This post follows small additions to my last true story post.
In this post I want to write about my research and readings at the Abbey, and the questions I had for Br. Ansgar and Fr. Joachim.
I asked Br. Ansgar about the "immaculate heart" of Mary, and what that meant, if it implied Mary was "immaculate" or without any sin. Br. Ansgar said yes, and said the Catholic church believed not only Jesus was without any sin, but that his mother, Mary, was also conceived without any original sin. He said this dogma was called "The Immaculate Conception". I told Ansgar I had always taken this to refer to Christ and his immaculate conception. I wanted to know how this dogma was developed. Ansgar said the church believed some things are "hidden" and come to light or are revealed later. He said when this happens, if the Pope declares a new doctrine or "revelation" to be "dogma", he will issue this decision "ex cathedra" or, "from the chair", which is the chair of Peter. Peter being, of course, a reference to the apostle Peter and the RCC's belief their church was spearheaded by Peter.
So, this power and authority of the pope, or the RCC, to issue new dogmas, or declare "previously understood" doctrine to be official dogma, stems from ANOTHER dogma, which is called "papal infallibility". Both dogmas: Papal Infallibility and The Immaculate Conception, were made dogma in the latter half of the 1800s. I wanted to know why and how they came to be. What basis was there for these dogmas? What scriputural or traditional basis?
I wasn't out to disprove or disagree, at this point, I simply wanted to understand and know for myself. If I could understand, this would clear the path for my conversion to the Catholic faith, I thought, but I wasn't going to be a "cafeteria Catholic" and someone who took part of the faith and not all of it. If they were saying it was TRUE, then it was either all true, or not.
I had to ask a lot of questions and read a lot about papal infallibility. Br. Ansgar explained to me that popes can err, and even err on their doctrinal opinions, but that once they are speaking from "the chair", which is supposed to be as the mouthpiece of Christ Himself, he cannot err, and is infallible in matters of faith. The scriputural argument is that Christ will not allow his church to fall into apostasy and will preserve it from error, by the Holy Spirit.
In my first meeting with Ansgar, on the park bench, he wrote out some names to support the idea that The Immaculate Conception was always a belief of the church, even before it was made dogma. He wrote down the name of St. Irenaeus. This was one of the first books I checked out to read. The complete works of an early Christian writer from the 3rd century (I believe). I need to check my dates. Ansgar said the RCC believed there was reference to the sinless nature of Mary in a text Irenaeus writes, about how ONE woman, Eve, bound mankind through her disobedience to God, to original sin and the generational transmission of this sin, and then how Mary, through her obedience, undid this "curse" or was granted a special "grace" to be free from this sin. The saying was that how could Jesus be born from a mother who carried the seed of original sin within her, if he was truly conceived from her?
I kept saying, "But I thought JESUS was the one who received the special grace of not having any original sin. I thought HE was the "immaculate conception" and he didn't need a perfect or sinless mother, because he was the grace in and of himself!"
I wanted to know how this dogma came about, why I'd never heard of it, and what I was missing. I also wanted to know about papal infallibility, and eventually, learning about the immaculate conception of Mary idea led to an even more recent dogma which was proclaimed in the 1950s: The Assumption of Mary.
Papal Infallibility, The Immaculate Conception of Mary, and The Assumption of Mary are all very recently proclaimed dogmas which followed eachother and are necessarily bound together.
I'll explain why and what I found, to anyone who cares, in my next post.