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Saint Anselm and the Development of the Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception: Historical and Theological Perspectives

Author(s): John Janaro

Journal: The Saint Anselm Journal
ISSN 1545-3367

Volume: 3;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 48;
Date: 2006;
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This paper outlines Saint Anselm's contribution to the development of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. Although Anselm himself did not teach that Mary was immaculately conceived, his analysis of original sin contains two theological insights that are crucial for the subsequent affirmation and articulation of this unique Marian privilege. The first, in "Proslogion"-like fashion, states that "it was fitting that this virgin should shine with a degree of purity than which no greater can be imagined apart from God." The second and more subtle insight, however, is Anselm's emphasis on the objective character of the transmission of original sin in Adam, which went against the attitude that the immediate sinful lust of the parents in the conjugal act was the cause of original sin. This opened the door for Western theologians in the Middle Ages to acknowledge that it could be fitting for God to preserve the Blessed Virgin from original sin, even though she herself was conceived within a normal conjugal union.

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