St. Thomas never denied the Immaculate Conception


#1

I've often read that St. Thomas denied the Immaculate Conception. I will try to make a brief argument that he never did.

Original sin is the disturbed relationship with God that has been passed on since the primal sin of Adam from generation to generation. Already in the the first centuries of Christianity the conviction grew that this chain must have been broken in Mary, should she be a fitting mother of God who became man. In St. Thomas' time, theologians disputed the moment when this chain was broken in Mary: was it from the moment of her (bodily) conception, or from the moment of her animation (creation and infusion of the rational soul)?

St. Thomas held the latter view, but for a good reason; according to medieval biology the moment of conception preceded the moment of animation. We now believe that they coincide. With that in mind, St. Thomas' statements in his Summa (Part 3, Question 14, Article 3), that "the flesh of the Virgin was conceived in original sin", and in his Commentary on the Angelic Salutation (Full of Grace), that "the Blessed Virgin was conceived in original sin, but was not born in it", cannot be read as a rejection of the Immaculate Conception. When St. Thomas talks about the conception of the Blessed Virgin, he is referring only to her body and not her soul. It would not have made any sense for him to say, that the body of the Blessed Virgin was immaculately conceived, because sin and sanctification presuppose a rational soul as carrier.

That the Blessed Virgin was never touched by sin, St. Thomas makes even more clear in his Commentary on the Sentences (Super Sent., lib. 1 d. 44 q. 1 a. 3 ad 3), where he says, "such was the purity of the Blessed Virgin, who was immune from original and actual sin". This view was confirmed by Pius IX in the bull Ineffabilis Deus, which defined the dogma of Mary's Immaculate Conception.


#2

[quote="Dolezal, post:1, topic:309536"]
I've often read that St. Thomas denied the Immaculate Conception. I will try to make a brief argument that he never did.

Original sin is the disturbed relationship with God that has been passed on since the primal sin of Adam from generation to generation. Already in the the first centuries of Christianity the conviction grew that this chain must have been broken in Mary, should she be a fitting mother of God who became man. In St. Thomas' time, theologians disputed the moment when this chain was broken in Mary: was it from the moment of her (bodily) conception, or from the moment of her animation (creation and infusion of the rational soul)?

St. Thomas held the latter view, but for a good reason; according to medieval biology the moment of conception preceded the moment of animation. We now believe that they coincide. With that in mind, St. Thomas' statements in his Summa (Part 3, Question 14, Article 3), that "the flesh of the Virgin was conceived in original sin", and in his Commentary on the Angelic Salutation (Full of Grace), that "the Blessed Virgin was conceived in original sin, but was not born in it", cannot be read as a rejection of the Immaculate Conception. When St. Thomas talks about the conception of the Blessed Virgin, he is referring only to her body and not her soul. It would not have made any sense for him to say, that the body of the Blessed Virgin was immaculately conceived, because sin and sanctification presuppose a rational soul as carrier.

That the Blessed Virgin was never touched by sin, St. Thomas makes even more clear in his Commentary on the Sentences (Super Sent., lib. 1 d. 44 q. 1 a. 3 ad 3), where he says, "such was the purity of the Blessed Virgin, who was immune from original and actual sin". This view was confirmed by Pius IX in the bull Ineffabilis Deus, which defined the dogma of Mary's Immaculate Conception.

[/quote]

If he had denied the Immaculate Conception, then he would not be Catholic, and neither a Saint and doctor of the Church. Of course he never denied the Immaculate Conception.


#3

[quote="KLJM12, post:2, topic:309536"]
If he had denied the Immaculate Conception, then he would not be Catholic, and neither a Saint and doctor of the Church. Of course he never denied the Immaculate Conception.

[/quote]

St. John Chrysostom taught that Mary sinned and he is a doctor of the Church.


#4

[quote="KLJM12, post:2, topic:309536"]
If he had denied the Immaculate Conception, then he would not be Catholic, and neither a Saint and doctor of the Church. Of course he never denied the Immaculate Conception.

[/quote]

That reasoning simply doesn't work. St. Thomas lived centuries before the Immaculate Conception was declared a dogma. He could have denied the Immaculate Conception and remained a Catholic in good standing.


