Sunday, May 09, 2010

"Que soy era Immaculada Councepciou" ~Is the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, a Pelagian Doctrine?

In an article entitled, Lourdes and ther "Worthy of Belief" Fictions, Turretinfan made the following remark:
On the other hand, sometimes (much more rarely) the RCC adds some new requirement to the list of things that must be believed. For example, about four years before the Lourdes event, the RCC defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception - requiring people to believe the unbiblical (and frankly Pelagian) doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.
While I objected to the "Pelagian" assertion in the previous article I wrote here on my blog, Mr. John Martin  vociferously responded to it in the comment section to Mr. Fan's article.  As a result of the well-founded objections made by Mr. Martin, Mr. Fan felt compelled to respond with another article defending his assertion that the dogma of the Immaculate Conception is Pelagian in nature.  In his new article entitled, Immaculate Conception and Pelagianism - Response to John Martin, Mr. Fan gives two reasons why the dogma of the Immaculate  Conception is Pelagian in nature:
There are at least two reasons to view the Immaculate Conception as Pelagian:

1) It denies the universality of Original Sin.

2) [T]he Pelagians are the first group we can document in church history who claim that Mary was born without original sin. Obviously, that doesn't make the doctrine in itself "Pelagian" in the normal sense, but it may make it "Pelagian" in a very loose sense. 
[Mr. Fan's commentary redacted.]
While I commented extensively on Mr. Fan's blog to these assertions, I thought I would post them here (edited) so folks would know that I have not been goofing off somewhere and neglecting my blog.  By the way, I strongly urge anyone reading my blog to go the comments section and read Mr. Martin's strong defense of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.

Hello Mr. Fan, your analysis falls short of the mark, to be sure. First and foremost, the Pelagian notion of grace is vastly different than the Catholic and Protestant understanding. Pelagius denied totally the existence of supernatural grace. The only graces he allowed in his system were the natural gift of revelation (understanding good from evil), observation of natural law (freedom of choice) and the example of Christ (willingness to follow His example). In contrast, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception has at its roots, its heart, and its substance the truth of supernatural grace flowing from God alone.

Second, Pelagius denied that death was a consequence of original sin. He believed that death, old age and sickness were always a part of man's original state. Otherwise, Adam would have more power to destroy us than Christ had to save us (Pelagius' notion of the elect).

While the dogma of the Immaculate Conception states that Mary was preserved from the stain of original sin, she was not preserved from the effects of it~feeling sorrow, growing old or dying. Thus, the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception does not deny the universality of Original Sin, but makes clear its universality. If it didn't apply to Mary, then she would not needed to have been preserved by a special application of God's supernatural graces from the stain of Original Sin.

Thus. Mr. Martin (and myself for that matter in my Saint Bernadette article where I discussed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception) are correct in our contention that the Immaculate Conception is not Pelagian in any way, shape, or form.
Mr. Fan chose to respond to my comments and asked some very thoughtful questions (his response will be highlighted in red).  Accepting his invitation to respond I offer the following replies to his queries (my reply will be in blue).  Please allow that some of these replies will be edited from the responses I gave in Mr. Fan's comment box due to the differences in format.

In response to my contention, "Pelagius denied totally the existence of supernatural grace." Mr. Fan asked:

a) Do you have a citation for this allegation?

Yes, in the plural no less. Btw: interesting use of the word “allegation.”

Primary Sources (Translated):

Augustine of Hippo. On the Grace of Christ, and on Original Sin (Book I), passim.

Augustine of Hippo Chapters 3, 5 & 20-22 of the Proceedings Against Pelagius wherein St. Augustine explains that Pelagius’ use of the word grace to obtain his aquittal at the Council of Diospolis was not the same as was used by the Catholic Church.

Pelagius. Defense of the Freedom of the Will

Pelagius. De Natura

Pelagius. Letter to Demetrias, passim.

