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A straightforward presentation of the Catholic truth

about original sin is the best antidote for this and other

misunderstandings of the doctrine. Many have found the

account presented by SaintThomas Aquinas in his



to be the most balanced and intelligible account

of this doctrine. This presentation will rely on him this


The nature of the first sin

Let’s begin with what happened in the garden as re-

counted in the Book of Genesis. What was the nature of the

first sin? What fault was it, according to divine revelation,

that Adam and Eve committed?

In his analysis of the nature of another fault—that of

the fallen angels—Saint Thomas Aquinas asks what sort

of sin it could have been.


Eliminating those capital sins

which can be committed only by persons with bodies, he

is left with the spiritual sin of pride: it is traditionally said

that the sin of the fallen angels was that they wanted to be

like God. But what is wrong with wanting to be like God,

Aquinas asks; this seems to be an altogether admirable thing

to desire. Their sin lay, he concludes, in their wanting to

possess this likeness to God, not as his gift,

but as their due


The parable of the wicked husbandmen (Mt 21:33-44)

dramatizes just this sort of sin—by no means restricted

to the angelic realm. The parable recounts the story of a

landlord who sends servants to his vineyard to collect from

the tenants his share of the harvest. The tenants treat the

servants badly—beating, stoning, and even killing them.

In the end, the landlord sends his son, thinking that the

tenants will respect him.

3 ST 1a.63, 1-3