From a reader…
At Mass yesterday the priest said that St. John the Baptist never sinned his whole life due to the absolution he received from the Lord during the Visitation (‘ . . . and he leapt in the womb’).
Never heard this before. Is this Church teaching?
While this has never been taught officially by the Church, our tradition has it that at the moment of the Visitation, when he leapt in Elizabeth’s womb at the approach of the unborn Savior within Mary, that was when John was cleansed of the guilt of Original Sin. Hence, he was born without the guilt of Original Sin. He, like everyone else except the Blessed Virgin and Our Lord, suffered the effects of Original Sin. He would have had to deal with his passions, disordered appetites, concupiscence, etc. He was not “immaculate”, like the Blessed Virgin.
That said, we can suppose that John the Baptist was a deeply holy man, if not immaculate. After all, Our Lord Himself said of John:
I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John; … (Luke 7:28)
Imagine the implications of that, coming as it does from the mouth of Christ.
But the second part of that verse is:
…yet he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”
Since only the sinless can see God in Heaven, one might conclude from this that John, while amazingly holy, is nevertheless not without sins, without some attachment, or without the debt in justice of temporal punishment due to sin.
Holy Church recognizes the greatness of John the Baptist also by the fact that we celebrate his birth day. In general when we use the term “birth day” for a saint, the dies natalis, we mean the day of the death of the saint and their “birth” into Heaven. However, we celebrate the Nativity of John the Baptist, as we do that of Our Lord and of Mary. A singular honor!
If I recall rightly, Anne Catherine Emmerich thought that John the sinless in life. Maybe, but that’s not the teaching of the Church and, frankly, I have a strong dubitation about that.