Do infants inherit Adam's guilt?


In dialoguing with an Independent Baptist about the doctrine of original sin, we have reached an impasse in which I have explained the Church teaching of original sin and he believes the Catechism’s explanation of what original sin means is contradicted in different sections. Here is the Baptist’s most recent response:

I haven’t misunderstood the Catholic adherants understanding of original sin… and I haven’t misunderstood the Catholic Church’s teaching on original sin. I know what you believe Eden… and I agree with you as to what you claim original sin to be.

But, the Catholics here are not truly understanding what the Catholic church is teaching… and I had intended to prove that. CCC 291 and 292 teach that the Catholic Church is leaning on the doctrine of Original sin to justify Pedo-Baptism… but because it is easy to logically refute the idea that Adam’s sin is transferred to an infant… the Catholic Church has back-paddled to say that there is no guilt transferred to an infant… then why ccc291?

If I am right, there is no need / grounds for infant baptism, and the Catholic teaching on sotierology is faulty.

What is the Church’s teaching on original sin and guilt and has the teaching remained consistent?


I’m not sure I entirely understand the point your friend is trying to make, but, as best I understand it, I think he’s trying to say that since infants don’t inherit Adam’s guilt then they don’t need to be baptized.

There is a confusion here between Adam’s personal guilt and the inheritance of the deprivation of sanctifying grace. Adam’s personal guilt for his sin is not transferred to anyone besides himself, which is why we can say that infants are personally innocent of sin (cf. Rom. 9:10-12).

Adam, though, was not just an individual who sinned. As the first man, and thus as the representative of the human race, some of the consequences for his first sin (i.e., original sin) fell not only upon him but upon his descendants. For example, because he lost sanctifying grace, he could not pass it on to his descendants. Christ, as the new Adam, had to win back for mankind sanctifying grace, which is then normatively applied to individuals in baptism. Because infants are descendants of Adam, they are born without sanctifying grace. For it to be applied to them, ordinarily they are given it in baptism. In other words, they are “reborn” and become spiritual descendants of the new Adam, Christ.

Because baptism is a rebirth and an initiation into the New Covenant, it can be given to infants. Because baptism is ordinarily necessary for salvation, the Church insists that Catholics see to it that their children are baptized as soon as possible.

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