Adam and Eve

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Original Sin

  • The original sin was disobedience to God's command, not sex. Sex, in and of itself, is a gift from God, designed for procreation (Gen 1) and for the intimate union of husband and wife ("the two become one flesh," Gen 2).
  • Sex is an essential aspect of the sacrament of marriage. It is from God and is blessed by God when it is used in the marriage relationship.
  • "We therefore hold, with the Council of Trent, that original sin is transmitted with human nature, "by propagation, not by imitation" and that it is... 'proper to each'" (Paul VI, CPG § 16; emphasis added).

"Reification" means treating something that is not a thing as if it were a thing. This is a normal feature of our minds, which are powerfully adapted to think about things that are objects of our senses. If we didn't associate concepts with images, we would be unable to tell one concept from another or to store the ideas in such a way that we can retrieve them again for future reference. Problems arise from reification when we accidentally attribute physical existence to things that do not physically exist. So, for example, "nothing" is not a thing in and of itself, but is the absence of all things. Nor is darkness a thing; it is just the absence of light — and yet, I need to call it "it," treating it as if it were a physical thing, in order to say that this "it" that I am thinking about is nothing.

Reification is good for beginners. The images of Original Sin as a "thing" is a first approximation. But that imagery needs to be surpassed, as with Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory. Original Sin is not a physical thing that we hand on like a baton from parent to child, but a spiritual condition or state of dwelling in darkness, disconnected from the power and the light of God. The effect of Adam and Eve's disobedience is that we lack a relationship with God, a relationship for which we were designed and intended and that we need desperately in order to be happy. In the state of being disconnected from God, we have no power, no light, no grace, no goodness, no love.

At the moment when Mary was conceived in St. Ann's womb through the ordinary gift of marital union, God said again, "Let there be light," and, in her, the darkness vanished forever.

No Original Sinners, No Original Sin

I am persuaded that the Church must continue to teach that the whole human race descends from the first two human beings whom our Scriptures call "Adam" and "Eve." We do not know what language they spoke nor what how they named each other. The legendary names are very useful and serviceable for the purpose of identifying the first human male and the first human female.

With Dennis Bonnete (see below), among many others, I accept the fact that the dogma of Original Sin necessarily entails a belief in our First Parents: "Ott maintains, 'The teaching of the unity of the human race is not, indeed, a dogma, but it is a necessary presupposition of the dogma[s] of Original Sin and Redemption.' We might call it an 'indirect' dogma."

Pius XII, "Humani Generis"

Encyclical, "Humani Generis," 12 August 1950.
MXM: Emphasis added in bold.
35. It remains for Us now to speak about those questions which, although they pertain to the positive sciences, are nevertheless more or less connected with the truths of the Christian faith. In fact, not a few insistently demand that the Catholic religion take these sciences into account as much as possible. This certainly would be praiseworthy in the case of clearly proved facts; but caution must be used when there is rather question of hypotheses, having some sort of scientific foundation, in which the doctrine contained in Sacred Scripture or in Tradition is involved. If such conjectural opinions are directly or indirectly opposed to the doctrine revealed by God, then the demand that they be recognized can in no way be admitted.
36. For these reasons the Teaching Authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter - for the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God. However, this must be done in such a way that the reasons for both opinions, that is, those favorable and those unfavorable to evolution, be weighed and judged with the necessary seriousness, moderation and measure, and provided that all are prepared to submit to the judgment of the Church, to whom Christ has given the mission of interpreting authentically the Sacred Scriptures and of defending the dogmas of faith.[1] Some however, rashly transgress this liberty of discussion, when they act as if the origin of the human body from pre-existing and living matter were already completely certain and proved by the facts which have been discovered up to now and by reasoning on those facts, and as if there were nothing in the sources of divine revelation which demands the greatest moderation and caution in this question.
37. When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains that either after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Teaching Authority of the Church propose with regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which, through generation, is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own.[2]
38. Just as in the biological and anthropological sciences, so also in the historical sciences there are those who boldly transgress the limits and safeguards established by the Church. In a particular way must be deplored a certain too free interpretation of the historical books of the Old Testament. Those who favor this system, in order to defend their cause, wrongly refer to the Letter which was sent not long ago to the Archbishop of Paris by the Pontifical Commission on Biblical Studies.[3] This letter, in fact, clearly points out that the first eleven chapters of Genesis, although properly speaking not conforming to the historical method used by the best Greek and Latin writers or by competent authors of our time, do nevertheless pertain to history in a true sense, which however must be further studied and determined by exegetes; the same chapters, (the Letter points out), in simple and metaphorical language adapted to the mentality of a people but little cultured, both state the principal truths which are fundamental for our salvation, and also give a popular description of the origin of the human race and the chosen people. If, however, the ancient sacred writers have taken anything from popular narrations (and this may be conceded), it must never be forgotten that they did so with the help of divine inspiration, through which they were rendered immune from any error in selecting and evaluating those documents.
39. Therefore, whatever of the popular narrations have been inserted into the Sacred Scriptures must in no way be considered on a par with myths or other such things, which are more the product of an extravagant imagination than of that striving for truth and simplicity which in the Sacred Books, also of the Old Testament, is so apparent that our ancient sacred writers must be admitted to be clearly superior to the ancient profane writers.
40. Truly, we are aware that the majority of Catholic doctors, the fruit of whose studies is being gathered in universities, in seminaries and in the colleges of religious, are far removed from those errors which today, whether through a desire for novelty or through a certain immoderate zeal for the apostolate, are being spread either openly or covertly. But we know also that such new opinions can entice the incautious; and therefore we prefer to withstand the very beginnings rather than to administer the medicine after the disease has grown inveterate.
41. For this reason, after mature reflection and consideration before God, that We may not be wanting in Our sacred duty, We charge the Bishops and the Superiors General of Religious Orders, binding them most seriously in conscience, to take most diligent care that such opinions be not advanced in schools, in conferences or in writings of any kind, and that they be not taught in any manner whatsoever to the clergy or the faithful.
42. Let the teachers in ecclesiastical institutions be aware that they cannot with tranquil conscience exercise the office of teaching entrusted to them, unless in the instruction of their students they religiously accept and exactly observe the norms which We have ordained. That due reverence and submission which in their unceasing labor they must profess toward the Teaching Authority of the Church, let them instill also into the minds and hearts of their students.
43. Let them strive with every force and effort to further the progress of the sciences which they teach; but let them also be careful not to transgress the limits which We have established for the protection of the truth of Catholic faith and doctrine. With regard to new questions, which modern culture and progress have brought to the foreground, let them engage in most careful research, but with the necessary prudence and caution; finally, let them not think, indulging in a false "irenicism," that the dissident and the erring can happily be brought back to the bosom of the Church, if the whole truth found in the Church is not sincerely taught to all without corruption or diminution.
  1. Cfr. Allocut Pont. to the members of the Academy of Science, November 30, 1941: A.A.S., vol. XXXIII, p. 506.
  2. Cfr. Rom., V, 12-19; Conc. Trid., sess, V, can. 1-4.
  3. January 16, 1948: A.A.S., vol. XL, pp. 45-48.

