From my understanding, the Pope has declared that the teachings
of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of Mary
are infallible and true. This was not required belief in the
Early Church and was not mentioned in the early Creeds, yet
today it is a point of division with other Christian faiths.
This doesn't seem like an essential part of the Gospel message.
Why is it now considered important enough for the
Pope to say infallibly that one has to believe in it?
Are there other infallible teachings from the Pope?
were the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption not required
back then, but are now? }
Thanks for writing.
Yes, it is true. The reason for the declaration of the Immaculate
Conception is out of respect for the divinity of Jesus. That is why
it's important. In that, he did not assume flesh that was tainted
with sin, and then have to cleanse it for the hypostatic
union, meaning he was God and man at the same time. He was
God from the first instant he became man, not after that instant,
and since God is sinless in all ways, he could not assume flesh that
was His own, if it had been tainted. So, the dogma of the Immaculate
Conception is more about a declaration of the spotlessness, or sinlessness
of Jesus than it is about Mary.
As for the Assumption, Mary, being without sin, chose to follow Jesus
in death, voluntarily because sin had no grip on her. Also, just
because she was without sin does not mean she did not need to be
saved. She was saved, in lieu of the merits of Christ's passion, for
His own end.
She even declares Him her Savior in Scripture. Isn't
it something that there was one person in the world who loved God
as he deserved? Imagine, just one person, who loved God without sin.
I don't think God is asking to much in the way of belief to accept
at least one person, out of countless billions, that would love him
without sin, as He deserved. After all, what wretches we are if His
grace cannot accord at least one response like Mary's.
Though these beliefs were not required, they were none-the-less
held to. Their declarations did not make them a reality that
suddenly came into existence when they were declared. It is not about
Mary that is the point of contention. It is about a crisis
of authority and where that authority rests, in relation to revealed
The division with other denominations will not
be solved, at least according to non-Catholics, until the Catholic
Church gives up its authority, which Jesus will not allow,
no matter how bad it gets.
Thanks for writing,
All that the Church teaches in the area of faith and
morals is infallible to the extent that it has been defined.
For example, the Church always believed that Mary was
sinless and preserved from original sin. This is evident
in the writings of the Early Church Fathers as well as
the Ancient Liturgies celebrated in the Eastern Church.
However, it was not formally defined until the Pope did
so last century ex cathedra. We believed
Mary was pure and sinless, but just how this was,
had not been clearly defined. Another classic example
would be the Trinity. The Church has always believed in the
Trinity, but it was not defined until 325 A.D. at the
First Council of Nicene.
Any time the Pope speaks as the Universal Pastor of
the Church on any subject pertaining to faith and morals,
and it is a definitive statement, the Pope speaks infallibly.
This requires divine assent on our part to embrace this
as a truth which must be believed. Another very recent
example of this, is the Pope's assertion that the Church
does not have the authority to ordain women. This is
a definitive statement about our faith. Therefore, it
is infallible and irreformable, meaning it's unchangeable.
If the statement is not definitive, then it requires
our submission and consent as opposed to assent.
It is also important to note that the Church has never
reversed Herself in matters of faith. So just because
something has not been defined, does not mean that
it can be reversed.
For example, the
Church already teaches that Mary is Co-Redemptrix
It is a teaching of the Church through out the ages.
It has not been defined or elevated to the level of dogma, but
is infallible. It can never be changed, only
further defined for the faithful.
The same holds true for the Immaculate Conception and
the Assumption. The Church has always taught some less developed
form of these two doctrines. Therefore, they have always
been articles of faith that one is required to believe.
To understand the importance of these doctrines we need
to really ponder the nature of the Church and the nature
of Christ. These doctrines have:
a tremendous implication
to who we are in Christ, the organic unity of the Church
as well as eschatological implications.
I'll gladly dialogue
further on this subject with you, but it will take a
John C. DiMascio
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