the biosphere? Darwin devoted an entire book to such mechanisms in the case of orchids.These contrivances are, from one point of view, extremely ingenious, but as Stephen JayGould pointed out:
Orchids were not made by an ideal engineer; they are jury-rigged from a limited set of availablecomponents. Thus, they must have evolved from ordinary ﬂowers. . . . Odd arrangements andfunny solutions are the proof of evolution – paths that a sensible God would never tread but that anatural process, constrained by history, follows perforce.
As Gould said, evolution seems, prima facie, to be more like an ingenious tinkerer than anomniscient and omnipotent designer. At one time the Christian explanation of evil seemedfairly persuasive to most Western people. I do not mean, of course, that they found it easyto put up with evil. No one does. But unlike agnostics and atheists they were able to situateit in a positive context that made it easier for them to endure it. This context was essentiallyconstituted by faith, but faith was supported by a seemingly rational and coherentunderstanding of evil. Nowadays, however, the discoveries of modern science, especiallyevolution, casts doubt upon the validity of that traditional understanding. As a resultChristians ﬁnd themselves left with a naked faith that is harder to sustain because of theirinability to rationalize evil as well as before. Consequently it is worthwhile trying toformulate an adequate understanding of evil and its origin. Christian tradition has theresources to do so. In fact, I believe that the traditional explanation only requires updatingand some additional clariﬁcation of the issues.
II. THE DOCTRINE OF ORIGINAL SIN
Catholic doctrine about the origin of evil is stated in a number of passages of the Bible andin authoritative statements of Popes and Councils over the centuries. Notable among thelatter are the solemn profession of faith of the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 and thedecree of the Council of Trent regarding the original sin of Adam, the ﬁrst Man, in 1546.
The Lateran Council intended to afﬁrm directly the traditional doctrine of the one Godwho is the ﬁrst cause of the universe and created it out of nothing, as well as the doctrinethat responsibility for evil is entirely due to creatures.
Thus, it tells us that moral evil, orsin, entered into the world through the original rebellion against God by Satan and someof the angels who followed him; and that later the human race also sinned at theirinstigation. Although the explicit teaching of this decree was concerned more about moralrather than physical evil, it was aimed against heretics of the day, the Cathars, whobelieved that matter is ontologically evil and was created by the evil god, Satan. Incombating this heresy the Council Fathers must have had in mind the teaching of Genesisthat the world as God ﬁrst made it was ‘very good’ (Gen 1:31).
In that context theimplication is that matter was not created intrinsically evil, but has been corrupted by sin.The decree of the Council of Trent on original sin focused on the fall of the human race,which was attributed, of course, to the sin of Adam, the ﬁrst man. Like Lateran IV, thisCouncil was also mainly concerned about moral rather than physical evil. However, itstated explicitly that the sin of Adam left the human race subject to suffering and deathand in a worse condition in body as well as soul. This teaching is coherent with the theoryof the original human sin that had been worked out by Augustine and others. Withoutspelling out the precise connection between moral and physical evil, Trent seemed to implythat most, if not all, human suffering, moral and physical, is due to the sin of the ﬁrst834
RICHARD J. PENDERGAST, S.J.