St John the Baptist and Original Sin
Question from Tony on 12-29-2004:

I've seen in a recent post here that indirectly refers to St John the Baptist was conceived without orignal sin (post by Theodore on 12/29/04). I was wondering what is the official teaching and scripture basis on that subject and my Protestan firends think I'm crazy. I don't remember covering that issue in my catechism and I've asked other "experts" and they were not able to give me an answer. Thanks

Answer by Fr. John Echert on 12-29-2004:

St. Luke records the following in his Gospel:

1:39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, 1:40 and she entered the house of Zechari'ah and greeted Elizabeth. 1:41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 1:42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 1:43 And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 1:44 For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy.

The Church teaches that it was at this moment that the Baptist was freed from original sin and that he never sinned personally in the course of his life. Specifically, Pope Innocent III (1208 AD, DS 790) wrote: “Iohannemque Baptistam ab eo missum esse sanctum et iustum et in utero matris suae Spiritu Sancto repletum” (“and John the Baptist had been sent from Him [God] holy and righteous and filled with the Holy Spirit in the womb of his own mother”). Furthermore, St. Augustine commented that we properly celebrate the birthday of the Baptist in addition to his day of martyrdom, since he came into the world without sin. Hence it is only properly said of Mary that she was conceived free of original sin, as proclaimed in the Immaculate Conception. But the Baptist was granted the privilege of freedom from original sin in the womb which is singular in its own right and by the same grace of Christ, but in anticipation of the crucifixion in which that grace was won for us. ©

This teaching of the Church, rooted in Sacred Scripture, is probably not well known in modern times, even by many pastors and theologians. However, the truth of Tradition and the Bible still stands.

A blessed New Year, Tony

Father Echert