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Steven W. Simcoe wrote:

Hi, guys —

I need help.

I was recently in a conversation with several Catholic co-workers during which I told them that it was my understanding of their faith, that Mary was, herself, the product of a Virgin Birth, and that the term Immaculate Conception refers to the conception of Mary, herself, rather than the conception of Jesus in her womb. They looked at me like I was crazy and said that they had never heard of such a thing.

  • Was I way off here?
  • If not, where can I go for some authority on this?

Thank you very much for any assistance you can provide.


  { Am I confused on what Catholics believe about the Immaculate Conception and the Virgin Birth? }

John replied:

Hi, Steven —

Thank you for your question.

The Church does not believe that Mary came about as a result of her Mother, St. Anne, having a Virgin Birth. However, the Immaculate Conception is a separate doctrine which involves Mary's conception in her mother, St. Anne's womb.

Mary's parents, Sts. Joachim and Anne, conceived Mary in the normal way, but the Church teaches that Mary was granted a singular grace of being conceived without the stain of original sin.
She was ** preserved ** from sin on the basis of what Christ was going to do on the Cross.
The Church calls this teaching, the Immaculate Conception.

To use an analogy, it was like salvation by credit.

  • Where the rest of us were born with original sin, struggle with sin then we come to salvation through Christ,
  • Mary was saved in a more glorious way. She was preserved, or prevented from falling into sin when she was conceived; this was an act of God's grace and was not due to anything of her own nature. The Church teaches that God did this so that Christ would have a fitting vessel for Him to enter the world.

Hope this Helps,

John C. DiMascio

Mike replied:

Hi, Steven —

John's right on the nose!

The Immaculate Conception, as the Church has officially defined it, happened in St. Anne's body, not Mary's.

Now because our Blessed Mother was born immaculate and never sinned, Jesus was also conceived immaculately in Mary, nine months earlier. We celebrate this on the Feast of the Annunciation on March 25th.

Many believe, as your friends do, because the Church uses readings for the birth of Jesus at the Christmas Masses.

On the Virgin Birth: Mary's birth was not a virgin birth. As John said, Mary's parents, Sts. Joachim and Anne, conceived Mary in the normal way.

Jesus' Birth was a Virgin Birth — a Birth that happened at Christmas.

  • What does this mean?

It means historically we know, as Jesus was being born by Mary, Mary was miraculously a Virgin:

  1. Before
  2. During, and
  3. After . . .

. . . she gave birth to the Son of God, Jesus, our Saviour (True God and True Man).

For that reason she is Mother of all mankind, lay people and consecrated religious.

If you are interested, I have other thoughts and opinions on issues related to your question.

They can be found in Mike's Theology Corner here:

I hope this helps,


Please report any and all typos or grammatical errors.
Suggestions for this web page and the web site can be sent to Mike Humphrey
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