descended from Adam and Eve? I didn't know it either. Not that I believed in Adam and
Eve literally, but I figured I was once again on the outside of Catholic teaching when I
concluded that the two founding parents were metaphors for a larger group of original
humans. Turns out I'm pretty orthodox.
In 2004, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (the old Office of the Inquisition)
issued a document entitled "Communion and Stewardship". The document repudiates the
previous teaching of Pope Pius XII and the Church which stated Catholics must believe Adam
and Eve were parents of the human race. "Communion and Stewardship" accepts the
conclusion of genomics that the level of genetic variation present in humans today rules out
a founding population with fewer than several thousand individuals. In other words, no Adam
and Eve, rather thousands or tens of thousands of Adams and Eves.
This has profound implications for one of the key tenets of Roman Catholic theology and
to a lesser extent Christian theology. It completely changes the concept of original sin.
Original sin was invented by St. Augustine, among other, to answer a critical question. If
Jesus's death and resurrection redeemed the world, why should anyone belong to or need
a church? If we are all redeemed, why do we need Christianity? The answer is original sin.
Yes, Jesus redeemed the world. However, the first sin committed by Adam and Eve has been
and continues to be passed down for each generation through the act of concupiscence (sex).
Since every human is conceived through sexual intercourse, each human is stained by "The"
original sin. You need the Church to baptize you to wipe that "original" sin away.
If you are not baptized, you can't get into heaven because of the original sin on your soul.
This belief led to the concept of Limbo (also discarded by the way). If a baby dies before
baptism, the child goes to Limbo because original sin prevents entry into heaven. The doctrine
of the Immaculate Conception owes its existence to original sin. Mary was conceived without
original sin and thus couldn't pass it on to Jesus. If, instead of Adam and Eve, there were
thousands of Adams and Eves who committed "The" original sin, what if you were descended
from a pair of the good Adam and Eve's who didn't eat the apple or listen to the snake?
Original sin would not have been passed along to you, would it?
Catholic parents would freak out if their baby wasn't baptized within weeks of birth.
What parent would want to consign a child to eternal Limbo because Great Aunt Sally couldn't
make it out for the baptism for a couple of months? Baptism turned into a magic ceremony
which wiped out the evil sin and opened the gates of heaven. (Baptism was originally only for
adults...when children began being baptized due to these fears, it changed the sacrament
dramatically.) Do you remember the episode of All In the Family where Archie sneaks off
with his grandson to a church to baptize him because his children were against it? It was
because of his fear the baby might not get into heaven without it. It was total superstition.
Original sin never made sense to me theologically. In St. John's gospel, Chapter Nine at
the pool of Siloam, Jesus's disciples encounter a blind man. They ask Jesus what sin he
committed or his father committed to be cursed with blindness? Jesus responds telling them
"...the sins of the father don't visit the son". You can't inherit sin. Sin is a purposeful act we
freely choose to perform. Children can't sin. Certainly newborn babies can't sin. So, why
would they be punished for something they did not do nor can they inherit?
"Communion and Stewardship" was never publicized and certainly no one I know of ever
heard anything about it from the pulpit. Was this by design or just by accident? What is clear
is if there were no two original parents from whom we inherit all our genetic traits and instead
there were thousands of Adams and thousands of Eves; there is no possible way we inherited
an original sin committed by two of them.
The good news (gospel) is that Jesus's death and resurrection did redeem us all. You don't
need anything more. If you want to be a Catholic, Protestant, Jew or Muslim, it's up to you.
You can join the community which best suits you and which lives out the radical philosophy
preached by the little Jewish carpenter from Nazareth. Heaven is open to all and baptism is
not a requirement. What is required, according to Matthew 25, is to feed the hungry, clothe
the naked, heal the sick, visit prisoners, and do whatever you can do for the least of your
brothers and sisters. What is required is to love your neighbor, turn the other cheek, forgive
an infinite number of times, and reject much of the modern culture our children will inherit.
This is much more demanding than having some water splashed on your forehead or being
dunked in a river.
If you are a fundamentalist, locked into Adam and Eve, original sin, et.al., in the words of
Emily Latella..."never mind". If you haven't checked your brain at the door and picked up your
crayons, the news is good. You don't have to be afraid, God loves us all. What do you think?
I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org