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Woman contributes only matter in Generation. [‘On the loss of grace and the condition of sin’ bk 4, ch.13; by Bellarmine]

Woman contributes only matter in Generation

De Amissione Gratiae et Statu Peccati, book 4, chapter 13

[‘On the loss of grace and the condition of sin’ bk 4, ch.13; 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, p. 225.

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

Paragraph numbering added to the text for easy reference.

Excerpt from Chapter 13

Not from Eve, but from Adam alone is original sin derived

§ 1. So far we have explained the first controversy about original sin, which is: whether there is some sin that is transmitted to posterity by birth. Now before we come to the other principal controversy, which will be on the nature of original sin, we need to discuss three rather brief questions that must be dealt with. First, whence this sin is derived; another, to whom it is transmitted; third, what sin is transmitted.

§ 2. On the first question, it is certain that this sin is incurred from Adam. For the Apostle says about this: Through one man sin entered the world (in Romans 5). And As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive (1 Cor. 15). Two points may be considered controversial: first, if Eve alone had sinned, Adam remaining innocent, whether the sin of Eve was transmitted to posterity? The other whether, if the first parents had not sinned, but Cain had sinned, or someone else of Adam’s progeny, that sin would have spread to his children?

§ 3. As to the earlier question, all agree that the sin properly so called would not have been transmitted to posterity if Eve alone had sinned; but they disagree insofar as some think that from the sin of Eve alone the necessity of dying would have spread to her children, as well as other disadvantages that mortality contains within itself.

§ 4. Others argue the opposite: that neither the sin nor the necessity of dying would have a place among the children of Adam through the sin of Eve alone. And this is found as the later opinion in St. Thomas (in Ia IIae quaest. 81. art.5) and is very true without a doubt.

§ 5. For we contract original sin because when Adam sinned, we were in him, as in the active principle. But we were not in Eve, as in an active principle, since the mother does not offer the active force, but contributes only matter for generating offspring.

§ 6. Further, if we do not derive sin from Eve, we certainly do not derive death from her, which is the punishment for sin. For the punishment for sin is to die. (Romans 6). For this reason the Scripture does not say ‘in Eve all die’, but in Adam all die(1 Corinth. 15) and since Eve sinned before Adam, if we derived death from Eve, it would certainly have to be said “in Eve all die.”

§ 7. It is true that Ecclesiasticus writes (ch. 25): By woman was made the beginning of sin, and through her we all die. But it is one thing to say “per illam” [through her] and another “in illa” [in her]; we die through her because she offered her husband the occasion for sinning, whence death followed. But it is not in her; but in Adam that we all die, because not Eve’s, but Adam’s sin was common to all, and when he sinned, we all have sinned in him, and when he died, we all have died in him.

§ 8. Finally the Council of Orange (canon 2) stated that it would not be possible for death to be transfered to humankind without sin, unless we attribute an injustice to God, and it would contradict the Apostle saying: Through one man sin entered this world, and through sin, death.

§ 9. And now pertaining to the second question, it is the consensus that if the first man, who bore the stamp of nature completely, had not sinned, and if someone else had sinned, the sin would have been personal and particular, and thus his posterity could not have been infected and corrupted at all. It seems indeed that St.Thomas states the contrary (quaest. 5 de malo art.4 at the last line), but perhaps this passage is corrupted.

Return to Summary of Bellarmine’s teaching?



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