Dear Father Angelo,
with the bull Ineffabilis Deus, Blessed Pius IX dogmatically defined that “the most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of Almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin”.
I would like to ask you if it is also a dogma of faith that Mary did not commit even the slightest venial sin in her life.
If it is not a dogma, is it then a matter that can be freely discussed?
I apologize for the inconvenience and I thank you in advance for the answer you will offer me. I would like to send you my best wishes for the Dominican Jubilee that I have heard about.
Answer of the priest
1. in the pronouncement of Pius IX on the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary with the bull Ineffabilis Deus of 8 December 1854, we read: “We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine, which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary at the first instant of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of Almighty God, in virtue of the merits of Christ Jesus, the Savior of the human race, was preserved immaculate from all stain of original sin, has been revealed by God, and on this account must be firmly and constantly believed by all the faithful” (DS 2803).
2. Here is the subject of the bull.
The preservation from original guilt makes Mary the only human person who has never had the slightest solidarity with the world of sin.
This also means exemption from all the consequences of sin in the moral order.
First of all from concupiscence, that is from the indeliberate disorder of her faculties.
This is not explicitly stated by the Bull, but it can be deduced with certainty from the definition.
Concupiscence is in fact the immediate fruit of that sin from which Mary was perfectly preserved.
This was necessary in Mary for the complete victory over sin and to fulfill her mission as Mother and Cooperator of the Redeemer in the clearer and most free way.
3. John Paul II in his Marian catecheses recalled that “the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception directly considers only the first moment of Mary’s existence, from which She was ‘preserved free from all stains of original sin’.
The papal Magisterium thus wanted to define only the truth that had been the subject of controversy over the centuries: the preservation from original sin, without concerning to define the permanent holiness of the Virgin Mother of the Lord.
This truth already belongs to the common sense of the Christian people.
In fact, it attests that Mary, exempt from original sin, was also preserved from all actual sin and her initial holiness was granted to her so that it could fill her entire existence” (19.6.1996).
4. John Paul II continues by saying that “the Church has constantly regarded Mary as holy and free from all sin or moral imperfection.
The Council of Trent expresses this conviction, affirming that no one ‘can avoid all sins, even venial ones, throughout one’s life, unless it be by a special privilege of God, as the Church holds of the Blessed Virgin’ (DS 1573).
Even the Christian transformed and renewed by grace is not spared the possibility of sinning. Grace does not preserve him from all sin throughout his whole life, unless, as the Council of Trent asserts, a special privilege guarantees this immunity from sin.
And this is what happened with Mary.
The Council of Trent did not wish to define this privilege, however it declared that the Church vigorously affirms it: “Tenet”, that is, she firmly holds it. It is a choice which, far from relegating this truth to pious belief or devotional opinion, confirms its character of solid doctrine, well held in the faith of the People of God.
Moreover, this conviction is based on the grace attributed to Mary by the angel at the time of the Annunciation. Calling her ‘full of grace’, kecharitoméne, the angel acknowledged her as the woman endowed with a permanent perfection and a fullness of sanctity, without shadow of sin or of moral or spiritual imperfection” (Ib.).
5. So the fact that Our Lady did not commit any fault for the rest of her life is not a dogma of faith, but is of the Catholic faith, immediately after dogma in terms of degree and value, always universally taught by the Church or at least close to faith (proximum fidei).
Therefore, it is not a matter of free dispute among theologians. It is a perennial teaching of the Church.
6. I thank you for the wishes for the Jubilee of the Dominican Order, which celebrates the eighth centenary of its approval (December 22, 1216).
I assure you of my remembrance in prayer and I bless you.
Translated by Chiara P.