John Paul II, "On Evolution"

"Message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences: On Evolution, 22 October 1996.
MXM: I've added some comments in [brackets and italics] along with providing some emphasis in bold that is not in the original.
3. ... In his encyclical "Humani Generis" (1950), my predecessor Pius XII had already stated that there was no opposition between evolution and the doctrine of the faith about man and his vocation, on condition that one did not lose sight of several indisputable points.
For my part, when I received those taking part in your academy's plenary assembly on October 31, 1992, I had the opportunity with regard to Galileo to draw attention to the need of a rigorous hermeneutic [method of interpretation] for the correct interpretation of the inspired word. It is necessary to determine the proper sense of Scripture, while avoiding any unwarranted interpretations that make it say what it does not intend to say. [What he is saying is that Catholics do NOT have to treat the Bible as if it were a science or history book.] In order to delineate the field of their own study, the exegete and the theologian must keep informed about the results achieved by the natural sciences.[1]
4. Taking into account the state of scientific research at the time as well as of the requirements of theology, the encyclical "Humani Generis" [1950] considered the doctrine of "evolutionism" a serious hypothesis, worthy of investigation and in-depth study equal to that of the opposing hypothesis. Pius XII added two methodological conditions: that this opinion should not be adopted [1] as though it were a certain, proven doctrine and [2] as though one could totally prescind from revelation with regard to the questions it raises. He also spelled out the condition on which this opinion would be compatible with the Christian faith, a point to which I will return. Today, almost half a century after the publication of the encyclical, new knowledge has led to the recognition of the theory of evolution as something more than just a hypothesis. It is indeed remarkable that this theory has been progressively accepted by researchers, following a series of discoveries in various fields of knowledge. The convergence, neither sought nor fabricated, of the results of work that was conducted independently is in itself a significant argument in favor of this theory.
What is the significance of such a theory? To address this question is to enter the field of epistemology [the study of how we know what we know]. A theory is a metascientific elaboration, distinct from the results of observation but consistent with them. By means of it a series of independent data and facts can be related and interpreted in a unified explanation. A theory's validity depends on whether or not it can be verified; it is constantly tested against the facts; wherever it can no longer explain the latter, it shows its limitations and unsuitability. It must then be rethought.
Furthermore, while the formulation of a theory like that of evolution complies with the need for consistency with the observed data, it borrows certain notions from natural philosophy [I think he means that theories of evolution tend to leave the field of biology and enter the world of philosophy.]
And, to tell the truth, rather than the theory of evolution, we should speak of several theories of evolution. On the one hand, this plurality has to do with the different explanations advanced for the mechanism of evolution, and on the other, with the various philosophies on which it is based. Hence the existence of materialist, reductionist and spiritualist interpretations. What is to be decided here is the true role of philosophy and, beyond it, of theology.
5. The church's magisterium [teaching authority] is directly concerned with the question of evolution, for it involves the conception of man: Revelation teaches us that he was created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gn 1:27-29). The conciliar constitution "Gaudium et Spes" [Vatican II, 1965] has magnificently explained this doctrine, which is pivotal to Christian thought. It recalled that man is "the only creature on earth that God has wanted for its own sake" (No. 24). In other terms, the human individual cannot be subordinated as a pure means or a pure instrument, either to the species or to society; he has value per se. He is a person. With his intellect and his will, he is capable of forming a relationship of communion, solidarity and self-giving with his peers. St. Thomas observes that man's likeness to God resides especially in his speculative intellect, for his relationship with the object of his knowledge resembles God's relationship with what he has created.[2] But even more, man is called to enter into a relationship of knowledge and love with God himself, a relationship which will find its complete fulfillment beyond time, in eternity. All the depth and grandeur of this vocation are revealed to us in the mystery of the risen Christ.[3] It is by virtue of his spiritual soul that the whole person possesses such a dignity even in his body. Pius XII stressed this essential point: If the human body takes its origin from pre-existent living matter, the spiritual soul is immediately created by God ("animas enim a Deo immediate creari catholica fides nos retinere iubei").[4] Consequently, theories of evolution which, in accordance with the philosophies inspiring them, consider the spirit as emerging from the forces of living matter or as a mere epiphenomenon of this matter, are incompatible with the truth about man. Nor are they able to ground the dignity of the person.
6. With man, then, we find ourselves in the presence of an ontological difference, an ontological leap, one could say. ["Ontology" = Greek, "study of being"; "ontological difference" = a difference in the KIND of being, that is, from purely material to a union of spirit and matter. In other words, the Pope does not think that purely material causes can explain the spiritual powers of human nature.] However, does not the posing of such ontological discontinuity run counter to that physical continuity which seems to be the main thread of research into evolution in the field of physics and chemistry? Consideration of the method used in the various branches of knowledge makes it possible to reconcile two points of view which would seem irreconcilable. The sciences of observation [i.e., the empirical sciences] describe and measure multiple manifestations of life with increasing precision and correlate them with the time line. The moment of transition to the spiritual cannot be the object of this kind of observation, which nevertheless can discover at the experimental level a series of very valuable signs indicating what is specific to the human being. But the experience of metaphysical knowledge, of self-awareness and self-reflection, of moral conscience, freedom, or again of aesthetic and religious experience, falls within the competence of philosophical analysis and reflection, while theology brings out its ultimate meaning according to the Creator's plans.
  1. Cf. AAS 85 1/81993 3/8, pp. 764-772; address to the Pontifical Biblical Commission, April 23, 1993, announcing the document on the "The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church": AAS 86 1/81994 3/8, pp. 232-243.
  2. Summa Theologica I-II:3:5, ad 1.
  3. Cf. "Gaudium et Spes," 22.
  4. "Humani Generis," 36.

