Ave Maria Meditations
Doctrine of Original Sin is the alternative to a ‘vision of despair’.
Original Sin should always be understood in the context of the salvation brought by Jesus Christ, Pope Benedict XVI told one of his regular Wednesday weekday audiences.
Speaking to about 7,000 people in the Paul VI auditorium, the Holy Father acknowledged that the doctrine of Original Sin is unpopular today. “Many people think that, in the light of the history of evolution, there is no place” for such a belief, he said. But if there is no sin that stains mankind, there is no necessity for salvation.
“Does Original Sin exist or not, then?” the Pontiff asked rhetorically. He pointed out that St. Paul, in sketching “the basic outlines of the doctrine” in his Letter to the Romans, explains Original Sin by comparing the Fall in Eden with the redemption brought by Christ, the new Adam.
Every rational person recognizes the reality of human weakness, the Pope said. The doctrine of Original Sin goes beyond that obvious reality to address the “ontological foundation” of evil, he said. “In effect, there is a contradiction in our being. On the one hand we know we must do good, and in our inner selves this is what we desire, yet at the same time we feel an impulse to do the opposite, to follow the path of egoism, of violence.”
When we recognize this inner struggle, the Pope continued, we also recognize the desire to be freed from our own weakness. That desire, he said, is universal: a common striving of all mankind.
Different theories have been advanced to explain this contradiction within the human soul, the Pope observed. One theory, advanced by atheists, is that good and evil always coexist in everyone. But that theory, the Pope said, “is a vision of despair,” because it suggests that “evil is invincible,” inevitably present at all times and in all persons.
Christians, drawing on the thought of St. Paul, recognize “the reality of the darkness of evil weighing upon the whole of creation.” Yet they know that this darkness is ultimately overcome by the light of Christ. Pope Benedict explained: