A reader recently asked about the diffrence between the Lutheran/Calvinist doctrine of original sin and the true Catholic doctrine regarding original sin. Before answering this question, let’s review the basics of the effects of Adam and Eve’s fall.
The fall of Adam and Eve brought the “four wounds” to human nature. These are enumerated by St Bede and others, especially St Thomas Aquinas (STh I-II q. 85, a. 3):
- Original sin (lack of sanctifying grace and original justice)
- Concupiscence (the eleven passions are no longer ordered perfectly to the soul’s intellect)
- Physical frailty and death
- Darkened intellect and ignorance
The Catholic Faith holds that baptism washes away original sin, and infuses sanctifying grace and righteousness. This is the miracle of regeneration and justification.
The other wounds three remain in Christians. These three are not essentially sinful but the wounds of original sin that remain. Concupiscence means that our passions or emotions get the better of our intellect. Concupiscence is that inner struggle that you experience when you your waitress says, “Don’t touch the plate, it’s hot,” and you do it anyway, or when you get angry for irrational reasons. It what Saint Paul teaches with regard to the flesh vs the mind in Romans 7:25. The “flesh” or the “law of sin” is concupiscence. Even though we love God, we feel inner pulses do act contrary to His revealed will.
We have concupiscence till the day we die.
Christ and Mary did not have concupiscence. Pious tradition teaches that St John the Baptist and St Joseph also were delivered from original sin and concupiscence after their conception but before their births.
Incidentally, Luther and Calvin identified concupiscence with original sin. They use them interchangeably and it is a major difference between the true Faith and the false teachings of the Protestants. This is what led to their overly harsh doctrine of original sin – what Calvinists call “total depravity.”
The Catholic Faith holds that the baptized no longer have any original sin. Gone. Washed away. However, concupiscence remains after baptism. Most Protestants (even Anglicans) hold that original sin remains after baptism, since for them original sin and concupiscence are indistinguishable and experience shows that the baptized still struggle with inordinate desires and inward temptations of the flesh.
I hope this is helpful. I think that I dedicated almost a chapter to this in my book Catholic Perspective on Paul.
ad Jesum per Mariam,
PS: If you are interested in taking this to the next level, see the post: