According to Catholic teaching perhaps with support from scripture, does sin disfigure/deform the sinner?

And does such a disfiguration affect both body and soul? Is so, in what way?


2 Answers 2


Catechism of the Catholic Church

The Image of God

1701 "Christ, . . . in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, makes man fully manifest to himself and brings to light his exalted vocation." It is in Christ, "the image of the invisible God," that man has been created "in the image and likeness" of the Creator. It is in Christ, Redeemer and Savior, that the divine image, disfigured in man by the first sin, has been restored to its original beauty and ennobled by the grace of God.

The emphasis in this passage is mine. The catechism says that the divine image in man is disfigured by original sin. Although the catechism is, at this point, talking about the soul, it does not make a direct connection between 'divine image' and 'soul'. At least, there is not suggestion that the disfigurement said to be caused by original sin affects a person's physical beauty. Elsewhere, it is said that original sin disfigures the soul.

Catechism of the Catholic Church

God's Spirit and Word in the Time of the Promises

705 Disfigured by sin and death, man remains "in the image of God," in the image of the Son, but is deprived "of the glory of God,"66 of his "likeness." the promise made to Abraham inaugurates the economy of salvation, at the culmination of which the Son himself will assume that "image"67 and restore it in the Father's "likeness" by giving it again its Glory, the Spirit who is "the giver of life."

Once again, the emphasis in this passage is mine. Here we see that man is disfigured by sin, which presumably includes original sin, but is not restricted to it. This disfigurement is equivalent to the disfigurement of death, which is purely physical; in fact the good surely are not disfigured in the soul when they die. Here the disfigurement of sin does not affect the "image of God" in which man remains - but surely the "image of God" is an identical term to "divine image." We seem to have a different theological view here, but presumably there is an explanation.

  • @DickHarfield cf. Psalm 38. That's what made me start thinking.
    – user13992
    Commented Jan 31, 2015 at 21:00
  • cf. Effects of sin in Sin | New Advent.
    – user13992
    Commented Jan 31, 2015 at 21:03
  • @FMS I tried to write a reference to Ps 38, but stopped because: I am not convinced that any Catholic teaching on physical disfigurement originates here; uncertainty of translation; whether the psalmist was physically disfigured or merely infected; whether his folly was sin or placing himself at risk of infection; indeed whether this was poetic licence or whether he really had sores. Commented Jan 31, 2015 at 21:32
  • @FMS I looked at the New Advent Encyclopedia (Effects of Sin) and did not feel that it would add materially to my answer. Commented Jan 31, 2015 at 21:33

Regarding the effect of sin on the body, St. Thomas Aquinas writes in his question "Whether death and other bodily defects are the result of sin?":

By reason of itself, one thing is the cause of another, if it produces its effect by reason of the power of its nature or form, the result being that the effect is directly intended by the cause. Consequently, as death and such like defects are beside the intention of the sinner, it is evident that sin is not, of itself, the cause of these defects.

And regarding the stain on the soul of sin:

A stain is properly ascribed to corporeal things, when a comely body loses its comeliness through contact with another body, e.g. a garment, gold or silver, or the like. Accordingly a stain is ascribed to spiritual things in like manner. Now man's soul has a twofold comeliness; one from the refulgence of the natural light of reason, whereby he is directed in his actions; the other, from the refulgence of the Divine light, viz. of wisdom and grace, whereby man is also perfected for the purpose of doing good and fitting actions. Now, when the soul cleaves to things by love, there is a kind of contact in the soul: and when man sins, he cleaves to certain things, against the light of reason and of the Divine law, as shown above (Question [71], Article [6]). Wherefore the loss of comeliness occasioned by this contact, is metaphorically called a stain on the soul.

  • The excerpt from St. Thomas Aquinas is incomplete and does not say all that St. Thomas says on the subject. My reading is that Both original cause and actual sin may cause effects on the body and in the latter case, even when not intended by the sinner. That's my understanding and in an objection he gives the example of the sin of gluttony.
    – user13992
    Commented Feb 1, 2015 at 23:00

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