Catholic Pocket Dictionary – Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin

detail from the painting 'Vierge Marie', 1927, Church of Saint Kilian, Dinghsheim, Bas-Rhine, Alsace, FranceArticle

Pope Benedict XIV, quoting Frassen a Scotist theologian, distinguishes between active and passive conception. The former consists in the act of the parents which causes the body of the child to be formed and organized, and so prepared for the reception of the rational soul which is infused by God. The latter takes place at the moment when the rational soul is actually infused into the body by God. It is the passive, not the active, conception which Catholics have in view when they speak of the Immaculate Conception. For there was nothing miraculous in Mary‘s generation. She was begotten like other children. The body, while still inanimate, could not be sanctified or preserved from original sin, for it is the soul, not the body, which is capable of receiving either the gifts of grace or the stain of sin. Moreover, from the fact that Mary sprang in the common way from Adam our first father, it follows that she was the daughter of a fallen race and incurred the “debt” or liability to contract original sin. Adam was the representative of the human race: he was put on his trial, and when he fell all his descendants fell with him, and must, unless some special mercy of God interposes, receive souls destitute of that grace in which Adam himself was created. In Mary‘s case, however, God‘s mercy did interpose. For the sake of Him who was to be born.

MLA Citation

  • Father James J McGovern. “Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin”. Catholic Pocket Dictionary, 1906. CatholicSaints.Info. 4 November 2019. Web. 7 March 2021. <>