III. ORIGINAL SIN

Freedom put to the test

396 God created man in his image and established him in his friendship. A spiritual creature, man can live this friendship only in free submission to God. The prohibition against eating “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” spells this out: “for in the day that you eat of it, you shall die.”276 The “tree of the knowledge of good and evil”277 symbolically evokes the insurmountable limits that man, being a creature, must freely recognize and respect with trust. Man is dependent on his Creator, and subject to the laws of creation and to the moral norms that govern the use of freedom.

Man’s first sin

397 Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command. This is what man’s first sin consisted of.278 All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness.

398 In that sin man preferred himself to God and by that very act scorned him. He chose himself over and against God, against the requirements of his creaturely status and therefore against his own good. Constituted in a state of holiness, man was destined to be fully “divinized” by God in glory. Seduced by the devil, he wanted to “be like God”, but “without God, before God, and not in accordance with God”.279

399 Scripture portrays the tragic consequences of this first disobedience. Adam and Eve immediately lose the grace of original holiness.280 They become afraid of the God of whom they have conceived a distorted image – that of a God jealous of his prerogatives.281

400 The harmony in which they had found themselves, thanks to original justice, is now destroyed: the control of the soul’s spiritual faculties over the body is shattered; the union of man and woman becomes subject to tensions, their relations henceforth marked by lust and domination.282 Harmony with creation is broken: visible creation has become alien and hostile to man.283 Because of man, creation is now subject “to its bondage to decay”.284 Finally, the consequence explicitly foretold for this disobedience will come true: man will “return to the ground”,285 for out of it he was taken. Death makes its entrance into human history.286

401 After that first sin, the world is virtually inundated by sin There is Cain’s murder of his brother Abel and the universal corruption which follows in the wake of sin. Likewise, sin frequently manifests itself in the history of Israel, especially as infidelity to the God of the Covenant and as transgression of the Law of Moses. And even after Christ’s atonement, sin raises its head in countless ways among Christians.287Scripture and the Church’s Tradition continually recall the presence and universality of sin in man’s history:

What Revelation makes known to us is confirmed by our own experience. For when man looks into his own heart he finds that he is drawn towards what is wrong and sunk in many evils which cannot come from his good creator. Often refusing to acknowledge God as his source, man has also upset the relationship which should link him to his last end, and at the same time he has broken the right order that should reign within himself as well as between himself and other men and all creatures.288

The consequences of Adam’s sin for humanity

402 All men are implicated in Adam’s sin, as St. Paul affirms: “By one man’s disobedience many (that is, all men) were made sinners”: “sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned.”289 The Apostle contrasts the universality of sin and death with the universality of salvation in Christ. “Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men.”290

403 Following St. Paul, the Church has always taught that the overwhelming misery which oppresses men and their inclination towards evil and death cannot be understood apart from their connection with Adam’s sin and the fact that he has transmitted to us a sin with which we are all born afflicted, a sin which is the “death of the soul”.291 Because of this certainty of faith, the Church baptizes for the remission of sins even tiny infants who have not committed personal sin.292

404 How did the sin of Adam become the sin of all his descendants? The whole human race is in Adam “as one body of one man”.293 By this “unity of the human race” all men are implicated in Adam’s sin, as all are implicated in Christ’s justice. Still, the transmission of original sin is a mystery that we cannot fully understand. But we do know by Revelation that Adam had received original holiness and justice not for himself alone, but for all human nature. By yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve committed a personal sin, but this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit in a fallen state.294 It is a sin which will be transmitted by propagation to all mankind, that is, by the transmission of a human nature deprived of original holiness and justice. And that is why original sin is called “sin” only in an analogical sense: it is a sin “contracted” and not “committed” – a state and not an act.

405 Although it is proper to each individual,295 original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam’s descendants. It is a deprivation of original holiness and justice, but human nature has not been totally corrupted: it is wounded in the natural powers proper to it, subject to ignorance, suffering and the dominion of death, and inclined to sin – an inclination to evil that is called concupiscence”. Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ’s grace, erases original sin and turns a man back towards God, but the consequences for nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persist in man and summon him to spiritual battle.

406 The Church’s teaching on the transmission of original sin was articulated more precisely in the fifth century, especially under the impulse of St. Augustine’s reflections against Pelagianism, and in the sixteenth century, in opposition to the Protestant Reformation. Pelagius held that man could, by the natural power of free will and without the necessary help of God’s grace, lead a morally good life; he thus reduced the influence of Adam’s fault to bad example. The first Protestant reformers, on the contrary, taught that original sin has radically perverted man and destroyed his freedom; they identified the sin inherited by each man with the tendency to evil (concupiscentia), which would be insurmountable. The Church pronounced on the meaning of the data of Revelation on original sin especially at the second Council of Orange (529)296 and at the Council of Trent (1546).297

A hard battle. . .

