Mentally handicapped and original sin

Catholic apologists use young children and the mentally handicapped as examples of people other than Mary that are without sin, at least for a time. Clearly young children do not have actual sin but, prior to baptism, they have original sin. Is this also the case with the mentally handicapped?

Unless I am completely mistaken, the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception teaches that Mary was free (redeemed) from original sin, not just actual sin. How then can apologists use the young and mentally handicapped as other groups of people who are not included in the “all have sinned” category?

Romans 3:23 and 1 John 1:8-10 is about our personal sin not original. Infants, children (those who don’t know they sin) and mentally handicapped don’t have the mental faculties to personally sin but they do have original sin. Original sin is not our personal sin. Original sin is inherited from Adam and Eve. We don’t inherit Adam’s sin. We inherit the deprivation of sanctifying grace. If Adam and Eve never would have sinned, we would have inherited the Garden of Eden and living in paradise. That’s not the case.
In Jude 1:24-25 the text suggest that our Lord Jesus Christ can save people before they fall and “present them without blemish”. These are God’s graces that a person can receive that will protect them from original sin and personal sin. This would be fitting for the Blessed Virgin Mother who gave birth to God.

Yes, mentally handicapped people do have original sin, but I don’t think those apologists are intending to use them as perfect examples of Mary. It’s just supposed to be an analogy. The ones I have heard say this are usually responding to the protestant claim that Romans 3:23 and 1 John 1:8 make it impossible for Mary not to have ever committed sin.

In context, both of these verses are talking about actual, personal sin. Not original sin. So by pointing out that mentally handicapped people have never sinned, they are just trying to help the person making the objection see that there are exceptions, and that Mary is another (albeit unique) exception to the general rule.

The Blessed Mother was conceived without original sin…not “redeemed” as we are.

Well, actually she was redeemed, since she was a member of the fallen human race. It’s just the fruit of Christ’s redemptive work was applied to her at the exact moment of her conception. So she never was stained by any sin. But she still needed a savior like the rest of us. :thumbsup:

She needed a Savior just like us. She even said so in Luke 1:46-47 "And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior

I do not think our Lord sees it a problem in children or the mentally handicapped. The judgment of Original Sin is not as high in the Eastern Church as it is in the Western Church so that one of its Church Fathers, St. John Chrysostom would never say that the Original Sin in babies, children or the mentally handicapped needs to be treated. You have to understand what those words “needs to be treated mean”? St. John Chrysostom had taught that God never judges Original Sin only the sins which people commit so that anyone born into this world does not carry any judgment from God. This is the teaching of this great Church Father of the East.

Mary had a Redeemer just like the rest of us. The difference is that she was redeemed at the moment of her conception according to Catholic teaching.

I see your point about Rom 3:23 and 1 John 1:8-10 but I have to disagree with your view of Jude 24-25. Whether or not we commit a sin is entirely up to us. It’s our choice. Jude is saying that God will give us whatever graces are necessary to avoid committing the sin, not that God will prevent us from sinning.

That still leaves the issue of original sin. The argument that children and the mentally handicapped do not have sin is to stress that Mary is not alone in sinlessness. Why bother if you’re going to claim that she is unique among all of humanity anyway?

If it doesn’t need to be “treated,” whatever that means, then why do we baptize babies for the forgiveness of sins?

A related question just occurred to me:

Jesus was baptized. I know the Bible says nothing about Mary being baptized but is there anything in the traditions (lower case t) about it? I know you could say that Mary didn’t need it but neither did Jesus yet He did so to “fulfill all righteousness.”

Correct, sin is entirely up to us. We make that decision to sin. The grace that God gives someone in Jude though prevents the need (want) to sin or the necessity to fall into sin. That’s why Jesus can present them without blemish (without fault) to “his glorious presents”. They just don’t have the capacity to sin as an infant, or mentally handicapped.

Mary is unique among humanity. She gave birth to God. She is so unique that God chose her and it’s fitting that she is sinless. Infants, children and mentally handicapped do have sin. They have original sin but they share something in common with Mary. They don’t have the want to personally sin or the capacity.

Any parent knows that kids do things that, if they were adults, would be considered a sin. They lie, they steal, they hit their siblings. What they don’t have is the responsibility. It: ( not that they don’t know they’ve done something wrong. Heck, my dog knows when he’s done something wrong.

I have a problem with your comment about Mary. I’m talking about evidence for Mary’s uniqueness. You can’t prove that Mary is unique by saying that Mary is unique.

Despite being a dogma, the Immaculate Conception is not clear either from Scripture or Apostolic Tradition. Theologians such as Thomas Aquinus and Bonaventure, both Doctors of the Church, rejected the belief. And let’s be honest, some of the defenses we use to show that it “fits” with Scripture are pathetic at best and convince no one.


Correct children at a certain age sin but if they don’t know they’re sinning, then it’s not a sin. Your just assuming that children of a certain age know right from wrong. This logic leads to a different forum. Also, check the logic behind “my dog knows when he’s done something wrong”. Why does your dog know he did something wrong? Again, different forum. Also, you left out infants and the mentally handicapped.

Here’s one evidence of Mary’s uniqueness, she gave birth to God.

