but in this such persons gravely err, because they do not take into account the inborn weakness of human nature, and that law planted within our members, which, to use the words of the Apostle Paul, ‘fights against the law of my mind [Rom. 7:23]’” (Pope Pius XI, Divini illius magistri; Denzinger 2214)
Baptism cleanses us from original sin, but leaves intact in us the effect of the original sin, which are the four wounds of ignorance, malice, weakness, and concupiscence. The grace that baptism gives us truly makes us children of God in Christ Jesus, and through Christ Jesus, since this grace conforms us to Christ through His passion and death, and consequently, it demands that we die on the cross to ourselves and our own will in order that we may learn “to live according to the Spirit” rather than “according to the flesh” (Romans 8:5).
St. Paul tells us: “Do you not know that all we who have been baptized into Christ Jesus, have been baptized into His death? For we know that our old self has been crucified with Him, in order that the body of sin may be destroyed.” These words are very strong: “in order that the body of sin may be destroyed, that we may no longer be slaves to sin.” (Romans 6:2-6) And also: “If you have risen with Christ (through Baptism) seek the things that are above, not the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:1-3)
This death of which St. Paul speaks in so many of his Epistles, is nothing other than the most necessary Christian mortification, the putting to death of our evil tendencies, our pride, of our selfishness, of our laziness, and most importantly, of our sensuality. This death is nothing other than the daily renunciation that Our Lord demands from those who want to be saved: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24)Let him deny himself each day, from the cradle, early childhood, to the grave.
The Life of St. Philip Neri, Apostle of Rome, A.D. 1534: “Ever since sin so fatally disordered our nature there is a dark and profound mystery in pleasure, as there is in pain… Only Jesus, who cleared up the mystery of pain and sanctified it, has cast his light on the mystery of pleasure and purified it. He has taught us that pleasure is no longer since the Fall inseparably linked with virtue, but that the ordinary companion of virtue is suffering, so that blessed are they that suffer for justice’ sake, blessed they that mourn. (Matthew 5:5,10) And hence it follows that we should approach pleasure with self-restraint and forethought—nay, with fear and trembling; that many pleasures are evil and unholy, and those alone safe which are noble, spiritual, and restrained [that is, those pleasures that alone are safe are not sensual or fleshly]; those in short which, being bound up with some spiritual good, are accompanied by charity and are expansions of charity.” (Extracts from "St. Philip Neri", by Alfonso, Cardinal Capecelatro, transl. by Thomas Pope, Burns, Oates, & Washbourne, London, 1926. pp. 36-37)
According to the teaching of the Church, superbly articulated by the Holy Fathers, man was created for the purpose of being in communion with God in love; or according to the Apostle Peter, to partake of divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).
Man was supposed to move toward the goal of becoming “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4) by living in accordance with his own nature, that is, in accordance with God’s will that was innate in human nature. But his God-implanted natural motion toward the ultimate goal was interrupted by the fall. Adam’s sin and the beginning of evil in the visible world, according to Saint Maximos, consists in the misuse (use contrary to nature) of his natural powers and of God’s other creations in general. From then on, man slavishly served the irrational impulses of these powers, which impulses drove him to incline toward pleasure alone, and as far as possible to avoid pain. For fallen man “directs his whole effort toward pleasure and does all he can to avoid pain. He struggles with all his might to attain pleasure and fights against pain with immense zeal.” (“First Century of Various Texts” 53 in The Philokalia 2, p. 175)
Man’s reward for sin is seen not only in his body’s changeable and mortal condition. Man did not simply lose the incorruptibility of his nature, but he was also condemned to passionate sexual generation in the manner of animals:
“The first man was fittingly condemned to a bodily generation that is without choice, material and subject to death, God thus rightly judging him who had freely chosen what is worse over what is better… to bear the dishonorable affinity with the irrational beasts, instead of the divine, unutterable honor of being with God.” (Saint Maximos, “Peri diaforon aporion” (“On Various Perplexing Topics”), PG 91, 1348A)
In reference to the consequences of the fall, Saint Gregory of Nyssa likewise elaborates on the subject of man’s condemnation to sexual generation: “Through the beguilement of the enemy of our life, man freely acquired the bent toward what is bestial and without intelligence.” (“Pros tous penthountas” (“To Those Who Mourn”), PG 46, 521D–524A.) Elsewhere, this Holy Father characterizes all the consequences of the fall as “the putting on of the skin garments.” By “skin garments,” the Saint means the sum total of the evident signs of the corruption of human nature, namely: “copulation, conception, parturition, impurities, suckling, feeding, evacuation, gradual growth to full size, prime of life, old age, disease, and death.” (“Peri psichis ke anastaseos” (“On the Soul and Resurrection”), PG 46, 148C–149A.)
