By Efrain Cortes
Oct 18, 2009 Cafeteria Catholics --
The besmirching of Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI are but common practice in the unsound world of Sedevacantism (the Vacancy Theorists).
From their approach to Jewish and Muslim relations, to their supposed denial of Christ's resurrection and his descent into hell, The Great Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI are considered heretics of the highest order by those who ascribe to Vacancy Theorist ideology.
In short, Sedevacantists (Vacancy Theorists) believe, contrary to what Jesus has clearly imparted in sacred scripture (Matthew 16:18), that the gates of hell have truly "prevailed against the Church."
According to one such Vacancy Theorist in the local Lexington diocese, there has not been a validly elected Pope since the election of John XXIII onward. Hence, the Chair of Peter, Vacancy Theorists claim, is vacant.
Vacancy Theorists find validation for their outlandish assertion, in what they perceive to be contradictions in dogmatic or doctrinal Catholic teaching by the aforementioned Vicar's of Christ, and the Second Vatican Council.
One most recent "contradiction," these theorists indicate, is the teaching conveyed by the Holy See that we as Catholics may "hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without baptism."
To hold such a hope, claim the Vacancy Theorists, is to reject dogmatically defined teaching in our Catholic belief in limbo. Such rejection would indeed amount to heresy. For as Catholics we are bound, under pain of excommunication, to our absolute adherence to Catholic dogma.
In a 1988 interview however, then future Vicar, Cardinal Ratzinger, made the following revelation when discussing limbo:
"Limbo was never a defined truth of faith. Personally — and here I am speaking more as a theologian and not as Prefect of the Congregation — I would abandon it since it was only a theological hypothesis."
For the average Catholic, this statement by the future Pope should suffice. Limbo is but theological conjecture - let's move on.
Nonetheless, Vacancy Theorists insist that limbo is no mere hypothesis one can simply abandon or disregard as the current Pope once suggested.
Furthermore, limbo cannot be "hoped" against as The International Theological Commission determined, under the approval of Benedict XVI in 2005. For limbo, they believe, is the place in hell, set aside by God, where un-baptized children suffer the loss of the beatific vision.
Limbo, further maintain the theorists, is a dogmatically defined article of Catholic faith. Therefore, to propose un-baptized infants could somehow attain heaven (the beatific vision) is yet one more contradiction pointing directly toward the vacant chair of Peter.
As substantiation for their claims, Vacancy Theorists cite saints, councils, and even Popes whom they believe to be in agreement with their judgment.
Thus, arises the question, is limbo truly a dogma of Catholic faith as claimed by Vacancy Theorists or simply religious speculation, theory, or as Pope Benedict XVI once expressed it, a "theological hypothesis?"
Not surprisingly, the answer to the question lies within the very sources cited by rival Vacancy Theorists.
Utilizing the same criterion employed by such theorists - the criterion of contradiction, Cafeteria Catholics will illustrate that limbo is not a defined article of Catholic dogma but a theological concept or hypothesis that has evolved and devolved throughout the centuries.
For Catholic dogma, as defined by the New Catholic Dictionary, is "A...belief authoritatively stated, a truth appertaining to faith or morals, revealed by God..."
Thus, a truth revealed by God (a dogma) must, by definition, be unobstructed by contradiction. For a dogma entangled in contradiction makes but a common perjurer out of the Living God.
That having been said, allow us to begin our examination.
When it comes to the limbo debate, Vacancy Theorists are enamored with the Second Council of Lyon and the Council of Florence. This is, therefore, a good place to begin.
Let's have some fun:
In its deliberations on the issue, the Second Council of Lyon, in the year 1274 A.D., stated:
"The souls of those who die in mortal sin or with original sin only, however, immediately descend to hell, to be punished however with disparate [different] punishments."
Subsequently, in the year 1439 A.D. the Council of Florence, using almost identical language, reiterated:
"We define also that…the souls of those who depart this life in actual mortal sin, or in original sin alone, go straightaway to hell, but to undergo punishments of different kinds."
Thus far, the contradictions seem to be coming from the current Pope and his Theological Commission alone - say the Vacancy theorists.
For the declaration by the above-cited ecumenical councils appear to detail a middle place in hell. A place where those who die in original sin (un-baptized infants), suffer pains distinct from those guilty of mortal sin.
Not so fast!
In 418 A.D., the Council of Carthage stated:
"It has been decided likewise that if anyone says that for this reason the Lord said: ‘In my Father’s house there are many mansions’ [John 14:2]: that it might be understood that in the kingdom of heaven there will be some middle place or some place anywhere where the blessed infants live who departed from this life without baptism, without which they cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven, which is life eternal, let him be anathema."
