Are we really cursed for the sins of our Fathers?

An evangelical friend metioned this to me recently…

As seen in Exodus 34:7
“continuing his love for a thousand generations, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin; yet not declaring the guilty guiltless, but bringing punishment for their parents’ wickedness on children and children’s children to the third and fourth generation!”

And in Deuteronomy 5:9
“you must not bow down to these gods or serve them. For I, Yahweh your God, am a jealous God and I punish the parents’ fault in the children, the grandchildren and the great-grandchildren, among those who hate me;”

We are cursed for the sins of our Fathers? When could it possibly end?

Help me understand the correct meaning please.

Look at a Crucifix if you want to see how badly God wants to extend love and mercy to all of us. That God would not curse or damn willy nilly.

Read the Diary of St. Faustina.

We certainly suffer the temporal effects of their sins.

In one of the apparitions St. Mary stated it rather flatly “you have illnesses due to your or you parents sins”. (paraphrasing here).

She has also repeatedly said that you may be healed by faith and prayer.

Ask any child of an alcoholic.

Deut.24:16, John 9:1-3,

This is sometimes viewed in terms of natural negative consequences that parents’ sins have on their families, but I think this redefinition of punishment is unlikely to be what the Bible means.

It seems to me the uncomfortable reality is that the suffering or death of a parent’s child, grandchild, etc. really can be a temporal punishment for that parent’s sin, as when David’s son by Bathsheba died as a punishment for David. That doesn’t mean the child inherits any personal moral fault from their ancestors or is punished for that fault as though it were their own. That would be absurd and unjust. But suffering and death happens in this fallen world, including to innocents, and in the providence of God this can be used as a temporal punishment for the parents or other family members of the innocent person.

I think the number of generations the Bible gives is significant. Three or four. In other words, to the great-grandchildren or at most the great-great-grandchildren of the sinner who is being punished. This corresponds very well with the maximum number of generations that, even in families with a string of teen pregnancies, a person has any plausible chance of living to see. Once a person has died, new temporal punishments will not be incurred and old ones will be taken care of in purgatory or, I suppose, as extra torments in hell. Blessings like that of Abraham can be generously extended indefinitely, but there is no reason for punishments to affect family members after the original sinner’s death.

I think we can see how sins like abuse and alcoholism can affect several generations in a family even after it stops. In allowing us freewill God also has to let us suffer the consequences, not only of our own actions but others as well. We are all linked by family and as the human race, which is why original sin affected all subsequent generations. God has His positive will to make things happen and His permissive will to allow things to happen. Much of the language used in the Old Testament prose makes us think that God inflicts suffering on us when in reality we are inflicting it on ourselves and others around and after us. It goes with God’s gift of freewill which is great if we use it wisely and like a curse if we don’t! God has to allow consequences of our actions or else freewill.would be meaningless.

Obviously deaths and other hardships are not always, or even usually, punishments for sins. But they can be.

Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind

1.As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him." John 9:1-3

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here!”** 2 Corinthians 5:17

29 “In those days people will no longer say,
‘The parents have eaten sour grapes,
and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’
30 Instead, everyone will die for their own sin; whoever eats sour grapes—their own teeth will be set on edge." **Jeremiah 31:29-30

Remember also that the Jews held that those who were hanged from a tree were cursed. Deuteronomy 21:23

Jesus lifted that curse also.

Yes, but probably not in the sense you think of a curse. It is more that sin is passed down in families because we learn it. I do not understand it fully. I went recently to a Charismatic priest that goes around the country talking about Healing the Family tree. He said that it was approved by the Vatican. You look for patterns in your family such as alcoholism, abuse, adultery, broken families, leaving the church, etc. etc. You write them down as prayer intentions on paper and the are placed on the alter and a mass is said specifically for healing these repeated family problems that are passed down.

Part of the exercise also helps you to see problems that you did not think of and put it in perspective. The point is your parents may have learned bad things from their parents and so on.

I was recommended the following book. A good priest on EWTN recommend it. The one below is the Catholic version, written by the same author who is a Catholic.

I was reading unbound and found that it can stop with you and you can prevent it from happening in your family if you want it, but I have just started reading it.

Healing takes a lot of time and learning. Peace.

Unbound: A Practical Guide to Deliverance [Paperback]

Resisting the Devil: A Catholic Perspective on Deliverance [Paperback]

Both of you are exactly right. One of my biological parents (who are now divorced) was an alcoholic. I ended up with a lot of health issues which I continue to have to this day. Thankfully the parent who was an alcoholic has recommitted his/her life to Christ and is going back to church again. He/she is a Southern Baptist. I am not willing to mention this person’s gender as I fear that might be an invasion of his/her privacy. Those of you who know me well enough will know who I am talking about.

Both of my grandfathers had alcohol abuse problems (the surviving one has since become a teetotaler - yay!). Both of my parents had reactions to the other’s occasional responsible use of alcohol as a result.

I am afraid to even buy alcohol after seeing my parents’ ordeals (I do but it is usually for a recipe or other designated purpose). I have very strict rules on myself concerning its use (bordering on scrupulous). I am not free of my grandfathers’ problems. I am the “third generation” per the Biblical citation in the OP.

I pray that I will be able to raise my own children to be more balanced in this area, neither hampered by my irrational fear nor falling into my grandfathers’ abuse pattern.

I have never heard the church speak on this subject one way or the other. I have read some protestants who claim that this is so and they do have a good argument.

We know that curses can be put on families and that there does seem to be something in a curse. “The Devil posesses a certain dominion over mankind by reason of Adam’s sin.” (De fide.)

The chosen people were punished to wander in the desert for 40 years which also affected innocent generations.

I think it would be a mistake to consider every unfortunate family as being cursed or being punished. But at the same time, can we ignore what scripture says?

Just a thought.

Temporal effects certainly. Someone whose parents were criminals or junkies or alcoholics or abusive will definitely have far more difficulties to overcome than someone who was raised in an honest and loving home.

But guilt? I cannot fathom how the God of love and mercy would attribute a parent’s or ancestor’s guilt to the innocent offspring.

Yes, I do not at all believe that guilt is passed on to descendents.

The passages do not claim the following generations share guilt at all. Rather, that the punishment (“temporal effects” to quote another respondant) continues due to the guilt of the parent.

Due to? Sin has consequences. Consequences can outlive us and effect others.

God is loving and merciful. God will go to ANY length to offer us his mercy. Look at the Passion. Look at how He abases himself in the Eucharist so we can receive him. How he loves us. He is not a punishing God. We chose punishment for ourselves only by rejecting God. He does not will our damnation. he does all that he can to get us to accept his invitation to holiness, but he doesn’t force us to accept it. It probably breaks his heart to see souls choose eternity without him rather than accept his overflowing love.

I’m painfully aware of that. You should pay attention to my previous posts, as well.

I was writing that the following generations have no guilt for the sin of a parent but they can share in the punishment even when they don’t participate in the sin.

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