How is the Assumption a matter of faith and morals?

A recent thread asked about a statement (allegedly) made by Pope Francis in his weekly address that “all animals go to heaven.” The OP asked if this could be regarded as an infallible statement. The thread was closed by Michael Francis (moderator) but re-opened (an event which I had not ever observed).

I had responded, in part, that this statement could not be regarded as infallible, because it did not concern a matter of faiths and morals, because (to quote myself)

Whether animals go to heaven has nothing to do with our salvation. If the Pope said that the pizza buffet in heaven never closes, it could not be infallible because it has nothing to do with our salvation.

The OP thoughtfully responded,

I definitely understand what you’re saying, but isn’t there a lot of doctrine or dogma that doesn’t really affect our salvation? Whether or not Mary was assumed into Heaven, shouldn’t really affect my salvation. Right?

Putting aside the “a lot of doctrine” statement, can we say that the doctrine of the Assumption is a matter of faith and morals?

The doctrine of the Assumption was defined in 1950 in the Apostolic Constitution, Munificentissimus Deus, by Pope Pius-7. This is widely considered an exercise of ex Cathedra authority in a post-Vatican-1 world.

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary was defined as dogma by Pope Pius XII. He was speaking to the whole church and invoking his authority as Pope to declare this dogma, which is a matter of Faith.

Pope Francis, if the story is even true and which is highly doubtful, was not speaking to the whole Church or defining a dogma.

Below is MY view on such matters…

Does the Assumption of the BVM directly affect my salvation?
I think that the answer must be no it does not.

HOWEVER

Does my submission to the teaching of the -Christ founded and Spirit protected Church - directly affect my salvation?
The answer here must be an emphatic YES!!

So the “faith and morals” aspect of the Assumption is whether one is willing to submit to the authority of the Church - We accept the teaching on faith. If we do not then we are disobedient to Christ and disobedience is immoral.

My…:twocents:

Peace
James

Mary is the first Christian. In herself she represents the prototype of all Christians. Another way of stating the dogma of the Assumption is to say that Mary is the first resurrected creature. This dogma is a particular application of the dogma of the universal resurrection and final judgement. To refuse to accept it is to express doubt about two things, firstly that our Lady is the Immaculate Conception prepared and ready for heaven from the moment she was conceived and secondly that the fullness of perfection in heaven can only be achieved for creatures in an incarnated form. One reason why Mary is first of the saints in heaven is that she alone of creatures possesses a glorified body something which other saints will only acquire after the Parousia.

How is it a matter of Faith? What difference does it make to anyone’s salvation? What theological implications are there?

Just because it’s something that happened to an early Christian (or THE early Christian) does not automatically make it a matter of Faith. It has absolutely no moral dimension that I can think of (and the teaching from Vatican-1 uses the conjunction “and,” not “or”).

If it had never happened, the Faith would be completely unaffected. So, if NOT teaching it doesn’t affect the Faith, how can it be a matter of Faith?

Faith one of the three theological virtues.

*CCC 1814 Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe all that he has said and revealed to us, and that Holy Church proposes for our belief, *

If the church proposes it for our belief then it is a matter of faith.

God has revealed that Mary preceded us into heaven where she reigns as Queen and interceded for us with her Son the King. God has revealed this to us through the Church which proposes it for our belief.

The implications are clear. There is tremendous advantage for those who assent and rely on Mary’s intercession.

-Tim-

Well said. Although, the doctrine of Our Lady’s Resurrection is latent in the dogma of the Assumption of Mary. IOW, it hasn’t been clearly stated so far. However, I am in full agreement with you. :thumbsup:

Dovetailing on catholicscot’s answer, the dogma of the Assumption isn’t just a piece of trivia about Mary, the historical person. No, it is also a statement about the Church, i.e. all the members, including your friend who does not see how this affects anyone’s salvation. Mary, as a prime figure of the Church, is the image of the Church in her definitive state of salvation. She is without blemish (Eph. 5:27) and is thus also a benchmark by which we can model our lives.

Also, when someone tries to play minimization games with the faith, and asks why this or that teaching is important, I ask that person, if they are a Biblical Christian, what use it was for the concept of angels to be included in the Bible? Is someone’s salvation dependent on believing in angels? In the same way our salvation is “not dependent” on believing in the Assumption, it is “not dependent” on believing in angels. Should we then reject any Bible passage referring to angels on the same grounds? Or rather, if we do so, are we not in essence rejecting Christ, who is the way, the TRUTH, and the life? You can’t amputate Christ from truth or from the Church. To reject a divinely revealed dogma is to reject the divine Revealer.

