Research by Queen’s, University Belfast has found that the belief in ‘Limbo’ has suffered serious decline.
In Catholic theology Limbo was believed to be the border place between heaven and hell where those souls who died without being baptised, while not condemned to punishment, were deprived of eternal happiness in heaven.
Professor Emeritus of History Liam Kennedy surveyed 26 women from all counties on the island and found 75 per cent felt the decline of belief in Limbo was due to changing laity beliefs, while 25 per cent believed it was due to the hierarchy.
“The term Limbo does not appear in the Bible or the New Testament,” he said. “It seems the concept was developed over time by Christians to handle two problems: one was the fate of those who led just lives and who died before Christ came on earth to redeem humankind; the other was the fate of unbaptised babies in the event of death.”
From the 1960s onwards Irish catholics turned their backs on it as they found it “not credible or even cruel” and the church placed less and less emphasis on it, he said.
“I have little doubt that mothers who had miscarriages or still-births suffered mental anguish as a result of the death of an unbaptised foetus or still-birth. Heaven was closed to the unbaptised, as indeed was consecrated Church ground,” Professor Kennedy said.