And she’s entertaining to boot. Enjoy!
“The doctrine of original sin is the only empirically verifiable doctrine of the Christian faith.” — Reinhold Niebuhr.
I had heard that it was Chesterton who said this. The point is well-taken, in either case.
I enjoyed the talk so much that I am not even going to mention that I don’t think it has anything at all to do with the idea of original sin. You did not mention that the speaker’s name is Bené Brown.
My favorite TED talk is On Being Wrong by Kathryn Shulz. Her book of the same title is brilliant and funny.
David, I’m glad you liked it. Have you read Alison’s The Joy of Being Wrong yet? The other place I’m getting my idea of original sin that meshes very well with this is Neil Ormerod’s brilliant chapter on Original Sin in his excellent Creation, Grace and Redemption. Of course, there’s always Ratzinger too.
Thanks for the recommend. I’ll try to make some time for it this evening.
Also, here’s how I summarized the connection I saw with Original Sin to a friend on Facebook:
“We have believed the lie of the serpent that being human is not actually “good” as God had declared, but is something weak and vulnerable and so we should aspire to being God, i.e. something that is invulnerable. But, in that aspiration, we bury, hide and subvert our vulnerability because we are ashamed of it, thereby damaging our prospects for healthy relationships which demand just that vulnerability which we have tried to ignore, cover up, deny.”
Of course, if I recall, you and I have very different ideas about what the Church teaches about Original Sin. Oddly it seems that both you and I find your version rather incredible, the difference being that I don’t think it’s what the Church actually believes. ;)
I was also struck my her mention of the phenomenon in question’s universality and couldn’t help but picture fig leaves when she talked about our denial.
I see the name Brené Brown (which I spelled wrong) superimposed on the video now. I don’t know whether I overlooked it or it just wasn’t there before!
I didn’t change anything. In fact, I suspect I would be incapable of such technical achievement!
Is the idea that her talk of vulnerability is like a notion of finitude that is like Original Sin?? Can finitude per se be a “sin”?
No. But refusing to accept one’s finitude is. Vulnerability is not the problem. Rejection/denial of vulnerability is.
On the other hand, it is important to note that original sin (at least as inherited) is not sin in the conventional sense of the term. The use of the term is clearly analogical. Ormerod points out that the guilt of original sin is guilt for something that you didn’t do, and notes that in this way it functions much like the guilt of an abused child. The guilt is all the stickier because, since you did nothing wrong, nothing you can do will make it right. In either case you believe a lie, specifically a false accusation. Ormerod points out that the Satan is the accuser and the liar, i.e., the false accuser.
You are a person of interest for the Holy Office with that definition of Original Sin.
Fray Diego Deza, O.P.
Sorry, which definition? What exactly have I said that is problematic? (And original for that matter? Maybe you mean Ormerod is of interest?) In any case, I doubt it.
Peter Paul Fuchs says: “You are a person of interest for the Holy Office . . . ”
As the author of at least two books, your response should be, “Yes! Yes, I am. The Holy Office is after me!” Then watch your books skyrocket into the Amazon top 100.
Well, as long as I get rehabilitated after the book sales. ;)
Both books have endorsements from bishops on the back cover, however, so it might be a hard sell.
I know, here I was trying to a be mensch to the guy, and he blew it. In addition, our Toronto theologian colleague here does not seem to think the the RC notion of Original Sin means (and always meant) culpability just like other sins. Someone needs to let the millions in Limbo know they were soooo misjudged by several Popes and Church Councils. Or has there, perchance, been an essential evolution in Catholic doctrine? heaven forbid….or as the Kathy Bates character in the movie Misery says: “Heavens to Betsy!”.
Well, there is no limbo, but in terms of purgatory, images of the courtroom/prison can certainly be supplemented by images of the hospital.
How can you contradict Mother Angelica who has affirmed the existence of limbo several times on her TV show, which opinion is tantamount to the Magestierium, don’tchaknow?
Where would Limbo the Lion be, without its existence?
You have contradicted my first grade teacher Sr. Ann — she of the ruler on the back of the hand!– as well. Will you Catholics get your faith copasetic?!
Peter, what are you talking about? The whole point of limbo was that it was/is DISTINGUISHED from the Hell of the Damned, as a place of perfect natural happiness, exactly because Original Sins is NOT Personal Sin. A lack of sanctifying grace may traditionally exclude one from the beatific vision, which no one deserves, but that is not the same as calling it “culpable” which would involve positive punishment.
As for “there is no limbo”…I’d be careful about saying that, brett. I’d think you’d be on safer ground if you said something along the lines of “Limbo is probably empty.” The Church has definitively taught that those who die in original sin only but not personal sin…are excluded from the supernatural reward of the beatific vision (but may have perfect natural happiness and know and love God in a natural manner.)
So the question, really, then becomes whether God, in fact. lets anyone die in original sin who is not a personal mortal sinner, or whether He justifies (by unrevealed extra-sacramental means, etc). The conclusion that the recent document on limbo reached was, basically, that we can hope but not presume.
So I’d be careful of saying “there is no limbo”…because if there isn’t, that DOES amount to a presumption of salvation for the innocent unbaptized, unless you’re saying that (if your hope for their salvation by unrevealed means is not true) you think they go to the Hell of the Damned! That may technically be a tolerable position, traditionally speaking, but I doubt it’s the one you want or intend to hold!
So I’d rather say, “I have good hope that no one goes to limbo, that practically it exists only as a theological foil for demonstrating the super-natural nature of heaven and the necessity and gratuity of grace as distinguished from natural happiness.” But I wouldn’t say “it doesn’t exist” simply. The question is more complicated than that.
I can live with, “it exists only as a theological foil.”
Okay. But even that statement I think needs to be qualified with an “I have good hope that…” rather than stating it an absolutely certain manner like that. The supernatural justification of the innocent unbaptized is a matter of hope, not presumption. We simply don’t KNOW.
Wrong-O, Mary-Lou! It was right next to hell, and “down there” not a lovely natural spot. You are trying to remake history, and art history. Christ DESCENDED into Limbo,down, down down! Poor innocent babies! What did they do to anybody?!
I hope this does not sound like I am blowing my own horn. This has been the essence of my work for 3 decades which is summed up as one’s sense of self and others developing from an interpersonal neurobiology being influenced through genetic predispositon and the quality of attachments throughout one’s life starting in the womb. As I have written here previously our western culture in particular suffers from what is known as the “basic fault” which is the instinctive response of isolation and anxiety when the developing child senses a lack of or a disconnection from a nurturing care-giver. This is the foundation for identity formation and all of the influences of primitive defense mechanisms coming into play so as to defend oneself from awareness of this basic brokenness and to defend others from seeing it within. Consequently, we relate to each other through false selves. This is where marriage or intimate relationships begins the process of revealing to self and the other the disconnected vulnerable self which is hidden under the belief of not being good enough and not loveable. These core aspects of self are thus stuck in an earlier time and have not matured to a point of being able to verbalize their suffering. This is where the passion of being human can be misdirected into other areas of reward which then influence us as adults to believe and to say this is who I am, a writer, a psychotherapist, a doctor, a politician, a street person, etc. each with an identity so fragile that is is passionately protected from any intrusion which might cause the delicate balance of “being” to erupt into a full-blown identity crisis. This identity crisis is clearly seen in the garden myth.
Dear Father Diego,
Please note this passage from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (para. 404):
“original sin is called ‘sin’ only in an analogical sense: its is sin ‘contracted’ and not ‘committed’ – a state and not an act.” (emphasis added)
I can scarcely believe that the Catechism used the exact adjective I used quite independently! I must have had good teachers somewhere. ;)
I must say that heaven’s beatitude is vastly more hot than I anticipated but at least we all have computers, and so I was able to find this clarification:
“The Error of Denying that Adam’s Sin Deprived His Posterity of Original Holiness and Justice
In this second paragraph, the Council of Trent declares:
” If anyone asserts that the transgression of Adam injured him alone and not his posterity,17 and that the holiness and justice which he received from God, which he lost, he lost for himself alone and not for us also; or that he, being defiled by the sin of disobedience, has transfused only death and the pains of the body into the whole human race, but not sin also, which is the death of the soul, let him be anathema, since he contradicts the Apostle who says: By one man sin entered into the world and by sin death; and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned.”
In this second paragraph, the Council is condemning the error of denying that Adam’s sin deprived his posterity of original holiness and justice. The Council here affirms three things: (1) Adam’s transgression did not only injure himself, but also his posterity, (2) Adam’s transgression lost not only for himself but also for us his posterity the original holiness and justice that he had been given by God, (3) Adam’s transgression transfused to us not only bodily pains and bodily death, but also transfused sin, which is the death of the soul, into the whole human race. Adam was supposed to be propagate sanctifying grace to his offspring. In this way, the sexual act would have been a means of grace for the child conceived. But, by his sin, Adam passed on to his offspring the privation of sanctifying grace and agape, and hence the privation of holiness, righteousness. And that is precisely what original sin is, the privation of original righteousness. That is what it means for the soul to be dead, not for it to lack natural life, but for it to lack divine life, i.e. sanctifying grace and agape.
In addition, because Adam lost the original righteous he had been given, he also lost the preternatural gifts (integrity of powers of the soul, infused knowledge, impassibility, and immortality) he had enjoyed, and therefore he passed on concupiscence, ignorance, suffering, and death to his offspring. Those who claim that grace is only needed for forgiveness of sin, falsely conclude from the fact that the infant has committed no actual sin (!!!!!!) [.]
ps. As you can see from the truly great portrait done of me by Zurbaran (which is a highlight of any trip to Pasadena at the Norton Simon) I was a very cheery sort in the pursuit of doctrinal purity.
Well, I certainly don’t deny that we need grace to get out of our mess. And that we’re all implicated. Forget the infant, I think the fetus is implicated and needs grace. I’m not sure what you see me as denying.
Your response already shows the work of Grace. As we used to say at the mother house in Salamanca, every fetus is as guilty as the worst heretic, whose life must be assured that they can undergo conversion.
Dear Fray Diego,
It’s is not clear to me that we understand the terms “guilt” or “conversion” to mean remotely the same thing, but I can nevertheless affirm the formal content of your claims. Surely that shall preserve me from the inquisition?
Peter is just being difficulty, and I think you know that. He seems to see a new emphasis or phrasing in one area as denying the other aspects, which you clearly aren’t doing.
“Guilt” is indeed occasionally applied to Original Sin in the traditional sources (less so today because of the evolution of distinctions in language), even an insistence on it being “voluntary”…but this is also only BY ANALOGY, by consideration of the character of original sin as a personal sin of our first parents, indeed a free act, but a free act that we participate in not strictly personally, but communally or socially, as part of the community/nature founded by our first parents.
This is discussed under the “How Voluntary?” part of the Catholic Encyclopedia article on the question:
“Peter … seems to see a new emphasis or phrasing in one area as denying the other aspects, which you clearly aren’t doing”
Thanks for that.
In Augustine’s formulation, at least in the context of the predestinarian controversy, original guilt is deeply tied up with his almost-but-not-quite-but-I-really-want-to affirmation of spiritual traducianism. The guilt aspect is quite real for him, because the souls of the whole human race were in Adam: “Because through free choice Adam abandoned God, he was tested by the just judgement of God, in order that he might be damned together with all his progeny, which sinned with him while it was still wholly located in him.” de correp et grat 10.28
To suggest that the notion of guilt is only analogical in “traditional sources” is to forget how central Augustine was in formulating the teaching of original sin.
What if Augustine is wrong?
I’m not sure I’d say the notion of guilt is only analogical. I think I’d say it’s analogical if considered with respect to strictly personal guilt (which seems to be the meaning of guilt used nowadays). It is not analogical in itself; just like “social sin” is not analogically sin in itself. Social sin really is sin. It is only analogical relative to strictly personal sin. And yet, the individual is a part of social sin. The Catholic Encyclopedia article covers the notion of all humanity being “in Adam” as the Head of the race. Inasmuch as the human race is a “corporate person”…we are all guilty by the sin of our Head, just like inasmuch as the Church is a corporate person, we are justified by the holiness of our Head.
Ronald: I am generally an Augustinian, but here, my position would be that he is.
Thank you for clarifying both that there were historic differences in terms of notions of “guilt” associated with Original Sin; but also that, in your view, they can just be smoothed-out, “because of the evolution of distinctions in language.” Language is indeed always a convenient Deus ex Machina! Centuries of people wracked with deadening guilt might be hard to explain by “distinctions in language.” And certainly the many paintings of the torment of the damned and little damned infants might seem to argue for a more visceral and less language based difference. A tad difficult for modern sensibilities, which still cling to the “unchangeablitly” of RC doctrine. But semanitcs is the first daughter of the Church it seems nowadays.
Dare I ask for an example of a painting of “little damned infants”?
We have taken several art trips to Italy, and we went all around small hill towns and cities, going into every little church we could find. I can tell you we saw a number of depictions of damned infants. And I remember specifically because I had to explain it to my Bar Mitzvahed husband who could not comprehend why infants were in the netherworld. So there are quite a few, but in random spots.
