BASIC R.C. BELIEF
In 1854, Pius IX defined this dogma as follows - "Through a special grace
given by God, and anticipating the redemptive work of her Son, the Virgin
Mary was preserved sinless from the moment of her conception."
This doesn't refer to the Virgin Birth of Christ, nor does it teach that
the conception of Mary was other than natural. This dogma does teach that
God intervened and, anticipating the sacrifice of Christ, preserved her
free from the taint of original sin.
From WHAT IS THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH, E.R. Hull, S.J., page 35. "The doctrine
of the Immaculate Conception simply means that Our Lady, in view of her
exalted office, was endowed with God's grace from the first moment of her
existence, instead of being conceived and born in original sin. . . We
cannot infer that Mary did not owe her redemption to Christ's death, but
only that the grace of redemption was conferred beforehand."
Through the centuries this was widely discussed in Roman Catholic circles.
From about 1350, a Feast was celebrated to commemorate Mary's conception,
but the idea of an Immaculate Conception was not incorporated. Some
theologians taught this, notably Franciscans under Duns Scotus. St. Thomas
Aquinas rejected it, and the Dominicans who followed him (Thomists) were in
violent disagreement with the Scotists.
In 1854, a Franciscan Pope, Pius IX, defined this as a dogma. He did confer
with theologians about this, but the actual definition was made without a
Church Council. It was a harbinger of the Infallibility that the same pope
received 16 years later.
In 1858, Mary appeared to Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes under the title,
"I am the Immaculate Conception."
The feast of the Immaculate Conception is a Holyday of Obligation.
The scripture theologians used to "prove" this dogma was Song of Solomon
4:7. They declare the whole book to be an allegory between Christ and His
Besides proclaiming that all have sinned (Romans 3:23), the Bible explains
that abundant grace is needed where there is abundant sin (Romans 5:20),
and Mary herself speaks of her spiritual joy in her Saviour (Luke 1:46-47).
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