Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 1453, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
The Best of The Question Box
by Father I.J. Mikulski
(From the July 16, 2015 edition of the Inland Register)
Q. How do I answer my daughter when she asks me if Adam and Eve were formed before or after the caveman?
A. You might have more trouble explaining the origin and existence of the caveman. The Bible, in this case Genesis, is not concerned with questions in the field of anthropology. Genesis is not genetics.
It may help if we start with the man’s name. At first, Genesis simply calls him “the man,” made of dirt from the soil. In Hebrew, adamah means dirt, soil. Later, in Genesis 4:25, Adamah is his name.
The manufacture of a man from clay is told in a pre-Genesis story in Egypt and Mesopotamia, today’s Iraq. In that story the divine element that changes the clay Adam into the human Adam is blood mixed with soil. The Genesis version replaces the gross element of blood with the clean breath of God, the principle of life.
Whether there were just two first parents, Adam and Eve, or 20 or 50 couples of cavemen and cavewomen, cannot be determined by Genesis. In fact, Pope Pius XII, in 1950, issued his encyclical Humani Generis, insisting that any theory of more than one set of first parents by any name or number is not consistent with the Genesis account. It defies logic to think there could have been simultaneous, instantaneous, multiple couples, cave dwellers or not.
The Book of Genesis has no comment about that, leaving it to experts in archeology and paleontology.
Q. This has bothered me for years. It has not been answered to my satisfaction. Catholic faith is totally rigid on the sin of abortion. Years ago (I’m now 67) I suffered a spontaneous abortion. There was no caring or ministration from the church. I haven’t heard of any. Doesn’t that seem to be a double standard?
A. True, you should have received tender loving care during that critical time in your life. It’s a question of who knew what, and when. Did anyone in the parish community know this? The medical staff at the hospital must have known. Did anyone call the parish office?
Competent medical practice might not have prevented your involuntary miscarriage because science is not omnipotent. Catholic moral teaching is clear that no sin was involved.
It’s more accurate to say that Catholic Christian teaching has always been inflexible about abortion. The earliest source we have, the “Didache” – also called “The Teachings of the Twelve Apostles” – was a handbook for instructing converts about A.D. 150. It declares, “You shall not slay the child by abortion.”
Every official statement since then has been equally blunt in defense of pre-born human life. It’s not going to change.
Your personal experience was difficult, but there was no sin.
Q. If I knew it was serious or even a minor sin I would not have done it that way. Somehow my conscience took a turn for the worse, which made me aware I was wrong. After a total confession I still feel not quite right, but better. Can you explain that?
A. There is no such thing as retroactive sin. We are held accountable for our behavior, good or bad, as we understand it at the time we do it, not in the light of anything we might learn later.
Hindsight gives us 20-20 vision in business investments, vocational choices, marriage partners, family decisions, and everything in between. Hindsight can make us brilliant. If only we knew.
Moral laws operate on the same principle. We cannot become guilty by hindsight. The question for you is: Did you gain wisdom from the experience? Yes.
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