The fall of nature

Question: As I understand it, Catholic teaching tells us that when Adam and Eve fell, creation also fell. But if nature had no say, why did it fall at all?

Peter Tate, Long Beach, California

Answer: St. Paul indicates that creation was indeed affected by the fall of man. “For creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Rom 8:20-21).

This was indicated also by God when he spoke to Adam. “Cursed is the ground because of you! In toil you shall eat its yield all the days of your life. Thorns and thistles it shall bear for you” (Gn 3:17-18).

So, creation was indeed affected by our fall; God himself thus affected it.

However, your question seems to point more to the “fairness” issue: Why should nature be affected poorly by the sin of man?

At one level, let us be clear; it does not pertain to creation to “decide” one way or the other. Neither does it pertain to creation to merit reward, deserve punishment or perceive injustice and be harmed in such manners.

The earth was given to us, and thus it is part of our punishment that our surroundings were affected by our sin.

In this sense, it is a simple ecological fact that our bad behavior can and does affect our world. Human sin can affect the world in any number of ways to include pollution, the squandering of resources, the loss of beauty and the ruination of local ecosystems.

That said, theologically, creation is affected by our sin foremost because we are the pinnacle of material creation. To us, God gave the mandate “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that crawl on the earth” (Gn 1:28). And thus, having a degree of dominion or headship, man affects everything under him. Where the head goes, the body follows.

Pilate’s motives

Question: When the crowds hailed Jesus as “Son of David” and “King of the Jews,” wasn’t that enough for Pontius Pilate to crucify him?

Robert Bonsignore, Brooklyn, New York

Answer: No. Pilate was aware of these attestations but was not particularly impressed by them. He did interrogate Jesus about this matter and Jesus had said, “My kingdom does not belong to this world” (Jn 18:36). Even if Jesus had claimed to be a king in a rival sense (which he did not), Pilate had him under arrest and Jesus seemed quite powerless. Pilate might have been more alarmed if Jesus seemed to wield political power and influence, but his “own people” had handed him over, and the religious leaders and the crowd were saying “We have no king but Caesar” (Jn 19:15).

What Pilate did fear was the crowds and a riot if he did not accede to their demands to crucify Jesus. This appalled his sense of justice (Lk 23:16) and went against a warning he had received from his wife, who told him of a dream she had, that he was innocent (Mt 27:18-19).

Pilate thus violated his own conscience out of fear, and this weakness is more the cause of his actions.

Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., blog at blog.adw.org. Send questions to Pastoral Answers, Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750 or to msgrpope@osv.com. Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.