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Consequences of original sin for all humanity

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on Jesus Christ
General Audience, Wednesday, 1 October 1986 - in Italian, Portuguese & Spanish  

"1. The Council of Trent solemnly expressed the Church's faith concerning original sin. In the previous catechesis we considered that Council's teaching in regard to the personal sin of our first parents. Now we wish to reflect on what the Council said about the consequences of that sin for humanity. In this regard the Tridentine decree states first of all:

2. The sin of Adam has passed to all his descendants, that is, to all men and women as descendants of our first parents, and their heirs, in human nature already deprived of God's friendship.

The Tridentine decree (cf. DS 1512) explicitly states that Adam's sin tainted not only himself but also all his descendants. Adam forfeited original justice and holiness not only for himself, but also "for us" (nobis etiam). Therefore he transmitted to the whole human race not only bodily death and other penalties (consequences of sin), but also sin itself as the death of the soul (peccatum quod mors est animae).

3. Here the Council of Trent uses an observation of St. Paul in the Letter to the Romans. The Synod of Carthage had already referred to it, repeating a teaching already widespread in the Church. In a modern translation the Pauline text reads as follows: "Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, so death spread to all men because all men sinned" (Rom 5:12). In the original Greek we read: eph o pantes emarton, an expression which was translated in the old Latin Vulgate as: in quo omnes peccaverunt, "in whom (a single man) all sinned." But what the Vulgate translates as "in whom," from the very beginning the Greeks clearly understood in the sense of "because" or "inasmuch." This sense is now generally accepted by modern translations. However, this diversity of interpretations of the expression eph o does not change the basic truth in St. Paul's text, namely, that Adam's sin (the sin of our first parents) had consequences for all humanity. Moreover, in the same chapter of the Letter to the Romans the Apostle wrote: "By one man's disobedience all became sinners" (Rom 5:19), and in the preceding verse: "One man's trespass led to condemnation for all men" (Rom 5:18). St. Paul connects the sinful situation of all humanity with the fault of Adam.

4. The Church's Magisterium refers to these affirmations of St. Paul just quoted, which enlighten our faith on the consequences of Adam's sin for all humanity. Catholic exegetes and theologians will always be guided by this teaching in evaluating, with the wisdom of faith, the explanations offered by science about the origins of humanity.

In particular, the words of Pope Paul VI to a symposium of theologians and scientists are valid and a stimulus for further research in this regard: "It is evident that the explanations of original sin given by some modern authors will appear to you as irreconcilable with genuine Catholic teaching. Such authors, starting from the unproved premise of polygenism, deny more or less clearly that the sin from which such a mass of evils has derived in humanity, was, above all, the disobedience of Adam 'the first man,' figure of that future one, which occurred at the beginning of history" (Insegnamenti di Paolo VI, IV [1966] 366).

5. The Tridentine decree contains another statement: Adam's sin is transmitted to all his descendants by generation and not merely by way of bad example. The decree states: "This sin of Adam, which by origin is unique and transmitted by generation and not by way of imitation, is present in all as proper to each" (DS 1513). Therefore original sin is transmitted by way of natural generation. This conviction of the Church is indicated also by the practice of infant baptism, to which the conciliar decree refers. Newborn infants are incapable of committing personal sin, yet in accordance with the Church's centuries-old tradition, they are baptized shortly after birth for the remission of sin. The decree states: "They are truly baptized for the remission of sin, so that what they contracted in generation may be cleansed by regeneration" (DS 1514).

In this context it is evident that original sin in Adam's descendants does not have the character of personal guilt. It is the privation of sanctifying grace in a nature which has been diverted from its supernatural end through the fault of the first parents. It is a "sin of nature," only analogically comparable to "personal sin." In the state of original justice, before sin, sanctifying grace was like a supernatural "endowment" of human nature. The loss of grace is contained in the inner "logic" of sin, which is a rejection of the will of God, who bestows this gift. Sanctifying grace has ceased to constitute the supernatural enrichment of that nature which the first parents passed on to all their descendants in the state in which it existed when human generation began. Therefore man is conceived and born without sanctifying grace. It is precisely this "initial state" of man, linked to his origin, that constitutes the essence of original sin as a legacy (peccatum originale originatum, as it is usually called).

6. We cannot conclude this catechesis without emphasizing again what we said at the beginning of the present cycle, namely, that original sin must constantly be considered in reference to the mystery of the redemption carried out by Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who "for us men and for our salvation became man." This article of the creed on the salvific purpose of the Incarnation refers principally and fundamentally to original sin. Also the decree of the Council of Trent is entirely composed in reference to this finality, and is thus inserted into the teaching of the whole of Tradition. It has its point of departure in Sacred Scripture, and first of all in the so-called "proto-evangelium," namely, in the promise of a future conqueror of Satan and liberator of man. This already appeared in the Book of Genesis (3:15) and later in so many other texts, until the fuller expression of this truth given to us by St. Paul in the Letter to the Romans. According to the Apostle, Adam is "a type of the one who was to come" (Rom 5:14). "For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many" (Rom 5:15).

