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Extract from

The Glorious Assumption of The Mother of God

by Joseph Duhr, S.J

Translated by John Manning Fraunces, S.J.

This work is a translation of
La Glorieuse Assomptlois de la Mère de Dieu
published by La Maison de Ia Bonne Presse, Paris

Imprimi potest:

David Nugent, S.J.
Provincial, Maryland Province

June 1, 1950

Nihil obstat:

John M. A. Fearns, S.T.D.
Censor librorum


Francis Cardinal Spellman
Archbishop of New York

September 18, 1950


First published 1951

Translator’s Foreword

On November 1, 1950 Pope Pius XII will define that the Assumption of Mary into heaven in body and soul is a dogma of faith. Such an action is an infallible declaration that this fact has been revealed by God as part of the Christian deposit and must believed by all. No definition of revealed truth goes beyond this. It does not, above all, create a new belief, a new thing to be believed. It does not add to the deposit which was handed on to the Church by Apostles and which was complete at the death the last Apostle. Nor does it alter the deposit, except to make it clear and certain that this detail already been given to the Church in the Apostolic age. All doubts and objections throughout the ages to whether the fact of the Assumption has been revealed, are shown by the definition to have been in fact unfounded, however valid they may have appeared to those who made them. The definition grants that doubts and objections have been held in good faith and not through any spirit of rebellion against God’s revelation; but it says that now they can be held no longer.

With this relation between the definition and the Assumption in mind, it will be interesting and, I think, inspiring to read Father Duhr’s exposition of the theological reasons for saying that the Assumption is revealed. Writing in confident anticipation of the definition, he shows how Christians have become more and more clear in mind about a fact which was always at least implicit in what they believed. Thus we see the faithful pass from thoughtful preoccupation with the Assumption to a serene certainty which the Church expresses in the definition of November 1st.

We are confident that all who love and honor Mary will find rest and joy in the same certainty.

J.M.F., S.J.


In 1925 Father Bainvel, following Dom Renaudin, [1] Father Mattiussi [2] and Father Godts, [3] declared that the Assumption of Mary had reached a point of “maturity” that would justify a dogmatic definition. [4] Other theologians protested this optimisn Among these opponents Doctor Ernst, by his incisive style and the display of an indisputable historical erudition, holds first rank. His historico-dogmati study, [5] directed primarily against Father Renaudin concludes with the considered judgment that neither the liturgical texts nor the alleged agreement of the Fathers and theologians permit the statemement that the bodily Assumption of Mary is implicitly revealed. According to the Bamberg historian, the Assumption even today must be counted among thos pious beliefs which, while not without some verisimilitude or even a certain probability, yet are no part of the deposit of faith entrusted to the Church by her divine Founder.[6] Till the time of his death Doctor Ernst held tenaciously to this point of view and defended it strenuously, first in the Linzer theologiscipraktische Quartalschrift [7] and later in the Bonner Zeitschrift für Theologie und Seelsorge. [8]

The pamphlet and articles of the learned German undoubtedly aroused a certain uneasiness among theologians on the question of the Assumption. And the studies published successively by Fathers Wiederkehr, [9] Deneffe [10] and Müller [11] did not succeed in dissipating it entirely. “Even though we grant,” notes Jean Rivière, “that not all of Doctor Ernst’s answers are equally decisive, it nonetheless remains to his credit of having insisted on the necessity of a strictly theological method in a matter wherein the imagination too often tends to run unbridled.” [12] And after analysing Father Müller’s work, the same critic thus concludes his survey of Marian theology: “Father Müller’s thesis seems then to be no more than another plea for the defense, as much open to question as its predecessors; it leaves unsolved a difficult question which may be freely discussed as long as the Church’s magisterium does not intervene to settle it.” [13]

We should be the last to deny the respect due to Doctor Ernst’s erudition, which made possible the correction of certain unfounded and premature assertions. But his great mistake — and this we shall have to prove — was to falsify the perspective which dominates the evolution of all revealed doctrine and in particular of belief in the bodily Assumption of Mary. A sharpening of focus is called for. This is the task we intend to undertake in these pages.

We shall first set forth the theological principles which must guide our inquiry; we shall then describe the evolution of belief in the Assumption which led to an increasingly firm and widespread affirmation of this truth on the part of the Church. And finally, after examining the present state of belief on the point, we shall find it easy, we think, to conclude that a dogmatic definition of the Assumption is not only a possibility but desirable and opportune.

J.D., S.J.

December 8, 1946


1. P. Renaudin, La doctrine de l’Assomption de la Très Sainte Vierge, sa définibilité comme dogme de foi, Paris, 1913.

2. G. Mattiussi, L’Assunzione corporea della Vergine Madre di Dio, Milan, 1924.

3. F. X. Godts, Définibilité dogmatique de l’Assomption corporelle de la Sainte Vierge, Esschen, 1924.

4. V. Bainvel, “La définibilité de l’Assomption,” Congrès rnarial de Nantes, 1925, p. 144.

5. J. Ernst, Die leibliche Himmelfahrt Mariä, Regensburg, 1921.

6. op. cit., pp. 5, 43, 64.

7. Lintzer . . . Quartalschrift, t. 74 (1921), pp. 226-237, 381-389; t. 77 (1924), pp. 449-455; t. 78 (1925), pp. 34-45, 260-273; t. 80 (1927), pp. 532-544.

8. J. Ernst, “Neues zur Knotroverse über die Definierbarkeit der Himmelfahrt Mariä,” Bonner Zeitschrift, t. 6 (1929), pp. 289-304; t. 7 (1930), pp. 16-31.

9. P. Wiederkehr, Die leibliche Aufnahme der allerseligsten Jun gfrau Mariä in den Himmel, Einsiedeln, 1927.

10. Aug. Deneffe, “Gehört die Himmelfahrt Mariä zum Galubensschatz?” Scholastilc, t. III (1928), pp. 190-218. Cf. Jean Rivière, “Chronique de theologie dogmatique,” Revue des Sciences Religieuses, t. xii (1932), pp. 82-86.

11. Fr. Müller, Origo divino-apostolica evectionis Beatissimae Virginis ad gloriam caelestem quoad corpus, Innsbruck, 1930. Cf. J. Rivière, op. cit., pp. 87-88.

12. J. Rivière, op. cit., p. 86.

13. op. cit., p. 89.

CHAPTER ONE: The Theological Principles

Four questions will allow us to make clear what the fundamental principles are that ought to guide us. What is the rôle of the Church in the matter of faith? Under what conditions is the development of a revealed doctrine possible? What are the normal and habitual stages of this progress? In what way, finally, does the Church manifest to us its adherence and the degree of its adherence to a revealed doctrine?

The Church’s Function Regarding Christian Dogma

Concerning truths we are bound to believe, the only authority to be consulted is the holy Church.

The domain of revelation is properly her domain. Christ has bequeathed it to her alone. To her it belongs to measure its extent, to catalogue and itemize its riches, to determine the different degrees of adherence that should characterize our belief. For the theologian there is but one decisive question: what is the attitude of the Church on such and such a point? How does she propose it in her teaching and preaching? Theology, as a science, receives the Church’s dogma; it does not establish the dogma.[1] Its function is reducible to explaining, defending and organizing it into a coherent and logical whole. Nor can historical science, any more than theology, ever serve as the basis for belief in revelation. As Pohle rightly remarks, “To attempt to solve a dogmatic problem by purely historical proofs, as has been tried more than once, involves the worst possible methodology.” [2] Were a fact established by the most indisputable historical criticism, it could never become a dogma, an object of our faith, if it were not linked in the most intimate way with the divine revelation entrusted to the Church. It can happen, on the other hand, that a fact implied in a dogma be imposed on our belief, even when all historical proof is impossible. This is the case, for example, with the Immaculate Conception and the perpetual virginity of Mary.[3] Thus the magisterium of the Church depends neither on theology nor on historical science.

The task reserved to the Church in the message of our salvation is twofold. She must guard it in its integrity and manifest it little by little in all its fulness. [4] The Church, first, does not create the sacred deposit of revealed truth. It has been bequeathed, entrusted to her by Christ, her Head and Spouse.[5] We may say that Christian revelation was closed on the day of Pentecost.[6] The Advocate, the holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your mind whatever have said to you.[7] Even before the teachings of the Holy Spirit the Apostles have in a true sense receive all. [8]Everything which comes after is no more than development, explicitation. In every age, by its respect for the received teachings, by its horror of novelties, the Church has affirmed this immutability of the doctrine bequeathed to her. Every curtailment is sacrilege; every addition, apostasy.[9]

Immutability, however, is not rigidity. [10] The development of Christian dogma admits not only more solemn affirmation of revealed truths and a bringing to light of truths forgotten, but a true development, living and homogeneous, analogous to that of the acorn which develops into the oak. In possessing the acorn I possess already the oak, whole and entire, but I do not yet see the tree in its whole complexity, strength and beauty. Many recent theologians understand development of dogma as a simple extension from the formally implicit to the formally explicit. It seems to us more natural and more conformed to the facts to admit a real progress from the virtually implicit to the formally explicit. This theory supposes in the Church the power to discern and to define as dogma of divine faith truths whose formal existence in the revealed deposit is not obvious. In a word, the Church can proclaim as dogma “a truth which would always remain for us virtually implicit.”[11] In other words, we admit that a truth which for us is only a theological conclusion, or which does not enjoy even that certitude, becomes capable of being proposed to our faith as a dogma once it is adopted by the Church.

The Conditions of Dogmatic Progress

In order that a revealed truth can be proposed by the Church to the faith of believers and become the object of a dogmatic definition, two conditions must be fulfilled. It is necessary, first, that the Church by a quasi-intuitive process, either dialectic or practical, discover that this truth is really contained in the doctrine or the institutions transmitted by the Apostles In the careful and balanced judgment of Father de Grandmaison,

there is no need to look for an exact proportion between the dogmatic definitions and the research made, the motives alleged, by those who in the name of God declare them. Sometimes, it is true, the implicit existence of the dogma in the deposit will be made clear by research; at other times it will not be so, and the dogma will appear only as a probable or morally certain interpretation of the explicit data of faith. It is the infallible Church which assures us that this interpretation is the only right one; and then, as regards us, there is truly doctrinal development in the full sense of the word. The Church, which has never claimed the power to add to revelation, has solemnly vindicated her right to define it infallibly. The reasons alleged by the instruments of the magisterium so little measure this infallibility, that theologians admit the possibility of error in the grounds laid down for a definition of faith. [12]

This intuition which — we repeat — does not depend theological or historical science, is the privilege which comes from the Holy Spirit enlightening and guiding the Church always. The Church is a social and supernatural entity, which develops and grows under the very pressure of the divine life her Founder has endowed her with. St. Paul points to the limit of this expansion as Christ Himself. [13] The evolution of doctrine and dogma is only one aspect of this whole growth that continues without ceasing. The Church always keeps living contact with the full message of Christ, of which no inventory has ever itemized the contents, but of which we see at least the major outlines. And with the infallible sureness of higher instinct, which is not shackled by gaps in the documents, nor the uncertainties of the past, nor th ambiguities of a text, and which is superior to the logic of the theological reasons that prepare for the definitive pronouncements, the Church develops the incomparable richness of the divine legacy she has been charged to guard and manifest. Without increasing in any way the apostolic faith she is content to explicitate what she finds there in germ. If there are afterwards more dogmas to believe, there is not more truth to believe, a phenomenon like that of creation which multiplies beings without increasing in any way being itself. The secret worker who alone explains this clear-sightedness, which for twenty centuries has never been impaired, and this sureness, which has never needed correction, is none other than the divine Spirit.

This power, in those eases where the indications cannot be formed into a sys­tematic exposition, of going beyond the natural im­port of the historical material and the logic which prepare for the definition; this superior gift of intui­tion which causes the Church to seize with a clear consciousness truths that no demonstrative argu­mentation has shown to be evidently contained in the revealed deposit; this kind of divining instinct which turns the ecclesiastical magisterium little by little towards the meaning of an analogy, of a fitness in the faith, of a heartfelt tendency in the Christian people, and makes her consequently find the neces­sary distinctions and the triumphant answers, is the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church, the fulfillment of the promises of the Master, the author of dogmatic development.[14]

A marvelous phenomenon, which surpasses any other similar development, vital or scientific,[15] and which escapes the laws of destruction that weigh upon all human doctrine! Yes; “only Christian dogma renews itself without contradiction, evolves without mutilation, remains itself without becoming outmoded.” [16]

In order that a truth can be proposed to our faith by the Church, a second condition is required. It is necessary that in the light of the Holy Spirit, who enlightens and guides her, the Church discern the truth not only as revealed but as an integral part of the economy of our salvation, as something revealed fo its own sake. Christianity can be defined as the manifestation of the Holy Trinity made to redeemed men by the Son of God made man. “To know (in the full sense of knowledge and love) the one true God and him whom he has sent, Jesus Christ.” [17] Christianity is essentially the restoration of the human race led astray by the sin of Adam, a redemption of humanity lost through the fault of its head. It has no purpose but to reconcile man with God in friendship and divine life and to restore in all things the order broken by the original revolt. [18] This admirable design of mercy, power and wisdom belongs uniquely to the initiative of God. [19] The plan is realized by the Son of God made man: Redeemer by the blood of his cross [20] and Head of the Church, his Mystical Body. [21] The Son of God made man, however, wished to accomplish the work of our salvation only with the collaboration of the most holy Virgin, his Mother: the new Eve. “Behold the great mystery (of Christianity),” says St. Augustine: “since death had come to us through a woman, it is also from a woman that Life must be born, so that by both sexes the demon may be completely conquered.” [22] Without Mary Christianity would not be what it is.

Here, one may say, are the master outlines of the divine message given by our Lord to his Church. The Church must see every truth to be defined as closely linked to one or the other part of this whole. [23] Thus the corporal Assumption of Mary cannot be proposed to the faith of believers and become the object of a dogmatic definition, unless the Church sees it as an integral part of the essential message of Christ. Were it established besides by the most convincing historical documents; even were it mentioned expressly in Holy Scripture — but simply as a fact without close connection with the essential doctrine of our salvation — it could never become a dogma, or profit by a dogmatic definition. No more than the taking up into heaven of the prophet Elias. [14]

It is precisely the task of theology to find out if this connection has ever been taught by the Church or at least if it is now, and as well as it can to put this fact clearly in the light.

The Stages of Dogmatic Evolution

Every defined dogma, as is brilliantly explained by Father Wiederkehr in his work on the corporal Assumption of Mary, [25] has passed through three successive stages: the practice or the custom of certain churches, the adoption or the annexation of this custom or belief by the Pope and the Roman Church, and finally the solemn definition which declares with sovereign authority what was already the faith of the Church and puts an end to all doubts and debates. As early as the beginning of the Church we note this progressive movement with reference to the dogma of the universality of the Christian message. Announced clearly by Scripture, [26] affirmed in the most distinct manner by the divine Master, [27] this truth was not for all that realized, that is to say, recognized, lived, from the first. Some excessively Judaizing Christians denied the pagans the right of salvation, or at least thought that they ought to accept the practices of Judaism as a preamble. The solution to this problem began through the initiative of certain Christians and especially that of Barnabas, [28] who baptized numerous pagans without imposing on them the ancient yoke. In the face of the criticism which they aroused Peter intervened, and from condemning them, he acted as they: [29] an official approbation of the Pope who made the practice pass into the faith of the Church. The opposition, however, did not yet yield. To quell it, the Apostolic College met in council with Peter at the head and solemnly defined the pagans’ right to salvation without having to pass through Judaism. The practice of some churches, the faith of the Roman Church, a solemn definition: here is marked out once for all the avenue whereby dogma emerges into the light of day.

Under pain of stopping, or at least of seriously hampering the preaching of the Gospel and the growth of the kingdom of Christ, it was important to clear up this point in Christ’s teaching without delay. Other definitions, less urgent, followed during the centuries according to the needs of the times. They are perpetual proofs of the powerful vitality of the Church and of its keen sense of what souls need. But they will always pass through the same stages, the same phases. The dogma of the Immaculate Conception, the last in date, is no exception. This belief, implied in the assertion of the Fathers that Mary enjoys a complete purity, is made more precise and is strengthened through a special liturgical feast celebrated in some particular churches. Rome intervenes in her turn; she adopts the feast and extends it to the whole of Christendom. Against certain opponents Alexander VII declares that the object of the feast is the first instant of the conception of Mary, and that it is not the purification of Mary which is praised but her preservation from original sin. [30] From that time, in addition to the practice of certain churches, we are confronted by the faith of the Roman Church. Finally, to put an end to every subterfuge and doubt, Pius IX solemnly proclaimed the Immaculate Conception as a dogma of our faith. Belief in the corporal Assumption of Mary is also following the same road, and is going straight forward little by little to the same definitive term.

The Manifestation of the Faith of the Church

There remains for us to describe briefly the way in which the Church manifests its belief. Theologians draw a distinction between an extraordinary and an ordinary magisterium. [31] The extraordinary is the Pope speaking ex cathedra, that is, when making use of his supreme authority as Pastor and Doctor of the Church, he imposes on the faith of believers a revealed truth contained at least virtually in the deposit of faith. The same name, the same authority and the same infallibility in its moral decisions and dogmatic decrees belong to an ecumenical council presided over by the head of the Church. [32]

But besides the extraordinary magisterium the Church uses an ordinary one:, the habitual way in which she transmits the received truth, [33] endowed likewise with infallibility. [34] It is by this magisterium above all,” writes Father Bainvel, “that the union of the faithful with the Church is strengthened; doctrine is not only preserved by it and made to live in the minds of the faithful and the consciousness of the Church, but also grows constantly in clarity and richness.” [34]

The different instruments by which the Church ordinarily manifests its thought, have been described for us in detail by Pius IX in the Bull Ineffabilis with reference to belief in the Immaculate Conception. “The sinlessness of the Virgin,” says Pius IX, “joined intimately with her high dignity as Mother of God, the Catholic Church, always inspired by the Holy Spirit, pillar and foundation of truth, has never ceased to teach, to explain and to foster daily more and more, with numberless proofs and significant acts, as a doctrine which she had received from on high and which is contained in the deposit of the heavenly revelation.” Note with what care the Pope ties belief in the Immaculate Conception to the divine Motherhood, one of the fundamental points of Christianity. The evolution of the dogma and the principle which governs it, the enlightening and guiding influence of the Holy Spirit, are both placed clearly in relief. There follows the enumeration of all the resources by which the ordinary magisterium is supplied for making her thought known as it develops: the Roman Church, Mother and Teacher of all the churches, in her living faith and customs; the acts and decisions of the Roman Pontiffs; the public cult, for the Pope declares that the rule which governs our prayer governs also our faith. By fixing the object of worship the Church necessarily proposes this object to the belief of the faithful. The remarkable unanimity of the bishops and the faithful, [36] the Fathers of the Church in so far as they witness to tradition, and the agreement of ecclesiastical writers, that is, the theologians, in affirming a doctrine: [37] these too are authoritative witnesses to the mind of the Church. At the end Pius IX mentions the venerable tradition which merits reverence in proportion as it binds a doctrine more closely to dogma and Holy Scripture, whether Scripture be taken only in its context or as interpreted by the Fathers and the Church herself.

At the same time as Pius IX describes for us the way in which the ordinary magisterium reveals its thought to us, he makes plain the submission, and obedience which are due it. A dogmatic matter, that is, one tied in with the deposit of faith and proposed by the ordinary magisterium — and according to Pius IX such was the case with belief in the Immaculate Conception long before its solemn proclamation
— such a matter is not merely an opinion more or less pious or probable which one may licitly adopt or not; on the contrary, it exacts an internal and religious
acceptance, an act of faith,
[38] that objectively is obligatory to the extent that the Church manifests her belief, and subjectively to the extent that this manifestation is perceived and recognized. “The sub­mission which one must actually give to divine faith,” writes Pius IX in his letter Tuas Libenter to the bishop of Munich, “cannot be limited only to doctrines defined by ecumenical councils and the Sovereign Pontiffs; it must be extended likewise to those the ordinary magisterium teaches as divinely revealed.” [39] To refuse this obedience to the ordinary doctrinal magisterium renders one guilty at least of rashness, though not, of course, of heresy.

The ordinary magisterium, different from the solemn and extraordinary, does not of course present the doctrine to be believed in strictly defined terms, but in a form more vague, more flexible, more living, more veiled. Again, it is not of course the anathema that threatens the fractious rebel, but the fact that, if not excluded from the Church, he is nevertheless guilty of grave sin as soon as the thought of the Church appears to him in sufficient clearness. [40] Finally, while the Church does not impose a dogma through her ordinary magisterium, still she proposes her faith, which lacks only the solemn definition ex cathedra in order to become dogma. [41] Truths presented in this way through the unanimous agreement of the Church can be termed “capable of definition”. This is the property which, it seems to us, must be claimed for the belief in the corporal Assumption of the most holy Virgin. [42]


1. Cf. St. Thomas, Summa, 1, 1, 6 ad 3; 1, 1, 7 & 8; 1 2, 111, 4. Also L. de Grandmaison, Le dogme chrétien, Paris, 1928, pp. 251s.

2. Pohle, Lehrbuch der Dogmatik, 4th edition, Paderborn, 1909, t. ii, p. 294.

3. Cf. Denzinger, Enchiridion, nos. 256 & 993.

4. This message is to be “faithfully kept and infallibly declared as the divine deposit of Christ, the Spouse, handed down” (to us). Vatican Council. Cf. Denzinger, no. 1800.

5. de Grandmaison, op. cit., p. 183.

6. [This needs explanation. Strictly speaking, Christian revelation closed with the death of the last Apostle. Cf. Deuzinger, nos. 783 & 2021. Trans. note.]

7. John 14, 25s.

8. This is verified likewise in the case of Mary’s corporal Assumption, which we will see is virtually included in the virginal Motherhood of Mary such as God wished it to be in fact.

9. de Grandmaison, op. cit., pp. 182-225.

10. ibid., pp. 226-274.

11. ibid., p. 256.

12. ibid., pp. 263s.

13.  Ephesians 4, 13.

14. de Grandmaison, op. cit., pp. 262s.

15. ibid., pp. 266-270.

16. ibid., p. 274.

17. John 17, 3.

18. Colossians 1, 20.

19. Ephesians 1, 9s.

20. Colossians 1, 20; Ephesians 1, 7; Galatians 4, 4ss.

21. And him (God) gave as head over all the Church which indeed is his body, the fulness of him who wholly fulfilled in all.” Ephesians 1, 22s.

22. St. Augustine, De Agone, c. 24, PL., 40, 303.

23. The Church defines as a necessary object of explicit belief only what she sees through the assistance of the Holy Spirit to be virtually contained in a formally revealed object of faith.” de Grandmaison, op. cit., p. 262 There exist other truths in Holy Scripture which have only an accidental and extrinsic connection with this message of our salvation. Scripture relates, for example that Timothy had a weak stomach, that St. Paul had left his cloak at Troas, and other similar facts. These facts come under divine faith, because they are revealed, bul they will never become dogmas. Besides these truths. said to be revealed extrinsically and non-essentially, there are others that have a more intimate bond with revealed truths. These are, among others, philosophical truths which revealed truths imply or suppose. They are said to be intrinsically revealed, though not essentially so. It happens that the Church defines them as she defined in the council of Vienne, under pain of heresy, that the soul is the form of the body. (Cf. Denzinger, nos. 480 & 738.) Perhaps it would be better, in this case, to speak of an infallible decision rather than a solemn dogmatic definition.

24. [Since Elias appeared with Christ at the Transfiguration, and Christ Himself said, “Elias indeed is to come and will restore all things” (Matthew 17, 3 & 11), it seems premature to suggest that Elias or his state has no “close connection with the essential doctrine of our salvation.” Trans. note.]

25. K. Wiederkehr, Die leibliche Aufnahme der aller­seligsten Jungfrau Maria in den Himmel, Einsiedeln, 1927, pp. 52-55.

26. Psalm 2, 8; 21, 19.

27. Matthew 28, 19ss.

28. Acts 11, 20ss.

29. Acts 10, 48.

30. Denzinger, no. 1100.

31. Cf. V. Bainvel, De Magisterio vivo et Traditione, Paris. 1905, pp. 103ss. and Vacant, Le Magistère ordinaire, Paris, 1887.

32. It belongs to an Ecumenical Council and the Roman Pontiff speaking ex cathedra to pronounce judgments of this kind.Codex juris canonici, 1323 #1.

33. ibid. Cf. also Vatican Council, Denzinger, no. 1792; cf. also no. 1683.

34. ibid., 1322 #1. Cf. also Denzinger 1797, 1798 & 1800; John 14, 26; 1 Timothy 1, 15.

35. Cf. V. Bainvel, De Magisterio vivo . . . , p. 104.

36. ibid., p. 94ss. Also P. de la Barre, Vie du dogme, part ii, c. 2. It is useful to recall here Melchior Cano’s principle: If there is anything approved of in the Church by the common agreement of the faithful, a thing which human power indeed could not bring about, then it is necessarily derived from the tradition of the Apostles. Cano, De locus theologicis, 1. in, c. 4; vid. also 1. iv, c. 6 ad 14.

37. ibid., pp. 82-89.

38. "Not only external observance but also an internal religious assent of the mind — not firm indeed and absolute, but proportioned to the authority of the decree must be given to decrees that are not infallible, as long as the contrary is not evident.” Bainvel, De Magisterio p. 106. Cf. also Codex. 1323 #1.

39. Denzinger, no. 1683.

40. Summa 2 2, 53, 3 ad 2. “(If something is done) out of contempt for the ruling norm, this properly is implied by rashness.

41. For such a definition it is sufficient that some supernatural truth be contained implicitly in Tradition Scripture, so that with the increasingly common agreement of the Church, the Church herself can express her definition which has for us the force of revelation on a count of the infallible assistance of the Holy Spirit" Suarez, Disputationes in III partem divi Thomae, q. 27, 1, disp. 3, sec. 6, no. 4.

42. The exposition we have just given of the theological principles that govern the development of dogma and the belief of the faithful, allows us to judge how far Dr. Erm has gone astray when he writes at the beginning of his little book on the corporal Assumption of Mary: “Withou speaking of Holy Scripture at this moment, ecclesiastica Tradition is insufficient regarding Mary’s bodily Assumption into heaven. From the point of view of time and space it is neither universal nor continuous; it cannot b followed back to the beginning of Christianity; it is not sufficiently authentic. Consequently, so far from guaranteeing for us that the bodily Assumption is part of the deposit of faith, it does not even establish that the Assumption, in its general effect, is a certain fact.” (Ernst, Die leibliche Himmelfahrt Mariä, p. 10.) In these assertions, which rule the whole thesis of the author, there is clearly a confusion between scientific tradition and dogmatic tradition. If dogmatic tradition must have its foundation in a scientific tradition, neither the virginity of Mary nor especially her Immaculate Conception could ever have been defined. Dr. Ernst seems not to recognize that dogmatic tradition evolves on a plane altogether different from that of historical science and even of theological science. Only the Church holds the deposit of faith and reveals to us its hidden treasures under the impulse of the Holy Spirit and the needs of the moment. Again, in order that a dogmatic truth may be imposed on our faith under pain of rashness, it suffices that the Church by her ordinary magisterium teach it to the faithful by attaching it to the deposit of faith at any given moment, even after centuries of apparent silence. And the mere fact that the Church proposes a truth for our belief guarantees for us, better than any historical proof whatsoever, that it is contained in the Apostolic revelation, at least in germ. So, if one wished to know whether the bodily Assumption of Mary makes up part of this primitive revelation and whether, at the same time, it is capable of dogmatic definition, it is sufficient to ask whether now the Church teaches it to the Christian world as a truth to be believed by her ordinary magisterium. As Father d’Alès has written so well regarding Dr. Ernst’s endeavor, this “argumentation is out of line as regards its leading point of view because it fails to recognize a much more considerable fact: the sense of the Christian people — I would much rather say the sense of the Church — to whom God has given to contemplate in increasing brightness the connection between the privilege of the Assumption and of God’s conduct towards the glorious Virgin. One ought not close one’s eyes to this increasing light. To reëstablish the exegesis of an ancient text is always opportune. But the living consciousness of the Christian people, supported by the universal Church’s law of prayer, has a quite different authority for establishing the law of belief.” Cf. “Bulletin de th6ologie historique,Recherches des Sciences Religieuses, t. xv (1925), p. 579.

Reproduced with permission

This Version: 30th August 2001

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