We are not born bad.
This was the topic Archbishop J. Augustine DiNoia drove home, a pebble’s throw away from Washington Square Park in Manhattan, New York, one Saturday night last month. His talk overflowed with hope on a day that radiated it. His talk was the annual Egan Lecture sponsored by the Magnificat Foundation, named in honor of the late archbishop emeritus of New York, Cardinal Edward Egan, an annual event at New York University’s Catholic Center.
Archbishop DiNoia, adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the highest ranking American at the Vatican, who is a native New Yorker, explained human nature is not defective from the beginning. But Adam and Eve took from God what he intended to give as a gift. This has repercussions for us. We are deprived of the original justice Adam surrendered when he took what was not his. This absence, this privation, “comes with being human now” after the fall. But we are not evil and we are not inclined to evil. Human nature is not defective from the beginning.
That seems so important a point these days, when we confuse feelings and preferences and desires with our very identity. Original sin, Archbishop DiNoia emphasized, is not an inclination.
It’s a lack of facility in choosing the good. We are born with original sin by propagation. Catholic doctrine on original sin combats pessimism and dualism, Archbishop DiNoia pointed out.
What hope it gives us! Because of his awesome love for us, God gives us his healing grace. One by one, the Divine Physician heals us through the redemption of the new Adam, Jesus Christ. He claims each one of us for himself.
A Dominican, Archbishop DiNoia made the point that 1 John 3:2 is what Thomas Aquinas’ Summa is really all about: “We shall see him as he is.” What a vision to anticipate, for which to give everything we are given.
Here on earth, we won’t see the fullness of divine revelation, the very face of God, but this brightness that is too much for us to fully understand — the intelligibility of revelation — draws us deeper into the mind of God on earth.
This drawing deeper was on display earlier that day in Washington, as Archbishop DiNoia ordained eleven priest, conforming their lives “to the mystery of the Lord’s cross.”
There were few dry eyes as Archbishop DiNoia prayed, “May God who has begun the good work in you bring it to fulfillment.”
There’s so much confusion today about who we are and for what purpose we’re made. Confusing original sin with all the daily sins of man, it’s an easy assumption to make that there is nothing good about man.
Watching 11 young Dominican friars prostrate themselves before God, giving all to him, has to renew our hope in all God is and has made us to be. They will be his instruments of divine mercy in the sacraments. Pray for them, for all priests. Because if the story of Adam and Eve teaches us anything, could it be about connection? The sins we commit have implications beyond us. And so do the prayers we utter.
If we submit ourselves to all God wants to give us, it will make all the difference in helping all men see who he is, what he was made for, seeing the good, wanting nothing other than the good.
Pray for new priests — all priests — and pray for one another, that we may know God made us for good and makes it possible in him. That trumps everything else going on in the world — in 2016 and forever.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online and co-author of “How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice” (OSV, $17.95).