COUNCIL OF TRENT 1545-1563: Decree On Original Sin

PAUL III 1534-1549

COUNCIL OF TRENT 1545-1563

Ecumenical XIX (Contra Novatores 16 cent.)

Decree On Original Sin *

 

787 That our Catholic faith, “without which it is impossible to please God”[Heb. 11:16] may after the purging of errors continue in its own perfect and spotless purity, and that the Christian people may not be “carried about with every wind of doctrine” [Eph. 4:14], since that old serpent, the perpetual enemy of the human race, among the very many evils with which the Church of God in these our times is troubled, has stirred up not only new, but even old dissensions concerning original sin and its remedy, the sacred ecumenical and general Synod of Trent lawfully assembled in the Holy Spirit with the same three legates of the Apostolic See presiding over it, wishing now to proceed to the recalling of the erring and to the confirming of the wavering, and following the testimonies of the Holy Scriptures and of the holy Fathers and of the most approved Councils, as well as the judgment and the unanimity of the Church itself, has established, confesses, and declares the following concerning original sin:

 

788 I. If anyone does not confess that the first man Adam, when he had transgressed the commandment of God in Paradise, immediately lost his holiness and the justice in which he had been established, and that he incurred through the offense of that prevarication the wrath and indignation of God and hence the death with which God had previously threatened him, and with death captivity under his power, who thenceforth “had the empire of death” [Heb. 2:14], that is of the devil, and that through that offense of prevarication the entire Adam was transformed in body and soul for the worse [see n. 174], let him be anathema.

 

789 2. If anyone asserts that the transgression of Adam has harmed him alone and not his posterity, and that the sanctity and justice, received from God, which he lost, he has lost for himself alone and not for us also; or that he having been defiled by the sin of disobedience has transfused only death “and the punishments of the body into the whole human race, but not sin also, which is the death of the soul,” let him be anathema, since 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” [Rom. 5:12; see n. 175].

 

790 3. If anyone asserts that this sin of Adam, which is one in origin and transmitted to all is in each one as his own by propagation, not by imitation, is taken away either by the forces of human nature, or by any remedy other than the merit of the one mediator, our Lord Jesus Christ [see n. 711], who has reconciled us to God in his own blood, “made unto us justice, sanctification, and redemption” [1 Cor. 1:30]; or if he denies that that merit of Jesus Christ is applied to adults as well as to infants by the sacrament of baptism, rightly administered in the form of the Church: let him be anathema. “For there is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved . . .” [Acts 4:12]. Whence that word: “Behold the lamb of God, behold Him who taketh away the sins of the world” [John 1:29]. And that other: “As many of you as have been baptized, have put on Christ” [Gal. 3:27].

 

791 4. “If anyone denies that infants newly born from their mothers’ wombs are to be baptized,” even though they be born of baptized parents, “or says they are baptized indeed for the remission of sins, but that they derive nothing of original sin from Adam, which must be expiated by the laver of regeneration” for the attainment of life everlasting, whence it follows, that in them the form of baptism for the remission of sins is understood to be not true, but false: let him be anathema. For what the Apostle has said: “By one man sin entered into the world, and by sin death, and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned” [Rom. 5:12], is not to be understood otherwise than as the Catholic Church spread everywhere has always understood it. For by reason of this rule of faith from a tradition of the apostles even infants, who could not as yet commit any sins of themselves, are for this reason truly baptized for the remission of sins, so that in them there may be washed away by regeneration, what they have contracted by generation, [see n. 102]. “For unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” [John 3:5].

 

792 5. If anyone denies that by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is conferred in baptism, the guilt of original sin is remitted, or even asserts that the whole of that which has the true and proper nature of sin is not taken away, but says that it is only touched in person or is not imputed, let him be anathema. For in those who are born again, God hates nothing, because “there is no condemnation, to those who are truly buried together with Christ by baptism unto death” [Rom. 6:4], who do not “walk according to the flesh” [Rom. 8:1], but putting off “the old man” and putting on the “new, who is created according to God” [Eph. 4:22 ff.; Col. 3:9 ff.], are made innocent, immaculate, pure, guiltless and beloved sons of God, “heirs indeed of God, but co-heirs with Christ” [Rom.8:17], SO that there is nothing whatever to retard their entrance into heaven. But this holy Synod confesses and perceives that there remains in the baptized concupiscence of an inclination, although this is left to be wrestled with, it cannot harm those who do not consent, but manfully resist by the grace of Jesus Christ. Nay, indeed, “he who shall have striven lawfully, shall be crowned” [2 Tim. 2:5]. This concupiscence, which at times the Apostle calls sin [Rom. 6:12 ff.] the holy Synod declares that the Catholic Church has never understood to be called sin, as truly and properly sin in those born again, but because it is from sin and inclines to sin. But if anyone is of the contrary opinion, let him be anathema.

 

  1. This holy Synod declares nevertheless that it is not its intention to include in this decree, where original sin is treated of, the blessed and immaculate Virgin Mary mother of God, but that the constitutions of Pope SIXTUS IV of happy memory are to be observed, under the penalties contained in these constitutions, which it renews [see n. 734 ff:].