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John Duero wrote:

Roger,

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?

John

  { Why were the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption not required back then, but are now? }

Roger P. L. replied:

Hi John,

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 truth.

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,

Roger P. L.

John replied:

Dear John,

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 and Mediatrix. 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 few e-mails.

John C. DiMascio

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