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On the specific punishment of women. ‘On the loss of grace and the condition of sin’ bk 3, ch.11; by Bellarmine]

On the specific punishment of women

De Amissione Gratiae et Statu Peccati, book 3, chapter 11

[‘On the loss of grace and the condition of sin’ bk 3, ch.11; by Bellarmine]

Cardinal Bellarmine

From De Controversiis Christianae Fidei by Robert Cardinal Bellarmine SJ, written between 1586 and 1593, re-published at Rome in 1840; here vol. IV, pp. 172-173.

Translated especially for womenpriests.org from the original Latin
by Dr. Mary Ann Rossi -- credits

Paragraph numbering added to the text for easy reference.

Chapter 11

On the punishment for the first sin

§ 1. We have explained the temptation and the sin of the first parents, and now we shall discuss in a few words the punishment for this same sin, which we bear up to the present time.

§ 2. And indeed the punishment which corresponds properly to the first sin, as if by right [translation uncertain], was the loss of original justice and of the supernatural gifts with which God had endowed our nature, as St. Thomas teaches in 2.2 quaes. 164.art.1. This is the punishment that equally bear however many trace their origin from Adam, and in him, and through him, they sinned in that very beginning.

§ 3. All other evils, however, whether of body or of mind, which oppress us in this vale of miseries, are also caused by the first sin, because they arise from that first punishment, that is, from the loss of original justice, yet not directly or properly, as was the taking away of the gifts. For that first evil [=the loss of grace, etc.] is like a punishment imposed by the judge, as St. Thomas says; other evils follow from that punishment, in the same way that a flood of rivers or the sea, follows a disruption of the banks within which the rush of waters was contained; and this is the reason why the other [secondary] evils do not weigh upon all people equally.

§ 4. But although these things may be so, nevertheless in the Book of Genesis, Chapter 3, when God describes the punishments first of man, then of woman, he does not mention the loss of original justice, but of the evils that follow from it. This was so, both because they already felt that first and proper punishment for their sin [=loss of original justice] and bore witness that they were paying the penalty for disobedience by their nudity, their shame, and their flight; and God wanted to point out to them not what was already obvious to them, but what they would suffer later. And also, in order that they would learn from its effects how heavy a punishment that deprivation of original justice was, since from that one loss, so many calamities would follow.

§ 5. Further, those evils following the first punishment of the first sin are almost innumerable, about which we shall discuss a bit more broadly in Book III on original sin. But God in Genesis Chapter 3 touched only on those things which pertain to corporal life itself, since, as life itself is the foundation of all temporal goodsso the evils, which afflict life, are the most common and most notable of all.

§ 6. But there are three evils which have befallen corporeal life on account of the punishment of sin: one specific to women; another specific to men; and the third common to both. The entry of humankind into life is painful for women, who carry the fetus conceived in their uterus with hard labor, and who give birth with pain; the preservation of life is burdensome to men, to whom it falls especially to look for food for himself, for his wife, and children. Finally the exit from life, or the necessity of dying, brings the greatest sadness both to men and to women.

§ 7. These three evils God describes in Genesis, and he says this first about the first, which pertains to the beginning of life: "He said also to the woman, "I shall multiply your hard labors and your pregnancies; you will give birth to your sons in pain, and you will be under the power of your husband, and he will rule over you." What these words mean in themselves is not easy to explain, especially when the multiplying of pregnancies pertains to a blessing and had existed in paradise and in the state of innocence; according to the passage in Genesis 1: "Increase and multiply . . ."

§ 8. There were not lacking very serious Fathers who believed that the propagation of the human race through the work of marriage, and through this, conception, and birth, and the subjection of the woman to man, would not have existed in the state of innocence; and therefore that these things were rightly numbered among the punishments for the first sin. Gregory of Nissa (in Chap. 18 in the book on the creation of man) felt this way, and also John Chrysostom (hom. 18. on Genesis). Also John Damascenus (bk. 2 on the orthodox faith ch.30 and bk.4 ch.25). Also St. Jerome in his book Contra Jovinianum does not dare openly to repudiate this opinion. For he writes that he is uncertain whether in the state of innocence [ i.e. before sin] propagation would have taken place through marriage.

§ 9. But this opinion is deservedly refuted by St. Thomas (in 1a parte quaest.98.art.2) and by other theologians (in 2 sentent. dist.20), and by St. Augustine (book 14 de. Civitate Dei ch .21 ff.; book 9 De Genesi ad literam; and ch. 3 ff.) and by other Latin Fathers, who wrote after the time of Augustine, such as Eucherius, Rupertus, and others; and surely divine Scripture gives evidence, and not obscurely, that there would have been the propagation of humankind through the coupling of male and female in paradise. For in the first chapter of Genesis we read: "Male and female he created them, and he said Increase and multiply, etc. Where we see that before sin, people were created with the distinction of the sexes, to the end that they might increase and be multiplied.

