A Tradition of Error

The Immaculate Conception of Catholic Mary

The Roman Church often cites "Sacred Tradition" in support of her doctrines, but does not always explain the tradition or describe its origins. It is a simple matter to declare that a doctrine or practice is based on Tradition if one is not called to support the claim. Were I to do that, I do not doubt that a Catholic apologist would reject my position. Catholics will readily accept such arguments from a member of the RCC hierarchy because they are told that their church is protected from error in matters of faith and morals. The very dogmas that lead them to trust what the Magisterium teaches often are those defined as true according to Tradition--with no evidence given to back up such a claim.

The Catholic dogma that Mary was free from the stain of original sin from the very moment of her conception is not found, nor even hinted at, in Scripture. This doctrine was conceived in the fertile minds of imaginative and excessively pious men and defined by a reigning pope who;

. . . 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.

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 dare to express in words or writing or by any other outward means the errors he thinks in his heart. -- Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus, Apostolic Constitution issued by Pope Pius IX on December 8, 1854.

Given the absolute lack of a Scriptural foundation for the fantasy of Mary's sinless conception and life, Mama Church exercised her well-practiced art of verbal obfuscation to give the impression that the Bible indeed does support the lie.

722 The Holy Spirit prepared Mary by his grace. It was fitting that the mother of him in whom "the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily" [1] should herself be "full of grace." She was, by sheer grace, conceived without sin as the most humble of creatures, the most capable of welcoming the inexpressible gift of the Almighty. It was quite correct for the angel Gabriel to greet her as the "Daughter of Zion": "Rejoice." [2] It is the thanksgiving of the whole People of God, and thus of the Church, which Mary in her canticle [3]lifts up to the Father in the Holy Spirit while carrying within her the eternal Son. --Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed., © 1994/1997 United States Catholic Conference Inc. [My emphasis]

The bracketed numbers refer to three passages in Scripture that are alleged to support the dogmatic assertion that Catholicism's Mary was immaculately conceived. Let's see whether that is so. The first verse [1] is found in Paul's exhortation to the church at Colossae to choose Christ rather than philosophy. Read in context, what the verse says of Christ certainly is true, but has absolutely nothing to do with Mary.

6: As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:
7: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.
8: Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
9: For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
10: And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: -- Colossians 2:6-10, KJV [My emphasis]

The way the words are strung together in the Catechism paragraph quoted above, one might get the idea that Gabriel actually greeted Mary of Nazareth as "Daughter of Zion." This is not so. When Gabriel appeared to the young virgin, to let her know that she had been selected by God to be the vessel in which the Logos would be incarnated, he greeted her quite differently, as these verses, taken from what Catholics are assured was "Diligently Compared with the Latin Vulgate by Bishop Richard Challoner" will confirm:

26 And in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth,
27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David: and the virgin's name was Mary.
28 And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. -- Luke 1:26-28, Douay-Rheims Bible [My emphasis]

It appears those folks who put together the Catechism (a) don't know the Bible very well; or (b) they were attempting to make their project conform to faulty understanding of earlier churchmen; or (c) they deliberately set out to deceive the Catholic faithful.

The second citation [2] refers to two verses in the Old Testament: Zephaniah 3:14 and Zechariah 2:14. Both verses are found in Messianic prophecies concerning the Day of the Lord, and have absolutely nothing to do with Catholic Mary, who is identified in the Catechism as the Daughter of Zion. Zephaniah warns that God has pronounced judgment on Judah, on the nations that surround Judah and on Jerusalem. Once Israel is converted and fully restored under the righteous rule of God, she will inherit all the blessings found in the biblical covenants. Notice, in verse 15, that the Lord is in the midst of the Daughter of Zion. One can be in the midst of a crowd, but is it possible to be in the midst of a single person? The Daughter of Zion is a personification of Israel, not a title of Catholic Mary

14: Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem.
15: The LORD hath taken away thy judgments, he hath cast out thine enemy: the king of Israel, even the LORD, is in the midst of thee: thou shalt not see evil any more. -- Zephaniah 3:14-15 [My emphasis]

Those who may have made an effort to read for themselves the cited passages will have learned that Chapter 2 of the Book of Zechariah has no verse 14. The citation is a typographical error and should refer to chapter 2, verse 10, which is another Messianic promise to Israel; that Christ will have His throne in Jerusalem during His Millennial Reign. As you read the passage, please note that the Lord will "dwell in the midst" of the Daughter of Zion, which is the nation of Judah, not Catholic Mary.

10: Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the LORD.
11: And many nations shall be joined to the LORD in that day, and shall be my people: and I will dwell in the midst of thee, and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto thee.
12: And the LORD shall inherit Judah his portion in the holy land, and shall choose Jerusalem again. -- Zechariah 2:10-12, KJV [my emphasis]

The final citation [3} is to Luke 1:46-55, or Song of Mary. It is a recitation of all the covenant promises of God and in no way supports the notion that Mary was conceived without sin.

Catholicism teaches that God has a special affection for Rome's version of Mary of Nazareth, whom He has maintained free of all sin. Catholicism teaches that their high priestess has been referred to in Scripture as the "Daughter of Zion." I have attempted to demonstrate that though Catholic Mary certainly was a daughter of Zion, she was not The Daughter of Zion. The writers of the Old Testament assigned a variety of meanings to the word translated "daughter," e.g.

(4) Frequently it is the personification of a city, such as Jerusalem (e.g., "the daughter of Zion," Isa. 1:8; Jer. 4:31), or of a country (e.g., 46:11, "daughter of Egypt"). (5) In geneological materials, towns or villages are depicted as daughters, thus, indicating their relationships as colonies or dependencies of a state (e.g., Ps.48:11) or city ((1 Chr. 1:50; 2:3. . .) -- Allen C. Myers, Revision Editor, Eerdman's Bible Dictionary, "daughter," (C) 1987 Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., p. 261

God certainly loved and still loves His Chosen People, but Scripture makes it clear that the Daughter of Zion has at times been a bad girl who was severely punished for her sinfulness.

For forty years, the prophet Jeremiah warned the people of Israel that unless they changed their rebellious ways they would suffer the wrath of God. They did not heed the prophet's warning and God indeed did render painful judgment on Israel. In 586 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar defeated Israel and destroyed Jerusalem, reducing the city, the Temple and the walls to rubble and carrying off the inhabitants to Babylon. The Book of Lamentations is a collection of five elegies lamenting the destruction of the once proud city of Jerusalem, the Daughter of Zion, when God poured out His wrath on a rebellious people. If Catholic Mary, who is declared to have lived a sinless life, is the Daughter of Zion, then how to explain these few mentions of her in Lamentations?

2:1: How hath the Lord covered the daughter of Zion with a cloud in his anger, and cast down from heaven unto the earth the beauty of Israel, and remembered not his footstool in the day of his anger!

2:8: The LORD hath purposed to destroy the wall of the daughter of Zion: he hath stretched out a line, he hath not withdrawn his hand from destroying: therefore he made the rampart and the wall to lament; they languished together.

2:10: The elders of the daughter of Zion sit upon the ground, and keep silence: they have cast up dust upon their heads; they have girded themselves with sackcloth: the virgins of Jerusalem hang down their heads to the ground.

The Daughter of Zion is Israel and/or Jerusalem, not Catholicism's fantasy Queen of Heaven and Earth.

The Fable of Mary's Sinless Life

Those who compile Catholic fantasies into immutable dogmas frequently seek support from the writings of the Early Church Fathers who, it often is claimed, gave their unanimous consent to the doctrines contained in those dogmas.

Did the Early Church Fathers all agree that Mary was conceived without sin? No, they did not.

Another Catholic dogma holds that Mary, whom the RCC has identified with the Daughter of Zion [above], not only was conceived without the stain of original sin, but also lived a sinless life. This dogma was defined, sort of, by the Council of Trent.

lf any one saith, that a man once justified can sin no more, nor lose grace, and that therefore he that falls and sins was never truly justified; or, on the other hand, that he is able, during his whole life, to avoid all sins, even those that are venial,-except by a special privilege from God, as the Church holds in regard of the Blessed Virgin; let him be anathema. - Council of Trent, Session VI, Decree on Justification, Canons on Justification, Canon 23, January 13, 1547 [My emphasis]

Pope Pius IX, in defining the dogma of Mary's alleged Immaculate Conception, referred over and over and over to the fantasy that Mary lived a sinless life but neglected to define that fantasy as a dogma of the Catholic Church. His strongest argument in support of Mary's sinlessness was, to my mind, the tired old argument that Mama Church has always believed and taught this.

