It is my understanding that this is the doctrine that Mary was concieved without original sin, and commited no actual sin, is this a proper understanding? I also understand that we believe this because Mary told it to St. Bernadette, is this correct? And the biggest question I have is, how do I explain it to protestants?
You’re doing fine until you get to the St. Bernadette part. It is Tradition in the Church from the earliest times that Mary was born free from Original Sin, and declared so infallibly by Pius IX on December 18,1854.
The refrerence to Bernadette is that, in order to convince the bishop that Mary’s apparitions to Bernadette were legitimate, Mary identified herself to the little uneducated girl as “The Immaculate Conception,” a term she could not have known of her own, limited knowledge.
It worked (of course), and the bishop then believed Bernadette.
Great explaination Strider! Also read his holiness Pope Pius IX’s encyclical Ineffabilis Deus. It explains the dogma thoroughly. If all this isn’t good enough also read: catholic.com/library/Immaculate_Conception_and_Assum.asp
[quote=Andrew_11]It is my understanding that this is the doctrine that Mary was concieved without original sin, and commited no actual sin, is this a proper understanding?
Yes. But you are actually referring to two distinct doctrines: Immaculate Conception (re: original sin), and the teaching that Mary, by virtue of s special Divine privilege, was free from every personal sin throughout her whole life (re: actual sin).
I also understand that we believe this because Mary told it to St. Bernadette, is this correct?
No. The deposit of faith was delivered by God “once and for all” to the apostles, and as such, no new revelations add to that deposit. We believe her to be concieved without original sin due to the teachings of Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition, as definitively decreed by the Catholic Church as de fide dogma. We believe her to be without actual sin due to the teachings of Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition, yet this is not defined as de fide dogma, but is a teaching proximate to faith by the Catholic Church, to which the words of Christ also apply: “He who hears you, hears me; he who rejects you rejects me.”
And the biggest question I have is, how do I explain it to protestants?
**Doctrines about Mary are Biblical **- View
The important thing to remember when talking about the Immaculate Conception to protestants is that **two ** doctrines are often confused:
- Mary’s Sinlessness. This was NOT defined by the Pope in 1854. It is a much older doctrine dating to the earliest days of the Church. The whole ancient church always held Mary to be sinless. She carried Christ in her womb and gave her flesh and human nature to him, and so sinlessness was a prerequisite for being Mother of God the Son.
" Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one."
Mary was made sinless by Redemption by God.
- The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, as promulgated in 1854 is concerned only with the **exact point and way ** that Mary became sinless. Her sinlessness was never in question. People like Aquinas, who opposed the Immaculate Conception, never opposed Mary’s sinlessness, they merely argued that Mary was made sinless at some point shortly **after ** conception.
The doctrine teaches tha Mary was made sinless in the first instance of her conception - the most fitting and perfect way this could be done.