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Owen

In Defense of Holy Anger: A Response to Dr. Beresford

 

I am grateful to the editors of the Journal of the Canadian Chapter of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars for publishing my article “Clergy Abuse: Cause and Cure.” I admire the willingness of the editors to air a point of view that has been heavily censored in Catholic academia in recent years. However, I would like to respond to the article by Dr. Beresford that was published in the same issue, entitled “A Response to ‘Clergy Abuse: Cause and Cure.’” I was disappointed that Dr. Beresford’s critique side-stepped the point of my article, that there is a demonstrable connection between the acceptance of evolutionary thought, the abandonment of the traditional Catholic doctrine on the origins of man and the universe, and the clergy sex abuse scandals. I wish that his critique and my response would help us to understand how to deal more effectively with this blight on our Church, but, alas, I must respond to his defense of Darwinism and his critique of the traditional Catholic interpretation of Genesis. With that said, I am nonetheless pleased to respond in this way, as it may be the only way to expose some of the principal errors that have eroded and continue to erode the faith of our generation.

 

Dr. Beresford argues that it is absurd to connect evolutionary thought with moral scandal, since evolution is an established fact. Indeed, that statement reflects the view of many Catholic intellectuals today. However, like many other highly intelligent Catholics, Dr. Beresford actually misrepresents evolution in his attempt to defend it. Early in his critique, he equates evolution with natural selection. But this is inaccurate. Evolution is the speculative hypothesis that all living things have evolved from a common ancestor over long ages of time through a process of lateral gene transfer (mainly in the early stages of evolution, according to evolutionary speculation), mutation, and natural selection. The evolutionary hypothesis holds that fish evolved into amphibians, which evolved into reptiles, which evolved into mammals and birds, in a process involving the evolution of many new organs and complex functions. As will be discussed in more detail below, the evolution of a new organ or complex function has never been observed in nature or in the laboratory. Therefore, the evolutionary hypothesis remains pure conjecture and cannot be considered a sound scientific hypothesis.

Natural selection or adaptation, on the other hand, is an observable fact. Long-haired dogs will be more likely to survive in an extremely cold environment than short-haired dogs, so that, without human interference, long-haired dogs will tend to predominate. New species can form as groups of the same kind of animal are separated from each other and the members of each group stop interbreeding. But this is not evolution in the Darwinian sense of the word. In these instances there is a loss, not a gain, of functional genetic information. A population of wolves with genes for long and short hair that adapts to a cold environment by becoming exclusively long-haired has LOST genetic information. But evolution in the Darwinian sense requires continual INCREASES in functional genetic information. Dr. Beresford cites the natural history of flies to show that thousands of species have descended from three basic body plans. But this is not an example of evolution in the Darwinian sense of reptile-to-bird, land-mammal-to-whale evolution. On the contrary, it is perfectly consistent with the traditional doctrine of special creation, since the 80,000 species of flies can all be traced to the original kind or kinds that God created by fiat in the beginning.

 

In my article I focused on creation theology and its eclipse under the influence of evolutionary ideas. But I defined special creation as the creation of all things by God "in the beginning"—that is, of all of the different kinds of creatures, as Moses teaches in Genesis—not every breed or species of plant and animal. None of the examples Dr. Beresford gave in his response contradicts the traditional doctrine of special creation; and none of them supports molecules to man evolution. In footnote number eight of my article, I invited readers to visit the website sciencevsevolution.org where some of the fatal flaws in the evolutionary hypothesis are exposed by Catholic experts in radiometric dating, genetics, paleontology, and physics. In the presentation on that website on genetics, Dr. Maciej Giertych demonstrates that few if any of the mutations observed in nature or in the laboratory improve the health or viability of the affected organisms. Almost all of them confer some short-term benefit on the affected organism by breaking something, not by making something new. The few plausible examples of “new functions” arising through mutation, like scenarios proposed for the “evolution” of anti-freeze chemicals in certain fish, involve no—or very limited amounts of—coordinated complexity. Therefore, there is no solid evidence whatsoever for biological evolution in the Darwinian sense.  

