Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

FAITH Magazine March-April 2009


Dear Father Editor,

It is with some dismay that I heard of Westminster Diocese's discouragement of Cardinal Vaughan School concerning the giving of credit to families of applicants for weekly mass attendance. Whilst I am aware that the diocese has said that the school may if it wishes do this, it hardly inspires confidence, not least given the apparent equivocation of its official 'Guidance Notes' - and few schools take this option. The playing down of the importance of Sunday Mass in the definition of practising Catholic is very serious indeed, especially for families trying to make their youngsters go to church every week. After all to participate in the celebration of the sacrifice of the mass has to be the central point of every Catholic person's life.

Such schools have already suffered an enormous blow when they were made to drop the interview of prospective parents. Without such a means of assessing Catholic practice the Vaughan school has been left with a less than perfect system of giving extra credits to families based on the participation in the life of the parish. Participation is of course desirable, but difficult to define and can sometimes lead to abuse on the part of some families. My own experience has been very disappointing when our son was turned down for a place at this school, close to which we live.

My husband and I have been going to mass every Sunday for over twenty years, we have taken an interest in the life of the church by attending talks, retreats and the like, supporting our parish priest whenever possible. Raising our large family however made it at times difficult to participate in the life of the parish in the way the school entry

requirements define. Even though we specified our circumstances and motivations in the application form, these were not taken into account, even at the appeal stage.

It seems a pity that, under government pressure, the school has not been allowed more discretion to select candidates. It is in everyone's interest, especially the parents who choose this school in such overwhelming numbers, that the school retains its catholic identity. Academic excellence often follows as a consequence of the integrity of the catholic ethos. It is very difficult to make a fair assessment of a family's catholicity purely by looking at a form. Perhaps the Diocese together with the school could devise a fairer more flexible system.

Yours faithfully
Valeria Manca
Trebovir Road


Dear Father Editor,

Eric Hester's interesting review of Philip Lawler's book on Boston Catholicism, refers to a certain "culture of secrecy and evasion" in America concerning the abuse crisis, and sees it mirrored to some extent in Britain. The recent Catholic Herald interview with Bishop Conry of Arundel and Brighton, when compared with Bishop O'Donoghue's Fit for Mission? documents shows this point to have wider application.

The large divergence of episcopal opinion revealed (concerning the modern relevance of church teaching, for instance on contraception) is never reflected in the directives of our national Conference of Bishops. Instead the obvious concern for consensus would seem always to result in compromise and even silence, and therefore weak leadership in our national Church.

The fundamental hierarchical offices of the Church, set up by Christ to enable clear leadership and teaching, are surely the Pope and each Bishop responsible for his own diocese. The political

expediency of national conferences, oiled by their ever expensive bureaucracies, are at the very most secondary. While national ad limina visitations might of numerical necessity be made together as nations, each bishop is always there in his own right to answer directly to the Pope, and not to hide behind a national consensus, nor should he be unable to break rank out of loyalty to his fellows.

This diplomatic culture of secrecy must have been the cause of the roaring silence at the opportune moment of celebrating the 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae, the beginning of which, back in 1968, was fascinatingly revealed by Clifford Longley's The Worlock Archive, as your July 2007 editorial helpfully described.

Yours faithfully
Fr Michael Kelly
St Augustine of Canterbury


Dear Father Editor,

William Massie's article, The Incarnation and Priestly Love in the Theology of Edward Holloway, (Nov/Dec) was an erudite and thoughtful expression of the virtues of priestly celibacy. As a former married Anglican priest going through seminary formation at the moment, such matters obviously resonate and raise questions. The question is not really about a celibate priest loving God more than a married one; that is disingenuous and rather unhelpful. Both can love the Lord equally, though in different circumstances. To suggest otherwise is to make something of a moral and spiritual judgment. What can be said, and, I should add, strongly affirmed, is that the celibate is more available and can give himself more to the service of the Lord and his people. This is an abiding sense of howthe Pauline higher vocation of the celibate can be valued and understood. It stands the test of time, of attitudes to virginity, the body, sex and society.

Presbyteronum ordinis defends the retention of the Latin rite practice of priestly celibacy but admits that this is a useful discipline rather than being the essence of priesthood. The Eastern practice is also affirmed and it is assumed that married priests were apostolic in origin. The charism of celibacy is not essential to the priestly vocation, though there is a full givenness to the calling and ministry when that is present.

Recent scholarly studies such as by Stickler, Cholij and Cochini have reopened the debate about the origins of priestly celibacy, arguing that the Eastern practice is not ancient but an accommodation to lapses among married clergy. They envisage a universal, apostolic custom of ordaining married men but then expecting continence. Whether their assessment of the Eastern position is correct is debatable, as it is also whether continence was universal (northern European Councils had to keep on enforcing this, and the protests of the East also suggest that they did not hold it as an apostolic essential). Whatever the truth of this, it is a huge assumption to believe that what had become (at least) a widespread custom by the fourth century had originated with the Apostles. That the custompredated the fourth century councils to some extent is obvious, but no one can say by what length of time. There simply is not enough evidence. Scattered references such as in Ignatius of Antioch suggest that some were embracing continence or celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom, following the Pauline encouragement, but that this was of their own free will. Perhaps this gradually took force, especially in circumstances of persecution, and it would no doubt have had to have had the approval of the local bishop.

The Biblical material adduced by the aforementioned scholars is also inconclusive. St Paul uses forms of egkrates for 'self control' in 1 Cor 7:9 where it is clearly about sexual passions. He also uses the term in Titus 1:6-9 and it is assumed he means 'continence' but he might not. A study of the term in classical Greek and in the Scriptures reveals that the meaning is

contextual. For example, in Ecclesiasticus 18:30ff it refers to self control regarding drink and money; in Galatians 5:28 it is one of the general fruits of the Spirit for all believers, as it is in Acts 24:25. Aristotle saw this as self control of the passions, and not just sexual ones. The Titus reference might mean no more than a bishop must have his general passions under godly control. (Interestingly, the parallel passage in 1 Timothy 3:2 does not use egkrates at all; strange if it is so essential a teaching). Some are obviously choosing to read back later ideas into the apostolic writings and are jumping to conclusions. Likewise, the response of Jesus to Peter in Matthew 19:29 about leaving wives and family might mean no more than going out on the mission field and leavingthem for a season. This does not enjoin permanent continence on the apostles.

As the following of the Pauline exhortation grew in enthusiasm, various other ideas were mixed in such as ritual purity and the Levitical code, and an associated interpretation of the periodic abstinence from sexual relations to be devoted to prayer (cf 1 Cor 7:5). Thus the priest was ever ready for service at the altar and in intercession. Some of these associations are highly questionable and they have been quietly dropped after Vatican II.

In conclusion, it is far from clear that the apostolic practice was a universal continence. It is likely that this grew steadily as something freely embraced and the later rupture of traditions between East and West reflected the diverse practice that went on earlier. It is hard, also, to equate enforced continence with the apostolic injunctions to remain in the state in which you were called and the Dominical teaching about not allowing anything to put the marriage bond asunder.

Married men, not embracing continence, can be committed, active and sacrificial in loving their flock, though they cannot be as freely moveable or available as a celibate priest. They can bring deep insights about married relationships, though, as well as the raising of children. In this way, both married men and

celibates reflect the mystery and wonder of Ephesians 5:21-33, the one entering the mystery of Christ's love for the Bride as embodied in his own wife, and the other in the Church alone. These two approaches are not mutually exclusive in ministry. How the Church might or might not broaden the practice of married clergy in the future I cannot say, but there is room for both styles and the charism of celibacy is vital, beautiful and a sign of the kingdom. It should not be devalued.

Yours faithfully
Kevin O'Donnell
Hurst Rd


Fr William Massie replies:

I am very grateful for Mr O'Donnell's considered and constructive engagement with my argument. I will respond simply to two of his points which touch the central point of the original article: first, whether or not vowed chastity (or "celibacy") can enable a fuller living-out of the loving of Christ the priest and second, whether the Council Fathers in Presbyterorum ordinis intended more than simply defending celibacy in the Latin rite as a "useful discipline".

I suppose it is inevitable since we have some married priests in Britain alongside those living vowed chastity that a re-statement of traditional teaching about the merits of celibate priesthood might seem like a negative judgment on the merits of married priests. It should not. But to affirm as Mr O'Donnell does that the celibate "is more available and can give himself more to the service of the Lord and his people" (and that this is St Paul's understanding of the "higher vocation of the celibate") is simply to recognise that the celibate priest is freed to love the Lord and his people in a way that is closest to Christ's own loving who 'gave himself to the point of laying down his life and came 'to serve and not to be served'. 'Self-gift' and 'service' are surely important ways ofdescribing the love in the life of a priest.

Pius XII reminded us that that the superior character of celibacy for the kingdom, as at least a capacity for and calling to holiness, "was solemnly defined as a dogma of divine faith by the holy Council of Trent" {Sacra virginitas, n. 32) where it formally stated (anathematising the contrary) that it is "better and holier to remain in virginity or celibacy than to be joined in marriage" (DS 1810). Moreover such authoritative tradition is never "choosing to read back later ideas into the apostolic writings" but a drawing out from the deposit of faith what is old and what is new.

Celibacy offers the potential for greater holiness when lived with humility and grace. St Augustine had much to say on this matter in De sancta virginitate where he insists that chaste virginity is the closest imitation of Christ open to us in this life. However the distinction is between a 'good' and a 'greater good' (marriage and vowed chastity) not between a 'non-good' and a 'good'. And indeed he cautions against any subjective judgments being made by or about individuals - "humble spouses follow the Lamb more easily than proud virgins". He also sees a truly ecclesial complementarity between the vocations of celibacy and marriage (as did Holloway) commenting on the "rejoicing" in heaven by those who have lived chastely in the state of marriage or virginity and now celebratetheir respective gifts without any trace of envy.

Presbyterorum ordinis does recognise that celibacy is not demanded of the priesthood by nature and explicitly acknowledges the "many excellent married priests" in the Eastern Churches. However it does more than defend the retention of the Latin rite practice of priestly celibacy as a "useful discipline". Presbyterorum ordinis lists the many ways in which celibacy is "in harmony with" and "so appropriate to" the priesthood. But it does not argue for the maintenance of celibacy for practical reasons alone. In bypassing questions as to the practice of the early Church in this matter it insists that the motive for celibate priesthood is found in the words and the mystery of Christ: "Perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the

kingdom of heaven was recommended by Christ the Lord"; it is "... based on the mystery of Christ and his mission" (P.O. 16). The Council Fathers were in no doubt that its origin and motive lies with Christ and that is why it was "recommended" and afterwards "imposed" on candidates for the priesthood. In the light of this confirmation of the tradition it does seem highly plausible, as the studies by Stickler, Cholij and Cochini maintain, that the apostles would have practised continence even if it were not a universal requirement in the 'apostolic age' and beyond.


Dear Father Editor, It is a pleasure to write to you (again) about a topic that is close to my heart: St Thomas. My intention is simply to take up a few of my main queries concerning the Jan/Feb editorial of Faith.

1. Do you have to be a Thomist to be a Catholic? No, I wouldn't want to say that. But papal statements have been consistent in promoting, not only the method, but also the content of Aquinas. Just a couple of examples, two among many:

"His teaching above that of others, the canonical writings alone excepted, enjoys such a precision of language, an order of matters, a truth of conclusions, that those who hold to it are never found swerving from the path of truth, and he who dare assail it will always be suspected of error." (Innocent VI, Sermon on St Thomas)

"...this new pursuit seems to have caught the souls of certain Catholic philosophers, who, throwing aside the patrimony of ancient wisdom, chose rather to build up a new edifice than to strengthen and complete the old by aid of the new- ill-advisedly, in sooth..." (Leo XIII, Aeterni Paths)

I know you will have encountered these lines before, and that they are not of infallible nature. And no, I don't "suspect you of error"! But the teaching is nevertheless clear: Thomas' philosophy

is made to last. In the second citation, if we replace the word "edifice" with the word "synthesis", do we not have a description of Holloway's enterprise, followed by the considered judgment of Pope Leo XIII? To "throw aside the patrimony" - even when done with the respectfulness you invariably show -is truly "ill-advised"!

Finally, I saved this one to last because I have read this claim, or something very close to it, on the pages of your magazine:

"They allege, finally, that our perennial philosophy is only a philosophy of immutable essences, while the contemporary mind must look to the existence of things and to life, which is ever in flux." (Pius XII, Humani Generis)

"Thomistic essentialism" - that old chestnut - as opposed to a "dynamic" vision of life, the universe and everything. But Pius XII is not convinced; and neither am I. It's a false opposition, an "allegation", and can be corrected, I believe, by careful study of Thomas' writings.

2. The editorial text seems to imply that the recent crisis - post Vatican II I assume - has deep roots in the outgoing intellectual orthodoxy (Thomism); and you ask rhetorically for a solution to the crisis without reference to that particular synthesis: "Why did everything collapse so quickly in the 1960s?"

For theologians, the intellectual factor is easy to overrate. I think that the crisis goes deeper than any particular systematic expression of Catholic faith -Thomism, Holloway, or whoever else. The question is not so much the "adequacy" of a theological system in its internal coherence, but the "adequacy" of an institutional structure that claims to mediate truth in an authoritative way. This anti-institutionalism, married to anti-traditionalism, has marked the recent history of the West profoundly, in thought and in forms of social and political life, and after Vatican II it found its way into the mainstream of Catholicism both as lived and as theorised.

Those who set themselves up as the true repositories of the "spirit of the Council" are not rebelling against theological incoherencies, and they won't be re-integrated if a more satisfactory system is proposed, since its presuppositions - if it is orthodox -are ultimately the same. No, they have imbibed the spirit of the age, and seek to mould the Holy Catholic Church according to its un-holy inspiration, which they see as the "way forward". This, I reckon, is what the crisis is about, more than intellectual reservations about academic theology, or indeed counterproposals at the same level. The "theology" of rebellion, it seems to me, follows upon the act of rebellion itself, not vice versa.

In summary, I consider the implication that Thomism was as an essential factor in leading up to the modern crisis is misplaced. I don't deny the inadequacy of the particular version of Thomism - perhaps typical at the time - to which Fr Holloway may have been exposed, nor its need for reform and renewal. I just wish to make the case for integration and not rupture with the contents of the perennial philosophy.

Yours faithfully,
John Deighan
Pontifical Scots College


We thank Mr Deighan for raising some key issues helpfully. We share his important concern for "integration" rather than "rupture". In contrast with his emphasis we would affirm that the individualist, anti-institutional "spirit of the age" and its "acts of rebellion" have been profoundly encouraged by the "'theology' of rebellion", or perhaps better: by the gradual development of theological and philosophical relativism. This process has been fostered, we believe, by the failure to respond appropriately to the rise of science and its attendant culture. Making such a response involves developing scholastic philosophy - newly synthesising the traditional "patrimony" concerning, for instance, realism, natural law and holism with new discoveries. This is quite different from building a "newedifice", as if from scratch.

Mr Deighan will have read in these pages "something very close" to the idea that Thomistic epistemology tends to emphasise "immutable essences" and static forms, and that this emphasis has been powerfully challenged by the success of modern science (for example Jaeger's article in our last issue and in our September 2006 issue the editorial and the quotes from Ronald Knox's God and the Atom). As Pius XII brings out St Thomas' philosophical synthesis does go significantly beyond such essentialism balancing it with a much needed existentialist emphasis upon "dynamic", even relational, being. But the coherence of the two emphases was partial. This didn't matter too much until the rise of science exposed an insufficiency.

Francis Bacon set up the challenge in the early seventeenth century by pointing out that the new science's success showed that something akin to induction upon observation is a more fundamental and normal way of knowing than deduction upon abstract, formal propositions. In turn he showed that repeated observation of the world around us organically develops our knowledge of the form or nature of things.

We would agree with scholasticism that the 'form' of something is that objective dimension of something which makes it an intelligible unity of a particular type or species. But Scholasticism conceived such, in its universality and its intelligibility, as clear-cut and static, somehow transcending the specific, concrete, dynamic environmental context of the various individual things which it in-forms. Science denies this transcendence of the concrete, sensible realm. Formality is a real observable phenomenon, and yet also dynamic and relational in its very intelligibility.

As well as challenging the scholastic concept of form this insight also offers a fresh way of synthesising it with the scholastic concept of being. It should be, we suggest, simply a matter of seeing dynamic, concrete, relationality as intrinsic to and not extrinsic to formal intelligibility. But the opportunity was missed and the reactionary Rene Descartes became the foremost

defender of abstract knowledge and deductive methodology against the scientific method through his theory of a priori innate ideas.

In a certain reaction to such developing idealism, scepticism and Existentialism grew up. More recently we have seen the influential Transcendental Thomism which school emphasises Thomas' dynamic approach to being whilst sadly deemphasising his realistic (if too static in its intelligibility) approach to knowledge of the form.

Even worse over the centuries since Descartes right up to the invariably profound pages of First Things Catholic thinkers have downplayed the metaphysical relevance of modern science. This has allowed science to be predominantly interpreted through the lens of anti-essentialist nominalism and reduction ism.

What all these modern schools of thought have in common is rejection of the previously dominant Greco-scholastic essentialism in ontology and epistemology. Unfortunately they threw the baby out with the bath water, and seriously downplayed the ontological and intelligible reality of formality.

In response Catholic thinkers from Descartes down to Cardinals Schonborn and Dulles have tried to claim that scientific observation prescinds from formality. They have then tried to contextualise science through a basically a priori metaphysics which defends the traditional concept of formality as a priori to physical observation and so ontologically transcendent of matter. This approach sadly fails to convince most reductionist scientists concerning the actuality of formality because most scientists know that they do get at formality in their careful observation of matter (as Stephen Barr has asserted against the late Cardinal Dulles in First Things last year, and the Ronald Knox quotes mentioned above bring out). As a phenomenon this observation offormality is not a priori. In the absence of a convincing holistic philosophy of science the form gets metaphysically reduced to dynamic, individualistic materiality.

It might be said that such Catholic response actually does the opposite of what is intended. Over recent centuries Catholic patronization of science has inexorably further entrenched the nominalistic hegemony upon the philosophy of science. In turn, in the technological West, it all undermines the important traditional emphasis upon the holistic form, human nature, natural law and the very existence of the divine designer.

We urgently need a metaphysics that develops upon our developed physics whilst keeping Thomas' realism, holism and belief in human nature.


Dear Father Editor,

Thank you for publishing my letter and for your lengthy comment thereon. If I may be allowed a rejoinder, as per the usual debating protocol, I would begin by commenting that the authority of the Church's Magisterium can hardly be challenged by an article in L'Osservatore Romano.

Even articles by the most distinguished of journalists can hardly be put on a par with papal magisterial teaching contained in Humani Generis and Arcanum or the teaching of the ordinary infallible Magisterium.

The teaching of living theologians, even a large group of living theologians, is not, of itself, an exercise of infallibility, either - despite what some of them may think.

Even the International Theological Commission cannot be put on a par with the infallible Magisterium. Indeed, the ITC - which recently even questioned the existence of limbo and thus, by implication, the necessity of baptism to enter heaven - forms no part of the Magisterium but is merely an advisory body.

Approval of its documents by its President, and by the Holy Father, are simply approval in forma specifica for the document to be published as an advisory document and no more. It does not represent formal approval of the

teaching contained within them. Grants of nihil obstat and imprimatur are also not infallible or certain guarantors of orthodoxy.

Failure to draw these important distinctions and failure to observe the hierarchy of authority is not only misleading but tends to dissolve the distinction between the Ecclesia docens and the Ecclesia docta which is one of the primary causes of doctrinal confusion today. If there is no such distinction then each man's view is as authoritative as the next and no-one can be certain of any doctrine. The founders of the Protestant revolt denied the distinction and the result has been a profusion of conflicting sects and doctrines ever since.

In Humani Generis Pope Pius XII stated thus:

"When there is a question of another conjectural opinion, namely, of polygenism so-called, then the sons of the Church in no way enjoy such freedom. For the faithful in Christ cannot accept this view, which holds either that after Adam there existed men on this earth who did not receive their origin by natural generation from him, the first parent of all, or that Adam signifies some kind of multiple first parents; for it is by no means apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled with what the sources of revealed truth and the acts of the magisterium of the Church teach about original sin, which proceeds from a sin truly committed by one Adam, and which is transmitted to all by generation, and exists in each one as his own" {Humani Generis 37).

Pius XII is not merely "speaking strongly" in favour of monogenism, he clearly says that the sons of the Church enjoy no freedom to endorse polygenism.

That teaching may not have been made by an exercise of the extraordinary infallible Magisterium but it is plainly a re-presentation of what the ordinary infallible Magisterium has always taught. It is thus a teaching de fide which cannot be departed from.

The ordinary infallible Magisterium has never taught anything other than monogenism. That is not surprising since polygenism only became scientifically fashionable within the last 200 years.

The Fathers are unanimous, as are the Doctors of the Church, that there was but one Adam and one Eve through whom Original Sin was transmitted to their posterity, the whole of the human race. Unanimity of both Fathers and Doctors may not represent an exercise of infallibility but it is a measure of a very high degree of certainty in matters of faith and morals.

However, the infallible extraordinary Magisterium has, in fact, pronounced on the subject of Original Sin:

The Council of Trent (Session V, Canon 2) declared:

" If any one asserts, that this sin of Adam, which in its origin is one, and being transfused into all by propagation, not by imitation, is in each one as his own, is taken away either by the powers of human nature, or by any other remedy than the merit of the one mediator, our Lord Jesus Christ...let him be anathema."

The Second Council of Orange (Canon 2) declared:

"If anyone asserts that Adam's sin affected him alone and not his descendants also, or at least if he declares that it is only the death of the body which is the punishment for sin, and not also that sin, which is the death of the soul, passed through one man to the whole human race, he does injustice to God and contradicts the Apostle, who says, "Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned" (Rom. 5:12)."

How can sin pass to the whole human race as the posterity of Adam if there was more than one Adam? Clearly, then, it is a dogmatic fact that there was but one Adam and one Eve since it is connected with the dogma of original sin, and on which the application of that dogma depends.

Neither can one avoid the issue by saying that the name "Adam" is symbolic, or that his existence is not defined. Dissenters from the traditional view are forced to deny that original sin passed to the first man's posterity, a teaching which has been defined, as we see above. Thus they deny a de fide teaching.

Pius XII restates the teaching in Humani Generis. Moreover, in Arcanum, Pope Leo XII taught this (paragraph 5):

"We record what is to all known, and cannot be doubted by any, that God, on the sixth day of creation, having made man from the slime of the earth, and having breathed into his face the breath of life, gave him a companion, whom He miraculously took from the side of Adam when he was locked in sleep. God thus, in His most far-reaching foresight, decreed that this husband and wife should be the natural beginning of the human race, from whom it might be propagated and preserved by an unfailing fruitfulness throughout all futurity of time."

Yours faithfully,
James Bogle
Inner Temple


With respect, we do not elevate L'Osservatore Romano or the proceedings of the International Theological Commission to the level of Magisterial documents. The point at issue is whether or not monogenism is an infallibly defined dogma, and therefore whether or not the question can legitimately be discussed in any terms at all. The fact that the question has been regarded as open to further investigation in the Vatican's own in-house publication and officially sanctioned consultative documents without drawing censure or even demur from the Holy Office indicates that the issue is not defined de Fide, although there is no doubt that the ordinary teaching of the Magisterium is in favour of monogenism for the reasons outlined by Pius XII in Humani Generis.

On questions that are not yet subject to infallible definition, the International Theological Commission may legitimately explore opinions and possibilities which the Magisterium ultimately rejects or corrects. That is the remit which is proper to both institutions. But to question a dogma that is already defined would simply be heresy. Mr Bogle seems to suggest that heresy on this point is openly tolerated in publications published with the blessing of the Vatican - and in our own much more humble publications too.

As evidence to back his point, he also seems to think that the teaching about Limbo is an infallibly defined dogma which has been reprehensibly questioned by the International Theological Commission recently. Here we must correct him too. Limbo is not and never has been de Fide. Cardinal Ratzinger made this clear in 1985: "Limbo was never a defined truth of faith" {The Ratzinger Report, Ignatius Press, 1985 p. 147). He also expressed a personal opinion that it could be dropped if necessary and he went on to show how this would in no way compromise the necessity of baptism for salvation.

Similarly, the doctrine of Original Sin being passed on by physical generation, hence that we are all descended from the first humans who fell from grace, is indeed defined de Fide. That is not in dispute. Humani Generis is indeed strongly, but carefully worded, in favour of monogenism precisely to defend this doctrine. And this we hold as the teaching of the ordinary magisterium. But does it close the door to any further insight, if that could be shown to compatible with what has already been defined - viz. the teaching on Original Sin? Has the specific matter of monogenism been infallibly defined?

Once again, we make it clear that Faith Movement makes no case for polygenism at all. The only place in any publication of Faith Movement where the issue is raised is in Fr Roger Nesbitt's pamphlet, Evolution and Original Sin where, after careful discussion of the theological and scientific issues involved, he concludes:

"The Church then at present teaches monogenism, one original human couple, and whilst polyphyletism would seem to be unacceptable a polygenistic monophyletism (several couples from one branch) could possibly be squared with Catholic doctrine. What can be said about the scientific evidence in this discussion? Whilst Pierre Teilhard de Chardin may not have been renowned for his doctrinal orthodoxy few would deny his perceptiveness in grasping modern scientific trends. De Chardin made two important points: firstly that the science of man seems to come out decisively in favour of monophyletism and secondly that any decision for or against monogenism must ultimately elude science in view of the depth of time that has elapsed since the creation of man. Because of this scientificinconclusiveness perhaps the Church's teaching on monogenism may turn out in the long run to be the only information we shall ever have.

"Some interesting questions remain to be answered by science. Can any argument from genetics and biochemistry if not from anthropology be constructed for monogenism? Does not the complete interfertility and viability of the offspring between all the races of Man necessarily argue to one origin and biological stock for Homo Sapiens? Despite all this the fact remains that our stock was damaged at the beginning of human history by a real sin, and the effects of this sin are passed on to us all. That is the teaching of the Church. At the present time she still favours monogenism and there is no need for an inferiority complex on this matter with regard to the scientific evidence".

Thirty years on, we see no reason to revise this. However, if anything here were ever to be judged unorthodox by the highest authority in the Church, then we would very happily withdraw it. Our pre-submission to Christ's Ecclesial Magisterium in all things is most explicit in our aims and ideals.

This correspondence is now closed.

Faith Magazine

March - April 2009