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Catholicism and Evolution

August marked the 60th anniversary of the encyclical Humani Generis, prompting this short essay in the Wall Street Journal. Money quote:

While Pius was willing to concede that there was reason to believe the human body was the product of evolution, he was adamant that the special status of Adam as the father of the human race should not be a matter of question. "For the faithful," he wrote, "cannot embrace that opinion which maintains either that after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents."Pius declared that it was not apparent how such a theory of a founding population of humans, and not a single couple, could be reconciled with original sin. That Catholic doctrine regards the Fall as an historical rebellion against God; a sin actually committed by an individual and which is passed on through the generations from him to all men and women.Subsequent research into genomics, however, has settled this question against Pius. It's not that scientists cannot trace human ancestry back far enough to an Adam and Eve; it's that in principle, the level of genetic variation present in the species today rules out a founding population with fewer than several thousand individuals.

John Paul II, for his part, called evolution "more than a hypothesis," and went so far as to indicate that, while there is necessarily an "ontological leap" from ape to human, that perhaps the timing of such a leap could be gleaned where signs of human self-awareness, conscience, etc. may be observed. In sum--there's no real shift from Pius in insisting that the creation of the human soul must have been direct, a supernatural grace bestowed on some lucky ape. His reasoning is that no materialist notion of the soul could ground a strong concept of human dignity. He doesn't take on the problem of a founding population and whether that causes our doctrine of Original Sin to run aground. (It wasn't that kind of document, but I'm unaware of any other papal statement since Pius' on that point.) That question seems to remain. I see an echo of this concern in the CDF's 1981 reiteration of the warning against reading Teilhard de Chardin, who argued for a more evolutionary conception of human history altogether.So what's at stake here? Well, lots of big doctrines are in play--the nature of the soul, Original Sin and its transmission, and Christology, for starters. Is it time perhaps to re-open the possibilities raised by Teilhard's evolutionary mysticism? Where might that take us?HT: The Daily Dish, Zoe Pollock


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I read the Genesis account of the fall as myth, not literal history. And it's not clear to me that genomics - a science of the body - says anything whatever about the soul. I don't see the problem - what am I missing here?

Jim,Well, according to the Catechism

390 The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man.264 Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents.265264 Cf. GS 13 1.265 Cf. Council of Trent: DS 1513; Pius XII: DS 3897; Paul VI: AAS 58 (1966), 654.

Current science tells us we didn't have first parents. So as Lisa asks, what is Original Sin and how is it transmitted? And if it is some kind of flaw in human nature or matter, how was Mary exempted from it? How do we interpret (or reinterpret) the Immaculate Conception, which is an infallible statement?

We declare, pronounce and define that the doctrine which holds that the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the first instant of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace of the Omnipotent God, in virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of mankind, was preserved immaculate from all stain of original sin, has been revealed by God, and therefore should firmly and constantly be believed by all the faithful.

It's one of the two statements by a pope universally agreed to be infallible, but we don't know what in the world it means.And then what about Jesus as the New Adam? (For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead came also through a human being. For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life.)I'd say if you don't accept that the human race descended from two and only two individuals (and almost nobody does, nowadays), there are a lot of things in Catholicism that are in serious need of reinterpretation. Or maybe they should just be abandoned altogether, like Limbo was.

I think the monitum against Teilhard can be safely disregarded given how then Cardinal Ratzinger praised elements of this thinking in Introduction to Christianity. More recently in 2009 have found Teilhard's work poetic, rich and spiritually satisfying. I enjoyed his work the Divine Milieu,

Bravo for the WSJ calling out all Christians who want to have their cake and eat it too on this matter. This is the theological pressure point in the glass of Christianity. Push to hard and it will shatter. Christology and Soteriology are the big issues, but add to that everything related to sexuality. If evolution is right, heterosexuality is an evolutionary trick to increase adaptive possibilities. There is no normative message hidden in it regarding how relationships between two people should actually be ordered.As one who almost became a Jesuit because of Teilhard, I confess I now find him not quite enough. The Omega Point is arbitrary, or merely code for a moral telos in the universe (a fine concept in itself). And there is no better reason to view the universe as the cosmic body of Christ than to view it as the cosmic "body" of God (or at least one of many parts of a much more expansive body than we can even imagine).Take away the literal Adam and Eve and Christianity as we know it is in very big trouble.

Most of the difficulties reside in the scientific principle cited above: in principle, the level of genetic variation present in the species today rules out a founding population with fewer than several thousand individuals. This does not imply that several thousand individuals independently committed sins before generating humanity, but that is how it is understood.As I understand it, there are several things that we know:1>, there was a "first sin", a sin temporally prior to every other sin.2> Unless genomics has changed since I last checked, all humanity can be traced back to a single male progenitor and to a single female. They were not alive at the same time.(I have my doubts about all this, but that is what they used to say because of the ununique properties of y chromosomes and mitochondrial DNA.)3> The first 'humans' intermarried with others who were not their offspring. This is implicit in evolutionary theories of how species come to be, and it is explicit in Genesis 6:4 "At that time the Nephilim appeared on earth (as well as later), after the sons of heaven had intercourse with the daughters of man, who bore them sons." (ie not all the founding population had to be 'human'.)Given these idea, I have no problem with the Adam and Eve story as an explanation of our origins as a group of individuals each capable of sin. The structure parallels the structure of the history of our physical evolution, and the inaccuracies are not particularly important. Genesis and Evolution are both stories about the development of humans, but human is defined differently b yeach so that are not exactly comparable.As for Chardin, I can support other efforts to tell how humans came to exist. I would not want them to replace the stories we already have, but if they can exist alongside, the more insight we can get, the better off we will be.

I never found the quote from the Catechism or the New Testament references to "Adam" problematic. And yes, I too find it hard to accept that we are all descended from one primordial couple.Perhaps I just haven't been thinking critically enough about it, but it always seemed evident to me that the Catechism was very careful in the way it chose its words. By acknowledging the figurative language of Genesis 2 & 3 and then by opting not to name our "first parents," the text allows for an interpretation that our first parents needn't have been a specific couple. It is making a more general reference, telling us that somewhere along the line, the human race--in whatever evolutionary state it was at the time--somehow turned away from God, with the result that humanity's relation to God, both corporate and individual, was dramatically altered.How it happened, when it happened, and maybe even why it happened are probably irretrievable and unnecessary. *That* it happened--that's the real issue. And I would wager that far fewer people will debate the universal reality of sin and the need for redemption/salvation from that sin.

"Take away the literal Adam and Eve and Christianity as we know it is in very big trouble."Not so, Joe P. It is the concept not the literalness that is the point."And I would wager that far fewer people will debate the universal reality of sin and the need for redemption/salvation from that sin."This is more the point. We do have to get away from indelible marks and the "magic" of baptism. Baptism is commitment to discipleship, not membership in a "club."We have to get away from the church of dogma and the church of liturgy. When most Christians shy away from loving enemies we need more attention to that command of Christ. "What good are you if you are only good to those who are good to you. Even the heathen do that."Dogma creates pageantry, grandiosity and fantasy. While discipleship is the heart of the message of Jesus. Original sin is in selfishness and straying from God. The counter to the straying is discipleship and crucifixion. Not continued grandiosity. The poor and the downtrodden are still generally absent in the midst of the Miters and the red hats. Jesus did not speak in grandiosity. "The blind see, the lame walk and the poor have the gospel preached to them." Really too simple or foreign to the "wise of this world.