Secondary Sources:

Ferguson, John. Pelagius: A Historical and Theological Study. Cambridge: W. Heffer & Sons, Ltd. (1956), pgs. 132-134 wherein the author discusses Pelagius’ view of grace as set forth in his commentaries and specifically addresses the error of trying to use Pelagius’ commentary on Rom. 1:3 as proof that he believed in the traditional Christian concept of supernatural or actual grace.

Garrigou-Lagrange, Reginald. Grace: Commentary on the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas,: where one would find:

1. [Pelagianism] denied original sin, the necessity of baptism and interior grace for obtaining ordinary eternal life. It declared, however, that baptism and grace are necessary for entering the kingdom of God, which is something excelling ordinary eternal life. Hence, to attain to eternal life as commonly accepted, no grace was necessary, not even the grace of faith or the knowledge of external revelation. But, said Pelagius, God gave us a power or faculty, i.e., free will; moreover, willing and doing are eminently proper to us. Grace would be only an unnecessary adornment, just as some souls have visions and ecstasies, without which, however, a man can be saved.

2. Later, to refute the objections drawn from Holy Scripture, Pelagius admitted the term “grace” and the necessity of grace, but by this name he designated free will, and subsequently the external grace of revelation or the preaching of the gospel.

3. Finally, Pelagius, not knowing how to reply to the objections of Catholics, admitted internal grace, but first in the intellect alone, that is, as enlightenment; secondly, he recognized some habitual grace, but not as plainly gratuitous (he maintained that it was given according to the merits of nature) nor strictly supernatural; thirdly, the Pelagians ultimately admitted as more probable actual grace in the will, not however plainly gratuitous (but granted according to natural merits) nor necessary for doing good, but only for working more easily and perfectly.
PortaliƩ, Eugene. A Guide to the Thought of St. Augustine, trans. R.J. Bastian (Chicago: Regnery, 1960), pg . 185-186.

Pohle, J. (1909). Actual GraceThe Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved April 28, 2010 from New Advent:

Pohle, J. Grace: Actual and Habitual. Release Date: July 29, 2009 [Ebook #29540]:

Rees, B.R. Pelagius: A Reluctant Heretic. Wolfeboro, NH: The Boydell Press (1988), pgs. 33-37.

I am aware that Schaff seems to feel otherwise here, but it seems he is the minority opinion.
Mr. Fan asserted: "b) Within the context of semi-pelagianism, assertion that a person is born in an innocent state by "grace" is a confusion of nature and grace. While you certainly will say that her pure nature was the result of supernatural grace, your allegation falls prey to the criticism that the Augustinians made of the semi-pelagians."

I responded as follows:

Golly gee whilikers Mr. Fan, one heresy at a time please! Seriously though, you qualified the Immaculate Conception as a Pelagian error, not a Semi-Pelagian one. Are you ceding the field already and moving to attack on another front?

Before I offer this rebuttal, there is, of course, a problem when discussing Semi-Pelagianism for the term is rather vague, the theology murky. Are we talking about the 5th century folks, like Faustus and Vitalis, are we fast-forwarding a thousand years or so and talking about the those who held to Molinism who were wrongfully labeled by their opponents as Semi-Pelagian, or are we referring to those who hold to the modern heresies of Modernism and Pantheism to which the dogma of the Immaculate Conception was defined in response? While I think that the dogma of the Immaculate Conception is a direct refutation of all three forms of Semi-Pelagianism and all forms and derivations of Pelagianism for that matter, it is possible that the way I could respond to your assertion may differ depending on the form that you are advancing with your statement.
For now, I will simply define Semi-Pelagianism in the context of the 5th century. Those who sought a middle ground between Saint Augustine’s doctrine of grace and Pelagius’ heretical primacy of human free will, Semi-Pelagianism maintained that a human being, though weakened by original sin, may make the initial act of will toward achieving salvation prior to receiving the necessary assistance of God’s grace. Thus your assertion in the context of Semi-Pelagianism, that a person is born in an innocent state by "grace" is a confusion of nature and grace does not make a whole of sense to me as it is my understanding that God’s grace will never move a thing contrary to its nature. Rather when God moves a thing, He moves it according to its nature or condition. See, St. Augustine, On Grace and Free Will 33(XVII). Since God moves us according to our nature or condition, it upholds free will. Also, God’s grace perfects our nature; it does not deform it or cause it to act in a way that negates or destroys its free will.

But so there is no doubt, it is now and always has been the teaching of the Catholic Church that it is God’s grace that causes the will to move.

For example at the Council of Orange, in 529-530 AD, it was held that Adam’s original sin is inherited by his progeny and can only be removed by the sacrament of Baptism. By the means of the sacrament, God’s unmerited grace is infused into the person for the remission of sins. Afterwards, that person’s sanctification continues throughout his lifetime, entirely the work of the infusion of grace with which the Christian cooperates, for the Christian “does nothing good for which God is not responsible, so as to let him do it.” Canon 19 states: "That no one is saved except by God's mercy. Even if human nature remained in that integrity in which it was formed, it would in no way save itself without the help of its Creator; therefore, since without the grace of God it cannot guard the health which it received, how without the grace of God will it be able to recover what it has lost?"

There is nothing in the above understanding of the operation of grace that Augustine formulated and Aquinas adopted that in any way negates or contradicts the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. It was God’s grace that perfected Mary’s nature, only that it did so at her conception rather than after her birth. It was God’s grace that moved her to give her fiat at the Annunciation. It was God's grace that made her the model of the Church.

Since you give no examples of the sorts of criticisms or invective that Augustinians would be hurling at their Semi-Pelagian opponents, the above answer is the best that I can give you for the moment.
Now lest anyone should think that the dogma of the Immaculate Conception is somehow contrary to Augustinian teaching, here is what one Augustinian opined on the matter.  Fr. Martin Luther, an obscure German Augustinian monk, taught the dogma of the Immaculate Conception circa. 1521 saying:
“ [Mary] is full of grace, proclaimed to be entirely without sin. God's grace fills her with everything good and makes her devoid of all evil. God is with her, meaning that all she did or left undone is divine and the action of God in her. Moreover, God guarded and protected her from all that might be hurtful to her." Luther's Works, American edition, vol. 43, p. 40, ed. H. Lehmann, Fortress, 1968.
Notice how Fr. Luther emphasizes t he role of God’s grace in perfecting the nature of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Now I realize that given this radical position on the role grace plays in Mary's life, you will probably reject lock, stock and barrel all of this man's teaching. I am sure that everything that this man has written should be anathematized as I am aure that Luther's other works are just as infected with Semi-Pelagianism as this one and should be burnt (poor attempt at humor by someone who was required to surrender it when he became an attorney). 
In response to my earlier comment:

"The only graces he allowed in his system were the natural gift of revelation (understanding good from evil), observation of natural law (freedom of choice) and the example of Christ (willingness to follow His example)."

Mr. Fan followed with:  a) Calling those gifts "natural" as opposed to "supernatural" appears to be somewhat arbitrary. What could be more supernatural than revelation?

I respond:

Your claim of arbitrariness is noted. I should have been a little more precise. Pelagius understood grace to be of divine or supernatural character (which allowed him to avoid being anathematized for awhile), but he taught that the work of grace on us to be purely natural and external. He rejects all notion of internal infused grace which is another name for supernatural grace.

Saint Augustine quotes Pelagius, in Chapter V of his treatise "On the Grace of Christ, and on Original Sin" (Book I):

"We distinguish", says [Pelagius], "three things, arranging them in a certain graduated order. We put in the first place 'ability;' in the second, 'volition;' and in the third, 'actuality.' The 'ability' we place in our nature, the 'volition' in our will, and the 'actuality' in the effect. The first, that is, the 'ability,' properly belongs to God, who has bestowed it on His creature; the other two, that is, the 'volition' and the 'actuality,' must be referred to man, because they flow forth from the fountain of the will. For his willing, therefore, and doing a good work, the praise belongs to man; or rather both to man, and to God who has bestowed on him the 'capacity' for his will and work, and who evermore by the help of His grace assists even this capacity. That a man is able to will and effect any good work, comes from God alone. So that this one faculty can exist, even when the other two have no being; but these latter cannot exist without that former one. I am therefore free not to have either a good volition or action; but I am by no means able not to have the capacity of good. This capacity is inherent in me, whether I will or no; nor does nature at any time receive in this point freedom for itself. Now the meaning of all this will be rendered clearer by an example or two. That we are able to see with our eyes is not of us; but it is our own that we make a good or a bad use of our eyes. So again (that I may, by applying a general case in illustration, embrace all), that we are able to do, say, think, any good thing, comes from Him who has endowed us with this 'ability,' and who also assists this 'ability;' but that we really do a good thing, or speak a good word, or think a good thought, proceeds from our own selves, because we are also able to turn all these into evil. Accordingly—and this is a point which needs frequent repetition, because of your calumniation of us—whenever we say that a man can live without sin, we also give praise to God by our acknowledgment of the capacity which we have received from Him, who has bestowed such 'ability' upon us; and there is here no occasion for praising the human agent, since it is God's matter alone that is for the moment treated of; for the question is not about 'willing,' or 'effecting,' but simply and solely about that which may possibly be." 

Naturally, since there is no inherently defiled human nature for Pelagius, he understood the work of grace to be purely of a natural or external kind. Therefore, by grace, Pelagius first spoke of the gift of "capacity" itself or the ability to choose. Secondly, he spoke of that which "is also conferred on us as if from an outside source." (To Demetrias) The "outside sources" included the revelation gained through reason(Ibid.), through the law of God,(Ibid.) and the example and teachings of Christ.(Ibid.) Pelagius further amplifies this in his treatise, "On the Grace of Christ," wherein it is explained that "God helps us by his teaching and revelation, whilst He opens the eyes of the heart; whilst He points out to us the future, that we may not be absorbed in the present... ."

In other words, "God does not give grace and assistance to do an act, but that such grace consists of free will, or in law and teaching."

Of course this flies in the face of Rom. 7:15-25. 
Mr. Fan further commented: b) As noted above, in the semi-pelagians, we also see them sometimes calling an innocent nature the result of grace, the same as is being claimed with Mary.

I respond:
This is a rather vague statement. Since no one called himself a “Semi-Pelagian” in the 5th century, could you please point me any particular writing that gives the context that you are raising?

But in general, I would disagree. Mary was in an “innocent state” from the moment of her conception because of God’s application of Christ’s redemptive grace to her which continued to be applied to her all her life. This would exclude any sort of Semi-Pelagian notions that indicate that while man’s nature was damaged by Adam’s sin, it was not so damaged that man could not make the first step towards choosing to be saved. Despite rumors to the contrary, the Catholic Church acknowledges the canons of the Second Council of Orange and adheres to them. Here are a few that apply to the situation you are referring:
Can. 18."That grace is preceded by no merits. A reward is due to good works, if they are performed; but grace, which is not due, precedes, that they may be done".

Can. 19. "That no one is saved except by God's mercy. Even if human nature remained in that integrity in which it was formed, it would in no way save itself without the help of its Creator; therefore, since without the grace of God it cannot guard the health which it received, how without the grace of God will it be able to recover what it has lost?"

Can. 20."That without God man can do no good. God does many good things in man, which man does not do; indeed man can do no good that God does not expect that man do" .

Can. 21."Nature and grace.Just as the Apostle most truly says to those, who, wishing to be justified in the law, have fallen even from grace: if justice is from the law, then Christ died in vain [ Gal. 2:21 ]; so it is most truly said to those who think that grace, which the faith of Christ commends and obtains, is nature: If justice is through nature, then Christ died in vain. For the law was already here, and it did not justify; nature, too, was already present, and it did not justify. Therefore, Christ did not die in vain, that the law also might be fulfilled through Him, who said:I came not to destroy the law, but to fulfill (it) [Matt. 5:17], and in order that nature ruined by Adam, might be repaired by Him, who said: He cameto seek and to save that which had been lost[ Luke 19:10]".
There is nothing in the dogma of the Immaculate Conception that holds contrary to the above. PERIOD.
Mr. Fan continues:  c) It does appear that your set is too limited. Pelagius acknowledges that there are sons of God according to grace (see his commentary on Romans 1:3), which at least sounds like the grace of adoption. What is the basis for your claims?

I respond:

A wolf may wear a sheepy overall, but it is still a wolf under it all. If you wish to adopt Pelagius’ notion of grace to refute my contention, that is your perogative, but Pelagius’ notion of grace is that it is earned through merit, making it not grace at all. See, Ferguson, John, Pelagius, pp. 133-134 that specifically shows the problem in relying on Pelagius’ commentary on Rom. 1:3 to show that he believed in what you and I would hold to be grace by adoption.  (N.B.  I hope to supplement this article with quotes from Pelagius' Commentaries on the Pauline Epistles) 
I wrote earlier: "In contrast, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception has at its roots, its heart, and its substance the truth of supernatural grace flowing from God alone."

Mr. Fan retorted: a) Not in the historic sense of grace, as noted above.

My reply:
I am sorry, I must of missed that-which comment are you referring to? If you are referring to the notion of grace as Pelagius defined it, then you can keep your “historic” sense of grace. I would just as soon go with the Scriptural sense of grace which is the sense that is being glorified in the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. I have already touched upon what Ferguson wrote in his book about Pelagius' notions on grace. In the Catholic sense of the word, habitual or sanctifying grace makes us participate in the very nature, in the inner life of God, according to the words of St. Peter (2 Peter 1: 4): 'By whom he hath given us most great and precious promises: that by these you may be made partakers of the divine nature.'  By grace we have become adopted children of God, heirs and co-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8: 17); by grace we are 'born of God' (John 1:13). Reconcile that with what Pelagius preached.
Mr. Fan further stated: b) The heart, roots, and substance of the doctrine is the elevation of Mary.

I responded:

Now who is making allegations? One must wonder if you have actually read what the Church holds on the honoring of Mary which does no more than reflect what Saint Ambrose wrote so long ago, “May the heart of Mary be in each Christian to proclaim the greatness of the Lord; may her spirit be in everyone to exult in God.” (Commentary on the Gospel according to Luke 11:26) The meaning of Saint Ambrose’s words can be found in many of the magisterial documents since the dogma of the Immaculate Conception was pronounced.
To summarize: Mary is the Christian model of the supremely Christ-centered person, and devotion to her is the surest way for every person to become a true Christ-centered person. God’s salvific plan predestined and created her to bring Christ to men and men to Christ. It is for this reason that the Church determined that she was graced from her conception to be free from the stain of Original Sin. The most direct path to go to Jesus is through Mary.

And that through the Virgin, and through her more than through any other means, we have offered us a way of reaching the knowledge of Jesus Christ, cannot be doubted when it is remembered that with her alone of all others Jesus was for thirty years united, as a son is usually united with a mother, in the closest ties of intimacy and domestic life. Who could better than His Mother have an open knowledge of the admirable mysteries of the birth and childhood of Christ, and above all of the mystery of the Incarnation, which is the beginning and the foundation of faith? Mary not only preserved and meditated on the events of Bethlehem and the facts which took place in Jerusalem in the Temple of the Lord, but sharing as she did the thoughts and the secret wishes of Christ she may be said to have lived the very life of her Son. Hence nobody ever knew Christ so profoundly as she did, and nobody can ever be more competent as a guide and teacher of the knowledge of Christ. Pope Saint Pius X in “Ad Diem Illum Laetissimum 7.”
"Nor can it be asserted that the Redemption by Christ was on this account lessened, as if it did not extend to the whole race of Adam: and therefore something taken away from the office and dignity of the Divine Redeemer. For if we carefully and thoroughly consider the matter, we easily perceive that Christ the Lord in a certain most perfect manner really redeemed His mother, since it was by virtue of His merits that she was preserved by God immune from all stain of original sin. Wherefore, the infinite dignity of Jesus Christ and His office of universal redemption is not diminished nor lowered by this tenet of doctrine, rather it is greatly increased." Pope Pius XII in “Fulgens Corona 14”

"In the first place it is supremely fitting that exercises of piety directed towards the Virgin Mary should clearly express the Trinitarian and Christological note that is intrinsic and essential to them. Christian worship in fact is of itself worship offered to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, or, as the liturgy puts it, to the Father through Christ in the Spirit. From this point of view worship is rightly extended, though in a substantially different way, first and foremost and in a special manner, to the Mother of the Lord and then to the saints, in whom the Church proclaims the Paschal Mystery, for they have suffered with Christ and have been glorified with Him. In the Virgin Mary everything is relative to Christ and dependent upon Him. It was with a view to Christ that God the Father from all eternity chose her to be the all-holy Mother and adorned her with gifts of the Spirit granted to no one else. Certainly genuine Christian piety has never failed to highlight the indissoluble link and essential relationship of the Virgin to the divine Savior. Yet it seems to us particularly in conformity with the spiritual orientation of our time. which is dominated and absorbed by the "question of Christ," that in the expressions of devotion to the Virgin the Christological aspect should have particular prominence. It likewise seems to us fitting that these expressions of devotion should reflect God's plan, which laid down "with one single decree the origin of Mary and the Incarnation of the divine Wisdom." This will without doubt contribute to making piety towards the Mother of Jesus more solid, and to making it an effective instrument for attaining to full "knowledge of the Son of God, until we become the perfect man, fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself" (Eph. 4:13). It will also contribute to increasing the worship due to Christ Himself, since, according to the perennial mind of the Church authoritatively repeated in our own day, "what is given to the handmaid is referred to the Lord; thus what is given to the Mother redounds to the Son; ...and thus what is given as humble tribute to the Queen becomes honor rendered to the King." (Footnotes omitted) Paul VI in Marialis Cultus 25. [For the Right Ordering and Development of Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary]
"This "fullness" indicates the moment fixed from all eternity when the Father sent his Son "that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (Jn. 3:16). It denotes the blessed moment when the Word that "was with God...became flesh and dwelt among us" (Jn. 1:1, 14), and made himself our brother. It marks the moment when the Holy Spirit, who had already infused the fullness of grace into Mary of Nazareth, formed in her virginal womb the human nature of Christ. This "fullness" marks the moment when, with the entrance of the eternal into time, time itself is redeemed, and being filled with the mystery of Christ becomes definitively "salvation time." Finally, this "fullness" designates the hidden beginning of the Church's journey. In the liturgy the Church salutes Mary of Nazareth as the Church's own beginning, for in the event of the Immaculate Conception the Church sees projected, and anticipated in her most noble member, the saving grace of Easter. And above all, in the Incarnation she encounters Christ and Mary indissolubly joined: he who is the Church's Lord and Head and she who, uttering the first fiat of the New Covenant, prefigures the Church's condition as spouse and mother." Pope John Paul II in “Redemptoris Mater”.
Nowhere in any of these writings does one see the Catholic Church “elevating” Mary. Rather, the Church uses the dogma of the Immaculate Conception to show that honoring Mary is perfectly Christocentric. Through the teaching of the Immaculate Conception, the Church makes it clear that her pre-redemption is focused on Jesus Christ, the divine Redeemer. The only folks who "elevate" Mary are Protestant apologists who misapprehend and misrepresent that Catholics make her out to be an addition to the Holy Trinity.
I wrote previously:  "Second, Pelagius denied that death was a consequence of original sin."

Mr. Fan queried:  Do you mean of Adam's sin? Where does Pelagius deny this?
I answered with the following:

Yes, Adam’s sin is the original sin. (Rom. 5:12). Saint Augustine says that Pelagius’ denies it in his Commentary on Romans (I wish I was going to Columbus any time soon so I can get the book) in A Treatise on the Merits and Forgiveness of Sins. See also, On Original Sin, Chapter 14. In addition, I have already referred you to a number of secondary sources that indicate this. Schaff also claims this in his book, “Saint Augustine: Anti-Pelagian writings.
I wrote earlier: "He believed that death, old age and sickness were always a part of man's original state."

Mr. Fan asked: "Where does Pelagius state this? What writing of his?"

My brief response:

See, Schaff above.
I had written before: "Otherwise, Adam would have more power to destroy us than Christ had to save us (Pelagius' notion of the elect)."

Mr. Fan then asked: “That seems like Julian's argument against Augustine. Again, are you sure this is Pelagius?”

I replied:

Julian said it more explicitly than Pelagius, but at least the way I read it Pelagius’ commentary on Romans 5:12-15 certainly seems to affirm that. (N.B. I will try to lay my hands on the work so I can quote it rather than give my assertions.)
I wrote: "While the dogma of the Immaculate Conception states that Mary was preserved from the stain of original sin, she was not preserved from the effects of it~feeling sorrow, growing old or dying."

Mr. Fan then asked me to : a) Contrast your position with Bellisario's.

Earlier Mr. Bellisario had written the following comment:

“Do you know the difference between Original Sin and personal sin? She was conceived in the state that Adam and Eve were created in, with a lack of Original Sin, or in the state of Original Grace, yet differing because there was a special grace given to her after the fall. So she was pardoned the loss of Original Grace at her conception by the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, she is unique among the human race in this regard in being created like Adam and Eve were from the beginning. This is actually very fitting since her "yes" was the reversal of Adam and Eve's "no." Even though this is the case, there was still a possibility that she could have sinned after this as Adam and Eve did, but of course she remained in the grace of God by the grace of her only son, Jesus Christ. So God's grace through the Blessed Mother starts the process of redemption of mankind, which is only completed through the incarnation of Christ, and His sacrifice on the cross. Like it or not, she is shares in God's plan of redemption in the role in which God chose for her.”

What is there to contrast? Since Saint Paul tells us that death entered the world through Adam’s sin and since Mary suffered the effects of that, illness, injury, old age, and death; then she suffered from the effects of original sin although she did not suffer the from the privation of sanctifying grace that would have occurred had her soul been stained with it. The fact that Mr. Bellisario contends that Mary could have still personally sinned had God’s grace not continued to be active (concupiscence) throughout her life shows that he agrees with my position.

What the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception holds is that the stain of original sin- that formal active essence of original sin was not removed from her soul, as it is removed from others by baptism; it was rather excluded through God’s preemptive application of the merits of Christ’s death and resurrection. As such, she was merely conceived in the state of original sanctity, innocence, and justice that our first parents, Adam and Eve, had and all the stain and fault, depraved emotions, passions, and debilities, that come from original sin, were excluded. But, based on my researches into Catholic doctrine, there is an absence of any authority that contradict the Scriptures which says she was not made exempt from the temporal penalties of Adam -- from sorrow, bodily infirmities, and death. Furthermore, the fact that Jesus could thirst, be killed and did die shows that His human body too suffered from the temporal effects of original sin even though He certainly was wholly, totally and completely without sin, original or otherwise.

Mr. Fan continued:  b) Interesting that you acknowledge Mary's death.

I responded with:
Show me where I am not allowed to in the teachings of the Catholic Church. When Pope Pius XII defined the dogma of the Assumption in “Munificentissimus Deus,” he specifically did not decide whether Mary died before being assumed. I happen to believe that she did based on the totality of the patristic witness. What is important that God did not allow Mary to suffer from the sting of death-that is bodily corruption due to the graces she received from Him.
Mr, Fan then asked this question: “c) For whose sin did Mary die?”

I wrote this response:

Don’t be blasphemous. Unlike Jesus Christ’s death, her death had no redemptive feature. The dogma of the Assumption allows that Mary could have died, the fullness of grace that she had received from God as a part of His plan of salvation did not allow her was not suffer any corruption from dying.
Mr. Fan continued: d) I.D. stated: "And hence they affirmed that the Blessed Virgin was, through grace, entirely free from every stain of sin, and from all corruption of body, soul and mind; that she was always united with God and joined to him by an eternal covenant; that she was never in darkness but always in light; and that, therefore, she was entirely a fit habitation for Christ, not because of the state of her body, but because of her original grace." Are you sure that the dogma is limited only to the stain? If so, what's your authoritative basis for saying so?

Here is my reply:

Read the encyclicals that I indicated before. None of them state that God’s sanctifying grace given to her as a result of Christ’s eternal sacrifice on the cross cured her of the temporal effects of Adam’s original sin, only from the effects that are associated with the stain of original sin. See also, CCC 396-412, specifically CCC 411.
Previously, I had written: "Thus, the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception does not deny the universality of Original Sin, but makes clear its universality."

Mr. Fan asked: “Please identify which official formulation of the Immaculate Conception makes it clear that Mary was subject, in any way, to Original Sin.”

I responded in turn:
The Scriptures. For example: Lk. 2:34-35. I would ask you in turn to show me any official magisterial writing that says that Mary was not subject in any way to temporal effects of Original Sin, that is she could not suffer old age, illness, physical suffering or death.
Mr. Fan continued:  The explicit definition simply states: "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."

However, the defining document also affirms the broader claim: "So at the instance and request of the bishops mentioned above, with the chapters of the churches, and of King Philip and his kingdoms, we renew the Constitutions and Decrees issued by the Roman Pontiffs, our predecessors, especially Sixtus IV, Paul V, and Gregory XV, in favor of the doctrine asserting that the soul of the Blessed Virgin, in its creation and infusion into the body, was endowed with the grace of the Holy Spirit and preserved from original sin; and also in favor of the feast and veneration of the conception of the Virgin Mother of God, which, as is manifest, was instituted in keeping with that pious belief."


Unless the supposed application supposedly failed, original sin didn't apply to Mary.

I responded as follows:
Original sin is basically understood as the privation of sanctifying grace in consequence of the sin of Adam or it. However, the other effects of original sin, concupiscence and physical infirmity and death, are sometimes included under the definition of original sin. When the Pope Pius IX defined the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, it is clear from the context of the document, he was referring to the former; when I wrote in your comment box, I was referring to the latter.
The above back-and-forth only dealt with the first item which Mr. Fan claimed made that the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception a "Pelagian" doctrine.  Before I close this and try to get back to my Saint Bonaventure articles, I did want to touch upon Mr. Fan's second assertion,  "[T]he Pelagians are the first group we can document in church history who claim that Mary was born without original sin."  

This item of special pleading is interesting.  In a very loose sense, Mr. Fan could argue that the Pelagians did assert that Mary was immaculately conceived.  Using the same logic, however, it could be argued that the Pelagians claim that Turretinfan was immaculately conceived, too, since the Pelagians did not believe in the doctrine of original sin as Catholics and mainstream Protestants (even Reformed Presbyterians) understand it.  Is this an assertion that Mr. Fan wants us to assume?  Or is this an example of throw-away sophistry?

More to the point, Catholics contend that the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is supportable from scripture.  Additionally, since the patristic witnesses uniformly referred to Mary as the "Second Eve" going all the way back to at least St. Justin Martyr, it can be inferred as well.  It is beyond cavil that Eve was created immaculately.  If Mary is truly the "Second Eve," it can be inferred that she shared that characteristic with the first Eve.  But that is a post for another day...

In sum, I would humbly submit to the court of public opinion of which the reader is a member of the jury, that Mr. Fan has not carried his burden of proof in showing that the dogma of the Immaculate Conception was a Pelagian doctrine, either explictly, implicitly or even loosely. 

God bless!
My reply: