What brought about the Infallible Pronouncement of the Immaculate Conception?

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I always hear that a Definitive Infallible Statement issued by the Pope is usually brought about by the faitfull who want an issue put to rest. Is this why the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception occurred in 1854? Were there still Catholics who didn't belive this? In short, what was His reason to make it official?

-- D Joseph (newfiedufie@msn.com), November 13, 2004

Answers

It is not true to say that infallible pronouncements (papal or conciliar) are "usually brought about by the faitfull who want an issue put to rest." I have never heard of such a thing happening with regard to the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. There is no reference to a public appeal for a definition in the Catholic Encyclopedia article on the subject.

-- Pellegrino (vaga@bond.com), November 13, 2004.

Formal ex cathedra definitions of doctrinal truths are usually the result of current confusion about a certain doctrine of the faith, particularly a current attack on such a document by some heretical faction. However, this refers only to formal definitions of pre-existing infallible doctrine. It does not refer to ordinary propagation of doctrine by the magisterium of the Church, which is likewise infallible, and which is not usually propagated in response to any current attack on said doctrine.

-- Paul M. (PaulCyp@cox.net), November 13, 2004.

Thanks guys. Actually, I just found this answer in the Catholic Answers forum:

"Doctrines are defined formally only when there is a controversy that needs to be cleared up or when the Magisterium (the Church in its office as teacher; cf.. Matt. 28:1820; 1 Tim. 3:15, 4:11) thinks the faithful can be helped by particular emphasis being drawn to some already-existing belief. The definition of the Immaculate Conception was prompted by the latter motive; it did not come about because there were widespread doubts about the doctrine. In fact, the Vatican was deluged with requests from people desiring the doctrine to be officially proclaimed. Pope Pius IX, who was highly devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary, hoped the definition would inspire others in their devotion to her. By understanding the work that God has done in Our Lady, all should have greater appreciation for both him and her. For if one member of the body is honored, all should share in its joy (1 Cor 12:26). "

-- D Joseph (newfiedufie@msn.com), November 13, 2004.


Formal ex cathedra definitions of doctrinal truths are usually the result of current confusion about a certain doctrine of the faith, particularly a current attack on such a document by some heretical faction.

These motivations ("current confusion" and "current attack") have been true of most definitions coming out of ecumenical councils approved by popes. But everything I have read on this subject read says that "current confusion" and "current attack" were not the motivation for the two best-known "ex cathdra definitions," those of the dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption (1854 and 1950). I believe that the text of Blessed Pope Pius IX's "Ineffabilis Deus," the bull proclaiming the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, confirms this.

The bull's words that I will quote below will place a corrective on the above quotation from another forum -- the Vatican was deluged with requests from people desiring the doctrine to be officially proclaimed -- which wrongly make it seem that the pope was almost forced to act by a clamor from the pews. (Some laypeople take such a wrong idea and run with it, thinking that they can successfully "deluge the Vatican with requests" to proclaim additional Marian dogmas.)

Prefacing the following words of Bl. Pius IX are his historical sketch of the centuries-old, traditional belief, by many bishops, theologians, etc. in Our Lady's conception without original sin:
Hence, nothing was dearer, nothing more pleasing to these pastors than to venerate, invoke, and proclaim with most ardent affection the Virgin Mother of God conceived without original stain. Accordingly, from ancient times the bishops of the Church, ecclesiastics, religious orders, and even emperors and kings, have earnestly petitioned this Apostolic See to define a dogma of the Catholic Faith the Immaculate Conception of the most holy Mother of God. These petitions were renewed in these our own times. They were especially brought to the attention of Gregory XVI, our predecessor of happy memory, and to ourselves, not only by bishops, but by the secular clergy and religious orders, by sovereign rulers and by the faithful.

-- Pellegrino (vaga@bond.com), November 14, 2004.


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