According to Saint Maximos, it is precisely through the birth from the first Adam that the sensual pleasure, as well as pain, is transmitted to all human beings; for in every birth through generation, the ancestral sin is transmitted in its entirety: “When our forefather, Adam, broke the divine commandment, in place of the original form of generation, he conceived and introduced into human nature, at the prompting of the serpent, another form, originating in pleasure and terminating through suffering in death… And because he introduced this ill-gotten pleasure-provoked form of generation, he deservedly brought on himself, and on all men born in the flesh from him, the doom of death through suffering.” (Saint Maximos, “Fourth Century of Various Texts” 44, Philokalia 2: 246–47)
Hence, it appears that herein chiefly lies the ancestral sin, with and in which every human is born, since “all those born of Adam are ‘conceived in iniquities,’ thus coming under the forefather’s sentence.” (Saint Maximos, “Peusis ke apokrises” (“Questions and Answers”) 3, PG 788B.) Elsewhere, when asked the meaning of the Psalm verse “I was conceived in iniquities, and in sin did my mother bear me” (Psalm 50:5), Saint Maximos answers: “God’s original purpose was not that we be born from corruption through marriage. But Adam sinned, and the transgression of the commandment introduced marriage.” (“Peusis ke apokrises” (“Questions and Answers”), 3, PG 788B.) It should be noted that David and the holy Fathers speak of birth “in sins” within lawful marriage. Such views on birth are seen already in the Old Testament, where special “sin offerings” are prescribed by God for the purification of a woman after she gives birth (see Lev. 12:6-8: cf. Luke 2:24). Even before Saint Maximos, Saint John Chrysostom taught the same thing:
“After he was created, he lived in Paradise, and there was no reason for marriage. A helper needed to be made for him, and one was made, and even then marriage was not deemed necessary. It had not yet appeared. But, rather, they continued without it, living in Paradise as if in heaven and delighting in their converse with God . . . . As long as they were unconquered by the devil and respected their own Master, virginity also continued, adorning them more than the diadem and golden clothing adorn the emperors. But when, becoming captives, they took off this garment and laid aside the heavenly adornment and sustained the dissolution deriving from death, the curse, pain, and toilsome existence, then together with these, enters marriage, this mortal and slavish garment. Do you see whence marriage had its beginning, whence it was deemed necessary? From the disobedience, from the curse, from death. For where there is death, there also is marriage. Whereas, when the first does not exist, then neither does the second follow.” (Saint John Chrysostom, “Peri Parthenias” (“On Virginity”) 14, PG 48, 543–44)
It should be emphasized here that, according to Saint Maximos—and according to all the other Fathers of the Church—evil (that is, sin) does not exist within things themselves (for God made all things “very good”) but only in man’s misuse of them. Specifically, Saint Maximos writes:
“It is not food that is evil but gluttony, not the begetting of children but unchastity, not material things but avarice, not esteem but self-esteem. This being so, it is only the misuse of things that is evil, and such misuse occurs when the intellect fails to cultivate its natural powers.” (Saint Maximos, “Third Century on Love” 4, Philokalia 2:83)
Consequently, every man must fight against his concupiscence in some way if he is going to be able to reach the safe harbor of salvation and eternal life. St. Thomas Aquinas, speaking on this subject: “answer that, Chastity takes its name from the fact that reason "chastises" concupiscence, which, like a child, needs curbing, as the Philosopher states (Ethic. iii, 12). Now the essence of human virtue consists in being something moderated by reason, as shown above (I-II, 64, 1).” (Summa Theologica, II-II, Q. 151, Art. 1) Speaking on the same context of the necessity of all men to subdue their concupiscence and fallen nature, St. Thomas compares giving way to concupiscence to “the