Four Saints erred? -- S. Bonano on St. Mary

Four Saints erred? So says S. Bonano (who is Roman Catholic) in article “Mary’s Immunity From Actual Sin”. He says that four Saints erred when they taught that St. Mary had small sins. Isn’t this number of saints who “erred” too big? And that were the great Saints: St. John Chrysostom, St. Basil, St. Cyril of Alexandria, St. Maximus of Turin. And also Tertullian and Origen taught so, although they were not Saints. The link to this article I found In the New Catholic Encyclopedia (Second Edition), in article “MARY, BLESSED VIRGIN, II (IN THEOLOGY)” (vol. 9, pp. 249-253), bibliography section).

No. Origen and Tertullian were heretics. Tertullian founded his own heretical sect and died outside the Church. Even the doctors of the Church were fallible men and they get some things wrong. This is one place where these four men were wrong in the Biblical interpretation. They got too caught up in their misguided interpretation (having no basis in the text) of a passage that they erred here.

Saints are not perfect; they are made perfect in Christ.

We do not look to one father for all of God’s wisdom, but rather the entirety of Tradition (for Catholics, referred to as “The Magisterium”), which includes the teachings of many fathers.

I’ll bet there are more than four. St. Francis erred on more than one occasion, yet there are few if any that ended up more Christ-like. Not sure what this is suppose to prove.

The vocation of a theologian is to seek to put understanding into words so that others will understand.
The “doctrines” concerning Mary had not been put into words that the Church agreed as matching what they understood. St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church, did not arrive at an understanding nor an explanation of the immaculate conception of Mary, yet he is still considered probably the most important theologian for seminarians to learn from in their understanding of God and man, the Gospel, and reality.

One thing a Catholic theologian, if he is faithful, does is to recognize, as did Thomas, that he wanted only to teach and write what the Church held as Truth.

Theologians’ teachings are not the same as the canons on Faith and Life of the Magisterium. Theologians help you think, help you meditate, on the Truth, but do not define it or its boundaries. In a way, their words are not “careful” like those of the Magisterium, which speaks with deft precision and brevity.

A theologian who claims Mary actually sinned after Pius IX, when this was fully defined as dogma, would be suspect, but all who came before, in some form or another, were providing discussion so that the understanding could be fully explored.

All Saints are human and have errored.

Great explanation.

I mean that four other men were Saints: St. John Chrysostom, St. Basil, St. Cyril of Alexandria, St. Maximus of Turin. I mentioned Origen and Tertullian just for completeness of information. However, heretics can also be right in some opinions.

But how do you know that they erred? When bishops at the Ecumenical Councils wanted to prove some teaching, then they quoted writings of the Saints. If there was an agreement between them, as well as with Scripture, this proved that the teaching is correct. I don’t know of any example that so many Saints erred during study of that or another teaching at an Ecumenical Council. So, if there isn’t agreement between writings of the Saints – then how do you know that the dogma of Immaculate Conception is true? Just because the Pope Pius IX said so? But maybe he erred, while these four Saints were true.

The Biblical passage, from which both St. Basil and St. Cyril derived that St. Mary had small sins (“And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” – Lk 2:35), doesn’t have alternative convincing interpretations.

Moreover, S. Bonano and the New Catholic Encyclopedia (Second Edition) contradict to each other when they try to provide alternative interpretation of this passage. S. Bonano says that this passage means the compassion of St. Mary, while the New Catholic Encyclopedia (Second Edition) says that it doesn’t mean the compassion of St. Mary:

S. Bonano:
“The sword of sorrow, looked at in the light of her faithful vigil near the cross, is a revelation of her compassion and Co-redemption. The Passion of Christ and the compassion of Mary form a unity that reveal her destiny of association and communion with the dying Christ.”

New Catholic Encyclopedia (Second Edition):
This prophecy has not been convincingly interpreted. <…> Since Luke does not place Mary at the cross (cf. Lk 23.49 with Jn 19.25), it is improbable that he sees the prophecy as a direct reference to her compassion.” (Article “MARY, BLESSED VIRGIN, I (IN THE BIBLE)” (vol. 9, p. 244)).

Afraid not; they were doing their work as theologians, and Pius did not err. To explain: 12 of the 13 apostles. the first Saints, were wrong prior to the first council in Jerusalem. And one of the SAINTS that was wrong was St. Peter. You see, the Pope, in his “off hours” as Pope, is a “theologian”, who wrestles with “what is what”. If he writes things down in his wrestling, he is “doing theology”. if he shares it within the academic community, he is doing what the other saints did that you mention. If he preaches, he is preaching what he knows.

