The Moral Theology of Eve

In the Garden of Eden, Eve sees the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, a.k.a. ‘the apple’. Satan asks Eve if God really said that it would be wrong to eat the apple.

[Genesis 3]
{3:1} However, the serpent was more crafty than any of the creatures of the earth that the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Why has God instructed you, that you should not eat from every tree of Paradise?”
{3:2} The woman responded to him: “From the fruit of the trees which are in Paradise, we eat.
{3:3} Yet truly, from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of Paradise, God has instructed us that we should not eat, and that we should not touch it, lest perhaps we may die.”

Why does he ask first? He wants Eve to sin gravely, and fall from grace, just as he sinned gravely and fell from grace. He knows that she must knowingly chosen an immoral act in order to sin. If she takes the apple innocently, if he tricks her such that she thinks taking the apple is moral, she won’t fall. Sin is a knowingly chosen immoral act. So Satan makes certain that she realizes that taking the apple is contrary to the will of God.

{3:6} And so the woman saw that the tree was good to eat, and beautiful to the eyes, and delightful to consider….

Eve considers the apple, and she sees that it is good. All that God has created is good. Evil is always only a deprivation. Evil does not exist; it is non-existence, in some way. The apple is certainly good. And Eve sees that it is good. So far, there is no sin.

Now Satan offers Eve an excuse, a theological excuse, which she can use to disingenuously justify the act of taking the apple. He has already made certain that she understands the moral law correctly on this point, so that she will sin if she chooses this particular act. And the excuse is not clever, not profound, not complex. He is not trying to trick her into thinking that the act is moral, for he wants her to sin. Here is the theological excuse that he offers her:

{3:4} Then the serpent said to the woman: “By no means will you die a death.
{3:5} For God knows that, on whatever day you will eat from it, your eyes will be opened; and you will be like gods, knowing good and evil.”

Basically, he is saying that God has lied, and that the opposite of what God said is really the truth. Not clever at all. Is Eve fooled by this explanation? If she really believed that taking the apple was moral, she would not have fallen. Sin is a knowingly chosen immoral act. She is not fooled, but she uses the theological excuse supplied by Satan to disingenuously justify her act.

{3:6} And so the woman saw that the tree was good to eat, and beautiful to the eyes, and delightful to consider. And she took from its fruit, and she ate. And she gave to her husband, who ate.
Eve chooses to sin, because she desires the good end, and does not care if the means is bad. She chooses to sin because she has an excuse that she can use as a fig leaf to cover her immoral act. Eve chooses to sin, and then offers the same sin to her husband. Many people speak and act as if their own sin is justified if others are doing the same thing.

Many people today act just as Eve acted. They use theological excuses, provided by certain theologians, priests, apologists, and even bloggers and anonymous posters in online discussion groups. Do these theological excuses offer some profound new insight that the Church has failed to understand and teach in the last 2,000 years? Not at all. Sometimes the theological excuse is actual theology (gone terribly awry), but often these excuses contain no real theological argument at all.

They know that they don’t need to offer a theological argument. They realize that any excuse they offer will be popular and will be accepted. For many among the faithful do not accept the teaching of the Church, but they will accept any excuse that would make their own sins seem justified.

Fr. Rhonheimer offers a new approach to certain difficult moral situations, which claims that abortion is never direct if the circumstances are dire and the intention is good. The good intention and the dire circumstances supposedly nullify the intrinsically evil act of directly and deliberately killing an innocent prenatal human person. His argument discards and contradicts traditional moral theology, and more importantly, completely rejects the definitive teaching of Veritatis Splendor. For some reason, moral theologians have decided that Veritatis Splendor, the papal encyclical of Pope John Paul II has less moral authority than some brief comments made by Pope Benedict XVI in an interview with a journalist.

The work offered by Fr. Rhonheimer is being used by many Catholics as their theological excuse to justify abortion. M. Therese Lysaught used his work to justify a direct abortion at a hospital in Phoenix. It’s not just theory. When a priest or theologian publicly states that a particular act is indirect abortion and moral, the effect is that some doctors and hospitals will act on that claim. Fr. Rhonheimer’s work was used to justify an actual abortion, which the local Bishop and the physicians and ethicists advising him have stated was a direct abortion. Fr. Rhonheimer’s work was used to justify the murder of an innocent.

Lysaught also uses the work of Germain Grisez to justify the Phoenix hospital abortion. She cites Grisez, who explicitly states that it is moral to crush the skull of a prenatal in order to save the life of the mother. Grisez admits that this act is direct, and that his position is contrary to the explicit teaching of the Magisterium: “not only classical moralists but the magisterium regarded it as ‘direct’ killing: a bad means to a good end….” But he nevertheless claims it is moral. And Lysaught cites him to justify the Phoenix abortion.

More on this point in my article: The Phoenix Abortion Case – M. Therese Lysaught’s grave doctrinal error

Now I don’t believe for a moment that the physicians, administrators, and ethics committee at St. Joseph’s hospital in Phoenix were convinced by any theological argument at all that their act was moral. Like Eve, they used a convenient theological excuse in order to justify doing what they wished to do, achieving a good end by a gravely immoral means, murder. Satan’s excuse only served as a fig leaf for the sin of eating forbidden fruit. The theological excuses offered by Lysaught, Rhonheimer, and Grisez were used to justify the murder of a child in the womb. Satan must be jealous.

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