Friday, October 28, 2011

Assisi III: Desolating Sacrilege

I am mad. More than mad, fuming. So, we were supposed to not get upset about Assisi III? We were supposed to trust that the indiscretions of Assisi I and Assisi II under John Paul "the Great" would not be repeated at Assisi III because Pope Benedict was more circumspect and would not go in for anything questionable? Well, we went ahead cautiously and extended Benedict the benefit of the doubt...and......then.......we get this ABOMINATION: prayer to the pagan deity Olokun inside the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi!

 
This is WRONG. I shouldn't even have to explain why this is wrong. But sadly, some pop apologists will probably come trotting out explaining why this "really isn't problematic" if you just "understand" it the right way. I don't know what's more sad - the pagan worship, or some Catholics defense of it. This is just wrong, and if you can't see why this is wrong, then I don't know what to say to you. It makes me sick to even think of arguing about this. It is just plain wrong.

I just this week got done with a long study of the Old Testament prophets (just today I was going through Hosea and Joel); I've said this before and I'll say it a million times - nobody who has really read and dug into the Old Testament should in anyway be in the dark about how God feels about pagan worship - especially in His consecrated temples! Jerusalem was destroyed for this sort of thing. That's what the whole Book of Ezekiel is about, for crying out loud! It's just as I finished weeks of reading passages about how pagan worship is corruptive, how hateful it is to God, how when His people flirt around with other religions it is tantamount to spiritual adultery - how whole kingdoms and populations were striken by God and carried off into captivity in punishment for these sorts of sins. And then I come online and see THIS DESOLATING SACRILEGE!

It reminds me of this passage from Hosea:

"With you is my contention, O priest. You shall stumble by day, the prophet also shall stumble with you by night; and I will destroy your mother. My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children...I will change their glory into shame...And it shall be like people, like priest; I will punish them for their ways, and requite them for their deeds. They shall eat, but not be satisfied; they shall play the harlot, but not multiply; because they have forsaken the LORD to cherish harlotry....My people inquire of a thing of wood, and their staff gives them oracles. For a spirit of harlotry has led them astray, and they have left their God to play the harlot. They sacrifice on the tops of the mountains, and make offerings upon the hills, under oak, poplar, and terebinth, because their shade is good" (Hos. 4:4-13).

How hateful is it to God when His priests lead people astray by providing for such scandalous behavior, such abomination as pagan worship in a Christian Church that is canonically for the celebration of the Mass! How hateful it is to God when our pastors lead us into a spirit of idolatry. It is certain that, if we forget the law of God, He will enter into judgment with us, and especially with His priests. I accuse no pastor or priest specifically; I don't know what Benedict knew or didn't, but somebody set this up, and whoever did should be canned permanently.

But here is what I really want to know: You Catholics who apologize for and defend the pope no matter what he does, who make excuse after excuse for these Vatican gaffes, will you make apology for this? Will you step forward and defend this abomination? What excuse will you offer? What twisted conciliar document or statement of Aquinas taken out of context will you bring forward in a feeble attempt to make pagan worship in a Christian Church look acceptable? What say you? Will anyone dare to defend this? Any Catholic who defends this has, in my opinion, simply lost touch with who God is, what God demands of us, and how offensive pagan worship truly is to Him, especially when it is done in His sacred precincts, defiling our altars and insulting the memory of St. Francis who was willing to undergo a trial by fire in order to prove the TRUTH of our religion and the FALSITY of others.

Pray. Do penance. Preach the truth. This nonsense has to stop. Every time I think I can reconcile myself with the post-conciliar state of the Church - every time I think "You know, I don't have to be a Traditionalist Catholic; just plain Catholic is good enough for me!" - every time I think that, something like this goes and happens and reminds me why I consider myself a Traditionalist.

This is not the Faith of our Fathers. I didn't go through a life of agnosticism and make the burdensome detour into and out of Pentecostal Protestantism and into the Catholic Church to be greeted with THIS. St. Francis, pray for us!

And Elijah said to them: "Take the prophets of Baal, and let not one of them escape." And when they had taken them, Elijah brought them down to the Brook Kidron and killed them there (1 Kings 18:40).