#5

It is abundantly clear that St. Thomas denied the Immaculate Conception. In the Summa Theologica, Part III, Q. 17, Art. II, Reply to Obj.2, St. Thomas wrote, "If the soul **of the Blessed Virgin had never incurred the stain of original sin, this would be derogatory to the dignity of Christ, by reason of His being the universal Saviour of all. Consequently after Christ, who, as the universal Saviour of all, needed not to be saved, the purity of the Blessed Virgin holds the highest place. For Christ did not contract original sin in any way whatever, but was holy in His very Conception, according to Lk. 1:35: 'Holy which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God.' But **the Blessed Virgin did indeed contract original sin, but was cleansed therefrom before her birth from the womb. This is what is signified (Job 3:9) where it is written of the night of original sin: 'Let it expect light,' i.e. Christ, 'and not see it'---(because 'no defiled thing cometh into her,' as is written Wis. 7:25), 'nor the rising of the dawning of the day,' that is of the Blessed Virgin, who in her birth was immune from original sin."

Clearly, St. Thomas claimed that the Blessed Virgin Mother incurred the stain of original sin on her soul, and was cleansed of that sin while still in the womb.


#6

Here is an article which argues that there were three stages in the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas of which the Summa is the second one:

What most people do not know is that St. Thomas’ thought on this issue developed over three stages. The Summa (where he seems to deny the dogma) is the second stage, but in the first and third stages it seems that he believed in the Immaculate Conception.


#7

[quote="Glacies, post:6, topic:309536"]
Here is an article which argues that there were three stages in the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas of which the Summa is the second one:

[/quote]

It is indeed possible that St. Thomas changed his views over time. However, the claim of the OP that he never denied the Immaculate Conception is clearly not sustainable, as the passage I've quoted from demonstrates.


#8

[quote="RyanBlack, post:5, topic:309536"]
It is abundantly clear that St. Thomas denied the Immaculate Conception. In the Summa Theologica, Part III, Q. 17, Art. II, Reply to Obj.2, St. Thomas wrote, "If the soul of the Blessed Virgin had never incurred the stain of original sin, this would be derogatory to the dignity of Christ, by reason of His being the universal Saviour of all.

[/quote]

His reply is to the objection that the Blessed Virgin was sanctified before her body was animated. In the same article he correctly states that, "before the infusion of the rational soul, the Blessed Virgin was not sanctified." In context it is clear that he is referring to the sensitive, not the rational, soul. Animation is the infusion of the rational soul. St. Thomas seems to agree that she was free from sin from the moment of her animation, therefore he does not exclude the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.


#9

[quote="Dolezal, post:8, topic:309536"]
His reply is to the objection that the Blessed Virgin was sanctified before her body was animated. In the same article he correctly states that, "before the infusion of the rational soul, the Blessed Virgin was not sanctified." In context it is clear that he is referring to the sensitive, not the rational, soul. Animation is the infusion of the rational soul. St. Thomas seems to agree that she was free from sin from the moment of her animation, therefore he does not exclude the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.

[/quote]

Read all of the Second Article. It is clear that St. Thomas rejects the Immaculate Conception, at least at this point in the Summa Theologica. After laying out the objections, he writes:

On the contrary, The things of the Old Testament were figures of the New, according to 1 Cor. 10:11: "All things happened to them in figure." Now the sanctification of the tabernacle, of which it is written (Ps. 45:5): "The most High hath sanctified His own tabernacle," seems to signify the sanctification of the Mother of God, who is called "God's Tabernacle," according to Ps. 18:6: "He hath set His tabernacle in the sun." But of the tabernacle it is written (Exod. 40:31, 32): "After all things were perfected, the cloud covered the tabernacle of the testimony, and the glory of the Lord filled it." Therefore also the Blessed Virgin was not sanctified until after all in her was perfected, viz. her body and soul.

I answer that, The sanctification of the Blessed Virgin cannot be understood as having taken place before animation, for two reasons. First, because the sanctification of which we are speaking, is nothing but the cleansing from original sin: for sanctification is a "perfect cleansing," as Dionysius says (Div. Nom. xii). Now sin cannot be taken away except by grace, the subject of which is the rational creature alone. Therefore before the infusion of the rational soul, the Blessed Virgin was not sanctified.

Secondly, because, since the rational creature alone can be the subject of sin; before the infusion of the rational soul, the offspring conceived is not liable to sin. And thus, in whatever manner the Blessed Virgin would have been sanctified before animation, she could never have incurred the stain of original sin: and thus she would not have needed redemption and salvation which is by Christ, of whom it is written (Mat. 1:21): "He shall save His people from their sins." But this is unfitting, through implying that Christ is not the "Saviour of all men," as He is called (1 Tim. 4:10). It remains, therefore, that the Blessed Virgin was sanctified after animation.

It is as clear as can be that St. Thomas is excluding the Immaculate Conception here. He clearly states that the Blessed Virgin was sanctified after her animation. or the infusion of the rational soul.


#10

How often does St Thomas make the logical mistake of dividing time into "before" and "after", but excluding "at"?

[quote="RyanBlack, post:9, topic:309536"]
And thus, in whatever manner the Blessed Virgin would have been sanctified before animation, she could never have incurred the stain of original sin: and thus she would not have needed redemption and salvation which is by Christ, of whom it is written (Mat. 1:21): "He shall save His people from their sins." But this is unfitting, through implying that Christ is not the "Saviour of all men," as He is called (1 Tim. 4:10).

[/quote]

It remains, therefore, that the Blessed Virgin was sanctified after animation.

Seems that preventing original sin from entering the soul at the moment of animation is an act of redemption, since the full force of the sin would be at the door of the soul. Thus the soul would experience the threat to its spiritual life, and its removal.

peace
steve


#11

[quote="RyanBlack, post:9, topic:309536"]
Read all of the Second Article. It is clear that St. Thomas rejects the Immaculate Conception, at least at this point in the Summa Theologica. After laying out the objections, he writes:

On the contrary, The things of the Old Testament were figures of the New, according to 1 Cor. 10:11: "All things happened to them in figure." Now the sanctification of the tabernacle, of which it is written (Ps. 45:5): "The most High hath sanctified His own tabernacle," seems to signify the sanctification of the Mother of God, who is called "God's Tabernacle," according to Ps. 18:6: "He hath set His tabernacle in the sun." But of the tabernacle it is written (Exod. 40:31, 32): "After all things were perfected, the cloud covered the tabernacle of the testimony, and the glory of the Lord filled it." Therefore also the Blessed Virgin was not sanctified until after all in her was perfected, viz. her body and soul.

I answer that, The sanctification of the Blessed Virgin cannot be understood as having taken place before animation, for two reasons. First, because the sanctification of which we are speaking, is nothing but the cleansing from original sin: for sanctification is a "perfect cleansing," as Dionysius says (Div. Nom. xii). Now sin cannot be taken away except by grace, the subject of which is the rational creature alone. Therefore before the infusion of the rational soul, the Blessed Virgin was not sanctified.

Secondly, because, since the rational creature alone can be the subject of sin; before the infusion of the rational soul, the offspring conceived is not liable to sin. And thus, in whatever manner the Blessed Virgin would have been sanctified before animation, she could never have incurred the stain of original sin: and thus she would not have needed redemption and salvation which is by Christ, of whom it is written (Mat. 1:21): "He shall save His people from their sins." But this is unfitting, through implying that Christ is not the "Saviour of all men," as He is called (1 Tim. 4:10). It remains, therefore, that *the Blessed Virgin was sanctified after animation*.

It is as clear as can be that St. Thomas is excluding the Immaculate Conception here. He clearly states that the Blessed Virgin was sanctified after her animation. or the infusion of the rational soul.

[/quote]

And, when did ANIMATION occur, pray tell ?


#12

I believe brother Thenobes has a very good point.

Look at the analogy that St. Thomas uses:
Secondly, because, since the rational creature alone can be the subject of sin; before the infusion of the rational soul, the offspring conceived is not liable to sin.

This last phrase is equivalent to the statement, "the offspring conceived is liable to sin only after the infusion of the rational soul." BUT if we are to understand that in this particular section, St. Thomas is distinguishing the INSTANT of infusion/animation as a moment different from AFTER the instant of infusion/animation, then we must conclude that he believes there is a particular moment (i.e., the INSTANT of infusion/animation) when each offspring is not liable to sin and thus do not need redemption.

Rather, it seems St. Thomas here is using "after animation" as equivalent to the moment of animation. In other words, "after animation" simply means the time after which she is no longer not animated.

If the offspring is subject to sin at the INSTANT of infusion/animation despite the apparent meaning of "the offspring is liable to sin only after the infusion of the soul," then by the analogy, it must be the case that the Virgin was sanctified at the INSTANT of infusion/animation, despite the apparent meaning of "the Virgin was sanctified after animation."

