[LEFT]Because a previous thread said he was in error, and “there was nothing else to say”, I doubt others will read what will be assumed to be incidental comments on that thread. Therefore, I believe a new thread title is required. I hope not to offend the powers that be at this illustrious and highly respected forum.
Was Saint Thomas Aquinas more right than wrong in his writings about Mary’s Immaculate Conception ?
Objection to the Affirmative Response to the question above #1: St. Thomas Aquinas rejected the Church’s teaching on Mary’s Immaculate Conception.
Objection #2 : St. Thomas Aquinas flat out denial of Mary’s Immaculate Conception makes his position at odds with the Church.
**On the contrary **to the above objections, I propose –as many others before me - that St. Thomas Aquinas was more right than he was wrong. It the time and culture in which he lived he was very limited in regards to the words, as they had defined them then, and with concepts available to him. They have proven to be hopelessly inadequate. Challenged as he was to explain how the Immaculate Mary was saved he had little recourse but to use those words and concepts to offer an explanation which is not compatible with today’s standards. It was only the development of theology and the employing of future perceptions that would enable the modern definition that we use today to explain Mary’s Immaculate Conception.
However, his approach and decisions were more in line with Church teaching than not, and what he affirmed and help secure the proper understanding of the foundation of this doctrine about Mary so that the future development and explanation could happen.
Like every person in every age, whether he realizes it or not, he is limited by the standards and concepts of his culture and by the advances or lack thereof in the fields of science and theology.
It is true that some early church fathers said Mary was immaculately conceived, however that does not necessarily mean they were fully explicating or expressing the fullness of that doctrine.
Today, when we see the words the “Immaculate Conception” we read into them a very modern developed and complex understanding. Today we read into them an understanding consistent with the declaration of Pope Pius IX in his papal bull Ineffabilis Deus which was published on December 8, 1854.
It includes :
- Mary was saved by Jesus Christ
- the grace she received was a pure unearned gift
- Mary began her existence with her conception
- God, being outside of time, took the grace that was won by Jesus’ His Life, Death and Resurrection and applied it about 48 or so years earlier to Mary at her conception.
- Mary, being a human being, would have been subject to contracting Original Sin had she not been saved from it.
- Mary was saved and preserved immaculate from all stain of original sin at her conception
Importantly, it was St. Thomas Aquinas (AD 1225 - 1274 ) that helped secure a solid understanding for the foundation of our beliefs about Mary’s role. That foundation is the absolute necessity that everyone, even immaculate Mary, needed to be saved by Jesus Christ.
“But while St. Thomas thus held back from the essential point of the doctrine, he himself laid down the principles which, after they had been drawn together and worked out, enabled other minds to furnish the true solution of this difficulty from his own premises.”
Logical reasoning is always based on foundational truths.
With the truths expounded by Aquinas set firmly in place Blessed John Duns Scotus would later be able focus on just how Mary was saved. His reasoning was based the foundational understanding that Aquinas made secure. Duns Scotus was able to see that since the Immaculate Mary must have been saved somehow, it must be the case that she would have fallen if not for the saving grace of Jesus Christ. By analogy a healthy person who was about to step and fall into a pit of filth could be saved by another who reaches out just in time to prevent that person from ever falling into that pit - a most perfect way to be saved. And that development would eventually lead to the fuller definition of Mary’s Immaculate Conception that Pope Pius IX would give and infallibly declare. But that would not happen until hundreds of years later in AD 1854.