Below is the text of my email to this particular priest and his reply. What do you make of his reply? He seems to ignore my points. (I cut my introduction so it wasn’t too long.
First, you state that original sin “…is about the concrete situation of human life and society rather than about some kind of taint or blot passed on biologically throuought human history.” However, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says [FONT=Courier]“We therefore hold, with the Council of Trent, that original sin is transmitted with human nature, by propagation, not by imitation” and that it is. . . proper to each" (Para. 419). Given what the Catechism says, how best can one understand the way original sin is transmitted (if transmitted is even the right word)?[/FONT]
[FONT=Courier New, courier, monaco, monospace, sans-serif]Second, you ask “was there then an historical Adam and Eve? Cain and Abel? Noah and the flood generation? Builders of the tower of Babel?” And answer, “Not in a literal sense.”[/FONT]
[FONT=Courier New, courier, monaco, monospace, sans-serif]My reading of the Catechism is that it suggests that Adam and Eve were real persons (although perhaps not named Adam and Eve). "[FONT=Courier]All men are implicated in Adam’s sin, as St. Paul affirms: “By one man’s disobedience many (that is, all men) were made sinners”: “sin came into the world through one man and death through sin…” (Para. 402) And, “[FONT=Courier]Adam and Eve committed a personal sin…” (Para 404). And finally, paragraph 375 calls Adam and Eve “our first parents.”[/FONT][/FONT][/FONT]
[FONT=Courier][FONT=Courier][FONT=Courier New, courier, monaco, monospace, sans-serif]Perhaps I am reading into the text, but it seems to suggest that Adam and Eve may have been real people because they committed a personal sin and the Catechism calls them “our first parents.” [/FONT][/FONT][/FONT]
[FONT=Courier][FONT=Courier][FONT=Courier New, courier, monaco, monospace, sans-serif][/FONT][/FONT][/FONT]
[FONT=Courier][FONT=Courier][FONT=Courier New, courier, monaco, monospace, sans-serif]My question is, how should I read the Catechism and understand its sense? [/FONT][/FONT][/FONT]
[FONT=Courier][FONT=Courier][FONT=Courier New]I am finding in this formation process that many of my assumptions are being challenged, but I am continuing to learn and my faith is definitely growing. I appreciate you taking the time to read this lengthy email and any clarification you can offer.[/FONT][/FONT][/FONT]
[FONT=Courier New]His Reply:[/FONT]
[FONT=Arial]thanks for your note, and you have indeed discovered a problem. Different sections of the Cathechism were written by different people and then sort of stuck together. This produces a number of “tensions in the text,” which in fact were noticed and commented on from the time it first appeared. Perhaps one of the areas where this is most dramatic is in its use of Scripture. In #101-141, it presents a discussion of Scripture which is very good and based pretty squarely on the teachngs of Dei Verbum of Vatican II. Unfortunately, those who wrote some of the sections in systematic theology did not follow these guidelines, and the work of Scripture scholars is largely ignored. What I presented is pretty much a consensus among Catholic (and other) scholars; it is not only my view and it is not new. When I was a student in graduate theology at The Catholic University of America in 1967, I took a graduate seminar on developments in the Catholic teaching on original sin; this section of the Catechism seems either to be unaware of this or chose to ignore it.
As you begin to study theology and scripture in more depth, a lot of the more popular understandings will be challenged…I’ve been teaching for almost 40 years, and this is completely normal and even typical; …but hopefully this moves us to an even deeper understanding of our faith.
Good luck and keep growing!