THE PROFESSION OF FAITH
THE PROFESSION OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH
I BELIEVE IN GOD THE FATHER
"I BELIEVE IN GOD THE FATHER ALMIGHTY, CREATOR OF HEAVEN AND EARTH"
Paragraph 2. The Father
I. "IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER AND OF THE SON AND OF THE HOLY SPIRIT"
232 Christians are baptized "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit"53 Before
receiving the sacrament, they respond to a three-part question when asked to confess the Father, the
Son and the Spirit: "I do." "The faith of all Christians rests on the Trinity."54
233 Christians are baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: not in their
names,55 for there is only one God, the almighty Father, his only Son and the Holy Spirit: the Most Holy
234 The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life. It is the
mystery of God in himself. It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that
enlightens them. It is the most fundamental and essential teaching in the "hierarchy of the truths of
faith".56 The whole history of salvation is identical with the history of the way and the means by which
the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, reveals himself to men "and reconciles and unites with
himself those who turn away from sin".57
235 This paragraph expounds briefly (I) how the mystery of the Blessed Trinity was revealed, (II) how
the Church has articulated the doctrine of the faith regarding this mystery, and (III) how, by the divine
missions of the Son and the Holy Spirit, God the Father fulfills the "plan of his loving goodness" of
creation, redemption and sanctification.
236 The Fathers of the Church distinguish between theology (theologia) and economy (oikonomia).
"Theology" refers to the mystery of God's inmost life within the Blessed Trinity and "economy" to all
the works by which God reveals himself and communicates his life. Through the oikonomia the
theologia is revealed to us; but conversely, the theologia illuminates the whole oikonomia. God's works
reveal who he is in himself; the mystery of his inmost being enlightens our understanding of all his
works. So it is, analogously, among human persons. A person discloses himself in his actions, and the
better we know a person, the better we understand his actions.
237 The Trinity is a mystery of faith in the strict sense, one of the "mysteries that are hidden in God,
which can never be known unless they are revealed by God".58 To be sure, God has left traces of his
Trinitarian being in his work of creation and in his Revelation throughout the Old Testament. But his
inmost Being as Holy Trinity is a mystery that is inaccessible to reason alone or even to Israel's faith
before the Incarnation of God's Son and the sending of the Holy Spirit.
II. THE REVELATION OF GOD AS TRINITYThe Father revealed by the Son
238 Many religions invoke God as "Father". The deity is often considered the "father of gods and of
men". In Israel, God is called "Father" inasmuch as he is Creator of the world.59 Even more, God is
Father because of the covenant and the gift of the law to Israel, "his first-born son".60 God is also called
the Father of the king of Israel. Most especially he is "the Father of the poor", of the orphaned and the
widowed, who are under his loving protection.61
239 By calling God "Father", the language of faith indicates two main things: that God is the first origin
of everything and transcendent authority; and that he is at the same time goodness and loving care for
all his children. God's parental tenderness can also be expressed by the image of motherhood,62 which
emphasizes God's immanence, the intimacy between Creator and creature. The language of faith thus
draws on the human experience of parents, who are in a way the first representatives of God for man.
But this experience also tells us that human parents are fallible and can disfigure the face of
fatherhood and motherhood. We ought therefore to recall that God transcends the human distinction
between the sexes. He is neither man nor woman: he is God. He also transcends human fatherhood
and motherhood, although he is their origin and standard:63 no one is father as God is Father.
240 Jesus revealed that God is Father in an unheard-of sense: he is Father not only in being Creator; he
is eternally Father in relation to his only Son, who is eternally Son only in relation to his Father: "No
one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to
whom the Son chooses to reveal him."64
241 For this reason the apostles confess Jesus to be the Word: "In the beginning was the Word, and
the Word was with God, and the Word was God"; as "the image of the invisible God"; as the "radiance
of the glory of God and the very stamp of his nature".65
242 Following this apostolic tradition, the Church confessed at the first ecumenical council at Nicaea
(325) that the Son is "consubstantial" with the Father, that is, one only God with him.66 The second
ecumenical council, held at Constantinople in 381, kept this expression in its formulation of the Nicene
Creed and confessed "the only-begotten Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, light from light,
true God from true God, begotten not made, consubstantial with the Father".67
The Father and the Son revealed by the Spirit
243 Before his Passover, Jesus announced the sending of "another Paraclete" (Advocate), the Holy
Spirit. At work since creation, having previously "spoken through the prophets", the Spirit will now be
with and in the disciples, to teach them and guide them "into all the truth".68 The Holy Spirit is thus
revealed as another divine person with Jesus and the Father.
244 The eternal origin of the Holy Spirit is revealed in his mission in time. The Spirit is sent to the
apostles and to the Church both by the Father in the name of the Son, and by the Son in person, once
he had returned to the Father.69 The sending of the person of the Spirit after Jesus' glorification70
reveals in its fullness the mystery of the Holy Trinity.
245 The apostolic faith concerning the Spirit was confessed by the second ecumenical council at
Constantinople (381): "We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the
Father."71 By this confession, the Church recognizes the Father as "the source and origin of the whole
divinity".72 But the eternal origin of the Spirit is not unconnected with the Son's origin: "The Holy Spirit,
the third person of the Trinity, is God, one and equal with the Father and the Son, of the same
substance and also of the same nature. . . Yet he is not called the Spirit of the Father alone,. . . but the
Spirit of both the Father and the Son."73 The Creed of the Church from the Council of Constantinople
confesses: "With the Father and the Son, he is worshipped and glorified."74
246 The Latin tradition of the Creed confesses that the Spirit "proceeds from the Father and the Son
(filioque)". The Council of Florence in 1438 explains: "The Holy Spirit is eternally from Father and Son;
He has his nature and subsistence at once (simul) from the Father and the Son. He proceeds eternally
from both as from one principle and through one spiration. . . . And, since the Father has through
generation given to the only-begotten Son everything that belongs to the Father, except being Father,
the Son has also eternally from the Father, from whom he is eternally born, that the Holy Spirit
proceeds from the Son."75
247 The affirmation of the filioque does not appear in the Creed confessed in 381 at Constantinople.
But Pope St. Leo I, following an ancient Latin and Alexandrian tradition, had already confessed it
dogmatically in 447,76 even before Rome, in 451 at the Council of Chalcedon, came to recognize and
receive the Symbol of 381. The use of this formula in the Creed was gradually admitted into the Latin
liturgy (between the eighth and eleventh centuries). The introduction of the filioque into the Niceno-
Constantinopolitan Creed by the Latin liturgy constitutes moreover, even today, a point of
disagreement with the Orthodox Churches.
248 At the outset the Eastern tradition expresses the Father's character as first origin of the Spirit. By
confessing the Spirit as he "who proceeds from the Father", it affirms that he comes from the Father
through the Son.77 The Western tradition expresses first the consubstantial communion between
Father and Son, by saying that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son (filioque). It says this,
"legitimately and with good reason",78 for the eternal order of the divine persons in their
consubstantial communion implies that the Father, as "the principle without principle",79 is the first
origin of the Spirit, but also that as Father of the only Son, he is, with the Son, the single principle from
which the Holy Spirit proceeds.80 This legitimate complementarity, provided it does not become rigid,
does not affect the identity of faith in the reality of the same mystery confessed.
III. THE HOLY TRINITY IN THE TEACHING OF THE FAITHThe formation of the Trinitarian dogma
249 From the beginning, the revealed truth of the Holy Trinity has been at the very root of the Church's
living faith, principally by means of Baptism. It finds its expression in the rule of baptismal faith,
formulated in the preaching, catechesis and prayer of the Church. Such formulations are already found
in the apostolic writings, such as this salutation taken up in the Eucharistic liturgy: "The grace of the
Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all."81
250 During the first centuries the Church sought to clarify her Trinitarian faith, both to deepen her own
understanding of the faith and to defend it against the errors that were deforming it. This clarification
was the work of the early councils, aided by the theological work of the Church Fathers and sustained
by the Christian people's sense of the faith.
251 In order to articulate the dogma of the Trinity, the Church had to develop her own terminology
with the help of certain notions of philosophical origin: "substance", "person" or "hypostasis",
"relation" and so on. In doing this, she did not submit the faith to human wisdom, but gave a new and
unprecedented meaning to these terms, which from then on would be used to signify an ineffable
mystery, "infinitely beyond all that we can humanly understand".82
252 The Church uses (I) the term "substance" (rendered also at times by "essence" or "nature") to
designate the divine being in its unity, (II) the term "person" or "hypostasis" to designate the Father,
Son and Holy Spirit in the real distinction among them, and (III) the term "relation" to designate the
fact that their distinction lies in the relationship of each to the others.
The dogma of the Holy Trinity
253 The Trinity is One. We do not confess three Gods, but one God in three persons, the
"consubstantial Trinity".83 The divine persons do not share the one divinity among themselves but each
of them is God whole and entire: "The Father is that which the Son is, the Son that which the Father is,
the Father and the Son that which the Holy Spirit is, i.e. by nature one God."84 In the words of the
Fourth Lateran Council (1215), "Each of the persons is that supreme reality, viz., the divine substance,
essence or nature."85
254 The divine persons are really distinct from one another. "God is one but not solitary."86 "Father",
"Son", "Holy Spirit" are not simply names designating modalities of the divine being, for they are really
distinct from one another: "He is not the Father who is the Son, nor is the Son he who is the Father,
nor is the Holy Spirit he who is the Father or the Son."87 They are distinct from one another in their
relations of origin: "It is the Father who generates, the Son who is begotten, and the Holy Spirit who
proceeds."88 The divine Unity is Triune.
255 The divine persons are relative to one another. Because it does not divide the divine unity, the real
distinction of the persons from one another resides solely in the relationships which relate them to one
another: "In the relational names of the persons the Father is related to the Son, the Son to the Father,
and the Holy Spirit to both. While they are called three persons in view of their relations, we believe in
one nature or substance."89 Indeed "everything (in them) is one where there is no opposition of
relationship."90 "Because of that unity the Father is wholly in the Son and wholly in the Holy Spirit; the
Son is wholly in the Father and wholly in the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit is wholly in the Father and
wholly in the Son."91
256 St. Gregory of Nazianzus, also called "the Theologian", entrusts this summary of Trinitarian faith to
the catechumens of Constantinople:
Above all guard for me this great deposit of faith for which I live and fight, which I want to take
with me as a companion, and which makes me bear all evils and despise all pleasures: I mean
the profession of faith in the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. I entrust it to you today. By
it I am soon going to plunge you into water and raise you up from it. I give it to you as the
companion and patron of your whole life. I give you but one divinity and power, existing one in
three, and containing the three in a distinct way. Divinity without disparity of substance or
nature, without superior degree that raises up or inferior degree that casts down. . . the infinite
co-naturality of three infinites. Each person considered in himself is entirely God. . . the three
considered together. . . I have not even begun to think of unity when the Trinity bathes me in
its splendor. I have not even begun to think of the Trinity when unity grasps me. . .92
IV. THE DIVINE WORKS AND THE TRINITARIAN MISSIONS257 "O blessed light, O Trinity and first Unity!"93 God is eternal blessedness, undying life, unfading
light. God is love: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God freely wills to communicate the glory of his blessed
life. Such is the "plan of his loving kindness", conceived by the Father before the foundation of the
world, in his beloved Son: "He destined us in love to be his sons" and "to be conformed to the image of
his Son", through "the spirit of sonship".94 This plan is a "grace [which] was given to us in Christ Jesus
before the ages began", stemming immediately from Trinitarian love.95 It unfolds in the work of
creation, the whole history of salvation after the fall, and the missions of the Son and the Spirit, which
are continued in the mission of the Church.96
258 The whole divine economy is the common work of the three divine persons. For as the Trinity has
only one and the same natures so too does it have only one and the same operation: "The Father, the
Son and the Holy Spirit are not three principles of creation but one principle."97 However, each divine
person performs the common work according to his unique personal property. Thus the Church
confesses, following the New Testament, "one God and Father from whom all things are, and one Lord
Jesus Christ, through whom all things are, and one Holy Spirit in whom all things are".98 It is above all
the divine missions of the Son's Incarnation and the gift of the Holy Spirit that show forth the
properties of the divine persons.
259 Being a work at once common and personal, the whole divine economy makes known both what is
proper to the divine persons, and their one divine nature. Hence the whole Christian life is a
communion with each of the divine persons, without in any way separating them. Everyone who
glorifies the Father does so through the Son in the Holy Spirit; everyone who follows Christ does so
because the Father draws him and the Spirit moves him.99
260 The ultimate end of the whole divine economy is the entry of God's creatures into the perfect
unity of the Blessed Trinity.100 But even now we are called to be a dwelling for the Most Holy Trinity: "If
a man loves me", says the Lord, "he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come
to him, and make our home with him":101
O my God, Trinity whom I adore, help me forget myself entirely so to establish myself in you,
unmovable and peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity. May nothing be able to trouble
my peace or make me leave you, O my unchanging God, but may each minute bring me more
deeply into your mystery! Grant my soul peace. Make it your heaven, your beloved dwelling
and the place of your rest. May I never abandon you there, but may I be there, whole and
entire, completely vigilant in my faith, entirely adoring, and wholly given over to your creative
IN BRIEF261 The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of the Christian faith and of Christian
life. God alone can make it known to us by revealing himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
262 The Incarnation of God's Son reveals that God is the eternal Father and that the Son is
consubstantial with the Father, which means that, in the Father and with the Father the Son is one and
the same God.
263 The mission of the Holy Spirit, sent by the Father in the name of the Son (Jn 14:26) and by the Son
"from the Father" (Jn 15:26), reveals that, with them, the Spirit is one and the same God. "With the
Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified" (Nicene Creed).
264 "The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father as the first principle and, by the eternal gift of this to the
Son, from the communion of both the Father and the Son" (St. Augustine, De Trin. 15, 26, 47: PL 42,
265 By the grace of Baptism "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit", we are
called to share in the life of the Blessed Trinity, here on earth in the obscurity of faith, and after death
in eternal light (cf. Paul VI, CPG § 9).
266 "Now this is the Catholic faith: We worship one God in the Trinity and the Trinity in unity, without
either confusing the persons or dividing the substance; for the person of the Father is one, the Son's is
another, the Holy Spirit's another; but the Godhead of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is one, their glory
equal, their majesty coeternal" (Athanasian Creed: DS 75; ND 16).
267 Inseparable in what they are, the divine persons are also inseparable in what they do. But within
the single divine operation each shows forth what is proper to him in the Trinity, especially in the
divine missions of the Son's Incarnation and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
53 Mt 28:19.
54 St. Caesarius of Arles, Sermo 9, Exp. symb.:CCL 103,47.
55 Cf. Profession of faith of Pope Vigilius I (552):DS 415.
56 GCD 43.
57 GCD 47.
58 Dei Filius 4:DS 3015.
59 Cf. Deut 32:6; Mal 2:10.
60 Ex 4:22.
61 Cf. 2 Sam 7:14; Ps 68:6.
62 Cf. Isa 66:13; Ps 131:2.
63 Cf. Ps 27:10; Eph 3:14; Isa 49:15.
64 Mt 11-27.
65 Jn 1:1; Col 1:15; Heb 1:3.
66 The English phrases "of one being" and "one in being" translate the Greek word homoousios, which
was rendered in Latin by consubstantialis.
67 Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed; cf. DS 150.
68 Cf. Gen 1:2; Nicene Creed (DS 150); Jn 14:17, 26; 16:13.
69 Cf. Jn 14:26; 15:26; 16:14.
70 Cf. Jn 7:39.
71 Nicene Creed; cf. DS 150.
72 Council of Toledo VI (638): DS 490.
73 Council of Toledo XI (675): DS 527.
74 Nicene Creed; cf. DS 150.
75 Council of Florence (1439): DS 1300-1301.
76 Cf. Leo I, Quam laudabiliter (447): DS 284.
77 Jn 15:26; cf. AG 2.
78 Council of Florence (1439): DS 1302.
79 Council of Florence (1442): DS 1331.
80 Cf. Council of Lyons II (1274): DS 850.
81 2 Cor 13:14; cf. 1 Cor 12:4-6; Eph 4:4-6.
82 Paul VI, CPG § 2.
83 Council of Constantinople II (553): DS 421.
84 Council of Toledo XI (675): DS 530:26.
85 Lateran Council IV (1215): DS 804.
86 Fides Damasi: DS 71.
87 Council of Toledo XI (675): DS 530:25.
88 Lateran Council IV (1215): DS 804.
89 Council of Toledo XI (675): DS 528.
90 Council of Florence (1442): DS 1330.
91 Council of Florence (1442): DS 1331.
92 St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Oratio 40,41: PG 36,417.
93 LH, Hymn for Evening Prayer.
94 Eph 1:4-5,9; Rom 8:15,29.
95 2 Tim 1:9-10.
96 Cf. AG 2-9.
97 Council of Florence (1442): DS 1331; cf. Council of Constantinople II (553): DS 421.
98 Council of Constantinople II: DS 421.
99 Cf. Jn 6:44; Rom 8:14.
100 Cf. Jn 17:21-23.
101 Jn 14:23.
102 Prayer of Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity.
THE PROFESSION OF FAITH
THE PROFESSION OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH
I BELIEVE IN GOD THE FATHER
"I BELIEVE IN GOD THE FATHER ALMIGHTY, CREATOR OF HEAVEN AND EARTH"
Paragraph 3. The Almighty
268 Of all the divine attributes, only God's omnipotence is named in the Creed: to confess this power
has great bearing on our lives. We believe that his might is universal, for God who created everything
also rules everything and can do everything. God's power is loving, for he is our Father, and mysterious,
for only faith can discern it when it "is made perfect in weakness".103
"He does whatever he pleases"104
269 The Holy Scriptures repeatedly confess the universal power of God. He is called the "Mighty One of
Jacob", the "LORD of hosts", the "strong and mighty" one. If God is almighty "in heaven and on earth",
it is because he made them.105 Nothing is impossible with God, who disposes his works according to his
will.106 He is the Lord of the universe, whose order he established and which remains wholly subject to
him and at his disposal. He is master of history, governing hearts and events in keeping with his will: "It
is always in your power to show great strength, and who can withstand the strength of your arm?107
"You are merciful to all, for you can do all things"108
270 God is the Father Almighty, whose fatherhood and power shed light on one another: God reveals
his fatherly omnipotence by the way he takes care of our needs; by the filial adoption that he gives us
("I will be a father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty"):109 finally
by his infinite mercy, for he displays his power at its height by freely forgiving sins.
271 God's almighty power is in no way arbitrary: "In God, power, essence, will, intellect, wisdom, and
justice are all identical. Nothing therefore can be in God's power which could not be in his just will or
his wise intellect."110
The mystery of God's apparent powerlessness
272 Faith in God the Father Almighty can be put to the test by the experience of evil and suffering. God
can sometimes seem to be absent and incapable of stopping evil. But in the most mysterious way God
the Father has revealed his almighty power in the voluntary humiliation and Resurrection of his Son, by
which he conquered evil. Christ crucified is thus "the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the
foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men."111 It is in Christ's
Resurrection and exaltation that the Father has shown forth "the immeasurable greatness of his power
in us who believe".112
273 Only faith can embrace the mysterious ways of God's almighty power. This faith glories in its
weaknesses in order to draw to itself Christ's power.113 The Virgin Mary is the supreme model of this
faith, for she believed that "nothing will be impossible with God", and was able to magnify the Lord:
"For he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name."114
274 "Nothing is more apt to confirm our faith and hope than holding it fixed in our minds that nothing
is impossible with God. Once our reason has grasped the idea of God's almighty power, it will easily
and without any hesitation admit everything that [the Creed] will afterwards propose for us to believe -
even if they be great and marvelous things, far above the ordinary laws of nature."115
275 With Job, the just man, we confess: "I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of
yours can be thwarted" (Job 42:2).
276 Faithful to the witness of Scripture, the Church often addresses her prayer to the "almighty and
eternal God" ("omnipotens sempiterne Deus. .."), believing firmly that "nothing will be impossible with
God" (Gen 18:14; Lk 1:37; Mt 19:26).
277 God shows forth his almighty power by converting us from our sins and restoring us to his
friendship by grace. "God, you show your almighty power above all in your mercy and forgiveness. . ."