Consequences of Original Sin

Book of Wisdom

"God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living. ... It was through the devil's envy that death entered the world" (Wis 1:13; 2:24).


"Therefore, just as through one person sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all, inasmuch as all sinned — for up to the time of the law, sin was in the world, though sin is not accounted when there is no law. But death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who did not sin after the pattern of the trespass of Adam, who is the type of the one who was to come." (5:12-14)
The victory that Christ won over sin has given us greater blessings than those which sin had taken from us: "where sin increased, grace abounded all the more" (CCC #420; Rom 5:20).
"For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God; for creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies." (8:19-23)

Catechism of the Catholic Church

The human person, created in the image of God, is a being at once corporeal and spiritual. The biblical account expresses this reality in symbolic language when it affirms that "then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being."[1] Man, whole and entire, is therefore willed by God.
In Sacred Scripture the term "soul" often refers to human life or the entire human person.[2] But "soul" also refers to the innermost aspect of man, that which is of greatest value in him,[3] that by which he is most especially in God's image: "soul" signifies the spiritual principle in man.
The human body shares in the dignity of "the image of God": it is a human body precisely because it is animated by a spiritual soul, and it is the whole human person that is intended to become, in the body of Christ, a temple of the Spirit:[4]
Man, though made of body and soul, is a unity. Through his very bodily condition he sums up in himself the elements of the material world. Through him they are thus brought to their highest perfection and can raise their voice in praise freely given to the Creator. For this reason man may not despise his bodily life. Rather he is obliged to regard his body as good and to hold it in honor since God has created it and will raise it up on the last day.[5]
The unity of soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the "form" of the body:[6] i.e., it is because of its spiritual soul that the body made of matter becomes a living, human body; spirit and matter, in man, are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single nature.
The Church teaches that every spiritual soul is created immediately by God - it is not "produced" by the parents - and also that it is immortal: it does not perish when it separates from the body at death, and it will be reunited with the body at the final Resurrection.[7]
Sometimes the soul is distinguished from the spirit: St. Paul for instance prays that God may sanctify his people "wholly", with "spirit and soul and body" kept sound and blameless at the Lord's coming.[8] The Church teaches that this distinction does not introduce a duality into the soul.[9] "Spirit" signifies that from creation man is ordered to a supernatural end and that his soul can gratuitously be raised beyond all it deserves to communion with God.[10]
The spiritual tradition of the Church also emphasizes the heart, in the biblical sense of the depths of one's being, where the person decides for or against God.[11]
  1. Gen 2:7.
  2. Cf. Mt 16:25-26; Jn 15:13; Acts 2:41.
  3. Cf. Mt 10:28; 26:38; Jn 12:27; 2 Macc 6:30.
  4. Cf. 1 Cor 6:19-20; 15:44-45.
  5. GS 14 § 1; cf. Dan 3:57-80.
  6. Cf. Council of Vienne (1312): DS 902.
  7. Cf. Pius XII, Humani Generis: DS 3896; Paul VI, CPG § 8; Lateran Council V (1513): DS 1440.
  8. 1 Thess 5:23.
  9. Cf. Council of Constantinople IV (870): DS 657.
  10. Cf. Vatican Council I, Dei Filius: DS 3005; GS 22 § 5; Humani Generis: DS 3891.
  11. Cf. Jer 31:33; Deut 6:5; 29:3; Isa 29:13; Ezek 36:26; Mt 6:21; Lk 8:15; Rom 5:5.
I. Where Sin Abounded, Grace Abounded All the More
The reality of sin
Sin is present in human history; any attempt to ignore it or to give this dark reality other names would be futile. To try to understand what sin is, one must first recognize the profound relation of man to God, for only in this relationship is the evil of sin unmasked in its true identity as humanity's rejection of God and opposition to him, even as it continues to weigh heavy on human life and history.
Only the light of divine Revelation clarifies the reality of sin and particularly of the sin committed at mankind's origins. Without the knowledge Revelation gives of God we cannot recognize sin clearly and are tempted to explain it as merely a developmental flaw, a psychological weakness, a mistake, or the necessary consequence of an inadequate social structure, etc. Only in the knowledge of God's plan for man can we grasp that sin is an abuse of the freedom that God gives to created persons so that they are capable of loving him and loving one another.
Original sin - an essential truth of the faith
With the progress of Revelation, the reality of sin is also illuminated. Although to some extent the People of God in the Old Testament had tried to understand the pathos of the human condition in the light of the history of the fall narrated in Genesis, they could not grasp this story's ultimate meaning, which is revealed only in the light of the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.[1] We must know Christ as the source of grace in order to know Adam as the source of sin. The Spirit-Paraclete, sent by the risen Christ, came to "convict the world concerning sin",[2] by revealing him who is its Redeemer.
The doctrine of original sin is, so to speak, the "reverse side" of the Good News that Jesus is the Savior of all men, that all need salvation and that salvation is offered to all through Christ. The Church, which has the mind of Christ,[3] knows very well that we cannot tamper with the revelation of original sin without undermining the mystery of Christ.
How to read the account of the fall
The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man.[4] Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents.[5]
Freedom put to the test
God created man in his image and established him in his friendship. A spiritual creature, man can live this friendship only in free submission to God. The prohibition against eating "of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" spells this out: "for in the day that you eat of it, you shall die."[6] The "tree of the knowledge of good and evil"[7] symbolically evokes the insurmountable limits that man, being a creature, must freely recognize and respect with trust. Man is dependent on his Creator, and subject to the laws of creation and to the moral norms that govern the use of freedom.
Man's first sin
Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God's command. This is what man's first sin consisted of.[8] All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness.
In that sin man preferred himself to God and by that very act scorned him. He chose himself over and against God, against the requirements of his creaturely status and therefore against his own good. Constituted in a state of holiness, man was destined to be fully "divinized" by God in glory. Seduced by the devil, he wanted to "be like God", but "without God, before God, and not in accordance with God".[9]
Scripture portrays the tragic consequences of this first disobedience. Adam and Eve immediately lose the grace of original holiness.[10] They become afraid of the God of whom they have conceived a distorted image - that of a God jealous of his prerogatives.[11]
The harmony in which they had found themselves, thanks to original justice, is now destroyed: the control of the soul's spiritual faculties over the body is shattered; the union of man and woman becomes subject to tensions, their relations henceforth marked by lust and domination.[12] Harmony with creation is broken: visible creation has become alien and hostile to man.[13] Because of man, creation is now subject "to its bondage to decay".[14] Finally, the consequence explicitly foretold for this disobedience will come true: man will "return to the ground",[15] for out of it he was taken. Death makes its entrance into human history.[16]
After that first sin, the world is virtually inundated by sin There is Cain's murder of his brother Abel and the universal corruption which follows in the wake of sin. Likewise, sin frequently manifests itself in the history of Israel, especially as infidelity to the God of the Covenant and as transgression of the Law of Moses. And even after Christ's atonement, sin raises its head in countless ways among Christians.[17] Scripture and the Church's Tradition continually recall the presence and universality of sin in man's history:
What Revelation makes known to us is confirmed by our own experience. For when man looks into his own heart he finds that he is drawn towards what is wrong and sunk in many evils which cannot come from his good creator. Often refusing to acknowledge God as his source, man has also upset the relationship which should link him to his last end, and at the same time he has broken the right order that should reign within himself as well as between himself and other men and all creatures.[18]
The consequences of Adam's sin for humanity
All men are implicated in Adam's sin, as St. Paul affirms: "By one man's disobedience many (that is, all men) were made sinners": "sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned."[19] The Apostle contrasts the universality of sin and death with the universality of salvation in Christ. "Then as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man's act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men."[20]
Following St. Paul, the Church has always taught that the overwhelming misery which oppresses men and their inclination towards evil and death cannot be understood apart from their connection with Adam's sin and the fact that he has transmitted to us a sin with which we are all born afflicted, a sin which is the "death of the soul".[21] Because of this certainty of faith, the Church baptizes for the remission of sins even tiny infants who have not committed personal sin.[22]
How did the sin of Adam become the sin of all his descendants? The whole human race is in Adam "as one body of one man".[23] By this "unity of the human race" all men are implicated in Adam's sin, as all are implicated in Christ's justice. Still, the transmission of original sin is a mystery that we cannot fully understand. But we do know by Revelation that Adam had received original holiness and justice not for himself alone, but for all human nature. By yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve committed a personal sin, but this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit in a fallen state.[24] It is a sin which will be transmitted by propagation to all mankind, that is, by the transmission of a human nature deprived of original holiness and justice. And that is why original sin is called "sin" only in an analogical sense: it is a sin "contracted" and not "committed" - a state and not an act.
Although it is proper to each individual,[25] original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam's descendants. It is a deprivation of original holiness and justice, but human nature has not been totally corrupted: it is wounded in the natural powers proper to it, subject to ignorance, suffering and the dominion of death, and inclined to sin - an inclination to evil that is called "concupiscence". Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ's grace, erases original sin and turns a man back towards God, but the consequences for nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persist in man and summon him to spiritual battle.
The Church's teaching on the transmission of original sin was articulated more precisely in the fifth century, especially under the impulse of St. Augustine's reflections against Pelagianism, and in the sixteenth century, in opposition to the Protestant Reformation. Pelagius held that man could, by the natural power of free will and without the necessary help of God's grace, lead a morally good life; he thus reduced the influence of Adam's fault to bad example. The first Protestant reformers, on the contrary, taught that original sin has radically perverted man and destroyed his freedom; they identified the sin inherited by each man with the tendency to evil (concupiscentia), which would be insurmountable. The Church pronounced on the meaning of the data of Revelation on original sin especially at the second Council of Orange (529)[26] and at the Council of Trent (1546).[27]
  1. Cf. Rom 5:12-21.
  2. Jn 16:8.
  3. Cf. 1 Cor 2:16.
  4. Cf. GS 13 § 1.
  5. Cf. Council of Trent: DS 1513; Pius XII: DS 3897; Paul VI: AAS 58 (1966), 654.
  6. Gen 2:17.
  7. Gen 2:17.
  8. Cf. Gen 3:1-11; Rom 5:19.
  9. St. Maximus the Confessor, Ambigua: PG 91,1156C; cf. Gen 3:5.
  10. Cf. Rom 3:23.
  11. Cf. Gen 3:5-10.
  12. Cf. Gen 3:7-16.
  13. Cf. Gen 3:17,19.
  14. Rom 8:21.
  15. Gen 3:19; cf. 2:17.
  16. Cf. Rom 5:12.
  17. Cf. Gen 4:3-15; 6:5,12; Rom 1:18-32; 1 Cor 1-6; Rev 2-3.
  18. GS 13 § 1.
  19. Rom 5:12,19.
  20. Rom 5:18.
  21. Cf. Council of Trent: DS 1512.
  22. Cf. Council of Trent: DS 1514.
  23. St. Thomas Aquinas, De Malo 4,1.
  24. Cf. Council of Trent: DS 1511-1512.
  25. Cf. Council of Trent: DS 1513.
  26. DS 371-372.
  27. Cf. DS 1510-1516.

Battle of the Sexes

CCC #444
The harmony in which they had found themselves, thanks to original justice, is now destroyed: the control of the soul's spiritual faculties over the body is shattered; the union of man and woman becomes subject to tensions, their relations henceforth marked by lust and domination.[1] Harmony with creation is broken: visible creation has become alien and hostile to man.[2] Because of man, creation is now subject "to its bondage to decay".[3] Finally, the consequence explicitly foretold for this disobedience will come true: man will "return to the ground",[4] for out of it he was taken. Death makes its entrance into human history.[5]
  1. Cf. Gen 3:7-16.
  2. Cf. Gen 3:17,19.
  3. Rom 8:21.
  4. Gen 3:19; cf. 2:17.
  5. Cf. Rom 5:12.

Between Pelagianism and Perversion

CCC #406
The Church's teaching on the transmission of original sin was articulated more precisely in the fifth century, especially under the impulse of St. Augustine's reflections against Pelagianism, and in the sixteenth century, in opposition to the Protestant Reformation. Pelagius held that man could, by the natural power of free will and without the necessary help of God's grace, lead a morally good life; he thus reduced the influence of Adam's fault to bad example. The first Protestant reformers, on the contrary, taught that original sin has radically perverted man and destroyed his freedom; they identified the sin inherited by each man with the tendency to evil (concupiscentia), which would be insurmountable. The Church pronounced on the meaning of the data of Revelation on original sin especially at the second Council of Orange (529)[1] and at the Council of Trent (1546).[2]

Pelagius thought that our human nature was so little affected by sin that we only needed the good example of Jesus' love and mercy to inform us of what we should do. Once we saw Jesus' love, Pelagius held that we could choose to imitate Him by our unassisted powers of intellect and free will.

The Church teaches that our natural powers must be elevated by sanctifying grace in order for us to choose and do good. Without God's grace, we could not escape the bondage of self.

Some Protestants taught that human nature itself is broken by sin. The Church replied that "God does not make junk." We are still "in the image and likeness of God," and our nature is "very good" (Gen 1:26-27,31). We are in a fallen condition from which we cannot rescue ourselves, but the evil is primarily in our circumstances, not in our nature itself. "Man has a wounded nature inclined to evil" (CCC #407).

  1. DS 371-372.
  2. Cf. DS 1510-1516.

Questions arising from evolutionary biology

What do you think about the claim that Neanderthal genes were found in the DNA of homo sapiens?

I'm not a geneticist.
We have to follow the facts wherever they lead.
The Church is not wedded to any scientific theory (or observation) about how we developed.
Cf. Humani Generis for the theological commitment of the Church to monogenism: we believe that there was an original First Pair of human beings from whom all of us are descended and from whom we inherit the condition of being alienated from God and from each other (Original Sin).
We don't know how far back in history that event goes.
We don't know the "real" names of the First Pair. The Bible calls them "Adam" and "Eve" (Gen 2-3). "Adam" means "the man" and "Eve" is said to mean "mother of all the living" (Gen 3:20).
John Paul II wrote on evolution in 1996. He says that we must accept the fact of evolution in the sense that one form of life comes from another. We may not accept the atheistic interpretations of that fact.

I know it's a speculative question, but it's somewhat interesting to consider whether neanderthals had rational souls. I have read that archaeological evidence indicates that neanderthals had burial customs for their dead (a form of primitive religion, perhaps?).

G.K. Chesterton's Everlasting Man has a great passage about how anthropologists tell fairy tales about what "early man" believed from the non-verbal clues left behind.
If there was religion, then, of course, there was rationality. The two go hand-in-hand. The hard part is getting at the content of the minds of the primitive humans where there is no written record (the glorious art in the caves does not count as writing).

Of course, it's not really an issue with any practical import for us today.


Anyway, have you found that a lot of the theological discussion of evolution involves a sort of covert traducianism? Or, at least, a neglect of the huge metaphysical difference between an animal (however clever) and a being with a rational, immortal soul?

Yes. The materialists necessarily want to treat humans as nothing but animals that have evolved by accident — and as animals that can be bred or engineered to new standards of excellence (C.S.L., Abolition of Man).

Do you think it would be possible to know at some point, or will this event remain forever in the "mists" of prehistory?

We won't be able to answer that question until all the evidence is in. When will the anthropologists excavate the last pre-historic site? When will the biologists finish their genetic studies?



Dennis Bonnette retired in 2003 as Professor of Philosophy at Niagara University in Lewiston, New York, where he was Chairman of the Philosophy Department from 1992 to 2002. He is the author of two books, Aquinas' Proofs for God's Existence (Martinus-Nijhoff, 1972) and Origin of the Human Species (Sapientia Press, 2003; 2nd edition, 2007, with a new Foreword by biochemist Michael J. Behe). His website is

"Ott maintains, 'The teaching of the unity of the human race is not, indeed, a dogma, but it is a necessary presupposition of the dogma[s] of Original Sin and Redemption.' We might call it an 'indirect' dogma."
"Grace is not empirically detectable. By possessing intellective souls, the first true human beings are grace's fitting subject. ... Such gifts [of perfect self-mastery and immortality] would not be manifest in the fossil record. They would be impossible only if they somehow contradicted the human essence or its essential powers."
Conclusion of Chapter 10, "The Truths of Revelation": "If Adam and Eve did not exist as individual human beings who sinned, thereby communicating their fallen nature to all their descendants, there is no need for redemption or a Redeemer. The entire theological order is at issue in Adam and Eve."
"While anthropologists might not be able logically to affirm true humanity of a certain hominid population, philosophers might not be able logically to deny true humanity of that same population."
"These stone tools [associated with homo erectus] indicate true human intellective activity, evidence of the human intellectual soul."
"The creatures who made these tools were true human beings, not apes with active imaginations."
So, in Bonnette's view, the philosophical category of "human being" is not limited to the biological species, homo sapiens!
"This estimation requires precise delineation between what is possible to the purely sentient soul and what must necessarily be attributed to intellect alone. Apparently, positivistic natural scientists [i.e., saganists] are singularly unaware of this distinction."
positivism: the philosophy of science that demands "positive proof" as a condition of assent to a proposition
"These tools may date to as early as 500,000 years ago."
"The intellective soul is present as long as, however weakly, the ability to form true concepts, make judgments, and reason is present."
"Physical appearance does not matter. True intellect's presence does. Only the intellective soul's infusion into properly disposed matter effects [causes] true intellect. ... I will assume that Adam and Eve belonged to the hominid population [biological species] known as Homo erectus."
"The Church admits that some form of evolution might account for the human body's material origin."
Biologists argue that the likelihood of evolution of homo sapiens passing through one mating pair is small. But it is vastly larger than the likelihood of abiogenesis. "Strange things do happen." Though the likelihood is small, it may yet be the proper way to account for the observed unity of the human race.
"If the evolutionary linkage is not to be broken, Adam must have been conceived in some sub-human womb."
Conclusion of Chapter 12, "Adam and Eve's Origin": "The philosopher is less concerned with what a thing looks like [perinoesis] than how it acts, for activity reveals nature itself [dianoesis: 'Actio sequitur esse' — 'As a thing is, so it acts']. The first true human beings, Adam and his controversial spouse, Eve, appeared on Earth whenever animals with an intellective, and therefore spiritual, soul first appeared. Philosophically, the essentially distinct natural human species is so defined."
"A world in which evolutionary naturalism appears a speculative possibility is perfectly designed for building the greatest saints."

Benedict XVI

Creation and Evolution: A Conference With Pope Benedict XVI in Castel Gandolfo, Stephan Horn (ed), pp. 15-16.
The clay became man at the moment in which a being for the first time was capable of forming, however dimly, the thought of “God.” The first Thou that - however stammeringly - was said by human lips to God marks the moment in which the spirit arose in the world. Here the Rubicon of anthropogenesis was crossed. For it is not the use of weapons or fire, not new methods of cruelty or of useful activity, that constitute man, but rather his ability to be immediately in relation to God. This holds fast to the doctrine of the special creation of man . . . herein . . . lies the reason why the moment of anthropogenesis cannot possibly be determined by paleontology: anthropogenesis is the rise of the spirit, which cannot be excavated with a shovel. The theory of evolution does not invalidate the faith, nor does it corroborate it. But it does challenge the faith to understand itself more profoundly and thus to help man to understand himself and to become increasingly what he is: the being who is supposed to say Thou to God in eternity.


