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The Fall of Man and Original Sin Hardcover – 1928
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Comprising about half of the book, the first three chapters almost form a unit, dealing with Adam before his Fall, Adam's Fall and Adam after his Fall. Written in the light of Scripture, official Church teaching and the Summa Theologica, they form an extremely orthodox, though easy to follow, presentation of the Catholic position on the issue. With scholastic precision, Miller defines and discusses Adam's supernatural and preternatural gifts : sanctifying grace, integrity, impassibility and infused knowledge. He explains for instance how integrity is "the total absence of concupiscence", which he defines as "any and every motion or impulse of the lower, the sensitive and imaginative, faculties or appetites of man's nature that is not under the perfect rule and dominion of his higher faculties, reason and will."
Being initially endowed with integrity, Adam cannot have sinned out of concupiscence, which means his Fall must have been due to "the sheer rebellion of mind and will against the ultimate supernatural claims and rights of God", as manifested in His positive commandment not to touch the Tree of Knowledge. Prompted by Satan, whose existence Rev. Miller does not question (as I do not think any Catholic can), Adam turned away from God, lost all his gifts and was reduced to a purely natural condition, unperfected by Grace, and plagued by concupiscence, as all his descendants would be except for the Virgin and her son.
The next and last four chapters take Original Sin as their subject : its existence (as evidenced by a world that is out-of-joint and yet was created by God), its nature, its transmission and its effects. Miller tries to show how we all share in the sin of Adam, the moral head and spiritual representative of our species. He portrays Adam as a weak link in a chain stretching from God to us, as a go-between who failed to transmit what he was given, thereby instituting a condition in which a state of sin, rather than a state of Grace, was passed on : a purely natural state, rather than a supernatural one.
One point I found particularly fascinating is the idea that this purely natural condition of ours makes us natural subjects of the Devil who, belonging to a higher, angelic order of being, has a claim on us, as we do over animals. However, I wish Miller had developed his argument a little further. He does say that we have "natural rights" over the beasts and that these rights "are not unlimited, but may be abused", but he abandons his customary scholastic confidence and merely comments that "it is, perhaps, impossible to determine the exact limits of this dominion." Maybe a deeper comparison of the two terms of the analogy would have shed light on both, a train of though I personally wish to pursue in the future.
The most difficult question the author has to deal with is that of the destiny of the souls of unbaptized children. And here, I think, he commits a mistake. First, he quotes a decree of the Council of Florence of 1439, which states that "the souls of those who depart from this life, either in actual mortal sin or in original sin only, go down at once into hell, there however to suffer disparate penalties", the punishment of the former being presumably harsher than that of the latter. Then he complements this first quote by two further decrees, by Popes St Pius V in 1567 and Pius VI in 1794, and manages to draw the following conclusion : that the state of unbaptized children "is one of true peace and natural happiness." Now this is one kind of state I did not think one could enjoy in Hell. And in addition, he says that those children do not suffer from their being deprived of the beatific vision since, not having faith, they do not know what they are missing. Now does not this prove too much ? Does this not mean that only baptized Christians will suffer the most terrible pain of Hell, i.e. the awareness of being deprived once and for all of the only being that can make eternity endurable, and does indeed make it blissful ?
Another slightly annoying problem with this booklet is that it is part of an ongoing series, as the reader painfully discovers when repatedly referred to other volumes for further developments. Published under the general editorship of the Rev. George D. Smith in the 1920s, the series was entitled "The Treasury of the Faith", and apparently counted no less than 36 volumes, collecting which would be a difficult and expensive undertaking today. Now as a reward to you, gentle reader, for bearing with me so far, I am going to divulge a priceless piece of information : these booklets were collected into a two-volume, 1316-page book entitled "The Teaching of the Catholic Church : A Summary of Doctrine", edited by the same George D. Smith. Having learnt of its existence, I have purchased my own copy, which makes the present volume redundant in my personal library. So if, like me, you always go for the more comprehensive edition, I hope I have prevented you from repeating my mistake.