The history of this doctrine:
Initially, the Christian church taught a belief that is close to modern conservative Protestantism: simply that Mary was a virgin at the time of the conception of Jesus.
Eadmer (1066-1124), amonk at Christ Church, Canterbury. England was one of the first proponents of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. He discussed it in his book "De Conceptione sanctae Mariae."
St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) and St. Bonaventure (1221-1274) "... believed that Mary was completely free from sin, but that she was not given this grace at the instant of her conception." Their beliefs were were supported by the Dominicans. 1
In 1476, Pope Sixtus IV established the feast of the Immaculate Conception to be observed annually on DEC-08 -- nine months before the Church celebrates the anniversary of Mary's birth. But the Roman Catholic laity and clergy was permitted to accept or reject the concept. This freedom was confirmed at the Council of Trent in the mid 16th century. However, Oxford Franciscans William of Ware and Blessed John Duns Scotus supported the full doctrine.
By having Mary free of original sin resulted in both Mary's and Jesus' conceptions being miraculous. The concept of the immaculate conception -- that Mary was conceived without sin while a pre-embryo circa 20 BCE --- gained support in the church.
It was only in modern times that scientists determined that both the woman and man contributed genetic information to the production of offspring. In ancient times, the man was regarded as being totally responsible for the start of pregnancy. The only role of the woman was to nurture the growing embryo, and later the fetus. A good analogy is the act of planting a seed in earth. The woman's role was similar to that of the earth. The soil has no role other than furnishing nutrients to the seed and later to the plant.
When the woman's role in conception was discovered by medical scientists, the Roman Catholic Church faced a problem. For the first time, Mary was seen to play a direct role in Jesus' conception. Her contribution would have been expected to pass original sin onto Jesus -- an intolerable arrangement because the Church has taught that Jesus was without sin at his birth and during his life on earth.
The Church had two choices:
They selected the latter route.
It is now a required belief for Roman Catholics. In 1854, Pope Pius IX proclaimed in his Bull Ineffabilis that:
According to Wikipedia:
This teaching is not found in the Eastern Orthodox churches, 3 or in the Anglican Communion -- except among Anglo-Catholics. To our knowledge, no Protestant denomination teaches this either.
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