Is the Immaculate Conception of Mary or Jesus?

Today I encountered another person that thought the Immaculate Conception referred to Jesus’ conception without sex. This belief seems more common than the view expressed in the Catholic dogma.

This encounter got me thinking. The Immaculate Conception is basically just an untestable belief. If more people believe the term “Immaculate Conception” refers to Jesus’ conception, isn’t that what the term refers to? We are not talking about an objective fact.

Even if there are not more people that believe the Immaculate Conception refers to Jesus’ conception, does the critical mass of belief make this view of the term “Immaculate Conception” valid?

Why is the belief of well-schooled Catholics (and non-Catholics) more valid than the belief of the large segment of society that believes “Immaculate Conception” refers to Jesus’ conception?

I like to use it as a, heh, shibboleth. If a Christian says the conception refers to Jesus, I can smugly conclude that they haven’t bothered to read the basic details of their own religion.

It isn’t really a Christian belief, though. Only about half of Christians are supposed to believe it is true.

No. It’s a term of art with an objective definition. It defines an untestable belief, but it still means a specific thing.

I’m very confused. So far as I know immaculate conception is the concept that Mary became pregnant with Jesus without having sex (i.e. no original sin). It is the immaculate conception of Jesus not of Mary. So far as we know Mary was conceived the old fashioned way.

Immaculate Conception refers to Mary, as she was conceived under the condition of freedom from original sin, so as to set the foundation for Jesus’ birth. Unless the definition changed when I wasn’t looking.

This is a common, but incorrect belief.

Immaculate Conception refers to Mary being born without the stain of original sin.
Virgin Birth refers to Jesus being born to Mary without a physical father.

Yeah, the Jesus thing is the Virgin Birth.

I’d weigh in that it does matter. If most people think that Captain Kirk’s middle name is Troy that doesn’t make it correct. It’s referring to an established mythology. The mythology of Christianity deserves as much respect as Star Trek canon.

Exactly as much respect in my opinion, but that’s another thread. :smiley:

This is my understanding of the situation. I am a Protestant of a a denomination (Presbyterian) that does not teach the doctrine of Immaculate Conception. So perhaps one of our Catholic brethren can answer these questions: (1) Does it mean that Mary’s parent’s didn’t have sex? (2) If they did have sex, can other married couples have immaculate conceptions? What’s up with that?

And how could the Church possibly claim to know any such thing?

They claim plenty of things. Why not that?

Sure, Mary’s parents had sex, like most couples. The Immaculate Conception means, as many have stated, that at hte moment of coception (sperm meets egg) Original sin was erased.

We Catholics are at least partly to blame. The reading chosen for mass on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception is always the Annunciation, where Gabriel tells Mary she’ll have a baby. It’s chosen because that passage is indeed the Biblical justification (such as it is) for the belief: Gabriel calls Mary “Most Blessed”, or something along those lines, which the Catholic Church interpreted as meaning that she was without sin. But when you’ve got a doctrine which is talking about a conception, and the Biblical passage you’re using to support it is about a different, and even more important, conception, the confusion is probably inevitable.

Catholic responding here.

(1) Mary’s parents had sex. Mary was conceived (as far as the physical process of conception goes) like anyone else. However, she was conceived and born without original sin. I know that this is a concept that most (if not all) Protestant denominations don’t endorse. Admittedly, it’s a tricky one. Right up there with Mary’s assumption into Heaven.

(2) No, other married couples can’t have immaculate conceptions. Mary was conceived without original sin because she was going to be the mother of Christ.

Kind of like sterilizing the container you are going to make beer in.

As a recovering Catholic, this was one of the major things that made me go “Whaaaa?” and led me to think maybe the whole thing was a bit daft.

I went to Catholic school from 1-8 grade, so we covered about everything. I thought for a long while that the Immaculate Conception referred to Jesus as well (apparently we didn’t cover that area too well, or maybe I wasn’t paying close enough attention). Then after while I was informed that no, it referred to Mary.

To me, it made the whole “Jesus had to die for to erase the stain of original sin” point moot. Umm, no he didn’t. Mary was born w/o original sin, so it’s simply a matter of God for whatever reason choosing not to bless his children with that same gift. There’s no reason everyone couldn’t be born that way. Sure, Mary was the mother of Jesus, but she was completely human, same as anyone.

After that, I started to question a whole lot of Catholic theology.

YMM of course, V.

Doesn’t that just beg the question? The issue is does it have an objective meaning or two objective meanings.

That’s worth remembering. Thanks.

Have you ever tried to get the taint of original sin out of an embryo? It ain’t easy. Far easier to do it once to a girl embryo and then knock her up when she’s a teen, and go through all the trouble to kill and resurrect your son (or yourself), than to try to scrub down billions and billions and billions of embryos.

I get it now. Thank you for clearing that up for me.

The term has an objective meaning, just like the term “unicorn” has an objective meaning. That’s true whether the thing that the term represents is correct or not.

Now, language can change over time, and it’s possible that the meaning of the term “Immaculate Conception” could change, but it hasn’t yet. Just because some people use the term mistakenly doesn’t mean the term doesn’t have a meaning.