Just how serious is it? And who has the correct understanding of its seriousness?
Rome’s view of sin is based on an allegorical interpretation of Luke 10:30, as I describe below, as well as a view of reality provided by the neoplatonist imposter Pseudo-Dionysius. The Reformers had a much more honestly biblical view of sin, especially as it offends the holiness of God:
I. Our first parents, begin seduced by the subtlety and temptations of Satan, sinned in eating the forbidden fruit. This their sin God was pleased, according to his wise and holy counsel, to permit, having purposed to order it to his own glory.
II. By this sin they fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and so became dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body.
III. They being the root of mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed, and the same death in sin and corrupted nature conveyed to all their posterity, descending from them by original generation.
IV. From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions.
V. This corruption of nature, during this life, doth remain in those that are regenerated; and although it be through Christ pardoned and mortified, yet both itself, and all the motions thereof, are truly and properly sin.
VI. Every sin, both original and actual, being a transgression of the righteous law of God, and contrary thereunto, doth, in its own nature, bring guilt upon the sinner, whereby he is bound over to the wrath of God, and curse of the law, and so made subject to death, with all miseries spiritual, temporal, and eternal.
This is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. This is one of the key differences that Protestants (both Lutheran and Reformed) share in the conflict with Roman Catholicism.
Rome, rather, makes such statements (from Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, pg 112):
In the state of original sin man is deprived of sanctifying grace and all that this implies, as well as of the preternatural gifts of integrity. (De Fide in regard to Sanctifying Grace and the Donum Immortalitatis. D. 788 et seq. [citing the Council of Trent]).
And the explanation is given [by Ott]:
The consequences of original sin are, following Luke 10:30, summarized by the scholastic theologians, in the axiom: By Adam’s sin man is deprived of the supernatural gifts [donum superadditum] and wounded in his nature (spoliatus tratuitis, vulneratus in naturalibus). The word gratuita usually means only the absolute supernatural gifts and naturalia the gifts of integrity, which were part of man’s abilities and powers before the fall.
The lack of sanctifying grace has, as a turning away of man from God, the character of guilt and, as the turning of God away from man, the character of punishment. The lack of gifts of integrity results in man’s being subject to concupiscence, suffering and death. These results remain even after the extirpation of Original Sin, not as punishment, but as the so-called poenalitates, that is, the means given to man to achieve the practice of virtue and moral integrity.
That is, man did not suffer death. God left him “wounded”, with “means” [innate evil] that he could use, in order to work to overcome in order “to achieve the practice of virtue and moral integrity”.
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This is a point on which Aquinas quotes and relies on Pseudo-Dionysius.
The “Objection” is, “Dionysius says that what is naturally good in devils remains intact after they sin. It follows that sin does not destroy the natural good in man.”
Aquinas’s response to this objection is “anyone who reads his words can see that Dionysius is speaking of the primary good of nature, which consists of being, living, and understanding.” [Summa Theologica I, II, 85, I].
Aquinas gives this Scriptural proof:
Whether Sin Diminishes Natural Good
According to a gloss by another, Bede expounds Luke 10:30 thus:—“A certain man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho (that is, incurring the defect of sin) was stripped of his raiment and wounded in his natural powers.” It follows that sin diminishes the good of nature.
This is his “Scriptural proof”. In the scholastic method of question, objection, and response, this is the scriptural basis in Roman Catholicism for its doctrine of sin. He continues with the explanation:
I answer: by natural good we may mean three things. We may mean the constitutive principles of nature itself, together with the properties consequential to them, such as the powers of the soul, and the like. Secondly, we may mean the inclination to virtue. This is a good of nature, since a man possesses it naturally, as we said in Q. 63, Art. I. Thirdly, we may mean the gift of original justice [donum superadditum], which was bestowed on the first man. The constitution of human nature is neither destroyed nor diminished by sin. The gift of original justice was totally lost through the sin of our first parent. The natural inclination to virtue, finally, is diminished by sin. Actions generate an inclination to similar actions, … and the inclination to one or two contraries is bound to be diminished by an inclination to the other. Now sin is the contrary of virtue. The good of nature which consists in the inclination to virtue is therefore bound to be diminished by the very fact that a man sins.
So we note also that the biblical “proof”, Luke 10:30, is interpreted according to an “allegorical” sense by the English writer Bede. “Going down from Jerusalem to Jericho” is equated with “incurring the defect of sin”, which, according to Luke, means he is “stripped of his raiment and wounded in his natural powers”.
One may wonder how this conclusion follows from this verse, but such is the foundation of shifting sand upon which the Roman Catholic system rests.
The wounding of nature must not be conceived, with the Reformers and the Jansenists, as the complete corruption of human nature. In the condition of Original Sin, man possesses the ability of knowing natural religious truths and of performing natural morally good actions. The Vatican Council teaches that man, with his natural power of cognition, can with certainty know the existence of God. D 1785, 1806. The Council of Trent teaches that free will was not lost or extinguished by the fall of Adam. D 815.
Martin Luther pinpointed this problem of sin in the Smalcald Articles:
Part III, Article I. Of Sin
1] Here we must confess, as Paul says in Rom. 5:12, that sin originated [and entered the world] from one man Adam, by whose disobedience all men were made sinners, [and] subject to death and the devil. This is called original or capital sin.
2] The fruits of this sin are afterwards the evil deeds which are forbidden in the Ten Commandments, such as [distrust] unbelief, false faith, idolatry, to be without the fear of God, presumption [recklessness], despair, blindness [or complete loss of sight], and, in short not to know or regard God; furthermore to lie, to swear by [to abuse] God’s name [to swear falsely], not to pray, not to call upon God, not to regard [to despise or neglect] God’s Word, to be disobedient to parents, to murder, to be unchaste, to steal, to deceive, etc.
3] This hereditary sin is so deep [and horrible] a corruption of nature that no reason can understand it, but it must be [learned and] believed from the revelation of Scriptures, Ps. 51:5; Rom. 6:12ff ; Ex. 33:3; Gen. 3:7ff Hence, it is nothing but error and blindness in regard to this article what the scholastic doctors have taught, namely:
4] That since the fall of Adam the natural powers of man have remained entire and incorrupt, and that man by nature has a right reason and a good will; which things the philosophers teach.
5] Again, that man has a free will to do good and omit evil, and, conversely, to omit good and do evil.
6] Again, that man by his natural powers can observe and keep [do] all the commands of God.
7] Again, that, by his natural powers, man can love God above all things and his neighbor as himself.
8] Again, if a man does as much as is in him, God certainly grants him His grace.
9] Again, if he wishes to go to the Sacrament, there is no need of a good intention to do good, but it is sufficient if he has not a wicked purpose to commit sin; so entirely good is his nature and so efficacious the Sacrament.
10] [Again,] that it is not founded upon Scripture that for a good work the Holy Ghost with His grace is necessary.
11] Such and many similar things have arisen from want of understanding and ignorance as regards both this sin and Christ, our Savior, and they are truly heathen dogmas, which we cannot endure. For if this teaching were right [approved], then Christ has died in vain, since there is in man no defect nor sin for which he should have died; or He would have died only for the body, not for the soul, inasmuch as the soul is [entirely] sound, and the body only is subject to death.