Roman Catholic Teaching on Original Sin

Council of Vienne (1311-1312)

Decrees
1. All are faithfully to profess that there is one baptism which regenerates all those baptized in Christ, just as there is one God and one faith. We believe that when baptism is administered in water in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, it is a perfect means of salvation for both adults and children. Yet because, as regards the effect of baptism in children, we find that certain theologians have held contrary opinions, some saying that by baptism guilt is indeed remitted in infants but grace is not conferred, others on the contrary asserting that both guilt is remitted and the virtues and sanctifying grace are infused with regard to habit though for the time being not with regard to use, we, considering the general efficacy of Christ’s death, which through baptism is applied in like manner to all the baptised, choose, with the approval of the sacred council, the second opinion, which says that sanctifying grace and the virtues are conferred in baptism on both infants and adults, as more probable and more in harmony with the words of the saints and of modern doctors of theology.

Council of Constance (1414-1418), Session XV

The sentence condemning the 260 articles of John Wyclif
The books and pamphlets of John Wyclif, of cursed memory, were carefully examined by the doctors and masters of Oxford university. They collected 260 unacceptable articles from these books and pamphlets and condemned them in scholastic form… This holy synod, therefore, in the name of our lord Jesus Christ, repudiates and condemns, by this perpetual decree, the aforesaid articles and each one of them in particular; and it forbids each and every Catholic henceforth, under pain of anathema, to preach, teach, or hold the said articles or any one of them. The said holy synod orders local ordinaries and inquisitors of heresy to be vigilant in carrying out these things and duly observing them, insofar as each one is responsible, in accordance with the law and canonical sanctions. Let anyone who rashly violates the aforesaid decrees and sentences of this sacred council be punished, after due warning, by the local ordinaries on the authority of this sacred council, notwithstanding any privilege.

[Among the articles of John Wyclif selected from the 260 is…]
6. Those who claim that the children of the faithful dying without sacramental baptism will not be saved, are stupid and presumptuous in saying this.

Council of Trent (1545-1563), Session V

Decree Concerning Original Sin
2. If any one asserts, that the prevarication of Adam injured himself alone, and not his posterity; and that the holiness and justice, received of God, which he lost, he lost for himself alone, and not for us also; or that he, being defiled by the sin of disobedience, has only transfused death, and pains of the body, into the whole human race, but not sin also, which is the death of the soul; let him be anathema: whereas he contradicts the apostle who says; “By one man sin entered into the world, and by sin death, and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned”…

4. If any one denies, that infants, newly born from their mothers’ wombs, even though they be sprung from baptized parents, are to be baptized; or says that they are baptized indeed for the remission of sins, but that they derive nothing of original sin from Adam, which has need of being expiated by the laver of regeneration for the obtaining life everlasting–whence it follows as a consequence, that in them the form of baptism, for the remission of sins, is understood to be not true, but false–let him be anathema. For that which the apostle has said, By one man sin entered into the world, and by sin death, and so death passed upon all men in whom all have sinned, is not to be understood otherwise than as the Catholic Church spread everywhere hath always understood it. For, by reason of this rule of faith, from a tradition of the apostles, even infants, who could not as yet commit any sin of themselves, are for this cause truly baptized for the remission of sins, that in them that may be cleansed away by regeneration, which they have contracted by generation. For, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

5. If any one denies, that, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is conferred in baptism, the guilt of original sin is remitted; or even asserts that the whole of that which has the true and proper nature of sin is not taken away; but says that it is only rased, or not imputed; let him be anathema. For, in those who are born again, there is nothing that God hates; because, There is no condemnation to those who are truly buried together with Christ by baptism into death; who walk not according to the flesh, but, putting off the old man, and putting on the new who is created according to God, are made innocent, immaculate, pure, harmless, and beloved of God, heirs indeed of God, but joint heirs with Christ; so that there is nothing whatever to retard their entrance into heaven. But this Holy Synod confesses and is sensible, that in the baptized there remains concupiscence, or an incentive (to sin); which, whereas it is left for our exercise, cannot injure those who consent not, but resist manfully by the grace of Jesus Christ; yea, he who shall have striven lawfully shall be crowned. This concupiscence, which the apostle sometimes calls sin, the holy Synod declares that the Catholic Church has never understood it to be called sin, as being truly and properly sin in those born again, but because it is of sin, and inclines to sin.

An Orthodox Christian response