Original Sin and the Immaculate Conception


#1

I’ve struggled lately with the Orthodox vs. the Catholic understanding of Original Sin. From what I understand (and please correct me if I’m wrong), Orthodox Chrstians hold that Adam and Eve’s sin subjected all of creation to the effects of sin, namely death and a tendancy to sin. When we are born, we are born into a world infected by sin and are thus prone to sinfulness ourselves. While we do not inherit the guilt of Adam and Eve, we are subject to their punishment by virtue of our innate spiritual connection with all humans. Furthermore, Mary is “immaculate” in the sense that she chose never to sin. LIke all other humans, she was born without sin, but unlike all others, she successfully withstood the desire to sin for her entire life.

By contrast, as I understand the Catholic perspective, Adam and Eve were born sinless, but following their transgression, all other humans were born in sin. We inherited not only the effects of their sin but the guilt of it as well, and so are “stained” with sin from conception. Mary is “immaculate” because she was saved by her Son prior to her birth, making her the second person since Eve to be born sinless. Unlike Eve, she successfuly resisted sin her entire life, and is often referred to as the “new Eve”.

Honestly, I see some pretty clear distinctions between these two viewpoints, and the Orthodox perspective makes a little more sense to me. Why would we inherit guilt for something we didn’t do? The idea of guilt via the sins of one’s parents is a distinctly Jewish idea, is it not? Can the two perspectives be reconciled? Most importantly, am I uderstanding both sides correctly?

God bless,

Chris


#2

Chris, my spiritual director wrote the following some time ago for another Catholic forum; I hope this will clarify the Catholic understanding of Original Sin and its consequences:

It was St. Augustine who first pointed out against the Manichees that evil is not a substance or something positive, but and absence of what ought to be and isn’t.

The specific absence that ought not to be in Original Sin is the absence of Divine Sanctifying Grace in the Soul… This absence of grace is the result of the personal act of sin on the part of Adam. We do not inherit the personal act of sin (nor the personal guilt that he is rightly blamed with for that act of sin); but this is the condition or state of existence of being conceived and born without the Divine Grace in the soul; this grace is what incorporates the person into a familial bond with the Most Holy Trinity. Without it one’s identity is only that of a creature of God, not His child by grace.

This personal sin of Adam meant that he now had, after the sin, a wounded humanity that was, thought basically still good, prone to evil in the will, error in the mind, and unreasonable independence of the passions and impulses against the soul, destined to experience suffering and death; and this CONDITION of humanity was also passed on to us through generation. This does not mean that our human nature is totally corrupt and ipso facto deserving to be sent to Hell. We do not share in any way the personal guilt of Adam’s actual sin, nor is this personal guilt transmitted to us through propagation.

Rather, we enter in to a STATE or condition of objectively being without God’s indwelling and Sanctifying Grace (an ontological quality of being supernaturally in relationship with God). This absence can be called a stain (because it is a darkness, where there should be light). The objectively factual being turned away from God can be called a guilt, or nature of sin, i.e., a condition of being alienated, forgetful, unaware of God. This condition can not send us to Hell, since there is no personal choice or act of sin that merits such punishment, BUT, the absence of Grace and this condition of being turned away from God prevents us from entry into God’s Presence in Heaven upon death. Before Christ, therefore, souls went to the Limbo of the Just (sheol) or Hell depending on the personal acts of sin unrepented of or not.

What we get transmitted by propagation therefore is this condition or state of objective sin: the absence of Grace in the soul, the disharmony of our nature which without grace is prone to our own personal acts of sin (this is called concupiscence as a general term) and suffering and death.

continued. . .


#3

Thus Catholicism does not teach that each person participates in the personal guilt of Adam’s sin; that this sin is not a “substance” that is passed down, nor a personal guilt which condemns us either. These are all creations of the “Reformers” in one way or another.

