Why is the Church bedevilled by Paedophilia?

A baby's hand clasping an adult finger

Original Sin –

In his autobiographical Confessions, St Augustine of Hippo wrote of  “filth” and “the itch of lust” in infants.*  He saw wickedness in babies and in his Answer to the Pelagians, he wrote “Who is clean from filth?  Not even an infant who has lived one day on earth.”**

Parents are baffled by St Augustine’s writings.  Surely the charm of our babies is their purity, their palpable innocence; what perversion led St Augustine to declare that he saw filth and lust in infants?  Because of his teaching we learn, as children, that our souls have already been stained with Original sin from the concupiscence (lust) of Adam and Eve, and that we have to be baptised to wash this sin away.***

The expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden
Expulsion from the Garden of Eden

St Augustine’s 5th century vision

Since 412AD theologians have discussed and disputed St Augustine’s concept of Original sin.

Eastern Orthodox Christians believe that, while everyone bears the consequences of the first sin, the foremost of which is death, only Adam and Eve are guilty of that sin. Western Christianity on the other hand, teaches that everyone bears the guilt of that Original sin from birth. This freak anomaly is
St Augustine’s legacy to us. 

Jesus being baptised by John the Baptist
Jesus being baptised by John the Baptist

The Holy Sacrament of Baptism

Before St Augustine, Baptism was received by adults as a rite of admission to Christianity and there is no mention in the Bible of Original sin.

Progressive theologians think St Augustine was mistaken to teach that all babies inherit Adam and Eve’s sin by having been conceived in lust.  Rev. Cauley says: “There is no greater threat to Christianity than the doctrine of Original sin”… 

The Crux of Sin

The extent to which paedophilia occurs is not known with certainty, but the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse suggests the percentage of paedophiles in clerical ranks is 7%……….  That is almost double the proportion found in the male population at large in most studies and perhaps an indication of a malign influence at work.  Could it be that St Augustine’s child imputing doctrine is a contributory factor?

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Empowered Priests

Priests have been known to adulterate sacred doctrine.  After making a nine-year-old give him oral sex, one shamed priest rinsed out the boy’s mouth with holy water ‘to purify him’.……  Might St Augustine’s doctrine on infantile sin be an inadvertent marker for wilful clerics to sanction sexual abuse?

Vulnerable Young

Branding infants sinful when they have done no wrong seems perverse. Negative labels can be spiritually and mentally damaging.  Unjustified shame of sinfulness may be deepened by having children proclaim faux transgressions, as in Penitential prayer recitals.  Are our youngsters made more susceptible to being abused by  bearing the disgrace of unmerited sins?

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A Focus for Discussion

These insights bring a new understanding that St Augustine’s Original sin maybe both theologically misguided and potentially harmful to children, exposing them to risk. Scheduled for publication later this year, The Crux of Sin aims to focus discussion by illuminating the facts behind the cant.

  • Is baptism a washing away of sin or purely a rite of admission to the Christian Church?
  • What is the effect on our blameless offspring of being marked from birth with ‘the stain of sin’?
  • Should children be allowed to grow up before being baptised?
  • Could the teaching of Augustinian theology be a factor in cases of child sexual abuse?
  • Is it possible that a wayward cleric may unconsciously perceive children already soiled by the stain of carnal sin to be valid prey?
  • Might a child that is burdened with the guilt of undeserved censure and sin be more vulnerable to abuse?
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*The Confessions, Book IX, Chapter 1 Translation by Edward B Pusey
**Answer to the Pelagians, Book 6, P622, Translation by Roland J. Teske SJ
***Cf. Council of Trent: DS 1512, DS 1514;  CCC: 403, 406, 491.
……Pennsylvania 40th Statewide Investigating Grand Jury REPORT 1, Interim, Aug. 14th 2018, p10
………Australian Royal Commission into IRCSA, p 248 Final Report: Volume 1.

The Crux of Sin – scheduled for publication winter 2019