Sin and Pastoral Care

Authored by: Thomas M. Izbicki

The Routledge History Of Medieval Christianity

Print publication date:  April  2015
Online publication date:  April  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415660143
eBook ISBN: 9781315716800
Adobe ISBN: 9781317508090


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Medieval Christians, lay or clerical, lived in a community, the Church, which embraced ideas of original sin and actual sins, mortal or venial. Mortal sins were serious, threatening the soul with damnation. Venial sins harmed the soul to a lesser extent. The clergy were tasked with providing remedies for human sinfulness, pastoral care or ‘cure of souls’ (cura animarum). Augustine of Hippo, the greatest of the Latin Fathers, played a key role in the development of this theology. Rejecting Manichean dualist thought, he had defined sin as an act of pride, loving creatures rather than the creator, with suffering as a consequence. The idea of original sin, originating with the Fall, occupied much of Augustine’s later writing as he rejected the Pelagian emphasis on virtue. Adam’s pride brought as punishment of fallen humanity concupiscence, an inherited tendency toward sin. This was communicated to infants by propagation, and it was awakened at puberty as sexual concupiscence. 1 Only Jesus and the Virgin Mary (according to some theologians) were immune from concupiscence by their miraculous conception. 2

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