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O'Reilly Notification of Correction.
Topic: Mary and the Immaculate Conception
Bill O'Reilly enters the "PC {Practicing Catholic} No Spin Zone"

On December 1, 2005 the following e-mail was sent to Bill O'Reilly:


Subject: I hope you will be open to correction. 'I got caught in the PC {Practicing Catholic} No Spin Zone! Don't you!'
  Put your mouse over Bill.

Hi Bill,

Thanks for the piece on the teacher from St. Rose of Lima Catholic school. The Judge's two cents was great, too!

On a different issue, you can double check with any priest-friend you have, but I have to correct what you said on your show. You stated:

"According to Catholic theology, Mary was a Virgin and Jesus was the product of an Immaculate Conception."

Not quite. Two points have to be corrected:

  1. Mary is Ever Virgin. She and St. Joseph never had sexual intercourse.
  2. Mary, not Jesus, was the woman of an Immaculate Conception in the womb of her mother,
    St. Anne.

From the Catholic Encyclopedia:

Immaculate Conception

The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception affirms that “the Blessed Virgin Mary was preserved, in the first instant of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of God omnipotent and because of the merits of Jesus Christ the Savior of the human race, free from all stain of original sin”

(From the declaration of the dogma by Pope Pius IX, December 8, 1854)

Not to make this correction on your show would be to distort Catholic teaching.

In the season of Christmas, it would be appreciated if you give my web site a plug.

We have won four Catholic awards.

Merry Christmas to you and the O'Reilly family.

Mike Humphrey

The following was sent to Bill O'Reilly of Fox News on December 3, 2005, two days later :

Hi Bill,

I just wanted to resend my original e-mail seeing you may have not read it. I strive to watch your show every night and agree with you on about 90% of your positions. Nevertheless, I'm still concerned that I didn't see any on-air correction in the "E-mail section" of your program.

As one who has a vocation as a lay Catholic apologist loyal to the teachings of the Church, I would like to urge you to say something about the e-mail I sent to you two days ago.

I'm on your side Bill!, but if you don't say anything, I'll have to post a "Notification of Correction" on my web site, so faithful Catholics will know that the Immaculate Conception does not mean:

  • Jesus was the product of the Immaculate Conception in Our Blessed Mother's womb.

Instead it refers to the fact that:

  • Mary was without sin, immaculate in her soul, from the first moment of her conception in the womb of St. Anne, her mother.

Mary came to be as any one of us did, through the conjugal embrace of St. Anne and her father,
St. Joachim, in cooperation with God. God created the soul of Mary full of grace from her beginning.

The "Immaculate" refers to her soul, not to her conception. She was without sin from the moment of conception, because the flesh of the Son of God was to be formed from her.

This is a big issue for us Bill! The reason people often confuse the Virgin Birth and the Immaculate Conception is that they deep down believe something false and harmful. They believe that sex is dirty and that, therefore, the only clean, pure or immaculate conception would be one without sex — like Jesus' conception.  This idea of sex is wrong.  Sex is a creation of God, a holy mystery, pure and good, when engaged in according to His plan. The marital act, whether it is between St. Joachim and St. Ann, or any other baptized Christian husband and wife in a state of grace, is actually the image God chose to express His love for us. Jesus was born of a virgin, not to avoid sex, but because God was His Father through the power of the Holy Spirit.

I hope you don't perceive this e-mail as being mean-spirited. I'm just trying to be loyal to the teaching of the Church. If you are unsure, talk to a priest-friend that isn't a nut-case, but is faithful to the Church.

Mike Humphrey
Natick, Mass

Side note: In order to clearly communicate the Church's teaching in this area, the above e-mails have been edited and improved upon with the help of Mary Ann Parks and Terry Quinn.

Terry Quinn has a B.A. Hons Pontifical Degree in Theology (which means his work was assessed not simply for academic achievement, but also for Catholic orthodoxy), and M.A. in Mariology.

He made the following comment on Bill's statement:

Terry replied:

Good morning Mike,

This is a brief, off the cuff response so you can respond quickly. However, should this be insufficient, or if the questions persist, I would be happy to respond fully - but beware, last time I tackled this subject was a 10,000 word Masters Degree essay on the subject.

Certainly the first proposition is wrong, and the answer given may give rise to a slight misinterpretation.

Firstly, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception has nothing whatever to do with the conception of Jesus. That is in the realm of doctrines of the Virgin Birth and the nature of Jesus to be both God and Man. (See the early Councils of Nicea, Ephesus, Constantinople etc.)

The Immaculate Conception relates to Mary having been conceived in the natural manner of nature, by the sexual intercourse of Saints Joachim and Anne, while her soul was infused by God without the stain of Original Sin. (See the Catechism on Original Sin.) This was in anticipation of the merits of her Son, Jesus who alone is the Saviour of mankind. The most commonly argument being that is fitting for the Mother of God, Theotokos the God Bearer, to have no stain of sin, even the stain of Original Sin on her soul.

Therefore, Mary was truly human, but not subject to the effects of Original Sin, such as concupiscence.

This has been the teaching of the Universal Church throughout the centuries, and is accepted also by the Orthodox (although they have a different concept of Original Sin). Although the doctrine was the subject of some dispute between scholastic theologians in the Middles Ages, the belief was held by the general Church, and the Feast of Mary's Conception is an ancient one celebrated on December 8, nine months before the celebration of Our Lady's Birthday on September 8th. As a rule, General Councils and Papal definitions don't occur unless a matter is challenged. Hence, that is why the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was not defined until Pius IX in 1854, and one should note here the date was only four years before Our Lady appeared to St. Bernadette at Lourdes, and declared herself "I am the Immaculate Conception." — hardly the words one would have expected a 14-year-old peasant girl to have been capable of inventing!

Mary being EVER VIRGIN

24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had borne a son; and he called his name Jesus.

Matthew 1:24-25

The Protestant argument against Mary being Ever Virgin is most interesting, since it refers simply to Scripture and ignores Tradition. This Teaching of the Church, in so many ways, emphasizes the Catholic understanding of the two methods of God's Revelation, Scripture and Tradition. This actual Scripture text, referenced by Protestants, neither confirms nor denies whether Mary was ever virgin. It states simply that Mary was a virgin when she conceived Jesus. Just as the text is silent on the issue, so it proves nothing either way. It's simply the fulfillment of the prophecy that a virgin will conceive and He shall be called........'

However, the perpetual virginity of Mary has been taught since the earliest times:

Interpreting Matthew 1:25 correctly:

Remigius wrote the following as an accurate understanding or interpretation:

or, took her so far, as that the nuptial rites being complete, she was called his wife, but not so far as to lie with her.

Jerome wrote:

Helvidius is at much superfluous trouble to make this word ''know", refer to carnal knowledge rather than to acquaintance.

He goes on to show how this word can be interpreted in different ways, referring also to Luke, chapter 2. "The child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem and his parents knew not of it."

Later Jerome writes:

I would ask, why then did Joseph abstain at all up to the day of the birth? He will surely answer, because of the Angels words, "That which is born in her......"
He then who gave so much heed to a vision as not to dare to touch his wife, seen the Magi, and known so many miracles, dare to approach the temple of God, the seat of the Holy Ghost, the Mother of his Lord.

Peter Chrysologus wrote:

It were credible that Joseph might have known her before the birth, while he was yet ignorant of the great mystery, but only after that he understood how she had been made the temple of the Only Begotten of God.

"First born" refers to first born among the elect by grace, not first born of others born to Mary. Mary was (is) ever virgin before, during, and after the birth of Jesus.

Rev. T.E. Brigett (Our Lady's Dowry page 39) writes:

At the Council of Hatfield in 680AD, the Anglo Saxon Church received and published the decrees of the Lateran Council of 649AD. "If anyone shall not confess, in accordance with the teaching of the Holy Fathers, that the holy and ever virgin and immaculate Mary is properly and truly the Mother of God, since at the end of ages, without union with any man, but of the Holy Ghost, she conceived God Himself the Word, specially and truly, who before all ages was born of God the Father, and brought Him forth without corruption, retaining indissolubly her virginity even after the birth, let him be condemned."

Elfric wrote of Ezekiel, the prophet, who saw a closed gate in the house of God, and an Angel said to him,

"this gate shall be opened to no man, for the Lord only will go in by that gate and again go out, and it shall be shut for ever".

That closed gate in the house of God betokened the holy maidenhood of the blessed Mary.

These are just some of the numerous writings and explanations on this subject, which have been proclaimed throughout the centuries of Christendom, and a full unbroken history from the Old Testament, through to the modern day; all orthodox exegetes proclaim the same.

In more modern lay, every day language, let me ask you to consider the following question:

All the writings of the Church, of the Apostles and theologians, the Creedal formulas, the great Church Councils, all declare Mary to be ever virgin. Even our Mass, and every day prayers like the Hail Mary, declare the same.

  • How would anyone have known, unless Mary herself had not explained these things, probably to St. John after the Death and Resurrection and Ascension of her Son?

  • If it was Mary herself who taught the Apostle John, what possible motive could she have for being untruthful to an Apostle who would have been well aware if Mary had borne other children?

This is most interesting, since it raises the reason why Sola Scriptura is a flawed system.
Our belief is based upon Holy Scripture, and those Scriptures authentically interpreted by the Church of Rome, who alone has the mandate of Christ Himself to teach all people, until the end of time

God bless your enquiry,

Terry Quinn,
BA (Divinity) Hons, MA Theology (Marian Studies)

Note of Interest.

Five days later, I sent Mr. O'Reilly a third e-mail similar to the ones above on this issue.

To this day, I have not received a call or reply to any of the three e-mails I sent him.

                                We report, you decide!

Mike Humphrey
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