The Consequences of That Sin for Humanity

Author: Pope John Paul II

The teachings of the Church on original sin

In his General Audience on Wednesday, 1 October 1986, the Holy Father reflected on the consequences of original sin for all humanity.

1. The Council of Trent formulated the faith of the Church on original sin in a solemn text.

In the previous catechesis we considered the conciliar teaching regarding the personal sin of the first parents. We are now going to reflect on what the Council says about the consequences that sin has had for humanity.

The text of the Tridentine Decree makes a first affirmation in this regard:

2. Adam's sin has passed to all his descendants , that is, to all men as coming from the first parents and their heirs in human nature, already deprived of friendship with God.

The Tridentine Decree (cf. DS 1512) affirms it explicitly: Adam's sin caused damage not only to him, but to all his descendants. The original holiness and justice, fruit of sanctifying grace, were not lost by Adam only for himself, but also " for us " ("nobis etiam").

For this reason , he transmitted to the entire human race not only bodily death and other punishments (consequences of sin), but also sin itself as the death of the soul ("peccatum, quod mors est animae").

3. Here the Council of Trent resorts to an observation of Saint Paul in the Letter to the Romans , to which the Synod of Carthage already referred, accepting, moreover, a teaching already spread in the Church.

In the current translation of the Pauline text it reads as follows: "As sin entered the world through one man , and death through sin, so death spread to all men, because all had sinned" ( Rom 5:12 ). ). In the original Greek it reads: "[Greek text]", an expression that in the old Latin Vulgate was translated: "in quo omnes peccaverunt" " in which (in him alone) all sinned" However, the Greeks, from the beginning, clearly understood what the Vulgate translates "in quo" as a "because of" or "as soon as", a meaning already commonly accepted in modern translations. However, this diversity of interpretations of the expression "[Greek text]"the sin of Adam (of the parents) has had consequences for all men . Moreover, in the same chapter of the Letter to the Romans, the Apostle writes: "Through the disobedience of one man many became sinners" ( Rom 5:19 ). And in the previous verse: "for the transgression of one alone condemnation came to all" ( Rom 5, 18). Thus, Saint Paul links the sinful situation of all humanity with Adam's guilt.

4. The affirmations of St. Paul that we have just quoted and to which the Magisterium of the Church has referred, thus illuminate our faith on the consequences that Adam's sin has for all men. This teaching will always guide Catholic exegetes and theologians to value, with the wisdom of faith, the explanations that science offers about the origins of humanity.

In particular, the words that Pope Paul VI addressed to a symposium of theologians and scientists are valid and stimulating for further research in this regard: "It is evident that the explanations that some modern authors give of original sin will seem irreconcilable with genuine Catholic doctrine. , which, starting from the assumption, which has not been demonstrated, of polygenism , deny, more or less clearly, that the sin, from which such a bilge of evils to humanity derives, was above all the disobedience of Adam 'first man', figure of the future, committed at the beginning of history" ( AAS 58, 1966, p. 654).

5. The Tridentine Decree contains another affirmation: Adam's sin passes to all descendants, because of their origin from him, and not only because of bad example . The Decree states: "This sin of Adam which is one only by its origin from him and transmitted by propagation and not by imitation , is in each one as his own" ( DS 1513).

Thus, original sin is transmitted by natural generation. This conviction of the Church is also indicated in the practice of baptism of newborns , to which the Council Decree refers. Newborns, incapable of committing a personal sin, nevertheless receive, in accordance with the secular Tradition of the Church, baptism shortly after birth in remission of sins. The Decree says: "They are truly baptized for the remission of sins, so that they may be purified in regeneration from the sin contracted in the generation" ( DS 1514).

In this context it becomes clear that original sin in no descendant of Adam has the character of personal guilt . It is the deprivation of sanctifying grace in a nature that, through the fault of the parents, has deviated from its supernatural end. It is a "sin of nature", referable only analogically to the "sin of the person". In the original state of justice, before sin, sanctifying grace was like the supernatural "dowry" of human nature. In the interior "logic" of sin, which is rejection of the will of God, giver of this gift, the loss of it is included. sanctifying grace _it has ceased to constitute the supernatural enrichment of that nature which the primogenitors transmitted to all their descendants in the state in which it was found when they began the human generations. Therefore man is conceived and born without sanctifying grace. Precisely this "initial state" of man, linked to his origin, constitutes the essence of original sin as an inheritance ( Peccatum originale originatum , as they say).

6. We cannot conclude this catechesis without reaffirming what we said at the beginning of this cycle: namely, that we must consider original sin in constant reference to the mystery of redemption accomplished by Jesus Christ, Son of God, who "for us men and for our salvation... he became a man". This article of the Symbol on the salvific purpose of the Incarnation refers primarily and fundamentally to original sin. Also the Decree of the Council of Trent is entirely composed in reference to this purpose, thus entering the teaching of the entire Tradition , which has its starting point in Sacred Scripture, and first of all in the so-called "protoevangelium", that is, in the promise of a future winner of satan and liberator of man, already glimpsed in the book of Genesis ( Gen 3, 15) and later in so many other texts, up to the fullest expression of this truth that St. Paul in the Letter to the Romans. Indeed, according to the Apostle, Adam is " a figure of him who was to come " ( Rom 5, 14). "For if by one transgression many die, how much more has the grace of God and the free gift (conferred) by the grace of one man , Jesus Christ , abounded to the benefit of many" ( Rom 5:15 ).

"For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one man's obedience many will be made righteous" ( Rom 5:19 ). Therefore, as through the transgression of one alone condemnation came to all, so also through the righteousness of one alone comes justification of life to all" ( Rom 5:18 ).

The Council of Trent particularly refers to the Pauline text of the Letter to the Romans 5, 12 as the basis of its teaching, seeing affirmed in it the universality of sin, but also the universality of redemption. The Council also refers to the practice of baptism of newborns and does so because of the strong reference of original sin —as a universal heritage received from parents with nature— to the truth of the redemption wrought in Jesus Christ.

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