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Richard Dawkins Has a Point, Your Eminence!

Michael J. Matt POSTED: 4/23/2012
Editor, The Remnant  

“Ah, well, I’m curious to know if Adam and Eve never existed

where did Original Sin come from?”...Richard Dawkins to George Cardinal Pell

( Remember how uncomplicated Catholic belief once was, before the Church got “sophisticated”?  Catholics generally accepted without question not only that Christ is present in the Sacrament, but also that Noah really built his ark, Jonah actually spent three days inside of that whale, and the Red Sea did, in fact, close in on Pharaoh’s chariots and charioteers, wiping out his army and thus delivering the Israelites from destruction. 

Even the Biblical account of Creation presented few obstacles for believers: God created the universe out of nothing.  He saw that it was good and desired to share it. So He created Adam in His Own image and likeness.  He gave our first parents every gift, and then tested their fidelity to Him.  They failed the test and fell from grace, and all of nature fell with them.  Sin, sickness and death entered the world as the Serpent slithered out of the Garden of Eden. 

Even children understood that God’s design had been utterly upended by Man’s free choice to disobey Him. Toddlers could see that God didn’t create sickness, suffering and death, but that these were the result of Man’s disobedience and the horrors of sin—in this case a sin committed by a man who had actually walked with God and was in possession of preternatural gifts. In other words, he knew what he was doing.  Adam’s fall brought an end to the paradise of God’s design. 

Catholics used to accept this for what it is. So, for example, when a child was struck and killed by an automobile after chasing her ball into the street, her father didn’t clench his fists at the heavens and blame God for “killing” her. No, the child had simply forgotten to look both ways and was struck by a 2-ton vehicle. Her death occurred in the natural order. This is why parents taught their children safety rules in the first place, because it is quite possible for people—even children—to suffer and die before their time.   Suicide drives this point home. God does not will that the man should jump from the bridge onto the rocks below. But He allows it, just as he allows the suffering of the man’s children that results from his terrible decision to take his own life.  God didn’t “kill” the man on the bridge any more than He “killed” the little girl chasing her ball into the street. 

So, far from blaming God for the existence of suffering in the world, Catholics prayed to Him for protection in the event of a bad choice on their part or if nature should rise up against them in the form of a flood or an earthquake or a car accident.

There’s no great mystery here. We pray for the intercession of God’s Saints and Angels every day—not so that God might change His mind and decide not to kill us that day, for that would be absurd; but rather so that He will in His providence intervene on our behalf against an often brutal Mother Nature. Those heavenly interventions are what we call miracles. And those miracles offer further proof that we are not alone in this world; that God is with us; that He did not give up on us after our first sin, but rather promised a redeemer Who would make all things new again. And to show us that no one can be spared the suffering Adam’s sin had brought into the world, He Himself hung from a Cross and died, thus offering men the ultimate sermon on redemptive suffering.

Everything about salvation and the history of the world must be seen through the prism of the Fall of Adam and Eve. Original Sin, suffering, death, the Incarnation, the Immaculate Conception, all the Sacraments (especially Baptism), the Resurrection, the Catholic Church—it all came about because Lucifer would not serve and Adam did not obey. Remove Adam and Eve from history and Christianity is rendered as pointless as a God who would create suffering just for kicks. All of Christendom knew this to be true—the Fathers, Doctors, Saints, and Martyrs down through the ages…until now.

I don’t have words to describe the sadness I felt in my heart this week as I watched Cardinal George Pell Archbishop of Sydney, Australia—a man rumored to be on the short list at the next conclave, and “conservative” extraordinaire—hem and haw and then go right ahead and deny that Adam and Eve are anything more than mythical constructs in a religious story told for religious purposes.  This took place during a debate between Cardinal Pell and atheist Richard Dawkins on the popular Australian television program Q&A.  (See

Of course, His Eminence admitted that somewhere along the evolutionary scale there must have been a “first man” but, yes, that first man did indeed evolve from apes.

“Did humans evolve from apes?” asked an incredulous Tony Jones, host of the Q&A debate. 

“Yes, probably,” Pell replied “probably—well from Neanderthals.”

“But you accept that humans evolved from non-humans, so at what point did the soul come about?” Jones asked.

Cardinal Pell: “The Soul is the principle of life. Whenever the soul was able to communicate then we had the first human.  But if there are humans, there must be a first one.”

Jones: “Are you suggesting a sort of Garden of Eden scenario with an actual Adam and Eve?”

“Well Adam and Eve are terms that mean ‘life’ and ‘earth’. Like an Everyman. It’s a beautiful, sophisticated, mythological account. It’s not science.  But it’s there to tell us two or three things.  First of all that God created the world and universe. Secondly that the key to the whole universe is humans. And thirdly it’s a very sophisticated mythology to try to explain the evil and the suffering in the world….It’s a religious story told for religious purposes.”

Whenever these anamorphous, modernist chestnuts are rolled out of the fire by one of our progressive churchmen, I find myself first wincing and then hoping the atheist fellow sitting across the table somehow failed to grasp the ramifications. Dawkins did not: “Ah, well, I’m curious to know,” replied the atheist, “if Adam and Eve never existed where did Original Sin come from?”

Exactly, Mr. Dawkins! It’s so simple even an atheist gets it.  Our Church teaches that every child born into this world enters in the state of sin—Original Sin.  Our Church teaches that Original Sin must be wiped clean from the child’s soul so that he can become a child of God and an heir to heaven.  Our Church teaches that the only way to remove Original Sin is through Baptism, arguably the most important of all the seven Sacraments since without it we cannot receive grace, can receive no other sacraments, and cannot enter heaven.

So Dawkins is quite right: Why in God’s name would Baptism be all that important if Adam and Eve—our first parents, who committed that original sin for which purpose Christ instituted Baptism—didn’t even exist?  I’m sure the Cardinal could offer a very “progressive” answer to this question but, for whatever reason, he didn’t.  So a few million viewers of the Pell-Dawkins debate walked away wondering since when have Catholics become so eager to debunk their own Scriptures and discard their own theology. Outright enemies of the Catholic Faith couldn’t invent more expedient ways to baffle (and thus alienate) non-believers than those the Modernist leaders of the Catholic Church have come up with all on their own.

The poor Cardinal either believes the Genesis narrative to be ‘mythical’ as a whole, or he’s so embarrassed by it that he feels compelled to pretend it is in order to impress a dolt like Dawkins. Either way the Cardinal’s position flies in the face not only of Pius XII’s teaching from 1950 in Humani Generis, #37 (‘original sin. . . proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam’), but also of the latest official Catholic teaching in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which repeatedly speaks of a real Adam (and Eve): cf. ##374-375, 387, 377, 390, 399, 402-406, 416-417. 

So what, exactly, was the Cardinal’s point? Who did he imagine his waffling was going to impress? The atheist immediately recognized the theological gaff in his take on Genesis; the true Catholic was scandalized yet again; and the Muslim must have walked away jubilant, having witnessed yet another Catholic leader squandering what’s left of Catholic identity. After all, even Christian scriptures are evidently a collection of symbolic bunk!

But the Cardinal wasn’t done. When asked whether atheists can get to heaven he waffled again, saying “yes, if they’re good and sincere and seeking the truth.” But when the moderator asked him again, before going on to the next question, “So you’re saying atheists can in fact get to heaven?”  Pell’s final word was emphatic: “Absolutely. Absolutely.”   (Yes, he repeated that word!)

Pell has evidently embraced Karl Rahner’s “anonymous Christian” theory.  Few if any members of the audience or among the one million viewers of the program could have received any impression other than that, according to one of the most “conservative” Roman Catholic leaders in the world, one doesn’t have to believe in anything at all to be saved – that is, that faith is not necessary to salvation! One can only imagine what counter-testimony to the Church and the Gospel that would be for vast numbers of devout Protestants, who still stress the role of faith for salvation almost as much as pre-Vatican II Catholics once did.

But the Cardinal still wasn’t finished. When asked about Hell, he adopted Han Urs von Balthasar’s notorious hope for an “empty Hell”. He said there is a judgment after death, and hinted that perhaps someone like Hitler might go there. But again, his bottom line was liberal: Pell “hopes” that nobody is in fact eternally damned. And the Cardinal is not insane—he would hardly hope for that which is impossible. If we can hope for something then maybe it’s true.  But then what happens to Our Lord’s assurances that on Judgment Day many will seek to enter and will not be able to?  And what happens to the Council of Trent’s de fide teaching that the supernatural gift of faith is the sine qua non for justification? And what about that vision of a hell filled with souls of the damned that Our Lady showed to the children of Fatima?  Pre-Vatican II mythological poppycock, I presume. Again, if Catholics don’t even believe anyone actually goes to hell anymore, then, forgive me, but what the hell is the point of the Catholic Church!

Is everyone saved?  Apparently so, for when asked about gay “marriage” Cardinal Pell issued the usual bromides against hating homosexuals but then continued on with this whopper: “We believe that marriage is between a man and a woman; that it’s for the continuity of the human race.  We believe that men and women are made for one another spiritually, psychologically, physically…But for a homosexual couple to have a union?  Well and good and there’s no reason they shouldn’t.”

One wonders if the Cardinal simply stumbled into all this and really needs to stop accepting invites to appear on TV, or if his intention was actually to water-down the teachings of the Catholic Church to such an extent as to make the insufferable Richard Dawkins come off as a man of vision and insight by comparison.  Dawkins’ team would likely have paid a six-figure payoff for such ecclesial sellout on their behalf.

In sum, according to Cardinal Pell: Man certainly did evolve from monkeys, Adam and Eve were not actual people, Genesis is a myth, atheists certainly go to heaven, and homosexuals, far from living a sinful lifestyle, are perfectly free to have unions (whatever that means!).

With friends like these running His Church why would God need enemies?

Meanwhile Bishop Bernard Fellay stands at the gates of the Vatican, hat in hand, ready to sign an oath of orthodoxy before being allowed to enter. His “heresies”? Well, he believes God created our first parents, Adam and Eve were actual people, Genesis is not mythological, atheists and other people who hate the very idea of God are hardly on the fast-track to heaven, and homosexuals are as guilty of reproach and divine judgment as any other sinners—be they homosexual or heterosexual—who engage in  unrepentant immoral conduct.

I close this lamentation with the first comment posted on YouTube beneath the video of the Pell-Dawkins debate—viewed, by the way, 76,776 times so far, which is to say nothing of the millions of viewers who saw it live:

It baffles me how the Catholic hierarchy can concede most of the bible stories are myths, but continue to teach it as fact in Sunday school, religious schools and in church. The only part of the bible the Catholic church stands by is the death and resurrection of Christ. If the most senior Catholics don’t believe 99% of the bible why should anyone else?

Indeed! Welcome to the springtime of Vatican II.

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