I would like to see the quote from St. Thomas Aquinus that he didn’t believe in the Immaculate Conception and reading it in context of all his other writings. Also, scripture is clear in Jude 1:24-25 that a person can be saved before and during their life time. I also believe Tim Staples just wrote a piece on Catholic Answers about the Immaculate Conception. He has some scriptural support for it.

You misread my comment. I didn’t say that children sinned. I said that they do things that would be sins if done by someone older. They do not have the ability to fulfill all of the requirements necessary for an act to be considered a sin.

I understand that Mary is unique in that she bore the Second Person of the Trinity in her womb. However, using that fact as a starting point to speculate about what else might be unique about her is bad reasoning. We have no facts to form a basis for speculation because she is unique in that regard. The only way of knowing is divine revelation and that is clearly lacking if theologians of the caliber of Thomas Aquinas and Bonaventure didn’t accept it as truth.

I don’t have the exact reference in which Aquinas denies the belief but will you take the word of Fr Most in an article on EWTN’s website?

Many non-Catholics reject the idea that Mary, the Mother of Jesus, was herself conceived without sin and remained sinless throughout her entire lifetime by a special privilege granted to her by God known as the Immaculate Conception of Mary. In support of their position, they frequently cite verses such as Romans 3:23 which states, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” in support of their arguments against the Catholic doctrine.

Noting the examples of children who die before the age of reason and of mentally handicapped individuals who may not be culpable for their actions, Catholics rightly respond that Paul would have acknowledged that the word “all” in Romans 3:23 does not rule out the possibility of exceptions to the rule that “all have sinned” by their personal actions.

But is this merely a word game played by enthusiastic partisans? Or is there any scriptural support for the principle behind the Immaculate Conception of Mary? For Catholics, the happy answer is “yes”, and the verse is the following:

Jude 24-25
Now to him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you without blemish before the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and for ever.

In this passage, Jude is speaking to believers who have almost certainly committed personal sins during the course of their lifetimes whether before or after they became Christians. Yet, despite those imperfections, Jude insists that God is able to prevent someone from falling (sinning) again in the future in order that he or she might appear spotless before the throne of God. What an amazing idea: God can prevent someone from sinning! This is what Catholics have been saying all along concerning Mary.

So, how might this principle of preventive salvation apply to Mary? In the 13th century, Duns Scotus, the famous Franciscan theologian, explained that falling into sin could be likened to a man unknowingly approaching a deep ditch. If he falls into the ditch, he needs someone to lower a rope and save him. But if someone were to warn him of the danger ahead, preventing the man from falling into the ditch at all, he would be saved from falling in the first place.

Likewise, Mary was saved by God who protected her from inheriting the stain of original sin from Adam and prevented her from sinning during the course of her lifetime…just as scripture tells us He is able to do.

Does this suggest that Mary did not have free will? Not at all. Any one of us may ask God to protect us from the attacks of the evil one and from temptation; we ask for these things every time we pray the Our Father. Our struggles occur when we waiver in our commitment to avoid actual sins. However, by virtue of the fact that Mary was born free from the natural attraction to sin that plagues the rest of us, she was able to ask for God’s protection and remain committed to a sin-free life.

From Aquinas: Summa Theologiae III:27:4

“I answer that, God so prepares and endows those, whom He chooses for some particular office, that they are rendered capable of fulfilling it, according to 2 Cor. 3:6: ‘(Who) hath made us fit ministers of the New Testament.’ Now the Blessed Virgin was chosen by God to be His Mother. Therefore there can be no doubt that God, by His grace, made her worthy of that office, according to the words spoken to her by the angel (Lk. 1:30,31): ‘Thou hast found grace with God: behold thou shalt conceive,’ etc. But she would not have been worthy to be the Mother of God, if she had ever sinned. First, because the honor of the parents reflects on the child, according to Prov. 17:6: ‘The glory of children are their fathers’: and consequently, on the other hand, the Mother’s shame would have reflected on her Son. Secondly, because of the singular affinity between her and Christ, who took flesh from her: and it is written (2 Cor. 6:15): ‘What concord hath Christ with Belial?’ Thirdly, because of the singular manner in which the Son of God, who is the ‘Divine Wisdom’ (1 Cor. 1:24) dwelt in her, not only in her soul but in her womb. And it is written (Wis. 1:4): ‘Wisdom will not enter into a malicious soul, nor dwell in a body subject to sins.’
“We must therefore confess simply that the Blessed Virgin committed no actual sin, neither mortal nor venial; so that what is written (Cant 4:7) is fulfilled: ‘Thou art all fair, O my love, and there is not a spot in thee,’ etc. “

re: Jude 24-25

In this passage, Jude is speaking to believers who have almost certainly committed personal sins during the course of their lifetimes whether before or after they became Christians. Yet, despite those imperfections, Jude insists that God is able to prevent someone from falling (sinning) again in the future in order that he or she might appear spotless before the throne of God. What an amazing idea: God can prevent someone from sinning! This is what Catholics have been saying all along concerning Mary.

Since much of what you said has already been mentioned in this thread, I’m going to limit my response to this.


If what you say is the case, then Mary had no free will.


Aquinas did not believe that the soul entered the baby until quickening, not at conception. Therefore, according to Aquinas, she could not have been saved at the moment of her conception. I mever said that Aquinas denied that Mary was sinless; I said he denied the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception as it is taught today by the Catholic Church.


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