§ 10. What Gregorius of Nissa and John Damascene respond to this, namely: that the diversity of the sexes was instituted because God had foreseen what was to be: that Adam would sin, and on account of the sin he wanted the diversity of the sexes for the task of generation; this is not spoken rightly. For, on the one hand, nature was not changed through the sin, as far as parts and natural limbs, but only as far as actions and duties. Secondly, it was not fitting for divine providence to show the vestiges of punishment in man before a vestige of blame had appeared in him.

§ 11. Again, ch.2 "God said: It is not good for man to be alone; let us make him a helper like himself." From which passage Augustine rightly concludes that woman was thus mostly established for this purpose: so that she might help her husband in the propagation of children. For there is no other work in which a man is not better aided by a man than by a woman. And especially in paradise, where no hard labor had to be undertaken, no poverty was feared, where there was no reason why a woman would be necessary to a man except for generation.

§ 12. Add to this that in that place of happiness before the sin had been committed, Adam said: "A man will leave his father and mother, and he will cling to his wife, and the two will be of one flesh..." Which words Christ testifies pertain to matrimony and to the marital union (in the gospel of Matth.19) and the Apostle [Paul] (in Ephes.5).

§ 13. Finally, though man in a state of innocence possessed this [privilege] through a supernatural gift that he could not die, nevertheless he had a truly animal body, which, just as it needed food to survive, so also needed generation in order to be propagated.

§ 14. Therefore if man had not sinned, there would have been holy marriage, immaculate coupling, without lustful passion of the flesh, woman would have carried offspring in her womb without labor, and she would have given birth without pain. As Augustine says (book.14. de Civit. Dei.cap.26): "Just as for as for giving birth, not groans of pain but the impulse of ripeness would relax the female viscera; so for producing children and for conception, it would not the appetite of lust, but voluntary use that would joined both natures ..." There still would have been the subjection of the wife to the husband, but from love and not by [the woman's] condition, and from spontaneous free will, and not by violent coercion, as Augustine teaches likewise (book 11. de Gen. ad literam, ch.37).

§ 15. Wherefore the punishment of the sin is that women bear the fetus in the womb with disgust and labor, that they give birth with pain, that they are so subjected to their husbands, that even unwilling, they must obey them, and that they are forced not only to love them, but also to fear them. And it is this that God predicted to Eve when He said: "I shall multiply your hardships, etc."

§ 16. But this statement of God’s--"I shall multiply your hardships and your pregnancies..." should not be understood as if the multiplication of pregnancies pertains absolutely to the punishment, but it is said in either of two ways:

  • either according to a Hebrew idiom: [I shall multiply your woes and pregnancies for the phrase I shall multiply the woes of your pregnancies]; and so perhaps the seventy interpreters [composers of the Septuagint--Trans.] in order to explain the matter, omitted the noun ‘conceptus’ (‘pregnancies’), which is contained in the Hebrew, and simply placed "I shall multiply your sorrows and your groaning."
  • Or the phrase "I shall multiply your pregnancies" is said because if Adam and Eve had not sinned, only those fetuses would have been conceived which reached maturity; but now again and again women conceive a fetus and bear it with effort and sadness, and it dies before it begins to see the light. And this multiplication of pregnancies ought clearly to be judged a very serious punishment.

§ 17. Some say, however, that the multiplication of pregnancies refers to the time of gestation of the fetus in the womb, that now, on account of punishment for the sin, the fetus is carried for nine months, but that in paradise the fetus would have been born immediately after it was conceived. But this is not probable, nor does it agree to the words of Scripture, nor to the opinion of St. Augustine (whom we cited a bit earlier), who writes that at the incitement of the fullness of time the woman’s internal organs would have been relaxed.

§ 18. Further, what in describing the punishment of woman is said: ‘you will be under the power of your husband’, or--as the Greek translation has-- ‘your turning will be towards your husband’: this can be construed in two ways because of the ambiguity of the Hebrew noun [teshuqathek], which sometimes is used to mean conversion and obedience, and sometimes desire and longing.

  • So the sense will be either that the woman ought to be turned towards her husband by serving and obeying, as if she should hang on the commands from his mouth;
  • or surely the meaning will be that woman even after the labor of bearing in her uterus, and the pain of delivering, will still desire her husband. And the punishment is not light, that she is not able to keep herself from that which brings her to such great labor and sadness.

§ 19. With regard to the proper punishment for men, etc. etc.

Return to Summary of Bellarmine’s teaching?

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