The Immaculate Conception

Today is, in the Catholic Church, the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

In case you don’t know what that is – it’s the conception of Mary the Mother of God, who was free of the stain of Original Sin (thus “immaculate”). It does not refer to the virginal conception of Christ – the feast for that is, logically enough, on March 25th, and it’s called the Annunciation.

It’s really rather sad how often people get this wrong.

Anyway, the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was defined “ex cathedra” by Pope Pius IX in 1854. The feast is thus a specifically Catholic holy-day, and it is in some ways a symbol of the power of the Pope and the authority of the Church.

This authority is one of the reasons I’m Catholic. It makes much more sense to me to have a living Church that has lasted for 2000 years (I think the very fact that the Church has lasted so long is some sort of evidence for its truth) guaranteeing the truth of Scripture, and making clear whatever is ambiguous there, than to have Scripture by itself – and why should I accept Scripture as authoritative if nothing gives it authority, anyway? – and have everyone believing something different about it.

I do sometimes wonder what Protestants make of that argument.


15 Responses to The Immaculate Conception

  1. Wayfarer says:

    If you can read and understand latin nothing.
    If you want to know what you are actual babbling than Protestants had a point.

    Also statements like “Protestant are not a church” a direct quote from the pope explain a lot. What are they than a folklore society? It’s hard to take a organization serious with such a management personnel of boneheads.

  2. Saying “protestants are not a Church” is using a specific definition of “church” apart from the everyday idea of “a place where people get together to believe in God together”. The Catholic Church is exactly right to say that other Christian churches (everyday sense) are not full Churches in the Catholic sense. And that’s not anything for them to get offended about, any more than it would be for a Jewish synagogue if it was told that it “wasn’t a Church”.

  3. Wayfarer says:

    Well if they are so equal why was the priest excommunicated who celebrated the sacrament with catholics and protestants together. Ah well it is perhaps the same as a muslim who eats a pig.

    Serious the catholic church should finally decide if they want to burn protestants again or just ignore them.
    The pope always talks about equality and understanding of other peoples religion and cultures even those in our yoghurt.
    This of course excludes protestants they are not a church so lets go get them. ;)

  4. Re-read my post – I never said the Church says other Christian churches are equal.

    The Catholic Church’s position on other Christian churches is pretty clear, and it involves neither burning them not ignoring them.

  5. Wayfarer says:

    I read it I just don’t to see the intentions whithin this behaviour other than annoying the other side. What does he want to achieve? That the protestants go back whining to the one and only church who has just lately admitted that just perhaps the Inquisition was wrong , the Templar perhaps innocent the documents were just misplaced (shit happens we just burned some innocent believers who cares), the limbo for unchristened children is perhaps not exactly right?
    We mock about the Sunnis and the Shiites still we don’t behave any better.
    They are almost the same religion they believe in the same god but how do they tread each other?

    Second this was sarcasm you’ll probably know that we had some nice wars about it one for example was 30 years long and burning was one of the nicer deads.

  6. The Catholic Church makes very specific truth-claims about God, Christ, the Church, and it can’t accept into full communion with it those other Christians who do not accept all of those truth-claims. The purpose of reiterating that “other Christians churches are not Churches” is to remind people that unbridled ecumenical fervor is not a good thing. The Church should not reunite with other churches if they don’t believe the same things; that would be like Jews and Christians coming together and saying, “well, Jesus isn’t that controversial anyway, we basically agree other than that, let’s call ourselves one religion now not two”.

    As to your arguments against the Church;

    1) No one has admitted the _Church’s_ Inquisition was wrong; the Inquisitions of specific countries may have been wrong, but they’re not the Church. And even if it they were officers of the Church, having specific members of the Church do something evil is not the same as the Church itself acting evilly. There have been popes who were simply _bad_ – no one denies this. But that doesn’t mean the Church itself is evil, any more than (for those Bush-haters out there) the fact that Bush is president right now means that whatever he does is exactly what America wants.

    2) The Templars were killed by the king of France, not the Church; the king was so powerful at the time there was nothing the Church could do about it. And besides, see above explanation of Church members versus the Church itself.

    3) The idea of limbo for unchristened children was never a formal doctrine, so if the Church says it’s wrong – so what? All it shows is that at one point the Church said, “we don’t know exactly what to make of this question, but this explanation might work”, and then later they said, “we don’t think this explanation works any more”. If the Church had in fact gone back on what was previously dogma, that would indeed be a serious problem, but it has never, is not, and will never do so.

  7. Wayfarer says:

    I was protestant I moved away though the fact that I couldn’t agree with all the dogmas.
    The catholic church is even worse. It is only arguing over semantics. What’s so wrong if they unite not to disagree over details too fight for the bigger ideas both share. Against wars for example? Human rights. Using their power to move something instead of showing who has the longest?
    If you compare the Jews to Christians that’s like apples to oranges. Even if you want to they all share the same ideals instead on pissing on other religions they could just move their asses and work for this ideals.
    This is just absurd just because I don’t believe in one thing we can’t work together?

    About the argument.

    1) I am moaning about the fact that they need hundred years to admit it.

    2) Still the Church did nothing against it they died for their believe and the church where was their thank and the sense of honour? Jesus died for the humanity and the church could not even open their mouth for some of their truest followers? Pretty weak show.
    Still they demand this strength from others.

    3) Doesn’t make it you think that a person even can come up with such an idea?
    That’s one of the smaller problems though don’t ask about Galileo, Darwin,…

    The church has a responsibility and at the moment they just abuse it or waste their time is stupid diadochen fights.

  8. McSwan says:

    There is no God, and when you die there is nothing. Being a logical thinker (programmer) you have to admit this is the most likely explanation.

    Anyway, turin do u get on the ogre3d forums as well ?

  9. Wayfarer says:

    Pretty hard to argue about this one and if you can’t go to the lowest common denominator. There you find enough flesh to put your teeth in.

  10. Rimbecano says:

    I realize this comment comes a bit late, but I linked here from the Wesnoth forums and this post caught my eye:

    What this particular Protestant makes of that arguement is this:

    The authority of Scripture comes from God. If Scripture is the Word of God, then what more authority does it need? If it is not, then is it worth any more than the Koran or the Vedas?

    Any authority that is not God must either derive its authority from him or else be the source from which he derives his authority. If the Catholic church gets it’s authority from God, then its authority is only valid insofar as it agrees with God and with his Word. I don’t think I need to explain (to you at least) the problem with the second option. Can you defend the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception from scripture alone? Or (See Matthew 15) has the Catholic church nullified the Word of God for the sake of it’s traditions? (Which is not a uniquely Catholic problem, it is a human problem)

    “The Church” is not a human institution, rather, it is the Body of Christ (Colossians 1:18), of which we all (as Christians) are a part (1 Corinthians 12:27), and the Head of the Church (Colossians 1:18) is not Paul, or Apollos (1 Corinthians 3:4), or, by extension, Luther, or the Pope, or Wesley, or the Queen of England, or any religious leader of any sect, denomination, or cult. The Head of the Church is Christ (Again Colossians 1:18).

    My goal here is not to make anyone more Protestant or less Catholic. My goal is to make sure that nobody, whether Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox, or of any other division of Christianity, fails to grasp the Gospel as a result of having clung too tightly to some lesser doctrine.

    Christians simply *will* have doctrinal differences simply because we are finite, sinful humans. When Christ returns he will set all of our errors straight, whatever denomination we belong to. Until then, to let those differences come between us is to disobey God’s command that we are to be unified. (See Ephesians 4)

  11. Some good points. Still, I don’t think you can say that just because you can’t “defend the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception from scripture alone”, it is false. I can’t prove that pi to 15 digits is 3.14159265358979 from scripture alone, but it’s true. (Or is that to 14 digits? Do you count from the 3 or the 1?…)

    And I agree the Head of the Church is Christ. (That’s one of the things that was so bad about Henry VIII’s “Reformation” of England – he declared himself head of the church, which was not only wrong but blasphemous.) But that doesn’t mean there’s no structure to the Church – in scripture, for example, it’s pretty clear that the 12 Apostles are meant to be some sort of council – thus, organization.

  12. Rimbecano says:

    Yes, but when someone like me asks you to defend a doctrine from scripture alone, it means he’s pretty sure he can contradict that doctrine from scripture alone. :-)

    There is of course nothing stating specifically whether Mary sinned or not in the Bible, but:

    1. There is no indication that Mary was not human.
    2. Scripture indicates that every human between the fall and the second coming has been and will be sinful.
    3. The only explicitly stated exception to the above is Christ, and this is because of his divinity.
    4. There is no indication that Mary was divine.

    As to structure in the church: Certainly it is good for the church to have an Earthly organizational or institutional structure, but that structure is not the church itself. I would debate the neccesity of the organization of the church being all encompassing, rather than broken down according to place, time, and function. I would also debate whether it is proper for any institution or organization of the Church to have authority on the level that would make it a “church” in what you have called the “Catholic” sense of the term.

  13. Of course Mary was human, and not divine. Catholics don’t deny that. ;) And I don’t think you can say that just because Christ was the only _explicitly_ stated exception he was the only exception.

  14. Rimbecano says:

    Granted. But if Christ’s sinlessness came from his divinity, and Mary was not divine, where did her sinlessness come from?

    And if she could be born sinless out of a fallen race without being divine, why couldn’t anybody be? Why was the cross necessary at all?

    That, in essence, is why Protestants are so uneasy with that particular doctrine. It seems, at least to us, to cheapen the Gospel.

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