Reading murder mysteries

Q. I enjoy reading murder mysteries. I like seeing how the detectives work through the clues to solve their cases. Many of these stories contain graphic violence and sexual elements in these crimes.

Is it a serious sin to read these types of stories? (When I ponder this, I recall that even the Old Testament has very similar instances.) (Wichita, Kansas)

A. I suspect, by the fact that you even raise the question, that you are committing no sin in reading murder mysteries. The key question has to do with why you are reading these books. If you were reading them to glory in the violence or to focus on and take pleasure in the sexual descriptions, then that would certainly be a concern.

But you have told me that your interest, instead, is to guess and observe how the detectives will weigh the clues. Here is what you might do: If you are unsure about your motives in reading such mysteries, you might consult with a priest or a spiritual counselor to help you sort that out. But my guess would be that you are doing nothing wrong.

Q. How is one to accept the story of Adam and Eve, if one believes in evolution? (Louisville, Kentucky)

A. There is no conflict between the biblical story of Adam and Eve and the acceptance of the scientific theory of evolution. The first human bodies may well have been the product of the ordinary evolutionary process. But a Catholic is compelled to believe that the first human souls were created directly by God.

So, concerning biological evolution, the Church does not have an official position on whether various life forms developed over the course of time. But if that was the case, then they did so under the impetus and the guidance of God. Furthermore, the observation of Pope Pius XII in his 1950 encyclical "Humani Generis" still carries weight:

"The faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains that . . . Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled with that which . . . The documents of the teaching authority of the Church propose with regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam."

And so the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: "The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man. Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents" (No. 390).

- Father Kenneth Doyle is a columnist for Catholic News Service