Let it not escape note, the Council of Carthage clearly stated, centuries prior to the aforementioned councils, that there is no middle place in the kingdom of heaven "or some place anywhere where the blessed infants live..." Neither did Carthage make any distinction between eternal sentences merited by those culpable of "mortal sin" or "original sin alone."
This, is a direct contradiction of the Second Council of Lyon and the Council of Florence. For if, there is no middle place or some place anywhere, as declared by Carthage, then where in hell can those who die with the stain of original sin alone, suffer a differing sentence than those who die in mortal sin?
This declaration by the Council of Carthage, According to the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, "...Means...the African Fathers believed that un-baptized infants share in the common positive misery of the damned"
Thus, while Carthage condemned the un-baptized infant to the unmitigated flames of hell, in distinguishing between castigation merited by those who die in mortal sin and those who die in original sin, Lyon II and Florence adopted a more merciful doctrine.
Yet how could these two councils adopt a doctrine contrary to that which was dogmatically "defined" (according to the Vacancy Theorists) at the Council of Carthage?
Or is the Lord Our God indeed but a common perjurer?
We think not! But back to Carthage:
This harsh doctrinal formulation was one developed by St. Augustine in the fifth century when attempting to beat back the Pelagian heresy - so named, for the Irish monk Pelagius who denied certain central doctrines of the Catholic faith.
Augustine's clash with the Irish monk and his public dissidence culminated in Carthage's issuance of nine canons against nine Pelagian teachings. Of the nine canons, eight, according to the, New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, "afterwards came to be articles of faith binding on the Universal Church..."
The one canon which did not become binding on the Universal Church, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, was the councils condemnation of "the existence of an intermediate place, or of any place anywhere at all (ullus alicubi locus), in which children who pass out of this life un-baptized live in happiness"
This little-known item is of great importance when disputing the Vacancy Theorist argument. For Vacancy Theorists such as our local friend, Steven Speray, believe that what is defined as "dogma" by Carthage, Lyon II, and Florence is the fact that unbaptized babies "do not go to heaven."
Yet, if the Carthage condemnation of a "middle place in heaven" is not binding upon the Catholic, Then how can we not, at the very least as Catholics, hold some hope that unbaptized babies will, some way, somehow enter the kngdom of heaven.
Not so fast! Shout the Vacancy Theorists.
For while the Council of Carthage may not be binding upon the Catholic, the Second Council of Lyon, as well as the Council of Florence, are in fact binding upon all Catholics.
Furthermore, say the Vacancy Theorists, what is defined by these ecumenical councils is indeed the fact that those who die with the stain of original sin "do not go to heaven." For these councils clearly state, in almost identical language, that such souls descend immediately into hell.
Well, the Vacancy Theorists are correct, these councils clearly state what the Theorists claim they state. We must also admit that almost identical language is certainly used when issuing said declarations.
However, if these declarations are in fact defined dogma, binding upon all Catholics, then this would mean that every Catholic - layman, Priest, Bishop, Cardinal, and Pope must adhere to the teaching of these ecumenical councils without deviation.
For a truth revealed by the immortal God cannot be contradicted by mortal man.
Why then, do we find Pope Pius IX in Quanto conficiamur moerore, in the year 1863, stating the following in regard to eternal punishments:
"Because God knows, searches and clearly understands the minds, hearts, thoughts, and nature of all, his supreme kindness and clemency do not permit anyone at all who is not guilty of deliberate sin to suffer eternal punishments."
Is an unbaptized infant guilty of deliberate sin?
Here, Pius IX, long before John XXIII or the Second Vatican Council, contradicts the teaching of Lyon II and Florence.
For Lyon II and Florence teach "infallibly," and quite specifically, (according to Vacancy Theorists) that those who die "in original sin alone, go straightaway to hell...to undergo punishments of different kinds."
Yet, in spite of this "infallible" teaching, by two ecumenical councils, Pius IX asserts that those who die in original sin alone do not suffer eternal punishments at all. For one must be guilty of deliberate sin in order to undergo such punishments.
Thus, un-baptized infants by virtue of their inability to sin deliberately, according to Pius IX, could indeed attain the kingdom of heaven.
Therefore, according to Vacancy Theorist ideology, Pius IX must also be a heretic.
The contradictions, however, stretch far beyond the 19th century.
In the 18th century for instance, long after the councils of Lyon II and Florence, Laurentius Berti, in spite of the dogmatic teaching of these two councils, reverted back to the teaching of Carthage. Berti, of the Augustinian order, taught that unbaptized infants suffered hell fire.
For His teaching, Berti was denounced to the Holy see by two French Bishops. Pope Benedict XIV (15TH), however, addressed one of the Bishops by letter, saying: "nothing had been found in his work contrary to any decision of the Church."
Pope Benedict made this claim after the councils of Lyon II and Florence "dogmatically defined" its more merciful doctrine that those who die in original sin alone (un-baptized infants) "...undergo punishments of different kinds."
