"Babies are innocent," I told her.
She pointedly looked away, unwilling to answer. Unable.
"Babies... are... innocent," I repeated more clearly, as though she hadn't heard me.
She continued to look away, as if the far wall suddenly needed her full attention. Perhaps she was just hoping that if she pretended I wasn't there, it might become true.
How could she have answered that? 'No babies are not innocent?' No. She is a loving aunt. She's also a teacher. She takes these roles seriously; willingly, and emphatically. She would never claim that a baby could have something to atone for.
'You are correct; babies are innocent?' No, she can't say that either. She is Catholic.
The discussion at Flaherty's Bowling Alley had started about which of the Flahertys we know are related to which. I jokingly asked, "Aren't all Flahertys related?" We all chuckled. Then someone else replied, "Well, we're all related to Adam and Eve." We all chuckled at that too.
Everyone except for me at that table was Catholic, but not the kind of Catholic that would insist that a story like Genesis was true in the face of all of the evidence to the contrary. No one believed there was actually an Adam and Eve. But that raised an interesting question for me, so I asked it.
"If there was not an Adam and Eve, then what is 'Original Sin'? What is the transgression you're washing off of babies?"
I got some hems and haws before one friend tried to tell me that, "No one is innocent," conflating the sin that is supposedly inherited with the sins people actually commit. As you already know, I told her that, "Babies are innocent."
If you call yourself Catholic, ask yourself if that story can literally be true.
And if that didn't actually happen, what is it you are trying to wash away?
And is it possible to undo the moral transgression of another without their consent, or even their knowledge?
Can someone be guilty of a moral transgressing through no fault of their own?
I think inheriting guilt made since to a bronze age goat herder, and I think our understanding of ethics has progressed quite a deal since then. If you don't get your scientific understanding from 3,000 year old books, why are you getting your ethics from one?