journalistic standards in limbo

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Oct 04, 2006

The London Times online is reporting that the Pope will soon abolish Limbo.

The Times regularly botches stories about the Vatican, but this report from Ruth Gledhill and Richard Owen reaches new heights of inventive absurdity. Take a look at the lead sentence:

The Pope will cast aside centuries of Catholic belief later this week by abolishing formally the concept of limbo, in a gesture calculated to help to win the souls of millions of babies in the developing world for Christ.

Wrong, wrong, and wrong. The concept of Limbo has never been defined in Catholic doctrine. The Pope is not going to abolish the concept. And even if he did, a "gesture" wouldn't win souls.

For the Church, looking to spread the faith in countries with a high infant mortality rate, now is a good time to make it absolutely clear that stillborn babies of Christian mothers go direct to Heaven, too.

Well, yes; it would be convenient to say that-- if it's true. But the Church (unlike, say, the Times) is averse to announcing things that are not true.

This week, the International Theological Commission is discussing the fate of unbaptized babies. That is the slim foundation of reality on which the Times builds its speculative skyscraper.

The commission is not an authoritative body; its discussions are not binding. Maybe the theologians will propose some new ways of thinking about the eternal fate of those who die blameless but unbaptized. Then again, maybe not. In any case, the commission's conclusions-- if indeed it reaches any definite conclusions-- will be purely advisory.

But the Times, unwilling to let reality get in the way of a sensational headline, announces with absolute certainty that the Commission has decided to abolish Limbo. What's more,

The commission’s conclusions will be approved formally by the Pope on Friday.

That won't happen. But don't expect a correction in the Times.

Questions for Discussion:

  • How do you "abolish" a concept? If you can think of it, doesn't the concept still exist?
  • Why isn't it possible to abolish coverage of the Vatican by the London Times?

Sound Off! CatholicCulture.org supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

There are no comments yet for this item.