A quick Google search turns up this, just for indication of the seriousness of the contention. If you want more as a proof, I will peruse some more, as this is the sort of thing that interests me.:
“hrist’s descent into Limbo, 14th century
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Caption: Christ’s descent into Limbo. Jesus Christ (left) bearing a flag and walking over a fallen door and a devil holding a key to bring salvation to those in Limbo. The Roman Catholic Church defined Limbo as being on the edge of Hell, indicated by the adjacent devils. In this region of the afterlife were unbaptised infants and those who lived virtuously before the birth of Christ. Unlike those in hell they suffered no pain. The medieval meaning of ‘limbo’ is from the Latin ‘limbus’ (edge). The modern meaning of ‘limbo’ is a state of oblivion, confinement or transition. This artwork is part of a 14th century fresco by Andrea di Bonaiuto in the Spanish Chapel of the Santa Maria Novella church, Florence, Italy.
I, on the other hand, am rather put off by this “guilty fetus” language. Doesn’t Catholic tradition tend to distinguish between original sin (a universal condition) and personal sin (for which we are personally responsible)? The weakness and brokenness of the human condition is one thing (which ensures that we do all need to undergo conversion in any case), but one of my major beefs with Augustine is that he burdened the western tradition with an extremely frowny anthropology of hereditary guilt. And I am ironically grateful to Luther and Calvin for taking his frowny anthropology to its furthest extreme and giving the Church something to react against the other way. I’m not being Pelagian on this, only Irenaean.
Well, “guilty” can mean a couple things. The guilt of original sin isn’t like the guilt of the perpetrator, but like the guilt of the victim. Both are destructive and need to be healed, but they are different in very important ways.
Unfortunately, to “affirm the formal content” of the faith’s claims was not good enough to save Meister Eckhart, from condemnation and thus In Agro Dominico was necessary. Consider expressing your exploratory instincts in a little more wayward personal activity, as many a wayward cleric has received no condemnation and Meister Eckhart, known to be quite blameless personally, got one of the most severe. There is a teaching moment that fact, faithful son of the Church.
I’m off to interview some mariner named Colon or something who wants to take three boats to India. I am in favor of it for many conversions will surely be had there, and the Holy Office will expand its horizons.
“[O]ne of my major beefs with Augustine is that he burdened the western tradition with an extremely frowny anthropology of hereditary guilt.”
Julia are you frowny or weeping, over goldengroves unleaving, or over the fact that all of Western Christianity is a series of footnotes to Augustine, and he is one one of the footnotes to Plato. Jesus fits in the cracks somewhere or other. there’s the rub.
God, I hate when I do not have the theological knowledge of your discussion it looks like a lot of fun. I can only attempt to coherently convey what I know about knowledge gained in the understanding of human development as it relates to interpersonal neurobiology, attachment and identity formation and the existential crises of death, freedom, isolation and lack of meaning. It is from this perspective which I interpret the Garden Myth.
“Because through free choice Adam abandoned God, he was tested by the just judgement of God, in order that he might be damned together with all his progeny, which sinned with him while it was still wholly located in him.” de correp et grat 10.28″
This is where I see a huge mistake of interpretation being made. Augustine in my opinion continued to suffer from the influence of The Basic Fault even after his conversion and projected this into his theology and philosophy. The Original Sin and The Basic Fault can be seen as the same thing in the sense that the origins begin with a separation from the source of nurturing and love due to some sort of distress between the giver and receiver. The child does not know how to verbalize this internal distress and thus it becomes a permanent fixture in the foundation of identity development which has the attributes of emptiness, fear, isolation and shame which influences one to hide and to protect one from being vulnerable. This is self-protection is identified in the Brene Brown clip. So, back to the Garden you have two people with shame and fear as a couple of ingredients for the foundation for their identities. This will inhibit their vulnerability and the development of their love for one another and it will negatively impact their ability to express their love for their children which will then influence their children to suffer a loss of love which they were hardwired to receive. This loss of innocence and attachment is experienced as violence within the developing brain and it will influence different genes to express the chemistry and behavior diferrent from what may be expressed under the influence of comfort and security. Over time these gene expressions will become gene mutations due to the continuing influence of the same environment which initially caused their change in expression.
In my opinion, the continued use of the paradigm of original sin is harmful to the understanding of human development and is the source of much individual and interpersonal suffering which extends to conflicts between social systems, cultures and countries.
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