"For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man's obedience many will be made righteous" (Rom 5:19). "Then as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man's act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men" (Rom 5:18).

The Council of Trent refers especially to the Pauline text of the Letter to the Romans (5:12) as the cornerstone of its teaching, seeing in it the affirmation of the universality of sin, but also the universality of redemption. The Council has recourse also to the practice of infant baptism, and does so because of the close connection of original sin—the universal legacy received with nature from the first parents—with the truth of the universal redemption in Jesus Christ.

After the Catechesis, Pope John Paul II greeted the pilgrims in various languages

A gruppi di pellegrini provenienti dalla Francia 

Je suis heureux d’accueillir ici les pèlerins français, en ce jour de la fête de sainte Thérèse de l’Enfant-Jésus. Je me souviens de mon pèlerinage à Lisieux et je me réjouis d’aller bientôt en France, en d’autres lieux rendus célèbres par les saints. Je salue tous les autres pèlerins de langue française, notamment ceux qui viennent de Belgique et du Canada. Je forme des vœux spéciaux pour les Sœurs responsables de formation de la Congrégation de la Présentation de Marie et pour les Sœurs Franciscaines Missionnaires de Marie, qui représentent de nombreux pays où elles déploient leur bel apostolat missionnaire. A toutes et à tous ici présents va ma Bénédiction Apostolique.

A diversi pellegrini di espressione linguistica inglese 

Among the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present, I offer a cordial greeting to a group from England of Knights of Saints Columba, members of the Brentwood Province. I thank you for your wish to express once again your loyalty and devotion to the Successor of Peter and to the Holy See on the occasion of your Diamond Jubilee.

I also welcome a group of pilgrims from Brompton Oratory, in London, and from Sweden a group of Catholics from Västeras.

My warm greetings also go the Sisters of Marie Reparatrice taking part in their renewal programme and to the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor. May the Lord sustain you in joy and hope.

And to everyone from England, Sweden, Canada and the United States I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing.

Also present at today’s audience are members of the Harlem Globetrotters. I wish to welcome you most cordially and offer you my encouragement for your work, especially in inspiring young people to appreciate the value of sport in their lives.

Ai numerosi fedeli provenienti da aree di lingua tedesca 

Mit diesen kurzen Darlegungen grüße ich sehr herzlich alle heutigen Audienzteilnehmer aus den Ländern deutscher Sprache: aus Deutschland, aus Osterreich und der Schweiz. Besonders freue ich mich über die so zahlreichen Jugendlichen. Ich wünsche euch frohe und auch religiös fruchtbare Tage in Rom. Einen besonderen Gruß richte ich an die Teilnehmer der ”Wallfahrt auf den Spuren des hl. Franziskas von Assisi“ aus Bayern sowie und die Gruppe ”Blauring aus der Schweiz. Letzterer danke ich noch aufrichtig für die so hochherzige und tatkräftige Unterstützung der ”Kinderhilfe Bethlehem“. Von Herzen erteile ich euch und allen anwesenden deutschsprachigen Pilgern meinen besonderen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai fedeli di espressione linguistica spagnola 

Saludo ahora con afecto a los visitantes y grupos de peregrinos de lengua española, venidos de España y Latinoamérica. De modo particular me complace saludar a las Asociaciones Belenistas de Guipúzcoa y de Navarra (España); también a los Ingenieros Graduados por la Universidad Nacional de Córdoba (Argentina); a las peregrinaciones de Coromoto (Venezuela), de la Arquidiócesis de Medellín (Colombia), y “Caminos de Luz” de Monterrey (México); así como a los grupos de Chile y de Guatemala.

A todos agradezco vuestra presencia aquí y os invito a dar auténtico testimonio de vida cristiana, mientras os imparto con afecto mi Bendición Apostólica.

Ai fedeli giunti da Paesi di lingua portoghese 

Uma saudação especial aos Peregrinos brasileiros, em “re- tiro sobre rodas”. Que a peregrinação pelos lugares sagrados seja uma graça para renovar a fé e avivar o amor de Deus e do próximo.

Uma saudação cordial ao numeroso grupo de Oficiais e demais pessoas militares e civis do navio brasileiro “Custódio de Mello”. Que a Mãe Santissima - “Estrela dos Marinheiros” - seja o farol a iluminar os vossos caminhos de fé e de esperança em Deus.

Ai fedeli polacchi

Wszyscy si bardzo cieszymy, i pielgrzymi i Papież, że jest tutaj z nami ksiądz kardynał Tomásek z Pragi. Pozdrawiam wszystkich obecnych pielgrzymów z parafii Matki Bożej Meustajace; Pomocy, Kraków-Mydlniki; z parafii Najświętszego Serca Pana Jezusa z Nowego Targu; z parafii św. Woiciecha, z Mikołowa, diecezja katowicka; z diecezji warmińskiej pielgrzymkę z ks. biskupem Wojciechem Ziembą, z okazji rozpoczęcia peregrynacji obrazu Matki Boskiej Częstochowskiej; następnie pielgrzymów z diecezji sandomiersko-radomskiej; pielgrzymów dekanatu Dobrodzień, diecezja opolska; grupę katolików świeckich z Przemyśla; grupę młodych dziennikarzy katolickich z Polski; prócz tego pielgrzymów z Nowego Jorku, z parafii Królowej Korony Polskiej; wreszcie studencką grupie rowerowav z Gdańska, Olsztyna i odzi (musicie się spieszyć, aby zdążyć na rok akademicki); wreszcie uczestników grup turystycznych “Gromada” z całej Polski, PTTK Warszawa, PKS z całej Polski, PTTK Szczeun, “Orbis”, grupę kolejarzy z Wrocławia, grupç “Turysta” z Bydgoszczy, Grudziąca i Torunia oraz z Poznania przedstawicieli Biura Projektów Budownictwa Wiejskiego . . . Wszystkich obecnych serdecznie pozdrawiam i przesyłam moje pozdrowienia do waszych wspólnot w Ojczynie, w Polsce. Jesteśmy dzisiaj na początku miesiąca padziernika, miesiąca modlitwy różaficowej. La,czę się w tej modlitwie różancowej z wszystkimi moimi Rodakami i bardzo się waszym modlitwom w Ojczynie polecam. 

Ad alcuni gruppi particolari di fedeli italiani 

Saluto tutti i pellegrini italiani. Saluto cordialmente i Sacerdoti, i Religiosi e le Religiose partecipanti al corso di preparazione per missionari in partenza per l’Africa: una iniziativa promossa dall’Ufficio Nazionale della Conferenza Episcopale Italiana per la Cooperazione missionaria tra le Chiese.

Carissimi, auspico di cuore che l’esperienza di questo corso possa esservi stata di valido aiuto per un impegno evangelizzatore fervente e fecondo di successi apostolici. Vi accompagno con la mia Benedizione. 

* * *

Saluto inoltre i membri della Congregazione dei Missionari della Fede. Mentre chiedo per essi l’abbondanza delle grazie e dei conforti celesti imparto la mia Benedizione. 

* * *

Rivolgo un pensiero ed un saluto alle Religiose Figlie del Divin Zelo, che in questi giorni hanno preso parte al Capitolo Generale della loro Congregazione.

Ad essere e all’intero Istituto va il mio augurio di ogni bene nel Signore e la mia Benedizione.

Ai giovani 

Rivolgo ora il mio saluto a tutti voi, ragazzi e giovani qui presenti. Oggi vorrei proporre alla vostra attenzione la figura di un santo del quale è imminente la festività liturgica: Francesco d’Assisi.

Giovane a cui non mancò la prospettiva di una brillante carriera umana e di un futuro benessere materiale, egli rinunciò a tutto per amore di Cristo.

Da allora fino ai nostri giorni il fascino del suo esempio ha conservato intatta la sua freschezza.

Vi esorto pertanto a studiarne la figura e a seguire lo spirito che lo ha animato, facendo vostri gli autentici valori di una vita donata al Signore. Di cuore vi benedico. 

Agli ammalati 

Saluto volentieri anche gli ammalati ed infermi presenti a questa Udienza.

Carissimi, a voi soprattutto, costretti dal peso della sofferenza a trascorrere lunghe ore in forzata inattività, ricordo che nel mese di ottobre onoriamo la Vergine Santissima col titolo particolare di Madonna del Rosario.

Vi raccomando tale forma di preghiera, particolarmente cara al mio cuore, e vi esorto a recitarla anche per le intenzioni della Chiesa. Il Rosario, tanto raccomandato anche da numerosi miei Predecessori, aiuta a sopportare le sofferenze e, unito all’offerta di queste, diviene sorgente di conforto e di grazie celesti. Io prego con voi e per voi, e vi benedico. 

Agli sposi novelli 

Il mio saluto ed augurio si rivolge infine a voi, cari sposi novelli, che da poco avete vissuto la gioia dell’unione sacramentale.

Auspico che possiate vivere con generosa disponibilità gli oneri assunti e i propositi formulati davanti all’altare, protesi ogni giorno, attraverso la preghiera e l’impegno operoso, a divenire testimoni e cooperatori della fecondità della Chiesa, in segno e partecipazione di quell’amore con il quale Cristo diede la vita per essa.

In questo itinerario vi accompagni la mia Benedizione.

© Copyright 1996 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana