Saturday, December 8, 2012

Do Catholics make Mary Immaculate to be equal to Jesus?

December 8th, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
Today the Church celebrates the conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in which she was preserved from every stain of original sin. Not the moment after, but in the very moment itself of her animation (the moment when her soul was created), Mary was safeguarded and kept free from original sin.
We may well state that the moment of her creation was likewise the moment of her redemption. Perhaps we may go so far as to state that, in our Lady, creation and redemption are one single act.
However, many Protestants will claim that Catholics make Mary equal to Jesus by claiming that she was without sin. What must a Catholic respond to this absurd accusation?

The dogma itself
The dogma of the Immaculate Conception states that Mary was preserved from original sin not by any good thing found within herself (i.e. not by any merit of hers), but wholly by the foreseen merits of her divine Son.
God, looking upon the redemption which was to be accomplished in Christ Jesus through his suffering and death, applied the merits of the Cross to the soul of our Lady in the very first instant of her conception so that she should be free from original sin.
The definition of Blessed Pope Pius IX: “We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.” (Ineffabiliis Deus, 1854)
Mary would have been subject to original sin, but not Jesus
Excepting for this singular grace, Mary would have been subject to original sin. However, even if our Lady had been stained with sin (both original and even actual sin), Jesus would nevertheless have been totally free from all sin.
This is the great difference between our Savior and our Lady – Mary’s Immaculate Conception depends upon Jesus being sinless, but Jesus’ sinlessness does not in any way depend upon the Immaculate Conception. Our Savior is not sinless because Mary is without sin, but he is sinless and free from original sin precisely because he was conceived not by the power of man but by the power of the Almighty and the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. Because the soul of our Savior was created and formed wholly by the power of the Holy Spirit and in no way by the active power of any human being, our Lord did not (and could not) contract original sin from Adam.
Furthermore, by virtue of the fact that he is a divine Person, it is wholly impossible and utterly contradictory that our Savior could have contracted original sin from Mary or have ever committed an actual sin.
Mary was free from original sin only by virtue of a singular grace. But Jesus did not need any grace beyond that of the hypostatic union itself to be free from original sin.
Mary, free from sin, was redeemed
Mary is not equal to Jesus because she was redeemed. Though this redemption occurred in the very same act which was her creation, God did indeed need to redeem our Lady.
However, Jesus was not redeemed, and he had no need of savior. He is free from sin because he is God, and because his human soul was formed by the Holy Spirit. He received his human nature not from man, but from God (as did Adam himself) – though, of course, he received his body from our Lady, and in this sense we say that our Lord took our nature from her.
All have sinned
Sometimes, Protestants will quote Romans 3:23 – All have sinned and do need the glory of God – as proof that Mary was a sinner. In this, they blaspheme twice: once against our Lady, and once against the Holy Spirit who inspired the Scriptures.
First, we state that, if St. Paul means to state that “all” have contracted original sin, then we would be forced to believe that Christ too was stained by original sin. But we know that Jesus was without sin, therefore, we know that St. Paul does not mean to state that all are burdened with original sin. At the very least, Jesus is an exception to the statement All have sinned.
In fact, St. Paul is not speaking about original sin at all. Rather, he is clearly speaking of actual sins – since original sin is not included in the active verb “have sinned”. We cannot state that a child, conceived in original sin “has sinned”.
Therefore, we know that there are literally billions of exceptions to St. Paul’s statement that all have sinned, since every child conceived in the womb who died before birth or who died before the age of reason, though conceived in original sin, has not sinned. Any who have died before acquiring the use of reason cannot truly be said to “have sinned” – thus, there are billions of children who are exempted from St. Paul’s all.
Thus, given that this passage is not even referring to original sin (but rather to actual sin) and given that there are already billions of exceptions to this verse, this one verse can in no way be used as a counter-proof against the Catholic dogma of the Immaculate Conception.

Immaculate Virgin and our Mother Mary, Pray for us!


Anonymous said...

There is a beautiful comparison that since touching the garments of Our Lord could have an healing effect (Mark 5:28) the woman who gave birth to Him must be exceedingly holy.


Marko Ivančičević said...

About st. Paul. I think there is one verse where he says that only Jesus was taken to heaven and that verse is used as "proof" against the dogma of Assumption of Mary. But in this verse also are exceptions also - for Henoch and Elias we know from Sacred Scripture. If those great men of God had this grace, how much more apt is that Mary is assumed to heaven.

ellen said...

Father, I thought ALL human souls were created directly by God? Perhaps I am misunderstanding what you have written?

Anonymous said...

Father, some questions:
Was the moment of her animation the same as the moment when her body was created? Same question for Jesus' human nature.
Are not all human souls formed by the Holy Spirit?
How did Mary's freedom from original sin affect her body?


Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Ellen and Walter,
All souls are created by God, but the human nature is received from the active generative power of the father ... however, this was not the case with Christ.

Anonymous said...

This is accurate:
In fact, St. Paul is not speaking about original sin at all. Rather, he is clearly speaking of actual sins – since original sin is not included in the active verb “have sinned”. We cannot state that a child, conceived in original sin “has sinned”.

There is a difference between having sinned and being born into sin.