(Roman Missal, 26th Sunday, Opening Prayer).
278 If we do not believe that God's love is almighty, how can we believe that the Father could create
us, the Son redeem us and the Holy Spirit sanctify us?
103 Cf. Gen 1:1; Jn 1:3; Mt 6:9; 2 Cor 12:9; cf. 1 Cor 1:18.
104 Ps 115:3.
105 Gen 49:24; Isa 1:24 etc.; Ps 24:8-10; 135:6.
106 Cf. Jer 27:5; 32:17; Lk 1:37.
107 Wis 11:21; cf. Esth 4:17b; Prov 21:1; Tob 13:2.
108 Wis 11:23.
109 2 Cor 6:18; cf. Mt 6:32.
110 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh I,25,5, ad I.
111 1 Cor 1:24-25.
112 Eph 1:19-22.
113 Cf. 2 Cor 12:9; Phil 4:13.
114 Lk 1:37, 49.
115 Roman Catechism I,2,13.
THE PROFESSION OF FAITH
THE PROFESSION OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH
I BELIEVE IN GOD THE FATHER
"I BELIEVE IN GOD THE FATHER ALMIGHTY, CREATOR OF HEAVEN AND EARTH"
Paragraph 4. The Creator
279 "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."116 Holy Scripture begins with these
solemn words. The profession of faith takes them up when it confesses that God the Father almighty is
"Creator of heaven and earth" (Apostles' Creed), "of all that is, seen and unseen" (Nicene Creed). We
shall speak first of the Creator, then of creation and finally of the fall into sin from which Jesus Christ,
the Son of God, came to raise us up again.
280 Creation is the foundation of "all God's saving plans," the "beginning of the history of salvation"117
that culminates in Christ. Conversely, the mystery of Christ casts conclusive light on the mystery of
creation and reveals the end for which "in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth": from
the beginning, God envisaged the glory of the new creation in Christ.118
281 And so the readings of the Easter Vigil, the celebration of the new creation in Christ, begin with the
creation account; likewise in the Byzantine liturgy, the account of creation always constitutes the first
reading at the vigils of the great feasts of the Lord. According to ancient witnesses the instruction of
catechumens for Baptism followed the same itinerary.119
I. CATECHESIS ON CREATION
282 Catechesis on creation is of major importance. It concerns the very foundations of human and
Christian life: for it makes explicit the response of the Christian faith to the basic question that men of
all times have asked themselves:120 "Where do we come from?" "Where are we going?" "What is our
origin?" "What is our end?" "Where does everything that exists come from and where is it going?" The
two questions, the first about the origin and the second about the end, are inseparable. They are
decisive for the meaning and orientation of our life and actions.
283 The question about the origins of the world and of man has been the object of many scientific
studies which have splendidly enriched our knowledge of the age and dimensions of the cosmos, the
development of life-forms and the appearance of man. These discoveries invite us to even greater
admiration for the greatness of the Creator, prompting us to give him thanks for all his works and for
the understanding and wisdom he gives to scholars and researchers. With Solomon they can say: "It is
he who gave me unerring knowledge of what exists, to know the structure of the world and the activity
of the elements. . . for wisdom, the fashioner of all things, taught me."121
284 The great interest accorded to these studies is strongly stimulated by a question of another order,
which goes beyond the proper domain of the natural sciences. It is not only a question of knowing
when and how the universe arose physically, or when man appeared, but rather of discovering the
meaning of such an origin: is the universe governed by chance, blind fate, anonymous necessity, or by
a transcendent, intelligent and good Being called "God"? And if the world does come from God's
wisdom and goodness, why is there evil? Where does it come from? Who is responsible for it? Is there
any liberation from it?
285 Since the beginning the Christian faith has been challenged by responses to the question of origins
that differ from its own. Ancient religions and cultures produced many myths concerning origins. Some
philosophers have said that everything is God, that the world is God, or that the development of the
world is the development of God (Pantheism). Others have said that the world is a necessary
emanation arising from God and returning to him. Still others have affirmed the existence of two
eternal principles, Good and Evil, Light and Darkness, locked, in permanent conflict (Dualism,
Manichaeism). According to some of these conceptions, the world (at least the physical world) is evil,
the product of a fall, and is thus to be rejected or left behind (Gnosticism). Some admit that the world
was made by God, but as by a watch-maker who, once he has made a watch, abandons it to itself
(Deism). Finally, others reject any transcendent origin for the world, but see it as merely the interplay
of matter that has always existed (Materialism). All these attempts bear witness to the permanence
and universality of the question of origins. This inquiry is distinctively human.
286 Human intelligence is surely already capable of finding a response to the question of origins. The
existence of God the Creator can be known with certainty through his works, by the light of human
reason,122 even if this knowledge is often obscured and disfigured by error. This is why faith comes to
confirm and enlighten reason in the correct understanding of this truth: "By faith we understand that
the world was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made out of things which do not
287 The truth about creation is so important for all of human life that God in his tenderness wanted to
reveal to his People everything that is salutary to know on the subject. Beyond the natural knowledge
that every man can have of the Creator,124 God progressively revealed to Israel the mystery of creation.
He who chose the patriarchs, who brought Israel out of Egypt, and who by choosing Israel created and
formed it, this same God reveals himself as the One to whom belong all the peoples of the earth, and
the whole earth itself; he is the One who alone "made heaven and earth".125
288 Thus the revelation of creation is inseparable from the revelation and forging of the covenant of
the one God with his People. Creation is revealed as the first step towards this covenant, the first and
universal witness to God's all-powerful love.126 And so, the truth of creation is also expressed with
growing vigor in the message of the prophets, the prayer of the psalms and the liturgy, and in the
wisdom sayings of the Chosen People.127
289 Among all the Scriptural texts about creation, the first three chapters of Genesis occupy a unique
place. From a literary standpoint these texts may have had diverse sources. The inspired authors have
placed them at the beginning of Scripture to express in their solemn language the truths of creation -
its origin and its end in God, its order and goodness, the vocation of man, and finally the drama of sin
and the hope of salvation. Read in the light of Christ, within the unity of Sacred Scripture and in the
living Tradition of the Church, these texts remain the principal source for catechesis on the mysteries
of the "beginning": creation, fall, and promise of salvation.
II. CREATION - WORK OF THE HOLY TRINITY
290 "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth":128 three things are affirmed in these
first words of Scripture: the eternal God gave a beginning to all that exists outside of himself; he alone
is Creator (the verb "create" - Hebrew bara - always has God for its subject). The totality of what exists
(expressed by the formula "the heavens and the earth") depends on the One who gives it being.
291 "In the beginning was the Word. . . and the Word was God. . . all things were made through him,
and without him was not anything made that was made."129 The New Testament reveals that God
created everything by the eternal Word, his beloved Son. In him "all things were created, in heaven
and on earth.. . all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all
things hold together."130 The Church's faith likewise confesses the creative action of the Holy Spirit, the
"giver of life", "the Creator Spirit" (Veni, Creator Spiritus), the "source of every good".131
292 The Old Testament suggests and the New Covenant reveals the creative action of the Son and the
Spirit,132 inseparably one with that of the Father. This creative co-operation is clearly affirmed in the
Church's rule of faith: "There exists but one God. . . he is the Father, God, the Creator, the author, the
giver of order. He made all things by himself, that is, by his Word and by his Wisdom", "by the Son and
the Spirit" who, so to speak, are "his hands".133 Creation is the common work of the Holy Trinity.
III. "THE WORLD WAS CREATED FOR THE GLORY OF GOD"
293 Scripture and Tradition never cease to teach and celebrate this fundamental truth: "The world was
made for the glory of God."134 St. Bonaventure explains that God created all things "not to increase his
glory, but to show it forth and to communicate it",135 for God has no other reason for creating than his
love and goodness: "Creatures came into existence when the key of love opened his hand."136 The First
Vatican Council explains:
This one, true God, of his own goodness and "almighty power", not for increasing his own
beatitude, nor for attaining his perfection, but in order to manifest this perfection through the
benefits which he bestows on creatures, with absolute freedom of counsel "and from the
beginning of time, made out of nothing both orders of creatures, the spiritual and the
corporeal. . ."137
294 The glory of God consists in the realization of this manifestation and communication of his
goodness, for which the world was created. God made us "to be his sons through Jesus Christ,
according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace",138 for "the glory of God is man
fully alive; moreover man's life is the vision of God: if God's revelation through creation has already
obtained life for all the beings that dwell on earth, how much more will the Word's manifestation of
the Father obtain life for those who see God."139 The ultimate purpose of creation is that God "who is
the creator of all things may at last become "all in all", thus simultaneously assuring his own glory and
IV. THE MYSTERY OF CREATION
God creates by wisdom and love
295 We believe that God created the world according to his wisdom.141 It is not the product of any
necessity whatever, nor of blind fate or chance. We believe that it proceeds from God's free will; he
wanted to make his creatures share in his being, wisdom and goodness: "For you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created."142 Therefore the Psalmist exclaims: "O LORD, how
manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all"; and "The LORD is good to all, and his
compassion is over all that he has made."143
God creates "out of nothing"
296 We believe that God needs no pre-existent thing or any help in order to create, nor is creation any
sort of necessary emanation from the divine substance.144 God creates freely "out of nothing":145
If God had drawn the world from pre-existent matter, what would be so extraordinary in that?
A human artisan makes from a given material whatever he wants, while God shows his power
by starting from nothing to make all he wants.146
297 Scripture bears witness to faith in creation "out of nothing" as a truth full of promise and hope.
Thus the mother of seven sons encourages them for martyrdom:
I do not know how you came into being in my womb. It was not I who gave you life and breath,
nor I who set in order the elements within each of you. Therefore the Creator of the world, who
shaped the beginning of man and devised the origin of all things, will in his mercy give life and
breath back to you again, since you now forget yourselves for the sake of his laws. . . Look at
the heaven and the earth and see everything that is in them, and recognize that God did not
make them out of things that existed. Thus also mankind comes into being.147
298 Since God could create everything out of nothing, he can also, through the Holy Spirit, give
spiritual life to sinners by creating a pure heart in them,148 and bodily life to the dead through the
Resurrection. God "gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist."149 And
since God was able to make light shine in darkness by his Word, he can also give the light of faith to
those who do not yet know him.150
God creates an ordered and good world
299 Because God creates through wisdom, his creation is ordered: "You have arranged all things by
measure and number and weight."151 The universe, created in and by the eternal Word, the "image of
the invisible God", is destined for and addressed to man, himself created in the "image of God" and
called to a personal relationship with God.152 Our human understanding, which shares in the light of
the divine intellect, can understand what God tells us by means of his creation, though not without
great effort and only in a spirit of humility and respect before the Creator and his work.153 Because
creation comes forth from God's goodness, it shares in that goodness - "And God saw that it was
good. . . very good"154- for God willed creation as a gift addressed to man, an inheritance destined for
and entrusted to him. On many occasions the Church has had to defend the goodness of creation,
including that of the physical world.155
God transcends creation and is present to it.
300 God is infinitely greater than all his works: "You have set your glory above the heavens."156 Indeed,
God's "greatness is unsearchable".157 But because he is the free and sovereign Creator, the first cause
of all that exists, God is present to his creatures' inmost being: "In him we live and move and have our
being."158 In the words of St. Augustine, God is "higher than my highest and more inward than my
God upholds and sustains creation.
301 With creation, God does not abandon his creatures to themselves. He not only gives them being
and existence, but also, and at every moment, upholds and sustains them in being, enables them to act
and brings them to their final end. Recognizing this utter dependence with respect to the Creator is a
source of wisdom and freedom, of joy and confidence:
For you love all things that exist, and detest none of the things that you have made; for you
would not have made anything if you had hated it. How would anything have endured, if you
had not willed it? Or how would anything not called forth by you have been preserved? You
spare all things, for they are yours, O Lord, you who love the living.160
V. GOD CARRIES OUT HIS PLAN: DIVINE PROVIDENCE
302 Creation has its own goodness and proper perfection, but it did not spring forth complete from the
hands of the Creator. The universe was created "in a state of journeying" (in statu viae) toward an
ultimate perfection yet to be attained, to which God has destined it. We call "divine providence" the
dispositions by which God guides his creation toward this perfection:
By his providence God protects and governs all things which he has made, "reaching mightily
from one end of the earth to the other, and ordering all things well". For "all are open and laid
bare to his eyes", even those things which are yet to come into existence through the free
action of creatures.161
303 The witness of Scripture is unanimous that the solicitude of divine providence is concrete and
immediate; God cares for all, from the least things to the great events of the world and its history. The
sacred books powerfully affirm God's absolute sovereignty over the course of events: "Our God is in
the heavens; he does whatever he pleases."162 And so it is with Christ, "who opens and no one shall
shut, who shuts and no one opens".163 As the book of Proverbs states: "Many are the plans in the mind
of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will be established."164
304 And so we see the Holy Spirit, the principal author of Sacred Scripture, often attributing actions to
God without mentioning any secondary causes. This is not a "primitive mode of speech", but a
profound way of recalling God's primacy and absolute Lordship over history and the world,165 and so of
educating his people to trust in him. The prayer of the Psalms is the great school of this trust.166
305 Jesus asks for childlike abandonment to the providence of our heavenly Father who takes care of
his children's smallest needs: "Therefore do not be anxious, saying, "What shall we eat?" or "What
shall we drink?". . . Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and
his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well."167
Providence and secondary causes
306 God is the sovereign master of his plan. But to carry it out he also makes use of his creatures' cooperation.
This use is not a sign of weakness, but rather a token of almighty God's greatness and
goodness. For God grants his creatures not only their existence, but also the dignity of acting on their
own, of being causes and principles for each other, and thus of co-operating in the accomplishment of
307 To human beings God even gives the power of freely sharing in his providence by entrusting them
with the responsibility of "subduing" the earth and having dominion over it.168 God thus enables men
to be intelligent and free causes in order to complete the work of creation, to perfect its harmony for
their own good and that of their neighbors. Though often unconscious collaborators with God's will,
they can also enter deliberately into the divine plan by their actions, their prayers and their
sufferings.169 They then fully become "God's fellow workers" and co-workers for his kingdom.170
308 The truth that God is at work in all the actions of his creatures is inseparable from faith in God the
Creator. God is the first cause who operates in and through secondary causes: "For God is at work in
you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure."171 Far from diminishing the creature's dignity, this
truth enhances it. Drawn from nothingness by God's power, wisdom and goodness, it can do nothing if
it is cut off from its origin, for "without a Creator the creature vanishes."172 Still less can a creature
attain its ultimate end without the help of God's grace.173
Providence and the scandal of evil.
309 If God the Father almighty, the Creator of the ordered and good world, cares for all his creatures,
why does evil exist? To this question, as pressing as it is unavoidable and as painful as it is mysterious,
no quick answer will suffice. Only Christian faith as a whole constitutes the answer to this question: the
goodness of creation, the drama of sin and the patient love of God who comes to meet man by his
covenants, the redemptive Incarnation of his Son, his gift of the Spirit, his gathering of the Church, the
power of the sacraments and his call to a blessed life to which free creatures are invited to consent in
advance, but from which, by a terrible mystery, they can also turn away in advance. There is not a
single aspect of the Christian message that is not in part an answer to the question of evil.
310 But why did God not create a world so perfect that no evil could exist in it? With infinite power
God could always create something better.174 But with infinite wisdom and goodness God freely willed
to create a world "in a state of journeying" towards its ultimate perfection. In God's plan this process
of becoming involves the appearance of certain beings and the disappearance of others, the existence
of the more perfect alongside the less perfect, both constructive and destructive forces of nature. With
physical good there exists also physical evil as long as creation has not reached perfection.175
311 Angels and men, as intelligent and free creatures, have to journey toward their ultimate destinies
by their free choice and preferential love. They can therefore go astray. Indeed, they have sinned. Thus
has moral evil, incommensurably more harmful than physical evil, entered the world. God is in no way,
directly or indirectly, the cause of moral evil.176 He permits it, however, because he respects the
freedom of his creatures and, mysteriously, knows how to derive good from it:
For almighty God. . ., because he is supremely good, would never allow any evil whatsoever to
exist in his works if he were not so all-powerful and good as to cause good to emerge from evil
312 In time we can discover that God in his almighty providence can bring a good from the
consequences of an evil, even a moral evil, caused by his creatures: "It was not you", said Joseph to his
brothers, "who sent me here, but God. . . You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to
bring it about that many people should be kept alive."178 From the greatest moral evil ever committed -
the rejection and murder of God's only Son, caused by the sins of all men - God, by his grace that
"abounded all the more",179 brought the greatest of goods: the glorification of Christ and our
redemption. But for all that, evil never becomes a good.
313 "We know that in everything God works for good for those who love him."180 The constant witness
of the saints confirms this truth:
St. Catherine of Siena said to "those who are scandalized and rebel against what happens to
them": "Everything comes from love, all is ordained for the salvation of man, God does nothing
without this goal in mind."181
St. Thomas More, shortly before his martyrdom, consoled his daughter: "Nothing can come but
that that God wills. And I make me very sure that whatsoever that be, seem it never so bad in
sight, it shall indeed be the best."182
Dame Julian of Norwich: "Here I was taught by the grace of God that I should steadfastly keep
me in the faith. . . and that at the same time I should take my stand on and earnestly believe in
what our Lord shewed in this time - that 'all manner [of] thing shall be well.'"183
314 We firmly believe that God is master of the world and of its history. But the ways of his providence
are often unknown to us. Only at the end, when our partial knowledge ceases, when we see God "face
to face",184 will we fully know the ways by which - even through the dramas of evil and sin - God has
guided his creation to that definitive sabbath rest185 for which he created heaven and earth.
315 In the creation of the world and of man, God gave the first and universal witness to his almighty
love and his wisdom, the first proclamation of the "plan of his loving goodness", which finds its goal in
the new creation in Christ.
316 Though the work of creation is attributed to the Father in particular, it is equally a truth of faith
that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit together are the one, indivisible principle of creation.
317 God alone created the universe, freely, directly and without any help.
318 No creature has the infinite power necessary to "create" in the proper sense of the word, that is,
to produce and give being to that which had in no way possessed it (to call into existence "out of
nothing") (cf DS 3624).
319 God created the world to show forth and communicate his glory. That his creatures should share in
his truth, goodness and beauty - this is the glory for which God created them.
320 God created the universe and keeps it in existence by his Word, the Son "upholding the universe
by his word of power" (Heb 1:3), and by his Creator Spirit, the giver of life.
321 Divine providence consists of the dispositions by which God guides all his creatures with wisdom
and love to their ultimate end.
322 Christ invites us to filial trust in the providence of our heavenly Father (cf. Mt 6:26-34), and St.
Peter the apostle repeats: "Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you" (I Pt 5:7; cf. Ps
323 Divine providence works also through the actions of creatures. To human beings God grants the
ability to cooperate freely with his plans.
324 The fact that God permits physical and even moral evil is a mystery that God illuminates by his Son
Jesus Christ who died and rose to vanquish evil. Faith gives us the certainty that God would not permit
an evil if he did not cause a good to come from that very evil, by ways that we shall fully know only in
116 Gen 1:1.
117 GCD 51.
118 Gen 1:1; cf. Rom 8:18-23.
119 Cf. Egeria, Peregrinatio at loca sancta, 46: PLS 1,1047; St. Augustine, De catechizantis rudibus 3,5:
120 Cf. NA 2.
121 Wis 7:17-22.
122 Cf. Vatican Council I, can. 2 § I: DS 3026.
123 Heb 11:3.
124 Cf. Acts 17:24-29; Rom 1:19-20.
125 Cf. Isa 43:1; Ps 115:15; 124:8; 134:3.
126 Cf. Gen 15:5; Jer 33:19-26.
127 Cf. Isa 44:24; Ps 104; Prov 8:22-31.
128 Gen 1:1.
129 Jn 1:1-3.
130 Col 1:16-17.
131 Cf. Nicene Creed: DS 150; Hymn "Veni, Creator Spiritus"; Byzantine Troparion of Pentecost
Vespers, "O heavenly King, Consoler".