But wait, Elijah - they were sincere!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Jimmy Fallon Prefers Traditional Catholicism

Did anybody happen to catch the NPR interview with Jimmy Fallon on "Fresh Air" the other day? It was quite interesting. After a lot of banter about his television program and Saturday Night Live, he talked about his upbringing as a Catholic in the 1980s. Unlike a lot of popular comedians who were raised Catholic, Fallon had nothing negative to say about Catholicism whatsoever. He said that he was very grateful for his Catholic upbringing and loved everything about the Church - he loved Catholic school (St. Mary of the Snow in Saugerties, NY), loved the nuns, loved going to Mass, loved receiving at the rail, and loved the way attending Mass made him feel. He even shared that he had been an altar server, revered and looked up to his parish priest and had once believed he had a vocation to the priesthood. This sort of warm praise of Catholicism was a very welcome thing to hear from a pop comedian.

But even more interesting was when the host, Terry Gross, asked him if he was still a practicing Catholic. Fallon explained that, as often happens, the practice of his faith waned during his teen years. He ended up getting into show business and moved out to Los Angeles. There, around the mid-ninties, he tried to attend Mass again but complained that the Mass had "changed" from the Irish-Catholic Masses he knew as a boy in Saugerties. Among his complaints: the atmosphere was way too casual, there was a rock band playing, people were holding hands constantly, and (tongue in cheek of course, or hopefully) he complained about frisbees being thrown around. This, he said, was not Mass. He went on to say how he cherished the old Mass - the bells, the incense, the kneelers and the aesthetic it all created. Then, in the one quote I can recall with certainty from the interview, he said that he totally disapproved of Mass with all the "bells and whistles," following that up by saying, "Just give me the Mass."

It was inspiring, but also sad, because this experience of an apparently ultra-banal Novus Ordo in the L.A. diocese turned him away from the practice of his faith and, though he still considers himself Catholic, he no longer attends Mass at all. Sure, Fallon is ultimately responsible for whether or not he fulfills his Sunday obligation, but I'd have to think, when stuff like this happens, the persons responsible for these abominable liturgies also share the blame.

Also interesting is what more "traditional" Mass it is that Fallon is remembering so fondly. As someone born in 1974, he never knew the pre-1969 liturgy. It sounds like what he experienced as a boy was simply the Novus Ordo done more or less according to the rubrics in one of New York's more historic churches. He recalls nuns, communion rails, and incense, and this all in the late eighties!

I just found this whole exchange very interesting - usually when we hear a celebrity talking about their faith life, it is a bunch of nonsense about Kabbalah or Scientology; if their background is Catholic, usually they just rip on the Church. Fallon's love for the more traditional elements of Catholicism, and his distaste for the modern expressions of the liturgy, is something neat to hear. Let's all say a prayer for him today that he will rediscover his beloved faith and find the right parish to worship in.

If you want to hear the interview, you can listen to it here. He doesn't start talking about Catholicism until the end.

By the way, if you are wondering why I was listening to NPR, it is because it is the only radio station that I can get in my car ever since I accidentally knocked my antenna off with a snow shovel two years ago. I felt I had to defend myself there.

Other articles on celebrities and Catholicism:

Peter Steele 1962-2010
Joy Behar: Saints are "mentally ill"

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Sacral Kingship: The Ottonians (Part 8)

It's been awhile since I posted on this series, so now is about as good a time as any to do some catch-up! This week we will look at how the institution of Christian monarchy was changed by the German Ottonian dynasty. To read the previous post in this series, click here.

The Ottonians

By the late 9th century, the Carolingian Empire that Charlemagne had forged was in desperate straits. Despite the suicidal implications for his empire, his successors followed the old Frankish custom of dividing their lands up among their heirs; the Treaty of Verdun in 843 delineated what realms would be ruled by whom. The so-called “Middle Kingdom” of Lothair was picked apart by its larger rivals to the east and west, and soon there appeared an “East Frankish” and a “West Frankish” ruler. The last Carolingians to hold these offices died in 987 and 911, respectively.
        
In the east Frankish holdings of Saxony and the German dukedoms, authority fell to the local dukes. After much civil discord, Otto I of Saxony was crowned king in 936 and Holy Roman Emperor by the Pope John XII in 962 [26]. The major problem facing him at the time was that the prevailing understanding of the political role of the office of the king was that he was only the highest lord in a series of lords and vassals. Beyond that, he held little power that was not honorary or ceremonial. Real power was vested in the body of dukes who had exercised authority ever since the late Roman times. The ducal office was hereditary, and thus ensured that any king would always have powerful opponents who presented a check to his power.
        