What was God’s plan for us? To share in HIS Eternal Life forever; to enjoy the Divine Love the Father has for the Son and the Holy Spirit; to be taken up into that Divine dynamic Love. Same for angels created before us. So when our first parents were created they were created in a state of Original Justice, a state of being turned towards God, in grace, with the harmony of the body following the soul, the sense-emotions following right reason, and reason ordered by grace, preserved from suffering and not meant to die. All this would have been the inheritance of those conceived had not Adam sinned. By sinning Adam LOST all that for himself by his own fault, and thus could not enter the Divine Presence, being turned away from God.

God forgave Adam and his wife in view of His Son Who was to come, but that did not mean an immediate wiping the slate clean. All Adam’s offspring were conceived in a state of Original Sin, not of Original Justice. That means we get an infected nature in an objective state of being turned away from God, by self-centeredness, rather than God-centeredness, a bent towards pride, a bent toward creatures, with our bodies not following the soul, the senses and emotions warring against right reason, and the mind not submissive to grace, and we get suffering and death. WE are not blamed for that (Adam was), but we are stuck with that and on our own will repeat Adam’s sinning. Thus we are wounded and sick, prone to death of the soul.

God does not change His original purpose for us, but reaffirms it in the Plan for Redemption. He insists on His Love. By becoming one of us in His Son, God gives us the remedy in the soul: Divine Grace which puts us in a state of reconciled harmony with God, with spiritual powers called virtues of faith, hope and love, and the spiritual Gifts of the Holy Spirit within the Body of the Church, where we have a sacramental life with which to struggle against the wounded tendencies we have inherited. IOW, we now have GRACE to aid our wills in overcoming our infected nature. (And this Grace is given to all who come to the initiating Sacrament of Baptism, no matter what their age.)


#4

I would also make sure when you are studying the differences between Orthodox and Catholic, you look to each source for an explanation. Many Orthodox tell you what Catholics believe and are just plain wrong. Conversely, most Catholics do not truly understand Othodox beliefs.

God Bless,
Maria


#5

FCEGM,

Wow, thanks for the thorough explanation. I’ll definitely have to save it for future reference. Your response begs one more question, however: if we are born without Adam’s personal guilt but are unnaturally oriented away from God and towards sin and selfishness, are we essentially born sinless? Even with a propensity for sinfulness, we don’t have to sin, because that would violate the idea of free will. Also, where does the Immaculate Conception fit into the whole scheme? Because Mary was saved prior to her birth, was she simply conceived like Eve, in a state of Original Justice, from which she chose never to sin?

Maria: thanks for good advice. I think I’ll ask each side to present their perspective, instead of trying to falsely represent the other’s.

God bless,

Chris


#6

On a second reading, this pasage helps clarify my previous question. Let me see if I can get this right: while we’re not born with a specific inherited sin per se, we are born with an inherited lack of Divine Grace, or “stained” by a lack of grace in the soul that prevents complete communion with God. Conversely, like Eve, Mary was born with the grace necessary for union with God. With His help, she was able to remain in a state of grace throughout her life. Is that about right?

From another perspective, while we’re born without the grace necessary for salvation, do we have some sort of “natural grace” by virtue of being human? Can grace even be quantified? As humans, aren’t our souls fundamentally different than those of other creatures?

I apologize for so many questions, but I’d really like to try to understand this idea!

God bless,

Chris


#7

“The idea of guilt via the sins of one’s parents is a distinctly
Jewish idea, is it not?”

Hi, Thepeug,

I have a thread asking about the concept of original sin
in Judaism.

stillsmallvoice was good enough to reply to my
question.

I understand that the idea of original sin- and
the idea of how offspring are* affected *by the sins
of the parents- are two entirely different concepts.
Isn’t there a verse in the Hebrew Scriptures [Old
Testament] about the sins of the fathers being
"visited" upon offspring?