As far as the phrase, "Therefore also the Blessed Virgin was not sanctified until after all in her was perfected, viz. her body and soul," I believe brother Dolezal is correct that St. Thomas is referring to the sensitive soul, not the rational soul. In another place, St. Thomas writes: "What the Philosopher says is true in the generation of other men, because the body is successively formed and disposed for the soul: whence, first, as being imperfectly disposed, it receives an imperfect soul; and afterwards, when it is perfectly disposed, it receives a perfect soul."

Blessings,
Marduk


#13

From the Vatican:

Concerning the most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, ancient indeed is that devotion of the faithful based on the belief that her soul,** in the first instant of its creation and in the first instant of the soul's infusion into the body**, was, by a special grace and privilege of God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, her Son and the Redeemer of the human race, preserved free from all stain of original sin. And in this sense have the faithful ever solemnized and celebrated the Feast of the Conception."

We renew the Constitutions and Decrees issued by the Roman Pontiffs, our predecessors, especially Sixtus IV, Paul V, and Gregory XV, in favor of the doctrine asserting that the soul of the Blessed Virgin, in its creation and infusion into the body, was endowed with the grace of the Holy Spirit and preserved from original sin; and also in favor of the feast and veneration of the conception of the Virgin Mother of God, which, as is manifest, was instituted in keeping with that pious belief. So we command this feast to be observed under the censures and penalties contained in the same Constitutions.

I'm not understanding why St. Thomas's opinion is being dissected under microscopic analysis as to "animation" and "sensitive soul vs. rational soul." Humble souls will pass over such reasonings and simply accept the Church's proclamation at face value.

St. Catherine of Sienna, another great Doctor of the Church, weighed in on the anti-Immaculate Conception side after she had a personal revelation that Mary was conceived in original sin.

In his book, A Still Small Voice by Father Benedict Groeschel, Father mentioned the erroneous statement made by St. Catherine of Siena. He used that to point out that even saints can err with regard to private revelations, and it doesn't take away anything from their sanctity, if they are obedient to their spiritual directors. We must remember that** an error of a saint is not to be confused with a magisterial teaching of the Church**.

*As for saints saying things that are "in conflict" with the church teachings, it is the church who is the deciding factor (the sole judge and authority). The saints are not infallible. *

.


#14

[quote="Sirach2, post:13, topic:309536"]

I'm not understanding why St. Thomas's opinion is being dissected under microscopic analysis as to "animation" and "sensitive soul vs. rational soul."

[/quote]

Because some folks would be scandalized, thinking that any assertion of a single error by Thomas impugns the authority of his entire corpus of work...? :shrug:

We must remember that an error of a saint is not to be confused with a magisterial teaching of the Church.

*As for saints saying things that are "in conflict" with the church teachings, it is the church who is the deciding factor (the sole judge and authority). The saints are not infallible. *

Agreed. Thomas' assertions aren't Church teaching because Thomas asserted them, but because the Church accepted them. The truth contained therein doesn't proceed from Aquinas, per se, but from the Church and her charisms... ;)


#15

[quote="Glacies, post:6, topic:309536"]
Here is an article which argues that there were three stages in the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas of which the Summa is the second one:

[/quote]

The article you cite claims that the "best" manuscripts (on the Angelic Salutation) say that Mary was preserved from original sin. Does anyone have any links to the text of such manuscripts? Moreover, does anyone know whether these "best manuscripts" contain the sentence "beata autem virgo in originali est concepta, sed non nata"?


#16

[quote="Gorgias, post:15, topic:309536"]
The article you cite claims that the "best" manuscripts (on the Angelic Salutation) say that Mary was preserved from original sin. Does anyone have any links to the text of such manuscripts? Moreover, does anyone know whether these "best manuscripts" contain the sentence "beata autem virgo in originali est concepta, sed non nata"?

[/quote]

The best manuscript is that issued by the Pope on her Immaculate Conception, where the angelic salutation is stated thusly:

When the Fathers and writers of the Church meditated on the fact that the most Blessed Virgin was, in the name and by order of God himself, proclaimed full of grace by the Angel Gabriel when he announced her most sublime dignity of Mother of God, they thought that this singular and solemn salutation, never heard before, showed that the Mother of God is the seat of all divine graces and is adorned with all gifts of the Holy Spirit. To them Mary is an almost infinite treasury, an inexhaustible abyss of these gifts, to such an extent that she was never subject to the curse and was, together with her Son, the only partaker of perpetual benediction.

Hence, it is the clear and unanimous opinion of the Fathers that the most glorious Virgin, for whom "he who is mighty has done great things," was resplendent with such an abundance of heavenly gifts, with such a fullness of grace and with such innocence, that she is an unspeakable miracle of God -- indeed, the crown of all miracles and truly the Mother of God; that she approaches as near to God himself as is possible for a created being; and that she is above all men and angels in glory.

I did not find credible solid instruction in the "blog" article linked to by Glacies. I would much prefer the teaching of the Church, rather than speculation about the reputed "stages" of St. Thomas grappling with faith concerning the I.C.

.


#17

[quote="RyanBlack, post:9, topic:309536"]
It is as clear as can be that St. Thomas is excluding the Immaculate Conception here. He clearly states that the Blessed Virgin was sanctified after her animation. or the infusion of the rational soul.

[/quote]

St. Thomas' statement, "that the Blessed Virgin was sanctified after animation", does not exclude the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. His statement makes sense; the rational soul first has to exist, before it can be sanctified. Again, sanctification presupposes a rational soul as carrier. Your interpretation, that St. Thomas speaks of the Blessed Virgin's sanctification as being posterior in time, is not compatible with his statement in the Sentences that she "was immune from original and actual sin".


#18

Perhaps in the Sentences he held a different view, but in the Summa Theologica, his denial of the Immaculate Conception is as clear as day.

In addition to what I've already quoted above, St. Thomas, in Pt. III Q. 27 Art. 2, wrote:

Reply to Objection 3: Although the Church of Rome does not celebrate the Conception of the Blessed Virgin, yet it tolerates the custom of certain churches that do keep that feast, wherefore this is not to be entirely reprobated. Nevertheless the celebration of this feast does not give us to understand that she was holy in her conception. But since it is not known when she was sanctified, the feast of her Sanctification, rather than the feast of her Conception, is kept on the day of her conception.

Reply to Objection 4: Sanctification is twofold. one is that of the whole nature: inasmuch as the whole human nature is freed from all corruption of sin and punishment. This will take place at the resurrection. The other is personal sanctification. This is not transmitted to the children begotten of the flesh: because it does not regard the flesh but the mind. Consequently, though the parents of the Blessed Virgin were cleansed from original sin, nevertheless she contracted original sin, since she was conceived by way of fleshly concupiscence and the intercourse of man and woman: for Augustine says (De Nup. et Concup. i): "All flesh born of carnal intercourse is sinful."

If St. Thomas believed in the Immaculate Conception, then why does he continually speak of her sanctification? From what did she need to be sanctified? Furthermore, he states clearly that she contracted original sin.


#19

[quote="Dolezal, post:17, topic:309536"]
St. Thomas' statement, "that the Blessed Virgin was sanctified after animation", does not exclude the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. His statement makes sense; the rational soul first has to exist, before it can be sanctified. Again, sanctification presupposes a rational soul as carrier. Your interpretation, that St. Thomas speaks of the Blessed Virgin's sanctification as being posterior in time, is not compatible with his statement in the Sentences that she "was immune from original and actual sin".

[/quote]

Sanctification also presupposes something from which to be sanctified, namely, sin and the effects of sin. If he believed the Theotokos to have been conceived immaculately he would not have been concerned about when she would have been sanctified, for there would have been no reason for her to have been sanctified.


#20

[quote="RyanBlack, post:18, topic:309536"]
If St. Thomas believed in the Immaculate Conception, then why does he continually speak of her sanctification? From what did she need to be sanctified? Furthermore, he states clearly that she contracted original sin.

[/quote]

Yes, but he does not state that her rational soul contracted original sin, which is necessary for the claim that he denied the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. His statements are perfectly consistent if you keep in mind that he distinguishes between between her (bodily) conception and animation (infusion of the rational soul) because of the medieval view that conception precedes animation. (This is why he cannot say of Mary that her "flesh assumed the nature without sin" as he did of Christ (because Christ "is at once flesh, and at the same time flesh of God the Word, and likewise flesh animated, possessing both reason and thought" (An Exposition of the Orthodox Faith 3.2)).)


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