Scotus and the Immaculate Conception

This morning after breakfast, Fr Peter Damien Fehlner gave a lecture on the sources of Scotus' theology in tradition. Fr Fehlner has been teaching theology from a Scotist perspective since before the second Vatican Council and is immensely learned. Having always favoured the Scotist view of the Incarnation and the primacy of Christ in creation, it was fascinating to hear this position spoken of by someone who has such facility with the sources.

My paper had to follow that! I spoke of the development of the consensus on the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception between the death of Blessed John Duns Scotus and the 1854 definition. My paper was therefore of necessity a summary overview. I also looked at the way in which the object of the feast of the conception of Mary became more specifically determined, and how intemperate opposition to the "pious belief" in the Immaculate Conception always seemed to result in a step forward for the general acceptance of the doctrine.

The definition of the doctrine was a final vindication of the brilliant defence of it by the Blessed John Duns Scotus and, as Fr Fehlner highlighted, prevented the Scotist tradition from being lost to the Church during the turbulence of the 19th century.

The third lecture this morning was given by Fr Alessandro Apollonio FI who is the Principal of the Immaculate Mediatrix seminary at Cassino, the principal seminary for the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate. His lecture was on the subject of the putative "debt" of original sin in Mary. This is a rather technical question, introduced by the Dominican, Cardinal Cajetan. Fr Alessandro's paper illustrated the principle "a minore ad maius" which means literally "from the lesser thing to the greater" and means that if you treat carefully of a small, clearly defined question, you learn more about the greater and more general questions.

Fr Fehlner (left) and Fr Alessandro (right)

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