How do we know that Mary did not commit personal sin?

Ok, maybe it is a silly question. :slight_smile: I understand now why we believe Mary was born without sin. But how do we know She persevered in sinlessness till the end of Her earthly life? Is it a consequence of the Bodily Assumption dogma, or ia it something else?

The focal point of our Blessed Mother’s purity is actually Jesus. And the evangelical position commonly ends up in a confused compromise by the time they arrive at the point of comparing the purity of Jesus to the sin of Adam.

Before being born without sin, our Blessed Mother was necessarily conceived without sin.That she “persevered in sinlessness till the end of her earthly” life would not be a consequence of the Assumption - rather, logically, the inverse would have to be true : The Assumption of our Blessed Mother - body & soul into Heaven , is a consequence of her perfect detachment from sin - no stain.

Logically, if one understands why our Blessed Mother was (conceived and) born without sin then logically, it would make sense that her detachment from sin would have to continue, at least, until the birth of Christ - wouldn’t it . . .so that He too would be born without any sin ? . . . a Lamb innocent and without blemish.

Frequently, the majority of people (christians) who can’t give their assent of faith to our Blessed Mother’s sinlessness enduring flawlessly since and including her Immaculate Conception, actually, in denying Her Assumption, propose (sometimes inadvertently) a much more awkward scenario - namely that the Blessed Virgin Mary persevered in her sinlessness only up until the birth of Christ.

Which begs the question : Then what ? .:shrug:

The Catholic position is well thought out . . . all the way through.

Anyone feeling a little confused by some of the (initially convincing) non-Catholic arguments presented by some evangelical sources , might find the page entitled Was Mary Born Without Sin (Immaculate Conception), over at Catholic Bridge to be an enjoyable read. It’s reasoning is simple, and quite solid.

Talking about the sinlessness of Mary as a “consequence” of the Assumption, I meant “consequence” not in the causal, but in a logical sense. I.e., if Our Lady was assumed into Heaven, then She must have been without any sin in Her life.

As I understand, we believe that Jesus and Mary both suffered REAL temptations of the devil - they made effort not to fall into sin.
If we believe in that, then, the Immaculate Conception of Mary by itself does not logically induce the absence of personal sin. Both Jesus and Mary retained their freedom of will until the end.

So, I am waiting for stronger arguments.

Personally, I can come up with my own. The Gospel shows us the Blessed Mother standing beside the Cross, persevering with Her Son to the very end. This means She was without sin by then. Seeing She persevered through the gravest temptations, it would be quite illogical to assume that She might sin after His resurrection, when She saw Him risen, when the glory of God was obvious and the fear of God She might feel was tremendous.


We know it because holy Mother Church assures us that it’s so

Retaining one’s freedom of will does not mean she sinned.

Mary’s Immaculate Conception was not simply tacked onto her, it was her–as she declared to St. Bernadette when she told her, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” Being immaculately conceived also means Mary did not have the stain of concupiscence–the desire to sin. We fall readily into sin because of concupiscence, but Mary wasn’t stained with it as we are. Of course the devil could tempt her all he pleased, but she wasn’t interested in what he had to offer any more than Jesus was, although she could have sinned because she had free will. Having free will doesn’t mean one must sin. The angels and archangels who remained faithful to God also had free will. All of fallen humanity suffers from the wounds of the fall. Our nature was corrupted–Mary’s wasn’t. Our intellect darkened, but not Mary’s. Our will was weakened, but again not Mary’s. This is why she never sinned–that and her love for God and desire to do only his will in her life. God granted her this singular grace because she was to be the Mother of God, the Theotokos, as the Greek says it.

Yes, all that is true, but, seeing She had free will, how can the Church prove She did not sin? Adam and Even also had no concupiscence initially, but sinned.

How can you prove that she was conceived immaculately? How can you prove that she remained a virgin after the birth of Jesus? How can you prove that St. Joseph was a virgin?

Your requirement of proof is unfounded, brother. That’s why there is faith, we know what we know, because it was revealed by God, because the Church’s teaching is infallible. You are heading towards a grave mistake, trying to know and understand everything puts you on par with God. We have to come to terms with the fact that we cannot know and understand everything, some things just are…

Remember St Augustine, “I would not believe the Bible unless the Church told me to” or basically that. Believe because the Church teaches it, research why the Church teaches it, if you must, but know that 2000 years of the Catholic Churches best and brightest theologians taught and believed these truths, do we know better?

