Did Thomas Aquinas Deny the Immaculate Conception? (Garrigou-Lagrange)

We got fired up the other day in our discussion of Blessed John Duns Scotus and the Immaculate Conception.

It seems that I may have been to quick to speak by passing on the presumed truth that Thomas Aquinas denied the Immaculate Conception. Of course, Thomas Aquinas did so, but he may have changed his mind before death.

Here’s what I’ve found…

I was reading Father Reginald Marie Garrigou-Lagrange and he suggests that Thomas Aquinas went through three stages of development with regard to the Immaculate Conception:

  1. Early Stage (before 1254 – Commentary on Sentences): Thomas affirmed the Immaculate Conception of Mary
  2. Middle Stage (1254-1272 – Summa theologiae): Thomas denied the Immaculate Conception of Mary 
  3. Final Stage (after 1272): Thomas returned to his faith in the Immaculate Conception of Mary

Here are the texts that Garrigou-Lagrange gives to support his thesis:

  1. In the first period, which was from 1253 to 1254, he affirmed the privilege, for he wrote: “Such was the purity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who was exempt from both original and actual sin.” [Com. in I Sent, d. 44, q. 1, a. 3, ad 3]
  2. In the second period, St. Thomas explicitely denies the Immaculate Conception: “The Blessed Virgin did indeed contract original sin.” [Summa theologiae IIIa, q. 27, a. 2, ad 2]
  3. In the third period, “For she [the Blessed Virgin] was most pure because she incurred the stain neither of original sin nor of mortal sin nor of venial sin.”[Expositio super salutatione angelica]

Oh what a happy thought – that Thomas died with full faith in the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary!

ad Jesum per Mariam,
Taylor Marshall

PS: For more on Thomas’ reaffirmation of the Immaculate Conception see Mandonnet [Bulletin thomiste, January to March, 1933, pp. 164-67] and Voste [Com. in Summam theol. S. Thomae. De mysteriis vitae Christi; 18f.].

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  • Pretty cool!

  • Alex Lielbardis

    I believe that St. Thomas only had doubts (no pun intended) about the Immaculate Conception which were finally resolved because of his passion for understanding and expounding the divine truth. All he had to do by the light of faith was see how Mary’s unique redemption did not undermine her need to be redeemed. The Holy Spirit satisfied his strong desire to know the truth. I’m reminded of the words of Jesus: “Seek and you shall find.”