What Happened to Original Sin?

By McCollister, Betty | The Humanist, March-April 1994 | Go to article overview

What Happened to Original Sin?


McCollister, Betty, The Humanist


John Cardinal O'Connor, asserting that the church's teaching on abortion has been the same for 2,000 years, warned that "attacks on the church's stance on abortion--unless they are rebutted--effectively erode church authority on all matters, indeed on the authority of God himself!"

Presumably he means that, if the church changes its mind on an issue, its authority would become less credible. He implies that the church never has changed its mind.

History tells us otherwise. The church has changed its mind repeatedly. It has finally, four centuries late, owned up to its most egregious blunder and acknowledged that Galileo was right, the church wrong, and that Earth does circle the sun despite the Inquisition's objections to its doing so.

The church has desanctified hundreds of saints. It has decided to allow Catholics to eat meat on Fridays. It no longer blames all Jews for all time, past and present and future, for decide--although the fabricated and entirely false gospel passages which implicate them, still read throughout holy week, perpetuate that lethal hatred in hundreds of millions of Christian souls.

And even though it has never officially repudiated the infamous Inquisition, it is most unlikely that any twentieth-century pope--no matter how solidly rooted in the past--would urge its revival.

So it is on abortion. O'Connor's statements notwithstanding, the church has seesawed on this issue. Early Christians, anticipating the imminent end of the world, cared little about marriage or children. For 15 centuries, though, abortion was licit until "ensoulnent," which occurred at 40 days in the male fetus, 80 in the female. Endorsed by St. Thomas Aquinas, no less, this position held until 1588, when Sixtus V outlawed it. Gregory XIV, three years later, rescinded the ban but decreed that en, soulment took place at 40 days in both sexes. Not until 1869 did the ultra-conservative Pius IX (responsible also for papal infallibility and the immaculate conception) change the church's connective mind yet again and ban abortion entirely. The present intransigent stance, then, is merely the latest in a long series.

In a bizarre and little-noted twist, today's abortion wars have generated another about-face--one which radically contradicts a fundamental Christian tenet which has been consistently held from the beginning. This is the dogma of original sin, propounded by St. Paul and cemented into church theology by St. Augustine.

Original sin is the doctrine that every zygote inherits sin from Adam and Eve at the instant it is fertilized. (Only the zygote which became the blessed virgin was exempt. This is the immaculate conception--not the same as the virgin birth.) Augustine concluded that original sin is transmitted by the sexual act, which "by virtue of the lust which accompanies it is inherently sinful." The Catholic encyclopedia defines it as "the hereditary sin incurred at conception by every human being as a result of the first man, Adam." Protestantism retained the concept. In Calvins words:

Even infants bring their condemnation

with them from their

mother's womb ... their whole

nature is, as it were, a seed of sin,

and, therefore, cannot but be

odious and abominable to God.

That original sin contaminates all conceptuses remains a rock-solid tenet of the Christian right--that new and improbable miscegenation between conservative Catholics and fundamentalist Protestants who have papered over past discord to unite against abortion.

When they claim to protect the "innocent unborn," then, they stand on its head one doctrine upon which the church has never wavered. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

What Happened to Original Sin?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.