Immaculate Conception

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Immaculate Conception

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

For centuries Roman Catholic theologians pondered the question of how a normal human being, Mary, could give birth to a perfect human being, Jesus, who was born without sin, outside the restrictions of the "original sin" passed on from Adam and Eve to their progeny.

Finally, in 1854, the problem was solved. As with most religious pronouncements, there is a story behind the story.

Pope Pius IX served longer than any other pope in history, but it was during a time when the papacy was losing power. The political situation was such that he even had to leave Rome, unable to return until the French intervened. But Pius was determined to confirm the power of the office. Thus it was that in 1854 he issued the bull Ineffabilis Deus. It was the first time in history a pope said he was infallible and didn't need a council's approval if he spoke ex cathedra ("from the chair"). In the words of the first Vatican Council (see Vatican Councils), defining the conditions under which the pope is infallible:

The Roman pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra, that is, when in discharge of the office of pastor and doctor of all Christians, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to be held by the universal Church, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, is possessed of that divine infallibility with which the divine Redeemer willed that his Church should be endowed for defining doctrine regarding faith or morals; and therefore such definitions are irreformable of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church.

Then he sat back to await developments. And nothing really happened. There was no great clamor from either pew or pulpit, so the doctrine of papal infallibility was determined.

The test case, so to speak, was the determination that Mary was born free from all taint of sin, including original sin. By virtue of the fact that she was chosen to be the mother of the Savior, the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary became official Church dogma. It was based on the idea that a person becomes truly conceived when a soul is created and fused with the body. In anticipation of what Mary was going to do when she conceived Jesus, she was, in effect, sanctified at the moment of her own conception. The original state of innocence did not free her from the consequences of sorrow, pain, and illness, but it did mean that she was sinless.

The Religion Book: Places, Prophets, Saints, and Seers © 2004 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
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