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I am wondering why most Roman Catholics consider the Immaculate Conception to be an ex-cathedra (that is infallible, from the seat of Peter) statement? My knowledge is there is no list of ex-cathedra statements, so we aren’t really sure which ones fall under the definition of the First Vatican Council (which is a big problem). Most would consider the Immaculate Conception of Mary, as well as her Assumption into heaven to be two that fit the criteria. I would like to deal with the first one, though if anyone has insight into the Assumption that they wish to share that would be fine. My question springs from the limitation that the council expressly puts on an infallible ex-cathedra statement, and that is the Pope’s inability to make new doctrine.

Originally Posted by Vatican Council I: Pastor aeternus
For the Holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter not so that they might, by his revelation, make known some new doctrine, but that, by his assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles.


What does this limitation imply? At the very least should it imply that the teaching is unquestionably Apostolic? That is to say, that it was at least being discussed in some manner during the apostolic era? That it fits the definition of ‘catholic,’ (i.e. that which has been believed everywhere, always, and by all)? The history of the Immaculate Conception is not based upon the unanimous consent of the fathers, nor is it based upon scripture (this is typically admitted). According to the noted Roman Catholic scholar, Ludwig Ott, the historical development of the Dogma goes by the 7th Century feast of the Conception of St. Anne celebrated in the east. The celebration later spread to the west. “The object of the celebration of the feast was initially the active conception of St. Anne, which, according to the Proto-Gospel of St. James, occurred after a long period of childlessness, and was foretold by an angel, as an extraordinary manifestation of God’s grace.” So at this point it was not be celebrated in respect to the state of Mary’s soul at the time of her conception. He continues, “At the beginning of the twelth century, the British monk Eadmer, a pupil of St. Anselm of Canterbury, and Osbert of Clare, advocated the Immaculate (passive) Conception of Mary, that is, her conception free from original sin. Eadmer wrote the first monograph on this subject. On the other hand, St. Bernard of Claivaux, on the occasion of the institution of the Feast in Lyons (about 1140), warned the faithful that his was an unfounded innovation, and taught that Mary was sanctified after conception only, that is when she was already in the womb. Under the influence of St. Bernard, the leading theologians of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries rejected the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. Their difficult was that they had not yet found the way to bring Mary’s freedom from original sin into consonance with the universality or original sin, and with the necessity of all men for redemption. “ (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Ludwig Ott, pg 201). Prior Pope had also taught that Mary was conceived with original sin (to be fair, they did so as ‘private theologians’):

Innocent III - Sermon on the Purification of the Virgin.
But forthwith [upon the Angel's words, 'The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee'] the Holy Ghost came upon her. He had before come into her, when, in her mother's womb, He cleansed her soul from original sin; but now too He came upon her to cleanse her flesh from the 'fomes' of sin, that she might be altogether without spot or wrinkle. That tyrant then of the flesh, the sickness of nature, the 'fomes' of sin, as I think, He altogether extinguished, that henceforth any motion from the law of sin should not be able to arise in her members.

John XXII - Sermon 1 on the Assumption.
She (the Virgin) passed, first, from a state of original sin, second, from a state of childhood to maternal honor, third, from misery to glory.

In his Apostolic Constitution, Ineffabilis Deus, Pius IX, stated, “this doctrine always existed in the Church as a doctrine that has been received from our ancestors, and that has been stamped with the character of revealed doctrine.” How is it that he says the doctrine always existed in the Church even if we allow for western understanding of development of doctrine? Among the fathers there were those who even attributed sin to Mary during her Divine Son’s ministry (St. John Chrysostom is the example most cited). Furthermore the definition itself is based upon the theology of the western church, and does not take into account the eastern approach:
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The Definition
Wherefore, in humility and fasting, we unceasingly offered our private prayers as well as the public prayers of the Church to God the Father through his Son, that he would deign to direct and strengthen our mind by the power of the Holy Spirit. In like manner did we implore the help of the entire heavenly host as we ardently invoked the Paraclete. Accordingly, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, for the honor of the Holy and undivided Trinity, for the glory and adornment of the Virgin Mother of God, for the exaltation of the Catholic Faith, and for the furtherance of the Catholic religion, by the authority of Jesus Christ our Lord, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own: "We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.”

He then goes on to declare that if anyone thinks differently he is condemned by his own judgment. Since the majority of people who we would consider to be ‘Catholic,’ have not believed in the Immaculate Conception this seems like rather harsh wording .
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Hence, if anyone shall dare -- which God forbid! -- to think otherwise than as has been defined by us, let him know and understand that he is condemned by his own judgment; that he has suffered shipwreck in the faith; that he has separated from the unity of the Church; and that, furthermore, by his own action he incurs the penalties established by law if he should are to express in words or writing or by any other outward means the errors he think in his heart.

So I ask again, given the importance of this definition to the ongoing ecumenical effort, why is this teaching considered Dogmatic by so many on the Roman Catholic side? Is it because of the strong wording? We could find equally strong wording for other teachings that are no longer in vogue (a couple of examples: Exsurge Domine (1520), which condemns those who say that heretics being burned is against the will of the Spirit [#33], and Unam Sanctam which states that ‘it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff.’) Is it due to the historical evidence? Or is due to the fact that we think Pope Pius IX wanted it to be infallible? I think it would go along way if this document was relegated to theologumen of the Latin Church (since at best its teaching is a minority opinion of the west), and it seems that Vatican 1’s limitation on new doctrine would give a comfortable out. I hope this post isn't inflammatory, I am just trying to understand why so many hold to the opinion that it is 'ex-cathedra.'

Thank you,
Bob


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Originally Posted by ByzBob
We could find equally strong wording for other teachings that are no longer in vogue (a couple of examples: Exsurge Domine (1520), which condemns those who say that heretics being burned is against the will of the Spirit [#33], and Unam Sanctam which states that ‘it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff.’)

Theologians have generally pointed out that these are not ex-cathedra statements by the definition given in Pastor Aeternus because these are not directed toward the Universal Church. It is my understanding that any excercise of an ex-cathedra teaching must explicitly include the following:

The Pope musty declare that he is speaking in his capacity as pastor of all Catholics through his supreme Apostolic Authority. It must be universal
He is defining a dogma of faith and morals.
The teaching is meant to be definitive and accepted by the entire universal Church.


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ByzBob Offline OP
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Ok. By why, for example, does Exsurge Domine not fit into this ex-cathedra definition?

http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Leo10/l10exdom.htm

The definition comes from the pope himself.
2. He is acting as Pastor of all the Faithful:
In virtue of our pastoral office committed to us by the divine favor” and
“We forbid each and every one of the Faithful…
3. He invokes his apostolic authority:
When you were about to ascend to Your Father, You committed the care,
rule, and administration of the vineyard, an image of the triumphant
Church, to Peter, as the head and Your vicar and his successors. Rise,
Peter, and fulfill this pastoral office divinely entrusted to you as mentioned
above. In virtue of our pastoral office committed to us by the divine
favor…
4. This is a judgment on an issue of faith or morals:
We can under no circumstances tolerate or overlook any longer the
pernicious poison of the above errors without disgrace to the Christian
religion and injury to orthodox faith… We have therefore held a careful
inquiry, scrutiny, discussion, strict examination, and mature deliberation
with each of the brothers, the eminent cardinals of the holy Roman
Church, as well as the priors and ministers general of the religious orders,
besides many other professors and masters skilled in sacred theology and
in civil and canon law. We have found that these errors or theses are not
Catholic, as mentioned above, and are not to be taught, as such; but rather
are against the doctrine and tradition of the Catholic Church, and against
the true interpretation of the sacred Scriptures received from the Church.
5. The definition is binding on all:
By listing them, we decree and declare that all the Faithful of both sexes
must regard them as condemned, reprobated, and rejected . . . We restrain
all in the virtue of holy obedience and under the penalty of an automatic
major excommunication.... We forbid each and every one of the Faithful of
either sex, in virtue of holy obedience and under the above penalties to be
incurred automatically, to read, assert, preach, praise, print, publish, or
defend them.

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To me at least, it does not fit because the pope is "judging" on an issue of faith and morals in condemning Martin Luther. He is not "proposing" a definitive dogma of the faith to be held by all.

That being said, this is the explanation I have heard as to why many theologians do not consider this, also, to be ex cathedra.


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As for the why of the I.C. it flows out of the redemption. You make some good points that history seems to show that it developed in one place and the practice spread elsewhere. I honestly do not know about this.

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ByzBob Offline OP
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Originally Posted by danman916

That being said, this is the explanation I have heard as to why many theologians do not consider this, also, to be ex cathedra.


Fair enough. Not sure I agree, but fair enough. My major concern remains, however, and that is the novelty of the doctrine, and why that wouldn't trigger the limitation of Vatican 1. My other concerns is dogmatizing Marian doctrines - I agree with Fr. Hopko on this point, that the Marian doctrines should not be dogmatized.

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i really don't know the history behind this. Things don't get dogmatized "just because". There is always a reason, and I have to admit to ignorance on the reasons why the I.C. and Assumption were promulgated.

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Things don't get dogmatized "just because".


No? Happens more often than you might think.

Quote
There is always a reason


But not always a very good one.

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Dear brother Dan,

Originally Posted by danman916
i really don't know the history behind this. Things don't get dogmatized "just because". There is always a reason, and I have to admit to ignorance on the reasons why the I.C. and Assumption were promulgated.

Actually, the apostolic consitutions of the dogmas explain it. They were dogmatized at the request of bishops and laity from many quarters of the Church.

Blessings

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Originally Posted by danman916
Things don't get dogmatized "just because". There is always a reason, and I have to admit to ignorance on the reasons why the I.C. and Assumption were promulgated.


Danman,

It was my understanding that the dogmatic proclamation of the Assumption had a lot to do with a petition drive that brought tens of thousands of signatures to the pope's desk. I admit that that would hardly qualify, from an Orthodox perspective, as justification for a dogmatic definition.

Similar petitions were sent to JPII, requesting that Mary be dogmatically given the titles of "Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate." I believe Pope John Paul acknowledged the petitioners and informally recognized the titles, but declined to go further.


Peace,
Deacon Richard

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Originally Posted by StuartK
Quote
Things don't get dogmatized "just because".


No? Happens more often than you might think.


Can you give examples, please?

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ByzBob Offline OP
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Let me ask the question another way. If the IC dogma can be shown historically to be a novelty, but it is still ex-cathedra per Vatican 1's definition was the council wrong when it said that the charism was not given in order to create new doctrine?

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I guess so, but it begs the question, what exactly is a "novelty" and how can we demonstrate that this was a later belief not found in the Apostolic faith? Would not the acceptance of the sinless of the Theotokos qualify as such?

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Originally Posted by danman916
I guess so, but it begs the question, what exactly is a "novelty" and how can we demonstrate that this was a later belief not found in the Apostolic faith? Would not the acceptance of the sinless of the Theotokos qualify as such?


I don't believe that sinless = Immaculate Conception. Indeed, St. Bernard of Claivaux, accepted that Mary was sinless, but warned the faithful that the Immaculate Conception was an unfounded innovation. Teaching instead that Mary was sanctified after conception only, that is when she was already in the womb.

The patristic period is typically the paradigm for determining the questions of antiquity when it comes to doctrine. If Ott was correct, then the Immaculate Conception was not taught during that period.

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Glory to Jesus Christ!

Dear ByzBob,

Can you provide a source for
Quote
Indeed, St. Bernard of Claivaux, accepted that Mary was sinless, but warned the faithful that the Immaculate Conception was an unfounded innovation. Teaching instead that Mary was sanctified after conception only, that is when she was already in the womb.


Kyrie eleison,

Manuel

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