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Article Five

Whether Death and Other Defects of the Body are the Effects of Sin

We proceed to the fifth article thus:

1. It seems that death and other defects of the body are not the effects of sin. If a cause is equal, its effect will be equal. But these defects are not equal in everyone. They are greater in some than in others, whereas original sin, to which they seem principally due, is in all men equally, as was said in Q. 82, Art. 4. It follows that death and defects of this kind are not the effects of sin.

2. Again, when a cause is removed, its effect is removed. But when every sin is removed by baptism or by penitence, these defects are not removed. It follows that they are not the effects of sin.

3. Again, actual sin has more of the nature of guilt than original sin, and actual sin does not cause any defect in the body. Much less, then, does original sin. It follows that death and other defects of the body are not the effect of sin.


On the other hand: the apostle says in Rom. 5:12: “by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin.”

I answer: one thing may be the cause of another in either of two ways—either through itself, or accidentally. It is the cause of another through itself if it produces its effect by its own natural power, or by the power of its form. The effect is then essentially intended by the cause. It is obvious, then, that sin is not through itself the cause of death or of similar evils, because the sinner does not intend them. But one thing may also be the cause of another accidentally, by removing something which prevents it. It is said in 8 Physics, text 32, that one who dislodges a pillar is accidentally the mover of the stone which it supports. The sin of our first parent is, thus accidentally, the cause of death and of all similar defects of human nature. For it took away original justice, which not only kept the lower powers of the soul in subjection to reason, without any disorder, but also kept the whole body in subjection to the soul, without any defect (as was said in Pt. I, Q. 97, Art. 1). When original justice was taken away by this sin, human nature was so wounded by the derangement of the powers of the soul (as we said in Art. 4, and Q. 83, Art. 3), that it was rendered corruptible by the derangement of the body. Now the loss of original justice has the character of a punishment, comparable with the withholding of grace. Death and all attendant defects of the body are therefore the punishments of original sin. They are in accordance with the punitive justice of God, even though they are not intended by the sinner.

On the first point: an equal cause produces an equal effect, and an effect is increased or diminished along with its cause, provided that the cause produces its effect through itself. But equality of cause does not imply inequality of effect when the cause operates by removing a preventative. If someone applies equal force to two columns, it does not follow that the stones which rest on them will be disturbed equally. The heavier stone will fall the more quickly, because it is left to its own natural heaviness when the column which supports it is taken away. Now the nature of the human body was similarly left to itself when original justice was taken away. Some bodies are consequently subject to more defects and others to fewer defects, according to their different natural conditions, even though original sin is equal in all of them.

On the second point: according to what the apostle says in Rom. 8:11, the same power which takes away the guilt of 134original sin and of actual sin will take away these defects also: “. . . he shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” But all things are done in their due time, as God’s wisdom ordains. We must first be made to conform with Christ’s passion, before we attain to the immortal and undying glory which was begun in Christ and obtained by him for us. His passion must remain in our bodies for a time, before we share, like him, in undying glory.

On the third point: there are two things in actual sin which we may have in mind, namely, the act itself, and the guilt of it. The act of sin can cause a defect in the body. Some people take ill and die through over-eating. But the guilt of it deprives a man of grace for rectifying the actions of the soul, not of grace for preventing defects of the body. Original justice did prevent defects of the body. Hence actual sin is not the cause of such defects in the same way as original sin is the cause of them.

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