Original Sin is a hard teaching. The Christian assertion that innocent newborn babes are tainted with Original Sin ab initio, and before they have had a chance either to will or to perform any rational act, is ugly. No one wants to think of babies as involved in sin.
But they are. They just are.
This is not to say that innocent babies are wicked sinners, but rather to say that they are doomed to sin by the unfortunate circumstances of their birth.
The ugliness of the doctrine of Original Sin derives from its honest accounting of the ugliness of our predicament. It acknowledges our inescapable involvement in a causal order that is defective. When the world was created it was wholly good, and then with Lucifer’s first errant act of origination in disagreement with the Divinely provided optimum path, it was forevermore deflected from that path. The damage Lucifer’s sin inflicted on the whole created order was permanent, because a fact of history cannot be unmade. It must be recognized by all its successors as a fact, and its effects admitted into their own constitutions, as aspects of the world that they inhabit, and which produced them.
To see this, think of a newborn babe born into this world who somehow managed to be born into a world where the French Revolution had never happened. It’s not a coherent notion: if the baby had been born into a world where the French Revolution had never happened, he would not have been born into this world at all, but into some other. The fact of the French Revolution must inescapably influence every baby born since.
Likewise for all historical facts. They cannot be gainsayed. We may de-emphasize them, or compensate for them, and indeed most action is made up of just such compensations, emphases and adjustments; but we may not disregard them.
Likewise, then, a fortiori, for Lucifer’s Fall; and for the Fall of our First Parents; and for the Fall of our own fathers and mothers. Every subsequent sin, every petty creaturely fall, is a participation in Lucifer’s first, gigantic Error – an echo and reverberation of his archetypal rebellion, that perfuses the whole system of the world as pervasively as the remnant heat of the Big Bang.
No creature can compensate fully for the sin he willy nilly inherits from his past. None of us can climb unaided out of the deep hole of history in which we begin our life’s journey. Indeed, almost all of our frantic scrabbling about serves only to deepen the hole of misery destined to our future selves, and so, horribly, to our sons and daughters. The ineluctable effects of Original Sin, at work in our psychic economies, account for the otherwise quite mysterious fact that, no matter how self-disciplined we are, we repeatedly do what we know we ought not to do, even when we don’t very much want to, and indeed even when we very strongly desire not to. They account for the fact that there is no moral health in us.