I take that to mean that if the father gambles away
family resources, the children will be *affected *by
this, but certainly not held guilty of this action.
But, then, I can’t speak for Judaism’s understanding
of same. It’s just my own understanding.

reen12


#8

[quote=Thepeug]On a second reading, this pasage helps clarify my previous question. Let me see if I can get this right: while we’re not born with a specific inherited sin per se, we are born with an inherited lack of Divine Grace, or “stained” by a lack of grace in the soul that prevents complete communion with God. Conversely, like Eve, Mary was born with the grace necessary for union with God. With His help, she was able to remain in a state of grace throughout her life. Is that about right?

From another perspective, while we’re born without the grace necessary for salvation, do we have some sort of “natural grace” by virtue of being human? Can grace even be quantified? As humans, aren’t our souls fundamentally different than those of other creatures?

I apologize for so many questions, but I’d really like to try to understand this idea!

God bless,

Chris
[/quote]

That is correct. When we are born and until baptism we are denied the Beatific Vision. This is what the stain of Original Sin means to us.

MaggieOH


#9

Let me see if I can get this right: while we’re not born with a specific inherited sin per se, we are born with an inherited lack of Divine Grace, or “stained” by a lack of grace in the soul that prevents complete communion with God. Conversely, like Eve, Mary was born with the grace necessary for union with God. With His help, she was able to remain in a state of grace throughout her life. Is that about right?

Yes, with the added important note that Sacred Tradition instructs us that “Mary must always have been greater than Eve, and most particularly at the first moments of her life,” Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrance, O.P., in The Mother of the Saviour and Our Interior Life, TAN.

From another perspective, while we’re born without the grace necessary for salvation, do we have some sort of “natural grace” by virtue of being human? Can grace even be quantified? As humans, aren’t our souls fundamentally different than those of other creatures?

I’m happy that I (or rather, my spiritual director! :slight_smile: ) has been of some help to you, Chris.

As humans we have the capacity to know and love God - something non-human creatures lack - and to become, as St. Peter writes, “partakers of the Divine nature.” We, like all of creation, are sustained in existence by God, but it is through sanctifying grace that we humans are able to respond to His call to initimacy with Him, that intimacy being initiated in our Baptism. Further, it is through our participating in the Divine nature that ALL creation is brought to its fulfillment: “. . .for the whole creation is waiting with eagerness for the children of God to be reavealed,” (Rom. 8:19); and “He has let us know the mystery of his purpose, according to his good pleasure which he determined beforehand in Christ for him to act upon when the times had run their course; that he would bring everything together under Christ, as head, everything in the heavens and everything on earth,” (Eph. 1:9-10).


#10

[quote=FCEGM]Thus Catholicism does not teach that each person participates in the personal guilt of Adam’s sin; that this sin is not a “substance” that is passed down, nor a personal guilt which condemns us either. These are all creations of the “Reformers” in one way or another.

What was God’s plan for us? To share in HIS Eternal Life forever; to enjoy the Divine Love the Father has for the Son and the Holy Spirit; to be taken up into that Divine dynamic Love. Same for angels created before us. So when our first parents were created they were created in a state of Original Justice, a state of being turned towards God, in grace, with the harmony of the body following the soul, the sense-emotions following right reason, and reason ordered by grace, preserved from suffering and not meant to die. All this would have been the inheritance of those conceived had not Adam sinned. By sinning Adam LOST all that for himself by his own fault, and thus could not enter the Divine Presence, being turned away from God.

God forgave Adam and his wife in view of His Son Who was to come, but that did not mean an immediate wiping the slate clean. All Adam’s offspring were conceived in a state of Original Sin, not of Original Justice. That means we get an infected nature in an objective state of being turned away from God, by self-centeredness, rather than God-centeredness, a bent towards pride, a bent toward creatures, with our bodies not following the soul, the senses and emotions warring against right reason, and the mind not submissive to grace, and we get suffering and death. WE are not blamed for that (Adam was), but we are stuck with that and on our own will repeat Adam’s sinning. Thus we are wounded and sick, prone to death of the soul.

God does not change His original purpose for us, but reaffirms it in the Plan for Redemption. He insists on His Love. By becoming one of us in His Son, God gives us the remedy in the soul: Divine Grace which puts us in a state of reconciled harmony with God, with spiritual powers called virtues of faith, hope and love, and the spiritual Gifts of the Holy Spirit within the Body of the Church, where we have a sacramental life with which to struggle against the wounded tendencies we have inherited. IOW, we now have GRACE to aid our wills in overcoming our infected nature. (And this Grace is given to all who come to the initiating Sacrament of Baptism, no matter what their age.)
[/quote]

An amazing post. Thanks. This one is going in my personal notes on original sin
.


#11

[quote=Tmaque]This one is going in my personal notes on original sin.
[/quote]

Mine, too!


#12

:slight_smile: Todd and Chris, it was my pleasure to be able to pass along this gem from Father. I’ve a file full of similarly excellent articles that he’s written over the years, so when I see an opportunity share his insights I jump at it. :slight_smile:


#13

[quote=FCEGM]Thus Catholicism does not teach that each person participates in the personal guilt of Adam’s sin; that this sin is not a “substance” that is passed down, nor a personal guilt which condemns us either. These are all creations of the “Reformers” in one way or another.
[/quote]

Are you sure?

  1. If any one denies, that, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is conferred in baptism, the guilt of original sin is remitted; … let him be anathema.
    The Council of Trent, The Fifth Session

#14

[quote=FCEGM]We do not share in any way the personal guilt of Adam’s actual sin, nor is this personal guilt transmitted to us through propagation…

Thus Catholicism does not teach that each person participates in the personal guilt of Adam’s sin; that this sin is not a “substance” that is passed down, nor a personal guilt which condemns us either. These are all creations of the “Reformers” in one way or another.
[/quote]

But Pope Pius XII who died in 1985 most certainly did not get this teaching from the Reformers. Here is what he teaches in Humani Generis:

“Now it is in no way apparent how such an opinion [as your speculative one] can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Teaching Authority of the Church propose with regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which through generation is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own.”[12]

Since the pontificate of Pope Paul VI there has been a great change of emphasis about the doctrine of original sin which begins to incorporate the Orthodox views. However it becomes confusing since the original doctrine is still in complete force via various earlier Councils and papal pronouncements. the result is that the Roman Catholic Church is in a transition period regarding this doctrine, and the older pre-Vatican II Catholics and the younger ones have contradictory teachings on the subject. I think it was Fr Robert Taft of the Pontifical Oriental Institute who pointed out that there has been an undeniable change of teaching.


#15

[quote=Fr Ambrose]But Pope Pius XII who died in 1985 most certainly did not get this teaching from the Reformers. Here is what he teaches in Humani Generis:

“Now it is in no way apparent how such an opinion [as your speculative one] can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Teaching Authority of the Church propose with regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which through generation is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own.”[12]

Since the pontificate of Pope Paul VI there has been a great change of emphasis about the doctrine of original sin which begins to incorporate the Orthodox views. However it becomes confusing since the original doctrine is still in complete force via various earlier Councils and papal pronouncements. the result is that the Roman Catholic Church is in a transition period regarding this doctrine, and the older pre-Vatican II Catholics and the younger ones have contradictory teachings on the subject. I think it was Fr Robert Taft of the Pontifical Oriental Institute who pointed out that there has been an undeniable change of teaching.
[/quote]

Good point, Fr. Ambrose. It’d be somewhat difficult to argue against a change in emphasis on the nature of Orignal Sin in modern times. Looking at the quote, however, I don’t see an irreconcilable contrast between the previous explanation and the one offered by Pius XII. Adam’s sin was indeed a “sin actually committed by an individual” that is “in everyone as his own” in the sense that, by virtue of our intrinsic communal relationship with other humans, we feel the effects of his sin thousands of years later, subject to all to which Adam was subject but not personally culpable for his sin. In other words, we inherit his guilt and are “stained” by Original Sin in regards to the punishment which his sin incurred because, as descendents of the “father” of the human race, we are all connected to Adam whether we like it or not. That doesn’t mean that we are held* personally* responsible for Adam’s transgression, but rather that we carry the burden of his punishment because we are humans in a fallen world (that is still inherently good, by the way). I’d liken it to an organization like the United States Marine Corps: when one man messes up, everyone feels the effects even if they’re not personally responsible for his mistake.

I’m admittedly still struggling with the concept of Original Sin myself, and I probably got a few things wrong considering that I’m not even Catholic, but the above is how I understand it in the context of the quote from Pius XII. Does this make any sense?

God bless,

Chris


#16

Are you sure?

  1. If any one denies, that, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is conferred in baptism, the guilt of original sin is remitted; … let him be anathema.
    The Council of Trent, The Fifth Session

Podromos, I believe my posting (remember, not my own writing) addresses this, if indirectly:

The objectively factual being turned away from God can be called a guilt, or nature of sin, i.e., a condition of being alienated, forgetful, unaware of God.

I’ve sent (by snail-mail since he doesn’t have internet access) your comments and those of Fr. Ambrose to my spiritual director; if he has the time to respond I will certainly post his reply.


#17

[quote=FCEGM]I’ve sent (by snail-mail since he doesn’t have internet access) your comments and those of Fr. Ambrose to my spiritual director; if he has the time to respond I will certainly post his reply.
[/quote]

Dear FCEGM,

There is much, much more in various threads in this Non-Catholic section which demonstrates the change in emphasis in Catholic teaching on Original Sin since Pope Paul VI. A quick search will turn up the many statements from earlier Councils and Popes which are at variance with post-Vatican II teaching. Now, some Catholics find the dichomoty disturbing and try to synthesize the two teachings and end up in intellectual confusion, but others, such as Fr Robert Taft, simply point out that there has indeed been a change in the teaching. I will try and find his article. From an Orthodox point of view the changes are encouraging because Vatican II and the Catechism have decided to introduce modes of thinking and changes of emphasis about Original Sin which align it more with the Eastern Orthodox understanding. This is something over which we can rejoice.


#18

[quote=FCEGM]Prodromos, I believe my posting (remember, not my own writing) addresses this, if indirectly:

The objectively factual being turned away from God can be called a guilt, or nature of sin, i.e., a condition of being alienated, forgetful, unaware of God.

[/quote]

Perhaps it can, but we need to know what “guilt” was understood to mean when the canons and decrees were formulated at Trent.

John


#19

[quote=prodromos]Are you sure?

  1. If any one denies, that, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is conferred in baptism, the guilt of original sin is remitted; … let him be anathema.
    The Council of Trent, The Fifth Session
    [/quote]

Hello, John - I didn’t forget this discussion; I was waiting for my spiritual director who wrote the original to respond to the further questions raised here (his first response got lost in the mail).

Anyhooooo :slight_smile: . . . .Yes, I am sure. Trent does not say the personal guilt of Original Sin. Guilt attaches to the nature, not to the person.


#20

Quote:
Originally Posted by FCEGM
Prodromos, I believe my posting (remember, not my own writing) addresses this, if indirectly:
Quote:
The objectively factual being turned away from God can be called a guilt, or nature of sin, i.e., a condition of being alienated, forgetful, unaware of God.

Perhaps it can, but we need to know what “guilt” was understood to mean when the canons and decrees were formulated at Trent.

Right. In the 16th century there was a renewal of Thomistic philosophy-theology in the Catholic Reform in Spain, Italy, among the Reformed (Discalced) Carmelites, Dominicans especially, and in the new Jesuit Order. This neo-scholasticism directly influenced Trent. It was a period of great vitality and exploration of new questions. This is the clue to what Trent meant by guilt being passed from Adam to us in Original Sin. The Augustinians and Franciscans were also important. The extreme Augustinianism of the Protestants were answered in Trent by the most traditional Scholastic theology.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.