case of a child left to his own will” growing strong: “As stated above (1; 142, 2), the concupiscence of that which gives pleasure is especially likened to a child, because the desire of pleasure is connatural to us, especially of pleasures of touch which are directed to the maintenance of nature. Hence it is that if the concupiscence of such pleasures be fostered by consenting to it, it will wax very strong, as in the case of a child left to his own will. Wherefore the concupiscence of these pleasures stands in very great need of being chastised: and consequently chastity is applied antonomastically to such like concupiscences, even as fortitude is about those matters wherein we stand in the greatest need of strength of mind.” (Summa Theologica, II-II, Q. 151, Art. 2, Reply to Objection 2)
In this context of speaking about the need to resist and conquer our concupiscence, The Holy Council of Trent explains in the Fifth Session on Original Sin that we all need to “resist manfully by the grace of Jesus Christ” our own concupiscence and sensual nature if we wish to be saved.
“But this holy council perceives and confesses that in the one baptized there remains concupiscence or an inclination to sin, which, since it is left for us to wrestle with, cannot injure those who do not acquiesce but resist manfully by the grace of Jesus Christ; indeed, he who shall have striven lawfully shall be crowned. This concupiscence, which the Apostle sometimes calls sin, the holy council declares the Catholic Church has never understood to be called sin in the sense that it is truly and properly sin in those born again, but in the sense that it is of sin and inclines to sin.” (Pope Paul III, Council of Trent, Session V, Section 5, June 17, 1546)
The husband and wife, joined in the holy Sacrament of Matrimony for the purpose of procreation of children and in order to remedy concupiscence, remain nevertheless in the fallen state. Although baptism entirely wipes away original sin, there remains an effect of original sin in the human person called concupiscence, which is a tendency toward personal sin. The Council of Trent explains that this inclination to sin is inherent in human persons. Even the holiest of persons, if they were conceived with original sin, have concupiscence. Only Jesus and the Virgin Mary were conceived without original sin, and never had concupiscence (Adam and Eve were created without original sin, but they later fell from grace, and as a result they had concupiscence). We mere weak and mortal sinners must always struggle against this tendency toward selfishness, toward valuing lesser goods over greater goods, toward the disorder of values that is the basis for sin. Thus, “Self-restraint is to prevail over sensual pleasure; on the other hand, the prevalence of the latter is what I call licentiousness.” (Saint Gregory of Nazianzus the Theologian, Vol. II, “Epi Ithika” (“Moral Epopees”) 31, “Ori pachimereis,” PG 37, 651A.)
Concupiscence and sexual desire is an evil disease that transmits the Original Sin to the offspring according to the Holy Bible and the Church
Today, most people are unaware of the fact that the ancient tradition of the Church teaches that concupiscence and sexual desire actually transmits the Original Sin to the offspring, but this has always been the Church’s teaching from the very beginning of its foundation by Our Lord Jesus Christ, and it was also taught in the Old Testament long before the New Testament was revealed to us. God Himself revealed this doctrine in The Book of Psalms, teaching us that we are conceived in the iniquity of the Original Sin: “For behold I was conceived in iniquities; and in sins did my mother conceive me.” (Psalms 50:7)
Pope Innocent III as well, taught that the “foul concupiscence” that is inherent in all marital sexual acts transmits the stain of the Original Sin to one’s children and that “the conceived seeds [of the children] are befouled and corrupted” by this “foul concupiscence.”
Pope Innocent III, On the Seven Penitential Psalms: “Who does not know that conjugal intercourse is never committed without itching of the flesh, and heat and foul concupiscence, whence the conceived seeds [of the children] are befouled and corrupted?”