 

Dr. Beresford goes on to criticize what he calls the “literalist” interpretation of Genesis 1-3. “Literalist” generally signifies a slavish acceptance of the literal meaning of the words of Scripture, without regard to context, genre, Tradition, or Magisterial teaching. But “literalist” is different from “literal,” which for the Catholic exegete signifies the meaning intended by the sacred author with due regard to context, genre, Tradition and Magisterial teaching. All of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church accepted the literal historical interpretation of Genesis 1-11 as the foundation for all other interpretations. For example, St. Augustine in The Literal Interpretation of Genesis writes:

The narrative in these books is not written in a literary style proper to allegory, as in the Canticle of Canticles, but from beginning to end in a style proper to history, as in the Books of Kings and the other works of that type.

 

According to the Magisterium, the literal historical interpretation of Genesis 1-11 must be upheld, unless reason dictates or necessity requires that it be abandoned (cf. Providentissimus Deus). Therefore, the burden of proof rests entirely on those who, like Dr. Beresford, wish to depart from the literal historical sense of the text, not on those who adhere to the traditional interpretation. As demonstrated above, the champions of the evolutionary hypothesis have not even come close to proving that "reason dictates or necessity requires" that we abandon the traditional doctrine of special creation. On the contrary, the scientific evidence perfectly harmonizes with the doctrine of special creation. I say “harmonizes with,” not “proves,” because natural science cannot “prove” the truth of the literal historical truth of the Genesis 1 account of creation. It cannot do this, precisely because God revealed through that account that “all God’s works were finished from the foundation of the world” (Hebrews 4:3)—after the creation of Adam and Eve. Indeed, St. Peter’s primary point in the portion of the third chapter of his second epistle quoted in my article is that creation—like the Second Coming—was a supernatural divine action which latter day “scoffers”—like Darwin and Lyell—would try to reduce to a natural process.

 

St. Thomas summed up the Biblical and patristic teaching on the distinction between the finished work of creation and the present natural order of providence by arguing that natural processes and operations are not themselves instances of God’s creative activity; rather, they show his Providence at work in maintaining his prior work of creation, which is presupposed by the way these processes and operations now take place. Like all of the Fathers and Doctors, St. Thomas recognized that the creation of the different kinds of creatures in the beginning could not be explained by the “works of nature” that we observe in the present order of providence. Like them, St. Thomas taught that only “divine power . . . can produce things of the same species out of any matter, such as a man from the slime of the earth, and a woman from out of man.”

The fundamental error of those who reject the traditional Catholic doctrine of creation is to accept the indemonstrable assumption that “things have always been the same” since the beginning of creation and that, therefore, natural scientists can legitimately extrapolate from presently-observed material processes all the way back to the beginning of creation to explain how everything came to be. Not only does this replace faith in the Word of God as understood in the Church from the beginning with faith in human speculation. It has also led to a disastrous disorientation of the natural sciences by shifting the focus of natural scientists away from the natures and interactions of things in the natural order of providence to speculative attempts to explain the origins of man and the universe by unlimited extrapolation. Far from contributing anything to scientific progress, this faith in Darwinian evolution has retarded and often crippled the advancement of natural science, channeling enormous human and material resources into blind alleys, all in deference to Darwinian dogma. How many millions of dollars and lifetimes of scientific research have been wasted trying to produce beneficial mutations in the laboratory through mutagenesis, all because Darwinian dogma anathematizes the very thought that the genetic information that specifies the development of specific organisms can only have been created by the Divine Programmer, God, and cannot have arisen through the neo-Darwinian process of genetic mutation? How many decades of fruitful research have been delayed because of the Darwinian adherence to now-totally discredited articles of faith such as embryonic recapitulation, vestigial organs, and “junk DNA”? Sadly, Darwin’s (and Dr. Beresford’s) account of the origin of species has turned out to be a complete chimaera, casting God in the rôle of a blundering monster while crippling the progress of the natural sciences.

In the light of these facts, and before addressing Dr. Berresford’s primary criticism of my article, I would invite readers to make a simple thought experiment to test my hypothesis that the abandonment of the traditional Catholic doctrine of creation has contributed greatly to the current crisis of faith and morals. Imagine for a moment that all Church leaders from the Pope to the parish priests throughout the world boldly and persistently proclaimed the special creation of Adam body and soul and the creation of Eve from Adam’s side as the defined doctrine of the Church. It would be easy to do this with reference to highly authoritative magisterial decrees, like the Profession of Faith given by Pope Pelagius I to the King of the Franks, which states that:

 

Adam and Eve were not born of other parents, but were created, Adam, from the slime of the earth, and Eve, from Adam’s side.

 

If this doctrine were being proclaimed by Church leaders everywhere, is it conceivable that any Catholic theologian or politician could make a credible case—as a Catholic—for the normalcy of homosexual behavior or so-called “gay marriage”? This thought experiment should help to expose the falsehood of Dr. Beresford’s claim that Teilhard de Chardin erred theologically, not because he believed in evolution but because he misunderstood it. On the contrary, Teilhard understood evolution as well as most intellectuals of his day, and his errors, like those of most advocates for unnatural marriage, flowed logically from his evolutionary beliefs.

Dr. Beresford focuses his critique on my claim that Adam should have been angered by his wife's disobedience to God's command not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. In making this criticism, Dr. Beresford demonstrates his alienation from the living tradition of the Church Fathers, who first propounded this view. In a homily on Genesis 3, for example, St. John Chrysostom has God addressing Adam after the Fall in these words:

 

Even if your wife prepared the way for your transgressing my command, you were not without guilt. You should have regarded my command as more worthy of trust. And, beyond dissuading yourself alone from eating, you should have demonstrated the gravity of the sin to your wife as well. After all, you are head of your wife, and she has been created for your sake; but you have inverted the proper order: not only have you failed to keep her on the straight and narrow but you have been dragged down with her, and whereas the rest of the body should follow the head, the contrary has in fact occurred, the head following the rest of the body, turning things upside down.

 

It is apparent that I am only following the lead of St. John Chrysostom and the other Fathers in arguing that Adam should have regarded God's "command as more worthy of trust," "demonstrated the gravity of the sin" to his wife and "kept her on the straight and narrow." Indeed, I invite readers to reflect whether Dr. Beresford's criticism does not in its own way underscore the truth of my thesis that the abandonment of the doctrines derived from Genesis 1-11 precipitated the theological and moral crisis of our time, of which clergy abuse and its cover-up are two of the most pernicious fruits. Dr. Beresford sees anger as an inappropriate response to the cosmic catastrophe of disobedience to God's command because he seems to see sin as the inevitable result of Adam and Eve's humanity, the "happy fault" that obtained our Redemption. Such a view would have been incomprehensible to the Fathers and Doctors who viewed the original act of disobedience as an act of extreme ingratitude and impiety toward an all-wise and all-loving God who had created a perfectly harmonious universe for us in our first parents and entrusted it to them. Thus, the Original Sin was a terrible desecration not just of mankind but of the entire creation.

 

Jesus Christ, the God-man and the last Adam, showed anger when His Father's command regarding the Temple in Jerusalem was disobeyed. Should not the first Adam have shown anger at his wife's sin, which dishonored God and defiled her own body, the Temple of the Holy Spirit? It is sad to see that Dr. Beresford's response in its own way mirrors the response of most of the Bishops to sex abuse by clergy. The Bishops should have been outraged first and foremost at the insult to God represented by abusive clergy and then at the violation of innocent children. Instead, many of them were not outraged at all, except at whistle-blowers and negative publicity! Dr. Beresford's rejection of the very idea that Adam should have shown righteous anger at his wife's sin in its own way reflects the loss--even on the part of good Catholics--of the sense of Catholic manhood, of man's God-given duty to honor God above all things and to be the spiritual head and leader of his wife and children. And, that, too, is the result, in large part, of denying the literal historical truth of Genesis, as it was believed and proclaimed by all of the Fathers, Doctors, Popes and Councils in their authoritative teaching.  

 

May God restore to us a sense of moral outrage at everything that impugns the goodness of God, erodes men’s Faith, or violates the innocence of children!

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