Mary’s Immaculate Conception

Dec 8th, 2010 | By | Category: Blog Posts

Today is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, in which we celebrate the conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who “from the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin.”1

DuccioMadonnaAndChildSM

Madonna and Child with Angels
Duccio di Buoninsegna (1300-1305)

On November 3, Professor Lawrence Feingold (Ave Maria University) gave a lecture to the Association of Hebrew Catholics on the subject of the Immaculate Conception. To listen to that lecture, click on the ‘play’ button directly below.

 

To listen to the Q&A following the lecture, press play directly below:

 

Download the mp3s for the lecture and the Q&A here.

In the first part of his lecture Professor Feingold speaks briefly about the Catholic conception of the development of doctrine, and how Mary herself provides the model for understanding the Church’s ever-deepening understanding of the deposit of faith. The development of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception took place over many centuries as the Church continued to ponder in her heart the meaning of the deposit entrusted to her. The primary difficulty for the development of this doctrine was explaining how it fit with the fact that no man comes to the Father except through Christ, and that therefore Mary too needed Christ as her Savior.

Next he turns to the Church Fathers, and shows how they recognized and developed the doctrine of Mary as the New Eve, and thus considered her to be without sin. Because she is the New Eve, she could not be sinful as was the first Eve. This is why the justification and development of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception cannot rightly be understood without understanding how and why Mary is the Second Eve. Her role as the Second Eve is the key to understanding her immaculate conception, as explained in this quotation from Blessed Cardinal Newman:

She [the Church] holds, as the Fathers teach us, that office in our restoration which Eve held in our fall: — now, in the first place, what were Eve’s endowments to enable her to enter upon her trial? She could not have stood against the wiles of the devil, though she was innocent and sinless, without the grant of a large grace. And this she had; — a heavenly gift, which was over and above and additional to that nature of hers, which she received from Adam, a gift which had been given to Adam also before her, at the very time (as it is commonly held) of his original formation. … Now, taking this for granted, … I ask you, have you any intention to deny that Mary was as fully endowed as Eve? is it any violent inference, that she, who was to co-operate in the redemption of the world, at least was not less endowed with power from on high, than she who, given as a help-mate to her husband, did in the event but cooperate with him for its ruin? If Eve was raised above human nature by that indwelling moral gift which we call grace, is it rash to say that Mary had even a greater grace? And this consideration gives significance to the Angel’s salutation of her as “full of grace,” — an interpretation of the original word which is undoubtedly the right one, as soon as we resist the common Protestant assumption that grace is a mere external approbation or acceptance, answering to the word “favour,” whereas it is, as the Fathers teach, a real inward condition or superadded quality of soul. And if Eve had this supernatural inward gift given her from the first moment of her personal existence, is it possible to deny that Mary too had this gift from the very first moment of her personal existence? I do not know how to resist this inference:—well, this is simply and literally the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. I say the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is in its substance this, and nothing more or less than this (putting aside the question of degrees of grace); and it really does seem to me bound up in the doctrine of the Fathers, that Mary is the second Eve. (Letter to Pusey)

Professor Feingold then briefly discusses St. Augustine’s notion of Mary’s sinlessness, as well as that of St. Cyril of Alexandria, before turning to Byzantine theology.

Byzantine Theology
The orthodox opposition to Nestorianism in the East helped the Marian doctrine develop more rapidly there. From at least the sixth century, three Marian feasts were celebrated in the Eastern Churches in addition to Christmas: the Annunciation on March 25, the Nativity of Our Lady on September 8, and the Dormition on August 15. In the seventh century, we find an additional feast: the Conception of St. Anne on December 9. This does not refer to St. Anne’s being conceived, but rather to Mary’s conception in the womb of St. Anne. The Church does not celebrate a feast, unless it is celebrating something sacred. And thus already in the seventh century we see the recognition of the sanctity of the conception of Mary in the womb of St. Anne.

Professor Feingold draws from St. Sophronius (patriarch of Jerusalem, died in 638), whose letter was approved by the Sixth Ecumenical Council. St. Sophronius writes that Mary was

… full of divine wisdom, and free from all contamination of body, soul, and spirit. For this purpose, a holy Virgin is chosen and is sanctified in soul and body; and thus, because pure, chaste and immaculate, she is able to serve in the Incarnation of the Creator. (Epistola synodica ad Sergium)

He next quotes from St. Andrew of Crete (ca. 650-740), from his homily on the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin:

Today, Adam presents Mary to God as the first fruits of our nature. . . . Today, humanity recovers the gift it had received when first formed by divine hands, and returns immaculate to its original nobility. The shame of sin had cast a shadow upon the splendor and charm of human nature; but when the Mother of Him who is Beauty itself is born, this nature recovers in her person its ancient privileges, and is fashioned according to a perfect model, truly worthy of God. And this fashioning is a perfect restoration; this restoration is a divinization, and this divination is an assimilation to the primitive state. . . . In a word, the reformation of our nature begins today; the world, which had grown old, undergoes a transformation which is wholly divine, and receives the first-fruits of its second creation.” (Homily 1 in the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin)

He summarizes the Byzantine theology on this subject drawing from the teachings of St. John Damascene (ca. 676 – 770), St. Theodore of Studion (d. 826), Photius, Patriarch of Constantinople (ca. 815-897), a disciple of Photius named George, Metropolitan of Nicodemia, and St. Joseph the Hymnographer. At the end of this section he says:

Many prominent later Byzantine theologians continued to affirm the Immaculate Conception after the schism of 1054,2 but, especially in reaction to the infallible definition of Pius IX in 1854, Orthodox theologians in the last two centuries have unfortunately tended to see the definition as a point of difference between Catholic and Orthodox theology.

Theological Debate on the Immaculate Conception in the Latin West
Next he discusses the theological debate concerning the Immaculate Conception in the Latin West, which was delayed in the development of its understanding of this subject (in comparison to the East), by the Augustinian notion of the role of concupiscence in the transmission of original sin. This is, in my opinion, the most interesting and most helpful part of the talk. He first lays out the position as taught by Eadmer of Canterbury (c. 1060-1130), who was the student and friend of St. Anselm of Canterbury. Eadmer wrote:

Who dares to say that the … most sweet resting place of the only Son of God was deprived of the grace and illumination of the Holy Spirit in the very beginning of her conception? … If there was something of original sin … in her generation, it was in those who conceived her, and not in the offspring conceived. … You came forth from the root of Jesse … untainted by any sin. (Treatise on the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (1123) )

Professor Feingold explains how Eadmer, drawing from St. Anselm, distinguished between active conception and passive conception. Active conception refers to the activity of the parents in the marital act. Passive conception refers to the coming into existence of the fruit of conception, as God creates and infuses an immortal soul. Concupiscence was (presumably) present in the marital act of Joachim and Anne, and thus in Mary’s active conception. But Eadmer explained that Mary’s passive conception was not ordinary, but extraordinary, because God gave to her the supernatural gift of sanctifying grace and the preternatural gift of integrity He had given to Adam and Eve when they were first created, even though Mary was conceived by parents who were banished from the Garden of Eden. Eadmer writes:

That teacher of pure truth [St. Paul] … says that all men sinned in Adam. This is true, and I declare it sinful to contradict it. But when I consider the eminent degree of God’s grace in you, I see you, not among, but above all created things (except for thy Son), and I believe that, in your conception, you were not bound by the law of nature of others, but through a unique and — to human minds — inscrutable power and operation of God, were kept utterly free from any stain of sin. (Tractatus, no. 12)

Eadmer continues:

If God gives to the chestnut the possibility of being conceived, nourished and formed among thorns, but preserved from being punctured by them, could he not grant to the human body which he was preparing for himself to be a temple in which he would dwell bodily . . . that although she was conceived among the thorns of sin, she might be rendered completely immune from their pricks? He certainly could, and He desired to; if therefore He willed it, He did it. (Tractatus, no. 12)

Anselm the Younger was St. Anselm’s nephew. He had learned of the feast of the Immaculate Conception through the Byzantine liturgy of the monks at St. Sabas, where St. John Damascene had lived. St. Anselm the Younger, as abbot of St. Edmund’s in Bury (in Suffolk, England) introduced this feast to the monks of St. Edmund’s. In France, St. Bernard, around the year 1140, wrote a letter opposing the liturgical celebration of the Immaculate Conception, which had recently been introduced into the liturgy of the Cathedral of Lyons. St. Bernard was unaware that this feast had been celebrated in the East for many centuries. Hence he wrote:

I marvel exceedingly that some of you should wish to tarnish the luster of your good name by introducing at this time a new festival, a rite of which the Church knows nothing, of which reason cannot approve, and for which there is no authority in tradition. Are we more learned or more devout than the Fathers? . . . If therefore it was quite impossible for her to have been sanctified before her conception, because she did not then exist; or in the act of her conception, because of the presence of sin; it remains that she was sanctified after her conception, when she was already in the womb, and that this sanctification excluded sin and rendered her birth, but not her conception, holy … If you thought such a feast advisable, you should have first consulted the Holy See, and not have followed so hastily and so unadvisedly the simplicity of the uneducated. . . . I have said all this in submission to the judgment of anyone wiser than myself, and especially in submission to the authority of the Roman Church, to whose decision I refer all that I have said on this or any other such subject, prepared to modify anything I may have said, if it should be contrary to what she thinks. (Letter 215 to the Canons of the Church of Lyon)

Professor Feingold explains that St. Bernard does not distinguish between active conception and passive conception. St. Bernard reasoned that since concupiscence was present in the conjugal act, therefore it was impossible for Mary to be conceived without sin. But that is a mistake, not only because concupiscence is not sin, but because concupiscence belonged only to Mary’s active conception, not to her passive conception. There is no contradiction between concupiscence in the parents in the marital act (i.e. in active conception), and being conceived-without-sin, in passive conception. Blessed Cardinal Newman explains:

It has no reference whatever to her parents, but simply to her own person; it does but affirm that, together with the nature which she inherited from her parents, that is, her own nature, she had a superadded fulness of grace, and that from the first moment of her existence. Suppose Eve had stood the trial, and not lost her first grace; and suppose she had eventually had children, those children from the first moment of their existence would, through divine bounty, have received the same privilege that she had ever had; that is, as she was taken from Adam’s side, in a garment, so to say, of grace, so they in turn would have received what may be called an immaculate conception. They would have then been conceived in grace, as in fact they are conceived in sin. What is there difficult in this doctrine? What is there unnatural? Mary may be called, as it were, a daughter of Eve unfallen. You believe with us that St. John Baptist had grace given to him three months before his birth, at the time that the Blessed Virgin visited his mother. He accordingly was not immaculately conceived, because he was alive before grace came to him; but our Lady’s case only differs from his in this respect, that to her the grace of God came, not three months merely before her birth, but from the first moment of her being, as it had been given to Eve. (Letter to Pusey)

Next Professor Feingold explains the position of St. Albert and St. Thomas Aquinas, both of whom followed St. Bernard. Then he presents the teaching of St. Bonaventure, who expounds the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception in such a favorable way, that he helps resolve the dilemma with the argument Eadmer had used, and which Bl. Duns Scotus would use, though unfortunately St. Bonaventure did not realize that he had solved the problem, and opposed the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception on the basis of Christ being the universal redeemer of mankind.

In the last part of his talk, Professor Feingold explains how Bl. Duns Scotus successfully defended the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, by showing how it was more fitting for Christ to save His Mother through the merits of His Passion by preventing her from being deprived of sanctifying grace even at the first moment of her existence, than allowing her first to be sullied by original sin before redeeming her. He quotes Blessed Scotus:

[If she had been without sin] Mary would have had the greatest need of Christ as Redeemer; for by reason of her procreation, which followed the common mode, she would have contracted original sin had she not been kept from it by the grace of the Mediator, and just as others are in need of Christ for the remission, by His merit, of sin which they have already contracted, so Mary would have been in still greater need of a Mediator preventing her from contracting sin.3

The following is an excerpt from the relevant section of Bl. John Duns Scotus’s Lectura in Librum Tertium Sententiarum:

Distinction 3; Question 1

Was the Blessed Virgin conceived in sin? The answer is no, for as Augustine writes: “When sin is treated, there can be no inclusion of Mary in the discussion.” And Anselm says: “It was fitting that the Virgin should be resplendent with a purity greater than which none under God can be conceived.” Purity here is to be taken in the sense of pure innocence under God, such as was in Christ.

The contrary, however, is commonly asserted on two grounds. First, the dignity of Her Son, who, as universal Redeemer, opened the gates of heaven. But if blessed Mary had not contracted original sin, She would not have needed the Redeemer, nor would He have opened the door for Her because it was never closed. For it is only closed because of sin, above all original sin.

In respect to this first ground, one can argue from the dignity of Her Son qua Redeemer, Reconciler, and Mediator, that She did not contract original sin.

For a most perfect mediator exercises the most perfect mediation possible in regard to some person for whom he mediates. Thus Christ exercised a most perfect act of mediation in regard to some person for whom He was Mediator. In regard to no person did He have a more exalted relationship than to Mary. Such, however, would not have been true had He not preserved Her from original sin.

The proof is threefold: in terms of God to whom He reconciles; in terms of the evil from which He frees; and in terms of the indebtedness of the person whom He reconciles.

First, no one absolutely and perfectly placates anyone about to be offended in any way unless he can avert the offense. For to placate only in view of remitting the offense once committed is not to placate most perfectly. But God does not undergo offense because of some experience in Himself, but only because of sin in the soul of a creature. Hence, Christ does not placate the Trinity most perfectly for the sin to be contracted by the sons of Adam if He does not prevent the Trinity from being offended in someone, and if the soul of some child of Adam does not contract such a sin; and thus it is possible that a child of Adam not have such a sin.

Secondly, a most perfect mediator merits the removal of all punishment from the one whom he reconciles. Original sin, however, is a greater privation than the lack of the vision of God. Hence, if Christ most perfectly reconciles us to God, He merited that this most heavy of punishments be removed from some one person. This would have been His Mother.

Further, Christ is primarily our Redeemer and Reconciler from original sin rather than actual sin, for the need of the Incarnation and suffering of Christ is commonly ascribed to original sin. But He is also commonly assumed to be the perfect Mediator of at least one person, namely, Mary, whom He preserved from actual sin. Logically one should assume that He preserved Her from original sin as well.

Thirdly, a person reconciled is not absolutely indebted to his mediator, unless he receives from that mediator the greatest possible good. But this innocence, namely, preservation from the contracted sin or from the sin to be contracted, is available from the Mediator. Thus, no one would be absolutely indebted to Christ as Mediator unless preserved from original sin. It is a greater good to be preserved from evil than to fall into it and afterwards be freed from it. If Christ merited grace and glory for so many souls, who, for these gifts, are indebted to Christ as Mediator, why should no soul be His debtor for the gift of its innocence? And why, since the blessed Angels are innocent, should there be no human soul in heaven (except the human soul of Christ) who is innocent, that is, never in the state of original sin?

Eventually in 1477 the feast of the Immaculate Conception was made a feast for the universal Church, and in 1708 it became a holy day of obligation in the universal Church, though it had already been a holy day of obligation for centuries in the East. Finally, in 1854 Pope Pius IX defined it as dogma with the solemn bull, Ineffabilis Deus.

UPDATE: Regarding the Eastern Orthodox on Mary’s Immaculate Conception, see Mark Shea’s “What About the Eastern Orthodox Churches?

  1. Ineffabilis Deus []
  2. See Lev Gillet, “The Immaculate Conception and the Orthodox Church,” Chrysostom 6, no. 5 (Spring, 1983): 151-59 []
  3. On this topic in Bl. Duns Scotus see Volume XX of Scotus’s Lectura in Librum Tertium Sententiarum (Q.1 dis. 3), titled Utrum Beata Virgo fuerit concepta in peccato originali (“Whether the Blessed Virgin was conceived in original sin”). []
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  1. The best argument for the immaculate conception I have ever seen was given by Fr. Corapi, though I’ve made a couple of my own adaptations…

    When children draw pictures of their mother, they instinctively try to do the best job possible. They want this drawing, more than any other drawing, to be perfect. Unfortunately, children cannot draw their mother perfectly because children are not able to draw perfectly. God was able to do more than draw a picture of his mother. He was able to create his own mother. Because he is perfect, he was able to create her perfectly, without any blemish… and that is what God did when he created the woman who would be His mother. He saved her from sin at the moment she came into existance.

  2. I’d like to add to my previous comment, that Jesus’ relationship with Mary was unique. He interacted with her in a unique way, so – at least to me – it is quite conceivable that he would have saved her in a unique way.

  3. What happened to all the great comments?

  4. Ryan, are you thinking of the comments on another thread? Perhaps the Mary as Co-Redemptrix thread?

  5. So major a doctrine. So utterly lacking in Scriptural foundation.

  6. Dear Shawn,

    Mary’s immaculate conception is entailed in her role as Mother of God, “Full of Grace,” and 2nd Eve and confirmed by the sense of the faithful, the teaching of the Fathers, and the Magisterium established by Christ. But might I ask you to suggest a Scriptural foundation for the doctrine that all doctrine needs a Scriptural foundation?

    As you well know, we believe the deposit of faith is contained in Sacred Scripture and Tradition, and is to be interpreted in, by, and for the Church. I believe THAT is the teaching of Scripture. One of the things that made me a Catholic was the realization that Protestant Sola Scriptura was an unscriptural doctrine. I would invite you respond to that.

    Thanks,

    David

  7. David,

    Mary is not the Mother of God. The word God is understood by most people as the undivided Trinity. And Mary’s contribution to the incarnation of Jesus was physical, not Deity. Jesus, second member of the Godhead-yes. Mary mother of the Godhead-no.

    ‘Full of Grace’ is an English translation of a very bad Latin translation of the Greek original. The Catholic New American Bible recognized this and so translates the text as ‘And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” (Luk 1:28 NAB).’ And again, as major as this doctrine has become don’t you find it disconcerting that there is absolutely no Biblical foundation for it—that it is not even hinted at?

    Where do you David find ‘Sacred Tradition’?

    What is there that is, and where do you find and access it, that which is as authoritative, and that which stands on the very same level as the Bible? Outside of that you have to agree to sola scriptura.

    In Christ,
    Shawn

  8. that it is not even hinted at?

    Did you read this post? Not even hinted at? No, what you can’t see can be correlative to what you don’t want to see or refuse to see. We can argue that certain passages and O.T. types aren’t talking about Mary, but it is possible (hinting at) that they are. If I’m to take your line of reasoning seriously, then it would be preferable that you do not use over generalizations and instead contend against a particular argument or line of reasoning. In that way, we can have intelligible dialog, and I (and we) can consider your arguments for your position and not just your position as asserted.

    Peace to you on your journey

  9. Shawn
    Though I am no scholar of Greek or anything else. Here are some Greek scholars who believe that Mary was certainly told she was “ full of God’s Grace” when the Angel of the Lord announced to her the birth of Jesus.

    ” ‘Highly favoured’ (kecharitomene). Perfect passive participle of charitoo and means endowed with grace (charis), enriched with grace as in Ephesians 1:6 . . . The Vulgate gratiae plena [full of grace] “is right, if it means ‘full of grace which thou hast received’; wrong, if it means ‘full of grace which thou hast to bestow’ ” (A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, p. 14)
    1. “It is permissible, on Greek grammatical and linguistic grounds, to paraphrase kecharitomene as completely, perfectly, enduringly endowed with grace.” (Blass and DeBrunner, Greek Grammar of the New Testament).
    However, Luke 1:28 uses a special conjugated form of “charitoo.” It uses “kecharitomene,” while Ephesians 1:6 uses “echaritosen,” which is a different form of the verb “charitoo.” Echaritosen means “he graced” (or bestowed grace). Echaritosen signifies a momentary action, an action brought to pass (Blass and DeBrunner, Greek Grammar of the New Testament, p. 166). Whereas, Kecharitomene, the perfect passive participle, shows a completeness with a permanent result. Kecharitomene denotes continuance of a completed action (H. W. Smyth, Greek Grammar [Harvard Univ Press, 1968], p. 108-109, sec 1852:b; also Blass and DeBrunner, p. 175).

    God’s Blessing on you.
    NHU

  10. Shawn,

    The Fathers of the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus (431) taught as follows concerning the Mother of God:

    According to this understanding of the unconfused union, we confess the holy virgin to be the mother of God because God the Word took flesh and became man and from his very conception united to himself the temple he took from her.

    Catholics do not claim, and Ephesus did not teach, that the Mary is the “mother of the Godhead.” Mary is the Mother of Jesus, and Jesus is not the Godhead. However, Jesus is God. It is biblically precedented to use “God” in reference to just one of the divine Persons, as in Titus 2:13 and Hebrews 1:8. Each Person of the Godhead is fully God. If Mary is not God-bearer, in the sense specified by the Council of Ephesus, then she is not the Mother of Jesus, because the human nature of the Son of God at no time existed apart from the divine nature, these being united (without confusion, change, division, or separation) in the one divine Person, the Word.

  11. Brent,

    I don’t know why you sent me to that ‘post [http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/12/mary-without-sin-scripture-and-tradition/]’ as it makes my case.

    The author writes “I’ll close by saying that if you ‘Get Mary’ you ‘Get Catholicism.’ Mary represents everything that Catholicism is.”
    This strongly makes the case that Catholicism is a religion of Mary. You have abandoned God and Christ for a fiction you have created around a wonderful person.

    That same web site has this ‘The term traditionally translated “full of grace” or “highly favored” is kecharitomene.’
    ‘Full of Grace’ as Roman Catholicism puts it—i.e., no stain of sin, is not how ‘highly favored’ is treated. Does this site want to equate ‘highly favored’ with ‘not stain of sin’?

    Joseph Fitzmeyer, Jesuit priest, Catholic professor, writes in the Anchor Bible, v. 28, pg. 345 (Imprimatur Rev. Msgr. John F. Donoghue, Vicar General, Archdiocese of Washington, Nihil Obstat, Joseph N. Tylenda, S.J., Censor Deputatus), “Though the pf. Pass. Ptc. Kecharitomenos is found in the LXX of Sir 18:17 in the sense of ‘gracious man,’ here is rather designates Mary as the recipient of divine favor; it means ‘favored by God,’ another instance of the so-called theological passive (see ZGB § 236). She is favored by God to be the mother of the descendant of David and the Son of the Most High.”

    This next one I still get surprised at when someone posts it, especially with no explanation. Here’s your challenge, look at the Bibles that you have and tell me which ones have this verse translated this way.

    Gen 3:15 “I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: SHE SHALL CRUSH THY HEAD, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel”

    You will find that only the Douay-Rheims does and only earlier editions. The Hebrew text and the Greek translations both say very clearly, HE WILL CRUSH YOUR HEAD.

    Your explanation?

    That site also says, “I used to say that the best part of being a Catholic was the sacrament of Penance – now I say that the best part is being able to know the Immaculate Mother of Christ.”
    “O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”

    These two are truly disturbing from the hand of one who professes Christ and his God and Father. I would think that any Christian would say that the best part of being a Christian (regardless of denomination) would be Salvation from God through Christ. You are making the case that you guys fairly worship Mary.

    Your web site (Brent) says that you were a preacher and Bible teacher at one time. When and where, if I may ask? What training did you have to be a preacher and Bible teacher?

    Quick note–this is in response to both Brent and NHU. If I may ask, what is your full name NHU?
    In Christ
    Shawn

  12. Shawn M*,

    ‘Full of Grace’ as Roman Catholicism puts it—i.e., no stain of sin, is not how ‘highly favored’ is treated. Does this site want to equate ‘highly favored’ with ‘not stain of sin’?

    It assumes a lexicon approach to understanding the Bible versus Tradition. I recommend Bryan’s article here on the topic.

    “I used to say that the best part of being a Catholic was the sacrament of Penance – now I say that the best part is being able to know the Immaculate Mother of Christ.”

    I get it that you don’t understand affection for the Blessed Mother. Nevertheless, your affection for your family doesn’t impair your ability to love Christ fully. Love for his Mother corresponds to love for Him. Further, it ignores the very important understanding of our intimate, communal and familial relationship in the Body of Christ to one another. It’s not a Christ or _____. That is a false dilemma.

    Your web site (Brent) says that you were a preacher and Bible teacher at one time. When and where, if I may ask? What training did you have to be a preacher and Bible teacher?

    I’m not sure this is on topic, unless you plan on arguing for some type of ad hominem or saying that I’m an uneducated fool like all other Catholic defending theologians. Nevertheless, I studied theology (BA-Theological historical studies) under the guidance of a Luke-Acts scholar–Ph.D. Stirling (defended his thesis against F.F. Bruce) and a Calvin/Trinitarian scholar–Ph.D. Aberdeen–who taught with the Archbishop of Canterbury at Trinity in his younger days. My philosophy training is at the graduate level at the University of Dallas and I also hold an MBA.

    God bless,

    Brent

    * edited by moderator because you had ‘Steve M’

  13. No, no ad hominem. I mixed you up with NHU (?) who claimed no knowledge of Greek and then miss connected that to your being a preacher. I have alot of respect for the U of Dallas. One of my teachers was a Cistercian Monk from that Monestary.
    I have never employed ad hominem though it has been used against me. My delight is in the force of the logic of the argument. There is plenty there without resorting to ad hominem.
    YOu are wrong about me when you wrote ‘I get it that you don’t understand affection for the Blessed Mother.’ I grew up Irish Catholic and was a pre-Vatican II altar boy (Latin and all!). I loved it and I loved the church. Until I found error in it. And yes, I consider the affections voiced here for Mary a grievous error. The God of Scripture is a jealous God and what is espoused concerning Mary on this and other Catholic sites grieveously viloates Scripture’s emphasis on the exclusivity of God.

    In Christ,
    Shawn

  14. I couldn’t make the ‘link’ to Bryan’s article.

  15. I think we should look past the difference between a perfect participle and a noun phrase, and ask what it means for someone to have the favor of God. Gabriel did not just call Mary the favored one; he also says later, “You have found favor with God.” What does it mean for someone to find favor with God? When I was a Protestant I thought this just meant that Mary was the lucky winner of God’s random choice of a woman to make the flesh-vessel of Jesus. Comparisons with figures like Noah and Lot, however, to whom the same phrase (“found favor with God”) is applied, indicates that someone finds favor with God because of their righteousness. Mary was not just a random choice. She was “fitting.” So the Church hasn’t arrived at the doctrine of Mary’s immaculate heart simply because of a word game with the angelic salutation. The letter of the text bears witness to something deeper than a word.

  16. I like Dr. Richard Bulzacchelli criticism of the english translations of kecharitomene. Instead of highly favored and even full of grace, both which he claims do not express the full meaning, he states that the most proper definition is “one who enjoys now the fruits of a blessedness already possessed”. I recommend listening to his lecture on the immaculate conceptions here: http://www.salvationhistory.com/audio/resources/Immaculate_Conception.mp3
    This lecture is fantastic.

  17. A brief addendum to my last comment (#15).

    I did a little digging on the history of the translation “gratia plena,” and it didn’t take me long at all to see that this was not an errant novelty on Jerome’s part. In fact, nearly every Vetus Latina manuscript that I consulted online at the Brepols database had this phrase. Its incorporation into the Vulgate, then, was an act of fidelity to the history of New Testament translations by different people in different places. Whatever the lexica and grammars tell us, this is how Latin-speaking Christians understood the phrase from the beginning. Are we to believe that they had it wrong the whole time, and none of the Greek Christians or Greek-speaking Latin Christians took the opportunity to help their poor mono-lingual brothers out? In highly cosmopolitan areas like the ancient Christian Near East, where Jerome did a lot of traveling, this “error” would have been very easy to identify and address. On the contrary, I think that the fact that the translation took that form and survived shows us something about how the catholic Church understood κεχαριτωμένη.

  18. Hello Shawn,

    Welcome to Called To Communion. I’m not able to participate in this discussion at present, but in light of your first paragraph in comment #7, I thought I might point to a good lecture on this subject. Prof. Feingold, a Catholic theologian who teaches for the Institute of Pastoral Theology of Ave Maria University has given a helpful lecture on the divine maternity here:

    Dr. Feingold, “Mary’s Spiritual Maternity and Mediation”

    The mp3 of the lecture can be downloaded here, and the mp3 for the Q&A is available there as well.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  19. Hi Shawn my full name is Nelson H. Umphress I am no scholar but a Catholic born into the faith and taught since my birth. I have no degrees and no training in teaching but you can check my answer with the teaching authority of the Church if you care to. That Mary is God’s mother is not by some weird quirk of fate. But was a part of God’s salvation plan from all eternity. God knew that man was bound to take a fall and He had a plan. It involved Mary, God, a cross and resurrection. It was done by God for humanity. All of the participants were of His choosing.

    God Bless you

    NHU

  20. Shawn:

    Is this you: http://apps.sebts.edu/faculty/faculty_directory/ViewFaculty.cfm?BioID=36 ?

    Best,
    Mike

  21. Shawn,

    Sorry about the link. Here it is. I’m sorry to hear that you left the Church. But, I’m glad you stopped-by as this is a good forum to debate/dialog on theological matters pertinent to Rome and the Reformation.

    Regarding the ad hominem, I wasn’t suggesting that you had employed the tactic–but it seemed like an odd question to ask as if you were going to disqualify my argument based upon my level of education. However, I get your question now considering that If I was a protestant preacher and Bible (religion) teacher (also had the privilege of doing some teaching as an honors assistant and adjunct lecturer) and my education didn’t include any formal training in biblical languages, that would be odd. We’re copacetic.

    In my prayers,

    Brent

  22. Thanks Nelson. Mike, yes, that’s me! Fortunately they found a half way decent photo! I always give my name so that anyone interested could know who I am. If asked I would tell you without hesitation.

    Brent, I never disqualify anyone based on education level. I know far too many briliant people who have not been ruined by too much school. And I have known highly educated idiots. I hope that I have spent enough time in practical pursuits (retired Marine) to overcome most scholastic missteps.

    I was pointed to this site by a Catholic based on a question I had asked or a point I had made.

    David, I presently don’t have access to that database. Could you check and see how many of the manuscripts were before Jerome.

    In Christ,

    Shawn

  23. Shawn

    Thank you Shawn for acknowledging me, even if I don’t have a formal education. I try to learn something new everyday and I find I’m fairly successful at that.

    God bless you
    NHU

  24. Nelson, It would never occur to me to not recognize anyone! Alleged strength of argument I may not recognize! ;-) but always a person.

    In Christ
    Shawn

  25. An Orthodox blogger named Robert K. Arakaki recently wrote a post titled “Response to W. Bradford Littlejohn’s “Honouring Mary as Protestants”.” In this post he raised the following objection to the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception:

    The belief in Mary’s immaculate conception implies a parallel humanity that is ontologically separate from our fallen humanity. If so, then the Roman Catholic position contains the disturbing implication that Christ does not really share the same human nature as ours which raises serious questions about the meaning of the Incarnation. The Eastern Orthodox understanding is that while sharing in a human nature that was mortal and susceptible to corruption, Mary was preserved or protected from sinning by God’s grace. For this reason the Orthodox Church refers to Mary as “Panagia” (all holy). How this happens to be is a mystery rooted in God’s mercy. While quite similar to the Catholic position, the Orthodox understanding of Mary safeguards the doctrine of the Incarnation.

