Here's a topic I would appreciate you discussing: papal infallibility. I am a Catholic convert, and for a long time, this was on my list of reasons I couldn't be Catholic. Then, eventually, I learned that papal infallibility had only really been invoked a couple of times, which made me feel better; it wasn't like the Pope was prone to ego-tripping statements of infallibility just to show he was the Boss. Then I learned that the two times since Vatican I that papal infallibility had been invoked had to do with the Assumption and the Immaculate Conception. Hmm.If believing that Mary was conceived without sin and assumed bodily into heaven help you grow closer to God, well, I'm not going to be one to debunk. And that was the attitude I brought into the Church when I converted. Personally, I would think that if Mary was born without sin and was assumed into heaven, those sorts of details might have worked their way into the writings of the earliest Church. I have to say, I have trouble buying in to those two tenets of the Faith, and the fact that the Pope spoke infallibly in their favor doesn't so much elevate those doctrines in stature as it does lessen the papacy a little for me. It just seems to much like a father being questioned why something is so and replying "Because I said so," only because he knows he doesn't have a good answer. And the louder Dad says that, the more you know he's on weak ground.But I'm sure I'm missing something here.
We're so glad you've converted. We hope you can have a little talk with Anne Rice in the hope of bringing her back (again). Of course her issues are a little different.
I digress for a reason. It's very difficult to answer your question because, to me, and I think to many Catholics, they are in a sense questions of the heart. The Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of Mary into Heaven have always been with us as a part of what we call 'Sacred Tradition", long before any Pope made any Ex Cathedra pronouncements. For cradle Catholics these beliefs have been with us long, we just don't worry think much about where they came from. It's just something you know, sort of like when a baby figures out the if he crawls off the end of the table he'll land hard on the floor. Most babies actually become aware of that without having to have a painful lesson. Understanding that when the ball rolls behind the couch it hasn't ceased to exist, or that air won't hold you up is part of natural cognitive development.
And yet, we have airplanes.
Have I digressed again?
Papal Infallibility in a nutshell: You're playing Scrabble with the Pope and he throws down the word "blotsnefad". Does he win because he's infallible and can make anything true that he wants to be true? No. The Pope is only infallible when he speaks on matters of Dogma and only when he speaks on them "Ex Cathedra" which means, "from the Throne".
Jesus gave His Church to Peter and Papal succession goes all the way back to that moment. Jesus won't let the Pope go wrong.
It seems like we've always known that the ball doesn't cease to exist when it rolls behind the couch, but we didn't always know that.
I think that part of the reason the Separated Brethren have issues with Mary Dogma, is that they don't care much for Mary in general, so they pay no attention to what Mary herself has told us. I'm thinking they don't think Mary has spoken to anyone.
Which is entirely understandable, given Mary in the toast and Mary as a lump of melted chocolate and Mary underneath the freeway made of oil and goo. Trust me, Holy Mother Church isn't too thrilled with all of that, either. Still, we don't want to stand in the way of anything that helps bring people to Jesus.
Which is Mary's job. It's all she ever talks about when she visits.
It's how she introduces herself that is of interest to this discussion.
I'll refer you to a couple of important instances where Mary has appeared and validated that she is the Immaculate Conception.
The Real Deal. Important to note here, is that Mary showed Catherine a vision of how the medal should look and the words "Oh Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee" are therefore Mary's words, not Catherine's.
Emergency Lourdes Water. Important to note here is what a dim bulb poor little Bernadette really was. She was literally dirt poor, living in a hut with practically no education except for the nuns trying to prepare her for her First Holy Communion and that wasn't going well at all. Bernadette was very sickly and missed out on a lot of lessons and could never remember her Catechism. So when the bishop asked Bernadette to find out who this lady was and Bernadette heard the lady's answer, it may as well have been "Blotsnefad" to Bernadette. It was so baffling and nonsensical to her that she said it over and over again from the grotto to the bishop's door. "I Am the Immaculate Conception."
Even more important to note, for you, dear reader, is that not only had Bernadette never heard these words in her life, she also had no knowledge that the Pope had just declared the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception four years before Bernadette's encounters with the Lady.
So Mary actually validates Papal Infallibility during her visit to Bernadette. It wasn't the reason for her trip. She was trying, as always, to bring people to Jesus. In an effort to boost belief, Mary left a healing spring.
But these two things are beliefs that the Church has always held. "Sacred Tradition."
There are quite a few beliefs that fall into this category. That Joseph was an older man who died before Jesus began his ministry. That Mary's parents were named Joachim and Anne.
The Church has always believed that Mary was conceived without sin and the she was assumed into heaven. The Pope just finally made it official. It didn't come out of thin air.
You will fall if you walk off a building, because gravity will pull you earthward.
Mary was conceived without sin because she was to be the mother of Jesus and she couldn't pass Original Sin onto Him.
Sacred Tradition tells us that the disciples were with Mary when she died and that her body disappeared. We have John the Baptist's head and the body of St. Peter. We have nothing of Mary. Nothing. Since she was conceived without sin, she could be assumed bodily into heaven.
She actually didn't even have to die, but she did in deference to Jesus, who died. She can't outdo Jesus by not dying.
In any case, we're actually not dealing with "because I said so" here. We're dealing with "because we've believed these things since the Church was born and because Mary said so and the Pope who protects the Church through Jesus said so and because it actually makes theological sense."
Although, don't write off poor Dad when he says, "because I said so." Sometimes there just isn't time to explain that you're about to fall off the table.