So, if Pope Francis really taught that “all dogs go to heaven,” it would be a matter of Faith? How can that be?

God has revealed that Mary preceded us into heaven

I’m not sure that is true. St. Stephen (died c.34 AD) is regarded as the first Christian martyr. He (presumably) died before Mary. Was Stephen put “on hold” until Mary “passed”?

The catechism does not say all the Pope proposes for our belief but all the Church proposes for our belief.

I don’t know anything about whether St. Stephen was allowed to enter Heaven before Mary. You asked about why the Assumption of Mary is a matter of faith. Whether St. Stephen entered Heaven before Mary is not not relevant.

Mary is present, body and soul, in heaven where she reigns as Queen of Heaven and Earth along with her Son the King. She intercedes with Her Son on our behalf. The Church has proposed this for our belief, going so far as to proclaim these as infallible dogmas. They are therefor a matters of faith according to the definition of the theological virtue of faith. Faith is a clearly defined theological virtue.

-Tim-

Hey Dave, why so ornery? :confused:

Mary preceded ALL of us (both Old and New Testament faithful) in body to heaven. The rest of us will have to wait for the Resurrection of the Dead at the end of the world. But you knew that didn’t you?

If Pope Francis were to teach this, he would be saying one of two things:

either that animals have immortal souls and are ‘redeemed’ by Christ’s sacrifice and attain to heaven in a way similar to the way humans do;

or that animals do not have immortal souls, but that God will create ‘carbon copies’ of all things that ever lived, in the ‘new heaven and new earth’.

Both of these – since they deal with our understanding of ‘immortal souls’ or ‘the eschaton’ – would clearly be teachings on ‘faith.’

(Not only the forum in which this remark allegedly occurred, but also the conflict of the former possibility with doctrine and the newness of the latter, argue against this being a doctrinal assertion.)

Just mentioning that “faith and morals” means “faith and/or morals” in this case, just to be clear.

Now to your question:

Firstly, the dogma of the Assumption supports the dogma of the Resurrection, both that of Jesus and that of all of us.

A lot of people like to think that our resurrection bodies won’t really be bodies, that we’ll be energy ghosts or what have you. If Mary was taken up to heaven, body and soul, by Jesus, that supports that Jesus was resurrected into a real human body, albeit new and improved, and that the Apostles were not hallucinating Him eating and drinking and grilling up fish. If Jesus and Mary are running around in real glorified resurrection bodies, we can also expect to be resurrected in real bodies (or be glorified in our real bodies, should we happen to still be alive at the end of the world).

Secondly, it supports the idea that bodies are just as important to being human as souls, and that we’re not just disembodied spirits who can treat other people’s bodies like junk. Sins against bodies count. (A big teaching that needs emphasis in modern times.)

Thirdly, it supports the moral fact that suicide is wrong, and we can’t just murder our own bodies without hurting an essential part of ourselves. (Suicide is popular in modern times, so it’s important to underline this.)

Fourthly, it supports the morality of giving all human bodies an honorable burial or other honorable treatment, because bodies aren’t just “husks” or “junk.” (Obviously the Bible and Church teaching also commands this, but plenty of people in modern times are happy to dump basic Biblical commands and Church teachings.)

Fifthly, it does point out that Mary is not just J. Random Jewish Girl Vessel that God used to be His babymaking machine, and humans aren’t just interchangeable worms that God is amused to play with. Jesus loves the woman that He chose to be His mother, and He honors His mother for her constant obedience to God’s word, just as, in the Gospels, He told the woman in the crowd. (A lot of denominations teach that Mary is just some chick.)

Sixth, it points out that being taken up to Heaven isn’t just for Elijah (and Moses and Enoch), but is also for Mary. Obviously great miracles and great prophetic persons don’t stop where the Bible does. (Some denominations believe that all miracles stopped at the end of NT written chronicles; or that no miracles ever happened at all ever, and the Bible is always talking figuratively.)

Seventh, it’s also a support of the traditional identification of incorruptible bodies of saints as being connected with Ps. 16:10, and it not just being about Jesus or about God saving people from death: “For You will not abandon my soul in Sheol, nor will You let Your holy one see decay.”

There are probably a lot of other implications that I am not thinking about. I’m sure there are more implications to be drawn from this by real theologians, but I need to eat lunch. Probably the best thing is to read the actual decree from the time, because there’s lots of commentary and footnotes there.

Munificentissimus Deus answers these questions better than I ever could:

  1. For which reason, after we have poured forth prayers of supplication again and again to God, and have invoked the light of the Spirit of Truth, for the glory of Almighty God who has lavished his special affection upon the Virgin Mary, for the honor of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages and the Victor over sin and death, for the increase of the glory of that same august Mother, and for the joy and exultation of the entire Church; by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.

  2. Hence if anyone, which God forbid, should dare willfully to deny or to call into doubt that which we have defined, let him know that he has fallen away completely from the divine and Catholic Faith.

. . .

  1. We, who have placed our pontificate under the special patronage of the most holy Virgin, to whom we have had recourse so often in times of grave trouble, we who have consecrated the entire human race to her Immaculate Heart in public ceremonies, and who have time and time again experienced her powerful protection, are confident that this solemn proclamation and definition of the Assumption will contribute in no small way to the advantage of human society, since it redounds to the glory of the Most Blessed Trinity, to which the Blessed Mother of God is bound by such singular bonds. It is to be hoped that all the faithful will be stirred up to a stronger piety toward their heavenly Mother, and that the souls of all those who glory in the Christian name may be moved by the desire of sharing in the unity of Jesus Christ’s Mystical Body and of increasing their love for her who shows her motherly heart to all the members of this august body. And so we may hope that those who meditate upon the glorious example Mary offers us may be more and more convinced of the value of a human life entirely devoted to carrying out the heavenly Father’s will and to bringing good to others. Thus, while the illusory teachings of materialism and the corruption of morals that follows from these teachings threaten to extinguish the light of virtue and to ruin the lives of men by exciting discord among them, in this magnificent way all may see clearly to what a lofty goal our bodies and souls are destined. Finally it is our hope that belief in Mary’s bodily Assumption into heaven will make our belief in our own resurrection stronger and render it more effective.

Sorry - I didn’t mean to sound grumpy.

Mary preceded ALL of us (both Old and New Testament faithful) in body to heaven.

I think Jesus might claim this distinction :wink: - but I know what you mean and I hadn’t thought of it in those terms.

But I still don’t understand why it matters to the Catholic Faith. Whether she was first or not - what difference does it make? And, if it doesn’t make a difference, how could it be a “matter of Faith” if it doesn’t actually matter?

I guess what I am really wondering is WHY the Church felt it expedient to formally teach this Doctrine (my Anglican roots are showing again). I’ve sensed a doctrinal justification that “if Mary can do it, it proves that we can do it too.” But that makes me uncomfortable, somehow equating myself with Mary. And, furthermore, the Church has always taught the resurrection of the body (it’s in the Nicene Creed, for goodness sake. Yeah, it’s an ancient teaching). Did we really need to reinforce this ancient doctrine with an example?

I can count on one hand the number of affirmed ex Cathedra teachings (and not use two of the fingers). Don’t take this the wrong way, but it seems the doctrine of the Assumption (while being true) is rather pointless. And, yet, it is one of the very rare acknowledged instances of papal infallibility.

Thanks for that! You mentioned several aspects that I had not considered.

(do you sense a “but” coming on?)

But everything in that list was clearly established in Catholic Doctrine long before 1950. A lot of it is in the Nicene Creed! I don’t think there were many Catholics running around in 1950 doubting, for example, the resurrection of the Body (which is in the Creed). And I don’t see the wacko Catholics in our modern society being influenced by this doctrine (or even recognizing any of the implications that you raised).

If all of that was already well established in Catholic doctrine, and accepted by the Faithful, what is the point of merely giving us an “example” to teach the same undisputed doctrine all over again?

I don’t OBJECT to the doctrine of the Assumption (and I believe it is true) - I just don’t understand why it is relevant.

[quote=DavidFilmer]I don’t OBJECT to the doctrine of the Assumption (and I believe it is true) - I just don’t understand why it is relevant.
[/quote]

The Assumption is closely tied in with the Immaculate Conception. They are both important doctrines in clarifying the nature of the Virgin Mary’s role in Salvation History. It is intimately connected with the Incarnation. That is WHY it is relevant.

IOW, IF you acknowledge the importance and relevance of the Immaculate Conception, then you should have no difficulty seeing the importance and relevance of the Assumption. They are like the two cherubim on the ark of the Covenant (in a sense.) :wink:

Well, it wasn’t as if people didn’t believe in Mary’s Assumption before 1950, or in her Immaculate Conception before that was formally declared dogma, in 1854. They were both very high level teachings that easily could have been considered dogmas (or dogmata, if you prefer) already. (There are books out there, like Ott’s book on dogma, which go into which teachings have what priority level, and what stuff is considered dogma.)

The apostolic constitution “Munificentissimus Deus,” which defined the dogma, points out that people had been petitioning the popes like crazy since the Immaculate Conception dogma was defined on Dec. 8, 1854:

"…the minds of the faithful were filled with a stronger hope that the day might soon come when the dogma of the Virgin Mary’s bodily Assumption into heaven would also be defined by the Church’s supreme teaching authority.

"Actually it was seen that not only individual Catholics, but also those who could speak for nations or ecclesiastical provinces, and even a considerable number of the Fathers of the Vatican Council, urgently petitioned the Apostolic See to this effect.

"During the course of time such postulations and petitions did not decrease but rather grew continually in number and in urgency. In this cause there were pious crusades of prayer. Many outstanding theologians eagerly and zealously carried out investigations on this subject either privately or in public ecclesiastical institutions and in other schools where the sacred disciplines are taught. Marian Congresses, both national and international in scope, have been held in many parts of the Catholic world. These studies and investigations have brought out into even clearer light the fact that the dogma of the Virgin Mary’s Assumption into heaven is contained in the deposit of Christian faith entrusted to the Church. They have resulted in many more petitions, begging and urging the Apostolic See that this truth be solemnly defined.

"In this pious striving, the faithful have been associated in a wonderful way with their own holy bishops, who have sent petitions of this kind, truly remarkable in number, to this See of the Blessed Peter. Consequently, when we were elevated to the throne of the supreme pontificate, petitions of this sort had already been addressed by the thousands from every part of the world and from every class of people, from our beloved sons the Cardinals of the Sacred College, from our venerable brethren, archbishops and bishops, from dioceses and from parishes.

"Consequently… we commanded that, by corporate effort, more advanced inquiries into this matter should be begun and that, in the meantime, all the petitions about the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven which had been sent to this Apostolic See from the time of Pius IX, our predecessor of happy memory, down to our own days should be gathered together and carefully evaluated.

"And, since we were dealing with a matter of such great moment and of such importance, we considered it opportune to ask all our venerable brethren in the episcopate directly and authoritatively that each of them should make known to us his mind in a formal statement. Hence, on May 1, 1946, we gave them our letter “Deiparae Virginis Mariae,” a letter in which these words are contained: “Do you, venerable brethren, in your outstanding wisdom and prudence, judge that the bodily Assumption of the Blessed Virgin can be proposed and defined as a dogma of faith? Do you, with your clergy and people, desire it?”

“But those whom ‘the Holy Spirit has placed as bishops to rule the Church of God’ gave an almost unanimous affirmative response to both these questions.”

So yeppers, it was a case of Vox Populi, Vox Dei. We did everything but have every Catholic in the world vote on it, or put a gun to the Pope’s head.

In a Holy Year of jubilee right after two world wars, while all the earth was falling under the threat of nuclear war and religion was being killed by Communism, it probably seemed like the best possible time to do it.

Pope Pius XII does say in “Munificentissimus Deus” that he feels that defining the dogma will be “to the advantage of human society”:

“It is to be hoped that all the faithful will be stirred up to a stronger piety toward their heavenly Mother, and that the souls of all those who glory in the Christian name may be moved by the desire of sharing in the unity of Jesus Christ’s Mystical Body and of increasing their love for her who shows her motherly heart to all the members of this august body. And so we may hope that those who meditate upon the glorious example Mary offers us may be more and more convinced of the value of a human life entirely devoted to carrying out the heavenly Father’s will and to bringing good to others. Thus, while the illusory teachings of materialism and the corruption of morals that follows from these teachings threaten to extinguish the light of virtue and to ruin the lives of men by exciting discord among them, in this magnificent way all may see clearly to what a lofty goal our bodies and souls are destined. Finally it is our hope that belief in Mary’s bodily Assumption into heaven will make our belief in our own resurrection stronger and render it more effective…”

So he says that it is being done:

“…for the glory of Almighty God who has lavished his special affection upon the Virgin Mary; for the honor of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages and the Victor over sin and death; for the increase of the glory of that same august Mother; and for the joy and exultation of the entire Church…”

So yeah, it probably wasn’t necessary, per se. But it was a very good thing to do, and God leaned on the popes to do it.

Would you say the Trinity is relevant?

The assumption is either true or it is not.

Is the church not bound to promulgate truths revealed by the HS or can she choose to stay silent on the matter? I’ve often wished the church would have left it in the mystical sense but I’m not sure she ever an option.

Peace!!!

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