Trust a Catholic Priest to fudge the doctrine of Original Sin…

In a recent Encounter program on ABC Radio National entitled “The Innoncents”, several folk from differing disciplines (not necessarily theological) offer serious challenges to the old rejoinder against the Christian doctrine of original sin: “But how can you say that an innocent baby is sinful?” For exmample:

Bonnie Miller-McLemore: Well, it [Augustine’s observation that even an infant can display sinful jealousy and greed] sort of appeals to me, because it reveals the complexity of human nature from the very beginning. And with my own children, it’s really easy when you just have one child – I have three – and when your firstborn is small, they do appear, and they are, incredibly wonderful, wondrous beings. On the other hand, when you bring another infant into that, a sibling, my husband and I would laugh, because that did seem to be more illustrative of some of the emotional – let us even say moral, spiritual – taints of competitiveness, of desire, or conflict, or tension. So we saw this more when we had two children than when we just had one. And it’s not that our first was just a perfect little being till the second was born, they’re three years apart, and in fact there might be other places where I can look back and think about struggles, conflicts, tensions, intent to do wrong at a very young age.

But then there is this tripe from none other than a Catholic priest (I won’t name him to save embarrasment and discredit):

David Rutledge: It was lovely to see the babies [coming to be baptised] this morning in those white robes, which I guess would be a traditional symbol of innocence. Is that how you see it?

Father Fudge [not his real name]: It is, certainly, a child wearing white is a sign of their innocence.

Who taught this guy his liturgical theology? The white robe is a symbol of being clothed in the purity of Christ–ie. having our sin forgiven. Unfortunately the practice of bringing babies to the font already clothed in white (instead of baptising the child naked an putting on the white clothes afterward) has given all the wrong ideas. See how Lex orandi affects the Lex credendi? Any way, Father Fudge isn’t finished yet:

David Rutledge: What does it mean to call a child innocent?

Father Fudge: I believe that we are all born with certain needs and drives and tendencies. These babies are just purely innocent, because they’re just responding to their own needs, for food and protection, and they scream when they want something and Mum or Dad try to respond to that.

David Rutledge: And that’s something which – there’s a certain strand in Christian teaching and tradition which sees that as evidence of, as you mentioned, original sin. Certainly St Augustine saw it as that; he looked at the child crying and saw that as evidence of sin. How much sense do you think it makes to talk about young children being sinful?

Father Fudge: I don’t think it makes a great deal of sense at all. I don’t believe that children have a sense of sin for many years [“Sense of sin”??? Who said anything about “Sense of Sin”??? The question was about young children being sinful, you twit. Don’t you know the difference?] – and I don’t even mean just when they start school, it’s probably when they’re in upper primary that they begin to get a sense of sin [there he goes again]. …I don’t think they have a sense of sin [and again] at all until quite older. We celebrate First Reconciliation with children when they’re about seven years of age. And I personally think that’s too young.

Holy moley. This bloke is from Sydney. Shows you what Cardinal George is up against. There is some serious, serious catechisation needed here. This priest displays what has gone wrong with Christian rhetoric of sin: we have exchanged the truth of sinful-NESS for something vague called a “SENSE of sin”–as if you remain perfectly innocent so long as you don’t have a “sense” that the evil you are doing is sinful. Dear, O dear, O dear…

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5 Responses to Trust a Catholic Priest to fudge the doctrine of Original Sin…

  1. Past Elder says:

    You find this remarkable?

    It’s utterly typical.

    Who taught him his liturgical theology? What do you think? His Catholic professors at his Catholic seminary, to whom it is you and not they who are out of joint with Catholic catechesis. I heard the same thing and I wasn’t even in the cemetery, er I mean seminary.

    Call it private opinion if you will, but, when Catholic professors teach Catholic students stuff like that as Catholic teaching under the authority of an Ordinary who allows it, it really doesn’t come off that way whether it is or not.

    Silence implies consent, as St Thomas More trusted (in vain).

  2. Arabella-m says:

    Fr Michael Morwood (now laicized) was a popular adult faith educator enthusiastically used by our diocese in the 1990s.

    He openly denied the concept of original sin.

    It’s difficult to know exactly how much influence he’s had.

    Baptismal ceremonies in our parish make no mention of the rejection of sin.

  3. Athanasius says:

    Priests like Father Fudge provide probably the only cogent argument in favour of married priests. Bringing up a couple of babies would swiftly cure him of his pelagian theology.

    Meanwhile, baptisms in our parish are still pretty good. Our parish priest even calls the exorcism an ‘exorcism’. Cool!

    Unfortunately, my daughter’s Catholic school is just as bad as Father Fudge.

    One of the students in the Literature class (studying Man For All Seasons) actually had to ask “What was the Reformation, anyway?”.

    The outcome was a potted ‘history’ lesson on the Reformation, in which the RE Coordinator told the girls that the sacramental priesthood was bunk and that the Church is a purely human institution.

    This is the “Catholic” education you get for $6000 per annum. Fortunately, my daughter’s reaction was eye-rolling contempt for the teacher.

    But what about the kids who don’t know any history or scripture? Once they finish school, they won’t darken the door of a Church again, unless they end up in some Pentecostal church where they will tell everyone about the “lies of the Catholics” that their teachers opened their eyes to.

  4. Athanasius says:

    Past Elder said: “Silence implies consent”.

    Come to think of it, you’re right. I think I’ll start making a fuss. A letter to the school RE coordinator would be a good start.

  5. Past Elder says:

    Dear Athanasius:

    Interesting — I took the line from the play you mentioned, A Man For All Seasons!

    Sir Thomas first hoped that the oath of allegiance to the king, including reference to his being head of the church in England, might be in language such that he could sign it. When that failed, he relied upon the ancient legal maxim, silence implies consent, hoping that his silence on the oath would therefore have to be legally taken as consent. That failed too.

    I retain a great affection for Sir Thomas, one of the brightest spots in my English ancestral history. He was indeed a man for all seasons, and even if the author Robert Bolt understood integrity in an existential rather than a spiritual sense, the play and the movie too are very good.

    Any of you guys see the movie “Catholics” some years ago, with Martin Sheen? Not in the same class, IMHO.

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