Why is the immaculate conception a mandatory belief for Catholics? Is this teaching not irrelevent to one’s salvation? If Mary was without sin could she have died on the cross to save mankind? If a catholic does not fully believe in the immaculate conception should they be excommunicated?
It is a dogma of the Catholic faith, and therefore required for belief to be a full Catholic. No – Mary could not have died on the cross; she was not God. She was human like the rest of us, and, like her Divine Son, was without sin but unlike her Divine Son was not divine. God Himself came down to give mankind redemption for their sins and opening Heaven for the righteous.
I’ve never read of laity being excommunicated for not believing in the Immaculate Conception, although I’ve never really researched into the specifics.
It should be mentioned that Mary was sinless by the grace of God. She was saved just like the rest of us, except in a very special way at her conception.
As my Newman Center’s priest put it in the homily today: There are two ways of saving someone from drowning– saving them when they’re already in the water, and stopping them from falling in in the first place. Most of us have already fallen in the water. On the other hand, God stopped Mary from falling in
That is indeed a good analogy of the Immaculate Conception.
Actually any Catholic who rejects an infallible teaching commits heresy which is not only a sin of grave matter but carries the penalty of automatic excommunication.
Fair enough; Not sure what I believe in this matter. I do have my doubts and do not understand why taking a stance on this issue is so important to the Church. I have tons of respect for the Mother of Our Lord, but not sure why we must take stances on these types of issues that are not found in biblical texts. It is not that important in my opinion whether she did sin or not in her lifetime. It could be possible either way that she sinned or she didn’t, but it does not matter ultimately in our salvation. Maybe I do not deserve to call myself Catholic and should look for another church. Any advice is appreciated.
Could Adam or Eve have died on the cross? Only if that was God’s plan for them. Christ created Mary to be His mother (John 1:1-3). Given that fact, how would you create her? Saint Augustine of Hippo wrote: “Understanding is the reward given by faith. Do not try to understand to believe, but believe so that you may understand.”
No Church is worth belonging to if you cannot trust her teaching - whether or not you understand them. Do you have a copy of Catholicism for Dummies? It is an excellent introduction to the beliefs and practices of our faith, and the reasons for those beliefs. It is a book that you cam refer to for years to come.
Instead of thinking of walking away it would be more fruitful to really get to know what the Church teaches and why so you have a better understanding. Any doubts you may have are almost certainly because you do not understand. Walking away is not the answer.
As a separate issue walking away does not mean you would no longer be a Catholic. A baptised Catholic is a Catholic forever no matter what they do, even turning away from the Church. There are only two types of Catholic - those in a state of grace and those in a state of mortal sin.
That seems to be a fairly flippant attitude to what could affect your salvation.
If I have doubts I try to better understand what are the bases to a belief.
I see you made reference to something that has no basis on “biblical texts” that would be a typical response from a “Bible Alone” follower, but we Catholics don’t have such narrow view. The Church Fathers that wrote hundreds of years Before the Bible was concluded (New Testament) we have plenty of evidence for the beliefs we hold on Mary, Trinity, Transubstantion, etc. The understanding has evolved some but the basis of the beliefs are there from the beginning of our Church.
I would recommend that you study those areas were you have issues before throwing out the baby with the bath water.
Actually it is in the Bible. Right here:
And he came to her and said, “Hail full of Grace, the Lord is with you!”
(Luke 1:28 RSV-CE)
See, when the angel said “Hail full of Grace, the Lord is with you!” to Mary, he was declaring that she was indeed conceived immaculately from all stain of sin.
All I am saying is I feel it is an irrelevent belief. How would this affect one’s salvation? So only Catholic’s go to heaven? Salvation is through Christ alone. I never stated his mother sinned, just that it could be a possibility. Not stating either way, but for me to say that she never sinned is not clear and do not understand why it is such an important belief to Catholics. To the other poster that stated “Hail full of grace” is the biblical texts answer; this is an intepreted and assumed meaning.
All interpretations are “assumed”–but by whom and why? Catholics “assume” this because they have the historical and theological truth to back it up. Mariology is a study unto itself, because it is so full and rich in meaning that we can’t go into the depths of it here. However, there are some basic things you need to know in order to sort this out so you know that the Church is correct in this, as in all matters concerning faith and morals.
Firstly, the Bible does not stand alone and never has. It is part of what is termed “Sacred Tradition” that includes the Bible, the ancient oral teachings of the Apostles, the writings of the Early Church Fathers, and the living Magisterium, which consists of all the bishops of the world including, of course, the pope.
Secondly, Jesus never established the Bible as the sole rule of faith. Rather, he established his Church as he clearly said himself: “I will establish my church…” not “I will establish a book…” The NT was written by the some of very men Jesus commissioned to take his message into the whole world, baptizing (very important) as well as preaching. Other authors of the NT were men who sat at the feet of the Apostles, such as Mark and Luke, who gave us two of the Gospels and the Book of Acts (Luke).
Thirdly, the Church didn’t invent a new teaching when it declared Mary’s Immaculate Conception a dogma. Dogmas are doctrines that have been definitely defined as absolute, but doctrines are to be believed, as well. The Church has always held that Mary was immaculately conceived in its popular beliefs and this was never contradicted by the Church.
Lastly, there is ample biblical evidence (not proofs for there are no “proofs” for any of our beliefs in the Bible–it doesn’t work that way) for Mary’s Immaculate Conception and life of purity. The Bible is not a proof text and was never intended to be used that way. Rather, it is the witness to the truths taught by the prophets, patriarchs, and lastly, the Apostles appointed by Christ. The history of the Judeo-Christian beliefs is that of God revealing himself to men, not of God dictating a book. The book merely records that which the Holy Spirit of God meant for our help, but it is not an end in itself nor does it interpret itself. This is why Jesus established his Church, in the Apostles, who he promised that the Spirit would guide them in all truth. That they had the right and duty to decide matters of faith and morals can be clearly seen in Acts in which is recorded the First Council of Jerusalem in which the Church made some important decisions they made based, not on Scripture references, but on what Christ had taught them orally.
Our faith is a living one–not one that is codified and calcified in a book. It’s not just about rules and being able to point to a verse and say: “See! This can’t be because the Bible says this…the Bible doesn’t say this…” Our faith was placed in the hands of men ordained with the right and duty to prayerfully discern the truth based on the whole of Sacred Tradition.
Finally, you should discuss this issue with your priest. He isn’t going to think badly of you or argue with you. Rather he is going to guide you in your quest to understand. You may have been influenced by non-Catholics who don’t understand our faith and who have a very limited understanding of history, what makes a Church able to speak for God, who has the authority to speak for God, etc. The teaching regarding the Immaculate Conception is not simple but neither is belief in the Trinity or the two natures of Christ, neither of which are fully defined in the Bible, but had to be hammered out by Church councils. We believe a lot of things that the Bible doesn’t come right out and state–it only seems like it does on some issues because we have been taught that that is what it means, you see.
You have my prayers. Please say a prayer for me.
Interesting – thank you for the information; as I said, I didn’t research into any specifics so I wasn’t sure one way or another about excommunication.
In order to be guilty of heresy one has to be vocal in supporting the heresy, not just have doubts. We all have doubts, from time to time but we aren’t excommunicated for that reason.
Also, excommunication is not a sentence of/judgment that anyone is going to hell. It’s merely the Church’s way of disciplining its members and is meant to get the person to realize he is wrong and return to the teachings of the Church. It’s not meant as a punishment but as a corrective.
You may know these things, but we have lurkers and seekers who may need to have some clarification on these matters.
Thank you again, I didn’t know about those things. I like to get clarification on matters, especially about the faith.
The Church asks us to have more than “tons of respect” for Mary, but to take her as our own Mother in Christ.
Preserving the Blessed Mother from Original Sin allows the Son truly to take on a fully human nature from a woman who herself had a fully human nature. By that I mean that sinfulness is a deformation of our human nature; it prohibits us from “being all that we can be”. Further, because of her being fully human, she could freely say “yes”. By that I mean that her “yes” would not have been tainted by any self-concern, any degree of sinfulness; she fully reverses the “no” of sinful Eve who gave her “no” in full freedom - a freedom lost in the Fall.
Adam and Eve, also fully human, had complete freedom of will in that sin was not already in play corrupting them, thus they were fully liable for the fall of themselves and their offspring. There were no mitigating circumstances in their free choice against God. The Holy Virgin, the New Eve, was likewise created immaculately so that her choice of 'Yes" to God would also bear eternal consequences - she would become through her Son, the New Adam (Whose “YES” to the Cross gives new birth to the Sons of Adam joined to Him), the Mother of all the New Creation because of her completely free choice.
Further, by applying the merits of Christ to His mother “outside of time” (and so Baptizing her into Christ in advance), Jesus was able to come both from the line of Adam (through Mary) and take on an undamaged humanity - like that of Adam (and Eve) before the Fall. Indeed, this was clearly God’s plan from the start, per Genesis 3:15, which places “the woman” (a New Eve) in opposition to the serpent, bringing the Messiah out of that - the Seed of the woman pitted against the seed of the serpent. Otherwise, Jesus would not have taken on a sinless and uncorrupted human nature, but our fallen nature, and so He could not have been the New Adam, but a fallen son of Adam like all the rest of us.
Keep in mind that the sin which plunged humanity into darkness was that of Adam, not of Eve. Eve did sin first, but until Adam, as head of the human family, joined her in sin (instead of remaining faithful and interceding for her), humanity as a whole was not cut off from God - and this is the problem which the New Adam came to repair. Since woman was not the cause of mankind’s final break with God, God takes the creation of woman and re-builds the human race from her (a New Eve, Mary), forming her both physically and spiritually her to bring the New Adam (the God-Man) into the world which, in the very same dynamic, makes this New Eve’s sinlessness possible.