407  The doctrine of original sin, closely connected with that of redemption by Christ, provides lucid discernment of man’s situation and activity in the world. By our first parents’ sin, the devil has acquired a certain domination over man, even though man remains free. Original sin entails “captivity under the power of him who thenceforth had the power of death, that is, the devil”.298 Ignorance of the fact that man has a wounded nature inclined to evil gives rise to serious errors in the areas of education, politics, social action299 and morals.

408 The consequences of original sin and of all men’s personal sins put the world as a whole in the sinful condition aptly described in St. John’s expression, “the sin of the world”.300 This expression can also refer to the negative influence exerted on people by communal situations and social structures that are the fruit of men’s sins.301

409 This dramatic situation of “the whole world [which] is in the power of the evil one”302 makes man’s life a battle:

The whole of man’s history has been the story of dour combat with the powers of evil, stretching, so our Lord tells us, from the very dawn of history until the last day. Finding himself in the midst of the battlefield man has to struggle to do what is right, and it is at great cost to himself, and aided by God’s grace, that he succeeds in achieving his own inner integrity.303

IN BRIEF

380 “Father,. . . you formed man in your own likeness and set him over the whole world to serve you, his creator, and to rule over all creatures” (Roman Missal, EP IV, 118).

381 Man is predestined to reproduce the image of God’s Son made man, the “image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15), so that Christ shall be the first-born of a multitude of brothers and sisters (cf. Eph 1:3-6;Rom 8:29).

382 “Man, though made of body and soul, is a unity” (GS 14 # 1). The doctrine of the faith affirms that the spiritual and immortal soul is created immediately by God.

383 “God did not create man a solitary being. From the beginning, “male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27). This partnership of man and woman constitutes the first form of communion between persons” (GS 12 # 4).

384 Revelation makes known to us the state of original holiness and justice of man and woman before sin: from their friendship with God flowed the happiness of their existence in paradise.

 

 


218 Gen 1:27.
219 GS 12 # 3.
220 GS 24 # 3.
221 St. Catherine of Siena, Dialogue IV, 13 “On Divine Providence”: LH, Sunday, week 19, OR.
222 Cf. GS 12 # 1; 24 # 3; 39 # 1.
223 St. John Chrysostom, In Gen. sermo 2, 1: PG 54, 587D-588A.
224 GS 22 # 1.
225 St. Peter Chrysologus, Sermo 117: PL 52, 520-521.
226 Acts 17:26; cf. Tob 8:6.
227 Pius XII. Enc. Summi pontificatus 3; cf. NA 1.
228 Pius XII Summi pontificatus 3.
229 Gen 2:7.
230 Cf. Mt 16:25-26; Jn 15:13; Acts 2:41.
231 Cf. Mt 10:28; 26:38; Jn 12:27; 2 Macc 6 30.
232 Cf. I Cor 6:19-20; 15:44-45.
233 GS 14 # 1; cf. Dan 3:57-80.
234 Cf. Council of Vienne (1312): DS 902. 
235 Cf. Pius XII, Humani generis: DS 3896; Paul VI, CPC # 8; Lateran Council V (1513): DS 1440.
236 1 Th 5:23. 
237 Cf. Council of Constantinople IV (870): DS 657. 
238 Cf. Vatican Council I, Dei Filius: DS 3005; GS 22 # 5; Humani generis: DS 3891.
239 Cf. Jer 31:33; Dt 6:5; 29:3; Is 29:13; Ezek 36:26; Mt 6:21; Lk 8:15; Rom 5:5.
240 Cf. Gen 2:7, 22.
241 Cf. Is 49:14-15; 66: 13; Ps 131:2-3; Hos 11:1-4; Jer 3:4- 19.
242 Gen 2:18.
243 Gen 2:19-20.
244 Gen 2:23.
245 Gen 2:24.
246 Gen 1:28.
247 Cf. GS 50 # 1.
248 Gen 1:28.
249 Wis 11:24.
250 Cf. Council of Trent (1546): DS 1511.
251 Cf. LG 2.
252 Cf. Gen 2:17; 3:16, 19.
253 Cf. Gen 2:25.
254 Cf. I Jn 2:16.
255 Cf. Gen 2:8.
256 Gen 2:15; cf. 3:17-19

 

IV. MAN IN PARADISE

374 The first man was not only created good, but was also established in friendship with his Creator and in harmony with himself and with the creation around him, in a state that would be surpassed only by the glory of the new creation in Christ.