The controversy not subsiding, "the Augustinian General, Vasquez, in 1758, sent a formal petition to Pope Clement XIII requesting protection from calumny...because the Jesuits of France, Spain and Italy accused his men...of heresy..."
"Un-baptized children who die in original sin are not only distressed by the loss of the beatific vision but they are tormented by the pain of fire in hell, however mildly it may be."
Is what the Augustinians of the day taught.
"Clement replied [to the Augustinian General] that the doctrine of the Augustinian school had been made secure by the decision of Paul III in Alias in 1660; of Innocent XII in Reddidit in 1694; Clement XI in Pastoralis officii in 1718; Benedict XIII in Demissas preces in 1724 and in Pretiosus in 1727; Clement XII in Exponit in 1732 and in Apostolicae providentiae in 1733; and Benedict XIV in his letter to the Spanish Inquisition."
Now, time for a recap:
While the Vacancy Theorists believe (according to our local Theorist friend, (Steven Speray) that un-baptized infants suffer solely the loss of the beatific vision, Carthage taught un-baptized infants suffered the unmitigated pains of hell.
Centuries later, we find the councils of Lyon II and Florence adopting a more merciful doctrine when distinguishing between punishments.
As if that were not enough contradiction, in a later millennium the Augustinians again introduced the teaching of Carthage but also added the distress of the loss of the beatific vision to the mix while simultaneously retaining the milder doctrine issued at Lyon II and Florence.
Incredibly, Clement XIII affirmed the new Augustinian limbo-mix had been upheld by six other Popes prior to him.
Then, however, we find Pope Pius IX, in the 19th century, who essentially rejected the "infallible" teachings of Carthage, Lyon II, Florence as well as the teaching of seven Popes prior to him.
Therefore, as a Vacancy Theorist, one must believe the Roman Catholic Church, the Church founded by God himself, came crumbling down from its very beginnings. And on this point, we are left with no middle ground whatsoever.
Either Limbo is no dogma at all, or the Roman Catholic Church is the biggest lie ever perpetrated on a religious people.
Yet for the Vacancy Theorists none of this is satisfactory. For the Theorists hold, Catholics are free to debate what the precise mode of suffering incurred by the souls of un-baptized infants might be.
For what is to be held as an article of faith within the "dogma" of limbo, claim the Theorists, is the final destination (hell) of the un-baptized soul. Not the level of suffering that awaits it.
But alas, this is but a poor attempt at verbal acrobatics. A last ditch effort to save an argument without foundation. For the final destination of the un-baptized soul is absolutely inherent to the level of suffering that awaits such a soul in the afterlife.
For one's level of suffering in the afterlife can only be determined by the final destination one attains.
Hence, for the soul that attains hell fire, the suffering will be heightened. For the soul that attains limbo, the suffering will be lessened. For the soul that attains heaven, the suffering will be nonexistent.
Therefore, limbo is indeed a teaching on the suffering incurred by certain souls in the afterlife.
The problem is, Holy Mother Church can't seem to make up her mind as to what the precise mode of suffering incurred by those souls will finally be.
For while one council assigns them the fires of hell, another council assigns them a lesser punishment. While some Popes assign them a certain level of suffering, some Popes assign them the kingdom of heaven. While a certain Saint might assign them a middle place in hell, another Saint will assign them a place at the very border of heaven - and so on and so on.
The reason for all of this confusion is that limbo is, in fact, a theological hypothesis as Pope Benedict XVI once asserted. This is precisely why the theological teaching of limbo has evolved, devolved, and evolved once more. This is why it has been upheld and rejected throughout the history of our infallible Church.
We can therefore rest assured that as Catholics we may "hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without baptism."
God bless...Fellow Catholics.
"People were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them, and when the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. Jesus, however, called the children to himself and said, "Let the children come to me and do not [hinder] them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these." (Luke 18:15-16)
[NOTE] All information in paragraphs 59-65 are taken from the Sedevacantist website: romancatholicism.org (log on at your own risk). Unlike our Sedevacantist friend, Steven Speray, these particular Sedevacantists believe un-baptized infants suffer the fires of hell, as opposed to the sole loss of the beatific vision. We have used their information herein, for strategic purposes only.
2005 VATICAN DOCUMENT ON SALVATION OF INFANTS
CARDINAL RATZINGER LIMBO HYPOTHESIS
COUNCILS OF LYON II, FLORENCE AND CARTHAGE
CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA MEANING OF CARTHAGE
CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA CARTHAGE NOT BINDING
POPE PIUS IX QUANTO CONFICIAMUR MOERORE LYON II FLORENCE CONTRADICTION
SEDEVACANTIST SITE LIMBO CONTRADICTIONS
Steven Speray has written an article attempting to rebut this article. To read that rebuttal, click on the following link: