Immaculate Conception

As year six begins, Pope Francis’s devotion to Mary shows a traditionalist streak

As year six begins, Pope Francis’s devotion to Mary shows a traditionalist streak

Liberal Catholics have often rejoiced, and Catholic conservatives have sometimes grumbled, over Pope Francis, who was elected on March 13, five years ago.

A Pew Research survey (.pdf here) released in time for the anniversary shows 84 percent of U.S. Catholics over-all have a favorable opinion of Francis -- but 55 percent of Catholic Republicans find him “too liberal” (up from 23 percent in 2015). Yes, it would have been nice to see some survey questions framed in doctrinal terms, rather than this political reference point.

 A new decree on the Virgin Mary reminds reporters going forward that the pontiff does have a traditionalist streak worth remembering, as surely as there’s a perennially interesting feature theme in how Catholicism honors the mother of Jesus Christ and the resulting ecumenical conflict.

Upon endorsement from Francis, the new decree was issued March 3 by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. (Why such convoluted titles at the Vatican?). It states that all church calendars and liturgies will now honor Mary as the “Mother of the Church” the day after Pentecost Sunday, also citing her “divine motherhood” and “intimate union in the work of the Redeemer.”

This is an annual “memorial,” the lowest level of recognition in worship. But higher “solemnities” with obligatory Mass attendance are already on the universal calendar, hailing Mary under the dogmas of her bodily Assumption into heaven (August 15) and her Immaculate Conception free from original sin (December 8). Those provide yearly feature pegs.

Writers who want to develop this aspect of the pope’s personal piety should read a 2015 rundown in the doctrinally conservative National Catholic Register. For instance, twelve hours after the cardinals elected Francis, he quietly visited the Basilica of St. Mary Major to venerate the icon of Mary as the Protectress of the Romans.

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CNN clarifies a piece of Catholic dogma: Getting the Immaculate Conception details right

CNN clarifies a piece of Catholic dogma: Getting the Immaculate Conception details right

If you look up the word "conception" in a dictionary, it's not all that hard to understand.

At Dictionary.com, the first definition is: "the act of conceiving; the state of being conceived." The second meaning is, "fertilization; inception of pregnancy."

On the religion beat, this is -- #DUH -- a crucial thing to remember when covering anyone who makes a reference to the Catholic Church's doctrine known as the Immaculate Conception (click here for the Catechism explanation). The key Catechism concept:

Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, "full of grace" through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854

For some reason, many mainstream journalists -- those who are not skilled religion-beat pros -- tend to confuse the Immaculate Conception of Mary with the doctrine proclaiming the Virgin Birth of Jesus, which is affirmed by all creedal Christians. This can show up in all kinds of bizarre references in news coverage (click here for a classic M.Z. Hemingway GetReligion post from 2013).

This leads us to in interesting twist on this topic, a clip in which CNN's Chris Cuomo gets to read the doctrinal riot act to Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, who served up a strong early nominee for the most bizarre religion image of the year.

Things get weird as Gaetz offers a "Deep State" theory about professionals inside the U.S. government who are trying to take down Donald Trump. Yes, we are talking about those five months of missing text messages between two big-league Trump haters. The CNN piece notes that Gaetz said, on Fox News:

"It would be the greatest coincidence since the Immaculate Conception that it just happened to be the case that right after Obama sics the intelligence community on Trump, the text messages go dark, and they only reappear the day that Robert Mueller is hired to investigate the President. Come on, the American people won't believe that's a coincidence, and I don't believe it, either."

Then on "Cuomo Prime Time," there was the following.

Let us attend.

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Original sin and anteaters in the Daily News

Excitement is in the air in Gotham City this week following the introduction of a theology page in the Daily News. This is a welcome addition to the New York tabloid market, though I suspect the desire to inject high culture into the Daily News comes from the need for some gravitas to balance the reporting on the mayoral candidacy of Anthony Weiner — Oh the joy his election will bring to the scribes of New York!

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Protip: Immaculate Conception is not the Virgin Birth

Did you hear about the anteater that conceived a baby even though she had no male mate around? I mean, she had a mate, but he was removed from her area longer than the six months required to gestate a baby anteater. Theories for how this miracle happened include the very non-miraculous idea that the mommy anteater and daddy anteater mated through a fence and the somewhat more mysterious idea that the pregnancy was paused or that implantation was somehow delayed.

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