Wikipedia Errors on the Immaculate Conception
A series of articles on Wikipedia errors on Catholicism
by Ronald L. Conte Jr.

[Wikipedia Errors:   Papal Infallibility | Immaculate Conception | Original Sin | Venial Sin | Mortal Sin | Sanctifying Grace | Roman Catholic Dogma]

The Immaculate Conception
(June 27, 2009)

Wikipedia: "The dogma says that, from the first moment of her existence, she was preserved by God from the lack of sanctifying grace that afflicts mankind, and that she was instead filled with divine grace."

The Council of Trent infallibly taught that original sin affects both body and soul. But this article repeatedly errs by considering Mary's preservation from original sin to apply only to the soul, not also to the body. The above quote links 'divine grace' to a very poorly written article, with numerous incorrect and inaccurate explanations of what grace is. Mary was filled with grace from her conception, but if grace is not properly explained and understood, the explanation of the Immaculate Conception will also not be understood. In Wikipedia, on the topic of Catholicism, often one faulty article depends upon another, making both articles all the worse.

Wikipedia: "It is further believed that she lived a life completely free from sin."

This doctrine, of Mary's sinlessness, is related to, but distinct from, the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Wikipedia: "Her immaculate conception in the womb of her mother, by sexual intercourse, should not be confused with the doctrine of the virginal conception of her son Jesus."

The Catholic Faith has no particular teaching stating that the Immaculate Conception occurred by means of sexual intercourse. As often happens in these articles on Catholicism, various non-Catholic or ill-informed Catholic editors make various assumptions and then confuse these with teachings.

Wikipedia: "Catholic theology maintains that since Jesus became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, it was fitting that she be completely free of sin for expressing her fiat."

The dogma of the Immaculate Conception states that Mary was preserved from original sin by the merits of Jesus Christ, not by her future meritorious act of cooperating with God's grace fully in her fiat (when she agreed to the will of God concerning the Incarnation and conception of Christ). The Immaculate Conception is not a reward to Mary for her fiat. The Immaculate Conception is a fruit of the Cross of Christ, not a fruit of her own subsequent act of cooperation with grace.

Wikipedia: "For the Roman Catholic Church the dogma of the Immaculate Conception gained additional significance from the apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes in 1858. At Lourdes a 14-year-old girl, Bernadette Soubirous, claimed a beautiful lady appeared to her. The lady said, 'I am the Immaculate Conception', and the faithful believe her to be the Blessed Virgin Mary."

The Immaculate Conception is a dogma of the Catholic Faith. All private revelations, even those fully approved and accepted in the Church, add nothing to the teachings of the Church on faith or morals. Private revelation does not lend additional meaning to a dogma. Dogmas stand on their own as truths of the Faith.

Wikipedia: "In this sense, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception defined by Pope Pius IX is also viewed as a key example of the use of sensus fidelium shared by the faithful and the Magisterium rather than pure reliance on Scripture and Tradition."

The Second Vatican Council taught that the Magisterium teaches only from Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, which together constitute the Sacred Deposit of Faith (the deposit of Divine Revelation). The sensus fidelium is not a source of truth, but rather the understanding of the faithful. All dogmas and doctrines are found in, at least implicitly, and taken from, Sacred Tradition or Sacred Scripture. The Magisterium does not teach apart from Tradition and Scripture. The article cited by the above quote makes the same error.

Second Vatican Council: "Sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the word of God, committed to the Church…. But the task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ. This teaching office is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully in accord with a divine commission and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it draws from this one deposit of faith everything which it presents for belief as divinely revealed." (Dei Verbum, n. 10)

Second Vatican Council: "But when either the Roman Pontiff or the Body of Bishops together with him defines a judgment, they pronounce it in accordance with Revelation itself…." (Lumen Gentium, n. 25)

Wikipedia: "The Roman Catholic tradition has a well-established philosophy for the study of the Immaculate Conception and the veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the field of Mariology, with Pontifical schools such as the Marianum specifically devoted to this."

This quote is a good example of the type of poorly-written pseudo-scholarly text that appears in many articles on Catholicism in Wikipedia. Sacred Tradition is Divine Revelation; it is not a philosophy. The Immaculate Conception is a dogma of the Faith taught implicitly in Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, and explicitly by the Magisterium. This dogma is not accurately described as a mere object of philosophical study. Also, the article again confuses theology with teachings of the Magisterium.

The entire section on the History of the Dogma is poorly written. It ignores the writings of the early Church Fathers, mentions Islamic sources, focuses mainly on the Middle Ages, inaccurately states Aquinas' position, and there are numerous assertions and theological explanations without any citations.

Compare these better Catholic articles on the historical development of the dogma:

Wikipedia: "The Pope stressed that Mary's sinlessness was not due to her own merits, but truly, by the merits of her son, Jesus."

The assertion in the definition itself that the Immaculate Conception is due to the merits of Christ is required by the infallible teachings of the Council of Trent on salvation; it is not merely a point to be stressed, but a previously defined dogma that is essential to this dogma on the Immaculate Conception. Also, the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception distinct from, though related to, Mary's sinlessness throughout her life. This article repeatedly confuses the two doctrines.

Wikipedia: "Simply stated, Mary possessed sanctifying grace from the first instant of her existence and was free from the lack of grace caused by the "original or first sin" at the beginning of human history."

This explanation is heretical, since it claims that the Immaculate Conception preserves Mary only from the effects of original sin on the soul, and not also on the body. This contradicts the infallible teachings of the Council of Trent that original sin affects body and soul.

Wikipedia: "In Catholic teachings the dogma is explained as follows…."

This entire section has serious theological problems. First, again, the heretical claim is made that the dogma of the Immaculate Conception merely preserves Mary's soul from original sin, not also her body. Second, the remainder of this section is paraphrased poorly from Ludwig Ott's excellent book, The Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. Third, Ott's theological assertions, which are to some extent speculative theology, are presented as if this were the definitive teaching of the Church on the Immaculate Conception.

This passage is a good example of a common type of error in Catholic articles in Wikipedia. Some editor who is ignorant about Catholic teaching and about Catholic theology, looks up a subject in a book, does not understand what he reads, and then poorly paraphrases it for Wikipedia. The addition of a citation (often lacking in Wikipedia articles on this subject) only serves to give this passage a false assurance of reliability.

Then there is this citation: "Some Roman Catholic theologians[who?]…." This paragraph concludes by claiming, without any basis, that the term Immaculate Conception is taken from the Song of Songs; this assertion appears to be based solely on the fact that the term macula appears in the Latin of this book of the Bible. So while the verse cited can be taken as implicitly referring to the Immaculate Conception, it is not responsible for the term itself. The editor of this paragraph seems to be unaware that the Latin Bible contains numerous uses of the term "immaculata."

Wikipedia: "It is also claimed that Mary is shown as being totally faithful to Christ, especially during his Passion, when he was abandoned by his followers and apostles except for the young John. In this way, Mary's complete faithfulness is argued to be the fruit of being sinless, as she could not then reject Christ in the darkest hour."

Again, the article confuses the teaching that Mary was sinless throughout her life with the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. These two teachings are related, but distinct. Also, Mary's sinlessness is not proved by her remaining at the Cross, since John and Mary Magdalene were also at the Cross. The Romans would not permit adult men to be there, since the men might take up arms (so they thought) to defend their leader; but women and youths like John were not considered by the Romans to be much of a threat. So the presence of women and a youth at the Cross does not prove sinlessness.

Wikipedia: "This section does not cite any references or sources. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unverifiable material may be challenged and removed. (August 2008)"

Almost a year later, the passage still lacks all but one citation. The entire article has numerous erroneous assertions, some with citations, and some without. Adding footnotes to poorly-written, inaccurate, and even false or heretical statements does not improve the text, but only worsens it by giving it a pretense of authority.

Wikipedia: "Mary was not the product of a Virgin Birth herself; Christian tradition identifies her parents as Saints Joachim and Anne. In fact, both Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy have condemned the belief that Mary was the product of a virgin birth."

No citation here because the Catholic Church has never condemned the belief that Mary had a virgin conception and a virgin birth. In fact, Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich taught, based on her visions from God, that Mary was conceived, in a miraculous and virginal manner, of both her parents; here are my citations for this assertion:
On Mary's virginal and miraculous conception: Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary, (TAN books and publishers: Rockford, Illinois; 1970), p. 40-41.

On her miraculous virginal birth: ibid, p. 75.

On Mary's virginal and miraculous conception: Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, The Life of Jesus Christ and Biblical Revelations, (TAN books and publishers: Rockford, Illinois; 1986), p. 135.

On her miraculous virginal birth: ibid, p. 151.
Both of these books have an imprimatur; and Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich was recently beatified by Pope John Paul II. Therefore, it cannot be true that these assertions by Blessed Anne are condemned by Catholicism.

Finally, one of the references cites a book on Maria Valtorta, whose works about the life of the Virgin Mary and Jesus were repeatedly condemned by the Holy See:

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