Choose a topic from Vol 3:


Reason proves God's existence
Primitive monotheism
Mystery of God's inner nature
Personality of God
Providence of God and the problem of evil


Immortal destiny of man
Can earth give true happiness?
Do human souls evolve?
Is transmigration possible?
Animal souls
Freedom of will
Free will and faith


Religion and God
The duty of prayer
The mysteries of religion
Can we believe in miracles?

The Religion of the Bible

Historical character of the Gospels
Canonical Books of the Bible
Original Manuscripts
Copyists' errors
Truth of the Bible
New Testament "contradictions"

The Christian Religion

Christianity alone true
Not the product of religious experience
Compared with Buddhism, Confucianism, Mahometanism, Bahaism, etc.,
Rejected by modern Jews
The demand for miracles
The necessity of faith
Difficulties not doubts
Proofs available
Dispositions of unbelievers

A Definite Christian Faith

One religion not as good as another
Changing one's religion
Catholic convictions and zeal
Religious controversy
The curse of bigotry
Towards a solution

The Problem of Reunion

Efforts at the reunion of the Churches
The Church of England as a "Bridge-Church"
Anglicans and the Greek Orthodox Church
The "Old Catholics" of Holland
Reunion Conferences
Catholic Unity
The Papacy as reunion center
Protestant hostility to Catholicism
The demands of charity

The Truth of Catholicism

Necessity of the Church
The true Church
Catholic claim absolute
A clerical hierarchy
Papal Supremacy
Temporal Power
Unity of the Church
Holiness of the Church
Catholicity of the Church
Catholic attitude to converts
Indefectible Apostolicity
Necessity of becoming a Catholic

The Church and the Bible

Catholic belief in the Bible
Bible-reading and private interpretation
Value of Tradition and the "Fathers"
Guidance of the Church necessary

The Dogmas of the Catholic Church

Dogmatic certainty
Credal statements
Faith and reason
The voice of science
Fate of rationalists
The dogma of the Trinity
Creation and evolution
The existence of angels
Evil spirits or devils
Man's eternal destiny
The fact of sin
Nature and work of Christ
Mary, the mother of God
Grace and salvation
The sacraments
Holy Eucharist
The Sacrifice of the Mass
Holy Communion
Marriage and divorce
Extreme Unction
Man's death and judgment
Resurrection of the body
End of the World

Moral Teachings of the Catholic Church

Catholic intolerance
The Spanish Inquisition
Prohibition of Books
Liberty of worship
Forbidden Socieities
Church attendance
The New Psychology
Deterministic philosophy
Marriage Legislation
Birth Prevention
Monastic Life
Convent Life
Legal defense of murderers
Laywers and divorce proceedings
Judges in Divorce
Professional secrecy

The Church in Her Worship

Why build churches?
Glamor of ritual
The "Lord's Prayer"
Pagan derivations
Liturgical symbolism
Use of Latin
Intercession of Mary and the Saints

The Church and Social Welfare

The Church and Education
The Social Problem
Social Duty of the Church
Catholicism and Capitalism

The fact of sin

636. To the modern mind your doctrine of original sin is but the old myth of Pandora's Box in a new dress.

The doctrine of original sin dates from the origin of humanity, hundreds of centuries before such legends as that of Pandora's Box were invented. But, granted original sin, it is most natural that vestiges of the primitive truth would find expression in just such stories. In whatever form various peoples have preserved the story of the original fall of man, the fact that they all have a tradition of original sin points to a common origin from which such a tradition could be drawn. And that common origin was not a myth. It was the actual fall of our first parents.

637. The idea that mankind has fallen is clearly a legend of ancient Hebrew literature. It finds no sympathy with modern scientific thought which holds that man has risen continuously from primitive beginnings.

One would be justified in saying that humanity hasn't risen very far; and that modern materialistic philosophy tends only to drag it down rather than to lift it to further heights. It is quite true that the account of the fall is contained in ancient Hebrew literature. But you beg the question when you declare it to be a legend, as if it may thus be dismissed as fiction. For the whole point at issue is as to whether it is fiction or not. It is for the critic to prove that it is fiction, not just to say so. Meantime, science has really nothing to say on the subject. For the fall of man was a fact of the moral order, which is beyond the scope of science.

638. Do you still believe in these days that man fell from some higher kind of existence?

I believe the Biblical truth that our first parents were endowed with a proportionate natural perfection, and that they were further enriched with additional spiritual gifts and privileges, I believe that by sin they lost these additional privileges, and gave rise to a posterity deprived of them, and prone also to moral weaknesses. This belief in no way conflicts with any scientific facts.

639. Surely there are some indications of original sin still available!

There are. If you deny original sin, you will find man a much greater mystery than original sin itself. It is fearfully difficult to understand the human race without admitting original sin; whilst the difficulty vanishes the moment we accept the doctrine. We know that God has revealed the doctrine, and by faith we accept it- the only reasonable thing to do. But reason alone points always in the direction of an original and inherited moral catastrophe. Nature does not know paradox; yet we have the human paradox. Our very miseries are our greatness because they proceed from our high aspirations; and our greatness is our misery because our high aspirations seek such miserable things. Meantime, we see inherent in man monstrous egotism, pride, covetousness, and iniquity. He who denies sin in himself is always denouncing it in others, and accusing God of not being either wise or good. We see in man the misery of a dethroned king. He is fallen from his true place, and cannot recover it. What is good in him is from his Creator; what is bad is the unhappy effect of his fall.

640. So you believe that the very first result of all man's wonderful gifts was a fall; in fact, such a terrific crash that it has resounded through all succeeding centuries!

We do not believe that a fall was the very first result. The very first result was the service of God with the initial perfections God gave to our first parents. There is no indication in the Bible that they fell immediately from their state of innocence. However, we know that eventually they did fall from a state of supernatural grace and holiness into a state of sin. But this was not the result of their gifts. It was a result of a misuse of the powers conferred upon them. By the very gifts which were a condition of its possibility, they could have avoided moral evil. However, our first parents fell into sin, and original sin has been transmitted to all men through the centuries.

641. If man was made in the image and likeness of God, he must have been perfect. How could the perfect fall?

When we say that man is made in the image and likeness of God we do not mean that man is a perfect replica of God. We mean that he is truly like God insofar as his soul is spiritual, and endowed with intelligence and free will. And he is relatively perfect in these things according to the demands of his own created, human, and finite level. How could the perfect fall? The absolutely perfect could not fall. Thus God, infinitely perfect and supremely free, could not fall into imperfect or sinful conduct. He is not free to sin precisely because He must be free from evil or the possibility of evil. But man has a freedom of will which is associated, not with infinite intelligence, but with a finite intelligence. And since the finite intelligence cannot see all aspects of everything at once, it is possible for man to concentrate upon one aspect rather than another. Thus a man can concentrate on the advantages of $500 which he has an opportunity to steal, and omit to give his attention to the aspect of dishonesty. It is obvious that, if he has free will, sin is possible. Granted an object with both a good and a bad aspect, he who has free will can choose to dwell upon an alluring aspect, to the exclusion of all other aspects. Your difficulty would be insoluble in the case of an infinitely and absolutely perfect being; but not where only a relatively perfect creature is concerned.

642. God is infinitely perfect, and omnipotent.


643. Then how could He make anything evil or imperfect?

He could not make anything morally evil or wicked. Nor, from the merely physical point of view could He directly make anything positively imperfect. Positively and directly His work is always good. But He can grant to some creatures a few good qualities, and to other creatures a greater number of good qualities. Each thing will then be relatively perfect in its own degree and according to His plan. For example, a cabbage may be relatively perfect as a cabbage, but it is imperfect in comparison with an animal which has the additional powers of sensation and locomotion, and still more imperfect in comparison with man who possesses intelligence. Although God is infinitely perfect, therefore, He can distribute created perfections in varying degrees in order to secure a gradation and harmony of different beings in the universe. Lesser creatures are imperfect in comparison with higher creatures, but they are perfect in their own kind and degree. But you are concerned chiefly with the problem of moral imperfection, not physical limitations. So let us turn to your next remark.

644. Man was not created perfect, otherwise he would not have disobeyed in the Garden of Eden.

Man was created perfect in the sense that he was all that God intended a man to be. Of course, as a creature, he necessarily had the limitations proper to all creatures as such. But you wrongly argue from his disobedience to some radical imperfection in his nature which should not have been there. As a matter of fact, the disobedience of which man was guilty was due, not to an imperfection, but to a perfection over and above the perfections of lesser creatures. It was due to freedom of will. That is man's great dignity. Free will, however, whilst it gives us the power of self-chosen good actions also carries with it the risk of self-chosen bad actions. But in man, as he was created by God, there were no implanted tendencies to evil, and he was given the knowledge of what ought to be avoided. But there was no physical compulsion to choose either good or evil. That had to be his own choice. And, despite God's warning, man chose evil. This misuse of freedom was not due to the fact that he was not created perfect. It was rendered possible precisely because he was given the perfection of self-determination. The abuse of that perfection was not God's responsibility, but man's own responsibility.

645. If it is just as easy for God to create perfection as imperfection why did He create us imperfect?

God did not create us imperfect. Had He not given us free will, we would have been less perfect than He actually made us. You are confusing the abuse of a good gift with the possession of that good gift. The possession of free will is a perfection. The abuse of free will is the imperfection, but God neither created nor caused that abuse. You may say that God at least gave us the ability to make a bad choice. But you must look at it from the other viewpoint also. God gave us the ability to make a good choice, to exercise a moral virtue of which irrational creatures are not capable. And He intended that we should freely make that good choice, warning us against an evil choice, and forbidding it. Since we were not obliged to make an evil choice, but forbidden it, and warned against it, the responsibility for any evil choice made rests with man himself. We cannot shift the blame from ourselves to God.

646. You said it was a fallacy to conclude that God was responsible for man's fall into sin if the creation story be true.


647. At least my proposition has a basis of reasoning behind it.

It had. But you were reasoning from wrong premises. And if your logical process is sound, you can arrive only at a wrong conclusion from wrong premises.

648. It conforms with the law of Universal Causation.

The invoking of the law of universal causation is one thing. The application of that law to the wrong cause is quite another.

649. You say that the cause of man's sin was man's own free will?


650. You forget that there must first have been forces operating upon this intelligence or free will itself.

Not for a moment do I forget that some object must be presented as attractive in some way before a choice is made. But whilst I admit that no deliberate choice is made without a motive, I deny that the motive necessitates the choice.

651. These forces, I submit, were the natural instincts of man, implanted by God in his very nature.

I do not deny that there were natural appetites in man which were stimulated by the attractive object wrongly chosen. But I do deny that the responsive instincts compelled the will to make the evil choice of pleasures forbidden by God. God would not forbid what man must necessarily do.

652. Of course, I know that you will say that this is not Christian teaching, because Christian belief is that man was created perfect, and could not, therefore, have had such natural instincts.

You are mistaken as to the Christian belief. Man would not have been perfect as a man unless he had natural instincts.

653. Where, then, do the animal instincts which you cannot deny exist today deep in the nature of every one of us, spring from?

They are implanted in us by God. Man consists of a soul and a body. His soul is spiritual, intelligent, and endowed with free will; and it is made in the image and likeness of God. His body is material, sensitive, and animal; and from the very beginning it was endowed with instincts proper to an animal nature. Those instincts are not evil in themselves.

654. An uncaused phenomenon is unthinkable.

I agree.

655. Since you do not believe in the organic evolution of man from lower forms of life, you must inevitably trace the cause of man's nature back to the First Great Cause, God.

Correct. But you are not making much headway. What you have to prove is that animal instinct necessarily impels the will to act in accordance with it. You are not making the required distinctions between the sensitive bodily nature of man with its sensitive appetites, and the intelligent spiritual soul with its rational appetite for the things of the spirit. A child may profess to see a sentence written on a blackboard. But it may not have the least understanding of what the sentence means. It sees only chalk marks with bodily eyes, a sense of sight possessed equally by a dog or any other animal. When the teacher throws light on the meaning of the sentence, the child cries, "Now I see." The child saw before, with eyes only. Now it sees with its mind. Human beings have two classes of knowledge, sense knowledge, and rational knowledge. And to each type of knowledge corresponds an appetite power, animal passion, and the rational will. The will is not compelled to follow animal instinct. Thus a child may like cakes yet be forbidden to touch them. The sight of the cakes may stimulate an animal craving for them, and awaken strong imaginations of the pleasure to be got from eating them. But the intelligence may perceive a different kind of goodness in the virtue of obedience. It is free to omit due consideration of this aspect, concentrate only on animal cravings, and choose to eat the cakes. Or it can choose to concentrate on the good of obedience, and put aside all thought of disobediently following its natural instincts to eat the cakes. What you have to prove is that the child is not free to resist its lower animal appetites.

656. You say it is a fallacy to urge that, on the creation hypothesis, God is responsible for man's fall into sin.

I do. For man had no evil propensities as he commenced his career. He had a twofold nature, spiritual in his soul, material in his animal body. The body, being sensitive, was naturally subject to sensations, or instinctive feelings. These instinctive feelings or natural appetites were in no way evil in themselves. Nothing that God implanted in human nature could be bad in itself. But the natural bodily instincts were subject to the control of the soul. By his intelligence man knew clearly how his instincts ought to be controlled and regulated according to their true purpose and God's designs. By his will, man was well able to exercise due control. His passions did not control him. He controlled them. But man's will was free. God gave him the perfection of liberty, that he might not be a mere automaton, but live according to the self-chosen virtue which constitutes man's real dignity. God forbade any evil choice which would be an abuse of this freedom of will; but He would not compel man to be good. Despite his ability to do well, and despite God's warning, man disobeyed God. And God was not responsible for that sin, which man need not have committed, which God forbade, and against which God had warned him.

657. Your difficulty lies in trying to reconcile belief in the entire freedom of the will with a conception of justice in relation to God and His creatures.

You seem inclined to deny both the justice of God, and the freedom of the will. From both viewpoints that would land you in far greater difficulties than any that confront me. But, before I continue, I must clear up your misconception as to my own position. We were discussing the sin of the first man, who possessed human nature as God created it. But now you have in mind human nature as possessed by man subsequently to that first sin. You must remember that, because of that first sin, we are children of a fallen race. Our natures are warped to some extent. For when man's soul would not be controlled by God, he found disorder in his own nature, bodily passions tending to revolt against the control of the will. This did not destroy the power of free will, but it made its exercise more difficult; and diminished the limits of responsibility, according to the duration and intensity of the interference with freedom of choice. I do not, therefore, maintain the entire freedom of the will. The degree of freedom varies in different individuals, and in the same individual under different conditions. But this does not justify an entire negation of free will. Virtue and vice as such are confined to the will. There can be no sin except in a will freely choosing to do an evil it is not compelled to do. And there are many evils deliberately chosen by men which they were free not to choose.

658. All men are born equal is a fine-sounding phrase, but it is not a scientific fact.

I agree. Both heredity and environment give men a very unequal start in life.

659. Surely it is unfair for God to judge a man born and raised in the slums on the same level of judgment as a man brought up at the feet of Christ!

That would be unfair. God, therefore, will not do so.

660. Yet both these men, you say, are perfectly free to choose what moral path they will take.

I do not remember ever having said that. I have maintained the general proposition that human beings are endowed with free will. In disputing that you appeal to particular cases which do not prove the universal negative that no human being has free will; also you omit my allowance for the warped nature of man since the first sin brought disorder in its wake.

661. I deny that both these men are perfectly free to choose which moral path they will take.

So do I. But granted relative limitations in the exercise of freedom, I maintain that insofar as each is genuinely free to refuse individual immoral decisions, he is guilty of sin before God, and personally responsible for it. And I deny that he is never sufficiently free in any individual decisions as to be guilty of sin, unless he be an imbecile devoid of the use of reason.

662. You must admit that the slums of big cities all over the world literally breed corruption.

I do. But that does not affect my contention that human beings as human beings are endowed with free will. It proves only that some human beings in some circumstances will have greater difficulty in exercising their free will than others; a proposition I have never denied.

663. It takes an exceptional mind to rise above such surroundings.

He would certainly be the exceptional man who could entirely resist the influence of such surroundings. But I deny that any man, provided he be sane, is never able at any time to resist any of the evil influences around him. And if he is ever able on any occasion to exercise freedom of choice, the thesis stands that human beings are endowed with free will.

664. Under such a system the word justice becomes a mockery.

If God judged men solely upon their actual conduct, without making any allowance for factors mitigating responsibility, justice would be a mockery. But God does not judge men like that. God will never blame any man for what is really involuntary. And where evil conduct is due to one's voluntary choice, God will make every allowance for degrees of volition. Semi-deliberate actions will be less guilty in His sight than fully deliberate actions. All the obstacles to a free choice in a right direction will be taken into consideration, ignorance, external violence, inherited evil tendencies, vicious habits, personally acquired antecedently to each sin to be judged, physical and nervous health, fears, imaginary or real, influences of environment, all will be weighed in the scales of justice. And that justice will not be a mockery. There is nothing in your letter which warrants a denial of free will in man. In fact, deny free will, and justice becomes a mockery. For then a man in the most favorable circumstances and environment is no more to be blamed for evil conduct than the one in the most unfavorable environment.

665. Consider this: First you teach us that God is wise and good.

I do.

666. Then you blandly assert that He is not responsible for the welfare of His creatures.

I do not. He is responsible for their welfare. He is not responsible for their sins. God fulfills all that His responsibility demands, a responsibility due, of course, to His own justice and wisdom and goodness. He has endowed us with all the good gifts we possess, including the dignity of intelligence and free will. He endows us with a moral sense or conscience to warn us of the evils we must avoid. He will see to it that everyone is given sufficient grace for salvation, so that no soul will be lost save through its own deliberate fault. In fact, He will see to it that multitudes are given sufficient grace to repent and be saved despite the fact that they have deserved to be lost through their own deliberate sins.

667. You teach that, for millions of human beings, it would have been better never to have been born, because they are doomed to eternal suffering in hell!

I do not teach that. The Catholic Church condemns as heresy the doctrine that any single soul is doomed to eternal suffering. The only destiny human souls are meant by God to attain is a destiny of eternal happiness; and every single soul is able to attain eternal happiness. But man's destiny is in his own keeping. If he goes to hell, it will be due to a choice of evil which he is not compelled to make, for which he is fully responsible, which God forbids, and of which he does not repent before death. A man cannot be said to be doomed to a disaster he need never encounter. Likewise, even granted that those who do choose to lose their souls are not compelled to do so, the Catholic Church has no teaching as to the number of men who will do so. She teaches that man is endowed with free will; that God gives to every man sufficient grace for salvation; that man is capable of resisting that grace and of losing his soul; that if he does lose his soul he will justly reap the fruit of his own evil choice by eternal suffering in hell. How many will make that final evil choice is known only to God. But since the choice can be made, it is each man's duty to avoid making it, repenting of past sins, and endeavoring to comply with the requirements of virtue. And so the Church contents herself with the advice to each man which Christ gave when He said, "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, if he suffers the loss of his soul? Seek first the Kingdom of God and His justice."

668. Pardon my insistence on this subject, but it seems to me to be of paramount importance.

It is, precisely because human beings are endowed with free will, and can, therefore, decide for themselves what shall be their eternal destiny. But if there be no such thing as free will, then the problem is of comparatively little importance; for it's a waste of time to worry about the inevitable. However, the matter is important; and for that reason I have given such lengthy treatment to your letter. I can only hope that my treatment of it has clarified some aspects of the question even if it has not yet removed all your difficulties. I would be rather astonished if it did remove all your difficulties, for I haven't succeeded yet in removing all my own. But I know that free will is a fact despite all the residual problems it leaves for the human mind, even as I know that wireless transmission is a fact though it teems with mysteries. But ten thousand difficulties concerning a fact do not make us doubt the fact. It is a fact that God is just. It is a fact that men have free will. If we cannot reconcile those two facts to our entire satisfaction, the only reasonable thing to do is accept the limitations of the human mind, and not begin tampering with the facts in order to get an answer we like, whether it be true or not.

669. Was the original sin the eating of the material fruit?

No. The eating of the forbidden fruit was an action which was the outcome of an interior disposition of rebellion against God's will.

670. If our first parents rebelled by commiting adultery, how were they to propagate the race as commanded by God without falling into sin?

The first sin was not the sin of adultery. Had Adam and Eve never sinned, they would have propagated children by the ordinary law of physical marital union which prevails today. The first sin could not have been one of sensuality. Man consists of body and soul; and it is clear that the soul, noble and spiritual, is meant to control the material body and its sensitive passions. Now before sin came, man was just as he ought to be. In our first parents then the body was perfectly subject to, and controlled by the soul. Bodily passions were subject to reason and will, and could not get out of control until the soul itself had lost that control. It was only after the soul itself had rebelled against God that passions in turn rebelled against the soul. When man would not be controlled by God, he found that he had great difficulty in controlling his own lower passions.

671. Perhaps God intended Adam and Eve to enjoy a spiritual union only without any physical relationship.

That cannot be admitted. God does nothing in vain; and He intended the proper use of all the powers with which He endowed human beings. Man is not merely spiritual. He is a composite being, consisting of both a spiritual soul and a material body. Moreover, God created both sexes, male and female, intending their union as a means towards cooperating with Him in the work of creation. There is nothing evil, but only that which is beautiful, in what God originally intended; and until sin came to pervert the right order which prevailed, quite normal relationships would have existed between Adam and Eve.

672. If the higher powers of our first parents had perfect control over their lower faculties until they rebelled against God, how could they rebel in the first place?

Because they had the limitations of finite intelligence, and free will. When Satan tempted them, two goods, the one real and the other only apparent, were put before them. The real good of which God had told them was obedience to their Creator. The apparent good proposed by Satan was independence of God, and self-sufficiency. "Do this," said Satan, "and you will know even as God knows." The limitations of their intelligence meant that the more they concentrated their attention on one of these aspects the more they would take it off the other. Now their wills were free. No outside pressure inclined them to the one side rather than to the other. They could have chosen to obey God despite all the suggestions of the devil. But they omitted due attention to God's command. They allowed their minds to become absorbed by the apparent advantages proposed by Satan. And from their original equilibrium they inclined more and more towards the fascinating prospect held out by the devil until it seemed far the better. In the end they actually chose the forbidden thing-with consequent sin. Then, when the will had gone wrong, all else went wrong; and they experienced for the first time the disorderly rebellion of sensuality and passion; and shame overwhelmed them. The first sin, therefore, was one of proud independence and disobedience in the higher faculties. It was possible because of the limitations of the human mind, and the possession of freedom of will. It became actual because of an abuse of that freedom. And this led to a derangement of the whole human personality, including ill effects upon both soul and body-a derangement which, in all its complexity, has become the inheritance of all children born of our guilty race.

673. Do you believe the Bible when it says that sorrow and pain are due to original sin?

Yes. Prior to the first sin men were free from suffering.

674. But animals also suffer. What sin did they commit?

It is true that animals suffer. But the Catholic Church does not teach that all the pain in this world of both human beings and of animals is due to original sin. A certain amount of pain is natural to living sensitive beings. Even God could not create sensitive beings naturally devoid of sensations. And, granted sensations, some of them are bound to be unpleasant, if only from climatic changes. But in many ways animals suffered before our first parents sinned at all. St. Thomas Aquinas denies that there was no suffering amongst animals before the first sin of mankind. "There are those who say," he wrote, "that animals which are now wild and kill other animals for food would have been meek and gentle, not only towards men, but towards other animals. But this is unreasonable. For by the sin of man the nature of animals was not changed. Those animals which now live on the flesh of other animals would not then have lived on vegetation." We do not teach, then, that the sufferings of animals are due to the sin of man. By a special act of His providence, however, God exempted human beings from any unpleasant sensations which would otherwise have been normal to their sensitive natures. And they would have continued to enjoy this exemption had they not sinned. This privilege animals did not enjoy. Unhappily, our first parents did sin, lost their exemption, and encountered the sufferings as a penalty. To refuse the Christian doctrine one would have to prove, not that animals suffer, but that God did not exempt human beings from such sufferings; and that they did not forfeit this exemption by their sin. No man will ever succeed in proving that God granted no such exemption to our first parents, and that they did not lose it by sin.

675. Do you believe that death is a punishment for sin?

That human beings have to die is a punishment for sin. We have God's word for that, and we could not have a better authority. Man is, of course, by virtue of his material and bodily nature liable to death. No one denies that. But by a special privilege man was granted immunity from the necessity of having to die. By God's special power man was to be immortal both in soul and body. This privilege was not natural, but supernatural. In Gen. II., 17, God warned our first parents that they would lose this privilege of immunity from death should they sin; and in Gen. III., 19, He told them that, as a result of their sin, they would return to the dust from which their bodies were made.

676. Animals must have died long before men existed.

They did. But no claim is made that animals ever received the privilege of immunity from death.

677. Did the fall of our first parents make any difference in our relations with material things?

Yes. Henceforth men found in themselves an inordinate tendency to devote themselves to material things beyond the due limits dictated by God's laws and by sound reason. The body is of the earth, but the soul is spiritual, made in the image and likeness of God. The soul is obviously intended, as the nobler element in man, to dominate and control the material body. And its normal tendency should be to do so. But, since the fall, man's nature is not normal. It is warped to some extent. And instead of the soul lifting man to God, the body only too often succeeds in dragging man down to the mud of mere materialism. Since the fall, therefore, man has a more difficult fight in his efforts to resist the fascination of merely material things.

678. Catholics speak of the mystery of original sin. But is it not a mystery of injustice that we should be born in a state of sin at all?

No. Remember that millions of men, learned and holy, have reverenced this mystery; and no unbeliever has loved justice as they. But let us take the problem: Injustice is the depriving of a right. But we had no right to be born in a state of grace and of supernatural dignity and immunities. The very word grace means gratuitous. Can the son of a poor man complain that it was unjust that he was not born of a rich man? Our first parents fell from a state of supernatural wealth compared with which a merely natural state is poverty indeed. And we were born in a state of spiritual bankruptcy. Original conditions are imposed upon all of us because of our fathers. We may regret inherited disabilities, but we cannot say that they are unjust. We have not lost what was due to us. It is curious that unbelievers scoff at the idea of grace and of the supernatural, insisting that everything is natural only; yet they worry over what they call the injustice of our being born without superfluous privileges.

679. Are the effects of original sin merely negative?

The chief effect is the privation of grace. But other effects followed, as if heirs to great wealth, losing their fortune, fell into other evils owing to an environment for which they were neither intended nor suited.

680. How could I sin in Adam? My responsibility alone deserves penalties.

Original sin is not strictly speaking an individual responsibility. It is a sin of human nature which is ours as sharers in that human nature. Nor, strictly speaking, are you punished. But a member of a guilty race cannot expect to be treated as if he belonged to a faithful race.

681. Do you base your doctrine of the transmission of original sin upon the text where God says that He will visit the iniquity of the fathers upon their children?

No. That text does not really refer to original sin. God said, "I am the Lord, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon their children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me; and showing mercy unto thousands to them that love Me and keep My commandments." The passage is really a warning against parental bad example. Evil parents leave a legacy of scandal, their children imitating their vices. And so powerful a force for evil is such parental bad example that it will scarcely die out under three or four generations. As the punishment of sin will fall upon all who hate God, such parents will be punished not only personally, but in their very children. If the children sin also, it is not because they are compelled to do so. Only the generations that hate God will be punished. God will show mercy to all who try to love and serve Him, even though they be children of evil parents.

682. Was it just to threaten to punish children for the sins of their fathers?

In the sense in whichI have already explained, the text rather predicts a family influence than conveys a threat. Human beings are not only isolated individuals. There is a bond of solidarity between parents and children. Parents live over again in their children; and even in ordinary affairs parents and children are affected by the family fortunes. God merely told the Jews that the same principle would affect their spiritual state. It was a telling way of bringing home to the Jews the consequences of their sins. It struck them where their natural love was strongest-in their offspring. And, as should be clear, it was a warning to the parents rather than to their children. God also made it clear that, by their own fidelity, children could avert an evil inheritance. For by the Prophet Ezechiel He says that, if a child sees all his father's sins, and is afraid, and refuses to do the like, then such a child shall not suffer for the sins of his father. And if men say, "Why hath not this son borne the iniquity of his father?, it is because the son hath wrought justice and hath kept all My commandments."

683. If we punished the sons of criminals because their parents erred, would that be just or merciful?

No. But that is not a parallel case. For you are introducing, not a relationship between the Creator and the creature, but a relationship between creature and creature. We are not God. Also our punishment of the children of criminals would not be by the withdrawal of supernatural privileges from them and from their parents. Your difficulties are based on mistaken notions of what the fall and punishment of the human race really means.

684. When we turn to God's efforts to save the world, we find His efforts almost hypocritical, if Catholic dogma be true.

Such a verdict is the utterance of folly itself.

685. Even then Christ made no provision for innocent children who die without Baptism.

Independently of the death of Christ, God will make provision for them in perfect harmony with His justice, and in a way which will in no point conflict with His mercy.

686. Their only sin is in being descendants of Adam.

No one teaches that it is a sin to be a descendant of Adam. The only sin of such children is that which they inherit from Adam. That sin is not a positive personal sin, but a privation of grace, or of a gratuitous supernatural gift never due to human nature. And to be without a gift to which one never had a right involves no injustice.

687. For this sin the just God prevents them from ever seeing Him, and from ever attaining perfect happiness!

That is not true. God no more prevents them from seeing Him than He can be said to prevent kittens from flying because He did not give them wings. Is God unjust to kittens because He does not make them flying foxes? Would they be justified in bitter complaints against His justice because He has not endowed them with a power with which He could have endowed them? If kittens cannot fly, it is their own natural incapability which prevents them from flying. And if unbaptized infants cannot see God after their death as God sees Himself, it is their own natural incapability which prevents them from doing so. They are simply without the superadded gift of being capable of operations proper to God, and retain merely the capability of operations proper to human nature. Again, you are wrong in saying that they are prevented from attaining perfect happiness. They do not attain the perfect happiness made possible to those who participate by Baptism in the supernatural and gratuitous destiny purchased for us by Christ. But they attain a perfect happiness proportionate to their nature and all its legitimate aspirations. A kitten can be perfectly happy as a kitten, even though it does not enjoy the additional happiness of flying which is the prerogative of animals endowed with wings.

688. This I consider a merciless injustice.

No trace of injustice enters into this matter. Unbaptized infants will bless God for all eternity in their perfect natural happiness. Their very existence is due to God's mercy; for that in itself was a gratuitous gift which justice did not demand. And their eternal natural happiness is assured. It may be on a lower plane than is possible to human nature elevated by divine grace. But it is still a very great gift, filling the souls of those children with gratitude to God. If I give five dollars to a beggar, and later on ten dollars to another beggar, could the first beggar accuse me of "merciless injustice" for having been good to him to a less extent than to the other?

689. Would it not have been more merciful to give no man free will, and so to insure everybody's eternal happiness?

It would not have been more merciful to deprive all men of that noblest gift which makes their true dignity, and makes it possible for them to attain an eternal supernatural destiny. It is because unbaptized infants have not attained to the use of free will that they cannot gain, even by baptism of desire, that supernatural destiny. And, therefore, it is because they have not attained to the use of free will that they are provided with eternal happiness on a lower plane than that possible to those able to make a choice. And you call this provision for them "merciless injustice." Now you suggest that it would have been more merciful for God to have reduced all men to a similar condition.



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