132 Cf. Ps 33:6; 104:30; Gen 1:2-3.
133 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 2,30,9; 4,20,I: PG 7/1,822,1032.
134 Dei Filius, can. § 5: DS 3025.
135 St. Bonaventure, In II Sent. I,2,2,1.
136 St. Thomas Aquinas, Sent. II, Prol.
137 Dei Filius, I: DS 3002; cf. Lateran Council IV (1215): DS 800.
138 Eph 1:5-6.
139 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 4,20,7: PG 7/1,1037.
140 AG 2; cf. 1 Cor 15:28.
141 Cf. Wis 9:9.
142 Rev 4:11.
143 Ps 104:24; 145:9.
144 Cf. Dei Filius, can. 2-4: DS 3022-3024.
145 Lateran Council IV (1215): DS 800; cf. DS 3025.
146 St. Theophilus of Antioch, Ad Autolycum II, 4: PG 6,1052.
147 2 Macc 7:22-21,28.
148 Cf. Ps 51:12.
149 Rom 4:17.
150 Cf. Gen 1:3; 2 Cor 4:6.
151 Wis 11:20.
152 Col 1:15, Gen 1:26.
153 Cf. Ps 19:2-5; Job 42:3.
154 Gen 1:4,10,12,18,21,31.
155 Cf. DS 286; 455-463; 800; 1333; 3002.
156 Ps 8:1; cf. Sir 43:28.
157 Ps 145:3.
158 Acts 17:28.
159 St. Augustine, Conf. 3,6,11: PL 32,688.
160 Wis 11:24-26.
161 Vatican Council I, Dei Filius 1: DS 3003; cf. Wis 8:1; Heb 4:13.
162 Ps 115:3.
163 Rev 3:7.
164 Prov 19:21.
165 Cf. Isa 10:5-15; 45:51; Deut 32:39; Sir 11:14.
166 Cf. Ps 22; 32; 35; 103; 138; et al.
167 Mt 6:31-33; cf. 10:29-31.
168 Cf. Gen 1:26-28.
169 Cf. Col 1:24.
170 1 Cor 3:9; 1 Thes 3:2; Col 4:11.
171 Phil 2:13; cf. 1 Cor 12:6.
172 GS 36 § 3.
173 Cf. Mt 19:26; Jn 15:5; 14:13
174 Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, STh I,25,6.
175 Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, SCG III,71.
176 Cf. St. Augustine, De libero arbitrio 1,1,2: PL 32,1221-1223; St. Thomas Aquinas, STh I-II,79,1.
177 St. Augustine, Enchiridion 3,11: PL 40,236.
178 Gen 45:8; 50:20; cf. Tob 2:12 (Vulg.).
179 Cf. Rom 5:20.
180 Rom 8:28.
181 St. Catherine of Siena, Dialogue On Providence, ch. IV, 138.
182 The Correspondence of Sir Thomas More, ed. Elizabeth F. Rogers (Princeton: Princeton University
Press, 1947), letter 206, lines 661-663.
183 Julian of Norwich, The Revelations of Divine Love, tr. James Walshe SJ (London: 1961), ch. 32,99-
184 1 Cor 13:12.
185 Cf. Gen 2:2.
THE PROFESSION OF FAITH
THE PROFESSION OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH
I BELIEVE IN GOD THE FATHER
"I BELIEVE IN GOD THE FATHER ALMIGHTY, CREATOR OF HEAVEN AND EARTH"
Paragraph 5. Heaven and Earth
325 The Apostles' Creed professes that God is "creator of heaven and earth". The Nicene Creed makes
it explicit that this profession includes "all that is, seen and unseen".
326 The Scriptural expression "heaven and earth" means all that exists, creation in its entirety. It also
indicates the bond, deep within creation, that both unites heaven and earth and distinguishes the one
from the other: "the earth" is the world of men, while "heaven" or "the heavens" can designate both
the firmament and God's own "place" - "our Father in heaven" and consequently the "heaven" too
which is eschatological glory. Finally, "heaven" refers to the saints and the "place" of the spiritual
creatures, the angels, who surround God.186
327 The profession of faith of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) affirms that God "from the beginning
of time made at once (simul) out of nothing both orders of creatures, the spiritual and the corporeal,
that is, the angelic and the earthly, and then (deinde) the human creature, who as it were shares in
both orders, being composed of spirit and body."187
I. THE ANGELS
The existence of angels - a truth of faith
328 The existence of the spiritual, non-corporeal beings that Sacred Scripture usually calls "angels" is a
truth of faith. The witness of Scripture is as clear as the unanimity of Tradition.
Who are they?
329 St. Augustine says: "'Angel' is the name of their office, not of their nature. If you seek the name of
their nature, it is 'spirit'; if you seek the name of their office, it is 'angel': from what they are, 'spirit',
from what they do, 'angel.'"188 With their whole beings the angels are servants and messengers of God.
Because they "always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven" they are the "mighty ones who
do his word, hearkening to the voice of his word".189
330 As purely spiritual creatures angels have intelligence and will: they are personal and immortal
creatures, surpassing in perfection all visible creatures, as the splendor of their glory bears witness.190
Christ "with all his angels"
331 Christ is the center of the angelic world. They are his angels: "When the Son of man comes in his
glory, and all the angels with him. . "191 They belong to him because they were created through and for
him: "for in him all things were created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones
or dominions or principalities or authorities - all things were created through him and for him."192 They
belong to him still more because he has made them messengers of his saving plan: "Are they not all
ministering spirits sent forth to serve, for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation?"193
332 Angels have been present since creation and throughout the history of salvation, announcing this
salvation from afar or near and serving the accomplishment of the divine plan: they closed the earthly
paradise; protected Lot; saved Hagar and her child; stayed Abraham's hand; communicated the law by
their ministry; led the People of God; announced births and callings; and assisted the prophets, just to
cite a few examples.194 Finally, the angel Gabriel announced the birth of the Precursor and that of Jesus
333 From the Incarnation to the Ascension, the life of the Word incarnate is surrounded by the
adoration and service of angels. When God "brings the firstborn into the world, he says: 'Let all God's
angels worship him.'"196 Their song of praise at the birth of Christ has not ceased resounding in the
Church's praise: "Glory to God in the highest!"197 They protect Jesus in his infancy, serve him in the
desert, strengthen him in his agony in the garden, when he could have been saved by them from the
hands of his enemies as Israel had been.198 Again, it is the angels who "evangelize" by proclaiming the
Good News of Christ's Incarnation and Resurrection.199 They will be present at Christ's return, which
they will announce, to serve at his judgement.200
The angels in the life of the Church
334 In the meantime, the whole life of the Church benefits from the mysterious and powerful help of
335 In her liturgy, the Church joins with the angels to adore the thrice-holy God. She invokes their
assistance (in the funeral liturgy's In Paradisum deducant te angeli. . .["May the angels lead you into
Paradise. . ."]). Moreover, in the "Cherubic Hymn" of the Byzantine Liturgy, she celebrates the memory
of certain angels more particularly (St. Michael, St. Gabriel, St. Raphael, and the guardian angels).
336 From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession.202
"Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life."203 Already here
on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God.
II. THE VISIBLE WORLD
337 God himself created the visible world in all its richness, diversity and order. Scripture presents the
work of the Creator symbolically as a succession of six days of divine "work", concluded by the "rest" of
the seventh day.204 On the subject of creation, the sacred text teaches the truths revealed by God for
our salvation,205 permitting us to "recognize the inner nature, the value and the ordering of the whole
of creation to the praise of God."206
338 Nothing exists that does not owe its existence to God the Creator. The world began when God's
word drew it out of nothingness; all existent beings, all of nature, and all human history are rooted in
this primordial event, the very genesis by which the world was constituted and time begun.207
339 Each creature possesses its own particular goodness and perfection. For each one of the works of
the "six days" it is said: "And God saw that it was good." "By the very nature of creation, material being
is endowed with its own stability, truth and excellence, its own order and laws."208 Each of the various
creatures, willed in its own being, reflects in its own way a ray of God's infinite wisdom and goodness.
Man must therefore respect the particular goodness of every creature, to avoid any disordered use of
things which would be in contempt of the Creator and would bring disastrous consequences for human
beings and their environment.
340 God wills the interdependence of creatures. The sun and the moon, the cedar and the little flower,
the eagle and the sparrow: the spectacle of their countless diversities and inequalities tells us that no
creature is self-sufficient. Creatures exist only in dependence on each other, to complete each other, in
the service of each other.
341 The beauty of the universe: The order and harmony of the created world results from the diversity
of beings and from the relationships which exist among them. Man discovers them progressively as the
laws of nature. They call forth the admiration of scholars. The beauty of creation reflects the infinite
beauty of the Creator and ought to inspire the respect and submission of man's intellect and will.
342 The hierarchy of creatures is expressed by the order of the "six days", from the less perfect to the
more perfect. God loves all his creatures209 and takes care of each one, even the sparrow.
Nevertheless, Jesus said: "You are of more value than many sparrows", or again: "Of how much more
value is a man than a sheep!"210
343 Man is the summit of the Creator's work, as the inspired account expresses by clearly
distinguishing the creation of man from that of the other creatures.211
344 There is a solidarity among all creatures arising from the fact that all have the same Creator and
are all ordered to his glory: May you be praised, O Lord, in all your creatures, especially brother sun, by
whom you give us light for the day; he is beautiful, radiating great splendor, and offering us a symbol of
you, the Most High. . .
May you be praised, my Lord, for sister water, who is very useful and humble, precious and
chaste. . .
May you be praised, my Lord, for sister earth, our mother, who bears and feeds us, and
produces the variety of fruits and dappled flowers and grasses. . .
Praise and bless my Lord, give thanks and serve him in all humility.212
345 The sabbath - the end of the work of the six days. The sacred text says that "on the seventh day
God finished his work which he had done", that the "heavens and the earth were finished", and that
God "rested" on this day and sanctified and blessed it.213 These inspired words are rich in profitable
346 In creation God laid a foundation and established laws that remain firm, on which the believer can
rely with confidence, for they are the sign and pledge of the unshakeable faithfulness of God's
covenant.214 For his part man must remain faithful to this foundation, and respect the laws which the
Creator has written into it.
347 Creation was fashioned with a view to the sabbath and therefore for the worship and adoration of
God. Worship is inscribed in the order of creation.215 As the rule of St. Benedict says, nothing should
take precedence over "the work of God", that is, solemn worship.216 This indicates the right order of
348 The sabbath is at the heart of Israel's law. To keep the commandments is to correspond to the
wisdom and the will of God as expressed in his work of creation.
349 The eighth day. But for us a new day has dawned: the day of Christ's Resurrection. The seventh
day completes the first creation. The eighth day begins the new creation. Thus, the work of creation
culminates in the greater work of redemption. The first creation finds its meaning and its summit in the
new creation in Christ, the splendor of which surpasses that of the first creation.217
350 Angels are spiritual creatures who glorify God without ceasing and who serve his saving plans for
other creatures: "The angels work together for the benefit of us all" (St. Thomas Aquinas, STh I, 114, 3,
351 The angels surround Christ their Lord. They serve him especially in the accomplishment of his
saving mission to men.
352 The Church venerates the angels who help her on her earthly pilgrimage and protect every human
353 God willed the diversity of his creatures and their own particular goodness, their interdependence
and their order. He destined all material creatures for the good of the human race. Man, and through
him all creation, is destined for the glory of God.
354 Respect for laws inscribed in creation and the relations which derive from the nature of things is a
principle of wisdom and a foundation for morality.
186 Ps 115:16; 19:2; Mt 5:16.
187 Lateran Council IV (1215): DS 800; cf. DS 3002 and Paul VI, CPG § 8.
188 St. Augustine, En. in Ps. 103,1,15: PL 37,1348.
189 Mt 18:10; Ps 103:20.
190 Cf. Pius XII, Humani generis: DS 3891; Lk 20:36; Dan 10:9-12.
191 Mt 25:31.
192 Col 1:16.
193 Heb 1:14.
194 Cf. Job 38:7 (where angels are called "sons of God"); Gen 3:24; 19; 21:17; 22:11; Acts 7:53; Ex
23:20-23; Judg 13; 6:11-24; Isa 6:6; 1 Kings 19:5.
195 Cf. Lk 1:11,26.
196 Heb 1:6.
197 Lk 2:14.
198 Cf. Mt 1:20; 2:13,19; 4:11; 26:53; Mk 1:13; Lk 22:43; 2 Macc 10:29-30; 11:8.
199 Cf. Lk 2:8-14; Mk 16:5-7.
200 Cf. Acts 1:10-11; Mt 13:41; 24:31; Lk 12:8-9.
201 Cf. Acts 5:18-20; 8:26-29; 10:3-8; 12:6-11; 27:23-25.
202 Cf. Mt 18:10; Lk 16:22; Ps 34:7; 91:10-13; Job 33:23-24; Zech 1:12; Tob 12:12.
203 St. Basil, Adv. Eunomium III, I: PG 29,656B.
204 Gen 1:l-2:4.
205 Cf. DV 11.
206 LG 36 § 2.
207 Cf. St. Augustine, De Genesi adv. Man. 1,2,4: PL 34,175.
208 GS 36 § 1.
209 Cf. Ps 145:9.
210 Lk 12:6-7; Mt 12:12.
211 Cf. Gen 1-26.
212 St. Francis of Assisi, Canticle of the Creatures.
213 Gen 2:1-3.
214 Cf. Heb 4:3-4; Jer 31:35-37; 33:19-26.
215 Cf. Gen 1:14.
216 St. Benedict, Regula 43,3: PL 66,675-676.
217 Cf. Roman Missal, Easter Vigil 24, prayer after the first reading.
THE PROFESSION OF FAITH
THE PROFESSION OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH
I BELIEVE IN GOD THE FATHER
"I BELIEVE IN GOD THE FATHER ALMIGHTY, CREATOR OF HEAVEN AND EARTH"
Paragraph 6. Man
355 "God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he
created them."218 Man occupies a unique place in creation: (I) he is "in the image of God"; (II) in his
own nature he unites the spiritual and material worlds; (III) he is created "male and female"; (IV) God
established him in his friendship.
I. "IN THE IMAGE OF GOD"
356 Of all visible creatures only man is "able to know and love his creator".219 He is "the only creature
on earth that God has willed for its own sake",220 and he alone is called to share, by knowledge and
love, in God's own life. It was for this end that he was created, and this is the fundamental reason for
What made you establish man in so great a dignity? Certainly the incalculable love by which you
have looked on your creature in yourself! You are taken with love for her; for by love indeed
you created her, by love you have given her a being capable of tasting your eternal Good.221
357 Being in the image of God the human individual possesses the dignity of a person, who is not just
something, but someone. He is capable of self-knowledge, of self-possession and of freely giving
himself and entering into communion with other persons. And he is called by grace to a covenant with
his Creator, to offer him a response of faith and love that no other creature can give in his stead.
358 God created everything for man,222 but man in turn was created to serve and love God and to offer
all creation back to him:
What is it that is about to be created, that enjoys such honor? It is man that great and
wonderful living creature, more precious in the eyes of God than all other creatures! For him
the heavens and the earth, the sea and all the rest of creation exist. God attached so much
importance to his salvation that he did not spare his own Son for the sake of man. Nor does he
ever cease to work, trying every possible means, until he has raised man up to himself and
made him sit at his right hand.223
359 "In reality it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes
St. Paul tells us that the human race takes its origin from two men: Adam and Christ. . . The first
man, Adam, he says, became a living soul, the last Adam a life-giving spirit. The first Adam was
made by the last Adam, from whom he also received his soul, to give him life. . . The second
Adam stamped his image on the first Adam when he created him. That is why he took on
himself the role and the name of the first Adam, in order that he might not lose what he had
made in his own image. The first Adam, the last Adam: the first had a beginning, the last knows
no end. The last Adam is indeed the first; as he himself says: "I am the first and the last."225
360 Because of its common origin the human race forms a unity, for "from one ancestor [God] made all
nations to inhabit the whole earth":226
O wondrous vision, which makes us contemplate the human race in the unity of its origin in
God. . . in the unity of its nature, composed equally in all men of a material body and a spiritual
soul; in the unity of its immediate end and its mission in the world; in the unity of its dwelling,
the earth, whose benefits all men, by right of nature, may use to sustain and develop life; in the
unity of its supernatural end: God himself, to whom all ought to tend; in the unity of the means
for attaining this end;. . . in the unity of the redemption wrought by Christ for all.227
361 "This law of human solidarity and charity",228 without excluding the rich variety of persons,
cultures and peoples, assures us that all men are truly brethren.
II. "BODY AND SOUL BUT TRULY ONE"
362 The human person, created in the image of God, is a being at once corporeal and spiritual. The
biblical account expresses this reality in symbolic language when it affirms that "then the LORD God
formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became
a living being."229 Man, whole and entire, is therefore willed by God.
363 In Sacred Scripture the term "soul" often refers to human life or the entire human person.230 But
"soul" also refers to the innermost aspect of man, that which is of greatest value in him,231 that by
which he is most especially in God's image: "soul" signifies the spiritual principle in man.
364 The human body shares in the dignity of "the image of God": it is a human body precisely because
it is animated by a spiritual soul, and it is the whole human person that is intended to become, in the
body of Christ, a temple of the Spirit:232
Man, though made of body and soul, is a unity. Through his very bodily condition he sums up in
himself the elements of the material world. Through him they are thus brought to their highest
perfection and can raise their voice in praise freely given to the Creator. For this reason man
may not despise his bodily life. Rather he is obliged to regard his body as good and to hold it in
honor since God has created it and will raise it up on the last day. 233
365 The unity of soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the "form" of the
body:234 i.e., it is because of its spiritual soul that the body made of matter becomes a living, human
body; spirit and matter, in man, are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single
366 The Church teaches that every spiritual soul is created immediately by God - it is not "produced"
by the parents - and also that it is immortal: it does not perish when it separates from the body at
death, and it will be reunited with the body at the final Resurrection.235
367 Sometimes the soul is distinguished from the spirit: St. Paul for instance prays that God may
sanctify his people "wholly", with "spirit and soul and body" kept sound and blameless at the Lord's
coming.236 The Church teaches that this distinction does not introduce a duality into the soul.237 "Spirit"
signifies that from creation man is ordered to a supernatural end and that his soul can gratuitously be
raised beyond all it deserves to communion with God.238
368 The spiritual tradition of the Church also emphasizes the heart, in the biblical sense of the depths
of one's being, where the person decides for or against God.239
* III. "MALE AND FEMALE HE CREATED THEM"
Equality and difference willed by God
369 Man and woman have been created, which is to say, willed by God: on the one hand, in perfect
equality as human persons; on the other, in their respective beings as man and woman. "Being man" or
"being woman" is a reality which is good and willed by God: man and woman possess an inalienable
dignity which comes to them immediately from God their Creator.240 Man and woman are both with
one and the same dignity "in the image of God". In their "being-man" and "being-woman", they reflect
the Creator's wisdom and goodness.
370 In no way is God in man's image. He is neither man nor woman. God is pure spirit in which there is
no place for the difference between the sexes. But the respective "perfections" of man and woman
reflect something of the infinite perfection of God: those of a mother and those of a father and
"Each for the other" - "A unity in two"
371 God created man and woman together and willed each for the other. The Word of God gives us to
understand this through various features of the sacred text. "It is not good that the man should be
alone. I will make him a helper fit for him."242 None of the animals can be man's partner.243 The woman
God "fashions" from the man's rib and brings to him elicits on the man's part a cry of wonder, an
exclamation of love and communion: "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh."244 Man
discovers woman as another "I", sharing the same humanity.
372 Man and woman were made "for each other" - not that God left them half-made and incomplete:
he created them to be a communion of persons, in which each can be "helpmate" to the other, for
they are equal as persons ("bone of my bones. . .") and complementary as masculine and feminine. In
marriage God unites them in such a way that, by forming "one flesh",245 they can transmit human life:
"Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth."246 By transmitting human life to their descendants, man
and woman as spouses and parents cooperate in a unique way in the Creator's work.247
373 In God's plan man and woman have the vocation of "subduing" the earth248 as stewards of God.
This sovereignty is not to be an arbitrary and destructive domination. God calls man and woman, made
in the image of the Creator "who loves everything that exists",249 to share in his providence toward
other creatures; hence their responsibility for the world God has entrusted to them.