James Chastek, "Mere Monogenism, and Adam and Eve.
We descend from some first man who has had a male descendant in every generation. This is the definition of the “Y-Chromosome Adam“, and (adjusting for sex) the “mitochondrial Eve”. Assume that Adam’s daughter went off, east of Eden, and married some human outside of her family. Then Adam could not be a “Y- Chromosome Adam” for that line of persons, though he is clearly responsible for the line. All that would be required for the “literal” truth of Genesis is that at some point in time, all lines not descended from Adam either died off or merged with him. Given that we know as a fact that this has happened for at least one man, who also exists under the additional stipulation of having only male descendants, there is nothing odd whatsoever in assuming the far more possible case of a man being the parent of the whole human race who did not exist under this restriction.


Roberto Masi, "The Credo of Paul VI: Theology of Original Sin and the Scientific Theory of Evolution."
It was for these very reasons that the Apostolic See recently sought that the section dealing with original sin in the New Dutch Catechism be corrected. (AAS, 1968 P. 687).


"Modern biology and original sin, Part I."
Kenneth W. Kemp says in his important recent American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly article “Science, Theology, and Monogenesis” (see ACPQ Vol. 85, No. 2) “Human being” as used in A-T philosophy and Catholic theology is a metaphysical concept, and does not correspond exactly to (even if it overlaps with) the modern biological concept homo sapiens sapiens. (In fact, some A-T philosophers would hold that the specific genetic and phenotypic traits typical of homo sapiens sapiens are not even essential to human beings considered as a metaphysical category: Anything that was both animal and rational would arguably be “human” in the relevant sense, even if it had a body plan radically different from ours. See Oderberg’s Real Essentialism for a useful discussion.)
The implications of all of this should be obvious. There is nothing at all contrary to what Pius says in Humani Generis in the view that 10,000 (or for that matter 10,000,000) creatures genetically and physiologically like us arose via purely evolutionary processes. For such creatures — even if there had been only two of them — would not be “human” in the metaphysical sense in the first place. They would be human in the metaphysical sense (and thus in the theologically relevant sense) only if the matter that made up their bodies were informed by a human soul — that is, by a subsistent form imparting intellectual and volitional powers as well as the lower animal powers that a Planet of the Apes-style “human” would have. And only direct divine action can make that happen, just as (for A-T) direct divine action has to make it happen whenever one of us contemporary human beings comes into existence.
Supposing, then, that the smallest human-like population of animals evolution could have initially produced numbered around 10,000, we have a scenario that is fully compatible with Catholic doctrine if we suppose that only two of these creatures had human souls infused into them by God at their conception, and that He infused further human souls only into those creatures who were descended from this initial pair. And there is no evidence against this supposition.
This scenario raises all sorts of interesting questions, such as whether any of these early humans (in the metaphysical sense of having a human soul) mated with some of the creatures who were (genetically and, in part, phenotypically) only human-like. (If any of the latter looked like Linda Harrison in Planet of the Apes, the temptation certainly would have been there.) Mike Flynn and Kenneth Kemp have some things to say about this, but it does not affect the point at issue here, which is that there is nothing in the biological evidence that conflicts with the doctrine that the human race began with a single pair — when that doctrine is rightly understood, in terms of the metaphysical conception of “human being” described above.
Edward Feser, "Monkey in your soul?"
So there is no problem of reconciling the claims in question. On the scenario proposed, the modern human population has the genes it has because it is descended from a group of several thousand individuals, only two of whom had immaterial souls. But only those later individuals who had this pair among their ancestors (even if they also had as ancestors members of the original group which did not have immaterial souls) have descendents living today. In that sense, every modern human is both descended from an original population of several thousand and from an original pair. There is no contradiction because the claim that modern humans are descended from an original pair does not entail that they received all their genes from that pair alone. As Flynn points out, critics like Jerry Coyne confuse the claim that there is one man from whom all modern humans are descended — a claim that is part of the doctrine of original sin — with the claim that all modern humans are descended from only one man — a claim which need not be understood as part of the doctrine. And as Flynn also points out, it is arguably only the male of the pair, and not the couple, that the doctrine requires all modern humans to be descended from.

As I noted in my previous post, what Catholic theology requires is that all humans living today have Adam as an ancestor, and that Adam’s soul was infused directly by God. It does not require that Adam was literally made directly from dust or clay. And though Rosenhouse is correct that Genesis is interested in the formation of Adam’s body and not merely the origin of his soul, that too is consistent with the Flynn/Kemp account if we think of the matter God used to form that body as derived from pre-existing hominids rather than straight from the earth. I know Rosenhouse, Coyne, and Co. would like it to be the case that all Christians are crude literalists — after all, that would facilitate atheist combox smart-assery and other forms of Serious Thinking. But it just isn’t so. As a matter of fact, the most traditional Christians are not crude literalists. As Mike Flynn emphasizes in his post, that the literal and figurative senses of statements in the book of Genesis must be carefully distinguished is a long-standing theme in traditional biblical exegesis, and was famously explored by St. Augustine.


