Marian Dogmas and Salvation

Dear sister Andrea,

Here’s the promised answer to your question “Why did the Catholic Church have to make the Marian doctrines necessary for salvation?

My initial response was:

Permit me to explain further.

Please take note of the proscriptions for the Marian Dogmas. It was very carefully worded. Do you see the words: “Let him be anathema”? If not, that is all you really need to know.

The proscriptions for the Marian Dogmas are not anathemas, but excommunications. The difference is this: Excommunications exclude you from the Church Militant (i.e., the Church on earth). In distinction, anathemas exclude you from BOTH the Church Militant AND the Church Triumphant (i.e., the Church in heaven). Of course, through the power of the keys, the Church always has the authority to revoke excommunications and anathemas.

No one is being damned to hell, according to the proscriptions contained in the Marian dogmas. In fact, the Dogma of the Assumption does not even contain an explicit excommunication! That lack of belief in these dogmas sends anyone to hell is just a polemic misrepresentation by some Catholics to inculcate fear for not believing in the dogmas, and many non-Catholics to inculcate doubt in the Catholic Church.

Some will argue, “The Church has not formally distinguished between excommunications and anathemas for a long time, so even though the Marian dogmas don’t contain anathemas, the excommunications mean the same thing.

The truth of the matter is that this loss of distinction only occurred in the early 20th century. The Code of Canons of 1917 was the first formal document to drop the distinction. So when the IC was dogmatized in 1854, the distinction between an anathema and excommunication was very much in force. The fact that the dogma of the IC did not contain an anathema is very highly relevant (also consider that Vatican 1, which occurred after the dogmatization of the IC, used anathemas). As far as the dogma of the Assumption, if you read the proscription carefully, you will discover that it does not actually even contain an explicit excommunication (as already mentioned).

Further, both dogmas contained clauses that explicitly took into account the mitigating factor of invincible ignorance. The proscription of the IC applies only to those who “obstinately maintain” their position against it; and the proscription for the Assumption states the same with the words “willfully deny or call into doubt.”

I hope that helps.

Blessings,
Marduk

Wikipedia actually gives a good distinction between an excommunication and an anathema:

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anathema

Blessings

The Marian Dogmas are required to be given full assent of will.

You will not be excommunicated for not believing them, so long as you do not openly deny them. They are, with the exception of the Virgin Birth, not part of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan (Universal) Creed.

On the other hand, anyone publicly claiming them false is a manifest heretic (which brings the lesser excommunication latae sentencae).

They are part of the deposit of faith: Mary was a Virgin. Mary remained virginal after birthing Jesus Christ. She chose no sins willfully. She was assumed, body and soul, into heaven. She acts as intercessor for all mankind, and holds a special place in heaven.

They have been part of the deposit of faith since well before the “great schism,” albeit with some subtle shades of difference between the East, West, and African understandings of the related minutiae.

Thank you very much,It is important to me


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Thanks for starting this thread, Marduk! :slight_smile:

Frankly, this is even more off-putting. The Wikipedia article you linked me to describes an anathema ceremony, including this:

Wherefore in the name of God the All-powerful, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, of Blessed Peter, Prince of the Apostles, and of all the saints, in virtue of the power which has been given us of binding and loosing in Heaven and on earth, we deprive (Name) himself and all his accomplices and all his abettors of the Communion of the Body and Blood of Our Lord, we separate him from the society of all Christians, we exclude him from the bosom of our Holy Mother the Church in Heaven and on earth, we declare him excommunicated and anathematized and we judge him condemned to eternal fire with Satan and his angels and all the reprobate, so long as he will not burst the fetters of the demon, do penance and satisfy the Church; we deliver him to Satan to mortify his body, that his soul may be saved on the day of judgment.

For the sake of clarity, my reaction to this has nothing to do with Mary, and everything to do with what I see as total presumption. It is God’s place- and His alone- to exclude, condemn, and judge. I absolutely do not see the power of binding and loosing (which was a Jewish term describing authority to “bind” or “loose” people from laws, respectively) as including the power to condemn anyone to hell.

Have I misunderstood?

Dear sister NinjaSnark,

Forgive me, but I’m confused. I thought your concern was that the Catholic Church was teaching that those who did not believe in the Marian dogmas were bound for hell.

Since the Marian dogmas don’t contain anathemas, then the claim (highlighted above) obviously can’t be true.

Can you please explain more fully your concern about the quote you gave from wikipedia? Thanks.

Blessings,
Marduk

Marduk-

Forgive me, I wasn’t very clear at all. I appreciate the distinction that you were making, but it seems a new issue has cropped up for me- namely, anathemas. Let me address Mary first, and then explain what I was trying to express in my previous post.