    His objection amounts to the claim that the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is not compatible with the doctrine of Christ’s incarnation. That would be a serious (indeed fatal) flaw, if the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception were in fact incompatible with the doctrine of the Incarnation. So, let’s consider the reasoning Robert gives for his thesis. His first premise is “The belief in Mary’s immaculate conception implies a parallel humanity that is ontologically separate from our fallen humanity.” This premise contains an ambiguity in the term “ontologically separate,” because there are at least two ways to be “ontologically separate” from us. One way is to have a human nature, but never to have had sin in one’s soul, i.e. never to have been without sanctifying grace in one’s soul. Another way to be “ontologically separate” from us is not to have a human nature. A pig, for example, is ontologically separate from us in the second way, because it does not have human nature. Jesus is not ontologically separate in the second way, since He has human nature through His incarnation. But He is “ontologically separate” from us in the first way, in the sense of having never had sin in His soul. From the first moment of His conception, His soul was full of sanctifying grace. (See Summa Theologica III Q.34 a.1)

    So if Robert means “ontologically separate” in the first sense, then this is fully compatible with the doctrine of the incarnation, since Jesus too never had sin in His soul. But if Robert means “ontologically separate” in the second sense, then his statement is not true. Mary is a human being, having a human nature, for she, being the Mother of God, is the source from whom Christ took His human nature, and nothing can give what it does not have. If Robert wishes to claim that Mary could not have a human nature without having original sin, then it will be his own position that is incompatible with the doctrine of the incarnation, unless he wishes to claim that Christ too had original sin, in which case Christ Himself could not be our redeemer, since He Himself would have needed a redeemer. If it were true that original sin belongs to the essence of man, then no human being could exist without original sin, and no human could be freed from original sin without ceasing to be human. But Adam and Eve did not have original sin before they disobeyed God, and yet they were truly human before their sin. Otherwise, Robert would have to hold that Adam and Eve changed [metaphysical] species when they sinned, going from a non-human species, to a human species. But if that were the case, then were would be no need to ‘restore’ us to the pre-Fall species, just as there is no need to turn any species (e.g. a pig) into another species (e.g. a cow).

    So, Robert has not provided any good reason or evidence to believe that the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is incompatible with the doctrine of Christ’s Incarnation. But his own position, according to which being conceived without original sin entails being “ontologically separated” from us, and being “ontologically separated” from us means not truly sharing the same human nature as ours, entails either that Christ did not become incarnate, or that Christ cannot be our redeemer, since He too needs a redeemer. Either horn of that dilemma is quite problematic.

    I addressed two similar objections (from Eastern Orthodox) to the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception here.

  26. Good work, Bryan. I’ve noticed that most Orthodox arguments against the dogma of the Immaculate Conception (DIC) are shockingly bad. It’s as if the authors want Catholicism and Orthodoxy, which are so close in this and so many other respects, to be as incompatible as possible. How sad.

    The only such argument that seems to keep circulating is that the DIC logically depends on the Augustininan notion of original sin as personal guilt. Of course the Catholic Church has repudiated that notion (cf. CCC §405). So then the argument becomes that the DIC is incoherent, since it depends on a notion the Catholic Church has repudiated. Or so I have heard it argued.

    My reply is that, according to the Council of Trent, the “guilt” of original sin is not that of culpa, or personal fault, but that of reatum, or being subject to punishment. Those interested can follow that thought further here.

    Best,
    Mike

  27. A reader sent in the following question: “I have read in multiple places that Mary was free from all motions of concupiscence as a result of being immaculately conceived, without the stain of original sin. Is this really the case? If Mary did not have concupiscence, could she have a completely free will?” In other words, if Mary was sinless and without concupiscence, then how could she have free will, her obedience be meritorious, and her fiat be venerable, if she was never even tempted to sin?

    According to the teaching of the Church, Mary was free from concupiscence. So was Jesus. So were Adam and Eve prior to their sin. (On concupiscence, see section 5 here.) Concupiscence is one source of temptation for us now, but not the only source, otherwise Adam and Eve would not have been able to be tempted. But Adam and Eve were tempted, and succumbed. Jesus was tempted in the desert, but did not succumb. So it is possible for a person to be tempted, without concupiscence, because Adam and Eve and Jesus were tempted without concupiscence.

    Jesus’s situation is unique in this respect, because He is a divine Person with a human nature, and therefore He could not sin. The Fifth Ecumenical Council (AD 553) condemned the claim of Theodore of Mopsuestia that Jesus became impeccable only after His resurrection. In contrast, Adam, Eve, and Mary were able to sin. Yet all were tempted without concupiscence. In the case of Christ, by His obedience in His human will He merited from God for Himself and for us (see Summa Theologica III Q.19 a.3-4,). So the problematic assumption in the question is that neither freedom nor temptation nor merit are possible apart from concupiscence.

    It is important to understand rightly what true freedom is. The ability to sin (which is more accurately understood as the inability necessarily to avoid sin) is not part of the essence of free will. Otherwise God would not have free will, neither would Jesus or the saints in heaven. See “Lawrence Feingold on Freedom of the Will.”) The ability to sin is a temporary condition for us creatures now in this probationary period, in order that those who persevere in grace and living faith may attain the perfect freedom, i.e. moral freedom, which is freedom for the good, a freedom had only by those who have received the ability necessarily never to sin, but necessarily to act in agape. Those who die in a state of mortal sin lose even the ability not to sin, because their will is then ‘fixed’ (i.e. made permanently immutable) in obstinate rebellion as is already the case for demons (cf. Summa Theologica I Q.64 a.2.)

  28. December 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

  29. I’m struggling to understand the implications of Immaculate Conception. I believe I understand the dogma correctly and my questions center on two implications that would seem to follow from the dogma: the first of which would seem to impinge on God’s justice and mercy and the problem of evil; the second of which would seem to impinge on Mary’s role as an exemplary model of faith and obedience that the rest of humanity can aspire to.
    1. If God, by an unique special act of grace, preserved Mary from the stain of original sin from the first instance of her conception in order to preserve her without sin for her role as the Mother of God, why would God not do the same for the rest of humanity in order to preserve us from the stain of original sin and preserve us without sin? The ability to confer special grace to the advantage of Mary but withhold that unique special grace from the rest of humanity would seem to cast a shadow on the fairness and justice of God, particularly in view of the consequences of sin and with respect to the topics of justice, mercy, evil, judgement, and hell?
    2. This special act of grace would seem to confer an advantage to Mary that the rest of humanity does not get. Doesn’t this extra advantage Mary received impinge on her suitability as a role model of faithful obedience for humanity if she had more help from God than the rest of us?
    Thank you.
    Yours very respectfully,
    Robert

  30. Robert, (re: #29)

    Your first question is actually two questions: First, why didn’t God give to everyone the same abundance of grace He gave to Mary? And second, why is it not unfair or unjust for God to give more grace to some than to others?

    Your first question can be seen as a species within the genus of a broader question, namely: Why didn’t God give so much grace to every created person that no angel or human would ever sin? But in order to answer that question, we must step back to a prior question: Why didn’t God create all angels and humans already within the Beatific Vision, rather than having them endure an initial trial? I have addressed that latter question briefly in “The Gospel and the Meaning of Life.” Given that answer to that more general question, now we can return to the more specific question “Why didn’t God give so much grace to every created person that no angel or human would ever sin?” If God had done so, there would have been no probationary test. It would have been the equivalent (with respect to testing) of creating every person already within the Beatific Vision. (See “A Catholic Reflection on the Meaning of Suffering.”) Testing requires a condition in which there remains a real possibility of choosing against God. But giving such much grace that sin is guaranteed not to occur removes the possibility of choosing against God, and thus removes the probationary testing.

    So, now to your first question. All of us, from Adam and Eve to the present and until Christ returns in glory, are given sufficient actual grace to cooperate with that grace and thus receive sanctifying grace and agape, and thereby never commit a mortal sin our entire lives, and to die in a state of grace. (See “Lawrence Feingold on God’s Universal Salvific Will.”) No can stand before God at the Judgment and justifiably say, “I committed that mortal sin because you didn’t give me enough grace to resist it.”

    If Adam had not sinned, his children would have been conceived without original sin, and would have come into the world as Mary was conceived. (See question #10 in the Q&A Session of “Lawrence Feingold on Original Justice and Original Sin.”) Then each person would, like Mary, have gone through his or her own trial already in an immaculate state, without original sin, and without concupiscence, and *with* all the preternatural gifts. But God saw that it was better for Adam to be given a soteriological responsibility for us all, than not to be given such a responsibility. This was a great responsibility given to Adam, and that great responsibility was a great gift, analogous to the soteriological responsibility parents are given for their children. With that great gift, came the possibility of great harm, just as the gift of parenthood brings the possibility of great harm done to children by their parents. So our being born with original sin, and with concupiscence, is a result of Adam’s free choice to abuse the great responsibility given to him. If God were subsequently to bring each person into the world *with* sanctifying grace and *without* concupiscence, this would nullify the gift He gave to Adam, i.e. retract that gift.

    The reason Christ is Mary’s Savior, as explained in the post above, is precisely because she too is a daughter of Adam, and would have otherwise been conceived in original sin and with concupiscence, like everyone else. God gave a unique gift of being immaculately conceived to Mary to make her a fitting vessel for and co-worker with, God the Son, and as the Second Eve to restore the female sex by way of the female sex, and allow “the woman” to undo what “the woman” had done, as St. Irenaeus explains.

    In accordance with this design, Mary the Virgin is found obedient, saying, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to your word.” Luke 1:38 But Eve was disobedient; for she did not obey when as yet she was a virgin. And even as she, having indeed a husband, Adam, but being nevertheless as yet a virgin (for in Paradise “they were both naked, and were not ashamed,” Genesis 2:25 inasmuch as they, having been created a short time previously, had no understanding of the procreation of children: for it was necessary that they should first come to adult age, and then multiply from that time onward), having become disobedient, was made the cause of death, both to herself and to the entire human race; so also did Mary, having a man betrothed [to her], and being nevertheless a virgin, by yielding obedience, become the cause of salvation, both to herself and the whole human race. And on this account does the law term a woman betrothed to a man, the wife of him who had betrothed her, although she was as yet a virgin; thus indicating the back-reference from Mary to Eve, because what is joined together could not otherwise be put asunder than by inversion of the process by which these bonds of union had arisen; so that the former ties be cancelled by the latter, that the latter may set the former again at liberty. And it has, in fact, happened that the first compact looses from the second tie, but that the second tie takes the position of the first which has been cancelled. For this reason did the Lord declare that the first should in truth be last, and the last first. Matthew 19:30, Matthew 20:16 And the prophet, too, indicates the same, saying, “instead of fathers, children have been born unto you.” For the Lord, having been born “the First-begotten of the dead,” Revelation 1:5 and receiving into His bosom the ancient fathers, has regenerated them into the life of God, He having been made Himself the beginning of those that live, as Adam became the beginning of those who die. 1 Corinthians 15:20-22 Wherefore also Luke, commencing the genealogy with the Lord, carried it back to Adam, indicating that it was He who regenerated them into the Gospel of life, and not they Him. And thus also it was that the knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the virgin Mary set free through faith. (Against Heresies, Bk III chap. 22. p. 4)

    So we received the consequences of Adam’s sin because of the great gift of soteriological responsibility God had given to Adam. Revoking those consequences would nullify that gift. But Mary was saved in a unique way for her soteriological purpose as the Second Eve.

    Regarding your second question, i.e. why is it not unfair or unjust for God to give more grace to some than to others, the answer is that grace is not due, but is gratuitous. All are given sufficient grace for salvation. But nothing obliges God to give no person more grace than He gives to another. If we desire more grace, we need only ask and seek, and He will give it. The limitation is not on His part, but on our part. No one in heaven will say to God, “I asked for more grace but you did not give it.” But God gives some more grace than He does to others, for the beauty and perfection of the Church, as St. Thomas explains:

    Hence the first cause of this diversity is to be sought on the part of the God, Who dispenses His gifts of grace variously, in order that the beauty and perfection of the Church may result from these various degree; even as He instituted the various conditions of things, that the universe might be perfect. Hence after the Apostle had said (Ephesians 4:7): “To every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the giving of Christ,” having enumerated the various graces, he adds (Ephesians 4:12): “For the perfecting of the saints . . . for the edifying of the body of Christ.” (Summa Theologica I-II Q. 112 a.4)

    As the perfection of the universe requires the full manifestation of the range of goods, some things being greater than others, so the perfection of the Church requires the full manifestation of the range of sanctity, some saints being more saintly than others.

    Now to your third question:

    This special act of grace would seem to confer an advantage to Mary that the rest of humanity does not get. Doesn’t this extra advantage Mary received impinge on her suitability as a role model of faithful obedience for humanity if she had more help from God than the rest of us?

    This line of thought would prevent Jesus from being a “role model of faithful obedience for humanity” because though He could be tempted, He could not sin. But we know that Jesus is a perfect role model of faithful obedience. So the premise has to be flawed. We shouldn’t think of Mary’s virtue in a monergistic way, as if the *only* reason she is suitable as a role model of faithful obedience is because she “had more help.” She freely cooperated more perfectly with the grace she had been given, than has any other human person. The person who struggles and then obeys, is not as good an example as the one who obeys immediately and without vacillation. What underlies your question is a monergism that fails to take into account Mary’s cooperative role in her exemplary obedience, as if she were forced to do this by a compulsory grace. Once that monergistic assumption is removed, then it is clear that Mary’s supreme position above the angels and saints is not the result of divine agency alone, but is due also to her most free and perfect cooperation with the grace that she received. And in that way she is the perfect example for us of a fellow human person cooperating perfectly with the grace given to her and walking in humble obedience to the Lord.

    I hope that helps answer your questions.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  31. Bryan,

    Thank you for your response. Let me read the links you’ve offered and think through what you’ve said.

    V/R,
    Robert

  32. The unproved (I would argue, Scripturally unsustainable) thesis: “God gave a unique gift of being immaculately conceived to Mary.”

  33. Shawn (re: #32),

    Instead of referring to a hidden argument that you “would” give, why not actually lay out the argument, so I and others can see whether it is a good argument?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  34. Bryan, my argument is that you cannot sustain the doctrine from Scripture. It isn’t there. And you haven’t shown it to be found there. Hence my reference to ‘the unproved thesis.’

    In Christ,

    Shawn

  35. Shawn (re: #34),

    my argument is that you cannot sustain the doctrine from Scripture

    The italicized portion is not an argument; it’s a claim. A claim may may be part of an argument, along with other claims–‘premises’ we like to call them–which, if true, may be arranged to form reasons culminating in a conclusion. In a sound argument (the only kind your interlocutors here are likely to find compelling, and the only kind that any interlocutor anywhere should find compelling), the conclusion will be required by the arrangement of true premises.

    It isn’t there. And you haven’t shown it to be there.

    These are also mere assertions, unaccompanied by any argument. There is an article preceding the combox area above; perhaps you saw it. It’s a summary of Professor Feingold’s argument, including the mp3s of the lecture itself, which shows that the doctrine is indeed to be found in Scripture. So in one sense you are correct to say that Bryan [himself] has not shown the doctrine to be found there. But that’s really irrelevant, since he has supplied the argument which does so. Once you’ve read it and listened to the mp3s, you’ll have in front of you the argument you say does not exist, and will thus be in a better position to present a counter-argument–rather than mere [and, as it turns out, false] assertions–so as to refute Feingold’s argument.

    In the grace of Christ,

    Chad

  36. Shawn (re: #34)

    Thanks. Your claim (not an argument), is that I cannot sustain the doctrine from Scripture. But what do you think follows from that? In other words, what if I said, in response, “So what?” How would you respond?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  37. “So what.” Refereshing Catholic admission that what is asserted and taught is indeed not found in Scripture, Feingold’s lecture notwithstanding.

    In Christ,

    Shawn

  38. Shawn (re: #37)

    It is no “admission” at all. Rather, it is a question from me to you, attempting to understand what in your mind is the relationship between Scripture, Tradition, and dogma. I explained the Catholic understanding of this relation in the “Scripture and Tradition” section of my reply to Michael Horton. I asked you the question I asked in comment #36 because I’m wondering if you hold something like WCF I.6:

    The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture.

    Thanks!

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  39. You asked how I would respond if you said “So what.” I gave you my response.

    In Christ,

    Shawn

  40. Bryan, how would you define “Tradition” in the Roman Catholic sense, and upon what would you base that definition?

    In Christ,

    Shawn

  41. Shawn, (re: #39)

    Indeed you did. But I think there is a more charitable, and fruitful way of conducting dialogue aimed at understanding the reasons why we disagree, and resolving those disagreements. I assume you share that aim, and that’s why I wanted to know what you think follows regarding the authority of a doctrine if that doctrine is neither “expressly set down in Scripture” nor “by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  42. Shawn (re: #40)

    The Catholic understanding of Tradition distinguishes between the particular traditions of local churches (e.g. liturgical traditions, devotional traditions, etc.) and the Apostolic Tradition which has been transmitted through the apostolic succession in the universal Church. The Apostolic Tradition is this living transmission of the message of the Gospel within the Church — living in the sense of being continually unfolded and clarified over the centuries, under the protection and guidance of the Holy Spirit, as lived and embodied within the community of the Church (as I explained in “The Tradition and the Lexicon“), and more precisely defined by the Church’s teaching authority.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  43. Bryan, you are trying to get to a point. Just make your point.

    In Christ,

    Shawn

  44. Shawn, (re: #43)

    My point will depend on your position, which I’m trying to determine. If in your objection (in comment #32) you’re presupposing something equivalent to the WCF position quoted in comment #38, then the fundamental point of disagreement is not about the doctrine of Mary’s immaculate conception, but about the relation and authority of Scripture and Tradition. On the other hand, if you don’t hold something equivalent to the WCF position quoted in comment #38, then it is unclear to me either what exactly you mean by “unsustainable” (in #32) or why you think that is significant.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  45. Bryan, your source of that definition?

    Do you find the Marian doctrines/dogmas/teachings in Apostolic or the ‘local church’ tranditons.

    Concerning ‘the Apostolic Tradition which has been transmitted through the apostolic succession in the universal Church’, are those authentic, identifiable sources of teachings of the apostles that are on the same level and of the same authority of the apostolic teachings found in God’s Word?

    Where is that deposit of the Apostolic Tradition so that I may read it and access it?

    In Christ,

    Shawn

  46. Shawn (#45):

    Let’s cut to the chase. Do you believe that the only legitimate basis for identifying and passing on “apostolic tradition” is written sources and what is logically deducible from them? If so, why should we share that belief? If not, why should it matter that the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception cannot be logically deduced from Scripture?

    Best,
    Mike

  47. Mike,

    How else would you identify ‘apostolic tradition’ other than what they wrote?

    In Christ,
    Shawn

  48. Shawn (re: #45)

    That definition (in essence, not word for word) can be found in the Catechism. And the Catechism is drawing it largely from paragraphs 7-10 of Dei Verbum. The Marian dogmas belong to Apostolic Tradition, not merely local tradition.

    You asked:

    Concerning ‘the Apostolic Tradition which has been transmitted through the apostolic succession in the universal Church’, are those authentic, identifiable sources of teachings of the apostles that are on the same level and of the same authority of the apostolic teachings found in God’s Word?

    The Apostolic deposit of faith comes down to us in two forms: written and oral:

    For Sacred Scripture is the word of God inasmuch as it is consigned to writing under the inspiration of the divine Spirit, while sacred tradition takes the word of God entrusted by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, and hands it on to their successors in its full purity, so that led by the light of the Spirit of truth, they may in proclaiming it preserve this word of God faithfully, explain it, and make it more widely known. Consequently it is not from Sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything which has been revealed. Therefore both sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same sense of loyalty and reverence. (Dei Verbum, 9)

    Scripture alone is God-breathed, but the unwritten Sacred Tradition also has divine authority, and the two complement each other, illuminate each other, and together form the sacred deposit of the word of God:

    Sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the word of God, committed to the Church. Holding fast to this deposit the entire holy people united with their shepherds remain always steadfast in the teaching of the Apostles, in the common life, in the breaking of the bread and in prayers (see Acts 2, 42, Greek text), so that holding to, practicing and professing the heritage of the faith, it becomes on the part of the bishops and faithful a single common effort. (Dei Verbum, 10)

    You asked:

    Where is that deposit of the Apostolic Tradition so that I may read it and access it?

    Fundamentally, it is “oral.” That’s what ties it necessarily to a community, and does not allow it absolutely to exist entirely as an abstract set of truths, severed or severable from any particular community, as I explained in “The Tradition and the Lexicon.” To demand that it be written in order to be real, or in order to be known, is performatively to presuppose that there can be no oral Tradition, and that sacred Tradition can be found only in Scripture, and thus to beg the question. However, the development (I spoke of above) of Tradition can be discerned in the Church Fathers and Doctors. In the case of the doctrine of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, that development can be seen in the sources cited in the body of the post at the top of this page, and found in more detail in the books by Luigi Gambero, i.e. Mary and the Fathers of the Church: The Blessed Virgin in Patristic Thought, and Mary in the Middle Ages: The Blessed Virgin Mary In The Thought of Medieval Latin Theologians.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  49. Shawn (#47):

    See Brian’s #48. I now repeat my question to you,

    Best,
    Mike

  50. Mike, you identify ‘FPOF’ for Catholicism as ‘the triad Scripture-Tradition-Magisterium.’ Scripture I can identify, point to, pick up and access. Wherein is that authentic and authoritative remaining two items of your triad that I would think would as easily be identified and accessed?

    In Christ,
    Shawn

  51. Shawn (re: #47)

    How else would you identify ‘apostolic tradition’ other than what they wrote?

    Imagine asking that question in AD 110. The very question presupposes that Christ founded no Church, and that the Apostles did not propagate this Church throughout the world, OR, that if they did, it was no longer in existence by AD 110, or entirely untrustworthy as a witness to the content of the Apostolic deposit. So notice the very loaded theological presuppositions in the question you are asking here.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  52. Shawn,

    In other words, the very question you are asking in comment #47 presupposes something similar to the Mormon apostasy theory of the first century Church, which can be viewed as an expression of ecclesial deism. So if our disagreement about the role of Tradition depends on this prior presupposition, then in order to understand (and resolve) our disagreement, we need to back up and discuss that prior presupposition.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  53. Quoting Dei Verbum you wrote ‘while sacred tradition takes the word of God entrusted by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, and hands it on to their successors in its full purity,’ but then, in response to my inquiry as to where Apostolic Tradition might be found and accessed you wrote ‘Fundamentally, it is “oral.” That’s what ties it necessarily to a community, and does not allow it absolutely to exist entirely as an abstract set of truths, severed or severable from any particular community, as I explained in “The Tradition and the Lexicon.” To demand that it be written in order to be real, or in order to be known, is performatively to presuppose that there can be no oral Tradition, and that sacred Tradition can be found only in Scripture, and thus to beg the question.’

    You have done what every Catholic apologist has presented–you want the authority of something that derives from the apostles but at the same time you have to account for ‘traditions’ and ‘teachings’ that are no where found nor hinted at in the authentic and recognizable written records from the apostles so youhave to turn to the ‘living tradition’ definition. You above have negated the reference to Apostolic Tradition by defining it by the community and not by the Apostles. Mike, even the Jews eventually wrote down their ‘oral traditions’. If there were authentic, recognizable oral apostolic traditions they would have found their way to written form. As it is, the only true, authentic, recognizable ‘traditons of the apostles’ are found in the writings of the NT.

    If you want to argue ‘oral apostolic tradition’ then show it to me–show me specific ‘oral traditions of the apostles’ that everyone recognizes, accepts as authoritative as the written traditions of the apostles. And then show me where one of the twleve apostles wrote about the Immaculate Conception.

    In Christ,

    Shawn

  54. Michael, you asked ‘why should it matter that the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception cannot be logically deduced from Scripture?’ Because one (or at least I) would expect such a major doctrine would be found in the writings of the Apostles or at the very least easily derived from what they wrote. If you insist that there are authentic apostolic oral traditions concerning this doctrine then tell me what apostle passed on that information orally and where you found such information.

    In Christ,

    Shawn

    ps. I said ‘Mike’ in my response to Bryan in 53.

  55. Shawn (re: #53)

    You wrote:

    You have done what every Catholic apologist has presented–you want the authority of something that derives from the apostles but at the same time you have to account for ‘traditions’ and ‘teachings’ that are no where found nor hinted at in the authentic and recognizable written records from the apostles so youhave to turn to the ‘living tradition’ definition.

    The “You have done …” and “you want …” and “you have to …” and “you have to …” are all criticisms of *me* (my actions, my motives). The question, however, is the truth of what I’m saying, which is not refuted by talking about me.

    You above have negated the reference to Apostolic Tradition by defining it by the community and not by the Apostles.

    It is not an either/or. The community of the Church built upon and by the Apostles is the bearer of the Apostolic Tradition.

    Mike, even the Jews eventually wrote down their ‘oral traditions’. If there were authentic, recognizable oral apostolic traditions they would have found their way to written form.

    That’s what we find in the Church Fathers, testimony to and development of the Apostolic Tradition.

    You wrote:

    If you want to argue ‘oral apostolic tradition’ then show it to me–show me specific ‘oral traditions of the apostles’ that everyone recognizes, accepts as authoritative as the written traditions of the apostles. And then show me where one of the twleve apostles wrote about the Immaculate Conception.

    Your question here presupposes that the Church received from the Apostles the Tradition in its fullest development. And that begs the question against the Catholic position, according to which the deposit received from the Apostles continues to develop over the centuries:

    This tradition which comes from the Apostles develop in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. For there is a growth in the understanding of the realities and the words which have been handed down. This happens through the contemplation and study made by believers, who treasure these things in their hearts (see Luke, 2:19, 51) through a penetrating understanding of the spiritual realities which they experience, and through the preaching of those who have received through Episcopal succession the sure gift of truth. For as the centuries succeed one another, the Church constantly moves forward toward the fullness of divine truth until the words of God reach their complete fulfillment in her. (Dei Verbum, 8)

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  56. Shawn (#54):

    So your answer to the first question I raised in #46 is in the affirmative. Thus:

    Mike, even the Jews eventually wrote down their ‘oral traditions’. If there were authentic, recognizable oral apostolic traditions they would have found their way to written form. As it is, the only true, authentic, recognizable ‘traditons of the apostles’ are found in the writings of the NT.

    That’s an argument at least. Trouble is, the first sentence in that passage is irrelevant to the argument; as a premise, the second begs the question; and the third doesn’t even follow from the second.

    Though true, the first is irrelevant because, centuries before ours and like the Jews, the Catholic Church too had already written down her distinctive oral traditions (DOTs), yet neither you nor anybody else thinks that fact relevant to this discussion. What’s actually relevant is your second sentence, whose point is that if the early Church too had harbored those DOTs and believed them normative for faith, they would have been explicitly cited in writings she deemed “apostolic” in origin. But that just begs the question. It assumes that the early Church took only what had been or would be written as normative for faith, but that’s precisely the point at issue. And even if your assumption is correct, it would not follow deductively that “…the only true, authentic, recognizable ‘traditions of the apostles’ are found in the writings of the NT.” All that would follow is that, if there are writings other than those contained in the NT that the early Church took as normative expressions of faith, we don’t know what they were.

    But even that inference would be false: the Didache, for instance, was taken as a normative expression of faith and is extant. Of course there’s no evidence that the early, post-apostolic Church explicitly said that the Didache was both divinely inspired and inerrant for that reason. But that’s a problem for the Catholic position only if it’s assumed that the only normative rule of faith is what the early, post-apostolic Church explicitly said was both apostolic in origin, divinely inspired for that reason, and inerrant for that further reason. Yet that assumption would just beg the question for the same reason your second sentence does. To sustain it, you’d have to show why we should believe that the early Church’s judgment about which writings were normative for faith was itself normative, while the later Church’s judgments about other normative expressions of faith are not. Good luck with that.

    I have both philosophical and historical reasons for taking the triad Scripture-Tradition-Magisterium as the FPOF, rather than Scripture alone. For some of the philosophical reasons, see an article I wrote two years ago for CTC.

    Best,
    Mike

  57. Mike,

    Where might I find the D[Apostilic]OTs that ‘centuries before ours and like the Jews, the Catholic Church too had already written down.’ We are talking ‘apostolic traditions’ are we not?

    In Christ,
    Shawn

  58. Michael, in your article you wrote (and admitted), ‘For one thing, Rome does not claim that “whatever” she now teaches was actually taught by the Apostles. She claims only that what she teaches as de fide, and thus as irreformable, belongs to the apostolic deposit of faith, whether or not we happen to know, on independent grounds and in every case, that the Apostles themselves would have said the same. Of course, as a Protestant Mathison would reject that claim too. . . ‘

    And that, along with what Bryan wrote above, says it all. Such has been my understanding for years and year by year is confirmed. This especially, ‘belongs to the apostolic deposit of faith, whether or not we happen to know, on independent grounds and in every case, that the Apostles themselves would have said the same.’

    So, ‘Apostolic Tradition/Deposit of Faith’ regardless of the fact that the Apostles may not have even said or taught it.

    Gentlemen, thanks for the discussion and the reaffirmation of my trip across the Tiber!

    In Christ
    Shawn

  59. Shawn:

    What you want, and what apparently motivated your “swim across the Tiber,” is not to have to rely on ecclesial teaching authority for identifying and interpreting Scripture and Tradition authoritatively. At some point, you either assumed or concluded that the content and meaning of the “sources,” and thus of the apostolic deposit of faith, can be reliably known independently of ecclesial authority. If you assumed that, you just begged the question; if you concluded it, what led to that conclusion, and what makes you think such a conclusion is anything more than a theological opinion, as distinct from a binding norm of faith?

    Best,
    Mike

  60. Shawn, (re: #58)

    First, as Michael pointed out, your stance seems to be “unless I have independent evidence that the Apostles actually said doctrine x, I will not believe x or submit to the Church’s teaching that x is part of Apostolic Tradition.” One problem with that stance is that it entails the following dilemma. Either that stance applies likewise to the Apostles regarding the teaching of Jesus, or it does not. Consider the first horn of that dilemma. If that stance applies likewise to the Apostles regarding the teaching of the Jesus, then unless you have objective independent evidence (other than the Apostles’ testimony) concerning Jesus’s teaching, you will not believe what the Apostles say concerning Jesus’ teaching. However, Jesus did not leave any writings. So far as we know, the only time He wrote, He wrote on the ground with his finger, twice (John 8:6, and 8:8). And that writing has not been preserved, so far as we know. So, in that case, you know nothing concerning what Jesus said. Now consider the second horn of the dilemma. If you *do not* apply that stance to the Apostles, but you *do* apply that stance to the bishops whom the Apostles ordained, then you are being ad hoc. So the dilemma entails that either you lose all knowledge of Jesus, or you are being ad hoc.

    Second, this same stance of disbelieving anything regarding the Gospel unless you have independent evidence that the Apostles said it presupposes that the Holy Spirit has not guided the Church in the developmental unfolding of the Apostolic deposit over time. That’s not a safe assumption, because the Holy Spirit (being omnipotent) could easily have done such a thing. And if He did, your stance would prevent you from accepting this unfolding, and would thereby cause you to reject the very working of the Holy Spirit. “You may even be found fighting against God.” (Acts 5:39) So this stance you have taken is not a safe stance if you want to be sure not to be found fighting against God.

    Third, if the “you” in “The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me” (Luke 10:16) is not limited only to the Apostles, but extends also to their successors, then the act of faith is not reduced to believing the words of Scripture, but includes believing the Church, as St. Thomas explains — see “St. Thomas Aquinas on the Relation of Faith to the Church.” In that case, the stance of refusing to believe the Church unless one can independently verify the truth of her teachings is a form of rationalism that falls short of true faith.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  61. I have been following this discussion because the topic of the Immaculate conception has been of very deep interested lately. There is a very descriptive article online concerning the Immaculate Conception on Philvaz’s Catholic apologetics website http://www.philvaz.com/apologetics/ImmaculateConceptionMaryJuniperCarolMariology.htm

    The article is very clear that most of the early Church Fathers did not believe in the immaculate conception of Mary. The earliest ones, especially. Ireneaus, Origen, Tertullian, and many more taught explicitly against the idea of Mary being immaculately conceived, much more an ignorance of the public teaching anywhere near their atmosphere. Now, do these men constitute the binding faith for the Church? Absolutely not. St. Augustine was open to the question of whether Mary was excepted from original sin, but was in no place to give an answer to the question, which represents the majority view of the Early Church Father who did not teach explicitly against it, and this is a very small number.

    Now the issue at hand here is that the authority of the Catholic Church in defining dogma does not depend on prior belief or prior written records. For instance, it does not matter if we have sources that record any acceptance of the authority of the Papacy, or the recognition of a certain doctrine being taught from early on, or anything that would testify to the fact that Catholic beliefs go back to the very beginning. In fact, we could amass a million records from the entire history of the Church which has one denial after the next of Papal authority and this would not take away from the confidence of the modern Catholic. This is precisely because the claims of the Catholic church center on the authority which actively stays with the Roman Pontiff and the bishops who are in communion with him within the myriad of Scripture and oral tradition, which are both claimed to be kept in tact by the power of Christ Jesus Himself. It doesn’t really matter how many people have disagreed with this throughout the history of the Church, the apologies which support this structure do not depend on world-wide acceptance and is neither diminished by world-wide rejection (minus the Pope himself along with his successors). So if we were able to find one church father after the next explicitly teaching that Mary was a sinner like the rest of humanity, or even “every” church father teaching this, this would not be any detriment to the Catholic dogma of Mary’s immaculate conception precisely because the authority for such a claim is not engineered to depend on human acceptance but on the ability for the Roman Pontiff to come out and speak the truth on a certain issue.

    Therefore, what if we find no Christian in the first 5 centuries, including the apostles themselves, who would have been able to answer the question of whether Mary was immaculately conceived? This hinders nothing from the confidence from the Catholic submitting to contemporary Vaticanal authority, for the absence of such an affirmation implies the period prior to “development” which came later in time. This is precisely the stumbling block to many people around the world who wish to keep the Catholic tradition, such as Anglicans and Orthodox. For if the apostles did not answer the question or pass on any material that could be developed into a doctrine of the immaculate conception of Mary, then the doctrine itself is not apostolic. This is the problem which must be explained by the Catholic. For a theory of “development” cannot expect easy submission to this dogma when it is historically probable that no christian believed it for centuries after the inception of Christ’s church. This is the mystery to be explained.

    Erick

  62. Erick, (re: #61)

    You wrote:

    Now the issue at hand here is that the authority of the Catholic Church in defining dogma does not depend on prior belief or prior written records.

    That’s not true. The Church has the authority to proclaim only the Tradition she has received. The development of doctrine is not the invention of doctrine, but making explicit what is already implicit within the Tradition.

    For instance, it does not matter if we have sources that record any acceptance of the authority of the Papacy, or the recognition of a certain doctrine being taught from early on, or anything that would testify to the fact that Catholic beliefs go back to the very beginning. In fact, we could amass a million records from the entire history of the Church which has one denial after the next of Papal authority and this would not take away from the confidence of the modern Catholic.

    You’re again setting up a straw man. The Church has no authority to reject the unanimous consent of the Fathers, but is necessarily bound to it. Saying something that the Church Fathers did not say (because it was at the time only implicit within the Tradition) is not the same thing as saying something contrary to that which they explicitly taught with unanimous consent. The former, but not the latter, is compatible with authentic development.

    It doesn’t really matter how many people have disagreed with this throughout the history of the Church, the apologies which support this structure do not depend on world-wide acceptance and is neither diminished by world-wide rejection (minus the Pope himself along with his successors).

    It is true that the doctrine of the Church is not determined by “how many people” throughout the world have agreed or disagreed with the doctrine. The Church is not a democracy, just as the truth of Jesus’s words were not falsified by the majority of persons not agreeing with Him. But that’s fully compatible with the truth of the dictum of St. Vincent of Lérins, quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est. There is a middle position between Church-as-democracy and a denial of catholicity.

    So if we were able to find one church father after the next explicitly teaching that Mary was a sinner like the rest of humanity, or even “every” church father teaching this, this would not be any detriment to the Catholic dogma of Mary’s immaculate conception …

    No, that conditional is false.

    Therefore, what if we find no Christian in the first 5 centuries, including the apostles themselves, who would have been able to answer the question of whether Mary was immaculately conceived? This hinders nothing from the confidence from the Catholic submitting to contemporary Vaticanal authority, for the absence of such an affirmation implies the period prior to “development” which came later in time. This is precisely the stumbling block to many people around the world who wish to keep the Catholic tradition, such as Anglicans and Orthodox.

    The way you word this implies that Catholics either do not wish to keep the Catholic tradition, or wish to depart from it. And that’s both uncharitable and question-begging. From the perspective of the Catholic understanding of Tradition, fidelity to the Catholic Tradition does not reduce to fidelity to Tradition-as-dead, but as-living, as capable of development and further elucidation. So if the dogma of the Immaculate Conception is a faithful development of the Apostolic Tradition, then those who accept and embrace it are keeping the Catholic Tradition most faithfully (ceteris paribus), while those who reject it, are not being faithful to the Catholic Tradition (ceteris paribus). So the objection you raise here is a question-begging objection, because it presupposes that the dogma of the Immaculate Conception is not an authentic development of the Tradition. And that’s the very point in question.

    For if the apostles did not answer the question or pass on any material that could be developed into a doctrine of the immaculate conception of Mary, then the doctrine itself is not apostolic.

    True. But that’s fully compatible with the dogma of the Immaculate Conception being an authentic development of the Apostolic Tradition.

    This is the problem which must be explained by the Catholic. For a theory of “development” cannot expect easy submission to this dogma when it is historically probable that no christian believed it for centuries after the inception of Christ’s church. This is the mystery to be explained.

    It is not a mystery at all, and it has been explained repeatedly. You’re treating your own epistemic confusion as if it is an ontological mystery that encumbers the Catholic Church, by presupposing that there is no possibility of development of doctrine, and thus that if there is silence about dogma x in the Church’s early history, then the Church cannot justifiably proclaim that doctrine as dogma.

    And submission is never “easy;” it is impossible, without the supernatural gift of faith, in which one believes what the Church teaches, because of her divine authority to teach and explicate the deposit of faith. We believe not because we have worked out for ourselves the truth of all her doctrines, but because of the Church’s divine authority.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  63. Bryan,

    I am curious to find out how to quote sections from others. If there is a link to instructions that would be helpful.

    The point implicit is that there are church fathers who taught Mary was sinful and that she died. But this fact does not hinder the persuasiveness or the confidence of the modern dogma of the immaculate conception because the conditions for infallible authority in doctrine does not depend on the teaching of the fathers. Now where you disagree is the extent of this . For you say that you have to obey all the consensus of the fathers, but if a majority teach something it is not binding. So if the majority taught the sinfulness of Mary, this allows clean compatibility for the catholic justification for making Marys conception immaculate. Do you see? As long as there is a slight reduction from the very minimum which would not allow the papacy is formulate dogma, it can be made a dogma. There are many fathers who taught Mary was sinful and unbelieving in her life, maybe not until hell. Few, maybe even a couple, believed that she was possibly sinless. Less than this actually believed it. You can correct me if I am wrong, but there are no fathers who taught that she was immaculately conceived. In fact, whenever and whichever father spoke to the question, they, with a couple of exceptions, taught she was sinful. This is not material from which gives clear way to all of the sudden after 3 phases of development proclaim ”She is sinless amd immaculately conceived!”. When a building is being developed, it is not first built on one plot of ground and finished on another plot of ground. The mind of the church, at least within the major source of orthodox giants, again with a couple exceptions, was that Mary was sinful. This is not material which can develop into the opposite. The Trinity had some components prior to it being dogma that allowed for further elucidation. The son was taught to be God. The same was of the holy spirit and the Father.
    These original beliefs allowed for the development of latter elucidations on the nature of these facts and its compatibility of there being in truth one God. However, Marys sinlessness and immaculate conception is has not prior confessed material that gives clear way for positive development. Of course, because it was not a universal consensus of the fathers, the Catholic confidence in the dogma is not threatened because as I said, none of this matter.

  64. Erick, (re: #63)

    You asked:

    I am curious to find out how to quote sections from others. If there is a link to instructions that would be helpful.

    See the ‘About’ tab at the top of the page.

    The point implicit is that there are church fathers who taught Mary was sinful and that she died. But this fact does not hinder the persuasiveness or the confidence of the modern dogma of the immaculate conception because the conditions for infallible authority in doctrine does not depend on the teaching of the fathers. Now where you disagree is the extent of this . For you say that you have to obey all the consensus of the fathers, but if a majority teach something it is not binding. So if the majority taught the sinfulness of Mary, this allows clean compatibility for the catholic justification for making Marys conception immaculate. Do you see?

    I have no idea what you mean by “clean compatibility.” So I cannot answer your question, because you do not define your idiosyncratic terms. Moreover, it is not the case that the majority of Church Fathers taught that Mary sinned.

    As long as there is a slight reduction from the very minimum which would not allow the papacy is formulate dogma, it can be made a dogma.

    No, that’s not true. But what continually surprises me is the great confidence with which you assert your straw men, even after so many of your previous assertions have been shown to be straw men. Most persons would become more cautious and less bold in their descriptions of their interlocutor’s position. They would manifest some shame and regret for having publicly misrepresented the other’s position, and for having publicly spoken falsehoods. But when I point out that you have criticized a straw man, you don’t acknowledge your mistake; rather, you respond by attacking another straw man with the same confidence and ‘certainty.’ That’s not a truth-loving or fruitful form of discourse, and it is not the sort of dialectic we want to foster here.

    In fact, whenever and whichever father spoke to the question, they, with a couple of exceptions, taught she was sinful.

    No, that’s simply not true. The emphasis, from the beginning, was on Mary’s personal holiness and purity. She, as the second Eve, obeyed where the first Eve had not. The statements of the Fathers, such as St. Athanasius (“the Lord, who knows His creation well, saw in it nothing like Mary”), St. Ephrem (“neither is there any stain in your Mother”), St. Ambrose (“What should I say then about all her other virtues? She was a virgin not only in body but in mind as well …. such was Mary, that the life of this one woman may be an example for all”), St. Jerome (“her purity was so great that she merited to be the Mother of the Lord”), St. Augustine (“with the exception of the holy Virgin Mary, in whose case, out of respect for the Lord, I do not wish there to be any further question as far as sin is concerned, since how can we know what great abundance of grace was conferred on her to conquer sin in every way”), St. Theodotus of Ancyra (“Innocent virgin, spotless, without defect, untouched, unstained, holy in body and soul …”), St. Andrew of Crete (“This is Mary the Theotokos, the common refuge of all Christians, the first to be liberated from the original fall of our parents”), St. John Damascene (“O glorious womb of Anna, in which the most holy fetus grew”), etc. abundantly testify this. And this is why, throughout, she is called the “holy Mother of God.” See Taylor’s “Mary Without Sin (Scripture and Tradition).”

    The reason why you can say what you say above is because you are merely speaking in generalities, without addressing the actual statements by the Fathers.

    This is not material from which gives clear way to all of the sudden after 3 phases of development proclaim ”She is sinless amd immaculately conceived!”.

    Given the way you have mischaracterized the patristic teaching, it is no wonder that you cannot see how development of this dogma was even possible. I recommend reading Gambero’s two books on this; the titles are available on our library page.

    When a building is being developed, it is not first built on one plot of ground and finished on another plot of ground.

    Of course.

    The mind of the church, at least within the major source of orthodox giants, again with a couple exceptions, was that Mary was sinful.

    That’s simply false. Again, see the Gambero books mentioned above.

    This is not material which can develop into the opposite.

    If that were the original position of the Church, then of course it could not develop into its opposite. But that Mary was a sinner was never the mind of the Church or the consensus of the Fathers. The situation was exactly the opposite. The emphasis all along was on her purity and holiness, in the same way (and for the same reason) that her perpetual virginity was always emphasized and defended, on account of and to defend the purity of her Son. (“For just as in that sepulchre no other dead person was buried, whether before or after Him; so neither in that womb, whether before or after, was anything mortal conceived.” – St. Augustine, “On Faith and the Creed,” AD 393) The dogma of the Immaculate Conception affirms that Mary was saved from sin. The Church’s understanding of the timing and manner of that salvation was not initially clear, and subsequently developed, but the essence of that dogma is present in the patristic doctrine of Mary as the Second Eve.

    This form of dialogue, in which you present a straw man, and then I point out that it is a straw man, and then you respond with the same or another straw man, and then I again point out that it is a straw man, is not fruitful or productive. So again, as I said on the other thread, I recommend that we take a six month break, at least until October, to reflect prayerfully before continuing our conversation.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  65. Pope Francis on the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 2013:

  66. Tim Staples wrote a helpful summary of the Scriptural support for this doctrine in “The Immaculate Conception in Scripture,” which supplements Taylor Marshall’s post “Mary without Sin (Scripture and Tradition).”

    Dr. Edward Sri, on Mary’s Immaculate Conception:

  67. It would certainly be incorrect to state that the Fathers were all of one mind on the issue of the sinlessness of the Virgin Mary. St. Chrysostom, for example, describes at length how the Virgin Mary sinned in Homily 21 Gospel of John and Homily 44 Gospel of Matthew. Even St. Augustine speaks of it a pious opinion rather something dogmatically to be believed.

    Protestants are well within the Catholic opinion of Fathers like St. Chrysostom in denying (on the basis of Scripture and Tradition) the sinlessness of the Virgin Mary.

    That said, I do wish that there was a greater awareness of the rich Scriptural images of the Virgin Mary (as the Ark of the Lord, the New Eve, etc.) and thus an even greater respect of her. However, the greatest honor that can be given to the Virgin Mary is to honor her Son and Lord (and thus, “Do whatsoever He tells you”)—and as noted above, Protestant Evanglicals certainly seek to do this as much as anyone in the RC or EO.

    God Bless, W.A.Scott (last post I’ll be able to write for a while–so have a great week and a Merry Christmas)

  68. William, (re: #67)

    It would certainly be incorrect to state that the Fathers were all of one mind on the issue of the sinlessness of the Virgin Mary. St. Chrysostom, for example, describes at length how the Virgin Mary sinned in Homily 21 Gospel of John and Homily 44 Gospel of Matthew.

    On this question St. Chrysostom’s is an isolated case, extraordinarily so in fact, one which I’ve discussed before here four years ago. This is an example where it is important to know that by the “consensus” of the Fathers we do not mean or require absolute unanimity, but rather a “moral consensus” (discussed in the “Sola Scriptura vs. the Magisterium” thread), which is clearly established in favor of the Immaculate Conception. See also The Catholic Encyclopedia article on this subject.

    Even St. Augustine speaks of it a pious opinion rather something dogmatically to be believed.

    Mary’s sinlessness had not yet been dogmatically defined, but it was a “pious opinion” because it was part of the Tradition (as shown by the moral consensus just mentioned), and which over time became more clearly understood by the Church as an implicit but intrinsic part of that deposit.

    Protestants are well within the Catholic opinion of Fathers like St. Chrysostom in denying (on the basis of Scripture and Tradition) the sinlessness of the Virgin Mary.

    The problem with that claim is that the opinion of one Father, against the moral consensus of all the others, does not make that opinion “Catholic” (or “catholic”). There is no “Catholic opinion” denying the sinlessness of Mary because the moral consensus of the Fathers (i.e. the universal, and thus Catholic position) was just the opposite, namely, that she was sinless.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  69. Hello Bryan, I wanted to make time for one last post before I call it quits (apologies for my typo laden post–I was writing it in a hurry). I think it should be noted that St. Chrysostom was certainly not alone in his opinion. A number of Fathers specifically taught that the Virgin Mary committed actual sin even after the conception and birth of Christ (e.g. St. Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origin and St. Basil). God Bless, W.A. Scott

  70. William, (re: #69)

    A number of Fathers specifically taught that the Virgin Mary committed actual sin even after the conception and birth of Christ (e.g. St. Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origin and St. Basil).

    Tertullian and Origen are not Fathers. St. Irenaeus says that at Cana Jesus checked Mary’s “untimely haste.” But this is not a sin, nor does St. Irenaeus say that she sinned. Instead, in that same work, he says that by her obedience she undid the knot the first Eve made by her sin, as I’ve explained in comment #30 above. As for St. Basil, he does not say that Mary sinned, but rather that the sword that pierced her heart at the Cross included “some doubt.” Whether this is sinful doubt, or the sinless sort of faith-seeking-understanding shown in the “how can this be?” she expressed at the Annunciation, St. Basil does not say, though it is likely that he (like Origen), not knowing of the solution worked out later by Bl. Duns Scotus (see the post at the top of this page) believed that in order for her to be saved by Christ, she had to have sinned in some venial way at the Cross. Even so, one other Church Father does not constitute a moral consensus, and thus the position is not justifiably called “catholic” or “Catholic.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  71. Bryan,

    Tertullian and Origen are not Fathers.

    It seems to me that you can make this claim only by first assuming that those who are qualified to be called church fathers are those whom Rome and maybe the East have picked out. That seems to be begging the question.

  72. Robert, (re: #71)

    If you had your own Magisterium or Tradition, by which the criteria for who qualifies as Fathers and Doctors was determined, then my previous comment could rightly be said to be begging the question against the authenticity of your Magisterium or your Tradition. But you don’t. With regard to the Magisterium, you deny that there is such a thing. And with regard to Tradition you either deny that there is such a thing, or you claim to have the same one we have (pre-Trent), but ascribe to it subordinate authority. Either way, I’m not begging the question, because if you have the same Tradition we have (regardless of the authority you ascribe to it), I’m not begging the question. And if you deny the existence of the Magisterium and Tradition, then there are not any Fathers or Doctors at all (since you could only stipulate in an ad hoc way some persons to be your own ‘Fathers and Doctors’ on the basis of their agreement with your own interpretation of Scripture, which would make impossible public appeal to them as accepted authorities, and would make them non-authorities, for reasons I’ve explained here) in which case your position is not on the table in a discussion in which the authority of the Fathers is a given, in which case I’m not begging the question against your position.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  73. Bryan,

    How is it not circular to say that the church fathers unanimously reveal that Rome or any other body is the church Christ founded and then say that said body identifies who is a father and who isn’t?

    How is it ad hoc for me as an individual to determine who the church fathers are based on my own set of criteria but its not ad hoc for a collection of individuals (the Magisterium) to determine who the church fathers are based on the set of criteria they have formulated?

  74. Robert, (re: #73)

    How is it not circular to say that the church fathers unanimously reveal that Rome or any other body is the church Christ founded and then say that said body identifies who is a father and who isn’t?

    This question is answered in the first paragraph of comment #635 of the “I Fought the Church” thread.

    How is it ad hoc for me as an individual to determine who the church fathers are based on my own set of criteria but its not ad hoc for a collection of individuals (the Magisterium) to determine who the church fathers are based on the set of criteria they have formulated?

    If the Magisterium were merely “a collection of individuals,” their making this determination would be no less ad hoc. But the Magisterium is not merely a “collection of individuals,” but instead are precisely those persons authorized in succession from the Apostles to make these kinds of determinations for the Church.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  75. can you tell me how Bonaventure first supported, and then rejected the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception? Your article makes a reference to this, but does not go into detail.

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