Further Adventures of Protestant Pete and Catholic Cathy on the Question of the Immaculate Conception
By Tim Rohr, 11/30/05
“Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, "full of grace" through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854:
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.
- Catechism of the Catholic Church 491
There are many things we can say about the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, but the following “dialog” begins with the most common objection.
PP: How can you Catholics believe that Mary was conceived without sin when the Bible clearly says in Romans 3.23 “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”?
CC: Pete, how is a sin committed?
PP: Well, when a person rejects God and does something against his will.
CC: Can a baby reject God?
PP: Of course not.
CC: Then at what point is a child capable of committing a sin?
PP: When they reach the age of reason.
CC: And when is that?
PP: Most people think it’s at about seven years old.
CC: So then when Paul says “all have sinned” is he including children before the age of reason?
PP: No, but what’s your point?
CC: The point is that Paul simply does not mean “all” in the sense of every living being who ever lived without exception because obviously children before the age of reason are excluded simply because they are not capable of sinning.
PP: Maybe that’s true, but Paul means that we are all born with original sin.
CC: Does Paul say that in this passage?
PP: Well not exactly, but…
CC: Well, he doesn’t. He uses the words “have sinned” implying that an active, conscious sin has been committed. He is not referring to the sin we are born with, is he?
PP: Well, no, but you Catholics claim that Mary was born without original sin. How can you believe that? It’s not in the Bible?
CC: Well, what about Genesis 3:15?
PP: What about it?
CC: Let’s look it up. It says here “I will put enmity between thee and the woman and between thy seed and her seed.” Pete, what is the seed that God is referring to?
PP: Well, Jesus of course.
CC: Then the woman has to be Mary, right?
PP: Yes. So?
CC: Can you define “enmity” for me?
PP: Well, I think it means hostility or hatred.
CC: You’re right. The word in Latin is “inimicus” which means “enemy”. God says in fact that He will make Mary an enemy of Satan. Our Catholic Church simply takes the Sacred Scriptures literally here and clarifies that the enmity between Satan and Mary is total. It had to be. God is infinite goodness and Satan is infinite evil. To say that Mary was born with original sin is to deny what God means by “enmity” in Genesis 3:15.
PP: Well, I still don’t believe it. That’s just your interpretation.
CC: Look, Pete. I know I’m not going to convince you, but let me ask you this.
God is all powerful, correct? He can do anything.
CC: Then He could have made Mary sinless if He wanted to, right?
PP: Well, yes, theoretically.
CC: Well, if he could have, theoretically, the next question is do you think He would have wanted to? After all, God himself was going to have spend nine months in her womb.
PP: Well, I suppose, yes.
CC: Well, then, Pete. We’ll just leave it at that for now. God could have and He would have. The Catholic Church simply teaches that He did.
Learn more about how to defend, explain, and advance the Catholic teaching on Mary in Beginning Apologetics Vol. 6: How to Explain and Defend Mary available at John Paul the Great Book and Gift Shop at the Agana Shopping Center.