Original Sin is one of the more scandalous Christian doctrines (there are lots of them). How can an innocent baby be guilty of Original Sin? How can we be born into Original Sin, through no fault of our own? And how did Adam’s sin manage to corrupt us, all these millennia later? It seems nuts, and insanely unjust.
Most of the difficulties can be cleared up with a few clarifications.
First, no one is guilty of Original Sin these days. That’s a misconception. Both Orthodox and Catholic communions – and all the Protestants, so far as I know – teach that while we suffer the consequences of Original Sin – depravation of our wits, moral error, concupiscence, pain, and death – we are clear of the guilt of it. We are guilty only of the sins we ourselves commit. Which is plenty. But we are not guilty for the sins of others, including those of our First Parents. Because why? Because we could not have committed their sins, and so are not responsible for those sins.
God is just, so he shall not punish us for crimes we did not commit.
Nevertheless are we born into Original Sin, in the sense that we are all born into a world thoroughly corrupted by it, and with no option but to make our way through it as best we can. That forces all of us to cooperate with the evil acts of the past, at greater or lesser remove. That cooperation with evil is itself an evil. And it deforms us.
E.g.: worry about remote cooperation with the sin of abortion is a perennial concern of Catholics considering whether it is altogether licit for them to use pharmaceuticals developed from foetal stem cells harvested decades ago. Does not their consumption of products derived from abortions long ago effectually magnify the sinful effects of those abortions, and increase the likelihood of other such evil acts?
Yes. Moral value is conserved, and can compound, either to good or to ill.
It’s not just that we cooperate with evil now and then. All our acts cooperate remotely with evil to some extent. For, consider: each of us is the descendant of murderers. We exist as effects of those murderers, and – here’s the key – are by all of them affected. We are in our very being founded upon evil acts. And we are born into a world perfused throughout by such acts, and by them devastated. Their evil deforms our world – renders it evil – and so it deforms us; we then each contribute our own portion of wickedness to the continuing devastation of the created order.
There is no worldly escape from this predicament.
This has been going on for hundreds of generations. Evil has deformed our stock at every step of the process. There has been coevolution of evil and man, so that the Culture of Death has formed us each as a Body of Death, right down to our DNA. Evil has selected for evil. We are adapted to it, and for it.
So, it’s pretty simple really.
Fortunately, GNON selects harder for good than for evil. That’s the only way we still have a world. Whitehead: the instability of evil is the morality of the universe. Despite its devastation, the world is still mostly good. It has adapted to survive evil, and to prosper in spite of it, at least for a while.