Otto, however, was not content with a merely honorary kingship. He took Charlemagne as his model and exploited to the fullest the prevailing attitudes towards sacral kingship in order to strengthen his position, the first of which was being crowned king at Aachen instead of his native Saxony, thus evoking all the connections with Charlemagne [27]. The major act he took against the power of the dukes, and the one for which he is most remembered, is his use of ecclesiastical persons to fill vacant secular positions.
        
This had three advantages: first, since the clergy was celibate, they had no offspring that they could pass on their titles to, and thus the offices could not take on a hereditary nature. Second, because they were put there by appointment and not birth, they owed their position to Otto personally and thus were usually very loyal. Third, because they were high level churchmen they were generally very well educated, or at least literate, which is more than can be said of most of the German dukes of the tenth century. This ensured a faithful, educated administration that could be switched around or altered if the king so chose and provided him with a bulwark against the recalcitrant dukes.
        
Otto did not “appoint” bishops in the direct sense, but manipulated their elections by requiring his assent to their appointment. He was doing nothing novel by this; as we have seen, kings going back to late Roman times were viewed as having some sort of authority over the Church. An extant letter of St. Ambrose of Milan complains bitterly to Theodosius about interference of the latter in Church affairs, saying that “bishops usually judge Christian emperors; not emperors, bishops.” [28] Nevertheless, Christian rulers continued their involvement in Church matters; the Patriarch of Constantinople, for example, was always an appointee of the Byzantine emperor. The 5th Council of Orleans in 549 in the west stipulated that bishops were to be appointed cum voluntate regis, that is, “with the will of the king" [29]. This led to immediate abuse by the Merovingians, and the 3rd Council of Paris in 557 tried to crush the abuse, but the practice of royal approval went on unopposed. As mentioned above, Charles Martel was one of the worst abusers of the privilege, and Charlemagne continued it, albeit in a manner more acceptable to the Church. Therefore, by the period of Otto, royal intervention in episcopal elections was a well established royal prerogative grounded in the king’s role as guardian of the Church in his realm. “For 200 years, then, there had never been a time when the western kings and emperors did not, more or less, exercise an arbitrary control over the candidates for the episcopal dignity." [30]
        
Though the early Church, and men like St. Ambrose, rejected this lay interference in their affairs, the clergy of Carolingian and Ottonian times were quite content with it. After all, it provided an excellent opportunity for the exercise of ecclesiastical influence at court. A bishop who received an appointment from Otto could wield a considerable amount of clout with the king on behalf of his diocese. As long as able and faithful bishops were appointed (and under Charlemagne and Otto, most appointments were wise ones), there was little cause for complaint [31]. Under Otto, the Church felt itself to be regaining its dignity and authority
        
Otto’s innovation was not in that he meddled in episcopal appointments, which as has been demonstrated, was nothing new. Rather, it was in his application of the method that was new. Never before had so extensive a program of episcopal election been undertaken, and never so methodically. But Otto had in mind the complete subordination of the German princes to himself, and the widespread use of the royal prerogative in episcopal elections was the surest way to accomplish this.

Once Otto was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 962, he further extended his power by claiming, on his authority as emperor and temporal lord of the Christian realm, the right to approve papal elections as well. The papacy was understandably unhappy with this situation, but it had little choice. Otto had come into Italy at the behest of Pope John XII with the purpose of freeing Rome from the military control of the usurper Berengarius. Before Otto agreed to this, however, he extracted the “Ottonian privilege” from the papacy, which was essentially an oath stating that a new pope could never be elected without he or his son’s permission [32]. This was a natural consequence of Otto’s interference in German episcopal elections. If the Church was to serve the crown, which was what Otto desired, then the Church must be under royal authority, which meant that the papacy had to be bent to serve the will of the Holy Roman Emperor. Had not the prevailing ideology since the Carolingian times been that the emperor was the earthly parallel to God, the “Emperor” of heaven? 