Kenneth W. Kemp "Science, Theology, and Monogenesis," American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly, 85
2 (2011) 217-236.
The distinction between the biological species concept and the theological one is important, since they are not necessarily co-extensive. Two individuals, one theologically human and the other not, would remain members of the same biological species as long as they were capable of producing fertile offspring. While it would certainly be a theological error to exclude any members of the biological species now living from the philosophical or theological species man (i.e., to hold that they lacked rational souls, or that they were not among those to whom God had offered His friendship), there can be no theological objection to the claim that some one (or two) members of a prehistoric, biologically (i.e., genetically) human species were made sufficiently different from the others that they constituted a new theological species, e.g., by being given a rational soul and an eternal destiny.
I think that Alexander’s distinction between the biological species (the population of beings capable of interbreeding) and the philosophical and theological species “human being” is the key to the solution of this problem, but that his emphasis on genetics (a crucial mutation) may be misplaced. It creates for him the necessity to posit a not impossible but extremely unlikely co-occurrence of exactly two instances of the same mutation (one in a man and one in a woman) at roughly the same time.
The hylomorphic philosophy, which fits so naturally the relation of body and soul implicit in the Bible, requires a body adapted to the powers which the soul brings. A rational soul could not be the form of a piscine, or even a simian, body. Still a rational soul, being more than the power of any bodily organ, cannot be the necessary form of any kind of body, and a fortiori not of a human one. So, Alexander’s association of mutation and hominization is too close. A certain bodily form (and a fortiori a certain mutation) may be necessary for hominization, but it is not sufficient, as Alexander surely would acknowledge. Hominization requires the presence of a created rational soul. The mutation itself, therefore, in fact bears a looser connection to hominization than it does in Alexander’s account.
There is an alternative use of Alexander’s distinction which does the work of reconciliation without entailing the problems that his view faces. That account can begin with a population of about 5,000 hominids, beings which are in many respects like human beings, but which lack the capacity for intellectual thought. Out of this population, God selects two and endows them with intellects by creating for them rational souls, giving them at the same time those preternatural gifts the possession of which constitutes original justice. Only beings with rational souls (with or without the preternatural gifts) are truly human. The first two theologically human beings misuse their free will, however, by choosing to commit a (the original) sin, thereby losing the preternatural gifts, though not the offer of divine friendship by virtue of which they remain theologically (not just philosophically) distinct from their merely biologically human ancestors and cousins. These first true human beings also have descendants, which continue, to some extent, to interbreed with the non-intellectual hominids among whom they live. If God endows each individual that has even a single human ancestor with an intellect of its own, a reasonable rate of reproductive success and a reasonable selective advantage would easily replace a non-intellectual hominid population of 5,000 individuals with a philosophically (and, if the two concepts are extensionally equivalent, theologically) human population within three centuries. Throughout this process, all theologically human beings would be descended from a single original human couple (in the sense of having that human couple among their ancestors) without there ever having been a population bottleneck in the human species.
This scenario accommodates both the genetic evidence and theological doctrine (if that it be) of monogenesis because it does two things. First, itdistinguishes between true (i.e., intellectual) human beings and their genetically human-like, but non-intellectual, relatives. Second, it recognizes that the theological doctrine of monogenesis requires only that all human beings have the original couple among their ancestors, not that every ancestral line in each individual’s family tree leads back to a single original couple. They (and we) can also have even the several thousand hominid ancestors which Ayala says the genetic evidence requires.
This theory is monogenetic with respect to theologically human beings but polygenetic with respect to the biological species. Thus, the distinction resolves the contradiction.
God did not owe Adam and Eve’s cousins a rational and therefore immortal soul. The hominization of Adam and Eve was a free gift. Since Alexander called his article “Human Origins and Genetics,” I might highlight the point at which my idea differs from his by calling my account “Human Origins and Grace.”
The terminus ante quem is the point at which the evidence of rationality appears in the archeological record. Identifying that time, however, is complicated by the fact that it is not always easy to determine what behavior would require rationality (as defined above). Apes, porpoises, parrots, and crows, for example, have each in their own way displayed great skill at learning and problem-solving, without showing that they actually apprehend concepts, the classical threshold of rationality. So, for example, it is hard to say whether the manufacturers of Oldowan pebble tools (Homo habilis or possibly even Australopithecus garhi 2.6 mya) had the power of reason or, whether in their tool manufacture at least, they were more like New Caledonian crows, which show a remarkable ability to adapt natural objects to their own needs but who clearly lack the power of conceptual thought. If Mode One technologies do not require rationality, do the Mode Two technologies of Homo erectus require it?
It is also important to remember that an identifiable terminus ante quem might be much later than the date of the first rational human being. The first rational human beings may not have left any physical trace of their rationality. Maybe they were talkers rather than doers or maybe they made their tools out of wood and bone rather than out of flint. Even if they did make artefacts that lasted, there is no certainty that those artefacts would later actually be found by paleoanthropologists.
It is beyond the scope of this paper to do more than to show that no scientific evidence raises insuperable problems for the thesis that the common ancestor of all rational beings was itself a rational being. In fact, both uni- and multiregionalist accounts of human origins can accommodate such a rational common ancestor.
Good evidence that Homo erectus or Neanderthalers had the capacity for rational thought (as a minority of paleoanthropologists have argued, especially with respect to Neanderthalers, that there is) would provide reason for placing the appearance of the first theologically human beings before the first African emigration (in which a population of Homo erectus left Africa, nearly 2 mya). The fact that paleontologists distinguish Homo erectus as a species distinct from Homo sapiens is irrelevant to the question of whether they are philosophically or theologically distinct species.
The more remote would be immediately subsequent to the rise of Homo sapiens (so, perhaps as early as 200 kya), placing theologically human beings completely within an only slightly larger biological species, excluding Homo erectus and (whatever his exact relation to those two species) Neanderthalers. Such a recent origin for theological humanity would fit most easily into (though it does not logically imply) the uniregionalist (or recent African) theory of human origins.
The most recent possible date (the terminus ante quem, really) would be the time of the final African emigration some 60 kya. This coincides closely with the appearance in the archeological record of a variety of artefacts that seem clearly to require rationality, of which Cro-Magnon art is only the most spectacular example.
Adam’s non-intellectual cousins would have had a sensitive soul sufficient to engage in all the acts of image apprehension and manipulation of which other animals are capable, without the power to abstract from those images the concepts that distinguish human from animal cognition. That the human intellectual soul makes possible both the image-manipulation that we share with animals and the power of abstracting concepts from the images we acquire or form is a fact on any Thomistic anthropology. My anthropology is, therefore, no more dualistic than any other Thomistic account.
The primary purpose of this paper has been to show that there is no real contradiction between a theologically conservative (monogenist) account of anthropogenesis and the scientific insights of evolutionary biology and mod- ern genetics. The appearance of contradiction that has been asserted in recent years is based on a failure to make an important distinction. This fact should remind us of the importance of patience in the face of apparent contradictions. Contradictions are sometimes to be resolved not by the rejection of one of the apparently contradictory theories but by the recognition of just such a previously overlooked distinction.


Michael Liccione, "Evolutionary Theology."
You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd." ~Flannery O'Connor
John Farrell observed on his blog at
In famous cases, of course, such as the trial of Galileo, and acceptance of the reality of heliocentrism, the answer is yes, though it took the Catholic Church a long time to officially come around.
But a conflict with current science arises only if we assume that the “generation” by which original sin is transmitted logically entails that a first couple, Adam and Eve, were the first humans in a purely natural sense, i.e. the genetic sense. Nothing in magisterial documents requires adopting that assumption. So it is no more theologically irreformable than scientifically defensible. We may and should dispense with it.
Why not hold instead that Adam and Eve — whoever they really were, and wherever they really lived — were the first humans in a supernatural sense? As a couple, they were the first people to be called and elevated by grace to a state of fellowship with God meant to culminate in a greater union with him. That doesn’t entail that they were genetically the first humans. It entails only that they were the first humans God gave a destiny beyond Nature. So when they sinned and lost his grace, they largely reverted to Nature, which is the state all of us since then find ourselves in until we are somehow incorporated into Christ.


Bill Vallicella, "Modern Genetics and the Fall: Science and Religion in Collision?"
Man as an animal is one thing, man as a spiritual, rational, and moral being is another. The origin of man as an animal came about not through any special divine acts but through the evolutionary processes common to the origination of all animal species. But man as spirit, as a self-conscious, rational being who distinguishes between good and evil cannot be accounted for in naturalistic terms. (This can be argued with great rigor, but not now!)
As animals, we are descended from lower forms. As animals, we are part of the natural world and have the same general type of origin as any other animal species. Hence there was no Adam and Eve as first biological parents of the human race who came into existence directly by divine intervention without animal progenitors. But although we are animals, we are also spiritual beings, spiritual selves. I am an I, an ego, and this I-ness or egoity cannot be explained naturalistically. I am a person possessing free will and conscience neither of which can be explained naturalistically.
What 'Adam' refers to is not a man qua member of a zoological species, but the first man to become a spiritual self. This spiritual selfhood came into existence through a spiritual encounter with the divine self. In this I-Thou encounter, the divine self elicited or triggered man's latent spiritual self. This spiritual self did not emerge naturally; what emerged naturally was the potentiality to hear a divine call which called man to his vocation, his higher destiny, namely, a sharing in the divine life. The divine call is from beyond the human horizon.
But in the encounter with the divine self which first triggered man's personhood or spiritual selfhood, there arose man's freedom and his sense of being a separate self, an ego distinct from God and from other egos. Thus was born pride and self-assertion and egotism. Sensing his quasi-divine status, man asserted himself against the One who had revealed himself, the One who simultaneously called him to a Higher Life but also imposed restrictions and made demands. Man in his pride then made a fateful choice, drunk with the sense of his own power: he decided to go it alone.
This rebellion was the Fall of man, which has nothing to do with a serpent or an apple or the being expelled from a physical garden located between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.


Michael Flynn, "Adam and Eve and Ted and Alice."
Dr. Coyne's primary error seems to be a quantifier shift. He and his fundamentalist bedfellows appear to hold that the statement:
A: "There is one man from whom all humans are descended."
is equivalent to the statement:
B: "All humans are descended from [only] one man."
But this logical fallacy hinges on an equivocation of "one," failing to distinguish "one [out of many]" from "[only] one." Traditional doctrine requires only A, not B: That all humans share a common ancestor, not that they have no other ancestors. For example, all Flynn hereabout share a common descent from one John Thomas Flynn (c.1840-1881) but of course we are also descended from other ancestors as well. In my case, that includes a Frenchman from the Pas de Calais, numerous Germans from the upper Rhineland, plus some folks from other parts of Ireland, all of whom were contemporary with the aforesaid John Thomas. If you think of a surname as an inherited characteristic from the father,(^3) it is easy to see how a group of people may have a common ancestor without having only one ancestor.
Dr. Coyne makes much of Mitochondrial Eve not being contemporary with Y-chromosome Adam; but these are common ancestors only in the strict male descent or the strict female descent. Doctrine holds only that all men are descended from Adam, not that they descend through an unbroken line of fathers. The same applies to descent from Eve through mothers, although oddly enough, that is not doctrine, for reasons adduced (^4) below. Since mito-Eve and chromo-Adam are not necessarily the Adam and Eve of the story, what difference does it make if they were not contemporary?
"Metaphorical" counts as one of the various literal readings. "You are the salt of the earth" depends on the actual, literal meaning of "salt." To say "you are the asparagus of the earth" would not mean the same thing. Fundamentalists often say that by using metaphor a passage can mean anything; but this is simply not so. "You are the salt of the earth" cannot mean "Two pounds pastrami; bring home to Emma." But we digress.
Like any animal, the red-clay ape-men were innocent. They lived, hunted, ate, mated, and died, pretty much in that order. What was good was what perfected their ape-manliness; but they did not know it was good. In a sense, they did not know anything. Like perfect Zen masters, they simply did. (See the zebras in the Underground Grammarian's essay, linked in the previous footnote.)
But Adam is different. Having a rational human form in addition to his sensitive animal form, he is capable of knowing the good. As Paul writes in Romans 2;12-16, the law is written in the heart.(^12) God being the author of natures, is in the Christian view the author of human nature in particular; hence the law "written in the heart" was written there by God. But for Adam to know the good means that Adam is now capable of turning away from the good. Thus, when Adam wills some act that is contrary to what his intellect tells him is good, he is acting in disobedience to "God's commands written in his heart." A turning away from the good is called "sin" and, since no one had ever been capable of doing so before, it was the original sin. This is communicated by allegory in the tale of the tree.
Most sin, the old joke runs, is not very original. But supposedly the "sin of Adam" has been inherited by all his descendents. This hardly seems fair. If we didn't do the deed, why should we bear the mark? But this misses the mark. Thomas Aquinas made note that original sin is not a particular transgression, like a crime committed for which one deserves particular punishment, but is the origin or source of such positive sins. It is a predelection inherent to human nature.
Doctrine is concerned with the origin of sin, not the origin of species. Hence, "origin-al" sin.
IOW, the mythos of Adam and Eve still makes sense when read in the traditional anagogical manner, not in spite of evolutionary learnings but because of them. Of course, we must be wary of concordism. Being compatible with consensus science is a tricky thing. Just ask the clerics who defended long-established geocentrism. If it ain't falsifiable, it ain't science; so we must allow the possibility that what we think we know about evolution is all wrong. That is why it is not a good idea to get too chummy with science, since you never know when she'll pack up her bags and leave you holding the bills.