Original Sin and the Immaculate Conception

Drawing of an Apple

Are you guilty of original sin? Of course not. How could I be guilty of something I haven’t done?

Have you ever done anything wrong? Of course, I have. Then you must have done wrong for the first time and that was your original sin. In your original sin, you linked yourself with the sin of humankind going back to the very beginning when the first sin, whatever it was, was committed. We all share the guilt of original sin by our own original sins.

Mary, in her immaculate conception, is said by the Church never to have sinned. Thus her life was not linked to the sin of humankind. She was free from sin from the moment of her conception, always free from original sin.

It was a Jesuit scholar, Stanislaus Lyonnet, who started teaching like this back in the 1950’s. Other theologians condemned the new understanding and he was dismissed from his post as Rector at the Biblicum in Rome, but was reinstated by Pope Paul VI and Lyonnet’s explanation has since slowly become accepted.

In the Jerusalem bible, familiar to all of us from the readings at mass, the footnote to St Paul’s Letter to the Romans (chapter 5, verse 12) acknowledges two ways of understanding St Paul: (1) There was a first sin and we inherit its guilt as a human consequence; (2) We each do wrong a first time and thus, by our own original sin, we link with all sin going back to the beginning – the original sin – and share the consequences.

Fr John
(8th December 2016)

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