Last week’s article outlined the overall background and effects of baptism. This article will describe the first of those effects, the purification from original sin.
People sometimes wonder why the Church uses the word sin for a fallen condition that we are born with, and thus are not to blame for. A distinction between three Latin terms, mala, peccata and culpa, is helpful here. In Latin, mala means any evil, that is, the absence of a good that ought to exist, regardless of whether there is any sin involved. Thus, blindness, poverty and early death is a mala even if there is no sin involved.
Peccata, by contrast, is sin, that is something in a free agent (most commonly actions, words, or desires) that is an offense against reason, truth and right judgment, contrary to the law and love of God, even if the person involved is not to blame for it. Thus, a desire can be sinful even if it is involuntary and not blameworthy. A child raised to think that something immoral (e.g., impurity or violence against infidels) is right may not be at fault for his views; but such views, and actions based upon them, are still peccata, sinful and destructive of human nature. And then, if something is sinful and blameworthy, the Latin term is culpa, from which we derive our word culpable.
Original sin is peccata, for it is that deep flaw in human nature, the separation from God caused by the sin of our first parents and handed on as a sort of spiritual genetic defect to all of humanity. From original sin come many effects, including: concupiscence, the tendency toward evil and difficulty at doing what is right; struggle at prayer; darkness of the intellect and difficulty of work; divisions among people even when they are of good will; damage to creation itself; and death. Original sin, in addition to personal sins committed since the fall of Man, created a barrier between God and man, and blocked the path to heaven, for nothing impure enter those glorious realms.
Baptism removes original sin, but not all the effects of original sin. And thus, even after baptism, there are still struggles with concupiscence, difficulty at prayer, weakness in thinking and work, divisions among people, a world that is often against us, and death itself. But, with Christ at our side, we can fight these obstacles and open a path through the wilderness to the realms of everlasting life.