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Shawn wrote:

Hi, Mike —

I'm writing with the hope that you can provide me with some insight so I can truly understand the Immaculate Conception.

I have read tons of material, but cannot yet grasp nor accept it fully. I have a similar problem understanding the Pope being infallible in areas of faith and morals and where ex cathedra statements fit in. Please, help me.

This is truly a burden for me.

Thank you dear brother in Christ!


  { Can you help me to understand the Immaculate Conception and the Papal infallibility? }

Mike replied:

Hi, Shawn —

Greet to hear from you.

The Immaculate Conception

I think, most Catholics think the Immaculate Conception occurred in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It did not!

The Immaculate Conception happened in St. Anne's womb, the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Mary's parents, St. Joachim and St. Anne nevertheless, had the Blessed Virgin Mary, their daughter, via the normal conjugal relations that a husband and wife have, but Mary was immaculately conceived in the womb of her mother, Anne.

The conception and following birth of Jesus in the Blessed Virgin Mary's womb is called the Virgin Birth of Our Lady.

It is called the Virgin Birth because in a totally miraculous way, that has been passed down to us by Oral Teaching, Mary was a virgin, before, during and after, the birth of Jesus.

Mind blowing, yes!

  • How can this happen? With God anything is possible, as this was His choice.

The Catholic Christian trusts the Oral Tradition that has been passed down by Our Lord's Church to know this was a true event.

Papal infallibility

It's important to remember that when we talk about Papal infallibility it is based on Jesus' words in Matthew 16:13-20; that the gates of Hell would not prevail against His Church, the Catholic Church, on issues of faith and morals. The teaching on Papal infallibility is based on the Divinity of Jesus, who is True God and True Man. Being God, He can neither deceive, nor be deceived.

A second, very important point is Papal infallibility is a negative safeguard.

  • What do I mean?

It does not mean the Pope will always preach in the most holiest, most correct, most perfect manner. It means that he is protected, by the Holy Spirit, against saying or preaching anything against faith or morals when teaching in his official capacity to the Church as Pope.

  • Could he have a personal opinion on a non-doctrinal teaching that is wrong?
    Yes, he's human.
  • Could he make a mistake in one of his Wednesday talks to the public?
    Yes, he's human.
  • Could make a mistake during one of his Masses?
    Yes, he's human.
  • Could some of his writings be ambiguous?
    Yes, he's human.

It is only when he is teaching something in his official capacity as Pope to the Church and Christian faithful that we know, what he is teaching is true and must be believed.

As a side note: Though the answer to the previous four questions is Yes, our previous two Pope have been excellent teachers of the faith and today's Catholic Christians should feel blessed to have them, by Divine Providence.

My answer speaks to the Papacy as a whole from 33 A.D. to 2011 A.D.

Some may say:

  • But I don't understand how Papal infallibility or the Immaculate Conception can happen?

This is where we must put our faith in the Church before our limited, finite mind and intellect.

We must say, I have a hard time understanding this, but I'm trusting the Church because I know it's Jesus who is guiding, guarding, protecting and safeguarding His own Teachings.

If you have doubts about any Teaching of the Church, I would grab a Rosary, find a nearby Catholic parish and visit when you know the Church will be empty. While praying your Rosary, ask the Lord to enlighten your mind on the teachings you don't understand or mold your heart and mind to accept them, whether you understand them or not.

Finally, the term ex cathedra, literally means "from the chair", and is a theological term which signifies authoritative teaching (from the chair of Peter, similar to the chair of Moses,
See Matthew 23:2). It is applied to the teachings solemnly preached by the Roman pontiff.

The last time a teaching was re-affirmed ex cathedra was in 1950:

Mary's Assumption.


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