In his daily article today , Rusty Reno quotes Paul Griffiths as saying that “the term [limbo of the fathers] is not found in the 1992 Catechism, nor in the Catechism of the Council of Trent,” the implication being that neither text supports Pitstick’s claim that (in Reno’s words) “the Church teaches that Christ’s descent was to ‘the limbo of the Fathers,’ which is to say, to the patriarchs of the Old Testament, in order to liberate them.”

Well, it’s true that neither text uses the phrase “limbo of the fathers,” but both use the synonym “bosom of Abraham” and both say that Christ descended there to liberate the holy souls. Here it is from Part I, Article V of the Catechism of the Council of Trent:

Hell, then, here signifies those secret abodes in which are detained the souls that have not obtained the happiness of heaven . . . .

These abodes are not all of the same nature, for among them is that most loathsome and dark prison in which the souls of the damned are tormented with the unclean spirits in eternal and inextinguishable fire. This place is called gehenna, the bottomless pit, and is hell strictly so-called.

Among them is also the fire of purgatory, in which the souls of just men are cleansed by a temporary punishment, in order to be admitted into their eternal country . . . .

Lastly, the third kind of abode is that into which the souls of the just before the coming of Christ the Lord, were received, and where, without experiencing any sort of pain, but supported by the blessed hope of redemption, they enjoyed peaceful repose. To liberate these holy souls, who, in the bosom of Abraham were expecting the Saviour, Christ the Lord descended into hell . . . .

Having explained these things, the pastor should next proceed to teach that Christ the Lord descended into hell, in order that having despoiled the demons, He might liberate from prison those holy Fathers and the other just souls, and might bring them into heaven with Himself.

As for the 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church, in number 633 we read:

Scripture calls the abode of the dead, to which the dead Christ went down, “hell”—Sheol in Hebrew or Hades in Greek—because those who are there are deprived of the vision of God. Such is the case for all the dead, whether evil or righteous, while they await the Redeemer: which does not mean that their lot is identical, as Jesus shows through the parable of the poor man Lazarus who was received into “Abraham’s bosom”: “It is precisely these holy souls, who awaited their Savior in Abraham’s bosom, whom Christ the Lord delivered when he descended into hell.” Jesus did not descend into hell to deliver the damned, nor to destroy the hell of damnation, but to free the just who had gone before him.

Articles by Robert T. Miller

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