Pope Pius XI confirmed this teaching by the Papal Magisterium in his authoritative encyclical Casti Connubii, teaching us that the sexual act became “the way of death by which original sin is passed on to posterity” after the fall and original sin of Adam and Eve, and that the only way to cleanse the child from the stain of the original sin is through the Sacrament of Baptism, which makes all of them “living members of Christ, partakers of immortal life, and heirs of that eternal glory to which we all aspire from our inmost heart.”
Pope Pius XI, Casti Connubii (# 14), Dec. 31, 1930: “For although Christian spouses even if sanctified themselves cannot transmit sanctification to their progeny, nay, although the very natural process of generating life [that is, the marital sexual act] has become the way of death by which original sin is passed on to posterity, nevertheless, they share to some extent in the blessings of that primeval marriage of Paradise, since it is theirs to offer their offspring to the Church in order that by this most fruitful Mother of the children of God they may be regenerated through the laver of Baptism unto supernatural justice and finally be made living members of Christ, partakers of immortal life, and heirs of that eternal glory to which we all aspire from our inmost heart.”
In addition to these facts, The Council of Trent infallibly teaches that the sexual generative act is the reason behind why humans contract the stain of original sin.
Pope Paul III, The Council of Trent, Session 5, On Original Sin, ex cathedra: “By one man sin entered into the world, and by sin death... so that in them there may be washed away by regeneration, what they have contracted by generation [that is, by the marital sexual act], ‘For unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God [John 3:5].” (Denzinger 791; Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils)
In another part of the Fifth Session of Trent, the Council confirmed the fact that the sexual act transmits the original sin: “If any one asserts, that this sin of Adam,--which in its origin is one, and being transfused into all by propagation [procreation], not by imitation, is in each one as his own,--is taken away either by the powers of human nature, or by any other remedy than the merit of the one mediator, our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath reconciled us to God in his own blood, made unto us justice, sanctification, and redemption; or if he denies that the said merit of Jesus Christ is applied, both to adults and to infants, by the sacrament of baptism rightly administered in the form of the church; let him be anathema.”
In St. Augustine’s time, there were many heretics just like today that praised concupiscence and sexual desire and called it a good gift from God instead of what it really is, that is, an evil effect of the original sin of Adam and Eve. By the grace of God, however, the Church from the very beginning was completely united against all of these heretics and condemned and excommunicated those who held to this impious faction and heresy.
Pelagius (350-425), a British monk teaching in Rome, had proposed a heretical and false view of human nature that included the wicked heresy that a man have a capacity for doing good apart from God’s grace. Pelagius publicly disagreed with the Church and St. Augustine’s teaching that mankind was badly crippled by sin. The Catholic Encyclopedia explains that “during his sojourn in Rome he [Pelagius] composed several works… A closer examination of this work… brought to light the fact that it contained the fundamental ideas which the Church afterwards condemned as "Pelagian heresy". In it Pelagius denied the primitive state in paradise and original sin (cf. P.L., XXX, 678, "Insaniunt, qui de Adam per traducem asserunt ad nos venire peccatum"), insisted on the naturalness of concupiscence and the death of the body, and ascribed the actual existence and universality of sin to the bad example which Adam set by his first sin. As all his ideas were chiefly rooted in the old, pagan philosophy, especially in the popular system of the Stoics, rather than in Christianity, he regarded the moral strength of man’s will (liberum arbitrium), when steeled by asceticism, as sufficient in itself to desire and to attain the loftiest ideal of virtue. The value of Christ’s redemption was, in his opinion, limited mainly to instruction (doctrina) and example (exemplum), which the Savior threw into the balance as a counterweight against Adam’s wicked example, so that nature retains the ability to conquer sin and to gain eternal life even without the aid of grace.”
In 415 A.D. Saint Augustine attacked Pelagius’s teachings. By this time in his life Augustine had become a battle-hardened foe of heretics. He had defeated the Manichees and crushed the Donatists. When Pelagius began to oppose the Bible and the Church’s teaching, Augustine set out to destroy this deceiver. Contrary to Augustine, Pelagius had concluded that infants had no original sin at all. The biblical core of St. Augustine’s teaching of original sin centered on the account of the sin of Adam and Eve (Gen. 3) and St. Paul’s teaching that “through one person sin entered the world” (Rom. 5:12).
