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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

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If Good Dogs Can Go to Heaven, What About Bad Cats?

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There are a couple of gentle and devoted dogs I would love to see again.  There is even a horse I miss from long ago.  I am not untouched by the companionship given by animals.  I would be happy to see and to experience their presence again.  But I am also confident that God will satisfy every longing and that nothing is lost on God.

Dr. Kreeft asserts that it is irrational to deny the existence of animals in heaven. He cites C.S. Lewis who assumed that tamed animals might be saved as extensions of their masters.  But Kreeft says it is likely that wild animals will also inhabit paradise.  I suppose in this reckoning, Eden and its harmony is somehow restored.  Man is once again the steward of a creation made invulnerable to natural violence and extinction.

 

Really, is this so?  Call me mean-spirited or illogical, but I just do not know— it is hard for me to take a certain view on this matter.  Indeed, if I lean one way over another, it would be toward a kingdom inhabited by God, angels and men, but not by our furry friends.  But, I might be wrong.  I know Franciscans, true to their founder, insisting that animals will join us in heaven.  If I should find my old cat there I will be much surprised.  She consumed 20 years of my life and was reckoned by most as an evil creature.  She would pretend to have gentleness and then she would attack.  She delighted in relieving herself where it would cause the most anguish. She would literally bite the hand that fed her.  As for scratching, neither flesh, nor paper nor wood was safe.  I have heard hopeful rumors that dogs go to heaven; it would be easier for me to imagine my cat at the head of a gang of feline thugs, patrolling the boundaries of hell.

I have written upon this topic before and will rehash old remarks:

I suppose most Thomists would say that animals do not go to heaven, given that they do not possess immortal souls. This somewhat harsh response is often softened with the assertion that they are not entirely gone in that other animals (like dogs) share their substantial form. Others would say that an animal, like your favorite dog, continues to exist as an idea in the mind of God.

C.S. Lewis remarked that canine loyalty and affection oftentimes put human fidelity and friendship to shame. Because of this he thought that maybe dogs would be allowed to join their masters in heaven. Critics contend that this is just another instance of over-blown English sentimentality.

Why would a priest waste his time talking to people about the fate of dead animals? Well, to be honest, it immediately leads to their views about life after death in general. That is more properly my concern. Animals are often the first reminders to us, usually as children when we have lost a pet that everything that lives in this world will eventually die. We are mortal. We share our physicality with the other earthly creatures around us. Some, like dogs (and maybe cats), give us great comfort and companionship. They matter to us and so the question arises, is this all there is? Will we see them again? Can we find solace in knowing that all we cherish as good in creation will be reflected back to us in the beatific vision of the Creator?

I have had a number of inquiries about people’s pet dogs and the question as to whether they would be given entry into heaven.  I would move the gravity to stress human immortality and our hope for heaven. Animal substantial forms would continue to exist as paradigms in the divine mind. Anything more would be up to God’s mysterious providence and I would not presume to give an answer where the Church has not. Others are free to speculate, but we will not know anything more for sure until or if we find ourselves among the saints.

It is possible that my view would make some angry with me but I am not mean-spirited. Others come down on the side of continued existence of animals because these creatures are a part of our affection and shared existence in this world and thus, the argument goes, they would add to our happiness in the next.

Certain animal apologists cite Scripture and argue for a literal new earth. Some ridicule the whole notion of an afterlife, for anyone or anything. Others agree with me that the stress has to be upon the beatific vision and how we (people) are made for God.

I would not worry much about the fate of animals after they die. If we love animals we should do what we can now to protect them from abuse and suffering. We live in a world where many species are rapidly becoming extinct.

Further, some may err by the sin of presumption about their own salvation. Are you sure that you are going to heaven? Speaking for myself, I have faith in Christ and try to be a faithful disciple in the Church. I worship God and seek to serve him through my charity and sacrifices for others. However, if people forget God, discount obedience to the commandments, and hate their fellow man… well, they may be in for a terrible surprise!

ATHEIST COMMANDMENT 8

“We have the responsibility to consider others, including future generations.”

landscape-with-a-tree-swirl-cloud-4545-largeWhy? God is out of the picture, so why care? No matter what we do, top scientists tell us that the universe is doomed. It is hard enough to care for ourselves and find happiness. Does it really make sense to care for others and generations unborn? We already abort half a million unborn children in the U.S. each year. If the living does not matter then caring about prospective people seems arbitrary and meaningless. Cold and honest atheistic logic cries out: “Maybe it would be better to let the poor and the defective die outright? If we eliminate the world’s refuse, then there will be more for us and the Western elite. We can make the world safe for endangered species by subtracting overcrowding populations of humans. Do we have any more right to the earth than the animals? Show me scientifically that we have an obligation to others and the future! Prove it or give it up. Our personal world might be better off if there were a few less mouths to feed.”

