December 8: The Original Sin of Pius IX

Pius IX and Original Sin (1854)

It was on this date, December 8, 1854 – that the same Pope Pius IX promulgated, in the bull Ineffabilis Deus, the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. Not to be confused with the “virgin birth” legend of Jesus, this equally absurd doctrine says that, at Mary’s conception, she did not inherit the guilt of the sin of Adam known as Original Sin.

Articulated in the Genesis legend of the Fall of Man, all humans inherited God’s curse on Adam, the Original Sin. This can be relieved only through Christian baptism. The ideas of inherited sin and eternal punishment would seem to make the Christian religion an inferior creed to the many circulating in the Greek-Roman world in the beginning centuries of the Christian Era. Most other religious systems, not to mention legal systems, would never prescribe infinite punishment for finite offenses. Similarly, to maintain that guilt is carried from father to son, generation upon generation, is absurd on its face.

"The Fall of Man" by Michelangelo

The idea was controversial for the early Church, but Tertullian in the 2nd century, and Augustine in the 5th century, made it doctrine. Original Sin made medieval reformers queasy, as we see in Martin Luther’s Thirty-nine Articles. Most modern theologians either ignore Original Sin or evade it, when they do not actually condemn it. But it is why Catholic babies are rushed to church for baptism as soon as possible after birth. To everyone else, the idea is a joke: “Do you believe in Original Sin?” “I don’t know,” said the MILF. “How original do you want to be?”

Originally published December 2003 by Ronald Bruce Meyer.

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Posted in History, Religion, Theology

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John Mill

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