Original Sin

Please help me understand the Catholic doctrine on original sin. It is described in the catechism as being a hereditary sin passed down from Adam. As a stain, almost as being genetic, as it is the act of copulation on the part of parents that pass it along to their children. On EWTN today the person was saying it is the Protestant view that it is passed on “like a stain, almost genetically, like a drop of ink in a clear glass of water,” and that is not the same as Catholics view it. What is the difference in views, because I can’t see any…

Thank you!

Paragraph 404 from the universal Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition**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”. 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. 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.

Links to the Catechism


Here is an explanation by Scott Hahn:

Original sin is the term we use to describe mankind’s first transgression – Adam’s fall. It is also the term we use to describe the consequences or effects of that fall. For Adam, original sin was a personal, actual sin. For us, it’s an impersonal sin, not an actual sin. But here we distinguish; we do not separate, because it’s all of a piece. There is a bond that unites sin in all its forms.

When teachers discuss the mystery of original sin, they often use the metaphor of a “stain on the soul”. But that’s only a metaphor. Sin isn’t essentially a stain; it isn’t a spiritual substance. It isn’t a thing at all. It is, rather, the lack of something, the absence of something, namely sanctifying grace. The indwelling life of the Trinity was evacuated from human nature by Adam’s sin. That’s what original sin is. We have to get at it by explaining what it isn’t. It’s the absence of something necessary for human beings to reach their divinely appointed end. The absence of sanctifying grace certainly does plunge us into darkness and blindness and death.

But it’s critically important for us to recognize that original sin is not something that’s transmitted biologically or psychologically. Yet at the same time we can speak of original sin as being something hereditary. Pope Pius XI wrote that “Original sin is the hereditary but impersonal fault of Adam’s descendants.”

Even that word choice - fault – might lead you to believe that original sin is something that renders us guilty. But it isn’t. Think of fault here in the sense of the San Andreas Fault, the fracture in the earth’s crust that renders California vulnerable to devastating earthquakes. It isn’t my fault, but it’s like a fault line that runs my soul and inclines me to be separate from God.

Original sin is the hereditary but impersonal fault of Adam’s descendants: One man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men…By one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, who have sinned in him. (Rom 5:18-19)

The mystery, of course, is how we sinned in Adam. We sinned in Adam, in a sense, because there is a mystical solidarity we share with him, based upon two realities: biologically, we’re his descendants; and theologically, he’s our covenant head. As our father, he is our representative in making the covenant with God. Since he broke the covenant, we, his progeny, inherit the consequences. Consider an analogy from human relations: If I mismanaged my business affairs and ended by declaring bankruptcy before passing my estate to my sons and daughter, my creditors could pursue my children, now rendered debtors through our family bond.

In effect, original sin means the loss of sanctifying grace and, therefore, the loss of eternal life. The soul is immortal, and people in hell will live everlastingly, though miserably. Eternal life is more than everlasting. It is God’s life, divine life. God alone is eternal because He utterly transcends time. So when we speak of eternal life, we are talking about sharing in the very being and communion of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And that is what humanity lost through original sin.

Original sin is hereditary but impersonal. It is contracted, not committed; and we contract original sin without consent. That is why God can remove original sin without personal consent, as He does with newborn babies on their baptismal day.


“Lord, Have Mercy” The Healing Power of Confession by Scott Hahn, Doubleday, April 2003,

here are the 33 entries in the CCC on original sin

All these posts are neglecting to mention one important thing…the new covenant, Jesus was born a man, and died for ALL our sins, this happened AFTER adam, so it seems original sin should have been included in the new covenant, why would this cover every other sin except for that one?

What has been neglected?

may I suggest reading these 33 entries on original sin ccc.scborromeo.org.master.com/texis/master/search/?sufs=0&q=original+sin&xsubmit=Search&s=SS

I never heard of the act of copulation passing it down and don’t think that has ever been taught by the Catholic Church.

The stain of original sin is passed down, not the sin itself. The stain is mans downward tendency, what is called concupiscence. Our downward tendency is passed down.


May I gently point out that the Catholic Church does not teach that Jesus was “born a man.”

At the Incarnation, Jesus remained the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity which is quite different from a “man.” Jesus, in his Divine nature, assumed human nature. He did not absorb human nature. (Information source, CCC 470)

Here is a post which may help distinguish assume from absorb. forums.catholic.com/showpost.php?p=13130887&postcount=222

Adam is the first true man. One of the essential truths is that Adam man is not on the same level of being as his Maker God. Perhaps it is time to meditate on the fact that Adam’s Original Sin shattered humanity’s original relationship with Divinity. *CCC *355-421 is an excellent source of information. CCC 404 is in post 2 above. In addition, John 3: 16-17 deserves meditation.

Links to the universal Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition


May I gently clarify that man’s downward tendency, what is called concupiscence, is not a stain. It is one of the effects or result of the shattered relationship of humanity with Divinity. Man’s human nature was wounded as one of the results.

Stain is a descriptive word signifying the contracted State of Original Sin. * CCC* 404 in post 2 above has a better description of our fallen nature which is transmitted to us. CCC 405 should be read because of its comfort.

[quote=“Catechism of the Catholic Church”]464 The unique and altogether singular event of the Incarnation of the Son of God does not mean that Jesus Christ is part God and part man, nor does it imply that he is the result of a confused mixture of the divine and the human. He became truly man while remaining truly God. Jesus Christ is true God and true man.

During the first centuries, the Church had to defend and clarify this truth of faith against the heresies that falsified it.

465 The first heresies denied not so much Christ’s divinity as his true humanity (Gnostic Docetism). From apostolic times the Christian faith has insisted on the true incarnation of God’s Son “come in the flesh”.87 But already in the third century, the Church in a council at Antioch had to affirm against Paul of Samosata that Jesus Christ is Son of God by nature and not by adoption. The first ecumenical council of Nicaea in 325 confessed in its Creed that the Son of God is “begotten, not made, of the same substance (homoousios) as the Father”, and condemned Arius, who had affirmed that the Son of God “came to be from things that were not” and that he was “from another substance” than that of the Father.88

480 Jesus Christ is true God and true man, in the unity of his divine person; for this reason he is the one and only mediator between God and men.

481 Jesus Christ possesses two natures, one divine and the other human, not confused, but united in the one person of God’s Son.

482 Christ, being true God and true man, has a human intellect and will, perfectly attuned and subject to his divine intellect and divine will, which he has in common with the Father and the Holy Spirit.


No it is not described as hereditary or transmitted by sexual intercourse. It is a spiritual privation that has both physical and spiritual implications for all descendants of Adam. It is a state into which all are born, save the Virgin Mary who was preserved from it.

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.