Anyway, we are all such hypocrites. Look at all the stuff we buy these days that comes from slave labor and where people are oppressed. If it is cheaper, it is better… that is today’s mantra. We take advantage of the poor and the worker. The host of Mythbusters can make up this commandment… but even his television show bobble heads and DVDs are manufactured in Chinese sweatshops. We can thus avoid paying local workers at all and pay others a non-livable wage. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer! Yeah, we really care about others… NOT!

As a Christian, I believe that every person has an incommensurate worth. All human life is sacred and we are called to be good stewards of creation. I believe that there is something immortal and lasting about every person conceived into this world. We are all God’s children and God loves you no more or less than he does me. I believe there is an order and a divine plan. It is important to play our part as instruments of divine providence.

ATHEIST COMMANDMENT 2

“Strive to understand what is most likely to be true, not to believe what you wish to be true.”
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What seems “likely true” might not always be the case. The pagan worldview had to surrender to the Judeo-Christian. Many presumed that the world was flat, that the earth was central with a revolving sun, etc. The majority held a view that was challenged by Copernicus and later by Galileo, both Catholics and the former, a monk. When science widely advocated spontaneous generation, Louis Pasteur discerned a small invisible world where contamination and vaccination was possible. When science took for granted a Newtonian view of the world, modern physics would largely rewrite the book. We strive to understand what is true, but that which is most likely can shift and change.

I am not convinced that all atheists are so objective. It seems to me that some of them fervently resist any and all assaults against their denial of a God and/or Creator. In other words, while they would applaud the rejection of God by believers; they would not permit any data on their radar that would imply his existence. Science is a wonderful area of investigation and knowledge; but scientists (religious and atheists) can and do battle with each other over what they “believe” and “wish” to be true. Indeed, these arguments can become very passionate: everything from a closed to an open universe to warm-bloodied dinosaurs over cold reptilian. Data is interpreted in a way that favors their views or hypotheses.

Nevertheless, Catholic believers are also called to be rationalists. We do not subscribe to the faulty proposition held by certain Protestants of a “blind faith” or “faith over reason.” Indeed, it is because of this philosophical demarcation that certain Fundamentalists hate and attack Catholicism. Catholicism proposes “faith seeking understanding.” While the fundamentalist argues for a literal six days of creation and a world that is six thousand years old; Catholicism accepts the reckoning of time from archeologists and physicists, unperturbed at the prospect of millions of years of evolution and a cosmos that is 13.8 billion years old, as long as one might posit intelligent design. The difference with the atheist is that the informed Catholic has a profound respect for divine revelation and refuses to invalidate his subjective experience of a relationship with a living God. Indeed, he feels that we are wired for God and have an inherent capacity to acknowledge the divine transcendent… a reality he tries to convey not only in Scripture and ritual but in poetry and art. I suppose we would argue that there is something measured here that is just as real as in the scientist’s mathematical formulae and in Hubble’s distant astronomical images. There is a sense of awe which many of us refuse to associate with chaos or chance but rather see the finger of God and providence. The proposition here seems to imply that it is a matter of “either/or” while the Catholic Christian would say it is a matter of “and.” Catholicism is the religion of the “great and.” It is not faith alone or the Bible alone or Jesus alone or even empirical science alone. Catholicism is the religion that speaks to faith and works; the Bible and sacred tradition; Jesus and Mary and the saints, etc. She is the religion that fostered great scientists, even as she stumbled sometimes to see the tapestry where science might be interwoven with faith. She embraces all that is good and true and claims it for her own. That is why the Church has the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope (VATT) on top of Mount Graham in Arizona. That is why our universities foster some of the best scientific research in the world. That is why the Pontifical Academy of Sciences includes believers and non-believers alike who further the advancement of the mathematical, physical and natural sciences and the study of related epistemological problems.

I suppose we need that child-like faith which trusts that what we believe can also be true. Atheists sometimes witness to this truth in their romantic liaisons and families. Cold science might argue for finding the optimum physical specimen for reproduction. However, most fall in love and embrace a mystery with their hearts even as their heads insist it is all just chemistry and sparking synapses. I suspect the transcendent shows itself even as certain critics contend that it cannot exist.

What Does a Priest Think About Space Aliens?

my-alien-hiAnthony came to me with questions for a school project.  They have to do with the possible existence of “outer space” aliens.

1. Do you believe that life exists on other planets in the universe?  Why or why not?

This question requires certain specificity in both the asking and in responding.  First, what do you mean by life?  Catholicism has always taught that there is extraterrestrial life and that it is sentient.  However, this is in reference to angelic beings:  both the good angels and the demons.  They are spiritual creatures, not a composite of soul and meat like us.  (Please note that atheistic authorities would object that we are only “thinking meat” and that there is no spiritual component.  It is somewhat ironic that these same “experts” would insist that there must be life elsewhere in the universe, although there is no proof at present.  Further, they suffer from a type of terrestrial racism because they suppose that all alien life must be akin to us, either biological or by extension, mechanical.)

Second, if you mean to exclude angelic creatures, then as a reasonable man I am well aware of both the Drake Equation and the Fermi Paradox.  Half of all stars in the universe may have earth-like planets, but this in itself only gives us a probability, not a certainty.  We suppose an understanding of the conditions for life, like water, but what if we are too restrictive?  Might there be a world where the climate is hellish and the denizens breathe sulfur?  We know that there are micro-organisms on our planet that are dependent upon methane.

Third, even if 100,000 planets in our own galaxy might sustain life as we know it, would such life exist by necessity and/or would it be sentient?  While I think it likely that there is something “out there” even if microbial, there is no corresponding guarantee that it would be sentient.  Catholicism associates consciousness with self-reflective thinking.  The scholastics viewed this as not merely a property of the brain but of the soul.  We might live in a universe of plants, bugs and cattle.  The reason no one answers our calls into space might be because of the distances, but such could also be due to the fact that no one is listening or that no one cares to respond.  Intelligence could be of two orders, if it exists:  one would be like the ant or bee.  They know a genuine sophistication and a civilization (of sorts) might develop.  But they would be largely robots.  Concepts like freedom or compassion might be meaningless to them.

The second scenario would allow for genuine sentience and such creatures, if they exist, would be ensouled.  Here I think of C.S. Lewis and his creatures of Mars who had not fallen from grace and the Venusians who were just now facing their moral test in the garden.  Would such creatures suffer from original sin?  If so, then how and would Christ’s redemptive work include them?  What this means is that they would be asked if they are redeemed or damned.

A recent suggestion for the celestial silence is the theory that instead of federations of planets, star faring societies tend to wipe out the competition before they can become a threat.  If true, then there might be an armada of asteroids being directed to us and our sun as I speak.  There is no guarantee that aliens will be benevolent.

To answer your question, personally, I do not know if there is alien life.  Mathematical probabilities might be wrong.  We could possibly be alone in the material universe.  I do not know God’s mind about this.  Of course, given the various string theories, might life still exist in another universe?  Hum, where is heaven and hell, precisely?  The speculation about other dimensions in science may bring us back to the truths in religion.

2. How would you react, if actual proof of alien life were discovered?

It represents no challenge to faith.  The Creator made it all.  I would probably respond by saying a loud and drawn out, Wooooow!

3. Should humans travel into space?

Certainly we should not neglect the issues of earth by doing so; but, yes, I think that missions into space are part of our developmental trajectory as a species.  It reflects an important element of man’s intelligent curiosity.  There are things to know and resources to exploit.  I think there should be a chaplain on the International Space Station.  Indeed, I would argue for permanent bases on the moon before we tackle the more difficult task of establishing settlements on Mars.  There is no world in our solar system apart from earth that is hospitable to human life.  Whether or not Mars or one of the moons of the gas giants can be terraformed is a topic for science fiction and the distant future.

MORE on Do Animals Go to Heaven?

See Previous Post:  Do Animals Go to Heaven

Some time back I made a post in response to inquiries about people’s pet dogs and the question as to whether they would be given entry into heaven. It is amazing how long the subsequent thread became. My answer was essentially to stress human immortality and our hope for heaven. Animal substantial forms would continue to exist as paradigms in the divine mind. Anything more would be up to God’s mysterious providence and I would not presume to give an answer where the Church has not. Others were free to speculate, but we would not know anything more for sure until or if we find ourselves among the saints.

All sorts of responses were elicited. Some were angry with me and thought I was mean-spirited. (I could not post all of these comments.) Others made arguments for the continued existence of animals because they are a part of our affection and shared existence in this world and thus would add to our happiness in the next. Others cited Scripture and argued for a literal new earth. Some ridiculed the whole notion of an afterlife, for anyone or anything. Others agreed with me that the stress had to be upon the beatific vision and how we (people) are made for God. In any case, the whole gambit of responses was made. It actually makes for an interesting discussion. I mention it again here, in case anyone new might like to see the comments or add some.

I would not worry much about the fate of animals after they die. If we love animals we should do what we can now to protect them from abuse and suffering. We live in a world where many species are rapidly becoming extinct.

Further, some may err by the sin of presumption about their own salvation. Are you sure that you are going to heaven? Speaking for myself, I have faith in Christ and try to be a faithful disciple in the Church. I worship God and seek to serve him through my charity and sacrifices for others. However, if people forget God, discount obedience to the commandments, and hate their fellow man… well, they may be in for a terrible surprise!

While I do not agree with everything in the fundamentalist Protestant message, here is an interesting clip from a Christian Scare Video that was shown to me in HS Bible Club…

COMMENTS

MISTER FLAPATAP:

With the prospect of looking at God face to face, we are wondering about Muffy and Fido? For the love of Pete!

My mother passed away last week and I was even wondering about meeting our loved ones in Heaven. Since our love will be perfected in God, there should not be any preference or degrees of love towards others. Will we care more about spending time with an old relative than someone who is now a stranger? I am inclined to think not. But I may be mistaken…

JOHANNES:

God works in mysterious ways, a billionth times into billions beyond the reach of any technology from this world or beyond this world we live in.

In my belief, most of his wonders are never exposed to those with a proud consciousness but to those who humbly accept and welcome him into their life with a deep appreciation and understanding of this GIFT that cannot be made nor created, this gift called LIFE.

So, one out of these wonders, I believe that our God Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, time and space, had reserved somewhere a space for our animals especially those who share our life and amuses us in time of great misery.

Animals, especially those who understands us are not cars or machines that have no souls and simply rust in time when abandoned, but, they have a living life, a soul and an understanding, that is why they are welcome by most of us humans to relish and share our life, some of us even treated them as our own family members.

In my opinion, I have no doubt our Father somewhere in his Bag of Mysteries had reserved a special place just for them in their afterlife.

BETTY:

This is such an interesting question and as we have several pets. The kids want to know the answer. I think your point about being stewards of animals on earth is what we should be focused upon. I recently picked up a book called Animals in Heaven? Catholics Want to Know! by author Susi Pittman. As a devout Catholic and steward of creation, she offers compelling evidence for animals to be present in heaven.

CHRISTIAN:

I wonder if dogs might go to heaven, but in some lesser sense than humans do. We are created by God, and in a subsidiary way we created dogs, i.e. we use the creativeness we receive from God to create things ourselves. Maybe through our efforts, God gives dogs a primitive “pneuma,” to go along with the “anima” they received directly from God.

FATHER JOE:

Huh?

YIANNI:

For God had created the world out of love, the Lord shows his love through everything you see, animals, birds, fish, the sun the moon, and above all MAN. Trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you may receive in heaven openly.

TREVOR:

I looked this up because, at 5:10 today I have to go and have our dear golden retriever “Charlie” put down, as he has a brain tumor.

I am so sad because he has been part of our family for nearly 10 years and has just given love to us all. I think that love is coming somehow from God, and unlike me, he was not tainted with original sin.

Maybe animals already know God, and are therefore already in a state of bliss that we find when we go to heaven.

I shall miss that unconditional love and I pray that someday I will also feel like that.

Priestly Celibacy – The Virginity of Jesus & Mary

Part of the problem in discussions about virginity and/or celibacy is that most critics have only generic dictionary definitions about these disciplines. The Christian discipline is focused upon Jesus Christ and demands a graced calling. The discipline is not arbitrary. The consecrated virgin has a real sense of vocation to a life of purity and devotion to the Lord as a bride of Christ. The religious finds his calling within the context of community and a certain charism. The celibate priest is centered upon a drastic identification with Christ. He acts in the person of Christ. Our Lord’s celibacy is a profound mystery at the heart of his identity and mission. The celibate priest shares in this mystery. The practical living out of this gift can be assisted by temperament and personal discipline (self-control); and yet, such factors alone would not distinguish it from any secular version of celibacy. It is Christ and divine favor (grace) that makes it distinctive and meritorious. This Christian celibacy belongs to Jesus Christ. Just as the ordained man can participate in Christ’s priesthood; he can also have a share in his virginity. Christ is a divine person; but he is also a perfect man, the new Adam. Despite contemporary stereotypes, the perfect male, indeed the supreme witness of manhood, is in Christ’s virginal masculinity. This parallels the perfection of womanhood in the new or second Eve, the Blessed Virgin Mary. God’s providence is not capricious. Evidently, in the eyes of the Almighty, this quality of virginity and/or celibacy was vitally important for the incarnation. What many regard as expendable and optional was regarded by God as an important ingredient in the work of our salvation. Why is sex or the mechanism for human generation avoided at the incarnation, in the daily life of Christ and finally in his resurrectional appearance? Despite Discovery Channel sensationalists, there is not the slightest hint in the Gospels that Jesus enjoyed any sexual encounter or got married. It is against this backdrop that priestly celibacy seems not only likely but is interpreted as integral to the sacramental equation.

Many models for Jesus are put forward today. While most reflect the biblical witness, a number do not. Our Lord was not a failed zealot or revolutionary. He cannot be recast as a female Messiah as certain radical feminists seek to do. These postulations are a sampling expression of the subjective mentality today; but truth is what it is, not what we might want or imagine it to be. Jesus is not androgynous, containing within himself all male and female potentialities. Some in the East thought this was necessary given the maxim, “Whatever is not assumed is not redeemed.” But God can do as he likes and it is enough that humanity should be saved, not that every individualization of mankind should be immediately realized in the Christ. St. Thomas Aquinas was infuriated by the notion of androgyny.  The scholastics suggested that the distinction between male and female humanity might be a matter of degree, with maleness reflecting the greater or higher perfection of humanity. I think the answer rests instead with the special participation of the Blessed Virgin Mother. Together, we have the new Adam and the new Eve. Mary is preserved from sin by her Son and in turn given a singular role to play at the Cross where she surrenders Jesus, who himself, lays down his life for all of us.

Talking to an Atheist on Original Sin & Evolution

FATHER JOE:  A few years ago I made a response to a post at THE GOD COMPLEX (an atheist site) about a faulty reading on the doctrine of Original Sin. Much was made of the fact that I said the Catholic Church “allows” believers to accept the theory of evolution. He was sarcastic instead of politely recognizing that there need be no fight upon this issue.

ANDROO: You allow followers to accept evolution. How nice of you. It’s good to see that the catholic church no longer shackles its faithful with burdensome chains of ignorance, well, at least not in the case of evolution anyway.

FATHER JOE: This illustrates why discussion with non-believers today can oftentimes be very difficult. Everything is in the attack mode. Did their parents force them to go to church? Did sister beat them with a ruler? What gives? Like certain fundamentalist Protestants, they treat matters like the inquisition and Galileo’s house arrest like they happened last Tuesday. The fact that the Church preserved learning and that many great scientists are faithful Catholics is ignored. When I voiced a Catholic view of evolution he seemed supportive until I wrote that “Adam and Eve are more than metaphors for Catholics.” To this he found objection.

ANDROO: This is actually pretty good. We can agree on everything right up until this part right here: ‘More than metaphor’ is truth. There is no gray area of speech where something is ‘kind of’ a metaphor and ‘kind of not a metaphor’. Either it is truth or it is metaphor. As I said in my original post, either Adam and Eve existed or they did not. If you say they are more than a metaphor than you are saying that they are truth. If you say they are truth then by default you are saying that Evolution did not occur because anyone who knows the slightest bit about evolution knows that there was no first man and woman in a magically perfect garden with manipulative talking snakes.

FATHER JOE:

It may be the confusion here is due to the way language is used and how history is understood. A scientist wants words to have one meaning so as to narrow the descriptive parameters. Theologians may also prefer such words when trying to strictly define beliefs and to eradicate misunderstandings. However, often the language of faith is that of parable and poetry. The assembled words are multivalent. My critic probably reads “metaphor” as strictly fictional. He seems to be objecting to the notion that Adam and Eve had any existence whatsoever. But, he would certainly have to grant the existence of the first true humans and/or proto-humans. Nevertheless, the way the ancients understood history is a far cry from our “video replay” mentality today. History and the stories passed down become immediately interpretive. What is read into the stories is judged as real and meaningful. When I said that Adam and Eve were more than metaphor, I expressed a belief in the existence of our first parents—not that they were simply blond haired, blue-eyed white people waiting to be fooled by a snake.

I wrote that “We would not usually talk about the fall or the infusion of a rational soul when discussing such concerns as evolution and prehistory with non-believers.” He then argues that we are holding opposing contradictory beliefs as true.

ANDROO: If I simultaneously held to be true two totally contradictory beliefs I wouldn’t talk about it with anyone either. Let me illustrate:

  • This is belief number one: “allows believers to accept the theory of evolution, but such is also taught in our schools and universities”
  • This is belief number two: “Adam and Eve are more than metaphors for Catholics”

Belief number one, and belief number two are diametrically opposed Father Joe, they cannot co-exist at all and no amount of vague definitions or hand waving can change that.

FATHER JOE: The problem here is that there is no strict syllogism. The propositions need not contradict one another. Admittedly, if Catholics strictly applied the biblical story there would some conflicts. But one need not be a stickler on the details to get the basic information that it is intended to transmit: that God is our Creator, the creation is good and that evil is the result of man’s misuse of his freedom and a violation of his stewardship. Nothing of this stands in violation to the notion that human beings may have evolved from proto-humans or more primitive animal forms, particularly primates.

ANDROO: This type of thing reminds me of the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, specifically this: “…the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them . . . . To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies — all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink. For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth.”

FATHER JOE: I have both read and written upon Orwell’s novel, but the Church seeks not to further “doublethink” but to do justice to all the disciplines of truth while proclaiming the Gospel. Unlike certain Protestant groups which claimed that scientific and philosophical views in conflict with faith did not matter; we seek to give both faith and reason their proper place. The critic here fails to appreciate this because he is blinded by his own bigotry against theism. Making proper distinctions is not Orwellian subterfuge, but is an element of proper and clear logical thinking. He did my explanations a severe injustice and literally bypassed them altogether without any analysis. We might still disagree, but should recognize that for most aspects of science, we could be on the same page. Science and atheism are not necessarily linked; indeed, most scientists in the history of the world have possessed some kind of faith, everything from Christianity and Judaism to variations of Deism.

ANDROO: So which is the reality Father Joe? Adam and Eve or Evolution? Is the entirety of man sinful because of the acts of the first man, or is the entirety of man sinful because you say so? Or, like Doublethink, are both of them true situationally? Is evolution true when you talk to me and Adam and Eve true when you take the podium on Sundays? you know, even if it was the case that You were a fundamentalist and you believed only in Adam and Eve I would be fine with that. That is a more logical and rational stance than trying to believe both at the same time. I mean, if you’re going to believe something wild and outlandish you might as well really commit to it and ignore all of the evidence all of the time and just be a total fundie. Saying that the story was just total metaphor would be fine too. But you didn’t go with either of those options.

FATHER JOE: The reality is greater and more wondrous than you would credit. Adam and Eve, or whatever you want to call the first parents, represents the beginning of humanity on this planet. I cannot tell you if they were dark or light skinned, hairy or bald, tall or incredibly short. They might have walked with a peculiar stride. They were part of nature and yet represented something special and new on the scene. There was a fall, and I would be at a loss to say what exactly happened. There was a test and our ancestors failed. They were the first and would set the pattern for all who would come after them. The first true human has a sense of himself called to a higher dignity. For the first time there is a creature that can respond to God in kind. He has the power of a self-reflective mind and a freedom of will. He is not a necessary slave to instinct. However, instead of embracing the mystery of his calling and dignity, he reverted to the bestial—the way of least resistance—and forfeited a unique relationship with the Creator. We can only imagine what things might have been like had mankind initially said YES to God. Maybe death would have been as easy as walking through a door from one room into another? In any case, it did not happen and the pattern of sin and death would be replayed over and over again. Nothing is denied from a study of pre-history, archeology, and the current interest in DNA. As I said, God could certainly form the human body from pre-existing forms using such things as natural selection and mutations. We would not usually talk about the fall and the infusion of a soul because these are matters that science cannot place under a microscope or discover in the fossil record. It must not contradict or invalidate good science; but science itself has neither the tools nor the perspective to say much about such religious views. The disciplines study different things.

ANDROO: What really bothers me though, is that when presented with the evidence, and the impossibility of both things being true, you retreat to this: “Obviously there are still mysteries left to be discovered and it is our expectation that revelation and science are not in opposition.”

FATHER JOE:

At this point I must apologize because I assumed the critic would understand the usage of my terms. This statement here proves me wrong. There is no opposition and I am not using the word “mystery” as in regard to something not yet discovered. Theologians use the word MYSTERY in a different way. The seven sacraments were originally called the divine mysteries. When we talk about the mystery of God or of creation, we are not talking about questioning God’s existence or how this relates to the natural world. The sublime revelations of God are called “mysteries.” Theological mysteries can be known to a certain extent but given their source in an infinite God it is not possible for us to exhaust their meaning. The old edition of the Catholic Encyclopedia had this to say:

Relations of natural and supernatural truth

(a) Superiority of the Supernatural

The mysteries contained in supernatural revelation are not simply disconnected truths lying beyond the realm of natural things, but a higher, heavenly world, a mystical cosmos whose parts are united in a living bond. (Scheeben, “Dogmatik”, I, 25.) Even in those parts of this vast system that have been revealed to us there is a wonderful harmony. In his great work “Die Mysterien des Christenthums”, Scheeben has sought to show the logical connection in the supernatural order by considering its supreme mystery, the internal communication of Divine life in the Trinity, as the model and ideal of the external communication to the creature of the Divine life of grace and glory. The knowledge of the supernatural is more excellent than any human wisdom, because, although incomplete, it has a nobler object, and through its dependence on the unfailing word of God possesses a greater degree of certitude. The obscurity which surrounds the mysteries of faith results from the weakness of the human intellect, which, like the eye that gazes on the sun, is blinded by the fulness of light.

(b) Harmony of Natural and Supernatural Truth

Since all truth is from God, there can be no real warfare between reason and revelation. Supernatural mysteries as such cannot be demonstrated by reason, but the Christian apologist can always show that the arguments against their possibility are not conclusive (St. Thos., “Suppl. Boeth. de trinitate”, Q. ii, a. 3). The nature of God which is infinite and eternal, must be incomprehensible to an intelligence that is not capable of perfect knowledge (cf. Zigliara, “Propædeutica”, I, ix). The powerlessness of science to solve the mysteries of nature, a fact that Rationalists admit, shows how limited are the resources of the human intellect (cf. Daumer, “Des Reich des Wundersamen und Geheimnissvollen,” Ratisbon, 1872). On the other hand reason is able not only to recognize wherein consists the special mysteriousness of a supernatural truth, but also to dispel to some extent the obscurity by means of natural analogies and to show the fittingness of the mystery by reasons of congruity (Council of Cologne, 1860). This was done with great success by the Fathers and the Scholastic theologians. A famous example is St. Thomas’ argument ex convenientia for the Divine processions in the Trinity (Summa Theol., I, QQ. xxvii-xxxi). (See FAITH, REASON, REVELATION.)

Here my response changes from third person to first…

ANDROO: You’re essentially saying that you just don’t know how both things can be true, but you expect that they are. That is one of the most intellectually dishonest things I have ever heard.

FATHER JOE: No, this is not what I was saying at all. The dishonesty is yours for failing to pick up on so much that I made clear in regard to Catholic respect for science, if not for atheism. Maybe this confusion is a symptom of your atheism? You have no soul, or at least refuse to allow your soul to express itself. When I speak of mystery, I am remarking upon that which causes awe and wonder. The fact that we can even have this discussion is incredible. Our very existence and that of our universe should by my way of thinking be highly unlikely; but, here we are! That is absolutely incredible, no less or more so than the religious beliefs I hold to be true.

ANDROO: It is common for religious people to ridicule scientists, and even you yourself have done it Father Joe, for not actually knowing everything and having mere ‘theories’ (this displays an ingnorance as to what a theory actually is in scientific terms though) as to the creation of the universe or the development of certain traits or species.

FATHER JOE: I am not presumptuous of scientists and their theories. I acknowledge my ignorance just as you are blind to yours. When theories are proven, we have facts. However, facts always lead to more theories, and sometimes even to the revision of our so-called facts. I have never ridiculed scientists. I am critical of you as an atheist. So far I have seen no sign that you are a scientist. We could talk science, but you have chosen to ridicule religion. Indeed, you have dedicated much of your poor blog to this cause.

ANDROO: Isn’t saying ‘It’s a mystery, but I expect that I’m right’ even worse than what you mock scientists for? Scientists work to solve problems, and come up with ideas when they don’t know the answers. then they experiment and study to see if their answers ideas and theories are correct.

FATHER JOE: I have already explained about your faulty and impoverished understanding of the word “mystery.” Scientists have never been mocked by me. They have my highest respect and admiration. All men and women who seek truth of any sort are kindred souls to me. But you are not really interested in that on your site, are you? You are all about mockery and bigotry. You hate the Church. You think Christians are pathetic. And you do the one thing that no true seeker of truth would ever do; you have closed your mind.

ANDROO: You Father Joe, when presented with a problem just give up and say ‘It’s a mystery, I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure I’m right so let’s not talk about it.” I for one, would rather say “I don’t know yet” and try to find the answer myself.

FATHER JOE: Excuse me, to whom are you talking? I have given more of a response than probably anyone else has ever given you. It was my hope that you would see that not all religion was the same. Faith need not invalidate science (or visa versa). I am a parish priest who studies, albeit as an amateur, religion, philosophy, astronomy, physics, history and pre-history, evolutionary science, the classics of literature, etc. I did not expect any great degree of human respect, but I was somewhat surprised at how tenaciously you would grab at any and every straw to promote your personal atheism at the expense of sound argument and a true picture of Catholic Christianity.

The Original Discussion

ANDROO THE ATHEIST:

According to Catholics, man is created sinful and must struggle his entire life against his powerful tendency to sin in order to be good enough to enter heaven. In an effort to help us out, God sent Jesus down here to suffer and die and then go back to heaven. This ‘ultimate’ sacrifice somehow makes forgiveness possible. So lets take a detailed look at this, if that is even is possible. First, why is man sinful? According to Catholic.com our sin descends from Adam and Eve.

The doctrine of original sin is that “in” Adam all have sinned. / This sin of Adam’s was not your ordinary sin. This was a sin that affected all mankind forever. This sin changed the course of human history. It did not just affect Adam personally; it also affected his human nature—which means it affected our nature, since we inherited it from him. / Adam was tested by God not just as Adam but as the representative of the whole human race, since we are all the seed of Adam. Just as David and Goliath met on the battlefield as champions of their respective armies, Adam was our champion. If your champion lost in battle to the other army’s champion.

A champion whose enemy was none other than god apparently, the odds seem to have been against Adam from the start. But I digress, here’s one more.

These passages are all about the Church’s doctrine of original sin. Because of Adam’s sin, all men were made subject to sin and death. That is Scripture’s teaching on the doctrine of original sin.

Now, because I generally don’t like to pull from just one source, here are some quotes from my old friend Father Joe These are comments from an entirely unrelated article, but they illustrate that the belief in Adam, the Garden of Eden and original sin is more than metaphorical amongst catholics and their religious figureheads.

If Adam had not sinned, the course of world events would have been quite different. However, we cannot be sure what would have happened. It might have meant the immediate consummation of all things. Natural laws might have been suspended. Death might have become an easy transition from this world to the next… indeed, not a true death (as we know it) at all. / Mankind fell in Adam. He was called to respond to God as one made in his image and likeness. Instead, he preferred the path of least resistance, the way of the brute.

Moderate religious people of any faith always say that science and religion are entirely compatible. The above quotes clearly illustrate that that is not true. How exactly can one accept evolution and the age of the earth as fact while simultaneously accepting as fact the story of Adam and Eve? Those two things are diametrically opposed, if one happened the other simply could not have happened. This is a fact, only one of those events could have transpired, and the overwhelming mountain of evidence is in favor of evolution. Sorry Adam, you just didn’t exist. Since we know, as fact, that there was no Adam and Eve, no Garden of Eden, and no lively games of Fetch between Adam and a Tyrannosaur, where then, does that leave the doctrine of Original Sin? Well, if Adam did not exist, then he could not have betrayed God and he could not have passed that sin onto us all. Is it possible then, that mankind isn’t sinful by Nature, and that the Catholic Church just wants you to think that in order to perpetuate a cycle of guilt and forgiveness that constantly leads people back to the Church?

Well, MAYBE the whole Adam and Eve thing is just some sort of confusing metaphor. Maybe God was a little busy when he wrote that part of the bible and didn’t make it clear that he wasn’t being literal. Well, that just leaves us with another problem, the problem of sin and justice. Let’s say I had a son, and I decided to have both of his arms amputated at the shoulder because I wanted him that way. Now lets say that I take him out into the back yard and constantly throw footballs at him. Would it be fair of me to get angry with him because he can’t catch any of them? Would it be justice lock him in a smoldering basement for rest of his life because he cant catch any of these footballs? If Adam and Eve are only a metaphor, than that leaves God as the one responsible for our sinful nature. After all, God created us exactly the way he wanted us to be, a omnipotent and omniscient being could do no less. So, if god made us sinful by nature, is it fair that he punishes us for giving in to sin? Is it fair that he sentences us to hell for giving in a desire he gave us in the first place? I don’t think so.

One final thought though, if we truly are sinful by nature, and it is ‘natural’ for us to sin, and God is forcing us to act righteously, than isn’t that coercion?

Coercion is the practice of compelling a person to behave in an involuntary way (whether through action or inaction) by use of threats, intimidation or some other form of pressure or force.

Seems like god is the bad guy no matter how you look at it.

FATHER JOE:

The Catholic Church not only allows believers to accept the theory of evolution, but such is also taught in our schools and universities. Unlike Protestant fundamentalists and certain Catholic traditionalists, we have long been open to the notion that the human body may have developed from pre-existing forms. Further, while men probably ran with mammoths and faced the extinct sabertooth, I do not think human beings were around when the dinosaurs or their precursors roamed the earth.

Adam and Eve are more than metaphors for Catholics, but there are certainly metaphorical elements in the story. We would not usually talk about the fall or the infusion of a rational soul when discussing such concerns as evolution and prehistory with non-believers. Rather, we would stress those things in which we find agreement from fossil and/or genetic evidence. Catholics would not hold opposing propositions as true; however, different matters are studied and each discipline is respected in its own right. Obviously there are still mysteries left to be discovered and it is our expectation that revelation and science are not in opposition. Instead they look at the basic questions from different perspectives. I would not use the Bible as a science textbook; neither would I use Darwin or Einstein as prophets of faith.

I am not trying to prove God to you, anymore than you could make me question my faith. I just hope we can live in a world where believers and non-believers can work together and live in peace and respectful civility.