375 The Church, interpreting the symbolism of biblical language in an authentic way, in the light of the New Testament and Tradition, teaches that our first parents, Adam and Eve, were constituted in an original “state of holiness and justice”.250 This grace of original holiness was “to share in. . .divine life”.251

376 By the radiance of this grace all dimensions of man’s life were confirmed. As long as he remained in the divine intimacy, man would not have to suffer or die.252 The inner harmony of the human person, the harmony between man and woman,253 and finally the harmony between the first couple and all creation, comprised the state called “original justice”.

377 The “mastery” over the world that God offered man from the beginning was realized above all within man himself: mastery of self. The first man was unimpaired and ordered in his whole being because he was free from the triple concupiscence254 that subjugates him to the pleasures of the senses, covetousness for earthly goods, and self-assertion, contrary to the dictates of reason.

378 The sign of man’s familiarity with God is that God places him in the garden.255 There he lives “to till it and keep it”. Work is not yet a burden,256 but rather the collaboration of man and woman with God in perfecting the visible creation.

379 This entire harmony of original justice, foreseen for man in God’s plan, will be lost by the sin of our first parents.

III. “MALE AND FEMALE HE CREATED THEM”

Equality and difference willed by God

369 Man and woman have been created, which is to say, willed by God: on the one hand, in perfect equality as human persons; on the other, in their respective beings as man and woman. “Being man” or “being woman” is a reality which is good and willed by God: man and woman possess an inalienable dignity which comes to them immediately from God their Creator.240 Man and woman are both with one and the same dignity “in the image of God”. In their “being-man” and “being-woman”, they reflect the Creator’s wisdom and goodness.

370 In no way is God in man’s image. He is neither man nor woman. God is pure spirit in which there is no place for the difference between the sexes. But the respective “perfections” of man and woman reflect something of the infinite perfection of God: those of a mother and those of a father and husband.241

“Each for the other” – “A unity in two”

371 God created man and woman together and willed each for the other. The Word of God gives us to understand this through various features of the sacred text. “It is not good that the man should be alone. I will make him a helper fit for him.”242 None of the animals can be man’s partner.243 The woman God “fashions” from the man’s rib and brings to him elicits on the man’s part a cry of wonder, an exclamation of love and communion: “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.”244 Man discovers woman as another “I”, sharing the same humanity.

372 Man and woman were made “for each other” – not that God left them half-made and incomplete: he created them to be a communion of persons, in which each can be “helpmate” to the other, for they are equal as persons (“bone of my bones. . .”) and complementary as masculine and feminine. In marriage God unites them in such a way that, by forming “one flesh”,245 they can transmit human life: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.”246 By transmitting human life to their descendants, man and woman as spouses and parents cooperate in a unique way in the Creator’s work.247

373 In God’s plan man and woman have the vocation of “subduing” the earth248 as stewards of God. This sovereignty is not to be an arbitrary and destructive domination. God calls man and woman, made in the image of the Creator “who loves everything that exists”,249 to share in his providence toward other creatures; hence their responsibility for the world God has entrusted to them.

 

 

II. “BODY AND SOUL BUT TRULY ONE”

362 The human person, created in the image of God, is a being at once corporeal and spiritual. The biblical account expresses this reality in symbolic language when it affirms that “then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”229 Man, whole and entire, is therefore willed by God.

363 In Sacred Scripture the term “soul” often refers to human life or the entire human person.230 But “soul” also refers to the innermost aspect of man, that which is of greatest value in him,231 that by which he is most especially in God’s image: “soul” signifies the spiritual principle in man.

364 The human body shares in the dignity of “the image of God”: it is a human body precisely because it is animated by a spiritual soul, and it is the whole human person that is intended to become, in the body of Christ, a temple of the Spirit:232

 

Man, though made of body and soul, is a unity. Through his very bodily condition he sums up in himself the elements of the material world. Through him they are thus brought to their highest perfection and can raise their voice in praise freely given to the Creator. For this reason man may not despise his bodily life. Rather he is obliged to regard his body as good and to hold it in honor since God has created it and will raise it up on the last day. 233

365 The unity of soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the “form” of the body:234 i.e., it is because of its spiritual soul that the body made of matter becomes a living, human body; spirit and matter, in man, are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single nature.

366 The Church teaches that every spiritual soul is created immediately by God – it is not “produced” by the parents – and also that it is immortal: it does not perish when it separates from the body at death, and it will be reunited with the body at the final Resurrection.235

367 Sometimes the soul is distinguished from the spirit: St. Paul for instance prays that God may sanctify his people “wholly”, with “spirit and soul and body” kept sound and blameless at the Lord’s coming.236The Church teaches that this distinction does not introduce a duality into the soul.237 “Spirit” signifies that from creation man is ordered to a supernatural end and that his soul can gratuitously be raised beyond all it deserves to communion with God.238

368 The spiritual tradition of the Church also emphasizes the heart, in the biblical sense of the depths of one’s being, where the person decides for or against God.239

Cathechism of the Catholic Church