The proscriptions for the Marian Dogmas are not anathemas, but excommunications. The difference is this: Excommunications exclude you from the Church Militant (i.e., the Church on earth). In distinction, anathemas exclude you from BOTH the Church Militant AND the Church Triumphant (i.e., the Church in heaven). Of course, through the power of the keys, the Church always has the authority to revoke excommunications and anathemas.

This seems to be little more than semantics to me. If they have been dogmatically defined as something that must be believed by Catholics, and Catholics also claim that salvation is in the Church (indeed, extra ecclesia nulla salus)- then it seems that you do need to accept them for salvation (I will also add- since I know my Protestant background may be misleading on the issue- but I fully accept that the Blessed Mother was without sin and assumed into heaven. I’m not looking to be convinced of the truthfulness of either per se, but initially questioned why these doctrines were made necessary for salvation, as you rightly ascertained on the other thread).

My new issue is with anathemas. Your statement that anathemas exclude people from the Church Triumphant along with what I quoted from Wikipedia are troubling to me, as I don’t see the authority of the Church extending that far. It strikes me that only God has that power of judgment- no matter how much anyone might really really really doubt that someone is not a part of the Church Triumphant- it bothers me very much to cross that line and say “You are excluded.” Or, in the words from Wikipedia, “We judge [you] condemned to eternal fire with Satan and his angels and all the reprobate.”

I hope that helps clarify what I was trying to say earlier. Sorry for the confusion, and thanks again for taking the time to answer my questions and clear up my misconceptions, as it were. :slight_smile:

Oh! Thanks for clearing that up! And, again, please forgive my confusion. I didn’t realize you were bringing up a new issue, and I thought that you were assuming that the anathema Rite you cited was used when the Marian dogmas were promulgated. My bad.

This seems to be little more than semantics to me. If they have been dogmatically defined as something that must be believed by Catholics, and Catholics also claim that salvation is in the Church (indeed, extra ecclesia nulla salus)- then it seems that you do need to accept them for salvation (I will also add- since I know my Protestant background may be misleading on the issue- but I fully accept that the Blessed Mother was without sin and assumed into heaven. I’m not looking to be convinced of the truthfulness of either per se, but initially questioned why these doctrines were made necessary for salvation, as you rightly ascertained on the other thread).

The EENS doctrine is a whole other topic. I’m not sure if you would be willing to discuss it here in this thread (I’ll leave that up to you, since I started this thread for you:)). For now, I’ll just point out that the EENS doctrine as taught by the Catholic Church does not exclude the possibility that Christians outside her visible fold may be saved. In light of that, here’s another way of looking at it.

As you might know, the Orthodox Churches also believe in the EENS doctrine. If you ask an Oriental Orthodox, “Can I be a member of your Church if I deny that Mary was taken up to heaven body and soul?” They will tell you, “NO.” But will they say with absolute certainty that your salvation is at risk if you do not believe it? I do not know of any who will admit that. If you will ask a Coptic Orthodox priest “Can I be a member of your Church if I did not have a triple-immersion baptism?” he will say, “NO.” But I seriously doubt he will say you are definitely bound for hell otherwise. Can you accept the logic of those situations? If so, can you apply it to the matter under discussion? If so, great. If not, why not?

My new issue is with anathemas. Your statement that anathemas exclude people from the Church Triumphant along with what I quoted from Wikipedia are troubling to me, as I don’t see the authority of the Church extending that far. It strikes me that only God has that power of judgment- no matter how much anyone might really really really doubt that someone is not a part of the Church Triumphant- it bothers me very much to cross that line and say “You are excluded.” Or, in the words from Wikipedia, “We judge [you] condemned to eternal fire with Satan and his angels and all the reprobate.”

That has always been the purpose of anathemas in the Catholic Church, even when the Church was united. The Orthodox Churches understand it in the same way. The Fathers used anathemas as an incentive to reform the heretic. If the heretic or apostate repents, the anathema is lifted. Anyone until the point of death has the opportunity to repent and have the anathema lifted.

For example, a Christian who denies the dogmas about Christ will fall under anathema. Do you really have a problem with that? If not, I admit I don’t understand your concern, and perhaps you can explain it more. If you DO have a problem with it, then can you also explain why?

Blessings,
Marduk

Marduk, I share NinjaSnark’s concerns. I think you have explained it very well, except for one point which I hope you can clarify for me.

Have you heard of the axiom “unity in essentials, freedom in what is not essential.” The saying goes something like that, but I think you get my drift.

Are you saying the Marian dogmas are something that are not essential?

