Adam and Eve and Pinch-me-tight

In discussing Pope for a day our respected contributor, John Candido, started a post with the sentence “The doctrine of original sin has to be removed from the church’s doctrines and replaced with a more realistic understanding of human frailty as it has garnered though evolutionary processes.“ This is a thought which might be fruitfully explored.

If we take ourselves back to primitive times we would expect to find that human nature was fundamentally the same as it is today. But, in the absence of scientific knowledge, the explanations of human nature took the form of stories which were passed on from one generation to another. And, as long as the explanation satisfied and explained, it continued without much change.

Then, as now, our ancestors could recognise the moral law. Sophocles called it “The immutable unwritten laws of heaven, not born today nor yesterday.” And they could witness the fundamental temptation to surrender to the gravity of evil, which appeared to be so much stronger than the aspiration to the good. Their natural response was that something had gone terribly wrong from the beginning – perhaps some deed of extreme wickedness had profoundly damaged our natural propensity to the good and, in doing so, had changed the standing and the direction of the whole human race. We don’t know who first wrote this story down, but the version we have comes from the writers of Genesis. And throughout pre-scientific times it has served us well.

The evolutionary model, to which John Candido alludes, provides a quite different approach. Here we have an account (well evidenced notwithstanding the gaps) of the hominid developing from its predecessor chimpanzee to modern man, via a number of failed experiments. We see the development of the modern human form, but more importantly we can infer the development of the modern human mind. In particular, we discover the faculties necessary for distinguishing right and wrong – the moral sense. That is, the presence of reason, and the presence of free will. These last characteristics, while depending on the sophistication of the brain, cannot be solely the result of material evolution: reason requires the use of abstract concepts, free will requires choice which is not determined by cause. We do not know whether moral choice, and its consequent moral responsibility, started only with home sapiens, or whether it was present in some way in earlier hominids.

So the story changes. Now we see human beings as (from our viewpoint) an awkward mixture. One element of us is brute beast with all its passions for survival and reproduction. But we do not impute moral fault to brute beasts as such, or we only do so by analogy. They are not free to choose, they are determined by genes, habit and experience. The other element of us is the recognition of the moral good, and the obligation to direct our passions in harmony with that good. And as we watch the world go by we see the tension between the gravity of passion and the buoyancy of aspiration. It’s no wonder that we think of man as flawed, and that we imagine how he might have been if all his passions had been under the control of his aspiration, inspired by right reason.

So we might look at two Christians considering these accounts. The first, who takes the Genesis story literally, accepts that he has inherited a condition damaged by sin, and prone to further sin. Fortunately he has a champion who, by taking on our human nature, has redeemed it, and has promised us the grace we need to triumph over our own sinful inclinations.

The second, who prefers the evolutionary model, accepts that he has inherited a condition which is oriented to evil resulting from his passions, and prone to give way to them rather than to follow his aspirations. Fortunately he has a champion who, by taking on our human nature, has redeemed it, and has promised us the grace we need to triumph over our own sinful inclinations.

Since either approach fits in with the history of salvation we might be tempted to discard the Genesis account. But that would be a mistake because it contains important truths. This is not the place for me to identify them, but deep thought about what God is telling us through this inspired story gives us insights we could not get in other ways. Just contemplate the serpent’s words “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” You could perhaps spend many hours of your life plumbing the depth of those 28 words.

A note on exegesis. Our acceptance that Scripture is inspired does not mean that the words of Scripture all convey truth in the same way. The various authors are writing in terms of their own culture, and the understanding of their readers. They do not even need to know that they are inspired. Thus, to take the simplest example, the creation of the world in six days contains the truth of God’s omnipotent creation, but not the literal account – which would have been incomprehensible to its first readers. Contrast this with the Koran which is seen as inspired directly, and word for word, by God.

This is why we need exegetists who can use their science to explore the Scriptures – from establishing the most accurate texts to deciding what is literal and what is symbolic. It needs great skills and background knowledge, and it is progressive in the sense that understanding may develop over time. So, when an amateur like me essays an interpretation, it must be treated as speculation, and judged on its merits. Ultimately, the Church owns Scripture, and so has the last word.

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130 Responses to Adam and Eve and Pinch-me-tight

  1. John Nolan says:

    I remember reading somewhere that the 16th century reformers could easily jettison the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist and yet accepted the concept of regeneration through baptism which is far more difficult to grasp, as it is bound up with the doctrine of Original Sin. John Candido’s glib comment that ‘the doctrine of original sin has to be removed from the church’s doctrines’ reflects his naïve belief that the Church can reject doctrine willy-nilly in order to conform to the ‘modern’ concepts he so uncritically accepts.

    I was never taught that the doctrine of Original Sin depended on an acceptance of the literal truth of Genesis. Like other doctrines it is open to interpretation and development but cannot be removed since truth cannot contradict truth. Its ‘removal’ would of course make a nonsense of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, affirmed by the Extraordinary Magisterium as recently as the 19th century.

    As for human nature, it is surely as old as humanity itself. It is not a cultural construct, although many aspects of human behaviour are indeed conditioned by the prevailing culture.

    • milliganp says:

      In the words of G K Chesterton:
      “Modern masters of science are much impressed with the need of beginning all inquiry with a fact. The ancient masters of religion were quite equally impressed with that necessity. They began with the fact of sin–a fact as practical as potatoes. Whether or no man could be washed in miraculous waters, there was no doubt at any rate that he wanted washing. But certain religious leaders in London, not mere materialists, have begun in our day not to deny the highly disputable water, but to deny the indisputable dirt. Certain new theologians dispute original sin, which is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved.”

  2. Iona says:

    “One element of us is brute beast with all its passions for survival and reproduction”.
    I’m very happy to accept this, but don’t think it is sufficient to explain some of the evil which human beings show they are capable of. For example, I can’t think of any other species of animal which enslaves other members of its own species; or which actually takes pleasure in inflicting torture. I don’t think animals go in for rape, either; they like their females to be willing. “Original sin”, or something like it, accounts for this sort of degradation better than theories of evolution do.

    • St.Joseph says:

      You are right ‘ brute beast’ in disguise of Satan.
      Animals dont worship the devil nor does he tempt them.

    • Quentin says:

      Iona, you are right. Perhaps I should have developed this point. A tiger can kill its prey painfully, but it is not a sadist. Only a human, who can use his free will to turn away from the good, can do that.

    • Alan says:

      I think the animal kingdom might appear to be missing some of these human traits only because it lacks the sophistication to express them in a way that we can recognise, not because that are clearly absent. Ants reportedly take prisoners from other colonies to work for the new queen. These ants aren’t willing converts and can sometimes rebel. They presumably eat and live in the new colony, but without the concept of ownership or a salary it’s difficult to say it is obviously slavery … and quite difficult to say that it is not.

      Rape isn’t unique to humans either it seems –

      Are we so sure about the cats thoughts when it kills?

      • St.Joseph says:

        A good read. Not much difference to humans then..only they wont be judged on the Last Day like we are! Or maybe they will!!

      • Quentin says:

        It is difficult to show, even in humans, that an action is the result of moral choice rather than determined by existing causes. To imply moral choice in the animal requires it to have free will. I have never seen an ant pausing for thought.

      • Alan says:

        I have seen ants pause. If you’ll forgive the advert and the popular comedy pet video here is a demonstration of a dog pausing for thought –

        Link omitted

        or at least pausing for thought as plainly to an observer as any human ever has (even if the decision Buddy comes to is a bit unusual!). Ant’s body language is more difficult to read.

        Is it the suggestion, while accepting that it is difficult (impossible?) to show even in humans, that mankind is a special case? The claim is that only we have the capacity to make free will choices but other species have instead a materialistic way of mimicking that process so closely that we cannot – except through some thought exercise – distinguish between them in the slightest? – given the limitations of their expression of course.

        I feel that I will should wait until it isn’t so hard to show free will in action (or inaction) before I write off the tiger’s abilities or am singularly impressed by our own.

      • Quentin says:

        You’re not the only one to have this problem. It can be worked around, but rarely worth it!

        Ultimately, we humans are drawn to the idea of freewill because we experience it, and reflect it in our moral judgments. We can’t prove our perception. Certainly lower animals appear to make free decisions – dolphins are a good example. But most of us aren’t tempted to apportion moral praise or blame. Would it make any difference if we could?

      • Alan says:

        My apologies. I had wanted the above to be a link rather than a video shown in the thread. I’m not good enough with computers to do it as intended.

      • Alan says:

        Quentin – “But most of us aren’t tempted to apportion moral praise or blame. Would it make any difference if we could?”

        Hard to predict. There are some moves to give animals more legal rights of course. It might give those more traction. “Who’s a good boy” may take on a different meaning!

        But where I think the possibilities should make a difference is to the confidence anyone places in declaring or thinking that humans are such a special case. Others aren’t nearly so cautious it seems.

    • milliganp says:

      Many animal species have an alpha male system where the males fight for the right to mate with a female, there is little evidence that the females have choice. The same existed among humans in the patriarchal period of the Old Testament, women rarely had choice. It is questionable even if Bathsheba had the freedom to reject David’s advances.
      If you watch any modern documentary on chimpanzees you will see what seems very much to be deceit and malice in their behavior. It is entirely reasonable to imagine that an ape having an imperative to survive and reproduce which develops intelligence would use that intelligence to further it’s biological imperative. The point at which will becomes subject to morality is a line that may well be on the human side of the evolutionary journey.