Essentially, the original plan of the papacy was backfiring. Pope Leo III had certainly crowned Charlemagne with the understanding that the imperial dignity of the Carolingians came not from themselves but from the papacy, who had the authority to “translate” it from the Greeks to them. However, Otto used this same authority to claim that the Holy Roman Emperor, by his divine appointment, had a special and authoritative role over the Church that no other prince did, by virtue of the very same privilege that Leo III had thought would keep the emperors beholden to will of the papacy. Otto had turned the tables on the papacy, and the Roman pontiffs were getting a dose of what the Patriarchs of Constantinople had been enduring for six hundred years under their meddlesome emperors.

What is the influence of Otto I on the understanding of temporal authority in the Middle Ages? His greatest contribution is in his understanding that the office of Holy Roman Emperor gave him a kind of lordship over the Church of Rome. Previous kings had applied this ideology to their own local churches and diocese, but Otto was the first to apply it to the Church of Rome itself, at least explicitly. Though Otto was solicitous to choose capable bishops to fill vacancies, the attention a bishop had to pay to temporal matters necessarily detracted from the time he could spend attending to spiritual ones. This had in it the seeds of abuse. Otto enmeshed temporal and spiritual lordship so tightly that it would take another three hundred years of vigorous debate to figure out where the boundaries of each lay. The Investiture Controversy was largely an attempt to undo Otto’s creation. It could be said that the Protestant Revolt was another.

Next time we'll look at the English house of Wessex, particularly the person of Alfred the Great.

Footnotes

26] Both his coronation as king and emperor were in imitation of Charlemagne; he was crowned king at Aachen, where Charlemagne had his court and, like Charlemagne, came to Italy at the behest of the pope, where he was crowned emperor on Feb. 2, 962.

27] John J.Gallagher, Church and State in Germany Under Otto the Great (University Press: Brookland, D.C., 1938), 22

28] Ambrose, Letter 21

29] Fichtenau, 56

30] Ibid., 58

31] “They [the clergy] never contested this infringement upon their canonical rights, for it was most desirable that their bishop have influence at court.” Ibid., 59

32] Ibid., 87

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Speeding Up to Slow Down

Something interesting is going on in my diocese in preparation for the implementation of the new translation of the Roman Missal this Advent. In an attempt to make the Mass more standard from parish to parish, and in order to bring things more into conformity with the original Latin prayers, our Bishop desires that all new musical settings for the Gloria be faithful to the new English translation. To ensure this, he has, as of last week, mandated that every parish use a specific arrangement for the Gloria in English, the "Mass for a Servant Church" by Michael Guimont. You can listen to this Gloria here.

On the one hand, it is admirable that our bishop wants to promote a liturgical standard in the Diocese of Lansing, and even more so that he desires this standard to be based on texts that are completely faithful to the original Latin. I applaud these directives.

On the other hand, this mandate introduces several problems. First, what of parishes, like my own, that have already been accustomed to singing the Latin Gloria at our Ordinary Form Masses? As the directive stands (at least as it was explained to me), even parishes already using a Latin Gloria now have to use this English Gloria. This does not make sense. The goal of the directive is to ensure greater fidelity to the original Latin - you can't get much more faithful to the original Latin than actually using the original Latin.

Secondarily, we have the problem that this music is a bit awkward. One of the reasons for the dissimilarity between the Latin and the older English Gloria settings was the desire to make the Gloria more rhythmic and singable for an English audience. The new Gloria, literally translated from the Latin, does not fit well in an English musical setting. For example, take the old Gloria:

Glory to God in the highest
And peace to His people on earth


Each phrase has 8 syllables, making is easy to fit into the kind of structured, "hymnal" setting that most English speaking congregations are used to. But, if we are taking a translation directly from the Latin (which is meant to be chanted), we get something different:

Glory to God in the highest
And on earth peace to people of good will

Here the first phrase has 8 syllables, but the second has 10, meaning that it is more difficult to fit it together in a hymnal arrangement. To be sure it can be done, as Michael Guimont's arrangement demonstrates, but the manner in which the new phrases are shoved together makes it that much more difficult for the average parishioner to sing this piece. In my parish we are having difficulty with it, not just because it is new, but because in some places the only way it can get all the text into a measure is by moving extremely fast. Some parts move slowly, some quickly and the timing almost changes in every "verse" (the Gloria is not supposed to be set up in a verse/refrain structure, but I digress), making it extremely difficult to follow along with.

My point is that the new English translation of the Gloria does not lend itself as easily to a hymnal musical structure; nor should it. It is a literal translation of a prayer that is supposed to be chanted. If we want to promote fidelity to the original Latin, how about we encourage parishes to use the original Latin?  Duh.

Our parish is already ahead of most parishes in this country in that we were using all of the fixed Mass parts in Latin well before the new translation. We were where the pope wants the Church to be going; and now, in an effort to more fully implement the pope's thinking, the bishop is actually slowing our parish down. It's like we did all the speeding up just to be slowed down - in the name of speeding up!

I personally think this directive may in fact be uncanonical, though I am not sure, as a bishop's authority over the liturgy is complex. I do know that a bishop's discretion is only applicable in areas not regulated by the Holy See. How it applies to areas where there are not clear regulations but preferences, I'm not at all certain. Liturgically, Gregorian chant in Latin remains the number one preference of the Church and has pride of place, as Sacrosanctum Concilium states. If a parish is using the Church's traditional, preferred option, in keeping with the documents of Vatican II, does a bishop have the authority to mandate an equally valid but lesser liturgical option? Could he, say, mandate that every priest use Eucharistic Prayer 2 or a certain option for the Penitential Rite? I personally don't think so; I can see an argument for mandating the norms, but I don't see how he can mandate one of the lesser options when the Church asks for the norm; how can one mandate an exception and exclude the rule?

Here is how this problem could be solved: rework the directive so that it says all parishes must use the Guimont version of the English Gloria, unless they are already using the Latin. After all, the Latin is the measure by which we are judging the English. All problems relating to fidelity to the original prayers become moot if we just use the original prayers.

It seems tragic to compel a parish that has already made tremendous strides in introducing Latin to go back to vernacular, especially in the name of returning standardization to the liturgy.

Therefore, I earnestly petition and pray that our good bishop, who has done so much for tradition in our diocese, will relent in this matter and grant an exception allowing for the use of the Gloria in Latin. Or, if I am misunderstanding this directive and arguing against a straw-man, may somebody show me the truth and correct me.

Other posts on liturgical music:

"Our of the Mouths of Babes": A group of elementary school students learns the Our Father in Latin in three days, disproving forever the argument that the Latin prayers are "too hard" for the laity to learn.

"Singing Satan's Parts": Many object to singing God's words in liturgical music; what about when we sing Satan's parts?

"More Rock Music at Mass": When I take my kids to another parish where they play rock music, my kids start dancing in the pews.

"Contemporary Music Isolates the Elderly": The elderly suffer most from bizarre liturgical music.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Pride and Protestantism

Catholics and Protestants come at the truth through two different avenues. In the Catholic theology, we look at the content of Divine Revelation and interpret it through the lens of our own tradition, which we hold to be authoritative. Thus, while certain questions are open for discussion and will always be so, there are many others which we hold as "settled." For these settled issues, such as Christ's real presence in the Eucharist, the Trinity, etc., the task of the theologian is not so much to prove them or argue for them as it is to explain and expand upon them, making these truths more accessible and penetrating to the average Catholic. We receive something that was given to us, accept it with docility and humility, and then attempt to pass it on to others in the best way we know how.

Thus, in Catholicism, truth is something that is given. It is a gift. In the first place, a gift from God, who gives us revelation gratuitously for the sake of our salvation, but secondly, a gift from the Church itself. Nobody learns the faith on their own; it is handed on from generation to generation, and the essence of what it means to be Catholic is to receive this truth humbly and with docility. Thus, the Catholic concept of Divine Revelation as being handed on and protected by the Church promotes an attitude of doctrinal humility even while allowing us to repose in the certainty of the content of those doctrines. Doctrine is primarily something that is received.

This is an interesting contrast to Protestantism. In Protestantism, there is no idea of an absolutely authoritative tradition. Some Protestant groups value tradition more than others, but no Protestant sect teaches that any tradition can have divine authority behind it, as we do. Thus, all authority, ultimately, must rest with the individual, who decides for himself what is truth and what is error. He may consult tradition, or the teachings of others wiser and older than himself, but ultimately it is the believer and the believer alone who decides how much influence he will allow these teachings to have. Doctrine is not something that is given and received in humility, but something that each person must painstakingly sort out for themselves.

