Original Sin and the Natural Law


Did the effects of Original Sin affect our perception of natural law? I have heard that our perception was once clear, but now it is like muddy water. Is that correct?


The validity of logical inferences is not affected by sin, nor is our ability to make logical inferences. As Aquinas puts it, “Nature is not diminished by sin.” However, we have all sorts of other things going on within us which can cloud our perceptions, such as passions, pride, willfulness, simply being tired, and so on. In other words, we are not pure intelligences (as angels would be), and so our logical inferences, even though trustworthy in themselves, may be impaired by other elements of our nature.


Great question! If you really want the answer, take the time to prayerfully and carefully read the encyclical, Veritatis Spendor from JPll. Here’s some juicy stuff from the encyclical I know you’ll like…

**Lesson 6
51 The natural law is universal (applies to all people for all time) and immutable (unchanging for all people for all time). This does not oppose man’s freedom or individuality: one is never free “apart from“ the truth, but rather is free “in” the truth
It has its origin in God who “is the same yesterday, today and forever” (cf Hebrews 13:8)
Lesson 7
54 The relationship between man’s freedom and God’s law is most deeply lived out in the “heart” of the person, in his moral conscience
. 58 The importance of this interior dialogue of man with himself…is also a dialogue of man with God…conscience is the witness of God himself. 59 Whereas the natural law discloses the objective and universal demands of the moral good, conscience is the application of the law to a particular case…for the individual. 62 Conscience is not… infallible…it can make mistakes through willful ignorance or invincible ignorance (ignorance one is unaware of and unable to independently overcome) Through proper formation of conscience ignorance can be overcome.
Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind that you may discern the will of God (cf Romans 12-2)


I found this quote that sort of answered my question. It is from the website for the Diocese of Lincoln (therefore I know it is orthodox).

Is there is a natural law which enables every human being to know right from wrong, why do we need the Church to tell us right from wrong?

Pope Paul VI wrote: “No believer will wish to deny that the teaching authority of the Church is competent to interpret even the natural moral law.” Because of original sin, it si not possible for all human beings (adults as well as children) to correctly understanding and interpret the natural law easily without mixture of error. In addition, of course, the teaching authority of the Church (Magisterium) alone is able authentically to teach and interpret the revealed laws of God, which shed light upon the correct understanding of the natural law. I suggest you bring this matter up for discussion sometime with your parish priest.

I thought that our nature was corrupted by Original Sin…it’s right in the Baltimore Catechism.

Here is what Saint Thomas said:

The good of human nature is threefold. First, there are the principles of which nature is constituted, and the properties that flow from them, such as the powers of the soul, and so forth. Secondly, since man has from nature an inclination to virtue, as stated above (60, 1; 63, 1), this inclination to virtue is a good of nature. Thirdly, the gift of original justice, conferred on the whole of human nature in the person of the first man, may be called a good of nature.

Accordingly, the first-mentioned good of nature is neither destroyed nor diminished by sin. The third good of nature was entirely destroyed through the sin of our first parent. But the second good of nature, viz. the natural inclination to virtue, is diminished by sin. Because human acts produce an inclination to like acts, as stated above (Question 50, Article 1). Now from the very fact that thing becomes inclined to one of two contraries, its inclination to the other contrary must needs be diminished. Wherefore as sin is opposed to virtue, from the very fact that a man sins, there results a diminution of that good of nature, which is the inclination to virtue.


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