  3. Nektarios says:

    This is the first opportunity I have had to say anything so far.
    As it is so late I will only say a couple of things.
    Concerning Exegesis: Quentin, you are quite wrong to think that Scripture being written by holy men and inspired by the Holy Spirit was written relative to culture of the day, it was not.
    The other thing I will mention is this: Spiritual things are spiritually discerned.
    What JC, Rahner and some others demonstrate is almost a pagan approach, Plato and Artistole in root, some choose the Buddhist root, but none of these methods change man from being a sinner to a saint, from walking in darkness to walking in the Light, from death to life eternal. from turning a rebel against God into a Child of God.
    Such sophisticated modern terminology does not add anything. If anything it adds even more confusion to fallen man, and the hope such entertain by unspiritual means, will be proved not only to be a false hope, but lies, and we all know where lies comes from – the father of lies.

    • Vincent says:

      Nektarios, I have followed your comments in this and other pages, and I have often found them hard to understand. But I think this last one gives me a clue. You seem to be under the impression that we are saved only as spirits and only in a spiritual way. But this is wrong: we are saved as total human beings — body and soul. Strictly speaking, your position is heretical in that it is inconsistent with Christ’s full human nature and with the resurrection of the body. Spiritual things are indeed spiritually discerned, but human reason is part of that process. And human psychology plays its part too. We may not always be able to disentangle the contributions of body and soul, but we know them to be complementary. That is how God made us.

      • Nektarios says:

        I don’t know where you get the idea that God only saves the spiritual aspect of us from what I have posted now or in the past.
        Scriptures teach that God saves the whole man, body, soul and spirit. However the source of our Salvation is spiritual, in God, before the world ever was.
        Of course human reason and psychology plays its part, but cannot play its part if it is still in its fallen state for in its fallen state man is spiritually dead.

        I am certainly not heretical, biblical certainly!

      • Vincent says:

        Could you explain how reason and psychology is different in fallen man from the reason and psychology of a non-fallen man.

      • Nektarios says:

        Yes in a measure. The psychology of a fallen man proceed from a fallen nature. It is sinful, rebellious to God and His laws. Although it may do seemingly good deeds it alaways has self interest at heart. The mind has produced a self, as a centre where God ought to be. It too is corrupted by sin.
        The psychology as it is the mind it too is corrupted. All this lead ultimately to death and separation from God.

        The psychology of a true born again Christian, proceeds from a new nature, higher than Adam was. It proceeds from The Father the Son and applied in us by the Holy Spirit.
        It is not perfect as the old nature is still there and the Christian has a battle on his hands daily, The mind is give grace by God to overcome the world.
        The psychology that is necessary for living and acting in this world will not be present for the believer in the life to come as they will be made perfect and whatever that means for us. Glorious indeed

  4. John Thomas says:

    I’ve long believed that what we (unfortunately) call “original sin” is actually a very liberating doctrine, and I can’t see that authentic Christianity could survive long with out it: please read my article: The Optimistic Doctrine An alternative – such as the idea that man is “basically good”, and could be returned to that state if only we did certain things, has been disastrous for humanity, and is surely the source of many ills.

  5. John Candido says:

    Here is a lecture by Fr. Jack Mahoney SJ who wrote ‘Christianity in Evolution: An Exploration’ (2011), Georgetown University Press.

    It is around 50 minutes in length. For those who would prefer to read a transcript of the lecture, it is available on the same web page under the lecture. Simply scroll the page lower, you can’t miss it.

  6. Peter Foster says:

    The concept of Original Sin, the soul stained with a hereditary mark, can be an explication of the Fall; or alternatively, perhaps separately and more realistically an explication of the subsequent observed dysfunctional state of mankind.

    The texts adduced in support of the former, (in The New Jerusalem Bible), are a flimsy and unconvincing justification.

    We are left with the view of Augustine. (Contra Iulianum [opus imperfectum]) But this was coloured by his obsession with the status of sex; and hardened in fierce disputations with Pelagius who held that perfection was possible and therefore obligatory for man, and who refused to regard this power of self improvement as having been irreversibly prejudiced by the idea of an ‘original sin’.

    And later versus the sophisticated Julian of Eclanum in the context of the then established practice of infant baptism. “Tiny babies being burdened by the sin of another”. By God??? “Who has loved us? Who has not spared his own Son for us?

    To establish that a hereditary guilt was passed down to us as a result of Adam’s mistake, Adam is promoted to be a representative of the whole human race in all time. In contradiction the fallen angels are not held to be representatives of their class but fall as individuals.

    Is original sin a doctrine or simply an explicatory belief?

  7. Vincent says:

    Explicatory belief? But does it explain enough? It is a Christian truism that man needs redemption, and must relate himself to that through baptism. So what is he being redeemed from?

    • Nektarios says:

      Christ alone by His appearing, death and resurrection has redeemed us from sin, the effects of sin and granting to us Eternal Life in Christ

    • Peter Foster says:

      Romans 5 gives an answer:
      It was by one man’s offence that death came to reign over all, …….. One man’s offence brought condemnation on all humanity, and one man’s good act has brought justification and life to all humanity. Just as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience are many to be made upright. ……. however much sin increased, grace was always greater.

      An old translation renders this as, “We believe that our Lord Jesus Christ by the sacrifice of the cross redeemed us from original sin and from all the personal sins committed by each one of us, ………

      I suggest that even although Augustine lost the intellectual argument with Julian of Eclanum he prevailed through his personal authority and as a result Paul’s view was promoted.

      The question is how much weight we are obliged to give to Paul’s view when balanced against arguments based on justice? Perhaps it is from our personal sins and dysfunctional nature that we are redeemed. When through evolution man became sufficiently mature and responsible he became eligible for condemnation and therefore in need of the grace of redemption.

      • milliganp says:

        In the Catholic church we talk about “the age of reason” some point between 7 and 70 where we become accountable for our sins. Is it possible to say that some forms of human privation prevent the development of reason to the point of accountability?

  8. Hock says:

    I expect I am being a bit lazy here when I can research it for myself but I am taking a short cut to ask where in scripture is baptism explicitly linked to original sin? Was baptism around in OT times as a reparation for original sin? My understanding is that there is no theology of original sin in the OT. (In which case where does the theology come from?)
    Where do we link John the Baptist removing original sin as opposed to the act of cleanliness of all sins and a new start?
    The baptism service for children is troubling to me as it speaks of Satanic possession. It might wrap it up in a softer kind of wording but it amounts to the same thing. Can a baby be possessed of such evil?

    • milliganp says:

      While someone else does their homework on baptism and original sin, the baptism of John was not linked to original sin. The Jews were God’s chosen people and membership (election) was by birth and marked by circumcision for males. John’s baptism was about ritual cleanliness lost through failing to live the law and represented a change of heart (and ritual rebirth). There is a story in Acts of a community that “had only received the baptism of John” and the Apostles laid hands on them (more like the sacrament we call Confirmation).
      I’ve already been told off for criticizing the exorcism of infants, the words are about rejection of Satan and removal from his power rather than demonic possession.
      The danger is that if we cease to believe in Satan and evil we cease to value grace and salvation (and leave ourselves open to the evil of indifference).

      • overload says:

        Milliganp “There is a story in Acts of a community that “had only received the baptism of John” and the Apostles laid hands on them (more like the sacrament we call Confirmation).”
        I have just checked this, and you are incorrect, Paul then re-baptised in the name of Jesus, and then the Holy Spirit came upon them (beginning of Acts 19).

  9. milliganp says:

    Despite an absolute personal conviction that Original Sin is the one doctrine we cannot escape without ceasing to be Christian, I’m still interested in biological and social evolution. God chose a man Abraham at a point in human history and used him to establish a race set apart to prepare mankind for the coming of Christ. He chose Moses to establish a law and cult and he used kings and prophets speaking through history – and all of this was preparation so that when Christ came we would have a joined-up story that humans could comprehend. Christ entered the world at a point in history when the Greeks had established a language and culture and the Romans had imposed the rule of (brutal) law and an empire where you could travel from Northern Palestine to Rome on roads suitable for travel and secured by Roman military power.
    I think it’s fair to ask “did God need man to get to a certain point of development before the message of Christ could be effective?” Could the men who built Stonehenge understand Christ, or the Viking warriors or the Assyrian kings? In other words were all the accidents of history an essential part of preparing humanity for Christ? If this is true then salvation must have an evolutionary component and thus perhaps also the fall.

    • St.Joseph says:

      I am.really impressed however you left out a very important Someone,Our Blessed Mother in this evolutionary event!

      • St.Joseph says:

        The transition from the Old Testament to the new came about when the Blessed Virgin consented to be the Mother of the Messiah. Be it done unto me according to your word.’
        At that moment the Word of God was made flesh in the womb of Mary and she conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. All the prophecies of the Old Testament were fulfilled, and Mary truly became the Tabernacle of the Most High and the Ark of the New Covenant At the birth of her Child she became the first monstrance, showing Christ to the world.
        When our Lord came as the Messiah to read the scriptures in the synagogue, He took up the text from Isaiah;
        The promises that were contained in the Ark were now fulfilled in our Lords presence in the synagogue.. That which had been present in promise and prophecy was now truly present in reality.
        The role of St Joseph in the life of the follower of Christ, like that of Our Lady can only be understood by examining his place in salvation history. To him was entrusted the Saviour, the Messiah who would bring about the redemption of his people, and his mother, the woman prophesied in Genesis who would crush the head of the serpant.

      • Vincent says:

        There happens to be a meditation on the death of Our Lady published on the internet today.