IV. MAN IN PARADISE
374 The first man was not only created good, but was also established in friendship with his Creator
and in harmony with himself and with the creation around him, in a state that would be surpassed only
by the glory of the new creation in Christ.
375 The Church, interpreting the symbolism of biblical language in an authentic way, in the light of the
New Testament and Tradition, teaches that our first parents, Adam and Eve, were constituted in an
original "state of holiness and justice".250 This grace of original holiness was "to share in. . .divine
376 By the radiance of this grace all dimensions of man's life were confirmed. As long as he remained
in the divine intimacy, man would not have to suffer or die.252 The inner harmony of the human
person, the harmony between man and woman,253 and finally the harmony between the first couple
and all creation, comprised the state called "original justice".
377 The "mastery" over the world that God offered man from the beginning was realized above all
within man himself: mastery of self. The first man was unimpaired and ordered in his whole being
because he was free from the triple concupiscence254 that subjugates him to the pleasures of the
senses, covetousness for earthly goods, and self-assertion, contrary to the dictates of reason.
378 The sign of man's familiarity with God is that God places him in the garden.255 There he lives "to till
it and keep it". Work is not yet a burden,256 but rather the collaboration of man and woman with God
in perfecting the visible creation.
379 This entire harmony of original justice, foreseen for man in God's plan, will be lost by the sin of our
380 "Father,. . . you formed man in your own likeness and set him over the whole world to serve you,
his creator, and to rule over all creatures" (Roman Missal, EP IV, 118).
381 Man is predestined to reproduce the image of God's Son made man, the "image of the invisible
God" (Col 1:15), so that Christ shall be the first-born of a multitude of brothers and sisters (cf. Eph 1:3-
6; Rom 8:29).
382 "Man, though made of body and soul, is a unity" (GS 14 § 1). The doctrine of the faith affirms that
the spiritual and immortal soul is created immediately by God.
383 "God did not create man a solitary being. From the beginning, "male and female he created them"
(Gen 1:27). This partnership of man and woman constitutes the first form of communion between
persons" (GS 12 § 4).
384 Revelation makes known to us the state of original holiness and justice of man and woman before
sin: from their friendship with God flowed the happiness of their existence in paradise.
218 Gen 1:27.
219 GS 12 § 3.
220 GS 24 § 3.
221 St. Catherine of Siena, Dialogue 4,13 "On Divine Providence": LH, Sunday, week 19, OR.
222 Cf. GS 12 § 1; 24 § 3; 39 § 1.
223 St. John Chrysostom, In Gen. Sermo 2,1: PG 54,587D-588A.
224 GS 22 § 1.
225 St. Peter Chrysologus, Sermo 117: PL 52,520-521.
226 Acts 17:26; cf. Tob 8:6.
227 Pius XII, Enc. Summi Pontificatus 3; cf. NA 1.
228 Pius XII, Summi Pontificatus 3.
229 Gen 2:7.
230 Cf. Mt 16:25-26; Jn 15:13; Acts 2:41.
231 Cf. Mt 10:28; 26:38; Jn 12:27; 2 Macc 6:30.
232 Cf. 1 Cor 6:19-20; 15:44-45.
233 GS 14 § 1; cf. Dan 3:57-80.
234 Cf. Council of Vienne (1312): DS 902.
235 Cf. Pius XII, Humani Generis: DS 3896; Paul VI, CPG § 8; Lateran Council V (1513): DS 1440.
236 1 Thess 5:23.
237 Cf. Council of Constantinople IV (870): DS 657.
238 Cf. Vatican Council I, Dei Filius: DS 3005; GS 22 § 5; Humani Generis: DS 3891.
239 Cf. Jer 31:33; Deut 6:5; 29:3; Isa 29:13; Ezek 36:26; Mt 6:21; Lk 8:15; Rom 5:5.
240 Cf. Gen 2:7,22.
241 Cf. Isa 49:14-15; 66:13; Ps 131:2-3; Hos 11:1-4; Jer 3:4-19.
242 Gen 2:18.
243 Gen 2:19-20.
244 Gen 2:23.
245 Gen 2:24.
246 Gen 1:28.
247 Cf. GS 50 § 1.
248 Gen 1:28.
249 Wis 11:24.
250 Cf. Council of Trent (1546): DS 1511.
251 Cf. LG 2.
252 Cf. Gen 2:17; 3:16,19.
253 Cf. Gen 2:25.
254 Cf. 1 Jn 2:16.
255 Cf. Gen 2:8.
256 Gen 2:15; cf. 3:17-19
THE PROFESSION OF FAITH
THE PROFESSION OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH
I BELIEVE IN GOD THE FATHER
"I BELIEVE IN GOD THE FATHER ALMIGHTY, CREATOR OF HEAVEN AND EARTH"
Paragraph 7. The Fall
385 God is infinitely good and all his works are good. Yet no one can escape the experience of suffering
or the evils in nature which seem to be linked to the limitations proper to creatures: and above all to
the question of moral evil. Where does evil come from? "I sought whence evil comes and there was no
solution", said St. Augustine,257 and his own painful quest would only be resolved by his conversion to
the living God. For "the mystery of lawlessness" is clarified only in the light of the "mystery of our
religion".258 The revelation of divine love in Christ manifested at the same time the extent of evil and
the superabundance of grace.259 We must therefore approach the question of the origin of evil by
fixing the eyes of our faith on him who alone is its conqueror.260
I. WHERE SIN ABOUNDED, GRACE ABOUNDED ALL THE MORE
The reality of sin
386 Sin is present in human history; any attempt to ignore it or to give this dark reality other names
would be futile. To try to understand what sin is, one must first recognize the profound relation of man
to God, for only in this relationship is the evil of sin unmasked in its true identity as humanity's
rejection of God and opposition to him, even as it continues to weigh heavy on human life and history.
387 Only the light of divine Revelation clarifies the reality of sin and particularly of the sin committed
at mankind's origins. Without the knowledge Revelation gives of God we cannot recognize sin clearly
and are tempted to explain it as merely a developmental flaw, a psychological weakness, a mistake, or
the necessary consequence of an inadequate social structure, etc. Only in the knowledge of God's plan
for man can we grasp that sin is an abuse of the freedom that God gives to created persons so that
they are capable of loving him and loving one another.
Original sin - an essential truth of the faith
388 With the progress of Revelation, the reality of sin is also illuminated. Although to some extent the
People of God in the Old Testament had tried to understand the pathos of the human condition in the
light of the history of the fall narrated in Genesis, they could not grasp this story's ultimate meaning,
which is revealed only in the light of the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.261 We must know
Christ as the source of grace in order to know Adam as the source of sin. The Spirit-Paraclete, sent by
the risen Christ, came to "convict the world concerning sin",262 by revealing him who is its Redeemer.
389 The doctrine of original sin is, so to speak, the "reverse side" of the Good News that Jesus is the
Savior of all men, that all need salvation and that salvation is offered to all through Christ. The Church,
which has the mind of Christ,263 knows very well that we cannot tamper with the revelation of original
sin without undermining the mystery of Christ.
How to read the account of the fall
390 The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed
that took place at the beginning of the history of man.264 Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that
the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents.265
II. THE FALL OF THE ANGELS
391 Behind the disobedient choice of our first parents lurks a seductive voice, opposed to God, which
makes them fall into death out of envy.266 Scripture and the Church's Tradition see in this being a fallen
angel, called "Satan" or the "devil".267 The Church teaches that Satan was at first a good angel, made by
God: "The devil and the other demons were indeed created naturally good by God, but they became
evil by their own doing."268
392 Scripture speaks of a sin of these angels.269 This "fall" consists in the free choice of these created
spirits, who radically and irrevocably rejected God and his reign. We find a reflection of that rebellion in
the tempter's words to our first parents: "You will be like God."270 The devil "has sinned from the
beginning"; he is "a liar and the father of lies".271
393 It is the irrevocable character of their choice, and not a defect in the infinite divine mercy, that
makes the angels' sin unforgivable. "There is no repentance for the angels after their fall, just as there
is no repentance for men after death."272
394 Scripture witnesses to the disastrous influence of the one Jesus calls "a murderer from the
beginning", who would even try to divert Jesus from the mission received from his Father.273 "The
reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil."274 In its consequences the
gravest of these works was the mendacious seduction that led man to disobey God.
395 The power of Satan is, nonetheless, not infinite. He is only a creature, powerful from the fact that
he is pure spirit, but still a creature. He cannot prevent the building up of God's reign. Although Satan
may act in the world out of hatred for God and his kingdom in Christ Jesus, and although his action may
cause grave injuries - of a spiritual nature and, indirectly, even of a physical nature- to each man and to
society, the action is permitted by divine providence which with strength and gentleness guides human
and cosmic history. It is a great mystery that providence should permit diabolical activity, but "we
know that in everything God works for good with those who love him."275
III. ORIGINAL SIN
Freedom put to the test
396 God created man in his image and established him in his friendship. A spiritual creature, man can
live this friendship only in free submission to God. The prohibition against eating "of the tree of the
knowledge of good and evil" spells this out: "for in the day that you eat of it, you shall die."276 The "tree
of the knowledge of good and evil"277 symbolically evokes the insurmountable limits that man, being a
creature, must freely recognize and respect with trust. Man is dependent on his Creator, and subject to
the laws of creation and to the moral norms that govern the use of freedom.
Man's first sin
397 Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom,
disobeyed God's command. This is what man's first sin consisted of.278 All subsequent sin would be
disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness.
398 In that sin man preferred himself to God and by that very act scorned him. He chose himself over
and against God, against the requirements of his creaturely status and therefore against his own good.
