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Friday, December 09, 2005

Why is the Immaculate Conception a Dogma?

Well, sure, it was a tradition from ancient times, but does it have to be dogma?

Yes, and Mark Shea briefly explains why it has to be.

While many Church Fathers referred to the sinlessness of Mary in life, there were differences about when her sinlessness begins -- yes, begins, because we all know that she was also saved by the merits of Christ (she said so herself in her canticles, and the Church says so in the dogma itself). For example, St. Thomas Aquinas apparently preferred the moment of birth (or before birth) instead of at conception. Here's a piece from (I think) James Akin, and another one from Mark Bonocore.


antonia said...

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God Bless you & your family!

Venerable Aussie said...

Hey, you're getting international recognition!

Now about Aquinas, I attended Mass on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception at my local Church, and the priest said that this is an example of the Development of Doctrine. After all, even Thomas Aquinas didn't believe in it.

Now that threw me. It didn't really sound quite right, so I went home and googled around and came up with the same Jimmy Akin reference among others.

The key point that has been made is that Aquinas was concerned to ensure that the dogma squared with the universal salvific role of Christ's Death and Resurrection.

The consensus seems to be that if Aquinas was alive today, he would concur with the deeper understanding that has developed and see no contradiction between a spotless Mary and her actual need for a Saviour.

I still can't work out, though, why Aquinas, the towering intellect he was, still wasn't able to really posit then what seems eminently reasonable today.

Jeff Tan said...

Hello to both and thanks for dropping in. I'm always happy to be blog-rolled. :)

Venerable, I also wondered somewhat about St. Thomas Aquinas, and I think it's the science of it. There wasn't sufficient medical data back then to carefully define the stages of pregnancy all the way up to birth. I haven't read the pages in the Summa concerning this (and I should!), but perhaps he simply didn't want to venture into what he wasn't sure about. It does appear that he puts the sanctification of the Blessed Mother at before her birth. What concerned him was that there had to have been a stage when the Blessed Mother needed saving. My thoughts are that this is a bit tricky. When a child is saved from drowning, does that mean he has to have been in the water? What if he was snagged in mid-air as he was about to fall in? Was he not also saved then? Perhaps an inadequate analogy, but the idea popped into my head earlier today as I thought about it. We know that God can accomplish it, of course, using the seeds from the Blessed Mother's parents, both of whom inherited original sin as per usual, but intervening at the stage of fertilization to remove the stains of original sin.

Someone correct me if there are flaws in that, please.