If doctrine is not something that is given, then it is not something that is received. It is something the believer kind of cobbles together, based on whatever criteria he wants to include or not include. In Protestantism, all doctrine is ultimately the creation of the believer. As such, the believer always has what we could call a "vested interest" in defending his doctrines because they are really his in a way that doesn't apply to the Catholic, whose teaching is handed on and received.

This means that, for a Protestant, defending his doctrine means defending his own privately formed opinions. They might be opinions shared by a great many other Protestants, but they are still opinions, because there is no final arbitrating authority in Protestantism other than a fuzzy consensus. Note the difference between Catholicism and Protestantism here - in the one case, believers are empowered to adhere to certain, infallible truth but in a spirit of humility, which is possible because the doctrine of the Catholic is now his own. On the other hand, the Protestant, who has no infallible authority beyond himself, is forced to make a "personal investment" in his own doctrine. His own doctrine represents his common sense, spirituality and personal judgment all wrapped up into one. Thus, for a Protestant, it would seem that it is much more difficult to have that sense of humility and awe before the truth that is so necessary for spiritual growth.

How can one be humble and docile before a truth that one ultimately does not receive but creates? I am not accusing all Protestants of being prideful, but it seems that the manner in which Protestantism teaches that doctrine should be appropriated leads rather to pride in one's own judgment and opinions than to humility. Is dogma a gift handed on or is it our own fabrication? If it is a gift, we can repose in wonder and humility before it; if it is a creation (which it ultimately must be if we reject authoritative tradition), then it comes with all of the arrogance and close-mindedness that all men display when defending their own personal opinions.

Interesting how we could apply this principle to liturgy, too (liturgy that is handed on versus fabricated and which promotes a greater sense of humility - are we the humble recipient or the grand master?). An authoritative Tradition makes it possible to receive the truth with docility; sola scriptura leads us to invest our own opinions with divine authority, leading to pride.

John 7:16~ "Jesus answered them, and said: My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me."

Saturday, October 01, 2011

St. Augustine did not "invent" Original Sin

I am amazed how historians who seem to have an otherwise good grip on history will, when it comes to the Church or sacred history, make grossly erroneous statements that reveal how ignorant they are on the subject matter. I was recently reading a best-selling economic history book by a Harvard professor that had some statement in there about Solomon asking the Lord to stop the sun; this episode happened not to Solomon, but to Joshua, of course, who lived several centuries before Solomon. Almost everybody, even people not knowledgeable in the Old Testament, have at least heard of how Joshua commanded the sun to stop at the Valley of Aijalon. For a Harvard historian to get the wrong person by two centuries is pretty bad, especially when the data is right in front of your eyes and you just have to do the research. But who cares; it's only the Bible, right?

I have encountered a similar but more widespread problem when it comes to the doctrine of original sin and its alleged "invention" by St. Augustine of Hippo. I have seen this in textbooks, history books, historical programming, even materials put together by Catholic organizations - all asserting, almost as if it is without contest, the "fact" that the Church's teaching on original sin was an invention of St. Augustine of Hippo and is not found in either the Scriptures or the Fathers.

This baffles me, as it seems that just a cursory reading of Scripture and the Fathers, with a bit of understanding of the historical context of Augustine's teaching on original sin, is enough to disprove this oft repeated error of fact. St. Augustine was certainly integral to the development of the doctrine of original sin, even as St. Thomas was integral to the development of the doctrine of the Real Presence or St.Cyprian was integral in the development of ecclesiology. Nevertheless, just as it is wrong to say St. Thomas invented the Real Presence or St. Cyprian invented the concept of episcopal unity, so it is equally wrong to state that St. Augustine invented the doctrine of original sin. This error becomes culpable when done in textbooks and other contexts that are supposed to be shedding light on history but actually just obscure the facts.

First, let us define Original Sin. Original sin, in the context I am using it, refers to the teaching that death comes to man through the sin of our first parents, and that the grace of God is necessary to overcome this sin and perform any salutary works. The traditional teaching on original sin is summarized in the canons of the Council of Carthage against Pelagianism (418):
  1. Death did not come to Adam from a physical necessity, but through sin.
  2. New-born children must be baptized on account of original sin.
  3. Justifying grace not only avails for the forgiveness of past sins, but also gives assistance for the avoidance of future sins.
  4. The grace of Christ not only discloses the knowledge of God's commandments, but also imparts strength to will and execute them.
  5. Without God's grace it is not merely more difficult, but absolutely impossible to perform good works.
For many, this Council represents the "invention" of a novel doctrine. But this assertion reveals, I think, an ignorance of the words of Scripture and the teaching of the Fathers.

