Thursday, December 08, 2005

Roman Bishops Who Denied the Sinlessness of Mary

The Protestant historian Philip Schaff counted seven different Roman bishops who denied the sinlessness of Mary (The Creeds of Christendom [Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998], Vol. I, p. 123). Leo I, a Roman bishop of the fifth century, taught that sin is transmitted by means of sexual intercourse, thus suggesting that Mary was conceived in original sin:

"And whereas in all mothers conception does not take place without stain of sin, this one [Mary] received purification from the Source of her conception. For no taint of sin penetrated, where no intercourse occurred." (Sermon 22:3)

Elsewhere, Leo refers to Jesus being the only one conceived without sin. He even refers to Christ's stock, a reference to Mary, being corrupt:

"For the earth of human flesh, which in the first transgressor was cursed, in this Offspring of the Blessed Virgin only produced a seed that was blessed and free from the fault of its stock." (Sermon 24:3)

And elsewhere:

"And therefore in the general ruin of the entire human race there was but one remedy in the secret of the Divine plan which could succour the fallen, and that was that one of the sons of Adam should be born free and innocent of original transgression, to prevail for the rest both by His example and His merits. Still further, because this was not permitted by natural generation, and because there could be no offspring from our faulty stock without seed, of which the Scripture saith, 'Who can make a clean thing conceived of an unclean seed? is it not Thou who art alone?'" (Sermon 28:3)

The unclean seed would include Mary. And he refers to there being one from Adam who is sinless.

The Roman Catholic scholar Michael O'Carroll comments that Leo viewed sin as being communicated by means of sexual intercourse (Theotokos [Wilmington, Delaware: Michael Glazier, Inc., 1988], p. 217).

Regarding another Roman bishop, O'Carroll writes:

"On Mt 12:48-50, [Gregory the Great] thinks that Mary momentarily represented the Synagogue, which Christ no longer recognized." (p. 159)

Even as late as the second millennium we see the sinlessness of Mary rejected by the Roman bishop Innocent III. O'Carroll cites the Pope saying that Mary was "begotten in guilt", that she needed "cleansing of the flesh from the root of sin" (p. 185).