But when the Council of the Church gathers, with the Pope in his Chair as Pope, then it is as Jesus promised. The Holy Spirit refuses to let anything false be said or written, but inspires a Truth to be stated, if not always explained, and that was when, with Peter at the First Council, where the first Pope, declared something different than the first 12 of 13 SAINTS were teaching differently.

I am, of course, discussing the vital error of Apostle Peter and the other eleven versus the Apostle Paul, where the Pope and Magisterium then came out with the Dogma that Gentiles do not need to become “Jews” to be Catholic, but just be moral and not eat meat offered to idols. And from this it has to be gathered that there is a freedom for theologians to debate with the understanding of things, yet all bow to the revelation of the Holy Spirit in the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise that he would not allow this Church under its Pope to be crushed by the Gates of Hell. In my thinking, that is a much more vital decision than the immaculate conception of Mary, in that I am in the Church as one who would have been “from the Gentiles”, as are the majority of Catholics today. Yet I do not feel that Sts. Peter or John should be doubted as theologians, nor that they were correct as theologians prior to Peter’s ruling and that Peter should be doubted as Pope for ruling against himself and the eleven as theologians.

We “think” with theologians, but we “live” in doctrine (the rules of faith and life handed to us from the Magisterium, in “obedience”.

We “think” with theologians, but we “live” in doctrine (the rules of faith and life handed to us from the Magisterium, in “obedience”.

Salvatore is being a theologian, putting out things to think about, and, if faithfully Catholic, he would never say “Pius IX erred”, because it is not Pius, but is the See of Peter, and it is the Holy Spirit.

It is perhaps unfortunate that he used the term “erred” in the footnote of his theological paper that you are basing this thread on, because they did not err by disagreeing with divine inspiration, but they, at most, “erred” in the conclusions of their reasoning about reality. All theologians know they are highly subject to that kind of error, yet also know that the Holy Spirit will inspire correction if and when needed.

John, the decisions on the Councils were not made immediately, but after studying the writings of the Saints. St. Vincent of Lerins says that at the Third Ecumenical Council ten Saints were quoted in order to prove that Nestorius was wrong (Commonitory, Chapter 29-31). On the other hand, it was Nestorius who ignored writings of the Saints (Chapter 31): “We inveighed also against the wicked presumption of Nestorius in boasting that he was the first and the only one who understood holy Scripture, and that all those teachers were ignorant, who before him had expounded the sacred oracles, forsooth, the whole body of priests, the whole body of Confessors and martyrs, of whom some had published commentaries upon the Law of God, others had agreed with them in their comments, or had acquiesced in them. In a word, he confidently asserted that the whole Church was even now in error, and always had been in error, in that, as it seemed to him, it had followed, and was following, ignorant and misguided teachers.”

There is a little “twist” there, Vadim.
When the Council wrote of Nestorius, “he confidently asserted that the whole Church was even now in error, and always had been in error, in that, as it seemed to him, it had followed, and was following, ignorant and misguided teachers.” This does not mean that councils are in error if they do not condemn “ignorant” teachers, nor that “ignorant” teachers are always condemned in a council.
It means that a Council, in “studying” the writings of those who have come before, “live in” the writings they are studying, to know if in themselves and in each other the writings are “really real”, a true description of the reality in which they live as Christians, and if it is the reality that all Catholics have lived in, whether defined or not.
Some writings they will merely show where or how the writer was ignorant, and others they will condemn, not because the writer was ignorant, but because in his actions he is seeking to divide or to corrupt what is known, what is received.
It should surprise no one that there are incorrect things contained in theological writings, nor be a reason of doubting the truth declared in the councils.

John, actually there isn’t very big difference between decisions of Councils and opinions of Saints when these opinions of Saints coincide with each other. The only difference is that in case of Councils bishops agreed in one place and one time, whereas in case of opinions of Saints when these opinions of Saints coincide with each other, we see Saints who lived in different places and in different time, but agreed with each other nonetheless. In both cases the authority of decision or opinion is derived, in particular, from this saying of Christ: “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20).

you all can believe what you want, but it makes perfect sense to me that God would ensure that the tabernacle of His Incarnation would be pure and sinless.

what others have thought on this subject down through the centuries is interesting, at least to those with more scholarly and theological inclinations, but I have no problem with where the Church ultimately landed on this dogma.

eddie too, Christians must test whether they are still true to their faith (2 Corinthians 13:5), they mustn’t be like these people on this picture, whose brains, unfortunately, are completely controlled by someone else:

So you reveal that your true game is not a sincere question, but an attack on Pope Pius IX. What he has to do with his question is beyond me, though. It is clear now to me from what you have written that you either never read the citations from the article you posted or you are a liar. I have read through all of them and you are completely misrepresenting what Basil wrote. Neither he nor St. Cyril said that Mary “committed small sins” on the basis of this passage. This is what St. Basil actually wrote.

By a sword is meant the word which tries and judges our thoughts, which pierces even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of our thoughts. Now every soul in the hour of the Passion was subjected, as it were, to a kind of searching. According to the word of the Lord it is said, “All you shall be offended because of me.” Matthew 26:3 Simeon therefore prophesies about Mary herself, that when standing by the cross, and beholding what is being done, and hearing the voices, after the witness of Gabriel, after her secret knowledge of the divine conception, after the great exhibition of miracles, she shall feel about her soul a mighty tempest. The Lord was bound to taste of death for every man— to become a propitiation for the world and to justify all men by His own blood. Even you yourself, who hast been taught from on high the things concerning the Lord, shall be reached by some doubt. This is the sword. “That the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” He indicates that after the offense at the Cross of Christ a certain swift healing shall come from the Lord to the disciples and to Mary herself, confirming their heart in faith in Him. In the same way we saw Peter, after he had been offended, holding more firmly to his faith in Christ. What was human in him was proved unsound, that the power of the Lord might be shown.

Hence, St. Thomas commenting on this text says.

Others again take the sword to signify doubt. But this is to be understood of the doubt, not of unbelief, but of wonder and discussion. Thus Basil says (Ep. ad Optim.) that “the Blessed Virgin while standing by the cross, and observing every detail, after the message of Gabriel, and the ineffable knowledge of the Divine Conception, after that wondrous manifestation of miracles, was troubled in mind”: that is to say, on the one side seeing Him suffer such humiliation, and on the other considering His marvelous works.

And St. Cyril is the same. He never says that she doubted, only that she did not understand.

Besides, also, was not the Lord, I say, right to take thought for His mother, when she had fallen on a rock of offence, and when her mind was in a turmoil of perplexity? For, as He was truly God, and looked into the motions of the heart, and knew its secrets, how could He fail to know the thoughts about His crucifixion, which were then throwing her into sore distress? Knowing, then, what was passing in her heart, He commended her to the disciple, the best of guides, who was able to explain fully and adequately the profound mystery. For wise and learned in the things of God was he who received and took her away gladly, to fulfil all the Saviour’s Will concerning her.

Just as Blessed Mary did not sin when she said, “How shall this be?” neither did she sin if she was troubled at the Cross. Don’t you know that the Evangelist Luke says the same thing about the annunciation? She, having heard, was troubled at his saying, and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be (Lk. 19:29). This was no sin on the part of the Blessed Virgin, and Scripture is explicit on this count, contrasting her sinlessness wonderment with the doubting of Zacharias.

And regarding St. Maximus, he does not say in his homily that Mary sinned at the wedding, but that the Lord was merely reminding her to think of eternal salvation over material wants. He goes out of his way to argue that even though Christ may have seemed indignant in his rebuke, he was not.

… He came to the wedding not to take drink, but to give it; for when the wine ran out at the wedding, Most Blessed Mary said to him: They have no wine. To her, Jesus responded as if indignant: “What is that to me and to thee, Woman?”

Who doubts these words were of someone indignant? But, on that account, I think it was because of how rashly his mother made a request to him about carnal drink, he who came to the nations of the whole world to toast the new chalice of eternal salvation. For what he said was, “my hour is not yet come.” He evidently promised her the hour of his most glorious passion, or that wine of our redemption, which accomplishes eternal life. For what Mary sought was of temporal grace; what Christ produced was of everlasting joy. Yet it did not displease our most kind Lord to present small things until the great ones came. Therefore, Venerable Mary, as she was also truly Mother of the Lord in spirit, foreknew what was to come, and foreseeing the will of the Lord, she advised the servants carefully, saying: Do whatever he tells you. The Holy Mother knew undoubtedly that the rebuke from her Lord and Son did not display the displeasure an angry man, but bore the mystery of compassion. Then, the Lord showing his modesty to his troubled mother and now revealing his majesty, said to the waiting servants: Fill the jars with water

And as for St. Chrysosotm, I think what he wrote is more nuanced than what people usually assume without reading his sermons in whole. But, I don’t feel obliged to go into that because by now, it should be clear to you that of the four saints who supposedly questioned Mary’s sinlessness, three are acquitted, and only one now remains untried. So assuming that Chrysostom would indeed have said that Mary sinned, would that cast the otherwise unanimous testimony of the Church into question? Can any man’s words overthrow the infallible teaching of the Catholic Church?

You are taking a very difficult position, because you are suggesting something should be called into doubt merely because some writer or another as an individual wrote something contrary. No man is infallible. I suppose because St. Augustine among others taught that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, that you will relinquish your Church’s dogmatic insistence on striking that article from the creed. Your position is Protestant because you would cast doubt on everything, and do away with faith, treating everything as something to be decided by scholarly opinion.

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