Dear Fr. Dave Bechtel,
My question involves sub-issues, but the primary
question is just this: As I understand it,
for many years the doctrine of
Original Sin entails, in essence, that all
humans (excluding a few select individuals)
are "born into" a state of sin, which can be removed
by baptism. Is this doctrine still an official
doctrine of the Catholic church?
The doctrine apparently assumes a conception of God that
I find harmful. For, the assumption is that God would
withhold a "default state of grace" from each newborn human
because of the actions of some very distant ancestors
(purported actions, really, since the story of Adam and
Eve should not be taken literally). If God is loving,
omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent, it is not credible to
me that God would fail to "exempt" each newborn from Original
Sin. Such a refraining
from "granting exemption" does not seem to me even consistent
with the supposition that God is just, much less infinitely loving.
The doctrine seems to be a throwback to Old Testament thinking,
where it was thought appropriate for children to be punished
for the sins of the parents.
First: It has been the constant teaching of the Church that all people who ever existed or ever will exist have been conceived in Sin. Notice I did not say "born with" sin but conceived with sin. In other words sin taints us from the first moment we come into existence.
There are only two people who have been exempt from Original Sin and they are Mary and Jesus. Jesus is sinless by nature. Jesus is not only sinless by nature but he also being who He is does not stand in need of redemption. Mary DOES stand in need of redemption and was preserved from Original Sin not by nature but by a singular privilege granted to her by God. Mary is redeemed but in a more perfect way than everyone else due to her unique vocation as the Mother of God. Notice that both Jesus and Mary were never tainted by Sin--that is they were sinless from the first moments of their conception: Jesus by nature, Mary by the Grace of God.
John the Baptist was conceived in Sin but was sanctified in the womb. Pious tradition holds that John the Baptist lived a sinless life--that is he committed no personal sin though was tainted with Original Sin.
There are some theologians who have been impacted by modernism who deny the existence of original sin like Charlie Curran, Hans Kung, or Richard McBrian. They would say Baptism is not about "Original Sin" but "Original Blessing." To that I say "BALDERDASH" "POPPYCOCK" "CLAPTRAP" "HOGWASH" or to put it in common language: "NONSENSE!"
I think like most people you have this mistaken notion of sin as something that only impacts the person doing the sinning. In other words---you like most people do not seem to grasp that at the fundamental level all human beings are connected and thus the actions of one human being for better or for worse CAN impact the rest of humanity. This is because humanity is one. Why is it this way? That is the way God created it. We stand or fall together whether we like it or not. That is the idea behind Original Sin. But--just as through one man sin entered the word so through one man sin is taken away. In Adam our nature is tainted. In Jesus our nature is redeemed. However---unlike in Adam whereby we receive Original Sin as soon as we come into existence (Conception) we do not receive the benefits of redemption until we are Baptized.
Understand that Original Sin is distinct from personal sin. Original Sin is not a "something" we are guilty for---that is---we are not guilty of disobeying God through action. Original Sin is a defect in nature that was passed on by our first parents which we received at conception. One cannot give what they do not have. Adam and Eve lost the life of God because they disobeyed him. That gave their offspring what they themselves had----a love for sin and an inherent distrust of God. Original Sin is analogous in the spiritual sense to what a defective gene is in the physical sense.
In Baptism we are forgiven of Original Sin and (if we are at the age of accountability) Personal Sin. Personal Sin is sin committed through an action. Original Sin was passed on to us by our parents.
You say that you find it hard to believe in Original Sin. I find it very easy to believe in Original Sin! What is one of the first words a toddler learns? "MINE" "NO!" and "I WANT!" Those words suggest an inordinate focus on SELF at the expense of others. Children need to be taught from the beginning that the world does not revolve around them. (Many adults have still not learned this lesson.) Have you been to a Mall lately or other retail outlet and seen a toddler throw a temper tantrum and pull toys off shelves because his or her parents told them they are not buying them anything? If that does not prove the existence of Original Sin I don't know what DOES!
Again---I think this proves Original Sin---we from the first moment of our existence instead of being ordered towards love of God and others are inordinately ordered towards love of self. I said God forgives Original Sin in Baptism and He does--however he does NOT take away the disorder---that is the consequences of it remain. Hence people are inherently selfish and must be taught and trained to get over themselves right from the start. Life, really, is like training ground--each and every moment is meant to teach us that the universe does not revolve around us--it is therefore a preparation for eternal life if we are willing to learn the lessons of life.
Did you hear about the third grade class that plotted to kill their teacher? Google it. To be sure I heard all "educated" and "enlightened" physiologists trying to make excuses and rationalize the behavior of the children. I heard the family lawyer of one of the children do what parents from time immoral do when their children get into trouble: blame the teacher and blame the school. The lawyer said "We want to know why the children behaved this way and no one from the school is giving us answers" Implying the school or teacher did something to cause this---never considering that maybe the children CHOOSE FREELY to do what they did and KNEW EXACTLY WHAT THEY WERE DOING!
I believe there IS clear evidence of the existence of Original Sin (or at least the fact that God does not take away the consequences) in my above examples. If Original Sin does not exist as you suggest---how can you explain away my above examples?