Thus he understood “that by his sin Adam fell from his original supernatural status, and that through human propagation, which involved concupiscence, the lack of grace was passed on to every human being descended from Adam.” In his confrontation with Pelagius, Augustine’s teaching concerning the effects of Adam and Eve’s sin took on hard, clear connections involving sex, sin, and shame. Augustine taught that original sin was passed on to persons at their conceptions. When spouses conceived a child, they passed on the effects of Adam’s original sin. Thus every human being received a human nature deformed by Adam’s sin. St. Augustine’s teaching about original sin was “received,” that is, accepted as doctrine by the Catholic Church. His clear explanation of original sin helped to resolve three issues. First, it explained the practice of baptizing infants that was taught from the beginning of the Church by the Apostles and Apostolic Tradition. Secondly, it explained why concupiscence remained even after baptism. This sacrament removed original sin, but not its effects. Thirdly, Augustine’s teaching about original sin provided a weapon that could be used to defeat Pelagius’ false and heretical teachings about the basic goodness of the fallen human nature.
The account of Adam and Eve’s recognition of their nakedness and their subsequent sewing of fig leaves to make loincloths (Gen. 3:7) led Augustine to conclude that the human genitals were the means of transmitting original sin: “The truth, however, is, that we are ashamed of that very thing which made those primitive human beings ashamed, when they covered their loins, namely their genital organs.” (St. Augustine, On Marriage and Concupiscence 1:24) Showing his disapproval of concupiscence, Augustine eloquently taught: “That is the penalty of sin; that is the plague and mark of sin; that is the temptation and very fuel of sin; that is the law in our members warring against the law of our mind; that is the rebellion against our own selves, proceeding from our very selves, which by a most righteous retribution is rendered us by our disobedient members.” (St. Augustine, On Marriage and Concupiscence 2:22)
Augustine taught that in Eden the sexual act was totally under the control of the wills of both Adam and Eve because they possessed “the highest tranquility of all the obedient members without any lust.” (St. Augustine, Against Two Letters of the Pelagians 1:35) Neither the man nor the woman needed the stirrings of sexual arousal to perform the act that would conceive a child before the fall. Thus, the human experience of sexual arousal was the effect of the concupiscence that resulted from the first sin. Prior to that sin the man “would have sown the seed, and the woman received it, as need required, the generative organs being moved by the will, not excited by lust.” (St. Augustine, City of God, XIV:24) Human sexual arousal was both a reminder of and a punishment for the first sin.
In his book On Marriage and Concupiscence, Book I, Chapter 8, Augustine pointed out that concupiscence was comparable to a man’s limp. A limping man could still reach his destination. Reaching that destination was good, but the limp was not good. In marital relations the destination was the good of procreation. But the pleasurable orgasm that enabled conception to take place was, like the limp, not good. The pleasure of sexual spontaneity, like the man’s limp, was a defect.
Augustine’s understood that Adam and Eve did not participate in sexual intercourse, as we human beings know it, until after they had sinned, teaching that in Eden the genital organs “would be set in motion at the command of the will; and without the active stimulus of passion, with calmness of mind and with no corrupting of the integrity of the body, the husband would lie on the bosom of his wife.” (St. Augustine, The City of God, XIV:26) But, after the first sin, whenever married partners felt the desire for sexual union with each other, they experienced the corrupting influence of lust at work in their sin-blighted bodies. Augustine also taught that the act of sexual intercourse was instrumental in passing on original sin. Augustine’s proof text came from Psalm 50: “For behold I was conceived in iniquities; and in sins did my mother conceive me.” (Psalms 50:7). Thus, Augustine understood that every person after Adam and Eve was conceived in iniquity.
As late as 1930 Pope Pius XI echoed St. Augustine’s teaching in his Casti Connubii: “Indeed, the natural generation of life has become the path of death by which original sin is communicated to the children.” Augustine and the North African bishops condemned Pelagius and his followers in 416. In the following year Pope Innocent excommunicated Pelagius.