This is not accurate:
First, we state that, if St. Paul means to state that “all” have contracted original sin, then we would be forced to believe that Christ too was stained by original sin. But we know that Jesus was without sin, therefore, we know that St. Paul does not mean to state that all are burdened with original sin. At the very least, Jesus is an exception to the statement All have sinned.

You changed the words of Paul. He didn't say anything about "contracting" a sin. He spoke in the active sense, not the passive sense.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

I'm always amazed when someone takes the time to read an article and even to make a comment, but fails to be considerate enough to read the note above the comment box and also the comment policy (on the left) -- "If you want your comment to be published: Use a name or pseudonym"

In any case, if you re-read the article you will see that I did not say that St Paul claimed that any have contracted original sin ... the second quotation which you pluck out without paying any attention to the flow of the argument only states that even if St Paul was speaking of original sin (and he was not) we would know that Jesus at least is exempted from the "all".

Do you really not understand a counter-factual "if"?

Unknown said...

Thank you for explicating my favorite feast. Here's a question. Mary was free from original sin and all subsequent sin. Given this, could she really say no to being the Mother of God? In other words, her sinlessness trumped free will. A sinless daughter can't say no to her Father.

ThomasL said...

I'm not certain that, "In this, they blaspheme twice: once against our Lady..." is quite what you mean to say.

Blasphemy is sin against God. Both in common usage and in all dictionaries I have ever seen it is specifically against God (“An indignity offered to God in words, writing, or signs…” “speaking evil of God…” “To attribute to God that which is contrary to his nature…”).

It is hard to make the argument that Catholics do not consider Mary equal to Jesus (ie, equal to God) and then in the following paragraph accuse people of blasphemy--a sin against God--for speaking inappropriately of her, even if it is admitted that they have spoken wrongly.

Anonymous said...

"All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" must exclude Christ since He IS the glory of God. So Mary still is a sinner. Why else would she have offered sin offerings? (Luke 2:24; Leviticus 12:6,8) [This makes me question the authenticity of the Christmas story that states the Magi bringing gold and such. If so, Mary would have offered the former offering of Leviticus 12 instead of the later; and Herod wouldn't have orded the killing of all boys under two since even barely one year-olds can walk and newborns can't even come close. (Just an extra thought.)]


Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

Adam was created from an uncursed earth and Jesus became man in the womb of an uncursed woman.

ColdStanding said...

I found this article very interesting in light of your very interesting article, Fr. Erlendbush.

SD said...

"Even the justice of God, by faith of Jesus Christ, unto all and upon all them that believe in him: for there is no distinction: For all have sinned, and do need the glory of God."

St. Paul's topic is Jews and Gentiles. "All" = Both Jews and Gentiles.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...


Sed contra -

"The prohibition of blasphemy extends to language against Christ's Church, the saints, and sacred things." (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2148)

"Blasphemy is the use of the name of God, of Jesus Christ, of the Virgin Mary, and of the saints in an offensive way." (CCC 2162)

Peace. +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Father Valentine,
Thank you for the fraternal comment!
Oremus pro invicem! +

Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

Every single word of the New Testament came into being when The Holy Ghost inspired Catholic authors to write what they did for the benefit of other Catholics who were part of the already existing nascent Catholic Church that preceded the Canon of The New testament and the crucial criteria for deciding what books would be included in the Canon of The New Testament is whether of not the book in question had been read at Catholic Mass.

The plain and simple truth is that The Catholic Church has exclusive and total control of The New Testament and the Catholic Church alone has the authority to explain what those books mean and the fact the Catholic Church has stopped proclaiming this simple truth is the cause of much madness and mayhem. and misinformation.

Anonymous said...

@Thomas L- "blasphemy" is from the Greek word that means "to bring a railing accusation against." We are forbidden by Scripture to blaspheme heavenly beings (which would include Mary) and even forbidden from blaspheming devils. See Jude 1:9 and 2 Peter 2:11.

Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

Dear TLP. Your interesting exegesis is wrong. Holy Writ is teaching that the faithful angels did not curse the fallen ones; that is, it ain't about humans.

Here is Haydock:

Ver. 11. Whereas angels, &c. By comparing this place with what we read in St. Jude, (ver. 9) he speaks of the good angels whom God employed to banish the rebellious angels out of heaven, and on other occasions, who, though they had greater strength and power given them by the Almighty, yet did not bear execrable judgment against themselves; i.e. one against another, or against those who at first had been happy spirits with them in heaven; did not exult over them with injuries and reviling reflections, but executed their commands in the name of God, saying, let the Lord command you. See Jude, ver. 9. (Witham) --- Bring not an execrable judgment, &c. That is, they use no railing, nor cursing sentence; not even in their conflicts with the evil angels. (Challoner)

Anonymous said...

I think the context in 2 Peter IS talking about humans-humans that are so wicked they are presumptious to speak ill of spiritual beings.

Peter goes on to say, in effect, "look, even angels don't even blaspheme celestial beings," strongly implying that neither should we.

Where Protestants get hung up is the term "blasphemy," because they confuse it with heresy or some other term. They think it means "a false statement about God." So when we speak of not blaspheming Mary, of course they think we're deifying her. We should teach that "blasphemy" is an "arrogant, insulting accusation," which is what I believe the Greek does in this passage.

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