Bible Q&A: Was Mary, the Mother of Jesus, Sinless?

Do Catholics believe that Mary, the mother of Jesus, never sinned?  Did Mary live her life without sinning?

Roman Catholicism does indeed believe that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was without sin, both “original” and “personal.”  (“Original” sin refers to the unbiblical notion that mankind inherits the sin of Adam, a teaching which directly contradicts Ezekiel 18:1-20.  “Personal” sin refers to sins that one commits individually and personally.)

Concerning Mary, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says the following:

The Fathers of the Eastern tradition call the Mother of God “the All-Holy” (Panagia), and celebrate her as “free from any stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature.”  By the grace of God Mary remained free of ever personal sin her whole life long.  “Let it be done to me according to your word…”

Pope Pius XII proclaimed in his encyclical Mystici corporis Christi concerning Mary:

It was she, the second Eve, who, free from all sin, original or personal, and always more intimately united with her Son, offered Him on Golgotha to the Eternal Father for all the children of Adam, sin-stained by his unhappy fall, and her mother’s rights and her mother’s love were included in the holocaust.

Additionally, the Eastern Orthodox Church teaches that Mary was free from personal sin but was still guilty of original sin, i.e., sin inherited from her ancestors.  According to R.J. Divozzo’s Mary for Protestants, Martin Luther also taught that Mary was without sin, a teaching his followers in the Lutheran faith also adapted.  The following is from the Smalcald Articles, a Lutheran confession of faith:

That the Son became man in this manner, that He was conceived, without the cooperation of man, by the Holy Ghost, and was born of the pure, holy [and always] Virgin Mary.

According to Lutheran writer Kristofer Carlson’s Why Mary Matters: Protestants and the Virgin Mary, “When Lutherans confess Mary as pure & holy, it is a reference to the chastity and sinlessness of Mary.”

All of this contradicts plain, elementary biblical teaching.  The New Testament teaches that all have sinned (Rom. 3:23), with there being only one exception: Jesus the Christ rather than His mother (Heb. 4:15; 7:26; 1 Pet. 2:22; 1 John 3:5; cf. John 14:30).

Mary herself implicitly acknowledged her own sinfulness by calling God her Savior (Lk. 1:47).  Why would a sinless person need a Savior?  If God is her Savior as she said, from what did He save her if she was sinless?  However, if she had in fact sinned then she would need a Savior.  Since she calls God her Savior, then she in fact had sin in her life like the rest of us.  If there was any sin that she was in fact completely without, it would be “original sin,” which does not exist and thus would result in her (and the rest of us) being without it (Ezek. 18:1-20).

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