State of Fallen Man

Author: Pope John Paul II

In his General Audience on Wednesday, 8 October 1986, the Holy Father reflected on the human condition after the fall.

1. The profession of faith, pronounced by Paul VI in 1968, at the end of the "Year of Faith" , once again fully proposes the teachings of Sacred Scripture and Holy Tradition on original sin. Let's hear it again:

"We believe that in Adam all sinned, which means that the original fault committed by him caused human nature, common to all men, to fall into a state in which the consequences of this fault are experienced and which is not the one in which that nature was found at the beginning of our first parents , created in holiness and justice and in which man knew neither evil nor death. This fallen human nature , stripped of the garment of grace, wounded in its own strength natural and subjected to the empire of death, is transmitted to all and in this sense every man is born in sin. We therefore maintain with the Council of Trent that original sin is transmitted with human nature "not by imitation, but by propagation" and that therefore it is proper to each one.

2. "We believe that our Lord Jesus Christ , by the sacrifice of the cross, redeemed us from original sin and from all the personal sins committed by each one of us, so that, according to the Apostle, "where sin had abounded, sin abounded the grace".

Next, the Profession of Faith, also called the " Creed of the People of God ", refers, as does the Decree of the Council of Trent, to holy baptism, and first of all to that of newborns : "so that, being born deprived of supernatural grace, be reborn 'of water and of the Holy Spirit' to divine life in Christ Jesus".

As we can see, this text of Paul VI also confirms that all the revealed doctrine on sin and in particular on original sin always makes rigorous reference to the mystery of redemption . This is how we try to present it also in this catechesis. Otherwise it would not be possible to fully understand the reality of sin in the history of man. Saint Paul makes this evident, especially in the Letter to the Romans, to which the Council of Trent refers above all in the Decree on original sin.

Paul VI, in the "Credo of the People of God" proposed again in the light of Christ the Redeemer all the elements of the doctrine on original sin, contained in the Tridentine Decree.

3. Regarding the sin of the first parents, the "Creed of the People of God" speaks of "fallen human nature". To fully understand the meaning of this expression, it is opportune to return to the description of the fall narrated in Genesis ( Gen 3). This description also speaks of God's punishment of Adam and Eve, according to the anthropomorphic presentation of divine interventions that the book of Genesis always makes. In the biblical narrative, after the sin, the Lord says to the woman: "I will multiply the labors of your childbearing. You will bear children with pain and you will seek your husband with ardor, who will dominate you" ( Gen 3:16 ).

To the man (God) he said : For having listened to your wife, eating from the tree that I forbade you to eat, telling you not to eat from it: For you the ground will be cursed; with labor you will eat from it all the time of your life; I will give thorns and thistles, and you will eat of the herbs of the field. With the sweat of your face you will eat bread until you return to the ground, for from it you were taken; since dust you are, and to dust you will return "( Gen 3, 17-19).

4. These strong and severe words refer to the situation of man in the world as it results from history. The biblical author does not hesitate to attribute to God something like a sentence of conviction. This implies the "curse of the earth": the visible creation was made strange and rebellious for man . St. Paul will speak of "creation's submission to perishability" because of man's sin for which even the "entire creation hitherto groans and labors " until it is "delivered from the bondage of corruption" (cf. .rom _8, 19-22). This imbalance of the created has its influence on the destiny of man in the visible world. The work, by which man conquers for himself the means of sustenance, must be done "with the sweat of the face", thus it is linked to fatigue . The entire existence of man is characterized by fatigue and suffering , and this already begins with birth, already accompanied by the pains of the woman in labor and, although unconscious, by those of the child who in turn moans and cries.

5. And finally, the entire existence of man on earth is subject to the fear of death , which according to Revelation is linked to original sin. Sin itself is synonymous with spiritual death, because through sin man has lost sanctifying grace, the source of supernatural life. Sign and consequence of original sin is the death of the body, just as all men experience it ever since. Man has been created by God for immortality: death, which appears as a tragic leap into the void, is the consequence of sin, almost because of its immanent logic, but above all because of God's punishment. This is the teaching of Revelation and this is the faith of the Church: without sin, the end of the earthly trial would not have been so dramatic.

Man has been created by God also for happiness , which, in the realm of earthly existence, should mean freedom from suffering , at least in the sense of a possibility of exemption from it: "posse non pati", thus as exemption from death, in the sense of "posse non mori". As we see from the words attributed to God in Genesis ( Gen 3, 16-19) and from many other texts of the Bible and Tradition, with original sin this exemption ceased to be the privilege of man . His life on earth has been subjected to many sufferings and the need to die.

6. The "Creed of the People of God" teaches that human nature after original sin is not in the state "in which it was at the beginning in our fathers." It is "fallen" ( lapsa ), because it is deprived of the gift of sanctifying grace , and also of other gifts that in the original state of justice constituted the perfection ( integritas ) of this nature. Here it is a question not only of immortality and of the exemption from many sufferings, gifts lost because of sin, but also of the inner dispositions of reason and will., that is, of the usual energies of reason and will. As a consequence of original sin, the whole man, soul and body, has been disturbed: "secundum animam et corpus", specifies the Council of Orange in 529, which is echoed in the Tridentine Decree, adding that the whole man has been deteriorated : "in deterius commutatum fuesse".

7. As for the spiritual faculties of man, this deterioration consists in the obfuscation of the capacity of the intellect to know the truth and in the weakening of free will , which has weakened before the attractions of sensible goods and above all has exposed to false images of goods made by reason under the influence of passions. But according to the teachings of the Church, it is a relative deterioration, not an absolute one., not intrinsic to human faculties. For man, after original sin, can intelligently know the fundamental natural truths, as well as religious and moral principles. He can also do good deeds. Thus, one should speak of a darkening of the intelligence and a weakening of the will, of "wounds" of the spiritual and sensitive faculties, rather than a loss of their essential capacities also in relation to knowledge and God's Love.

The Tridentine Decree underlines this truth of the fundamental health of nature against the contrary thesis, held by Luther (and taken up later by the Jansenists). It teaches that man, as a consequence of Adam's sin, has not lost his free will (can. 5: "liberum arbitrium... non amisum et extinctum"). He can, therefore, do acts that have authentic moral value: good or bad. This is possible only by the freedom of the human will. Fallen man, however, without the help of Christ is not capable of orienting himself towards supernatural goods, which constitute his full realization and his salvation.

8. In the situation in which nature has found itself after sin, and especially because of man's inclination more towards evil than towards good, one speaks of a " cause of excitation to sin " ( fomes peccati ), from which human nature was free in the state of original perfection ( integritas ). This "inclination to sin" was called by the Council of Trent also "concupiscence" ( concupiscentia ), adding that it endures even in the man justified by Christ, therefore also after holy baptism. The Tridentine Decree makes it clear that "concupiscence" in itself is not yet a sin , but: ""(cf. DS 1515). Concupiscence, as a consequence of original sin, is a source of inclination to the different personal sins committed by men with the misuse of their faculties (those called actual sins , to distinguish them from original sins ) . This inclination remains in man even after holy baptism, in this sense each one carries within himself the cause of promotion to sin.

9. Catholic doctrine specifies and characterizes the state of fallen human nature ( natura lapsa ) with the terms that we have exposed based on the data of Sacred Scripture and Tradition. This is clearly proposed in the Tridentine Council and in the "Credo" of Paul VI. But once again we observe that, according to this doctrine, founded on Revelation, human nature is not only "fallen", but also "redeemed" in Jesus Christ; so that "where sin abounded, grace abounded all the more" ( Rom . 5:20). This is the true context in which original sin and its consequences must be considered.

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