Thoughts on the Sanctity of Life Triggered by Seeing the Film “Lincoln” on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception

How does one believe in the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and then deny personhood when conception occurs nowadays?

That’s the thought that popped into my head when I came across the following passage in a dusty volume printed in 1913.

Mary’s Immaculate Conception

1. State Of The Question And Meaning Of The Dogma.—a) Conception (conceptio) may be taken either actively or passively.

Active conception (concipere, conceptio activa) is the parental act of generation. Passive conception (concipi, conceptio passiva) is the origin of a human being in the maternal womb. A child comes into being at the moment when the intellectual soul is infused into the product of parental generation (embryo, foetus). In speaking of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, therefore, we do not mean the procreative act of her saintly parents (which may or may not have been tainted by inordinate concupiscence), but simply and solely the creative act by which Almighty God infused her immaculate soul into the corporeal receptacle which had been prepared for it by Joachim and Anna. In other words, by a most extraordinary privilege the soul of our Lady was from the first instant of her existence preserved from all stain of original sin.

The above passage is from page 39 of Monsignor Joseph Pohle’s book, Mariology: A Dogmatic Treatise on the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. In it, of course, he expounds on the Dogma we celebrated yesterday, which you are more than welcome to read.

The short answer to the question proffered in the title, given the above citation, especially in light of scientific advances made since 1913 in understanding conception and pregnancy, is that you can’t.

Yes, the Supreme Court, as late as 1973, suspended belief in the sure knowledge of when a person comes into being, but that doesn’t make that body’s interpretation correct for all time.

You can blame my query on a more secular, if not profane, reason as well. You see, I went to see a movie last night, and it made me think of issues related to the sanctity of life, from conception until natural death. G.K. Chesterton’s “democracy of the dead” was speaking loudly to me as I traveled back in time for two and a half hours.

In fact, just in this short two and a half minute trailer for Lincoln, which I’m laying odds will sweep the Oscars, you’ll get the gist of why these thoughts have risen to the fore in my mind.

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“Do you think we choose to be born? Or are we fitted to the times we’re born into?”

Did the Immaculate Conception choose to be born? Did you, or I?

“Shall we stop this bleeding?”

I pray we do.

Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and Patron of the United States of America, pray for us.

  • The Catholic Science Geek

    A friend of mine saw the movie and updated her status (during the movie) with a very prolife message. I thought it odd at first (not having seen the movie yet) but it’s making sense now.

    As hard as it is to be prolife in an environment like this one (where defense of the unborn is considered selfish and evil)…I think we are all put here at this particular time and place for a reason. I may not have been born in time to protest Roe v. Wade…but maybe it’s because I was needed here today. I prayed in front of an abortion clinic with a group of people yesterday…and one of the older women there just sounded so defeated. She hadn’t given up, but it seemed like she had years of disappointment on her shoulders. She kept saying that the clinic had been there for 40 years and kept lamenting about the lost children.

    I haven’t seen what she has seen…and I go through these moments too, but I feel like there is a renewal coming and that we have to keep fighting for it. I was not alive to protest Roe v. Wade…or the building of that clinic. However, I feel that I was born 26 years ago because I am needed today (just as tomorrow’s prolife generation will be needed tomorrow to carry on our work now).

  • Frank Weathers

    Go see it!

    • The Catholic Science Geek

      Maybe once I get my qualifying exam out of the way…

  • Dan

    It really would be wonderful if Catholics were to go see movies that are not only infused with a certain Catholic ethos but were made by artists: writers who can write, directors who can direct, actors who can act, composers who can compose and cameramen who can photograph properly. None of these things can be found in this latest Spielbergian indigestible meal.

    However, if any Catholic does want to see a film that has every one of the attributes I have mentioned, then I humbly submit the following titles: THE COUNTERFEIT TRAITOR (1962), I CONFESS (1953), A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1951), A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS (1967) and OLIVER TWIST (1948). There you will find artistry (and yes, entertainment too) as well as well-formed minds at work in front of and behind the cameras.

    • Frank Weathers

      I’ve seen all of those, except for Counterfeit Traitor. So you didn’t like Lincoln? How about Shindler’s List? And of course there is Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy. :)

  • Jireh

    Some comments concerning ” immaculate conception “; Mary’s own words in her Magnificat
    ( Luke 1 : 46-55 ) reveal that she never thought of herself as ” immaculate ” and deserving of veneration, but was instead relying on the grace of God for salvation. ” And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior “. Only sinners need a Savior , and Mary recognized that need in her self.
    While Mary was certainly a godly young woman greatly blessed in that she was chosen to bear the
    Savior of the world , she was not in anyway divine , nor was she sinless , nor is she to be worshiped , revered , or prayed to. Scripture plainly states that we are to ” Worship God alone “.
    There is no scriptural basis for this whatsoever and is just proclamation of priests and Popes of the