August 15, 2020

Why Catholicism Formulated the Dogma of the Assumption of Mary

By George S. Gabriel Ph.D.

In 1950, in his "apostolic constitution," Munificentissimus Deus, Pope Pius XII decreed as a dogma the ancient belief in the bodily assumption of Mary into Heaven. On the face of it, Rome was taking a step in the right direction by formally accepting a dogma that the Orthodox, Catholic and Apostolic faith has always held. But in reality, the step was a Papal retrenchment.

At that time, the ancient belief that the Mother of God truly died and then was taken bodily to Heaven was still held by many Roman Catholic clergy and laity, despite the dogma of the Immaculate Conception which, a century earlier, had exempted Mary from the consequences of the fall of Adam. But there were also many who, in anticipation of the forthcoming Papal decree, argued that Mary did not die. They were willing to allow the possibility only that she could have fallen into a light slumber, but her soul never left her body and she never died.

The latter party was not abandoning Latin theology but was simply observing it in its breach, as does the Immaculate Conception dogma. They reasoned that Mary could not die. After all, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception declared that Mary was conceived and born without inheriting the guilt of original sin. And, as Augustine taught, God created death as a deliberate punishment of Adam and of all who are born guilty. It was inconceivable that the just God would unjustly punish Mary with death if she was not among the inheritors of guilt... Key Roman Catholic doctrines were hanging in the balance. There was a danger that errors and internal contradictions of Roman Catholicism would be exposed, not the least of which was the dogma of Papal Infallibility itself. A Papal decree either way was expected to have dramatic and far reaching consequences.

In the end, however, the Pope avoided the problem and did not address the matter of the Virgin's death. He used the vaguest language to define the dogma of the Assumption: "Having completed the course of her earthly life (expleto terrestis vitae cursu), Mary was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory." The question of her repose was left to be answered within the system of Latin theology and the dogma of the Immaculate Conception...

The Roman Catholic dogma of the Assumption is not an Orthodox doctrine since it does not confess the death of the Theotokos. And Rome cannot confess the death of the Theotokos unequivocally without also seriously undermining Augustinian theology and contradicting the dogmas of the Immaculate Conception, Papal Infallibility, and the dogma of the Council of Trent which decreed that God created in death a wrathful, judicial decision to punish mankind.

Source: MARY: The Untrodden Portal of God.