Finally, I’d suggest googling “Radio Replies” there is an online version which is free that gives all the defenses of the Catholic faith and beliefs you could ever want and more. You will probably find a good answer there.

No one can prove Joseph was a virgin.

Because the Archangel Gabriel addressed her, not by her name of Mary, but he said, “Hail, full of grace.” A hail she wondered at not knowing of her immaculate conception then. The Church has determined that Mary being full of grace means that she was immaculately conceived.

Adam and Eve were innocent, yes, but they weren’t blessed with the same grace Mary was, which was singularly given to her. Still, Adam and Eve didn’t fall because they had free will but because they didn’t trust God enough to obey him. Why they didn’t we may never know, but merely being in a state of grace, such as they were and we are after baptism, doesn’t guarantee we will remain in it if we doesn’t wish to be. Mary had a singular grace from God and she willed to remain in God’s grace. That she never sinned is to her credit in that she desired God’s will alone. She was perfected in love–something Adam and Eve, sadly, refused to let God to do for them by obeying only one simple command.

Yes, but Augustine who created the Doctrine of Original Sin did not believe that Mary was immaculately conceived or free of sin.

Augustine - Exposition on Psalm 95
“For to speak more briefly, Mary who was of Adam died for sin, Adam died for sin, and the Flesh of the Lord which was of Mary died to put away sin.”

Augustine - On the Grace of Christ, and on Original Sin (Book II)
"Chapter 47 [XLI.]— Sentences from Ambrose in Favour of Original Sin.
For every man is a liar, and no one but God alone is without sin. It is therefore an observed and settled fact, that no man born of a man and a woman, that is, by means of their bodily union, is seen to be free from sin. Whosoever, indeed, is free from sin, is free also from a conception and birth of this kind.” Moreover, when expounding the Gospel according to Luke, he says: “It was no cohabitation with a husband which opened the secrets of the Virgin’s womb; rather was it the Holy Ghost which infused immaculate seed into her unviolated womb. For the Lord Jesus alone of those who are born of woman is holy, inasmuch as He experienced not the contact of earthly corruption, by reason of the novelty of His immaculate birth; nay, He repelled it by His heavenly majesty.” "

Firstly, St. Augustine did not create the Doctrine of Original Sin.

Secondly, if he didn’t believe Mary was immaculately conceived, he was wrong.

Thirdly, did you ever answer the question from the previous thread as to where St. Mark claimed that what he was writing was inspired? If you could cite the chapter and verse please.

St. Augustine is actually a great example of how theologians developed doctrines about Mary in tandem with ordinary Catholic people.

When St. Augustine wrote a few things saying that Mary had sinned during her life and that was why she died, he was mostly writing to other theologians or to admirers living rather far away.

But then he said something in a sermon about Mary sinning. (I can’t remember if he was claiming that Mary doubted at Jesus’ Passion, or whether he was talking about the incident with Jesus’ relatives thinking he was crazy, and Mary coming with them (probably scolding them all the way, if I know a mom!).

Apparently his congregation landed on him like a ton of bricks.

The next time St. Augustine talked in a sermon about how all men sinned, he adds, “But of course I’m not talking about Mary!”

(Of course, I could be totally wrong about the chronology of this, but that’s how I remember those texts working out.)

Anyway… the point is that, even before theologians realized the full implications of “kecharitomene,” there were already plenty of Christians out there calling Mary titles like “Panagia” (All holy, ie completely holy). East and West are in agreement about that, even if they describe Mary’s sinlessness differently.

If you want to check out the sorts of things that the Fathers of the Church and other early Church writings said about Mary, there’s a wonderful old collection called The Blessed Virgin Mary in the Fathers of the First Six Centuries, which was compiled by Fr. Thomas Livius. The book is organized by topic, although there’s a fair amount of overlap in places.

(It’s a very old book, so there are better editions for some of the writers he was using and there are also “new” works by the Fathers which have been discovered now. But it’s a good starting point and a fun browse.)

Fr. Livius also wrote a rather fun book about how Paul’s letters apply to Mary, but that’s just on the side.

Anyway, I just now dipped into Fr. Livius’ book, and it reminded me of how St. Augustine had some stuff to say against other theologians who were arguing against him.

In his book “Contra Julianum Opus Imperfectum” (called that to distinguish it from his previous book against the guy), St. Augustine, now long the bishop of the city of Hippo, quotes the attacks on him of Julian, a Pelagian bishop of the city of Eclanum.

Julian had written that Augustine was worse than the heretic Jovinian (an anti-Mary, anti-asceticism and monks guy), because Jovinian said that the Sacraments made humans be prevented from sinning, but Augustine said that humans couldn’t be helped even by grace. (An inaccurate bash against St. Aug’s views on original sin and concupiscence.) And then Julian said:

"“Ille virginitatem Mariae partus conditione dissolvit; tu ipsam Mariam diabolo nascendi conditione transcribis.”

“He [Jovinian] refuted the virginity of Mary, according to the situation of birth; you enroll Mary herself with the devil, according to the situation of having been born.”

(quoted in Contra Julianum Opus Imperfectum, book 4, 122.)

Strong stuff! What did St. Augustine say?

Well, obviously there was other stuff Julian said that wasn’t about Mary or the main point, so St. A starts with refuting that. He points out that his teaching on original sin is aligned with his old pastor St. Ambrose of Milan’s teaching on the same point, so Julian the Pelagian is going to have to refute St. Ambrose too. So he refutes various points and then gets to the Mary thing:

"And what birth puts onto [humans] is curable sanabile] by God…

"I do not say that humans are not set free even by grace, and God forbid Ambrose should say so. But we do say something you will not like: that it is only by grace that they are freed – not merely so freed as to have debts forgiven them, but also** so freed as not to be led into temptation.**

“We do not enroll Mary with the devil, according to the situation of having been born. But the reason why we do not, is that this situation itself is loosed solvitur] by the grace of having been born again.”

(Contra Julianum Opus Imperfectum, book 4, 122.)

I really like that explanaton of Mary’s salvation from sin – bringing in the Lord’s Prayer is a good bit.

I should point out that in Latin, “born” can also be used less literally, to mean “come into existence.” That’s the meaning that scholars think Julian and Augustine were using, but I just translated it literally to make his statement sound as punchy as he meant it. (And there was a bunch of stuff earlier in the book where St. Aug showed how the psalms teach that original sin affects humans at their conception, so obviously he did mean the less literal meaning.)

A little bit later, St. Aug hits back, using Julian’s own rhetorical device and pointing out the ways that Julian and all the Pelagians are worse than Jovinian:

"He said that humans were prevented from sinning by the Sacraments, but you all say that the desire to progress along the righteous way is not inspired by God, but acquired through free will.

"He refuted the virginity of Mary, according to the situation of birth. You all put His holy flesh, procreated from the Virgin, on the same level as the flesh of the rest of human beings, not distinguishing sinful flesh from His body’s likeness to sinful flesh.

“He puts the better on the same level as the good - that is, marriage with complete virginity. You all put evil on the same level as good; for you say the discord of flesh with
spirit is as good as the concord of a wedding.”

(Contra Julianum Opus Imperfectum, book 4, 122.)

Livius quotes a lot from a scholarly article discussing this passage, which points out a bit from St. Ambrose’s writings that St. Augustine may have been thinking of. Here it is. St. Ambrose addresses Jesus:

“Suscipe me in carne, quae in Adam lapsa est. Suscipe me non ex Sarra, sed ex Maria; ut incorrupta sit virgo, sed virgo per gratiam ab omni integra labe peccati.”

“Receive me in the flesh, which fell in Adam. Receive me not from Sarah but from Mary. For as the virgin be incorrupt, so also through grace the virgin is free from every landslide of sin.”

(In Psalmum David 118 Expositio, Sermon 22, 30.)

Hope this wall of text helped!

Anyhoo, this brings us back to the other poster’s Augustine quote.

In Book 5 of the first Contra Julianum book, the one that’s not incomplete, St. Augustine gives a long explanation of what does and does not constitute sinful flesh. He defends the distinction between Christ’s flesh as being a likeness of sinful flesh, but not sinful flesh, because the Pelagians are saying that no flesh is sinful flesh.

The relevant Biblical quote is Romans 8:3 –

“God, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and of sin, has condemned sin in the flesh.”

St. Augustine explains that the expression “sinful flesh” isn’t talking about people sinning, but rather about being descended from Adam, and therefore having flesh that is subject to original sin and concupiscence. He also says that Mary’s body was the fruit of concupiscence (ie, her parents had concupiscence) but that she didn’t pass it along (although he doesn’t explain any mechanism for this).

Nobody says that Mary’s Immaculate Conception, which preserved her soul from original sin and its effects, had the same effect on her body. She was a daughter of Adam and Eve. So in that respect, she had “sinful flesh” even though she never sinned.

I’d be very careful about using the expression “sinful flesh” to describe Mary’s physical condition. The saints and scholars I’ve read say just the opposite–that Mary had no taint of original sin of any kind. Indeed, some put forward the idea that Mary chose to die in imitation of her Son, to complete her life in sacrifice similar to his, because she did not merit death in the flesh due to her Immaculate Conception. I’m not saying that’s the case, but I cannot agree that Mary’s flesh bore any stain of original sin. She was a pure vessel who conceived the very God-man. He was conceived of her flesh, after all, and none others. God granted her this singular grace because she was to be the Theotokos.

Well, of course one has to be careful about using that expression. That’s why you see a lot of clarification going on. And if theologians after St. Augustine decided that you really can’t use that expression for Mary’s body without giving people the wrong idea, that’s fine with me.

But just because Mary’s body was completely pure and had no original sin in it, doesn’t mean that it wasn’t descended from Adam. Mary’s DNA was all human and Jewish. So she had a sinless immaculate body, sure, but it was still not an Edenic body.

The main thing that makes it not a very important point any more, is that there used to be a fair number of theologians who thought that our souls were a lot like our bodies, and that they were “conceived” by our mothers and fathers. Since we now understand that God creates each human soul Himself, we don’t have to worry about whether our souls are descended from Adam or anybody else.

So we probably are more interested in using the other ancient expressions for Mary’s body, which compared Mary to the “virgin earth” that Adam and Eve were made out of.

You have to kind of balance these things out. Mary wasn’t a totally new creation, in the sense that she wasn’t made out of nothing or made out of dirt. You do occasionally get late medieval interpretations that she was a virgin birth who was conceived by her parents hugging each other or kissing each other while fully clothed, but that’s not how tradition mostly goes. (And they weren’t supposed to be virgin people anyway.)

So let me rephrase.

She was the child of a man and a woman of our fallen world, albeit very holy people. What made her different from you and me was that she was essentially baptized at the moment of her conception… and that she took that opportunity and ran with it, refusing to sin (unlike Eve and Adam). So she was the child of sinful flesh (albeit her parents were righteous), and only in that sense was she “sinful flesh.” (Although she could have changed that if she had rebelled and chosen to sin, obviously. But she didn’t.)

If I misspeak, btw, remember that I’m not a theologian! Far from it! I read a lot, but I don’t really have the mind to make all kinds of distinctions or think up interesting questions. If you left me to myself, I would just keep accumulating…

Thanks for your reply Mintaka. I too am not a theologian but I know that Mary wasn’t “baptized” at her conception. :slight_smile: She was immaculately conceived–something entirely different. John the Baptist had a kind of baptism in the womb when he was filled with the Holy Spirit by Christ alive in Mary’s womb, but Mary wasn’t a fallen creature who was baptized into Christ–she was a new creation, created by a singular grace of God, although certainly conceived by her human parents.

Her entire being was conceived without original sin or the stains of original sin or the consequences of original sin–all made possible by Christ’s redemption applied to her at the first instance of her conception (since Christ’s redemption is an eternal act not merely a point in history). God did this for her because she was to be the Mother of God. Such distinctions need to be made in dogmatic matters. :slight_smile:

Still, in taking a stab at this complex issue, you attempted to make it clear that Mary was a creature of God, as we are, and of course, as she was and still is. But she was different because she is the Immaculate Conception–the Second Eve–greater than Eve in a similar way that Christ is greater than Adam, although by the order of grace alone.

If I am wrong, I too am certainly open to correction. :wink: Although, I don’t believe I am.

The Church proved it by teaching it dogmatically, understanding that Jesus promised that the Church would never do so in error.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit