At What Age Do We Start to Sin?

When do we start being held accountable for our sins? Like if a 5 year old (or less) knows that he is doing something wrong in a general way because his parents told him it was wrong or a sin, but he doesn’t know much about religion or sin yet, never read the Bible for example. Would he be held accountable? If not, does he become accountable after his first communion? Let’s say, at age 8 or 9? Since he would be taught about sin then.

About 7.


The age of reason - think that’s about seven.

The church teaches 7 is the age of reason.

What have you read that leads you to think the Church holds very young children responsible for their actions?

I think he/she meant Original Sin. But that is not what am talking about.

I understand that’s not what you’re talking about. (And I hope you got your answer. The Church believes children reach the age of reason at about 7; that’s why they start going to confession at about that age.)

On the other hand, if Gambling has other questions, this is a learning opportunity.

I think we might start sinning at conception and might be held accountable. If we are not held accountable then why are babies who never had the intention of being Baptised not allowed into Heaven?

They are allowed into Heaven. Pope Benedict XVI said this when he did away with the theological construct of Limbo.

Have you encountered the phrase “original sin” before? That’s essentially what you are talking about when you say a baby can sin. When you think about it, a baby can’t do much of anything on its own and certainly can’t choose to do something wrong. And yet, that baby has been born into a sinful world and is exposed to sin from the very beginning. I think of it as being like a baby that’s born into a very polluted world. Even though the baby has never smoked, from his first breath he is breathing pollution into his lungs and they’re not as pure as they should be.

Equally, his soul is not as pure as it should be because he’s being exposed to sin.

The Church says this in the Catechism:

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.

From our first parents, sadly, we are exposed to sin and have an inclination to do wrong. Have you ever felt like St. Paul, who said, “For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want” (Romans 7:19). And that’s because of sin.

The Church teaches that the sacrament of Baptism remits original sin. We’re cleansed and can start anew, we’re born again. What, then, happens to someone who dies without baptism? They’re still mired in original sin. The Church has addressed this issue and basically says we don’t know for sure what happens to these people, but we have hope in the mercy of God:

1261 As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused him to say: “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,”64 allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church’s call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism. (1257, 1250)

This is enough for me.

Let say that a child passes away shortly after being born but before he could be baptized. We trust in the mercy of God that the child IS in heaven. Original sin isn’t a sin that can be held against the person or in this case baby, they didn’t knowingly commit this sin, we all know what it means to commit a mortal sin and this doesn’t fall under that formula. I’m confident that God doesn’t send something as innocent as a baby or very young child to hell. That isn’t mercy and he’s a very merciful God.

That was great explanation. Thanks.

One idea, and I repeat the word ‘idea’, is babies that die go to Heaven and become little Cherubs - why can’t they be raised in Heaven? Talk about having perfectly loving parents! Just a thought though. I did think that Benedict had said they do but maybe I read the article wrong at the time. But the Catechism, as the previous poster has shown, suggests a more merciful understanding that has replaced Limbo. Also, there are prayers that entrust unborn babies to the care of Our Lady, so all is relevant. When we think in terms of love and mercy these things are rather logical, aren’t they?!


Didn’t the Church use to teach that Original sin (uncleanesed by Baptism) was sufficient for eternal hell. I harbour great doubts about God. A baby is baptized, dies an hour later, anybody can infallibly declare that the babe is in heaven, however, should the baby die days, hours, minutes before the water is poured, then nothing is sure anymore. Hell remains a possibility. “We entrust”, I mean can you possibly put it in more uncertain terms? “We have no reasons to think God would not let them in heaven.”

People, the Church, humanity, is and most likely always will be learning and unravelling new depths of understanding, about God’s mercy, just as we find more and more layers to all the things Jesus said and did in the Bible. I think this subject is one of those cases.

I can understand it being frustrating. But there isn’t any way to completely know God. That’s why he’s God and were not. We trust and have faith in his mercy. Do I think a baby would go to hell? No I don’t. I believe he takes very good care of the innocent children who unfortunately pass away every day.

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