In 418 Bishop Julian of Eclanum, Italy, objected to the Church’s teaching that unbaptized infants share in the guilt of Adam’s sin as well as to Her teachings on marriage and concupiscence. The Catholic Encyclopedia explains that “when Pope Zosimus issued, in 418, his "Epistola Tractatoria", Julianus was one of the eighteen Italian bishops who refused to subscribe to the condemnation of Pelagius which it contained. In consequence of this refusal he was exiled under the decree of the Emperor Honorius, which pronounced banishment against Pelagius and his sympathizers. Driven from Italy in 421, he commenced an active literary campaign in the interests of the new heresy and by his writings soon won for himself the position of intellectual leader of the heretical party. To him is due the credit [or blame] of having systematized the teachings of Pelagius and Coelestius. His writings, which were frankly Pelagian, were largely directed against the doctrines which St. Augustine had defended, and for several years after the expulsion of the Pelagians the history of the conflict is merely an account of the controversy between Julian and Augustine. Most of Julian’s works are lost, and are known only through the copious quotations found in the works of his great adversary. … Driven from Italy, he found refuge for a time with Theodore of Mopsuestia, who, though sympathetic, subsequently subscribed to his condemnation. At the accession of each pontiff Julian sought to have the Pelagian controversy re-opened, but this merely resulted in further condemnations by [the Popes] Celestine, Sixtus III, and Leo I.”
The heretic Julian disagreed with the Church’s teaching that the source of concupiscence was sin and that the defect of sexual activity was demonstrated by the fact that couples engaging in sex do not want to be observed by others. Calling incontinence “the mother of all vices,” Augustine referred to St. Paul’s wanting more than mere avoidance of fornication but also “a certain moderation in marriage itself,” which would be attained by setting aside “times of prayer.” Further rebuking Julian, the bishop of Hippo scolded: “You notice how you should understand with us in what disease of desire the Apostle was unwilling that one possess his vessel. … But to you lust seems culpable only toward one other than one’s wife.” Augustine then accusingly asked, “Who, then, honors marriage more: you, when you deface its dignity by making it a blameless wallowing place of carnal concupiscence; or he who… recalls that the Apostle recommended times of prayer and abstinence from the pleasure of lust, and who does not wish husbands and wives to be given up to that disease whence original sin is contracted?” (St. Augustine, Against Julian, Book II, Chapter 7, Section 20)
We see here the Church’s teaching about “original sin,” Her rejection of possessing one’s vessel in the “disease” of desire, Her condemnation of “the pleasure of lust,” and Her revulsion for immoderate marital relations, which St. Augustine calls the “wallowing place of carnal concupiscence.” Julian was driven from his diocese in 419. Nevertheless, he and Augustine continued to debate until 431, their debate only terminating with Augustine’s death. Just as with other heresies, St. Augustine was on the forefront in crushing this heresy of Pelagius and his followers. Clothed with the authority of the Church and Her Popes, the bishop of Hippo clearly proved that Pelagius’s teaching was a heresy, and for a long while after this, this heresy was practically abandoned by all who called themselves Christian.
To St. Augustine, concupiscence is an evil and a disease, although he did not believe the effect of it is evil when it effects procreation. In his many writings on the subject, he clearly proves how those impious heretics who teaches that sexual desire or concupiscence is “good” or not a disease are utterly false and unreasonable. He writes: “… as the Apostle says: "But if they do not have self-control, let them marry." [1 Cor. 7:9] Why do you acknowledge a necessary remedy for concupiscence, yet contradict me when I say concupiscence is a disease? If you acknowledge the remedy [marriage], acknowledge the disease [lust]. If you deny the disease, deny the remedy. I ask you at last to yield to the truth which speaks to you even through your own mouth. No one provides a remedy for health.” (St. Augustine, Against Julian, Book III, Chapter 15, Section 29, A.D. 421)
Indeed, St. Augustine also clearly teaches that Original Sin is transmitted through lust or concupiscence: “Wherefore the devil holds infants guilty [through original sin] who are born, not of the good by which marriage is good, but of the