I’m feeling ambivalent. It seems there wouldn’t be much difference between Catholics and Orthodox, on the one hand, and Protestants, on the other, as far as general epistemological truth is concerned. I mean, it would seem Catholics are “united” just as much as “Orthodox” are united just as much as “Protestants” are united. The only difference is in what each group considers “essential?”

I don’t know if I’m expressing myself very well. I’m sure I am not. There’s something in the back of my mind that tells me “something is not right.” I don’t know what it is yet, and neither am I sure towards which group (Catholics, Orthodox, or Protestants) that feeling is directed. I’ll have to meditate on that - pray about it.

In Christ,
Greg

Eh- I could have been clearer, haha. :stuck_out_tongue:

The EENS doctrine is a whole other topic. I’m not sure if you would be willing to discuss it here in this thread (I’ll leave that up to you, since I started this thread for you:)). For now, I’ll just point out that the EENS doctrine as taught by the Catholic Church does not exclude the possibility that Christians outside her visible fold may be saved. In light of that, here’s another way of looking at it.

Yes- as it was explained to me somewhere else, the Church (and sacraments) are normative means of salvation, but not exhaustive.

As you might know, the Orthodox Churches also believe in the EENS doctrine. If you ask an Oriental Orthodox, “Can I be a member of your Church if I deny that Mary was taken up to heaven body and soul?” They will tell you, “NO.” But will they say with absolute certainty that your salvation is at risk if you do not believe it? I do not know of any who will admit that. If you will ask a Coptic Orthodox priest “Can I be a member of your Church if I did not have a triple-immersion baptism?” he will say, “NO.” But I seriously doubt he will say you are definitely bound for hell otherwise. Can you accept the logic of those situations? If so, can you apply it to the matter under discussion? If so, great. If not, why not?

My point was exactly this. If salvation can only be definitively found in the visible Church (not excluding the possibility that it is possible for those outside of the visible Church to be saved), and Marian dogmas are matters that must be accepted to be a part of the visible Church- where salvation is definitively found- then it seems that they are necessary.

I was not aware that Orthodoxy also demanded belief in these things (certainly not the IC as Catholics understand it) as a pre-requisite to membership. I thought that there was a bit of room for personal interpretation on the issue, and that there were different schools of thought. I had heard that one of the issues Orthodoxy had with Catholicism was that the CC had dogmatized these issues (thereby binding them on their members consciences). I certainly could have been misinformed, but that was my impression.

That has always been the purpose of anathemas in the Catholic Church, even when the Church was united. The Orthodox Churches understand it in the same way. The Fathers used anathemas as an incentive to reform the heretic. If the heretic or apostate repents, the anathema is lifted. Anyone until the point of death has the opportunity to repent and have the anathema lifted.

For example, a Christian who denies the dogmas about Christ will fall under anathema. Do you really have a problem with that? If not, I admit I don’t understand your concern, and perhaps you can explain it more. If you DO have a problem with it, then can you also explain why?

It depends on what is meant by this:

Wherefore in the name of God the All-powerful, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, of Blessed Peter, Prince of the Apostles, and of all the saints, in virtue of the power which has been given us of binding and loosing in Heaven and on earth, we deprive (Name) himself and all his accomplices and all his abettors of the Communion of the Body and Blood of Our Lord, we separate him from the society of all Christians, we exclude him from the bosom of our Holy Mother the Church in Heaven and on earth, we declare him excommunicated and anathematized and we judge him condemned to eternal fire with Satan and his angels and all the reprobate, so long as he will not burst the fetters of the demon, do penance and satisfy the Church; we deliver him to Satan to mortify his body, that his soul may be saved on the day of judgment.

Are they saying:

  1. Since we have the power of binding and loosing in Heaven and on earth, we use this power to exclude you from heaven and judge (as in damn, send) you condemned to hell.

or

  1. Since we have the power of binding and loosing in Heaven and on earth, we exclude you from the Church on earth and we judge (as in perceive, assess, conclude,) that you are probably also excluded from the Church in heaven and in danger of going to hell.

If it is #1, then I have a huge issue with that. In fact, also in the Wikipedia article you linked under the Eastern Orthodoxy banner, it says:

For the Orthodox, anathema is not final damnation; God alone is the judge of the living and the dead, and up until the moment of death repentance is always possible. The purpose of public anathema is twofold: to warn the one condemned and bring about his repentance, and to warn others away from his error. Everything is done for the purpose of the salvation of souls.

Is this the Catholic understanding as well? Perhaps the wording of the ceremony is what is really throwing me off-kilter here.

Thanks again for answering my questions! God bless!!

