before they were baptized? The church father Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-430), applying more logic than compassion, said that without baptismal grace, they must go to hell. That proved too much for the theologians of the Middle Ages, who counterproposed limbo. The Protestant reformers eliminated it from their theology along with several other postdeath constructs, but it remained a looming staple of Catholic understanding. Says Martin: "I've rarely baptized a baby where [limbo] has not come up, at least as a joke."

Those nervous jests may now end. The original head of the theological commission that met in December was none other than Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, who had written years earlier that limbo was not actually church doctrine but only a "theological hypothesis." Elsewhere he called it "problematic." As Pope Benedict XVI, he will probably approve a document recognizing unbaptized babies' full entrée into heaven.

Yet in the absence of limbo, some theologians have noticed, the rite of baptism may not seem as imperative to many Catholics as it once appeared. Despite its continued centrality as the sacramental entry to the body of Christ, some of its ASAP urgency will presumably fade. Indeed, the expected limbo ruling comes in addition to an older decision that appeared to downgrade baptism's gatekeeping role. The Second Vatican Council of 1962-65 ruled that in the case of some adult seekers of God - even non-Christians - the desire for the divine could take the place of the rite. Or, as the author of the 2002 book God and the World noted, "men who are seeking for God and who are inwardly striving toward that which constitutes baptism will also receive salvation." The writer was, again, Ratzinger.

Together, these developments invite an investigation of baptism's importance beyond simply preventing the worst, and make a statement about the liberality of grace. Both the commission's work, which speaks for unbaptized infants, and the Vatican II language, which speaks for unbaptized adults, remind believers that, as Ratzinger wrote in a paraphrase of his predecessor John Paul II, Christians may hope that "God is powerful enough to draw to himself all those who were unable to receive the sacrament." Limbo was a vestige of an overfastidious exclusivity. Eliminating it affords a better view of God's many mansions, their doors wider than some of his followers have historically admitted.

A Christian Who Can't Tell Fiction from Reality?

That's Just Redundant

Man Accused of Trying to Exorcise Devil From Days of Our Lives Star Pleads No Contest

from The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — I'm not the devil. I just play one on TV. Dipshit.A man accused of trying to exorcise the devil from a Days of Our Lives star after bursting into his Malibu backyard pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges of battery and entering private property without permission.

In addition, a judge granted a restraining order sought by actor Drake Hogestyn against Carl Raymond Cheney of Oregon, who entered his plea Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Hogestyn, who plays John Black on the popular NBC soap, said in his request for the order that he was on a ladder on New Year's Eve when Cheney ran at his daughter screaming, "'Where is he? I will cast him out.'"

Cheney clutched a Bible while recalling an episode of the soap about demonic possession, the documents state, adding that the intruder also grabbed Hogestyn's wife and pushed her backward.

Hogestyn said he jumped from a ladder and intercepted the intruder.

"I grabbed him by the hair, spun him around, delivered a right cross to the chin that sent him down the stairs," the actor said.

"This sick person Carl Raymond Cheney believed that Satan was in me and that he was the Christ," he wrote.

Hogestyn and his son restrained the man with duct tape until police arrived and arrested him.

After entering his plea, Cheney was released on his own recognizance and ordered to stay with his father. He was also ordered to undergo psychological counseling and take his prescribed medications.

He is scheduled for sentencing on Feb. 6.


'80s Rocker Bob Seger Appears in Tree!

Residents See Face Of Jesus In Tree Trunk

from WJXT

FLORIDA - Blessed is the dog who pees on me.Man-made religious decorations are a common sight at this time of year, but the image on a tree in an Arlington man's front yard is natural and some neighbors have begun calling it a holy tree, according to a WJXT-TV report.

Neighbors near Daryl Brown's Arlington home said a tree in his yard bears the image of Jesus. The likeness has created a buzz in the neighborhood and has many residents at a loss for words.

"I see the face, eyes, and you can see the crown," said one neighbor.

"I can't say what I feel, I just feel it," said another neighbor.

The image was discovered a week before Christmas by a woman walking her dog, the report said. Overjoyed by what she saw, the woman shared the news with her neighbor.

"Nancy said, Just take those old records off the shelf!'Would you like to see something? Just make sure you see it. I don't want to have to show it to you first," Brown said.

Brown recently moved to Arlington from Texas. He said the tree has given him and his family comfort as a symbol that everything is going to be OK in their new home.

"It's a blessing for me just coming to town, getting introduced and meeting new people out here...When she showed me that, I said, 'OK, there is a Jesus.'" Brown said.

Similar to other cases of similar sightings, there will be skeptics. However, Brown said no skeptic could convince him the image is anything but Jesus Christ.

"Jesus don't just pop up like that. If you know the word of Jesus and you believe in Jesus, then there you go. He does exist," Brown said.


Pat Robertson Still Hearing Voices

Religious Broadcaster Pat Robertson Predicts Horrific Terrorist Attack on U.S. in 2007

from The Associated Press

VIRGINIA BEACH, Virginia — Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson predicted Tuesday a horrific terrorist act on the United States that will result in "mass killing" late in 2007.

"I'm not necessarily saying it's going to be nuclear," he said during his news-and-talk television show The 700 Club on the Christian Broadcasting Network. "The Lord didn't say nuclear. But I do believe it will be something like that."

Robertson said God told him during a recent prayer retreat that major cities and possibly millions of people will be affected by the attack, which should take place sometime after September.

"I put these things out with humility," he said.

Robertson said God also told him that the U.S. only feigns friendship with Israel and that U.S. policies are pushing Israel toward "national suicide."

Robertson suggested in January 2006 that God punished then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon with a stroke for ceding Israeli-controlled land to the Palestinians.

Predicting events for the coming year is an annual tradition for Robertson.

He predicted in January 2004 that President George W. Bush would easily win re-election. Bush won 51 percent of the vote that fall, beating Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.

In 2005, Robertson predicted that Bush would have victory after victory in his second term. He said Social Security reform proposals would be approved and Bush would nominate conservative judges to federal courts.

Lawmakers confirmed Bush's 2005 nominations of John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. But the president's Social Security initiative was stalled by widespread opposition.

"I have a relatively good track record," he said. "Sometimes I miss."

In May, Robertson said God told him that storms and possibly a tsunami were to crash into America's coastline in 2006. Even though the U.S. was not hit with a tsunami, Robertson on Tuesday cited last spring's heavy rains and flooding in New England as partly fulfilling the prediction.