Above all creatures did God so love her that truly in her was the Father well pleased with singular delight. Therefore, far above all the angels and all the saints so wondrously did God endow her with the abundance of all heavenly gifts poured from the treasury of his divinity that this mother, ever absolutely free of all stain of sin, all fair and perfect, would possess that fullness of holy innocence and sanctity than which, under God, one cannot even imagine anything greater, and which, outside of God, no mind can succeed in comprehending fully. - Ineffabilis deus - Apostolic Constitution issued by Pope Pius IX on 8 December 1854 [My emphasis]

The Catholic Church teaches that Adam's sin is attributed to all men:

402 All men are implicated in Adam's sin, as St. Paul affirms: "By one man's disobedience many (that is, all men) were made sinners": "sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned." The Apostle contrasts the universality of sin and death with the universality of salvation in Christ. "Then as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man's act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men." - Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed., (c) United States Catholic Conference, Inc [My emphasis]

The Pauline verse quoted, sort of, is Romans 5:19. I compared the Catholic rendering of this verse with my 21st Edition of Eberhard Nestle's Novum Testamentum Graece and discovered that the Catholic translator apparently had overlooked one little word, the Greek word for the definite article "the" (tou).  This article is used four times in that verse. This oversight is certainly convenient for the people who dream up Catholic doctrine, fot it provides a way to circumvent the clear teaching of Scripture. Consider how Romans 5:19 reads when all the Greek original is used in preparing the translation"

19. For just as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. - NIV [My emphasis]

Scripture informs that, as a consequence of Adam's sin, all mankind has borne or will bear the stain of Adam's sin. The bishops gathered at the Council of Trent agreed that this is so, and defined a dogma asserting that to be the case. They also provided an escape clause for Catholic Mary who, apparently, is not to be numbered "among all men."

Besides, we must note a fact of the greatest importance indeed. Even the Council of Trent itself, when it promulgated the dogmatic decree concerning original sin, following the testimonies of the Sacred Scriptures, of the Holy Fathers and of the renowned Council, decreed and defined that all men are born infected by original sin; nevertheless, it solemnly declared that it had no intention of including the blessed and immaculate Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, in this decree and in the general extension of its definition. Indeed, considering the times and circumstances, the Fathers of Trent sufficiently intimated by this declaration that the Blessed Virgin Mary was free from the original stain; and thus they clearly signified that nothing could be reasonably cited from the Sacred Scriptures, from Tradition, or from the authority of the Fathers, which would in any way be opposed to so great a prerogative of the Blessed Virgin.[Sess. V, Can. 6; Denz. n. 792] -- Ineffabilis Deus, Op. cit.

In the Canons of the Decree on Original Sin, the Council made it clear that Catholic Mary was excluded from the stain of Original Sin:

This same holy Synod doth nevertheless declare, that it is not its intention to include in this decree, where original sin is treated of, the blessed and immaculate Virgin Mary, the mother of God; but that the constitutions of Pope Sixtus IV., of happy memory, are to be observed, under the pains contained in the said constitutions, which it renews. -- Council of Trent, Session V, Decree on Original Sin, Promulgated by Paul III on Jun 17, 1546

Pius IX was no slacker when it came to creating flowery titles for the Roman goddess, as the following demonstrates:

Accordingly, the Fathers have never ceased to call the Mother of God the lily among thorns, the land entirely intact, the Virgin undefiled, immaculate, ever blessed, and free from all contagion of sin, she from whom was formed the new Adam, the flawless, brightest, and most beautiful paradise of innocence, immortality and delights planted by God himself and protected against all the snares of the poisonous serpent, the incorruptible wood that the worm of sin had never corrupted, the fountain ever clear and sealed with the power of the Holy Spirit, the most holy temple, the treasure of immortality, the one and only daughter of life--not of death--the plant not of anger but of grace, through the singular providence of God growing ever green contrary to the common law, coming as it does from a corrupted and tainted root. . . . As if these splendid eulogies and tributes were not sufficient, the Fathers proclaimed with particular and definite statements that when one treats of sin, the holy Virgin Mary is not even to be mentioned; for to her more grace was given than was necessary to conquer sin completely. [Cf. Saint Augustine: De Natura et Gratia, c. 36.] -- Ineffabilis Deus, Op. cit. [My emphasis]

So much for popes and councils, now lets see if it is true that the Early Church Fathers unanimmously consented to the doctrine of Catholic Mary's perpetual sinlessness. Tertullian seems not to have consented, as these words from an argument against heretics make clear:

But there is some ground for thinking that Christ's answer denies His mother and brethren for the present, as even Apelles might learn. "The Lord's brethren had not yet believed in Him." So is it contained in the Gospel which was published before Marcion's time; whilst there is at the same time a want of evidence of His mother's adherence to Him, although the Marthas and the other Marys were in constant attendance on Him. In this very passage indeed, their unbelief is evident. Jesus was teaching the way of life, preaching the kingdom of God and actively engaged in healing infirmities of body and soul; but all the while, whilst strangers were intent on Him, His very nearest relatives were absent. By and by they turn up, and keep outside; but they do not go in, because, forsooth, they set small store on that which was doing within; nor do they even wait, as if they had something which they could contribute more necessary than that which He was so earnestly doing; but they prefer to interrupt Him, and wish to call Him away from His great work Now, I ask you, Apelles, or will you Marcion, please (to tell me), if you happened to be at a stage play, or had laid a wager on a foot race or a chariot race, and were called away by such a message, would you not have exclaimed, "What are mother and brothers to me? "And did not Christ, whilst preaching and manifesting God, fulfilling the law and the prophets, and scattering the darkness of the long preceding age, justly employ this same form of words, in order to strike the unbelief of those who stood outside, or to shake off the importunity of those who would call Him away from His work?