As to what dogmas are Marian, these are de fide:

  1. Mary is truly the Mother of God.
  2. Mary was conceived without stain of Original sin (preserved from sin from the first moment of her conception, sharing beforehand in the salvation Christ would bring by his death).
  3. Mary conceived by the Holy Ghost without the co-operation of man.
  4. Mary bore her Son without any violation of her virginal integrity. (De fide by general promulgation of doctrine.)
  5. After the Birth of Jesus Mary remained a Virgin.
  6. Mary was assumed body and soul into Heaven.

Mother of God (”Theotokos,” Council of Ephesus, 431)
Perpetual Virginity (First Lateran Council, 649)
Immaculate Conception (Pius IX, “ex cathedra” proclamation, 1854)
Assumption (Pius XII, “ex cathedra” proclamation, 1950)

Dear sister Andrea,

Yes, belief in those dogmas are necessary to be a member of the Catholic Church. But belief in those dogmas per se are not necessary for salvation. Just remember. There are no anathemas attached to the 2 latest Marian dogmas. That indicates that disbelief in the dogmas per se does not carry with it a threat of eternal damnation - unlike, for example, disbelief in the dogmas on the Trinity (which do have anathemas attached to them). But this should not cause people to become lax in their belief as Catholics, for excommunication can potentially lead to eternal damnation.

I was not aware that Orthodoxy also demanded belief in these things (certainly not the IC as Catholics understand it) as a pre-requisite to membership. I thought that there was a bit of room for personal interpretation on the issue, and that there were different schools of thought.

Sorry for being unclear. I did not say, nor meant, that belief in the Assumption (or other doctrines that have not been dogmatized) are a PRE-requisite for membership. If you want to join any Orthodox church, they are not going to require you to believe in the Assumption to become a member. My point was that AFTER you become a member, and, say, a bishop discovers that you do not believe in the Assumption, and he instructs you on the matter, and you are obstinate in your refusal to believe, OR perhaps you write a book that claims the Assumption is an invention and to be repudiated, you CAN LOSE your membership if the bishop decides to excommunicate you for it.

I had heard that one of the issues Orthodoxy had with Catholicism was that the CC had dogmatized these issues (thereby binding them on their members consciences). I certainly could have been misinformed, but that was my impression.

There are three POV’s on the matter of dogmatization that I have come across from the Orthodox:
(1) The most traditional one is simply that the Pope should not have dogmatized outside of an Ecumenical Council. This goes for both the IC and the Assumption. Contrary to common modern EO accusations of heresy, the first objections to come from EO sources about the IC was simply this one. There was no coordinated attack on the orthodoxy of the teaching prior to the 20th century, and the first objections to the teaching occured about 4 decades after it was promulgated (IIRC).
(2) Another view, a corollary of the first, is similar to St. Cyprian’s conflict with Pope St. Stephen. Namely, each bishop should be free to decide on the matter for his own diocese, and the Pope should not have made the Marian dogmas universally binding.
(3) The last view is the most liberal, and asserts that they should not have been the subject for dogmatization AT ALL (whereas the other positions leave some room for the possibility of authoritative positions to be taken on the matter).

Are they saying:

  1. Since we have the power of binding and loosing in Heaven and on earth, we use this power to exclude you from heaven and judge (as in damn, send) you condemned to hell.

or

2. Since we have the power of binding and loosing in Heaven and on earth, we exclude you from the Church on earth and we judge (as in perceive, assess, conclude,) that you are probably also excluded from the Church in heaven and in danger of going to hell.

If it is #1, then I have a huge issue with that.

Actually it is neither. It is not #1, because the statement does not say that the Church is sending anyone to hell. It is not #2 (which you mistyped #1 also - Freudian slip?:D) because the Church is certain (not just “probably”) that disbelief in that dogma will indeed land someone in hell. You missed perhaps the most important point of that Rite, which I will explain shortly.

In fact, also in the Wikipedia article you linked under the Eastern Orthodoxy banner, it says:

Is this the Catholic understanding as well?

Yes, it is, as will be shortly explained.

Perhaps the wording of the ceremony is what is really throwing me off-kilter here.

Well, the wording is fine – it’s just that you did not take into account the most relevant porition of the Rite:
we judge him condemned to eternal fire with Satan and his angels and all the reprobate, SO LONG AS he will not burst the fetters of the demon, do penance and satisfy the Church.

Thus, as long as a person is alive, that person has the opportunity to repent, and if that person does, then he/she will not be condemned “with Satan and his angels.” That’s exactly what the Orthodox Churches teach, as well.

Does that help?

Blessings,
Marduk

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