Let us first turn to what I believe in the classic proof-text for original sin in the Scriptures, the words of St. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans, chapter 5:


"Wherefore as by one man sin entered into this world and by sin death [contra the Pelagians who taught that death was natural and not the result of sin]: and so death passed upon all men [death is what was passed, not simply a bad example], in whom all have sinned. For until the law sin was in the world: but sin was not imputed, when the law was not. But death reigned from Adam unto Moses, even over them also who have not sinned, after the similitude of the transgression of Adam, who is a figure of him who was to come. But not as the offense, so also the gift. For if by the offense of one, many died: much more the grace of God and the gift, by the grace of one man, Jesus Christ, has abounded unto many. And not as it was by one sin, so also is the gift. For judgment indeed was by one unto condemnation: but grace is of many offenses unto justification. For if by one man's offense death reigned through one; much more they who receive abundance of grace and of the gift and of justice shall reign in life through one, Jesus Christ. Therefore, as by the offense of one, unto all men to condemnation: so also by the justice of one, unto all men to justification of life. For as by the disobedience of one man, many were made sinners: so also by the obedience of one, many shall be made just" (Rom. 5:12-19).

St. Paul here clearly states that death came into the world through the offense of one man, and that through this offense, "many were made sinners" and "many died." This is precisely what is taught by the Council of Carthage, and it is here found in the Scriptures. Also relevant are Wisdom 2:24 (""But by the envy of the devil death came into the world") and 1 Cor. 15:21: "For by a man came death and by a man the resurrection of the dead." The Catholic Encyclopedia points out that this can only refer to physical death, since it is using the physical Resurrection from the dead as a contrast.

If the Scriptures clearly testify that the concept of original sin is biblical, evidence from the pre-Nicene Fathers confirms it. Though we could find several examples, those offered by St. Cyprian is especially notable because he illustrates the Catholic understanding of original sin explicitly in his Letter 58, which deals with infant baptism (a teaching repudiated by the Pelagians). In these readings, notice the assumptions Cyprian makes about infant baptism: that is communicates grace and saves souls; i.e., that it remits sin. Cyprian says:
"But in respect of the case of the infants, which you say ought not to be baptized within the second or third day after their birth, and that the law of ancient circumcision should be regarded, so that you think that one who is just born should not be baptized and sanctified within the eighth day, we all thought very differently in our council. For in this course which you thought was to be taken, no one agreed; but we all rather judge that the mercy and grace of God is not to be refused to any one born of man. For as the Lord says in His Gospel, "The Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them." As far as we can we must strive that, if possible, no soul be lost. For what is wanting to him who has once been formed in the womb by the hand of God? To us, indeed, and to our eyes, according to the worldly course of days, they who are born appear to receive an increase. But whatever things are made by God, are completed by the majesty and work of God their Maker. Moreover, belief in divine Scripture declares to us, that among all, whether infants or those who are older, there is the same equality of the divine gift" (Letter 58:2-3).
But if that doesn't convince you, here is a more explicit example in which original sin is very plainly taught:
"If anything could hinder men from obtaining grace, their more heinous sins might rather hinder those who are mature and grown up and older. But again, if even to the greatest sinners, and to those who had sinned much against God, when they subsequently believed, remission of sins is granted— and nobody is hindered from baptism and from grace— how much rather ought we to shrink from hindering an infant, who, being lately born, has not sinned, except in that, being born after the flesh according to Adam, he has contracted the contagion of the ancient death at its earliest birth, who approaches the more easily on this very account to the reception of the forgiveness of sins— that to him are remitted, not his own sins, but the sins of another?" (Letter 58:5)
This letter was written around 253, so clearly this is way before Augustine and Pelagius. Yet here we have all the tenets of the doctrine of original sin - catching the "contagion" of Adam just by virtue of birth, the effect of this contagion being death, and this understood as a "sin" that comes to all who are "born of the flesh." St. Augustine himself, in refuting the Pelagians, mentions thirteen other Fathers, both Greek and Latin, who before his own time had clearly taught the doctrine of original sin, in his Contra Julianum, Book II.

Looking at the manner in which the Pelagian controversy itself played out gives further evidence that original sin was indeed taught prior to Augustine. In 411, before Augustine had even gotten involved in the Pelagian controversy (for he was still putting down the Donatist heresy), the Bishop Aurelius of Milan condemned the six main tenets of Pelagianism as heretical. The condemned propositions were:

1. Even if Adam had not sinned, he would have died.
2. Adam's sin harmed only himself, not the human race.
3. Children just born are in the same state as Adam before his fall.
4. The whole human race neither dies through Adam's sin or death, nor rises again through the resurrection of  Christ.
5. The (Mosaic Law) is as good a guide to heaven as the Gospel.
6. Even before the advent of Christ there were men who were without sin.

This condemnation was made not by one of the Church's great theological luminaries, but by a regular ordinary, who had the common sense to see immediately the heretical import of these statements. Clearly, the Catholic concept of original sin was plainly understood at this point prior to Augustine's writings on the subject.

It is interesting to see how the Church proceeded from this point on. After the condemnation of Aurelius, Caelestius, a lay-monk seeking ordination and principle teacher of the Pelagians, was summoned to appear at a synod at Carthage to retract his statements. Had original sin been not clearly taught, would he have been summoned to defend his positions? It is note worthy that Caelestius replied that Adam's sin and its consequences were still open to debate, and refused to recant. He was immediatelt excluded from ordination and his six theses condemned. So, we have the summoning of a synod to compel Caelestius to recant, the refusal of ordination and the formal condemnation of the Pelagian premises before Augustine even wrote one word on the subject. Clearly, as Church praxis here shows us, the matter was not considered "open to debate." If it was open to debate, it must have been in the same sense that modern dissenters claim that contraception and homosexuality are still "open to debate."

St. Augustine tells us that, from 411 to 412, Pelagianism began to spread rampantly around Carthage, prompting many sermons and condemnations of it by local bishops. It was not until late in 412 when Augustine finally got involved, by which time Pelagianism was already recognized as a heresy and deviation of the Catholic teaching on original sin. It was then, around 412, that St. Augustine composed On Merit and the Forgiveness of Sins, and the Baptism of Infants, where he laid out the Catholic teaching on original sin and backed it up with an appeal to the Church's practice of infant baptism. Far from inventing or bringing out original sin for the first time, Augustine was simply putting into writing what the Church already believed, as is evidenced by the manner in which the controversy was handled prior to Augustine putting pen to parchment.

Jerome condemned Pelagianism as soon as he heard of it, in 415. It is true that Pelagius was exonerated at two regional synods, but this has nothing to do with the issue being open to debate; rather it had to do, in the first case, with the Catholic defendant (Orosius) being unable to argue in Greek against Pelagius, and in the latter case of Pelagius accuser's simply not showing up to the synod.

Nevertheless, two synods, one in Carthage and one in Numidia, condemned Pelagianism, comprising over one hundred twenty six bishops. Clearly, original sin was no novelty is 126 bishops were willing to come together and issue joint condemnations. Finally, in January of 417, Pope Innocent I entered the controversy and formally condemned Pelagianism and excommunicated Pelagius and Caelestius. Another condemnation by Pope Zosimus followed in 418. Would the Bishop of Rome issue these condemnations based on a novelty of St. Augustine? In Innocent's condemnation of Pelagius, the writings of St. Augustine are not appealed to; rather, the Church's practice of infant baptism and St. Paul's letter to the Romans are. The popes condemned Pelagianism because they held the teaching of original sin to be apostolic, as judged both by Scriptural standards and the constant practice of the Church in baptizing infants.

If we look at the manner in which the Church proceeded here, with its regional synods, episcopal preaching against Pelagius, condemnation of the teachings of Caelestius, the letters of Jerome and Augustine, it is clear that the Catholic dogma of original sin was not something invented by Augustine. Was St. Augustine the most thorough expositor of the dogma up to that time? Yes. Was he called upon because of his reputation for erudition and eloquence to use his pen to explain the Catholic position? Yes. Was he fundamental in the development of the doctrine. Absolutely. Was original sin "invented" by St. Augustine, in such a way that it can be asserted that this doctrine did not exist before he defended it in writing? By no means. To assert otherwise is to misunderstand history and ignore Scripture and the Fathers.