EWTN Catholic Q&A
John the Baptist
Question from Alex Daley on 12-13-2012:

I was told that John the Baptist was born without sin. I had never heard that before and question this. They said that when he lept in his mother's womb that that was his baptism. I find this very confusing. Please clarify it for me. Thank you and God bless.

Answer by Fr. John Echert on 12-28-2012:

The Church formally teaches this to be the case, though many Catholics are not aware of this teaching. There are two biblical texts that bear upon this, both in the Gospel of Saint Luke (Ch 1):

11the angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right of the altar of incense. 12Zechariah was troubled by what he saw, and fear came upon him. 13But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid,* Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John.f 14And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15for he will be great in the sight of [the] Lord. He will drink neither wine nor strong drink.* He will be filled with the holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb

Note that he will be filled with the Holy Spirit in the womb

39During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, 40where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit,s 42cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.t 43And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord* should come to me? 44For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.

As I recall it was Pope Damasus in the last 4th century who cited these texts and declared the infallible teaching that Saint John was freed from Original Sin in his mother's womb--a privilege second only to that of Mary, who was conceived without Original Sin.

Merry Christmas, Alex

Father Echert