When denying one's parents in indignation, one does not deny their existence, but censures their faults. Besides, He gave others the preference; and since He shows their title to this favour-even because they listened to the word (of God)-He points out in what sense He denied His mother and His brethren. For in whatever sense He adopted as His own those who adhered to Him, in that did He deny as His those who kept aloof from Him. Christ also is wont to do to the utmost that which He enjoins on others. How strange, then, would it certainly have been, if, while he was teaching others not to esteem mother, or father, or brothers, as highly as the word of God, He were Himself to leave the word of God as soon as His mother and brethren were announced to Him! He denied His parents, then, in the sense in which He has taught us to deny ours-for God's work.--Tertullian, On the Flesh of Christ, chapter VII, [My emphasis]

Theodoret was another early church father who appears not to have shared the Romish Church's understanding of Mary's attributes. In a defense of Christ as both True God and True Man, he uses the different ways Christ related to His mother -- as her child and as her Lord.

If then He was made flesh, not by mutation, but by taking flesh, and both the former and the latter qualities are appropriate to Him as to God made flesh, as you said a moment ago, then the natures were not confounded, but remained unimpaired. And as long as we hold thus we shall perceive too the harmony of the Evangelists, for while the one proclaims the divine attributes of the one only begotten-the Lord Christ-the other sets forth His human qualities. So too Christ our Lord Himself teaches us, at one time calling Himself Son of God and at another Son of man: at one time He gives honour to His Mother as to her that gave Him birth; at another He rebukes her as her Lord.—Theodoret, Dialogues, 2

So much for unanimous agreement on Mary's sinlessness. Interestingly, it appears that at least one of the Early Fathers denied that original sin exists in anyone. Catholic doctrine can be so confusing.

The righteous Job says: 'Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return there;' not naked of possessions, for that were a trivial and common thing; but, as a just man, he departs naked of evil and sin, and of the unsightly shape which follows those who have led bad lives. For this was what was said, 'Unless ye be converted, and become as children,' pure in flesh, holy in soul by abstinence from evil deeds; showing that He would have us to be such as also He generated us from our mother-- Clement of Alexandria, The Stromata, 4:25

The Roman Church stands condemned by having violated her own rule that was pronounced by two infallible councils (Trent and Vatican I), which  declares that no one may interpret as doctrine what is not unanimously taught by the early fathers. As a Catholic you may even find fault with your Church from the above (and other sources), but choose to remain with her for a variety of reasons. If that is your position, please ask yourself this: If the Catholic Church is wrong then how can she be right?

The Catholic Church claims to be all that she is on the basis of doctrines she declares to be true. She is guided by the Spirit to be free from error, so she says. She is guided by Mary, in part, because she was free from the stain of original sin (which leads to the many glorious claims of Mary by the Roman Church), and this is true because the early fathers unanimously agreed it was true. We now know that the latter claim is untrue and Rome has erred. That demonstrates that the former claim is also untrue.

If what is true is that you must have complete trust (faith) in Jesus Christ to be saved then how will you be saved by remaining in a Church full of error? The whole purpose of this message board and the PTG ministry is to expose the errors of Catholicism by proclaiming the Gospel. That is done here almost daily. So if you remain within a Church that is rife with error then how can you walk with God, follow His precepts and stand with Him in faith? How can you be saved? Do you choose to remain with your Church because it is convenient? Do you remain Catholic so as to not disappoint your family? As hard as these words may be to read for one such as that, let me remind you what the Lord said:

And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said unto them, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me."--Mark 8:34, NASB

God has made it clear in His word that He is the way, the truth and the light. To choose that which is error is to deny Him.

But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.--Matthew 10:33, NASB

It pains me to post this because I grieve for loved ones who deny Him by their refusal to leave a Church of errors. Jesus never told us it would be easy to be part of His flock, but He did offer words of comfort.

These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage: I have overcome the world.--John 16:33 NASB

Salvation comes to man only through Jesus Christ.

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