      • Vincent says:

        Should’ve mentioned — feast of the Assumption today

      • St.Joseph says:

        Vincent.Thank you for that link.
        An interesting reading at Vespers this afternoon was from Cor 15. 35-45.The manner of theresurrection.
        Not saying it regards Our Blessed Mother’s Assumption in Heaven, but more perhaps to ours here on earth.

      • overload says:

        St J:
        “The transition from the Old Testament to the new came about when the Blessed Virgin consented to be the Mother of the Messiah. Be it done unto me according to your word.”

        My thinking is different. With “Be it done unto me according to your word” the transition has not yet begun, but the seed is planted.
        As the growing child of Mary, Jesus was primarily the to-be King and saviour of Israel within the Mosaic Law and thus within the OT framework (son of David, King of Israel). Only with His baptism is the transition from old to new begun, and only with His crucifixion is this transition confirmed/completed, and only with Pentecost is this transition realised in the Church.

        The baptism of repentance preached by John declared that there was still hope of peace for Israel—the last verses of the OT testify to this.
        And, Jesus (weeping) says to Jerusalem when riding on a donkey on Palm Sunday “How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes.” (Luke 19:42)

    • Nektarios says:

      One cannot use Scripture faithfully the way you are doing, nor interpret it correctly.
      You mention certain brief facts, known to all, then extrapolate from that your view of social evolution. No, no, that will not do. All that it does is to lead usually to speculative nonsense, whacky theories and the like.
      If you want man to understand himself, he cannot do it, (a) on his own. (b) needs a spiritual father to understand his spiritual journey. Otherwise one is in danger of making shipwreck of their Christian lives, and the last state could be worse than the first.

      • Nektarios says:

        The above comment was for Milliganp. ( August 14.@ 8.14

      • milliganp says:

        Nektarios, you hold to a theological system of a church with one member, yourself. That’s the problem with sola scriptura Protestantism, you end up with thousands, if not millions of micro-churches. I read recently that the average size of a non-denominational Protestant church is 35. I hold to the the teaching of a church with over 1 billion members which can actually demonstrate Apostolic succession for all its Popes, Bishops and ministers. I don’t apologise for this and I have any particular interest in your wacky version of Christianity any more than the Jehova witnesses or Latter Day Saints who have given up calling at my door. This is not to say I have any ill feeling towards you, I’ve just learnt that you can’t dialog with someone who doesn’t actually hear what you’re saying.

    • St.Joseph says:

      overload. Our Blessed Mother had Her free Will to say No, like we often do. Think about it!!!

      • overload says:

        St Joseph, have you (or anyone else inc. Quentin) looked at the edited sermon I linked to ( August 20, 2015 at 5:32 pm )?
        I am hoping and asking that you might read this and give me some feedback?
        …Has been bothering me for some time (actually since when I first started contributing to this blog just over a year ago; at which time I first sent it out to various priests/pastors/Christians along with a query regarding confusion about my personal individual & family circumstances in relation to the Church… to which I never received a clear reply).
        Any prayerful consideration appreciated, and forgive me for any forthright over-opinionated expressions on my behalf, just trying to communicate and be outspoken, rather than a ‘meek’ (silent) suppressed/repressed wreck!

      • St.Joseph says:

        Yes thank you, however I did read it quickly, not enough to give an opinion, It was a lot to take in at the time I read it. Is there any way it can stay on longer than the 27th as I dont think I can do it so soon, time being the problem.
        wouldn’t worry too much about yourself, there are plenty of presumption about, it is good sometimes to be meek as Jesus was at times.(meek and humble of Heart)

      • overload says:

        St Joseph,

        Thanks… Our Lord was truly meek, and humble of heart, and often He was outspoken with the truth in uncomfortable ways, which put people in an awkward position demanding a response or at least interior acknowledgement. However He always did this in Love—we on the other hand can easily seek to force the ‘truth’ on people, not in faith&love.

        The page I have set up will remain beyond 7 days, it is only the link from this page that will expire. You can ‘bookmark’ the page and/or download the document. If you have already read it then you must already have downloaded the document onto your computer, so it will remain there if you know where it is.

  10. overload says:

    He sent down to you this scripture, containing straightforward verses – which constitute the essence of the scripture – as well as multiple-meaning or allegorical verses. Those who harbor doubts in their hearts will pursue the multiple-meaning verses to create confusion, and to extricate a certain meaning. None knows the true meaning thereof except GOD and those well founded in knowledge. They say, “We believe in this – all of it comes from our Lord.” Only those who possess intelligence will take heed.

    He is the One Who sent you down the Book which contains decisive verses. They [form] the basis of the Book; while others are allegorical. Those whose hearts are prone to falter follow whatever is allegorical in it, seeking to create dissension by giving [their own] interpretation of it. yet only God knows its interpretation; those who are versed in knowledge say: “We believe in it; it all comes from our Lord!” However only prudent persons bear it in mind.

  11. Nektarios says:

    John Candido & Rahner
    Getting rid of the doctrine of Original sin, if that was just all you wanted to get rid of, is bad enough.
    I have thought a little about why it is liberals, humanists and secularist plough their furrow in the realms of Psychology, evolution and the like.
    It is not until one has read a bit on these matters did the realization hit me and it is this: liberals, humanists and secularist always invariably start from themselves and their experience.
    Starting from themselves, trying to make sense of it all, does not change anything at all,. but forge ahead they do blindly. It seems like common sense to them, but it is the blind leading the blind. However they do have one truth about psychology, and that is, we actually do have a psychology, but it is a fallen one, a sinful one, God hating one, rebellious one.

    Unlike your fellow liberal, humanist and secularists, don’t start with yourself, always start with God.
    In doing so, God will tell you about oneself, warts an all. What He has done about it and what He would have us do. This was tried and they killed the Prophets.
    It was useless, it would have seemed man was indeed lost, rebellious, spiritually as dead as a dodo.
    God’s plan of Salvation for mankind in sending forth His Son Jesus Christ was to change all that. And note this, the difference between liberal, humanist and secular approaches where it starts with themselves, their feelings, phobias, trials difficulties, sorrows, fears, anxieties and death, such have really no answer to any of it, an elastoplast over the problems, Christian psychology starts with God, not ourselves.
    It is tragic really to see the liberals, humanists and secularists, trying to mix up Christianity with their way of understanding. Yes, John, Rahner, start with God, not yourself or your experience.

    • milliganp says:

      Genesis tells us that God made us in his own image and likeness, Augustine was the first to realise that we can therefore learn something of God by the study of man. The Renaissance gave rise to a renewed Christian humanism which the Protestant reformers rejected, to their own loss.

      • Nektarios says:

        I hear what you are saying alright, even though you are utterly wrong in most points you raised about me and about the Church, Aug 15, 3.48. Now you are trying hard in your posting above to justify Christian humanism. It is a contradiction in terms, because Humanism as such means, Man is the centre of all things, but that is the position you have just put yourself in your posting above.

        I don’t mind your erroneous name calling. There is but One Holy,Catholic and Apostolic Church.
        So, that includes, Orthodox, Catholics, Protestants and various other Christian groups such as Baptists, Quakers, and so on. They all belong to the One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, it is not exclusively Roman Catholic as you you would like everyone to believe.
        To correct you, I am in Christ, and here , a member of the Orthodox Church, so I am not am member of a Church of one as you claim.
        To equate myself or affliate myself with non-Christian groups such as the Mormans or the Jehovah Witnesses is silly indeed.

        Lastly Millianp, I can dialogue with any Christian Church group and have done for decades, participating even in debate at Aberdeen University. It can be fun.
        But, what JC and Rahner and some others seem unwittingly, perhaps, to suggest, is so contradictory to the whole Gospel and Counsels of God. It is hard therefore if two are not agreed to walk together.

      • Vincent says:

        You are of course quite right in claiming that the denominations, and others like them, that you mention are elements of the One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church But it does depend on your definitions. The following are required.

        One means diverse organisations under diverse leaderships. Holy means a variety of incompatible moral and doctrinal views. Catholic means local to particular countries or areas. Apostolic means any line that may have been founded by anyone at any point in Christian history.

      • milliganp says:

        Nektarios, you have posted so many opinions which are entirely at odds with Orthodox Christianity and which only accord to a position derived from non-denominational sola-scriptura Protestantism that I had to presume your unorthodox position came from outside the mainstream of Christian thinking.
        If you read the Wikipedia entry on Christian humanism you will see that It’s history goes back to Jusin Martyr, the earliest Christian apologist. It includes great saints like Francis of Assisi and Thomas More.
        You insist on conflating Christian Humanism with Secular Humanism.
        Christian humanism starts from the inmate dignity of man, imbued with intellect and will and made in the image and likeness of God. Despite the fall, this dignity, willed by the Creator, remains.
        Man is at the centre of God’s creation, not because of any human reasoning but because that is where God has placed him.
        Finally it is a central tenet of the Catholic faith that reason was given to us by God as a means to more fully knowing Him and that the exercise of reason is itself good. All of this is entirely at odds with your approach.
        Following some of your earlier posts I have read the explanations of Orthodox theology on various Orthodox websites and I can find none that accords with your various personal theories.

      • St.Joseph says:

        I was taught that ‘Catholic’ meant Universal it is ‘every.where! ‘.
        All Christian Churches can be called ‘One’ (believing in Jesus Christ, as the second Person of the Blessed Trinity.
        ‘Apostolic’ because they all originate from Scripture and the Apostle,Jesus as the’ Head in Heaven’.
        And ‘Holy’ in the sense that the Christian Church’s are!!!
        Not saying that non- christian denominations are not holy!!

      • overload says:

        Nektarios, although I have respect for Quakers, Biblically speaking they cannot be a part of the One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church because they do not practice Baptism?

      • Nektarios says:

        Yawn?…. You really must try to get to bed earlier!

        And briefly to answer Milliganp.
        Your assertions and personal assault on me is totally unjustified. I was not giving a Protestant view in particular, Catholic, but your views being so off the wall trying to justify Humanism I had to give in response carrying Apostolic authority,
        namely what the Scriptures teach themselves, to clarify to you and other readers what the
        Scriptures teach about original sin &c. To ask a few questions on these matters.
        The threat to the Christian Church is great due to liberalism, humanism and secularism
        and all you can go is nit pick and name call me. Disgraceful.
        On the Orthodox side, I doubt very much if you have read much by way of its theology and spiritual understanding – it shows!

      • St.Joseph says:

        Rahner.That is so rude!

  12. Hock says:

    Further to my earlier blog contribution I can now show due contrition for my laziness and having spent hours in research I can write with unquestioned authority that there is no theology of baptism being linked to original sin anywhere in the OT. There are references to immersion in water for spiritual cleanliness and John the Baptist must have got his ‘call’ to Baptise from somewhere but this has nothing to do with Original Sin; which was apparently not even a Christian theology until a couple of centuries into Christianity. Even then it was vague at best until about 450 AD. A couple of Church Councils then felt the need to ratify the theology of linking Baptism with Original Sin and also ratified infant baptism.
    The New Baptism Book in my possession ( perhaps replaced now but not, as far as I am aware, widely altered,) contains a reference to exorcism and stains every child with original sin. Uncomfortable theology for me.
    As for renouncing of sin there is the somewhat contradictory instruction in the booklet for parents and God parents to renew their own vows made at Baptism , when in fact they never made such vows unless in the unlikely event that they were adults at the time of their own Baptisms.

    • milliganp says:

      Hock, I believe you are correct, I had always been taught that Original Sin, as we know it originated with Saint Augustine. On the matter of baptismal promises, these are made on behalf of the infant by the Godparents. However, every Easter we renew these promises and part of the rite of confirmation is also a renewal of the baptismal promises.

      • overload says:

        St Joseph / Milliganp:
        “On the matter of baptismal promises, these are made on behalf of the infant by the Godparents.”
        I assume that the parents are always required to make the baptismal promises on the child’s behalf; I didn’t think this was done by the godparents at all, and certainly not in place of the parents/guardians? Having said this, at my own Christening I believe it was my (unofficial) godparent(s) who took this responsibility; I’m not sure what actually was said officially by my parents & official godparents on my behalf, except to say that it is recorded in the C of E that I am officially baptised.

  13. Quentin says:

    It is as well to remember that Christian orthodoxy on Original Sin was vitiated from an early point, and up to at least the Council of Trent, by a mistranslation of Paul’s Romans 5:12. The Vulgate mistranslation said that all had sinned in Adam. Thus we inherited guilt. The correct translation merely says that in practice we have all sinned. Thus, although we have accepted the effects of Original Sin, we are only guilty of our own sins.
    The Historical Dictionary of Catholicism says of the story of Original Sin: “Today, however, it is generally understood as a narrative depicting fundamental truths about human sin at all times in the imagery of Near Eastern myth.”

    • Nektarios says:

      I can agree with you for the most part. However, mankind has inherited a fallen nature,
      so, it is more than a mere narrative, but an active principle of the old nature, hence from Adam to ourselves, `all have sinned and come short of the Glory of God.’
      Salvation, also, is more than a mere narrative, for the believer in Christ receives by the Holy Spirit a new nature with the active principle operating in it whereby it does not sin, and is holy.
      As we have therefore the old nature and the new, we read in God’s word, through the Apostle John, ” He that says he has no sin is a liar and the truth is not in him”

      So Original sin is more than mere narrative, more than a story by way of explanation, and certainly not a myth, because it is active in all of us to a lesser or greater degree.
      To cover one other comment someone made – the view of Original sin is not merely cultural understanding by simple uneducated people in times past, as they assert, but in our old Adamic nature in us is still active in all of us.

  14. Ignatius says:


    “It is tragic really to see the liberals, humanists and secularists, trying to mix up Christianity with their way of understanding. Yes, John, Rahner, start with God, not yourself or your experience…”

    I think what you have above in your last sentence is quite a good oxymoron. We HAVE to start with ourselves since we have nowhere else to begin and nothing else to start with.

    “and all you can go is nit pick and name call me. Disgraceful.
    On the Orthodox side, I doubt very much if you have read much by way of its theology and spiritual understanding – it shows!.”

    This tendency of yours to think that all who disagree with you are in some way afflicted is getting a little worrisome. Several of us on here have, over the past year or so, professed bafflement at your pronouncements and your theological thinking is clearly eclectic and clearly quite idiosyncratic showing an unnecessary tendency towards shrill insistence; its is unlikely that you are wiser than the rest of us put together Nektarios..sorry to say.

    • Nektarios says:

      I am so sorry to disappoint you. Of course I understand we naturally start with ourselves, having said that, Ignatius, depending on yourself alone, what did you discover?
      My theological training initially was Protestant, I have acquired some Catholic and a great deal from being in the Orthodox Church.
      As to shrill insistence – if focusing on what God’s revelation to man is concerning himself, Of Salvation, and so on, as the topics emerge on the blog, I can see some or most of it through what Scripture has to say on it.
      Again, I am sorry if you and others feel that I am putting myself across as wiser than all of you. I don’t think about myself in such petty terms at all.
      I would like to know who else feels the say you have posted? What happens to that question, will determine what I will do next concerning the SS blog.

      • Quentin says:

        All of us on this Blog are trying to get closer to elusive truths through discussion and argument. I imagine that there are few contributors who have not at some point annoyed others. However respect and courtesy are the watchwords. A good rule of thumb I find is to ask myself: how would I put this point if I were face to face with the contributor with whom I want to disagree? Leaving aside any virtue on my part, I know that, however firm, polite answers get considered; impolite answers get nowhere. Here endeth my sermon.

      • Peter Foster says:

        Dear Nektarios, In public discourse you need to have a skin thick enough to reflect the many blunt arrows of your opponents but thin enough to pass the occasional sharp point. Please gather yourself and rejoin the fray.

    • St.Joseph says:

      I have felt like you many a time. But got up, brushed myself down and came back smiling.
      I would miss you,and I think maybe you would miss us’ hopefully’,
      It keeps the brain working,!
      If we all met each other personally we would all find that there would be lots of ‘hugging’ going on.

  15. Iona says:

    St. Joseph – re your post of August 16th, 11.55, commenting on Vincent’s of the same date at 9.19: I think Vincent was being sarcastic throughout that post, and not intending to be taken at face value.

  16. Hock says:

    I think I am correct in stating that no-one has yet mentioned Limbo. Surely this is a doctrine that has ‘evolved’ and recently ( and silently to some extent,) been binned, partially at least, having been around for centuries. It was of course an attempt (invention?) to offer redemption and to explain how an unbaptised child was not able to enter heaven straight away which seemed , even in the early days of this doctrine of Original Sin to be of great hurt to the parents and incompatible with the love of God.
    If Limbo can be discarded with barely a whimper of protest then the doctrine of Original Sin can go the same way, much to the relief, I suspect, of many Christians especially those with unbaptised children that can be a reality in mixed marriages.
    With Limbo , in effect, being forgotten about then what is the fate on the dead unbaptised who have not sinned on their own accord but carry the stain of Original sin?

    • St.Joseph says:

      Pope Benedict himself a top theologian, who before his election in 2005, expressed doubts about limbo, authorised the publication of the document called ‘The Hope of Salvation for infants who die without being baptised’
      Also the Document on non baptised infants can be read on the’ International Theological Commision!’ I think a 41 page document. You can get it if you type it in!

    • Martha says:

      I remember hearing, many years ago, that Baptism of Desire covers babies and good people who do the good that they know, on the grounds that if they had known and understood that Baptism with water is necessary, they would have received it.

      I am not sure that the doctrine of Limbo is in quite the same league as Original Sin, which underpins our whole Christian faith, the Fall, the Redemption, the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady, which has been cited in this Post as one of the few definitely infallible teachings of Christ’s Church. We are all born imperfect except Our Lady, and I do not understand why people find this hard to accept. We are imperfect and we produce imperfect babies. The Fall may not have happened with two individuals, but God’s creation of humans was always open to the influence of evil, and has succumbed.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Baptism of water, makes us children of God and a member of the Christian Church. followers of Jesus Christ.
        If you read what I suggested you will understand.
        We are all open to the influence of evil, we are given the Sacraments to receive Sanctifying Grace, then when we fall into sin, and out of the friendship of God, can return, through the Sacrament of Reconcillation.
        The good thief turned to Jesus on the Cross and was saved,
        ‘This day you will be with me in Paradise’!

      • St.Joseph says:

        Sorry, I thought that was Hock’s post .hence his name.

      • Martha says:

        St. Joseph, What you say, 17th, 12.26, is not in question as far as I am concerned.

        My second point was intended to convey my thought that Original Sin can mean that we are all born imperfect, and with the ability to succumb to evil, even if that was not caused by two actual individuals called Adam and Eve. That is what we call the Fall and it is a keystone of our faith.

    • John Candido says:

      The teaching of limbo was removed from the Roman Catholic Church in 2007 by a document produced by the Catholic Church’s International Theological Commission. Its title in English is, ‘The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die Without Being Baptised’. The commission thought that limbo was a long-held theological speculation that had no official acceptance by the Roman Catholic Church as part of its doctrines. The commission’s document is still available on the Vatican’s website.

