The following article is the continuation of an excerpt from a chapter in the soon-to-be-published Marian anthology, Mariology: A Guide for Priests, Deacons, Seminarians, and Consecrated Persons, Seat of Wisdom Books, A Division of Queenship, 2008. Fifteen international Mariology experts contributed to the text. The book features a foreword by Archbishop Raymond L. Burke and has 17 chapters divided into four parts: 1. Mary in Scripture and the Early Church; 2. Marian Dogma; 3. Marian Doctrine; and 4. Marian Liturgy and Devotion. The book will be available from Queenship Publications in mid-February.
The Immaculate Conception (28)
It is commonplace today to encounter theologians who dismiss the auto-definition of Mary at Lourdes as an impossibility, typical of an over-excited mystical imagination and without theological, much less doctrinal, value (29). Such skepticism is but an aspect of a general minimizing of the Immaculate Conception as a doctrine without any immediate biblical foundation, or as a late blooming theologoumenon, coefficient of an outdated scholastic system of metaphysics and tributary to a questionable Augustinian theory of original sin, since Vatican II historical relics of a bygone age. Assertions of this kind form the basis for proposals to “dedogmatize” the Immaculate Conception and thereby reduce Mariology to the status of a marginal part of theology, dealing with truths on the lower rungs of the “hierarchy of truths,” belief in which is not absolutely necessary for salvation (30).
Careful, honest and objective examination of these claims does not require much time to recognize the unsustainable structure of this kind of argumentation and the gratuitous character of so many of its erroneous assertions (31). Let us focus our attention on one of the most gratuitous, viz., that the mystery now known as the dogma of the Immaculate Conception made a late appearance in the Church, long after the close of public revelation and formation of the deposit of faith. This is simply false. And the demonstration of its falsity not only undermines the credibility of most of the other assertions in modern arguments against the Immaculate Conception, but makes plain the central importance of this mystery within the economy of salvation. The development or process culminating in the dogmatic definition of 1854, rather than creating a new truth, clarified one always believed because always included in the deposit of faith formed by our Lord. It is by first studying this Tradition as it is proclaimed by the living Magisterium of the Church that we come to master a theological (and not merely philological-historical) exegesis of the Scriptures. In studying the Immaculate Conception as framed by Tradition we come to realize what St. Bonaventure means when he says (32) that we find in Scripture not merely a treatise on Mariology, but somehow the presence of Mary in every verse of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. For it is impossible to speak of the incarnate Word without including some reference to the Marian mode of the Incarnation. Appreciation of how the biblical affirmation of the all-holiness of Mary, her blessedness, her absolute immunity from the Devil’s influence, comes to be expressed as the Immaculate Conception, and how this formulation is basic to an understanding of the mysteries of grace and of the Church, arises precisely out of study of this mystery in Tradition. […]