Constituted in a state of holiness, man was destined to be fully "divinized" by God in glory. Seduced by
the devil, he wanted to "be like God", but "without God, before God, and not in accordance with
399 Scripture portrays the tragic consequences of this first disobedience. Adam and Eve immediately
lose the grace of original holiness.280 They become afraid of the God of whom they have conceived a
distorted image - that of a God jealous of his prerogatives.281
400 The harmony in which they had found themselves, thanks to original justice, is now destroyed: the
control of the soul's spiritual faculties over the body is shattered; the union of man and woman
becomes subject to tensions, their relations henceforth marked by lust and domination.282 Harmony
with creation is broken: visible creation has become alien and hostile to man.283 Because of man,
creation is now subject "to its bondage to decay".284 Finally, the consequence explicitly foretold for this
disobedience will come true: man will "return to the ground",285 for out of it he was taken. Death
makes its entrance into human history.286
401 After that first sin, the world is virtually inundated by sin There is Cain's murder of his brother Abel
and the universal corruption which follows in the wake of sin. Likewise, sin frequently manifests itself
in the history of Israel, especially as infidelity to the God of the Covenant and as transgression of the
Law of Moses. And even after Christ's atonement, sin raises its head in countless ways among
Christians.287 Scripture and the Church's Tradition continually recall the presence and universality of sin
in man's history:
What Revelation makes known to us is confirmed by our own experience. For when man looks
into his own heart he finds that he is drawn towards what is wrong and sunk in many evils
which cannot come from his good creator. Often refusing to acknowledge God as his source,
man has also upset the relationship which should link him to his last end, and at the same time
he has broken the right order that should reign within himself as well as between himself and
other men and all creatures.288
The consequences of Adam's sin for humanity
402 All men are implicated in Adam's sin, as St. Paul affirms: "By one man's disobedience many (that is,
all men) were made sinners": "sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so
death spread to all men because all men sinned."289 The Apostle contrasts the universality of sin and
death with the universality of salvation in Christ. "Then as one man's trespass led to condemnation for
all men, so one man's act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men."290
403 Following St. Paul, the Church has always taught that the overwhelming misery which oppresses
men and their inclination towards evil and death cannot be understood apart from their connection
with Adam's sin and the fact that he has transmitted to us a sin with which we are all born afflicted, a
sin which is the "death of the soul".291 Because of this certainty of faith, the Church baptizes for the
remission of sins even tiny infants who have not committed personal sin.292
404 How did the sin of Adam become the sin of all his descendants? The whole human race is in Adam
"as one body of one man".293 By this "unity of the human race" all men are implicated in Adam's sin, as
all are implicated in Christ's justice. Still, the transmission of original sin is a mystery that we cannot
fully understand. But we do know by Revelation that Adam had received original holiness and justice
not for himself alone, but for all human nature. By yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve committed a
personal sin, but this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit in a fallen state.294 It
is a sin which will be transmitted by propagation to all mankind, that is, by the transmission of a human
nature deprived of original holiness and justice. And that is why original sin is called "sin" only in an
analogical sense: it is a sin "contracted" and not "committed" - a state and not an act.
405 Although it is proper to each individual,295 original sin does not have the character of a personal
fault in any of Adam's descendants. It is a deprivation of original holiness and justice, but human
nature has not been totally corrupted: it is wounded in the natural powers proper to it, subject to
ignorance, suffering and the dominion of death, and inclined to sin - an inclination to evil that is called
concupiscence". Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ's grace, erases original sin and turns a man
back towards God, but the consequences for nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persist in man and
summon him to spiritual battle.
406 The Church's teaching on the transmission of original sin was articulated more precisely in the fifth
century, especially under the impulse of St. Augustine's reflections against Pelagianism, and in the
sixteenth century, in opposition to the Protestant Reformation. Pelagius held that man could, by the
natural power of free will and without the necessary help of God's grace, lead a morally good life; he
thus reduced the influence of Adam's fault to bad example. The first Protestant reformers, on the
contrary, taught that original sin has radically perverted man and destroyed his freedom; they
identified the sin inherited by each man with the tendency to evil (concupiscentia), which would be
insurmountable. The Church pronounced on the meaning of the data of Revelation on original sin
especially at the second Council of Orange (529)296 and at the Council of Trent (1546).297
A hard battle. . .
407 The doctrine of original sin, closely connected with that of redemption by Christ, provides lucid
discernment of man's situation and activity in the world. By our first parents' sin, the devil has acquired
a certain domination over man, even though man remains free. Original sin entails "captivity under the
power of him who thenceforth had the power of death, that is, the devil".298 Ignorance of the fact that
man has a wounded nature inclined to evil gives rise to serious errors in the areas of education,
politics, social action299 and morals.
408 The consequences of original sin and of all men's personal sins put the world as a whole in the
sinful condition aptly described in St. John's expression, "the sin of the world".300 This expression can
also refer to the negative influence exerted on people by communal situations and social structures
that are the fruit of men's sins.301
409 This dramatic situation of "the whole world [which] is in the power of the evil one"302 makes man's
life a battle:
The whole of man's history has been the story of dour combat with the powers of evil,
stretching, so our Lord tells us, from the very dawn of history until the last day. Finding himself
in the midst of the battlefield man has to struggle to do what is right, and it is at great cost to
himself, and aided by God's grace, that he succeeds in achieving his own inner integrity.303
IV. "YOU DID NOT ABANDON HIM TO THE POWER OF DEATH"
410 After his fall, man was not abandoned by God. On the contrary, God calls him and in a mysterious
way heralds the coming victory over evil and his restoration from his fall.304 This passage in Genesis is
called the Protoevangelium ("first gospel"): the first announcement of the Messiah and Redeemer, of a
battle between the serpent and the Woman, and of the final victory of a descendant of hers.
411 The Christian tradition sees in this passage an announcement of the "New Adam" who, because he
"became obedient unto death, even death on a cross", makes amends superabundantly for the
disobedience, of Adam.305 Furthermore many Fathers and Doctors of the Church have seen the woman
announced in the Protoevangelium as Mary, the mother of Christ, the "new Eve". Mary benefited first
of all and uniquely from Christ's victory over sin: she was preserved from all stain of original sin and by
a special grace of God committed no sin of any kind during her whole earthly life.306
412 But why did God not prevent the first man from sinning? St. Leo the Great responds, "Christ's
inexpressible grace gave us blessings better than those the demon's envy had taken away."307 And St.
Thomas Aquinas wrote, "There is nothing to prevent human nature's being raised up to something
greater, even after sin; God permits evil in order to draw forth some greater good. Thus St. Paul says,
'Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more'; and the Exsultet sings, 'O happy fault,. . . which
gained for us so great a Redeemer!'"308
413 "God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living. . . It was through the
devil's envy that death entered the world" (Wis 1:13; 2:24).
414 Satan or the devil and the other demons are fallen angels who have freely refused to serve God
and his plan. Their choice against God is definitive. They try to associate man in their revolt against
415 "Although set by God in a state of rectitude man, enticed by the evil one, abused his freedom at
the very start of history. He lifted himself up against God, and sought to attain his goal apart from him"
(GS 13 § 1).
416 By his sin Adam, as the first man, lost the original holiness and justice he had received from God,
not only for himself but for all human beings.
417 Adam and Eve transmitted to their descendants human nature wounded by their own first sin and
hence deprived of original holiness and justice; this deprivation is called "original sin".
418 As a result of original sin, human nature is weakened in its powers, subject to ignorance, suffering
and the domination of death, and inclined to sin (this inclination is called "concupiscence").
419 "We therefore hold, with the Council of Trent, that original sin is transmitted with human nature,
"by propagation, not by imitation" and that it is. . . 'proper to each'" (Paul VI, CPG § 16).
420 The victory that Christ won over sin has given us greater blessings than those which sin had taken
from us: "where sin increased, grace abounded all the more" (Rom 5:20).
421 Christians believe that "the world has been established and kept in being by the Creator's love; has
fallen into slavery to sin but has been set free by Christ, crucified and risen to break the power of the
evil one. . ." (GS 2 § 2).
257 St. Augustine, Conf. 7,7,11: PL 32,739.
258 2 Thess 2:7; 1 Tim 3:16.
259 Cf. Rom 5:20.
260 Cf. Lk 11:21-22; Jn 16:11; 1 Jn 3:8.
261 Cf. Rom 5:12-21.
262 Jn 16:8.
263 Cf. 1 Cor 2:16.
264 Cf. GS 13 § 1.
265 Cf. Council of Trent: DS 1513; Pius XII: DS 3897; Paul VI: AAS 58 (1966), 654.
266 Cf. Gen 3:1-5; Wis 2:24.
267 Cf Jn 8:44; Rev 12:9.
268 Lateran Council IV (1215): DS 800.
269 Cf. 2 Pet 2:4.
270 Gen 3:5.
271 1 Jn 3:8; Jn 8:44.
272 St. John Damascene, De Fide orth. 2,4: PG 94,877.
273 Jn 8:44; cf. Mt 4:1-11.
274 1 Jn 3:8.
275 Rom 8:28.
276 Gen 2:17.
277 Gen 2:17.
278 Cf. Gen 3:1-11; Rom 5:19.
279 St. Maximus the Confessor, Ambigua: PG 91,1156C; cf. Gen 3:5.
280 Cf. Rom 3:23.
281 Cf. Gen 3:5-10.
282 Cf. Gen 3:7-16.
283 Cf. Gen 3:17,19.
284 Rom 8:21.
285 Gen 3:19; cf. 2:17.
286 Cf. Rom 5:12.
287 Cf. Gen 4:3-15; 6:5,12; Rom 1:18-32; 1 Cor 1-6; Rev 2-3.
288 GS 13 § 1.
289 Rom 5:12,19.
290 Rom 5:18.
291 Cf. Council of Trent: DS 1512.
292 Cf. Council of Trent: DS 1514.
293 St. Thomas Aquinas, De Malo 4,1.
294 Cf. Council of Trent: DS 1511-1512
295 Cf. Council of Trent: DS 1513.
296 DS 371-372.
297 Cf. DS 1510-1516.
298 Council of Trent (1546): DS 1511; cf. Heb 2:14.
299 Cf. John Paul II, CA 25.
300 Jn 1:29.
301 Cf. John Paul II, RP 16.
302 1 Jn 5:19; cf. 1 Pet 5:8.
303 GS 37 § 2.
304 Cf. Gen 3:9,15.
305 Cf. 1 Cor 15:21-22,45; Phil 2:8; Rom 5:19-20.
306 Cf. Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus: DS 2803; Council of Trent: DS 1573.
307 St. Leo the Great, Sermo 73,4: PL 54,396.
308 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh III,1,3, ad 3; cf. Rom 5:20.