In a news report written by Daniel Patrick Sheehan and published in the Chicago Tribune on
October 6, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI is expected today to reject the Catholic doctrine of Limbo. Sheehan writes:
To Catholics of generations past, baptism wasn't something to be deferred until a convenient time, because the souls of infants who died without it were thought to be consigned to something other than heaven. Limbo.
Not quite heaven, not nearly hell, it was regarded as a place of eternal happiness that fell just short of paradise, reserved for unbaptized children and righteous souls who lived before Christ.
It was a widespread and influential teaching for centuries. But Pope Benedict XVI is expected today to reject the concept, endorsing the conclusions of a theological commission that said unbaptized children who die before reaching the age of reason go to heaven.
St. Augustine, an influential church father, theorized the existence of limbo in the fifth century, when entry to heaven was thought to be restricted to baptized Christians. Nobody wanted to believe God would send innocent souls to hell, so the saint theorized the existence of limbo.
"I call it `Paradise Park,'" said Larry Chapp, a professor of theology at DeSales University in Center Valley, evoking a kind of gilded Disneyland as he described the concept of a haven on the fringe of heaven.
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The doctrine of Limbo has never been a problem for non-Catholics since most Protestants in general believe that there are only two places where individuals go after death: either heaven or hell.
As for the salvation of children, most Protestants reject the concept of original sin, thus, affecting also their view about baptism. For this reason, Protestants reject the concept of Limbo because they believe in the power of God to make provision for the salvation of infants through the death of Christ on the cross.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary