Letters to the Editor
FAITH Magazine July – August 2012
Dear Father Editor,
Both the comments in your May issue on Father Jack Mahoney's recent book, Christianity in Evolution: An Exploration, in your Cutting Edge column, and Father Bryan Storey's letter, accept the constitutive role of death in evolution. You go even further and describe death as the driving force of evolution. In neither comment is there any clean admission that suffering - on a massive scale, and massively prolonged - is the real engine room of evolution. Death is merely the result of this suffering.
I have two questions to ask of the Faith movement. First, does this undeniably grisly scenario, which undermines the evolution hypothesis, give any glory to God? Secondly, how can one love - let alone worship - a god who is either powerless to create without suffering and death; or, worse still, who deliberately has recourse to such a process? I have not come across any evidence that the Faith movement has ever truly faced up to these two questions.
Your Cutting Edge comment on Father Jack Mahoney seems to run counter to St Paul's exegesis of the Book of Genesis: "Wherefore as by one man sin entered into this world, and by sin death, and no death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned." (Rom 5:12) So, Father Mahoney is entirely right in saying that the Christian view of bodily death is that it is entirely due to the disobedience of Adam. (He does add "and Eve": but it was Adam's sin that was decisive, not Eve's).
I - and my family - would be most grateful if you could answer the points I have raised.
We thank Mr Williams for his important and challenging query. Just to clarify at the outset that for us, human death comes from sin, not animal death, which is one inherent aspect of evolution.
Animals give glory to God by their life, and, yes, by their passing away. The fact that Jesus was not a vegetarian would seem to witness to this. They are a good, but purely relative, value in the wonderful, constructive interplay of nature - which does indeed include the harmonic of prey and predator. Their fight or flight mechanisms, and one might add their "fright" reactions, which we now know are built into their very DNA, do indeed seem to imply that a certain degree and type of suffering seems also to be built in. This is notwithstanding the fact that ultimately we don't know to what degree this was present and in what manner it is experienced.
Because they do not possess spiritual souls, and for the reasons Mr Williams mentions, one would surmise that their suffering, while real, does not have the same existentially, self-consciously traumatic quality as that of humans. Animal suffering, as we perceive it today, is an aspect of our fallen world, and therefore worse than originally designed. That caused by sin in the world, especially that of cruelty, is most certainly unjust. Though, like ours when linked to Christ, it is part of that "groaning in travail" of which St Paul speaks, which is part of the redemptive process.
In our response to Jack Mahoney ("Cutting Edge", May 2012) we were trying to bring out, in terms of modern knowledge, the fact that physical death is not inherent to human nature, but is a result of sin. We wrote:
"... death makes possible the onward progress of life on earth. But Man is that goal. In us, matter is brought into direct synthesis with spiritual mind ... [it] is subsumed and transformed into a more perfect state by direct union with the Godhead ... It is this destiny and this environmental harmony that is lost by sin in the first generation ... this threatens the eternal frustration of human nature -spiritual as well as physical death."
Dear Father Editor,
Faith Magazine is much appreciated as filling an important gap in Catholic apologetics, yet I can't help feeling that its approach is a little one-sided. The emphasis is heavily on the physical and biological sciences but it bypasses psychology as a science, and the product of rational thought.
As defined by the British Psychological Society, "psychology" is not just the vague term used in popular discussion, and it has nothing to do with Freud or Jung, who would be classified as psychoanalysts. Psychology as a "young" science aims to be as strictly scientific as possible. It aims at the objective study and recording of human behaviour. Research reports are published and laid open to the scrutiny of others, who may challenge the original analysis and conclusions.
It is a key aspect of the study of human development from the moment of conception. Might I recommend to readers as a helpful introduction Developmental Psychology - a Student's Handbook by M Harris and G Butterworth (Psychology Press, 2002).
One of the interesting aspects which seems to me especially important in the debate about abortion is the pre-natal learning of the child in the womb as a subject of ongoing research. The unborn child certainly learns. Can one say he "thinks"? This seems to involve an argument about terminology rather than observed fact.
There is much interest today in pre-verbal though, and the relation between thought and language. Infants, children and young people (and their elders) may find it hard to analyse their thinking and fit it into the language available to them. This was explored long ago by Lev Vygotsky (trans. 1962, MIT Press). It is still an area of vigorous debate and research.
I do hope you will be able to follow this up in Faith Magazine.
Dear Father Editor,
Your May-June editorial, "Catholic Education and Playing Devil's Advocate" highlights all that is wrong with modern Catholic education. As a former school governor who chaired the admissions committee I echo the editorial's recollection of the plight of parish priests who have to certify the catholicity of a family. In the aftermath of the abolition of interviews, the governing body can no longer gauge this will-o'-the-wisp, notwithstanding the claim that objective catholicity is nothing but appearing at Sunday Mass.
Recently the Welsh government requested Catholic schools to give equal "air time" to same-sex marriages under the Education Act 1996. This Act requires "political views" to receive balanced reporting in schools. So can we expect similar policing of state schools concerning the fact that marriage has been defined in virtually all societies as involving a male and a female and that international law does not provide for same sex marriage? Will they be taught the best Catholic arguments explaining why marriage is essentially a place to bring children into the world and provide a safe nurturing environment? It seems not. The rights of the child are being sacrificed on the altar of political correctness.