For many centuries, the Catholic Church has been struggling with the notion of what happens to babies unfortunate enough to die before being baptized.
See, the Catholics have this hardcore rule that you must be baptized in order to be admitted into heaven, which, in the early days, meant that an un-baptized newborn had to wallow in a pit of million-degree molten tar beside the murderers, beggars and buggerers of the world. This, of course, made no sense to anybody who wanted to believe in a fair and good God. (It's not as if the kid were running a terrorist ring out of the uterus or anything.) So, sometime around the 4th century, the Church invented a separate place for these un-baptized babies (baptards) to go. A place between Heaven and Hell. A place they called Limbus Infantium-The Children's Limbo.
Over the centuries, the definition of Limbo had changed. In the early days, the description of Limbo was that of a place similar to Hell. Saint Augustine maintained that un-baptized babies, because of original sin, must suffer the plight of the damned, only less harsh-for instance, instead of million-degree molten tar pits, the child would only have to wallow in a pit of thousand-degree tar, which still seemed a too-harsh punishment for an infant whose only sins were catching plague before his parents scheduled the baptism.
Over the centuries, the fair and good God believers again persuaded the Church to soften the fate of these poor toddlers, thereby inching it closer and closer to the present-day version of Limbo, the St. Thomas Aquinas version (circa 1200 A.D.). St. Thomas said that Limbus Infantium is a place or state of perfect natural happiness, identical to Heaven, except separate from an infant's parents and God, which seemed, finally, a decent solution.
But upon scrutiny, the people who wanted to believe in a fair and good God still couldn't reconcile why un-baptized infants-bearing less sin than the Pope himself-had to be separated from their parents at all. So seven months before he died, Pope John Paul II empowered a commission of high-ranking clerics to come up with an even more “coherent and enlightened way” of describing Limbo, which, in layperson's terms, means, “Get me a story the masses will swallow.”
The commission is working on that story as we speak, and, you know, I just can't believe, after all these centuries, they still can't compose an acceptable answer to this problem. It's so easy. Even I figured it out. And I'm now prepared to offer my solution to the commission. Whether you are a person who wants to believe in a fair God and a good God, or a hardliner cardinal who stands by the “No baptism, no Heaven, no exceptions” rule-I have the answer to the Limbo problem that will please everyone. All I ask in return for solving your centuries-old dilemma is one Get Out of Hell Free card, you know, to cover my back.
My version of Limbo is called Limbus Deckus, and it's similar to the St. Thomas version-as in a state or place of total and eternal happiness. But, while un-baptized babies are still denied entry into the Kingdom of Heaven, the parents can come down to Limbus Deckus anytime they want. This way they can still hang out with their babies by the crib, read to them, sing lullabies, tuck them in and all that. Hell, they can even stay in Limbo indefinitely. And the commute would be a breeze. In Limbus Deckus there are all sorts of cheap, efficient transportation options between Heaven and Limbo-including a 45-minute flight on Afterlife Airlines and a shuttle bus that departs every hour on the hour.
This is clearly the closest thing to a perfect afterlife a baptard can expect short of just being let into Heaven, which you know the commission will never allow. Because if they let baptards into Heaven, then everyone will want in: Jews, Muslims, even Pygmies-they're all going to demand access to the divine rapture.
You know, this was something I could never reconcile about the whole baptism story. Why do Pygmies have to go to Hell? You could be the nicest Pygmy in the world, the one who volunteers at the leper colony and bakes cookies for old ladies-but because you live in the bush and never freaking even heard of a baptism, the demon chefs of Satan are still gonna flay your skin into little pieces of pygmy-sashimi.
God works in hysterical ways, I guess.
I remember asking my dad about that, in the car, when I was about 14. I remember Dad, who gave about as much a shit about Catholicism as a deer tick cares about NASA expenditures, had no answers for me. He just sort of sat there with that “No-Santa” look on his face-you know, the no-Santa look that says, Yes, son, you are right, it is impossible for one man to deliver all those packages to all the children of the world in one night. It was a look I hadn't seen in a long time, and here it was again, only now it was saying, Yes, son, it makes no difference if you're baptized or un-baptized. We all go to the same place. Same as the Jews, Muslims and Pygmies. Same as the soldiers and terrorists and tree huggers. Same as the baby-rapers, bikers and North Korean torture squads. Same as the snuff-film filmers and filchers and belchers. Same as the teetotalers, freeloaders, bookkeepers and beekeepers. They all go to the same place son, the same place.
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