      When you believe in something as silly as original sin you are bound to run into sillier extensions of it such as limbo. It was an ancient theological speculation offered in part to explain what would be the fate of unbaptised children, scare the living daylights of the laity to promote obedience through fear, and in order to shore up the doctrine of original sin itself.

      • John Candido says:

        Sorry! That post is addressed to Hock.

      • Nektarios says:

        John Candido
        I read through the link, John, on the issue of Limbo, but it is not the same issue or matter as Original sin.
        Original sin is not committing sins from which we must be forgiven. If it were merely that I doubt if the Father would have sent the Son. No Original sin is much worse than that.

        Original sin as it was in Adam is spiritual in nature, therefore we the offspring from Adam are, if not Christians, referred to as `the children of disobedience.’
        Who are these `children of disobedience’? All of us, Jews and Gentiles. Adam as a creature, created in the image of God, with all that that means (spiritual) because he fell under the influence of Satan, became a God hater. His whole nature was affected, and the tragedy of it all, being spiritual in nature, there was no way back for Adam.
        We cannot really understand ourselves, our Salvation in in Christ, the Church, the world in which we live, in families, in business, in politics in philosophy and so on apart from Original sin.
        Man is at war in himself, with those around him, with other nations.

        About a hundred and 40 years or so ago, this whole psychological approach came in and
        stated that the whole of man’s problems were on account of his environment. Change the environment and all man’s problems could be solved. All this Original sin could be consigned to the dustbin. Clearly this has been proven to be totally false. Give a man the best environment and he is no better than those in the worst environment.

        Lastly for now. If you think you, or the rest of us are not suffering from Original sin, then perhaps you can answer a question for me?
        The first commandment of God, `Thou shalt love the Lord your God with All you heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.’ Deut.6:5.
        Are we fufilling this commandment perfectly? If not, is not Original sin in our old nature still active?

      • milliganp says:

        John, there are many mysteries in theology and some of our explanations bear the hallmarks of our struggle to understand the underlying mystery. It appears that the Orthodox use the term ancestral sin which begs less formal definition than original sin. What we do know is that Christ said “unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” so there is some definite need for Baptism that comes directly from the mouth of Christ.
        Perhaps we need a blog to (re)visit to the theology of justification. We know that the Jews were made just by incorporation into the people of Israel, through birth, circumcision and adherence to the law given through Moses.
        We believe that baptism incorporates us into the body of Christ which is the church. Just as circumcision marked out the Jews, and the blood of the lamb sprinkled on their doorposts saved the firstborn of Israel so the baptismal mark changes us in the eye of God to be like His Son.
        I regularly perform infant baptism and often speak of sinfulness, even in the young. Young children can be selfish and devious without being guilty of sin (i.e. culpable) and without ‘learning’ it from either their parents or another child – so sinfulness (or what the ancients called concupiscence) is in all and seems to be of our nature rather than nurture.
        It might be repugnant to talk of original sin and its (seemingly unjust) effects if God had not given us a remedy, but God has so instead of merely talking of sin we can also talk of salvation.

  17. St.Joseph says:

    John Candido.
    Thank you for giving that link to Hock I was unable to do that for him, Me not being very computer literate. I am pleased , thank you.

  18. St.Joseph says:

    My computer is showing the wrong time, an hour back instead of summer time, Is everyones else like that?

  19. Martha says:

    The way Limbo was described to me as a young child seemed very attractive. The children are very happy, they have all their toys, just like all the best times on earth, it sounded better than Heaven.

  20. John Nolan says:

    John Candido

    The Church did not ‘remove the teaching of limbo’ in 2007. She merely reiterated the fact that it was not, and had never been, a defined doctrine. Theological opinions are just that – but hang on, you have stated on this blog that you accept the magisterium of theologians (provided that they are of the liberal stamp).

    Original sin, man’s fallen state, regeneration through baptism, are difficult concepts which may not be entirely understood this side of eternity. To dismiss them as ‘silly’ just makes you look silly.

    • Quentin says:

      JC’s link, and your note, gives us an excellent example of the development of doctrine. We need to remember here that the Church was coping with plain scriptural statements that baptism was a condition of salvation, and at each stage they were going as far as they felt they could. We might compare this with the dictum: outside the Church there is no salvation. (But we may have argued that out before)

    • milliganp says:

      Although Limbo may not have been a defined dogma, it was taught as part of the old penny catechism, which most Catholics were expected to accept as a summary of church teaching. I’m fairly certain I’d have got the back hand of a Nun if I expressed disagreement with the destiny of unbaptized babies. Limbo was very much part of the culture of the “black baby” box into which we put our pennies so that missionaries could convert and baptize African heathens and save the babies from limbo.

  21. Hock says:

    I am indebted to those , especially John Candido for pointing me in the right direction as concerns Limbo ( or the absence of it!) I am amazed at the amount of content that there is in this document. Just when you think you have got it clear in your head another paragraph follows that makes you wonder if you do truly understand any of it.
    From the copious amount in the doc. |I copy only a minute section as below (para 4.)
    The more contradictions you read in what is an official document the more I tend to think that Original Sin has no place in theology and is a contradiction of the basic teaching/truth that we are all made in the image and likeness of God.
    The prophets of the OT , and in effect the nearest historically to the account of Adam and Eve, have no place for it.
    Yes, we are all capable of sin, it is part of free will. Adam could have rejected Satan as we all can but it is a massive leap from that state to one where we are born into state of damnation.

    Copy from Doc. for info. To repeat, this is just a fraction of what the doc. contains but chosen as aa possible summary of the wider content..

    4. Reflecting on the question of the destiny of infants who die without Baptism, the ecclesial community must keep in mind the fact that God is more properly the subject than the object of theology. The first task of theology is therefore to listen to the Word of God. Theology listens to the Word of God expressed in the Scriptures in order to communicate it lovingly to all people. However, with regard to the salvation of those who die without Baptism, the Word of God says little or nothing. It is therefore necessary to interpret the reticence of Scripture on this issue in the light of texts concerning the universal plan of salvation and the ways of salvation. In short, the problem both for theology and for pastoral care is how to safeguard and reconcile two sets of biblical affirmations: those concerning God’s universal salvific will (cf. 1 Tim 2:4) and those regarding the necessity of Baptism as the way of being freed from sin and conformed to Christ (cf. Mk 16:16; Mt 28:18-19).

  22. St.Joseph says:

    The problem is that we worry and ask questions regarding Adam and Eve and, Baptism, and Limbo,
    However the important things regarding abortion and (abortifacients) people ignore, and especially when the church teaches that they who do that are ‘automatically excommunicated!’The sin is on the parents.
    As I pointed out in Canon Law 1398!

  23. Ignatius says:

    “The more contradictions you read in what is an official document the more I tend to think that Original Sin has no place in theology and is a contradiction of the basic teaching/truth that we are all made in the image and likeness of God…”
    Funny that..I read the document too and found it a fine example of ‘doing theology’ in other words expressing and seeking to work through with the reason the varying approaches to the scriptural texts yet not shying away from complexity. As far as I remember there was no way your above conclusion could be drawn from the text so it must be a question of your personal interpretation based on your preconceptions of the subject…which is always the problem and the reason why things appear complicated

  24. Hock says:

    I am not aware of me having any preconceptions on the subject. Nor do I think it appropriate for you to post on here that I have.
    I was raised as a loyal Catholic and so I believed all I was taught including about Limbo and Original Sin and the purpose of baptism in removing the latter. However when the Church itself finds difficulty in reconciling all these factors and quietly dispenses with Limbo ( or leaves it in Limbo if you will pardon the pun,) I think it reasonable for me to question these things too.
    I am not aware that it is an article of faith that we have to believe in Original Sin the way I was taught it. Nor can I reconcile that we are brought into this world tainted by sin. It is incompatible with being made in the image and likeness of God.

    • Ignatius says:

      Of course you have pre conceived thoughts on the subject…we all have on practically any subject..I have pre conceived thoughts about alligators… wellington boots, the second coming…trifle…Jeremy…etc etc We all have ideas based on something or another Hock, why do you take exception at this statement of the obvious? When you read the article in question you already had thoughts on the issue…that’s why you read the thing…or is there something I’m missing here?

  25. Iona says:

    There’s no mention of Limbo in the 1994 Catechism (not in the index, anyway). Being a post-Vatican II convert, I never had a “penny catechism”. Can anyone quote what it said about Limbo?
    Limbo comes into Dante’s Inferno. He sees it as the highest level of hell (i.e., the least hellish). It contains the “righteous heathens”, but I don’t think unbaptised infants get a mention.

    • Martha says:

      I think we probably have an old red “penny catechism” somewhere, but as I cannot find it, I have looked on the internet:

      62. What is the fifth article of the Creed?
      The fifth article of the Creed is, ‘he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead’.

      63. What do you mean by the words, ‘he descended into hell’?
      By the words ‘he descended into hell’ I mean that, as soon as Christ was dead, his blessed Soul went down into that part of hell called Limbo.

      64. What do you mean by Limbo?
      By Limbo I mean a place of rest, where the souls of the just who died before Christ were detained.

      65. Why were the souls of the just detained in Limbo?
      The souls of the just were detained in Limbo because they could not go up to the kingdom of heaven till Christ had opened it for them.

      As you see, no mention of infants, but there was an expanded version, blue, which might have done. This would have been well before 1958.

      The link doesn’t seem to be working but the website is The Latin Mass society of England and Wales Home Resources Penny Catechism

      • John L says:

        Yes – the old “time” canard.
        This set of Q/A speaks of Christ’s actions as though constrained by time. We have discussed many times that time is part of God’s creation – it is not a restriction on God’s activity.
        Christ’s salvation of the world took place at a point in the world’s time, but the divine attribute of His act is outside of time altogether.
        It applied to the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady “before” it had taken place in our time.
        Moses and Elijah discussed it with Him at the Transfiguration – they already “knew” its benefits.
        It’s just as well that that particular description of Limbo was dropped from the Catechism.
        Now I have tried to be too clever by half, will someone please tell me what Our Lord DID do when he descended into Hell?

      • milliganp says:

        If we accept the bodily resurrection of Christ, then the “descent into hell” meant he fully experienced human death and thus, for a time (real human time) was cut off from God as those, including the just, who had died since the fall.

    • Martha says:

      I think this is the one, hope it works

  26. Hock says:

    Here I quote from the Encyclopedia of Catholicism whilst at the same time putting my tin hat on waiting for the criticism of this particular work.
    These though are what is written, in part, but can be found there by anyone wanting the fuller account:
    Quote: Modern theology, when it does not reject the notion outright , questions the theological premises on which limbo is based. It is difficult , if not impossible, to reconcile the concept of limbo with the Christian affirmation of God’s universal salvific will and the fundamental solidarity of redeemed humanity. Besides the notion generates obvious pastoral difficulties where the death of an infant is concerned. Neither officially defined nor abrogated by the Church , this theological postulate plays no role in contemporary catholic theology.” End Quote.
    In another part of this topic it states: “It is incorrect to identify this limbo with the hell of the Apostles Creed.” (My words: There is no explanation as to the difference.)

    • John Candido says:

      Hock, the Roman Catholic Church has always said from time of yore, ‘ecclesia semper reformanda est’; ‘the church is always to be reformed’.

    • overload says:

      Martha I think the Penny Catechism is incorrect when talking about those in ‘limbo’ being “the just”.
      1 Peter 3:19, paraphrased: once made alive in the Spirit, Christ went and preached to the spirits in prison who had disobeyed God before the great flood.
      [Perhaps we can ask whether there are others who have been made prisoners since then? And whether an imprisoned spirit could be the related to beings called such names as ghosts or unclean spirits or ‘fairies’/’goblins’, for instance?]

      • Martha says:

        Overload, I did not post the Penny Catechism because I now think every answer is correct. It was in answer to Iona’s request to know what it had to say about Limbo.

        That being said, some of its answers have stood me in good stead throughout my life, such as,
        Why did God make me?
        God made me to know Him, love Him and serve Him in this world and to be happy with Him for ever in the next world.

      • overload says:

        Martha, ok, good to hear that it inspired you in Christ.

      • milliganp says:

        The Old version of the Creed said of Christ, he descended into a hell. This hell was what the Jews called Sheol which was a place of the dead, both just and unjust, cut off both from life and the presence of God. This is the limbo to which the penny catechism refers, after death Christ goes and frees the souls of the just, including Adam if the Easter proclamation is to be believed.

      • overload says:


        On what basis can Adam be called ‘just’? According to Scripture it seems Christ didn’t go to free the just but to preach to those imprisoned for being unjust, that by believing they might (like the sinners on earth) be justified and saved.

        To speculate on those who might be considered (to some degree or another) ‘just’ in the OT—and of whom we are told something about their living state beyond this world—what about Enoch and Elijah (both of whom appear not to have died but to have been taken to some degree of heavenly existence), and Samuel; of which only Samuel seems to have gone ‘below’, although it seems from the description when Saul conjoured up Samuel’s spirit that he may have been in some kind of state of rest rather than imprisonment?
        I think to say that when we sleep we are not inactive; our spirit is, through our dreams, very active—only our body and waking mental functions are in a degree of rest.

        To my mind the concept of limbo seems to be confused with or partially inseparable from the concept of purgatory.

        Personally I cannot isolate these concepts from Buddhist teachings on rebirth. Many Christians call Buddhist teachings on rebirth and karma ‘demonic’. In my thinking I would only agree with this in the respect that human beings destined sideways or downwards—to be reborn as human beings, tree spirits, animals, unclean/evil spirits, ghosts, demons, or in Hell—is only as a consequence of the fall, and the science (natural law) of karma and rebirth is now subordinate to or defeated by the law of (truly) believing in Jesus. So only in this respect are karma and rebirth demonic, in that they are a tool the evil one uses to accuse and condemn us—but we also need to be convicted of sin by the Holy Spirit that we can be freed of sin, and thus freed from the power and gravity of the natural law.

  27. John Candido says:

    It would be productive if contemporary Catholics looked at the doctrine of original sin with a good measure of common-sense and analytical rigor.

    1. Genesis has two creation stories both of which cannot be true.

    2. Modern biblical scholarship as well as the theory of evolution has deemed both accounts as religious stories that have the purpose of conveying religious teachings in a figurative manner, and therefore both creation stories are not to be conceptualised as actual history.

    3. Let’s assume that the doctrine of original sin is completely true in all aspects. We do not know the identity of the primordial sinner that authored the chasm between God and humanity. No name, no identifying details whatsoever.

    4. Most importantly, we do not know what sin or sins this unknown person or persons from antiquity committed, which permanently broke the grace-filled relationship between them and God.

    5. Due to the sin or sins that they have committed, we must remember that our lives have now been permanently transformed because of the ‘Fall’. Humans went from full communion with God without lives of suffering or any physical death, to one that experiences suffering and death. This of course includes the suffering and death of children. We are talking about ancient, primordial human beings at the dawn of time that do not possess our skills, knowledge or technological prowess, who are responsible for this very great sin or sins.

    6. It would be constructive at this point to quietly ask yourself in all sincerity and in the privacy of your own thoughts a very important question. What possible sin or sins from this unknown person or persons could be responsible for this overwhelming, incalculable, permanent human and spiritual tragedy?

  28. John Candido says:

    7. Let’s say that original sin is completely true. Furthermore, we know God is love, patient, kind, understanding, compassionate, empathetic, forgiving, merciful, just, good, God knows everything including future events before they happen, and is all powerful. All of these attributes are God’s. God has them in complete abundance and there is no imbalance or a preponderance of one attribute over another because God is perfect in being, manner and in all things.
    Then ask yourselves in the quietness of your thoughts, why does God have attributes of character that we know are not God’s? Attributes of nature which is displayed in God’s reaction to the sin or sins of our primitive ancestors, which leads to God instituting the horrific punishment of original sin in perpetuity?

    8. Some of the baser attributes of character displayed by God during the aftermath of the Fall are, God’s demand for satisfaction by insisting that someone as innocent as Christ is to be killed as a blood-payment, or a propitiatory sacrifice of appeasement of God’s righteous anger for God’s sense of being wronged by humans.

    Is this a demonstration of God’s spitefulness, immaturity, a bullying nature; is God without understanding, compassion, or empathy? Or is God incapable of feeling our suffering, or our sense of meaningless through our future death, which was imposed by God as punishment to all persons in perpetuity due to the actions of our unknown ancestors and their unknown sins, that were overwhelmingly and inordinately gargantuan in nature?

    If God is justice personified then what is just about a perpetual penalty involving the suffering and physical death of persons not born yet? Why must they suffer for an anonymous person or persons who have committed an unknown sin or sins that is of an overwhelming evilness and significance that are simply unimaginable to the human mind?

    9. God punished humanity after the Fall knowing full well that this was going to happen because God knows the future as intimately as God knows the past.

    10. God gave humans the gift of free will. If God gave us this gift then part of our freedom is the freedom to act in a sinful manner, as well as the freedom to act in a virtuous manner.
    It beggars belief why God would punish all humans in perpetuity, who are innocent of the original sin by some anonymous individual committing an incalculably significant but unknown sin, after giving humans complete freedom to sin or not sin? If humans have free will, then surely God understands that human beings sin and make mistakes that are partly explicable due to our human nature?

    11. Peter Abelard (1079 – 1142) was a French medieval theologian, philosopher and logician. In ‘Christianity in Evolution: An Exploration’, Mahoney gives an account of Abelard’s important question regarding original sin.

    Abelard thought,

    ‘… that God did not need to be appeased (for the original sin) and who asked the breathtaking question, possibly the most startling suggestion in the whole of Christian theology, ‘Could God not just have forgiven Adam and Eve?’ (Mahoney, (2011), p. 89).

    Indeed! God is forgiveness and God would have preferred to forgive their sins without the punishment of damning the whole of future human experience with suffering and our meaningless physical death.

    • Nektarios says:

      John Candido
      I also answered earlier your questions 7-10. However, you have not answered my question concerning the activity of Original sin in us still. !8 August. 12:56?

  29. St.Joseph says:

    John Candido.
    Your comment is very interesting, however is it really important whether we believe in limbo or not.
    Do you think that if we do’ there is a limbo’ and if we dont think there is not!.
    Does The Lord change His mind to suit our thoughts.

  30. Iona says:

    John Candido’s point 4: “We do not know what sin or sins this unknown person or persons from antiquity committed”.
    We know the sin(s) included disobedience; they were directly told by God not to do something, and they did it. We also know that the reason they did it was that they thought it would change them in some fundamental way such as to give them knowledge / understanding which they did not currently have, and which they saw as being highly desirable to have. It did indeed change them in a fundamental way, among other effects making it impossible for them to maintain direct communion with God. (I have on previous occasions aired my view that the change had something to do with the development of language in early human beings). It was not a change that could just be wiped away, like a dirty mark on a window, with a cheery “OK, as you were” (John Candido’s point 11).

  31. Iona says:

    John Candido’s points 7 and 8: (“attributes of character displayed by God”)
    “attributes of character” relate to human beings; we can’t just transfer them to God; He is wholly other, and beyond our comprehension. (See the Book of Job).
    One possible and partial explanation for “God’s demand for satisfaction by insisting that someone as innocent as Christ is to be killed as a blood-payment, or a propitiatory sacrifice of appeasement of God’s righteous anger for God’s sense of being wronged by humans” is that people often find it very difficult to forgive themselves, and feel that some sort of propitiation must be made but that they alone are simply not equal to it.

  32. Iona says:

    John Candido’s point 9:
    There is little or nothing that we can understand, let alone talk about, which does not involve concepts of time; of past and future, of one thing happening before another, of causes being prior to events. God is not constrained by time. It’s all there together, as far as God is concerned, there is no before and after. Such a view of things is entirely beyond us, unimaginable. For the same reason it makes no sense for us to question “why” God does something when “He knows what is going to happen”.

  33. Brendan says:

    We may argue about its provenance but one thing is for sure ; ‘ sin ‘ ( turning against God ) is very real in our world , in our personal lives and at its worst – history bearing this out – it can be literally soul-destroying …. ” the wages of sin….. ” Romans 6:23
    However specifically, sin entered the world and whatever God deigned to be our presence in this willed order before ‘ The Fall ‘ ; the human race ( Gods image and likeness – ‘ Adam and Eve ‘ ) had … ” the eyes of both of them opened ..” Gen 3:7….to sin and their ” shame ” ( nature corrupted ) and the ‘ knowledge ‘ of sin lay heavily upon them and their progeny ( the World ).
    Post-Fall , human nature inherited this sin by ‘ concupiscence ‘ i.e. ..” it is a sin ‘ contracted ‘ and not ‘ committed ‘ – a state and not an act ; the whole of Creation awaited their foretold Salvation [in Christ ] ” – CCC 404.
    ” Still, the transmission of original sin a mystery that we cannot fully understand – ibidem

  34. overload says:

    This may be of interest to some of you in relation to this topic, about some of the basics of our faith, it is a Good Friday sermon of my late grandfather’s which I have edited a bit and added some notes to:
    (this is a redirecting link (which lasts for 7 days) because I don’t particularly want google finding it nor a permanent direct link from here. An ‘advert’ will come up for about 5 or 10 seconds before sending you to the page I have set up with the sermon. You should be able to bypass the advert by clicking ‘skip’ at the top right of the browser window.)

  35. John Nolan says:

    John Candido

    The phrase ‘ecclesia semper reformanda est’ is usually attributed to the Protestant theologian Karl Barth (1886-1968). ‘Ecclesia reformata et semper reformanda secundum verbum Dei’, which is often seen by Protestants as the defining principle of the Reformed churches is variously attributed to the 17th century Dutch reformers Jodocus van Lodenstein, Jacobus Koelman and Johannes Hoornbeeck.

    Its application to the Catholic Church is quite recent, cf Hans Küng (like Barth, also Swiss) and has never been seen as a guiding principle, although it’s frequently bandied about, usually to justify some dubious innovation.

    Note the ‘secundum verbum Dei’; the aim of reform is to bring the church into line with Scripture. This fits in with the Protestant ‘sola scriptura’ interpretation which rejects the Catholic concept of Sacred Tradition. Some Protestants were uneasy about ‘semper reformanda’; they argued that since they had restored the church to its pristine state, further reform was otiose.

    • John Candido says:

      That is a fair comment John Nolan. The term ‘ecclesia semper reformanda est’ may indeed have been used first by Karl Barth and other Protestants, and subsequently by Fr. Hans Kung and other Catholic theologians caught up in the historic events of the Second Vatican Council. It does lend itself serendipitously to the inexorable effects of time on the Roman Catholic Church, its ecclesiology, its exegetical understanding of scripture, its social teaching and its theology. Scholarship and social forces have and always will change the church through time.

      • John Nolan says:

        Perhaps. But ‘through time ‘ implies rather more than a mere half-century. The Church is not a group of people existing in the late 20th and early 21st centuries trying to adapt doctrine to conform with secular mores (which have themselves undergone a revolution in my lifetime) . She is diachronic which does not mean ‘semper eadem’ but also does not mean adaptation to every fad. Also she is (or so we Catholics believe) the Church founded on Peter by OLJC which is preserved from error by the Holy Ghost until the consummation of the world. Protestants might reject this out of hand, and it is their decision to do so; you are also free to join them if your conscience demands it; I prefer to stay with the barque of Peter although many of its passengers seem intent on drilling holes in it.

      • John Candido says:

        ‘She is diachronic which does not mean ‘semper eadem’ (always the same) but also does not mean adaptation to every fad.’ (John Nolan)

        I broadly agree with that.

        ‘…the Church founded on Peter by OLJC which is preserved from error by the Holy Ghost until the consummation of the world.’ (John Nolan)

        I broadly agree with that also. Where we differ is due to your conservatism and my liberalism. We will never agree on those things. But that is neither tragic or here or there, as they say.

  36. Michael Horsnall says:

    ” I prefer to stay with the barque of Peter although many of its passengers seem intent on drilling holes in it…”

    Me too (staying not drilling, that is.)

  37. John Candido says:

    One cannot underestimate the far-reaching nature of ‘Christianity in Evolution: An Exploration’ by Fr. Jack Mahoney SJ. I have no doubt that if Mahoney were born well before the advent of the Second Vatican Council, he would have met the same fate as that other brilliant Jesuit, Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Popes Benedict XVI & Francis have both praised de Chardin’s theology and this starkly contrasts with previous official responses by the church towards his work. This is the ‘monitum’ (official warning) from the CDF about some of de Chardin’s writings.

    Some of the potential adjustments to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church of Mahoney’s work are the removal of the doctrine of original sin, the introduction of a female priesthood, a revised soteriology (theology of salvation), the liturgy of the mass revised due to the former point from one of a sacrifice to one of a celebration, some of the mystery of human suffering is mitigated, and most importantly our idea of God is moved from one of an overly severe law enforcer to one that is more loving. All of the previous points would tend to make Catholicism more acceptable to modern minds.

    The church has an interesting choice before itself. It can maintain the status quo theologically or make room for development and adjustments to its teaching. Much like updating your antivirus and other software, contemporising the theology of the church means that modern people everywhere would find its teachings more acceptable. This can be gradually and incrementally implemented through the use of its International Theological Commission to thoroughly examine Fr. Jack Mahoney’s investigations into evolution and Catholic theology.

    Any report by the theological commission should be available to the public. This can be followed by the convocation of a future Ecumenical Council. The ultimate sanction and approval of Mahoney’s work can be garnered through the vote and promulgation of an Ecumenical Council that obviously can examine a number of other issues while it presides in the Vatican. Any attempt to anonymously delate Mahoney and bring him before the CDF will completely backfire on the church. Sections of the Catholic Church as well as most of the secular world would simply be appalled if that were to occur.

  38. John Nolan says:

    The discussion on Mahoney went on for a month (January-February 2012) and elicited no fewer than 329 comments. Mike Horsnall summed him up admirably in the penultimate comment and concluded that ‘Mahoney, like Dawkins, will come and go and not be missed’.

    His views (if John Candido has summed them up accurately above) are so way-out that I’m not surprised that the CDF has chosen to ignore him. I am a little intrigued as to where JC gets the idea that the Church can formulate doctrine by taking the speculative opinions of a not-very-prominent theologian as a template for reform and getting the world’s bishops to vote on it.

    I suppose one can argue that you could have a revolution in order to make another one possible.

    • John Candido says:

      ‘I am a little intrigued as to where JC gets the idea that the Church can formulate doctrine by taking the speculative opinions of a not-very-prominent theologian as a template for reform and getting the world’s bishops to vote on it.’ (John Nolan)

      I agree with John Nolan regarding my unrealistic portrayal of the breathless speed of Jack Mahoney’s theology becoming approved by an un-convoked Ecumenical Council. What would normally take an age or a century was condensed for the sake of brevity.

      But it does lead me to question the origins of new thinking by theologians and whether or not there is any merit in trying to determine if a fair and workable comparison can be made between conservative, moderate and liberal theologians? Criteria that can be employed are: the interpretive originality of thinking, which is somewhat subjective in nature, and the number of new theological ideas that they have developed. Is there a recurring pattern to where new ideas in general or developments in theology more specifically have their origin, or are its origins more diffuse?

      Without doing a thorough analysis of an adequate sample or number of theologians, I am left in truth with some guesswork. Although I am biased towards the left, I believe or suspect that most new interpretations of theology would tend to come from the liberal or moderate wings of the church. I am certainly open to the view that the origins of theological development are more diffuse than I am giving it credit, i.e. it can come from either conservative or moderate academics. It could be that the individual doing the theology is a far more weighty consideration than the pigeonhole I and others are placing theologians into.

      What about what John Nolan mentioned regarding ‘the speculative opinions of a not-very-prominent theologian’? Are speculative opinions or the ‘prominence’ of a theologian worthy criteria regarding the astuteness or originality of their theological interpretations?

      The church not only lacks a contemporary understanding of due process and justice, vis-à-vis the anonymous delation of theologians we do not understand or fear. We also have to contend with the hidden, darkened, ‘in camera’ processes of the CDF which are completely out of step with the modern world. To add insult to injury, the church also lacks a contemporary understanding of academic freedom as well. Both of these issues blight the church’s efficacy to renew itself through gradual changes to its doctrine.

      Contemporary theological interpretations, advances in our exegetical understanding of scripture, developments in the church’s social teaching, canon law, ethics, philosophy, as well as new interpretations of its ecclesiology, are like life itself; unstoppable. One prime reason for their non-immutability is that these disciplines are connected to the daily experiences of people in their families and in society. To imagine otherwise is cant.

  39. John Candido says:

    The online blog or magazine of the ‘Association of Catholic Priests’, posted an article by Fr. Brian Lennon SJ in 2012 that is relevant to the discussion about any person being anonymously delated to the CDF, and what the process of investigation actually entails. It is quite an eye-opener and can only leave any fair-minded person with a measure of concern for a delated person’s pastoral care. Lennon’s short article is interesting and disturbing at the same time.

  40. John Nolan says:

    John Candido

    The (Irish) Association of Catholic Priests was set up in 2010 and is openly critical of many aspects of Church teaching. One of its founders, Fr Tony Flannery was investigated and censured by the CDF in 2012, which is the background to Fr Lennon’s article. So a fair-minded person would immediately flag up ‘axe to grind’. Flannery claimed he was victimized for supporting the idea of married priests, which was blatantly untrue – apart from anything else it is not a doctrinal matter. Nor was he censured for going on air to attack the Pope and the authorities in Rome, although this amounts to disloyalty. No, he wrote articles for the Redemptorist magazine in which he denied the Church’s doctrine on the foundation of the priesthood by Christ, and the Church’s understanding of the Eucharist. This is more than dissent, this is heresy, as the former CDF Prefect, Cardinal Levada was at pains to point out in the Irish press. Nor was it a rushed decision; the investigation took over three years.

    Again, a fair-minded person would contrast this with the speed with which (say) an errant police officer would be dealt with by a professional tribunal (whose procedures are also, and with reason, confidential). Nor was Flannery excommunicated or laicized. You talk of concern for his ‘pastoral care’ – what about the ‘pastoral care’ of his flock who are entitled to right doctrine from their pastor? The CDF’s priority concern is for the ordinary faithful. Do you know that if a priest when confecting the Eucharist does not do what the Church intends, his Masses are invalid?

    Dr Mark Dooley (a lay Catholic and an academic philosopher) wrote the following which was quoted with approval in the Catholic Herald, a fair-minded and serious publication:
    ‘No organization can tolerate that level of dissent. This is especially so in the case of an institution whose origins are considered divine. For if you believe that the Church is the repository of timeless truth, and those elected Pope are successors of St Peter, you will surely realize that changing the faith amounts to heresy. If, however, you don’t believe such things, why remain a member of the Catholic Church?’

    • St.Joseph says:

      Do we have better catholics now than when we had less ‘intellectual ‘knowledge?
      Years ago in my grandmother and parents time when ‘religion’ was not down to theology and how much of the Bible one could quote!
      We knew our simple faith,knew what was right and wrong, knew what to confess, and went regularly to Confession,The teachings of the Church didn’t seem to change.
      We didn’t have abortion, abortifacients, same sex marriage or divorce in those days.
      There were no shortage of Vocations to the Priesthood or Religious Life.
      What has gone wrong since Vatican 11, or has it nothing to do with that but since we were asked to evangelise.?

      • overload says:

        St Joseph, it is not about intellectual knowledge as such, many read Scriptures and understand and are not intellectual. And even more misunderstand, whether intellectual or not. We are not just ‘Jews’, we need and have been given more than just a sense of default right and wrong and a way to just-about-manage our consciences (if one is not Spiritually possessed or oppressed, in which case even this might not be possible); we need to believe we are born of God, that through death and resurrection in Christ have conquered all things, and thus believing be set free. Not just for the ‘religious’, and not just for ‘Catholics’, and even, conceivably, not just for ‘Christians’.

      • overload says:

        ….sorry, “Spiritually possessed or oppressed” should read “satanically/demonically possessed or oppressed”. Big problem especially in the modern world where compulsive sinning against ones will, need powerful deliverance, grace, the Gospel unadulterated.

      • overload says:

        Satanic and demonic I THINK TEND TO GO TOGETHER BUT NOT THE SAME THING. Satan means “the accuser”, so if we stand under accusation, we imprisoned by fear and/or our weakened/confused consciences. Demonic perhaps relates to personalities, behaviours and patterns of sin, though not sure if this quite catches it.

  41. St.Joseph says:

    I know it is not about intellectual knowledge, but today we seem to have too many mini theologians, who could serve The Lord more by going to Mass on Sundays and Holydays,having more Benediction, going on more Retreats, living the Life of the Church etc;
    Years ago we went to Mass on a Sunday, and knew what we were doing, listened to the Readings, and the Gospel, message, heard the Psalms. And were not iliterate!!!.
    And as I said more vocations, perhaps we ought to love God more, than seeking theological knowledge, and listening and reading those who are preaching in fork tongues!
    Saying the Rosary, ( the Life of Jesus) daily for peace in the world and for Holy Mother Church.
    in these days of disagreements against the Truth.
    We know the Truth already.Perhaps it is time to leave the disagreements for the Lord to sort out,

    I ask you one question Are you not free, do you feel tied down spiritually,. I definitely DONT, I am a free person thank God. The ‘anti catholic movement has not caught up with me yet!!!!’
    I am not struggling to be a martyr!!

    • overload says:

      Yes I feel tied down spiritual but this doesn’t mean I am. Jesus says I am free, I believe, and I am apparently afflicted with unbelief, does not mean this unbelief has real power. It is our calling to give Christ witness in our lives, in one way or another, I don’t want to struggle unless God asks it of me, however I can often find my sinful nature habitually and compulsively struggling in its own strength, I cannot struggle against that, can only believe it is nailed to the cross.

      • overload says:

        SJ, its not just about ‘me’ and ‘my’ sinful nature, or ‘me’ being persecuted, ‘me’ suffering from (sometimes) feeble mind, ‘me’ with (sometimes) weak conscience; it is the Church, and the world (boundaries blurred). Believers we are One body, Scripture says: no Jew/gentile free/slave male/female, we are all One in Christ, and in Him we are all free, and we live for one another, not so much individualist.

      • overload says:

        …”we live for one another”, live or die.

  42. John Candido says:

    John Nolan & St.Joseph.

    I want to register to all on SecondSight that I take no pleasure, delight or any sliver of satisfaction in reporting or rehashing this rather dated news of the conflict between Fr. Flannery, the ‘Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland’ (ACP) on the one hand and the CDF. I think that it is unrealistic to hold that no conflicts or misunderstandings can occur in the Roman Catholic Church regarding theology or any number of other issues.

    As in life in general, the church is made up of people who have their own points of view, whether they are laity or clergy, who will at times express differences of opinions and come into conflict with ecclesiastical authorities. The world of politics is at times mirrored in the church and is to be expected as a normal part of its life and history. It is simply how humans are made regardless of where they may place their support towards. As this is how life situates us all, it is incumbent on all of us, laity or hierarchy, to show restraint, tolerance, maturity and foresight, based on a balanced and true account of church history with regard to disputes between theologians and the CDF.

    This is the 2012 reply by the ACP to the intervention of the CDF regarding Fr. Tony Flannery’s public statement of his beliefs. At the time of publication the ACP comprised over 800 Catholic priests.

    The following is a quotation of two of its paragraphs.

    ‘We affirm in the strongest possible terms our confidence in and solidarity with Fr Flannery and we wish to make clear our profound view that this intervention (by the CDF) is unfair, unwarranted and unwise. The issues surfaced by the ACP since its foundation less than two years ago and by Tony Flannery as part of the leadership team are not an attack on or a rejection of the fundamental teachings of the Church. Rather they are an important reflection by an association of over 800 Irish priests – who have given long service to the Catholic Church in Ireland – on issues surfacing in parishes all over the country.’

    ‘While some reactionary fringe groups have contrived to portray our association as a small coterie of radical priests with a radical agenda, we have protested vehemently against that unfair depiction. We are and we wish to remain at the very heart of the Church, committed to putting into place the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.’

    The full statement of the ACP can be read from this link.

    • John Nolan says:

      John Candido

      Why do you accept the statements of dissident groups at face value, especially (as in the case of the ACP which doesn’t represent the bulk of the Irish clergy) when these statements are belied by the evidence? The CDF only gets involved if there is a serious reason. We’re not talking about differences of opinion between theologians, we’re talking about priests publicly preaching heresy. Who determines what is orthodoxy and what is heresy? A handful of maverick theologians? Yourself? Or the Church?

      I won’t say anything about Mahoney (most Catholics have never heard of him) but you are no doubt aware that McBrien’s book on Catholicism from which you quoted earlier was singled out for criticism by the US bishops who are hardly a bunch of rabid reactionaries. The vast majority of bishops, priests and theologians, whether they are regarded as ‘liberals’ or ‘conservatives’ are orthodox. They don’t grab the headlines, though.

      The judicial proceedings of the CDF with regard to those accused of sexual abuse have been effective and reasonably expeditious, and secular jurists have recognized this. Again, it doesn’t grab headlines. Confidentiality is important not only in fairness to the accused, but also to encourage witnesses to come forward. Transparency is all very well (justice must be seen to be done) which was why executions were public until 1867 in England and 1939 in France.

      Mind you, it would make good television. A panel of red-robed inquisitors, bell, book and candle to hand, calling down anathemas on Flannery and his ilk (in sonorous Latin) followed by a grand auto-de-fé in St Peter’s Square. Tina Beattie would look quite fetching in a sanbenito. Alas, it won’t happen, any more than your vision of a future Church will happen. I’ll have my dreams, you can have yours.

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