Original Sin in Tradition(Quotes from Saints)


I often hear Eastern Orthodox say that we have changed our teaching on Original Sin. That we are moving more toward their understanding of it. They often say that we used to teach that OS attributes a guilt like is in an actual sin. I try to argue but they are so stubborn and refuse to accept that we teach, and always have taught that it is the loss of Original Justice or Original Holyness. So, the objective of this thread is to offer quotes from saints that show the teaching as the loss of Original Justice. I will start it off with what I have.

St. Anselm

Therefore, if Adam and Eve had retained their original justice, their descendants would, like them, have been originally just. On The Virgin Conception and Original Sin; Chapter II]

St. Thomas Aquinas

Now the inordinateness of the other powers of the soul consists chiefly in their turning inordinately to mutable good; which inordinateness may be called by the general name of concupiscence. Hence original sin is concupiscence, materially, but privation of original justice, formally. [Summa Theologica Second Part; Question 82; Article 3]

Now the cause of this corrupt disposition that is called original sin, is one only, viz. the privation of original justice, removing the subjection of man’s mind to God. Consequently original sin is specifically one, and, in one man, can be only one in number; while, in different men, it is one in species and in proportion, but is numerically many. [Summa Theologica Second Part; Question 82; Article 4]

There are two things in original sin: one is the privation of original justice; the other is the relation of this privation to the sin of our first parent, from whom it is transmitted to man through his corrupt origin. As to the first, original sin has no degrees, since the gift of original justice is taken away entirely; and privations that remove something entirely, such as death and darkness, cannot be more or less, as stated above. [Summa Theologica Second Part; Question 82; Article 2]

Walter Hilton

And know thou well that hadst thou never committed any sin with is thy body, either mortal or venial, but only this which is called original (for that is the first sin, and is nothing else but the losing of our righteousness which we were created in), thou shouldst never have been saved, had not our Lord Jesus Christ by His precious Passion delivered thee, and restored thee again. [Scale of Perfection; Book I; Chapter 43]

Robert Bellarmine

“since the remedy for original sin is the sacrament of baptism, and since by this sacrament sanctifying grace is infused, original sin must entail the privation of sanctifying grace.”
“the accession of any evil quality, but simply from the loss of a supernatural gift on account of Adam’s sin.”

The Council of Trent

If any one asserts, that the prevarication of Adam injured himself alone, and not his posterity; and that the holiness and justice, received of God, which he lost, he lost for himself alone, and not for us also; or that he, being defiled by the sin of disobedience, has only transfused death, and pains of the body, into the whole human race, but not sin also, which is the death of the soul; let him be anathema:–whereas he contradicts the apostle who says; By one man sin entered into the world, and by sin death, and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned. Council of Trent Session V; Canon II]

I am not sure of the sources for the Bellarmine quotes. I found them online. It would be appreciated if anyone could add any others.


There is a difference in the eastern/Greek understanding of original sin. John Meyendorff explains it this way:

"As we have seen, the [Eastern] patristic doctrine of salvation is based, not on the idea of guilt inherited from Adam and from which man is relieved in Christ, but on a more existential understanding of both ‘fallen’ and ‘redeemed’ humanity. From the ‘old Adam,’ through his natural birth, man inherits a DEFECTIVE FORM OF LIFE – bound by mortality, inevitably sinful, lacking fundamental freedom from the ‘prince of this world.’ The alternative to this ‘fallen’ state is ‘life in Christ,’ which is true and ‘natural’ human life, the gift of God bestowed in the mystery of the Church. "‘Baptism,’ writes Nicholas Cabasilas, ‘is nothing else but to be born according to Christ and to receive our very being and nature.’ "The emphasis, in both the rite of baptism and the theological commentaries of the Byzantine period, is on the POSITIVE meaning of baptism as ‘new birth.’ " (Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology, page 193)

I quote a lot of Fathers and eastern theologians here

Phil P


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.