To meet 2014 costs & move to a more stable platform next month, we must raise $12,497 more in December!
Click here to advertise on CatholicCulture.org

Catechism of the Catholic Church

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

Notes:

289 Rom 5:12, 19.

290 Rom 5:18.

291 Cf. Council of Trent: DS 1512.

292 Cf. Council of Trent: DS 1514.

293 St. Thomas Aquinas, De malo 4, I.

294 Cf. Council of Trent: DS 1511-1512

295 Cf. Council of Trent: DS 1513.

296 DS 371-372.

297 Cf. DS 1510-1516.

English Translation of the Cathechism of the Catholic Church for the United States of America © 1997, United States Catholic Conference, Inc.

Subscribe for free
Click here to advertise on CatholicCulture.org
Shop Amazon

Recent Catholic Commentary

Which American archbishops—if any—will receive red hats at the February conclave? December 23
A Blessed Christmas! December 23
Facing entrenched opposition, Pope Francis plows ahead on Vatican reform December 22
The cardinal who can't let go December 22
Denial of Service Attack: Success! December 19

Top Catholic News

Most Important Stories of the Last 30 Days
Pope Francis, Ecumenical Patriarch sign joint declaration, lament persecution of Christians CWN - December 1
Consistory for new cardinals scheduled for February CWN - December 11
Vatican report on US women religious calls for further self-assessment CWN - December 16
Pope brokered deal to open US-Cuba ties CWN - December 17
Pope identifies 15 spiritual ‘sicknesses’ of the Curia CWN - December 22
Pope Francis's Christmas Message 'Urbi et Orbi' (To the City and the World): full text, link to video CWN - December 25