Why do Catholics… believe in the Immaculate Conception?
The Immaculate Conception has been Catholic dogma (that means official Church teaching) since 1854. It is a belief that is frequently misunderstood and attacked by those who don’t understand Mary’s role in the Church.
First, we need to clear up one common misunderstanding about the Immaculate Conception. This feast is not about Jesus or His birth. What it celebrates is Mary’s conception, without sin, in her mother’s womb. It means that Mary was conceived without the stain of original sin.
Where did the Church come up with such an original belief? As usual, it is in the Bible. At the annunciation, when the angel tells Mary that she will become the mother of God, he greets her by saying “Hail, full of grace.” (Luke 1:28) This title signifies that God’s grace filled Mary completely, leaving no room for sin.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that Mary was, “from the moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of Almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.” (CCC 491).
The grace and privilege Mary received had nothing to do with her own behavior or anything she did to earn them. Instead, God preserved her from sin because she would become the new ark, the vessel that would carry Jesus, the Son of God. Jesus, as the Savior of the human race, is Mary’s Savior too. But instead of waiting to save her with His death on the cross, He chose to save her earlier, from the moment of her conception. The Church believes that the Father “blessed Mary more than any other created person” and chose her “in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love” (Ephesians 1:3-4).
Roman Catholics are not the only ones who believe in Mary’s Immaculate Conception. The Eastern orthodox churches also honor Mary as being “all-holy” and preserved from any stain of sin throughout her entire life. When we recognize Mary’s purity and holiness, it honors Christ, whom she carried in her womb. Every honor Catholics bestow on Mary always points back to Jesus.