Original sin is a concept advocated by St. Augustine and widely accepted in the West but the view of the Eastern Church Orthodox Church is rather different. I am relying here on John Meyendorff's Byzantine Theology: Historical Trends and Doctrinal Themes.

For me, the idea of evolution impacts on the problem of evil. If God is all powerful and all good, then the responsibility for suffering and for the fallen world traditionally lands on us (Adam and Eve/original sin). But science shows that two individuals couldn't be the only parents of the race, and that there was no idyllic time when creatures lived in peace in a perfect garden. What does this do, not only to how suffering is explained away, but to atonement theory, the idea that Jesus came here and died to make up for Adam's mistake?I guess some (Teilhard, Keith Ward, etc) explain suffering and death as inevitable with the use of free will in the process of growth and change in an imperfect universe, and they see Jesus as giving a good example rather than atoning for original sin,. This doesn't really seem to answer my questions about suffering, though.

Mark Jameson says: " . . . by opting not to name our 'first parents,' the text allows for an interpretation that our first parents neednt have been a specific couple." Jim McK says: "The first humans intermarried with others who were not their offspring."I think you are ignoring the fact that the statement about first parents in the Catechism footnotes the Council of Trent, Humani Generis, and Humani Vitae. The point of this thread is that Pius XII was wrong in Humani Generis. Here is the pertinent passage:

For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains that either after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Teaching Authority of the Church propose with regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which, through generation, is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own.

I don't think it is possible to explain away what Pius XII said or what the Catechism says, which is that the human race started out with one man and one woman from whom all living humans are descended. If the Catechism authors were giving themselves "wiggle room" so that "first parents" could be interpreted as meaning something other than the man and the woman from whom the entire human race is descended, why would they have been so emphatic about the certainty of the revealed truth?Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents.

Its not that scientists cannot trace human ancestry back far enough to an Adam and Eve; its that in principle . . .Here we enter into a conflating of different things, science and "principles", thereby confusing the issue, not clarifying it.Science might utilize "principles," but principles are not in and of themselves "science." Rather, science is foremost concerned with actual verifiable proof, the scientific method is one of repeating experiments and hard data.In the case of man's origins, this means actual anthropological physical evidence. And for all the "principles" of evolution, there is still a very large gap in the historical physical evidence between so-called pre-humans and the current species of homo sapiens. Also known as "the missing link." That is, it has not yet been scientifically proven.THAT is what the science says. All of the rest is conjecture. Educated conjecture maybe, more probable than not maybe, but conjecture and hypothesis nonetheless.

What is Original Sin, and when did it occur? Suppose we accept the idea that the story of Adam and Eve is a figurative story not about two people who sinned, but about a group of humans who sinned and from whom we are all descended. How long ago did that happen? At what point in prehistory did humans reach a level of moral development such that a sin on their part could fairly be attributed not just to them, but to all of their descendants? Whatever constituted "the Fall," it had to have been an "original fault freely committed." Surely it had to meet the criteria for mortal sin. Did humankind reach a stage of moral development at which it is possible to attribute mortal sin to them early enough so that all those who now live are their descendants? What were homo sapiens like before "the Fall"?

Here we enter into a conflating of different things, science and principles, thereby confusing the issue, not clarifying it.Bender,You are parsing the language of an article in the Wall Street Journal. It could just as easily have said, "The level of genetic variation present in the species today rules out a founding population with fewer than several thousand individuals."In the case of mans origins, this means actual anthropological physical evidence.Are you saying scientists must find physical evidence that the human race did or did not descend from two individuals responsible for Original Sin? Exactly what kind of evidence would that be? . . . . there is still a very large gap in the historical physical evidence between so-called pre-humans and the current species of homo sapiens. Also known as the missing link. There were homo sapiens sapiens in Europe 35,000 years ago, and more than twice as long ago in the Middle East. So presumably Original Sin occurred more than 70,000 years ago.What link is missing, and what has it got to do with Adam and Eve? Does it predate or postdate them?

I love Teilhard, and especially like his view of original sin, precisely because I think it preserves the tradition so well. A while ago, I wrote a paper in which I tried to both explicate Teilhard and show how he is "orthodox," and how on problematic areas his thought could be modified, etc. Here's some stuff I wrote on his idea of original sin which might be helpful in making clear just what he's saying exactly. Note: referenes to "CE" are to "Christianity and Evolution."...We have explained how for Teilhard, Creation equals Incarnation: to explain how Redemption is equal to both, we must examine his view of original sin, which attempts to reconcile the doctrine with evolution. Teilhards view of original sin was and remains controversial for many, but I believe it is ultimately reconcilable with orthodoxy, precisely because of how it preserves Catholic dogma: it does not at all water down original sin. Original sin, he says, is everywhere, as closely woven into the being of the world as the God who creates us and the Incarnate Word who redeems us (CE 54). Some parts of Teilhards writings on the subject do pose problems that need to be corrected; other parts, however, only appear to do so because of the rhetorical strategy he employs. I will first lay out his view, and then address various concerns and problems.Traditionally, Catholicism has taught that physical evil the suffering and death of all creatures came into the world because of original sin, here meaning the sin of the first humans. However, science tells us that life existed on earth for over three billion years before the first humans evolved, and hence that suffering and death also existed long before humans: Thousands of centuries before a thinking being appeared on our earth, life swarmed on it, with its instincts and passions, its sufferings and deaths (CE 38). If science is right, how should we re-interpret the doctrine of original sin? Teilhard describes what he sees as the sort of solution advanced by the conservative (CE 48) theologians of his time:[block quote (I don't know how to do formatting?)]Through sin comes death. In order to get away from evidence that is only too clear, an attempt is now being made to weaken this illuminating phrase. Death, it is agreed, most certainly existed for animals before mans transgression, and, had man been faithful, even in his case it could not have been averted except by a sort of permanent miracle. (CE 81) [Thus,] All along the line, they minimize. Today, the preternatural gifts given to our first parents are whittled down as far as possible. The range of the properties found in the earthly paradise is reduced. The consequences of the transgression are limited by saying that the suffering and death introduced into the world simply refers to mans suffering and death (CE 48)[end block quote]Teilhard argues that this way of solving the problem avoids criticism by simply giving up, and that, what is more serious, it compromises the very content of the dogma (CE 48). He strongly objects to attempts by theologians to solve the problem by limiting the effects of original sin to humans alone, for various reasons, two of which are most important. First, such a reinterpretation is manifestly contrary to the spirit if not to the letter of St. Paul, for whom the Fall is above all a solution to the problem of evil (CE 48):[block quote]St. Paul is categorical: Per peccatum mors. Sin (original sin) does not explain the suffering and the mortality only of man: for St. Paul it explains all suffering. It is the general solution of the problem of evil. (CE 39-40; emphasis in text).[end block quote]In other words, if we limit original sins effects to humans, we are left with a God who has designed carnivorous creatures (such as lions, sharks, etc.) whose very nature is to live by preying upon other creatures, causing them terror, pain, and death. We would no longer be able to say that such evil reflects the worlds fallen condition; we would have to say that this is how God intends creation to be. Indeed, we often find people taking this attitude: confronted, for example, with killer whales devouring baby seals, one might shrug and say, Thats just the instinct nature gives them i.e., thats how God created them. For Teilhard, this must not be how God created them, must not be their true, authentic nature; it must be part of their fallenness.Teilhards second reason for rejecting attempts to limit original sin to humans is even more crucial for him: unless the whole world is fallen, Christ cannot be the redeemer of the whole world (CE 38-39; 54, 190). The spirit of the Bible and the Church is perfectly clear, he insists: the whole world has been corrupted by the Fall and the whole of everything has been redeemed. Christs glory, beauty, and irresistible attraction radiate, in short, from His universal kingship (CE 39, emphases in text).Teilhards solution to the problem is to re-imagine original sin here meaning the fallen condition of the world with all its suffering, death, disorder, inclination of humans to sin, etc. not as the result of the sin of the first humans, but rather as like an inevitable shadow, like smoke from fire (CE 84), that appears for the duration of Gods act of creation, i.e., while God is still drawing being out of nothingness and unifying it as the Mystical Body. With inorganic matter, this shadow, original sin, appears as disorder and chaos; on the level of life, it appears as suffering and death; on the level of thought, it becomes moral evil, evil freely chosen: thus, the sin of the first humans is when humans freely gave in to the shadow (CE 195) i.e., it is when we sold ourselves into slavery to Satan.Note here that for Teilhard, humans are born with original sin, this shadow, just as traditionally taught not only because its presence is universal, but even because it is passed down through human generation; moral evils emergence with humans can be regarded as having contaminated the human phylum; and, in consequence, every new human being must be baptized (CE 149 n.4; also 85, 146). He claims that under his theory, individual baptism retains, and in an even more emphatic form, its full justification; in each soul there is something which needs to be purified (CE 196-197). I am not aware of any passage where Teilhard says it explicitly, but it should go without saying that in his theology, humans are still born without sanctifying grace, just as traditionally taught, etc.The following is a series of quotes I have cobbled together from Teilhards various essays in Christianity and Evolution which explain his view in greater depth:[block quote]In one sense, if to create is to unite (evolutively, gradually), then God cannot create without evil appearing as a shadow evil which has to be atoned for and overcome. This is not a limitation on Gods power, but the expression of a law of nature, an ontological law, which it would be illogical to suppose God could contravene. (134-35) [A]s a matter of logic which applies to every conceivable world, the creative act takes the form, for those beings which are its object, of transition from a state of initial dispersion to one of ultimate harmony. (83) [Evil] necessarily appears in the course of unification of the multiple, since it is precisely the expression of a state of plurality that is as yet incompletely organized. [T]he original weakness from which the creature suffers is in reality the radical condition which causes it to be born from a starting-point in the multiple, always retaining in its fibres (until it is finally and permanently spiritualized) a tendency to fall back towards the bottom, into dust. (84) Strictly speaking, there is no first Adam. The name disguises a universal and unbreakable law of reversion or perversion the price that has to be paid for progress. (41) For the Almighty, therefore, to create is no small matter: it is no picnic, but an adventure, a risk, a battle, to which He commits Himself unreservedly. (84-85) By the very fact that He creates, God commits Himself to a fight against evil and in consequence to, in one way or another, effecting a redemption. (40) [The evils that are] rampant all around us on earth, [t]hese tears, this blood, and these vices, are in reality a measure of the value that we represent. Our being must, indeed, be precious for God to continue to seek it through so many obstacles. And it is a great honour that He makes us able to fight with Him, that His word may be accomplished in other words that there may be creature. (33)[end block quote]To develop Teilhards view with my own ideas: original sin is a resistance on the part of creation to being created and united in love, an inclination to remain and slide back into nothingness, the refusal of grace. Creation is a movement out of nothingness toward Christ, and original sin is like the inertia that must be overcome in order to move any object from a state of rest to motion. It represents the action of the negative forces of counter-evolution (CE 150). It is creation saying to God, like Lucifer, non serviam; it is a refusal to let the Mystical Body of Christ be born i.e., the reverse of Marys yes, her fiat mihi (Lk. 1:38). It is worth noting here that in the Vulgate, Creation, Incarnation, and Redemption all begin with a fiat Fiat Lux at Creation (Gen. 1:3), Fiat Mihi at the Anunciation, and Fiat Voluntas Tua at the Agony in the Garden (Mt. 26:42, see also Lk. 22:42, Mk. 14:36).Of course, it is Christ who redeems the world from original sin, and so the process we have identified as Creation/Incarnation is also Redemption, because it is a process by and in which Christ redeems the world from the opposing shadow of original sin. However, before moving on to consider Redemption further, it is necessary to address certain issues raised by Teilhards theory of original sin.(I'll leave out the rest, since this is probably way too much already)

By the way, the problems/issues with Teilhard's theory that I went on to address are as follows:1) Problem: Unacceptable Limitation of Omnipotence?2) Problem: Not Due to Human Fault?3) Problems: Inevitability/Freedom of Sin; Concupiscence vs. Absence of Sanctifying Grace...I thought I'd mention these ahead of time in case anyone points them out, just to let you know that I know these are issues!

There was a book in response to the Catechism in which a number of leading theologians criticized its biblical fundamentalism.

Jim McK - thanks; your comment touched on exactly the sorts of things I was thinking of when I posted my initial comment.Brendan McGrath - thank you; very interesting and thought provoking. (FWIW, my rule of thumb is, nobody's comment is too long if it's filled with good stuff!)

Btw, if you haven't done so, please do click on the link Lisa provided to the WSJ article and read the whole thing. Its overall tone is not an attack on Pius XII for his putative faulty theology, but a celebration of his attempt to take science seriously and reconcile/integrate it with Christian faith.

This topic is probably a good reminder that we need to approach important questions with a certain humility; we can't know everything there is to know. Clearly, science has transmogrified considerably since Pius XII wrote Humani Generis. Istm this is precisely the sort of dynamic that drives development in theology: new facts to sort through, or new light on existing facts.

David Nickol said: Jim McK says: The first humans intermarried with others who were not their offspring.(David:) I think you are ignoring the fact that the statement about first parents in the Catechism footnotes the Council of Trent, Humani Generis, and Humanae Vitae. Me:David, I think you're missing the point. Draw your family tree, going back some reasonably drawable number of generations, like four. Label one pair of your great-grandparents "Adam" and "Eve" and their direct offspring "Cain" (or "Seth," if it makes you feel better about yourself.) Now, everybody in the tree is "biologically human" in the sense that any genetic or morphological evidence that can ever be discovered will indicate they are the same "species" as Adam, Eve and Cain. But only those with a line of descent from Adam and Eve are "theologically human," i.e., possessed understanding and free will and were tainted with original sin. The others, like Mrs. Cain, will have left fossil evidence which makes them indistinguishable from those who are "theologically human" even though they were not. All of the people in the leaves of the tree are in what geneticists call the "founders' population." But only those descended from Adam and Eve qualify as "true men" in Pope Pius' sense of the words.

Newman: The believer "is sure, and nothing shall make him doubt, that, if anything seems to be proved by astronomer, or geologist, or chronologist, or antiquarian, or ethnologist, in contradiction to the dogmas of faith, that point will eventually turn out, first, not to be proved, or, secondly, not contradictory, or thirdly, not contradictory to any thing really revealed, but to something which has been confused with revelation.... If he has one cardinal maxim in his philosophy, it is, that truth cannot be contrary to truth; if he has a second, it is, that truth often seems contrary to truth; and, if a third, it is the practical conclusion, that we must be patient with such appearances, and not be hasty to pronounce them to be really of a more formidable character. ( Idea of a University)

We shouldnt overlook the interesting new development reported by the WSJ article: Father Denis Edwards at Flinders University in Australia treats the second person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, as a more active partner in the development of the evolving cosmos. This seems as good an example as any of what journalists call burying the lede.Is the new rank order in the Trinity a temporary expedient or is it permanent due to a Teilhardian evolutionary process? Obviously the Catechism will have to be revised. Certainly someone should notify the Pope about the latest change.

Bill M. You will get no arguments from me about the odious and ad hoc character of the concept of original sin. In this case, however, I think the concept requires literalness (although, literalness does not require the concept).Felapton: Any chance of that there are still some theologically nonhuman types roaming around looking a lot like humans? If not, why not? If so, how might we tell the difference between the two kinds of humans (maybe the theologically nonhuman show themselves by subscribing to Commonweal!).Fr. Komonchak: Once, after I had consumed about 4 or 5 pints of Guinness, a German Bible scholar and archeologist asked me what I thought about the idea of revelation. I said that I thought is was great, the only problem was knowing when one had gotten hold of a revelation. I really like the dictum that truth cannot be contrary to truth. I sometimes personalize the same claim by saying that truth need not fear truth. But the Newman text that you cite leaves me wondering how the the believer can be sure of anything without also being sure that something is indeed a revelation. If any given part of revelation can, in principle, be subjected to the claim that it was not "really revealed" what does it mean to be sure of anything at all?

"Baptism is commitment to discipleship, not membership in a club.CCC 1213 Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua), and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: "Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word."We have to get away from the church of dogma and the church of liturgy."You know, one of those "dogmas" of the Catholic Church is that one need not necessarily be in communion with the Catholic Church to attain salvation.

OK. Ultimately, I believe that what we are confronted with in trying to harmonize all of these things, is the Council of Trent.The catechism's section on the Fall is good to (re-)read. There seems to be an underlying assumption, in this discussion and in general, that original sin spreads through humanity (somehow) via human reproduction. But this assumption is somewhat of a headscratcher, even apart from the revelation of genomics, for a couple of reasons: if human fallenness is a property of the soul, and God 'ensouls' a new human at conception or at whatever point it happens, then how does *bodily* human reproduction transmit the fallenness of human nature from parent to child? Also: if baptism washes clean the stain of original sin, then how is it that original sin reappears in the offspring of baptized parents? It's interesting that the Catechism (almost) avoids specifically affirming that original sin has spread through the human race via bodily reproduction. It has this interesting quote from St. Paul, with some commentary on the same :[Begin quote]402 All men are implicated in Adam's sin, as St. Paul affirms: "By one man's disobedience many (that is, all men) were made sinners": "sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned."289 The Apostle contrasts the universality of sin and death with the universality of salvation in Christ. "Then as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man's act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men."290 [...]404 How did the sin of Adam become the sin of all his descendants? The whole human race is in Adam "as one body of one man".293 By this "unity of the human race" all men are implicated in Adam's sin, as all are implicated in Christ's justice. Still, the transmission of original sin is a mystery that we cannot fully understand. But we do know by Revelation that Adam had received original holiness and justice not for himself alone, but for all human nature. By yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve committed a personal sin, but this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit in a fallen state.294 It is a sin which will be transmitted by propagation to all mankind, that is, by the transmission of a human nature deprived of original holiness and justice. And that is why original sin is called "sin" only in an analogical sense: it is a sin "contracted" and not "committed" - a state and not an act. [End quote]Istm that a fair reading of these passages leaves open the question of how original sin spread throughout the human race. it is a mystery; somehow, all humans are united in such a way that Adam's sin affected all of us, just as somehow, Christ's redemptive act affects all of us. The specific mechanics of it just aren't clear.But ...Admittedly, that word "propagated" in 404 above does seem to bring us back to the notion of original-sin-transmitted-via-bodily-reproduction. This sense is further strengthened paragraph 419 of the "In brief" section:"We therefore hold, with the Council of Trent, that original sin is transmitted with human nature, "by propagation, not by imitation" and that it is. . . 'proper to each'" (Paul VI, CPG 16). "(Paul VI's CPG is the "Credo of the People of God".)I've noticed the Catechism's proclivity for slipping entirely new material in its "In brief" sections :-).I'm not enough of a Tridentine to be able to navigate the Council of Trent docs to find the original passage. But dollars to donuts, the passage being referenced by the CCC and Paul VI will be a Trent 'de fide' declaration :-). And it seems pretty likely that Pius XII was relying on the same Trent material in saying what he said in It may be that the CCC, in its emphasis on St. Paul's passage, is trying to lay the groundwork for development of what Trent declared.

"We shouldnt overlook the interesting new development reported by the WSJ article: Father Denis Edwards at Flinders University in Australia treats the second person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, as a more active partner in the development of the evolving cosmos. "I had noticed that, too, Patrick. :-). Were it the NY Times letting that one slip by, I'd have rolled my eyes and thought, 'ah, well, just more of the same.'. But the Wall Street Journal?! If they can't straight the order of the Three Persons in One God, why should we believe their closing stock prices?

Why, why, why are we even discussing this? The WSJ and David Nickol are yanking your chains. Catholics believe that God is revealed both in scripture and in creation. Scientists attempts to understand creation continue to evolve, and are quite different today than in the time of Pius. He knew very little about evolutionary science and even now it is poorly understood by most people who are not specialists. The conflict that many posters perceive here comes from non-Catholic ways of interpreting scripture and misunderstanding the nature of truth claims in science (facts vs. theories).In June a letter was published in an elite American journal of science. The letter complains about religion distorting the publics beliefs about human evolution and says, in part:When facts conflict with beliefs, it is the beliefs that must give way. The scientific community should not recoil from strong support of the scientific facts, nor should scientific bodies refrain from sharing data that reveal that much of the public does not understand central facts about the world and the universe in which we live.LETTERSFacing the Facts on the Public's BeliefsScience 4 June 2010:Vol. 328. no. 5983, p. 1228 Id post a link, but a subscription might be required. These scientists are claiming that human evolution is a fact, and so do some posters on this thread. Joe P says If evolution is right, heterosexuality is an evolutionary trick to increase adaptive possibilities.Joe, please. This is not a fact. What is a fact? Species are mutable is definitely a fact. The idea that humans evolved from a simpler species is not a fact but an extremely well corroborated theory. So, okay, evolution is more than a hypothesis. Theories evolve, much more quickly than the text of the catechism. In order to keep the two in balance in your minds, I recommend common sense. Im really just repeating what Jim Pauwels said, but longer.Im grateful that my own area of science is too technical and boring to cause any of you to become upset with the catechism. Feel free to discuss original sin, but I think yoking the subject tightly to theories of human evolution is not helpful. And remember: the things I believe are facts. The things you believe, are beliefs.

Newman's advice is echoed in the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Faith of the first Vatican Council: "Even though faith is above reason, there can never be any real disagreement between faith and reason, since it is the same God who reveals the mysteries and infuses faith and who has endowed the human mind with the light of reason. God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever be in opposition to truth. The appearance of this kind of specious contradiction is chiefly due to the fact that either the dogmas of faith are not understood and explained in accordance with the mind of the Church or unsound views are mistaken for the conclusions of reason."The only thing lacking is the advice that patience and some time may be necessary before one can decide the issue.

Fr. Komonchak: As best I can tell, the passage you cite assumes the "dogmas of faith" must be true. If I am wrong in drawing this conclusion, I would appreciate knowing why. If I am not wrong, I am wondering why any reasonable person should accept this conclusion.Kathleen Mortell: I do not think you are being fair. You accuse some "posters" on this thread of reading scripture in non-Catholic ways. Perhaps this is so, but it seems to me that a more helpful claim would be to show how a Catholic way of reading scripture overcomes the difficulties presented. As for the evolution of heterosexuality, allow me to restate my claim: heterosexuality has all of the characteristics of an evolutionary trick to increase adaptive possibilities (details in support of this claim could be provided upon request). Therefore, its presence in nature does not, by itself, reveal the hand of God, and so does not, by itself, reveal any normative conclusions about the proper character of human sexuality. This is not a belief, it is an argument. If you disagree with the argument, please explain why.

Thanks to Brendan McGrath for his fine comments. We Catholics do have a responsibility to work to make sense of our faith. But we also have to recognize that we will not get definitive clarity about many things, especially about how the dogmas we accept fit with whatever other knowledge of other topics that we acquire. At the end of the day, the fact of evil is something for which we can account. We can try to explain it away or we can try to fit it into some overall neat philosophical or scientific theoretical system. There is no reason to think that either of these approaches will do justice to the fact of evil.That's no intellectual disaster. What would be intellectually disastrous is to claim that one has definitive about evil, either its origin or its ramifications.Newman's observation that truths do not contradict one another stands. But in the case of evil, one of the truths is that it is a mystery that is not completely fathomable.

David, I think youre missing the point. Draw your family tree, going back some reasonably drawable number of generations, like four. Label one pair of your great-grandparents Adam and Eve and their direct offspring Cain (or Seth, if it makes you feel better about yourself.)Felapton,Let's go with your proposal here. I'll say my father's father's father was Adam, and my father's father's mother was Eve. This means that I -- as a direct descendant of Adam and Eve -- am both biologically and theologically human. However, it also means that everyone on my mother's side of the family is biologically human but not theologically human. It means that my very own mother, on the minus side, was not theologically human and did not possess understanding or free will, but on the plus side was not tainted by original sin.With your theory, which is specifically contradicted by Pius XII, an unknown number of those we consider to belong to the human race are not theologically human. Since we have no way of tracing ancestry back to the two individuals who were "Adam" and "Eve" and whose descendants are theologically human, we have absolutely no way of knowing who is merely biologically human and who is biologically and theologically human. You yourself might not be theologically human.

The WSJ and David Nickol are yanking your chains.Kathleen,I am, in this instance, quite delighted to be yanking chains by taking the "orthodox" Catholic position and defending it from people like Felapton and Mark Jameson who are coming up with their own theories in an attempt to harmonize Catholic teaching and contemporary science. The conflict that many posters perceive here comes from non-Catholic ways of interpreting scripture and misunderstanding the nature of truth claims in science (facts vs. theories).I am not myself interpreting scripture, but rather relating what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says and what Pius XII said in Humani Generis. I forthrightly acknowledge that I would not interpret scripture in the same way, but we are not here discussing my interpretation of scripture. We are discussing the Catechism and Pius XII.Let me state the problem bluntly. The Church's interpretation of the story of Adam and Eve, even though the story is taken to be in figurative language, is that the human race descended from one man and one woman, a couple living at the same time and in essence married to each other, and that everyone alive today could trace his or her family tree back to that one man and one woman. Those two people, the mother and father of the human race, did something that alienated them from God, and as a result, their descendants -- the whole human race -- are alienated from God and bear the "stain" of Original Sin. Original sin is inherited. One person, Mary, was exempted from the stain of Original Sin by a miraculous intervention resulting in the Immaculate Conception. (How else are we to understand the transmission of Original Sin as being transmitted from parents to child when there is a dogma of the Catholic Church that says Mary was immaculately conceived? Clearly the Church believes Original Sin is transmitted at the moment of conception.

Joe Pettit: You wrote: "As best I can tell, the passage you cite assumes the dogmas of faith must be true. If I am wrong in drawing this conclusion, I would appreciate knowing why. If I am not wrong, I am wondering why any reasonable person should accept this conclusion."You are correct in drawing the conclusion that the passage I cited assumes the dogmas of faith must be true. I do not know why any reasonable person would not assume from the passage I cite that the dogmas of faith must be true.

David,Your mother also has a line of ascent to Adam and Eve, as do all living people. All that is required is that at various points in human history, the people who were not theologically human failed to propagate, except in combination with theologically human people. You can't draw it, but the tree is more like 300 generations deep, so you yourself probably have several different lines of ascent going back to A&E.Genetic "bottlenecks" are a well-established feature of human history. There is genetic evidence that, for example, all Europeans in the generation immediately following the Black Death had some shockingly small number of ancestors. (I mean the union not the intersection.) The vast majority of humans who have ever lived have no living descendants.Of course, we know by Faith that all living humans are theologically human. The Church says so and I don't know about you, but I accept with perfect filial docility all that Holy Mother Church teaches, even the arrant nonsense.

David, actually, I think this particular hare-brained explanation was introduced by Jim McK, not Mark Jameson, who might be annoyed to hear it attributed to him. I'm not suggesting I find it particularly convincing; I just don't think it's scientifically invalid. We don't have to discuss it if you're worried that Kathleen Mortell might call you stupid. I realize how convincing an argument it is when somebody says we better shut up and stop taking our religion so literally or the smart people will make fun of us. I myself, when I remember that this is the faith for which St. Laurence was roasted on a grill, St. Joan was burnt at the stake and St. Maximilian Kolbe was gassed with Zyklon B, find that I can stand to be called dumb for holding it. I believe I could even perdure if she accused me of having cooties.

I do not know why any reasonable person would not assume from the passage I cite that the dogmas of faith must be true.Fr. Komonchak,Is the belief that all humans now alive descended from two individuals who committed Original Sin a dogma? Is Original Sin itself a dogma? I think it is agreed that the Immaculate Conception is dogma, so what would it mean for Original Sin not to be dogma?

David Nickol: I believe that there is a dogma with regard to original sin, founded scripturally in particular on Rom 5:11-21. What elements in the obviously symbolic scriptural account in Gen 2-3 are to be interpreted literally, that is, historically, seems to me to be in good part an open question, upon which paleo-anthropology and genetics will have something to say.

All that is required is that at various points in human history, the people who were not theologically human failed to propagate, except in combination with theologically human people.Felapton,Let's look again at what Pius XII said:

For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains that either after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents.

If I understand your theory, when Pius XII says "true men," you are claiming he means "theological men," direct descendants of Adam who have souls and free will. So in essence-- since "theological men" must necessarily be descendants of Adam -- you are claiming that Pius XII said there were no descendants of Adam who were not descendants of Adam. This is of course a tautology, and I wonder why Pius XII would bother to say it.Also, your theory has "theological men" reproducing with "biological women," and "theological women" reproducing with "biological men." In other words, "true men (and women)" interbred with mere "biological men (and women)." The descendants of Adam, with souls and free will, married other biological humans who did not have souls or free will. And all that's necessary to make this a valid theory for today is that the merely biological humans died out. So at one time, and perhaps for thousands or tens of thousands of years, humans with free will and souls lived side-by-side with, and intermarried with, humans without free will and souls. It is an interesting theory, but I say with a great deal of confidence that it is not what Pius XII meant. What do you suppose it is like to be married to someone without free will and a soul?

To Jim and Bernard -- thanks for your appreciative words about my post! Jim, taking some encouragement from your words about a comment not being too long if it contains good stuff, let me post another piece of my paper in an effort to contribute to the question of how original sin is transmitted. (By the way, could someone please direct me to how I can find out about formatting posts with italics, block quotes, etc.? I've replaced some italics with caps.) The part about how original sin could be transmitted is near the end:3) Problems: Inevitability/Freedom of Sin; Concupiscence vs. Absence of Sanctifying GraceThere is another issue or at least a question that we must address. Teilhard says that with humans, original sin breaks through onto the moral level, where sin becomes something freely chosen i.e., the sin of the first humans was FREELY committed. Yet some passages in Teilhards writing suggest that human sin was INEVITABLE (CE 149, 197) and of course, if this were understood to mean that the first humans (or any humans) had no choice, it would render Teilhards theology unorthodox, since sin is always something freely chosen; it would also contradict what he implicitly claims elsewhere when he calls the first sin MORAL evil. On closer investigation, however, it becomes clear that Teilhard is not making such problematic statements when he speaks of inevitability. Instead, he writes of the inevitability (as a statistical necessity, in a population) of the appearance of sin (moral evil) at the level of man (CE 149). Thus, he is not denying human freedom: he is merely saying that, given a large enough population, it is statistically inevitable that one or more will CHOOSE FREELY to sin. In a footnote, the editor of "Christianity and Evolution" makes the same point implicitly; the editor observes that when Teilhard says that starting with man, the shadow of disorder and suffering over the universe becomes sin, he makes a clear-cut statement [that] avoids the ambiguity of certain expressions which might result in evil appearing to be in man the pure statistical result of a process of evolution (195, n. 10).Having clarified this point, there is another issue we must address. Though the first humans (Adam and Eve, as they are called by tradition) had the freedom NOT to give in to the shadow of original sin, a problem is raised by the fact that they did not (according to the evolutionary worldview) plop down into the universe as full-grown adults confronted with the choice. Rather, the first true human(s) i.e., the first organisms created through evolution with reflection, self-consciousness, thought, etc. had to mature from infancy. Now, wouldnt that mean that Adam and Eve would already have been infected with the shadow of original sin, and thus be in need of baptism? (As I will discuss later, this might actually be an advantage rather than a difficulty in the theory, but for now, let us assume it would be unorthodox and thus a disadvantage.)Once again, the difficulty disappears upon further consideration, though this is not an issue that Teilhard himself discusses. The need for baptism is occasioned NOT by the absence in newly born humans of PRETERNATURAL gifts (i.e., not by the fact that humans are subject to death, suffering, concupiscence, etc.), but by the absence of SUPERNATURAL gifts, i.e., the absence of sanctifying grace which leaves us in a state of sin. Now, with regard to the preternatural gifts, we can conceive of three possibilities:1) Adam and Eve were given preternatural gifts (preservation from corruptibility, from concupiscence, etc.) at conception, birth, etc.2) Adam and Eve were offered preternatural gifts, but never had them, since they rejected them by their first sin.3)Adam and Eve never had and never could have had preternatural gifts, since humanity (and the world) will only be capable of receiving such gifts at the end of their journey, i.e., when Creation is complete.Regardless of which of these three scenarios is correct, Adam and Eve would not have been in a state of sin and needed baptism, i.e., would not have been without sanctifying grace, until their first sin assuming, that is, that God had infused them with sanctifying grace before that sin. The key point to remember here, of course, is that for Catholicism (in contrast to certain varieties of Protestantism), concupiscence in and of itself is not sin; its presence in the justified (i.e., in those who are in a state of grace) is not sin, and it is in fact natural to humans; it would only be by preternatural gifts that we would be preserved from it; baptism does not remove it or any of the other effects of original sin (Smith 47-51, Miller 321-338 [references to George D. Smith's "The Teaching of the Catholic Church"]). In other words: prior to their first sin, Adam and Eve would (except in scenario #1) have been infected with the shadow of original sin NOT on the MORAL level, i.e., the level of thought/reflection, but only on the NON-moral levels, i.e., only on the level of disorder that belongs to all matter, and on the level of suffering which belongs to life and on those non-moral levels. The infection (including concupiscence) of the shadow on these levels is not sin; it is not incompatible with sanctifying grace.I wrote above that Adam and Eve would not have been in a state of sin prior to their first sin, assuming that God had infused them with sanctifying grace before that sin. Should we, however, make that assumption? I made it above because it seems closer to tradition/orthodoxy, but it is worth asking whether Teilhard himself would have said that, and/or whether it is required by orthodoxy to say it. Would it not simplify things more for the worldview under consideration if Adam and Eve, like all other humans, were born without sanctifying grace, and, by their first sin, simply REJECTED sanctifying grace? i.e., chose NOT to have an implicit desire for Baptism (just as any human not baptized with water chooses, by their first mortal sin, either not to implicitly desire Baptism, or chooses, having implicitly desired Baptism earlier, not to implicitly desire Penance/Reconciliation for that first mortal sin)? Regardless of which theory we decide upon, we should address the following question: why are all humans since Adam and Eve born without sanctifying grace? I think the best option is to say that when the shadow of original sin broke through onto the moral/spiritual level with the first humans free acceptance of it, it introduced the same darkness to the FABRIC of the universes moral/spiritual level that was already present in that fabrics material level (as disorder) and organic level (as suffering). The sin of the first humans shattered the moral/spiritual level of the universes fabric like a bullet through a window, i.e., it allowed the shadow of original sin to pervade the moral/spiritual level in such a way that all souls are born without sanctifying grace, etc. The key point Im getting at here is that the shadow of original sin infects us on all levels (material, organic, moral/spiritual) NOT via an ancestral connection to Adam and Eve, but via the universe itself. In other words, we are born with original sin not because fallen humans gave birth to us, but because we were born in a fallen universe (whose fallenness on the moral/spiritual level was introduced by humans). I am expressing all this in language that is perhaps foreign to Teilhard, but it gets at a main point in his theory, which is that original sin pervades and results from the universes STRUCTURE, and is not limited to the descendents of a single couple.

One comment to add: Incidentally, one of my many pet peeves about the Catechism is that in its discussion of original sin, it skips or at least glosses over the connection of the topic to that of grace. I.e., it gives this vague statement about losing "original holiness and justice" which, while in line with conciliar statements, leaves unclear the crucial point that the essence of original sin (read: originated sin, not originating sin) is the absence/lack/privation of sanctifying grace in the soul. Indeed, the discussion of grace, justification, etc. seems to be relegated to the section on morality. I'd much prefer that the catechism follow more closely the structure of the old theological manuals: 1) Fundamental Theology: Knowledge of God by Reason and Revelation (revelation made in salvation history, mediated in Scripture and Tradition, and expressed by the Church/magisterium -- infallibility, etc.); Faith; etc.2) God as One and Triune (yes, I know the arguments for following the creedal structure, but it's clearer this way)3) Creation and Fall (including preliminary look at grace with regard to supernatural gifts and the loss of them)4) Christology and Soteriology -- Incarnation and (Objective) Redemption5) Mary (somewhere in here)6) Justification and a fuller look at grace (sanctifying vs. actual, created vs. uncreated, etc.)7) The Church 8) The Sacraments9) The Last Things

If you type into a search-engine Ratzinger original sin heresy, you will be brought to a number of websites devoted to the heresies of Joseph Ratzinger, some of which maintain that because he is a heretic, he is not a legitimate pope. Among the heresies for which he is indicted is the one said to be expressed in these paragraphs of a book published when he was archbishop of Munich:

"In the Genesis story that we are considering, still a further characteristic of sin is described. Sin is not spoken of in general as an abstract possibility but as a deed, as the sin of a particular person, Adam, who stands at the origin of humankind and with whom the history of sin begins. The account tells us that sin begets sin, and that therefore all the sins of history are interlinked. Theology refers to this state of affairs by the certainly misleading and imprecise term 'original sin.' What does this mean? Nothing seems to us today to be stranger or, indeed, more absurd than to insist upon original sin, since, according to our way of thinking, guilt can only be something very personal, and since God does not run a concentration camp, in which ones relative are imprisoned, because he is a liberating God of love, who calls each one by name. What does original sin mean, then, when we interpret it correctly? "Finding an answer to this requires nothing less than trying to understand the human person better. It must once again be stressed that no human being is closed in upon himself or herself and that no one can live of or for himself or herself alone. We receive our life not only at the moment of birth but every day from without--from others who are not ourselves but who nonetheless somehow pertain to us. Human beings have their selves not only in themselves but also outside of themselves: they live in those whom they love and in those who love them and to whom they are 'present.' Human beings are relational, and they possess their lives--themselves--only by way of relationship. I alone am not myself, but only in and with you am I myself. To be truly a human being means to be related in love, to be of and for. But sin means the damaging or the destruction of relationality. Sin is a rejection of relationality because it wants to make the human being a god. Sin is loss of relationship, disturbance of relationship, and therefore it is not restricted to the individual. When I destroy a relationship, then this event--sin--touches the other person involved in the relationship. Consequently sin is always an offense that touches others, that alters the world and damages it. To the extent that this is true, when the network of human relationships is damaged from the very beginning, then every human being enters into a world that is marked by relational damage. At the very moment that a person begins human existence, which is a good, he or she is confronted by a sin-damaged world. Each of us enters into a situation in which relationality has been hurt. Consequently each person is, from the very start, damaged in relationships and does not engage in them as he or she ought. Sin pursues the human being, and he or she capitulates to it." Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, 'In the Beginning...', pp. 71-73

In an interview with Peter Seewald, in 1996, Ratzinger, now head of the CDF, addressed the question in response to a question:

Are Catholics allowed to doubt, or, if they do, are they hypocrites and heretics? The strange thing about Christians seems to be that they distinguish between religious and scientific truth. They study Darwin and go to church. Is such a division possible in the first place? There can, after all, be only one truth: either the world was really created in six days, or it developed over millions of years.In a world as confused as ours, doubt will inevitably assail individuals again and again. Doubt need not be immediately associated with a fall from faith. I can sincerely take up the questions that press upon me while holding fast to God, holding to the essential core of faith. On the one hand, I can try to find solutions for the seeming contradictions. On the other hand, I can also be confident that, though I cant find them all, there are solutions even when I cant find them. Again and again in the history of theology, too, there are things that remain unresolved for the moment that should not be explained away by forced interpretations.Part of faith is also the patience of time. The theme you have just mentioned - Darwin, creation, the theory of evolution - is the subject of a dialogue that is not yet finished and, within our present means, is probably also impossible to settle at the moment. Not that the problem of the six days is a particularly urgent issue between faith and modern scientific research into the origin of the world. For it is obvious even in the Bible that this is a theological framework and is not intended simply to recount the history of creation. In the Old Testament itself there are other accounts of creation. In the Book of Job and in the Wisdom literature we have creation narratives that make it clear that even then believers themselves did not think that the creation account was, so to speak, a photographic depiction of the process of creation. It only seeks to convey a glimpse of the essential truth, namely, that the world comes from the power of God and is his creation. How the process actually occurred is a wholly different question, which even the Bible itself leaves wide open. Conversely, I think that in great measure the theory of evolution has not gotten beyond hypotheses and is often mixed with almost mythical philosophies that have yet to be critically discussed. (Salt of the Earth, 30-31)

We must have the audacity to say that the great projects of the living creation are not products of chance and error. Nor are they the products of a selective process to which divine predicates can be attributed in illogical, unscientific, and even mythic fashion. The great projects of the living creation point to a creating Reason and show us a creating Intelligence, and they do so more luminously and radiantly today than ever before. Thus we can say today with a new certitude and joyousness that the human being is indeed a divine project which only the creating Intellegence was strong and great and audacious enough to conceive of. The human being is not a mistake but something willed; he is the fruit of love. He can disclose in himself, in the bold project that he is, the language of the creating Intellegence that speaks to him and that moves him to say: 'Yes, Father you have willed me.' (In the Beginning, 54-56)

Here is a link to a document published by the International Theological Commission, chaired then by Cardinal Ratzinger, on Communion and Stewardship: Human Persons Created in the Image of God. The initial paragraphs on the biblical material are worth looking at, but particularly nos. 62-70, which address some contemporary scientific questions.

Brendan,I am using square brackets rather than angle brackets (less-than and greater-than symbols) so that the HTML coding here is visible:[i]This is italics[/i][b]This is bold[/b][b][i]This is bold italics[/i][/b][i][b]This is also bold italics[/b][/i][blockqote]This is a blockquote. This is a blockquote. This is a blockquote. This is a blockquote. This is a blockquote. This is a blockquote. [/blockquote]Now here is that same text using angle brackets (Shift-comma and Shift-period on the keyboard) so that the coding works.This is italicsThis is boldThis is bold italicsThis is also bold italicsThis is a blockquote. This is a blockquote. This is a blockquote. This is a blockquote. This is a blockquote. This is a blockquote.

So what about the possibility of gradualism w.r.t. souls? Here's why I ask: one way to understand the doctrine of original sin is that it's a response to a puzzle: how did humans, created good by an all-good God, commit sin in the first place? Is sin a defect in our nature, and if so, why isn't God responsible for our sin? The doctrine exists to get God off the hook for sin, and reasonably enough. A God who would create beings which would inevitably wind up liable to damnation by their very nature cannot be called benevolent. Sin cannot be "natural" to us if God is good. Teilhard's approach allows us to see evil in all creation as revelatory of creation's incomplete or unfulfilled state (if I follow correctly,) so God also hopes and intends that the leopard will indeed lie down with the lamb one day, and not be thinking "Lambchops for lunch!" This leads one to considerations of the nature of God more along the lines of process theology, which give traditional Catholic systematicians hives, but even so...Traditionally, some one human had to be responsible for messing up all subsequent humanity--some ONE had to be morally at fault, and it wasn't God. Current teaching allows bodies to be the product of evolution, but not souls. Souls are of different "stuff," being non-material, so God has to infuse them individually every time, with all the complexities of THAT doctrine well noted above. We know that humankind evolved from prior anthropoid populations, and that there were other populations of hominids (who may also have been "persons," though it's hard to say,) afoot along the way that are now extinct. That evolution may have been along the lines of a "punctuated equilibrium" model typical of most evolutionary change, in which long periods of relatively gradual change are punctuated by periods of rapid change. (Hence the paucity of "missing links," though they do exist.) But even "rapid" change by evolutionary standards is slow when looked at ape-by-ape. Perhaps our hominization, personalization, or ensoulment wasn't a matter of God deciding magically to go "PING" and give some ape a human soul, but rather maybe souls evolved along with our bodies, (and continue to do so.) Sin became sin, and not merely "nature red in tooth and claw," as we developed the neurological and psychological equipment to recognize it as such. This doesn't require that souls be merely "material," but only requires a thorough hylomorphism at the species level. Once clearly human, we are clearly ensouled, clearly morally responsible creatures. Would this approach be consistent with the function of the doctrine, and also consistent with current evolutionary science? We still can have a redemptive role for Christ, though redemption would be seen more along the lines of knocking off a long accumulation of encrusted human sin than un-doing a single catastrophic act. But doesn't sin actually work that way? More like rust or bad barnacles than broken bones?

Brendan, I am enjoying these passages from your paper, but feel that it's only fair to warn you that Fr. K may give you a grade :-).

From Brendan's paper on Tielhard de Chardin:"The sin of the first humans shattered the moral/spiritual level of the universes fabric like a bullet through a window, i.e., it allowed the shadow of original sin to pervade the moral/spiritual level in such a way that all souls are born without sanctifying grace, etc. The key point Im getting at here is that the shadow of original sin infects us on all levels (material, organic, moral/spiritual) NOT via an ancestral connection to Adam and Eve, but via the universe itself. In other words, we are born with original sin not because fallen humans gave birth to us, but because we were born in a fallen universe (whose fallenness on the moral/spiritual level was introduced by humans). "Whether this syncs up with what the CCC and Cardinal Ratzinger (and, perhaps, St. Paul) see as original sin pervading humankind via some sort of inter-human connectivity, I'm not certain. But the "bullet through glass" imagery is striking.

David, It doesn't have to be thousands of years and nobody has to die. Suppose Adam and Eve's generation has 10000 people in it. Suppose everybody marries and every marriage has two children. Finally, suppose that every person tainted with original sin marries a person not tainted with original sin. In Seth and Cain's generation, there are 2 Tainted and 998 Untainted individuals. Seth and Cain each marry an Untainted woman and all four grandchildren are Tainted. The other 996 Untainteds reproduce themselves. So in the second generation, there are 4 Tainted and 996 Untainteds. Each of the four T's marries a U and in the third generation there are 8 T's and 992 U's.Now in the 13th generation (about three or four hundred years after Adam and Eve) there are 8192 T's and only 1808 U's. But suppose each U marries a T. Now in the fourteenth generation, everybody is tainted.You can easily (I think) prove to yourself that this does not depend on everybody having only two children. If each pair produces N children, then the result is the same. In the fourteenth generation everybody is tainted with Original Sin. But there are a lot more people.It's important to remember that original sin is not Mendelian; it's superdominant. If either of your parents is theologically human, you will be too. Pope Pius is using "true men" to mean "men tainted by original sin." He says all men tainted by original sin are descendants of Adam. It is not a tautology; it's a description of the observed pattern of inheritance.I don't think it would be so awful to be married to somebody who was not tainted with original sin. The effects of original sin include ignorance, malice, misdirected desires. How awful would it be to live with somebody who was incapable of ignorance, malice and misdirected desires? I freely concede that the argument is ridiculous. But you said it is not valid. You said Pope Pius' encyclical and phylogenetic principles are mutually incompatible. Jim McK said, no they aren't. This is why I agree with Jim. I agree with you that no self-respecting apologist should come within a parsec of an argument this preposterous.

Felapton: You write, "no self-respecting apologist should come within a parsec of an argument this preposterous." This is certainly in the top 10 list of best dotCommonweal lines evah!

I got some of the numbers wrong. Here they are again:Generation Adam/Eve (0): 2 T 9998 UGeneration Seth/Cain (1): 2 T 9998 U(Seth and Cain (T) marry Mrs. Seth and Mrs. Cain (U); all four of their children are T. The other 9996 U's marry each other and produce 9996 more U's.) Generation 2: 4 T 9996 U Generation 3: 8 T 9992 U...Generation N: 2^N T, 10000-2^N U...Generation 13: 8192 T, 1808 UGeneration 14: Everybody is T.

Do like the words of Ratzinger quoted by Joe K. Makes so much sense and avoids all the scholastic trappings which Brendan and others feel are necessary. Just shows what potential Ratzinger had if he did not get misled by the restorationists.

(I admit some trepidation in entering this pedigree aspect of the discussion, but, well, here goes...) Felapton, you posit that EVERY T marries a U, at least while such exist. You also say that it might be good to be married to a U, ("No, really, I'll do the dishes again. Just because I love you, honey...") Now surely it is possible that, by choice or by chance, some U's would NOT marry or mate with T's. There would be, then, a population of humans untainted by original sin. unless you DEFINE human as T, in which case we're back to square one with the whole problem, yes? now U's need not inherit original sin, of course. They are also free to commit it, just as all angels are presumably free to switch teams to the other side if they want to. But in order to ensure that ALL living humans are deprived of original sin, they'd ALL have to sin. Then we're back to the "is sin natural or inevitable?" question.Now let me go a step further, into the Very Silly. What if (:-)) Mary was from a FAMILY of U's, thus her son also? That'd save us wondering about the baptismal status of Joachim and Ann!! And if, by chance Jesus were the ONLY human left at the time from that lineage--the last untainted man. Would it have been a sin for him to fail to try to find another U and leave offspring? Or if Mary Magdalene WAS that other untainted one...Quick! Call Dan Brown!!