Saint Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109) is a key figure in the history of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. Although Anselm never affirmed Our Lady’s privileged, sinless conception, he provided Bl. John Duns Scotus (1265/6-1308) with several conceptual clarifications and insights essential for the Subtle Doctor’s explanation and defense of the theological opinion favoring Mary’s Immaculate Conception. This essay will take a look at the important role the Benedictine Archbishop of Canterbury and Doctor of the Church played in helping Scotus defend the Immaculate Conception.1

Historical Background and the State of the Question up to Scotus

The question of Our Lady’s unique, privileged conception, immune from original sin, was much debated prior to and throughout the lifetime of Bl. John Duns Scotus. While the doctrine, as it would be defined in 1854, was never denied by the Latin Church Fathers—and, in many ways, anticipated by them2—the feast of Mary’s Conception entered England around 1030 at Winchester, bringing to bear new attention upon Mary’s relation to justice and sin at the first instant of her existence.3

Devotion to the feast of Mary’s Conception increased in England until it was suppressed in 1070 by Lanfranc, the Norman Archbishop of Canterbury, in the wake of the invasion of William the Conqueror. This eclipse was, thankfully, short lived. In 1120, Anselm the Younger (d. 1148), nephew of St. Anselm, began celebrating the feast at St. Edmund’s Bury. While there remained lingering opposition to both the feast and the growing pious conviction of Mary’s privilege, the feast spread from St. Edmund’s to Westminster; and, at the 1129 Council of London, it gained approval from all of the English bishops.4 Eadmer (d. c. 1124), Anselm’s biographer and secretary, was a main proponent of Mary’s privilege.5

By 1136, the feast had even made its way to the Cathedral of Lyons in France. Its arrival occasioned St. Bernard’s (d. 1153) famous protest against the feast and Mary’s Immaculate Conception. In fact, Mary’s sinless conception generally met more resistance on the Continent; during Scotus’s time at Paris, it was the minority position and was thought by some to be heretical.6 The Franciscans in England and abroad, however, immediately took up the Immaculate’s banner, first under patronage of Robert Grosseteste (d. 1253) and then William of Ware (d. c. 1300), Scotus’s teacher at Oxford.

Those opposed to Mary’s privilege appealed to the universal necessity of redemption, which, to their minds, entailed the corollary of the universality of original sin. This, in essence, was the position of the great scholastics prior to Scotus.7 Mary’s defenders, however, were not insignificant figures either. Their number included Eadmer, Grosseteste, William of Ware, Raymond Lull and Scotus himself.

The defenders of the Immaculate Conception preceding Scotus provided reasons in favor of Mary’s privilege on the basis of piety or fittingness and could not provide rigorous theological arguments. Such appeals failed to overturn the main objection to the Immaculate Conception: the universality of Redemption and its corollary, original sin.8 Up to and until Mary’s Immaculate Conception could be explained in full harmony with the universal need for redemption, the Parisian doctors were justified in opposing the English-Franciscan opinion.9

Anselm in Scotus’ Argument

Anselm’s influence on Scotus is widely recognized and admitted. Affirming Anselm’s general influence on Scotus, but with specific reference to his importance for Scotus’ theological articulation and defense of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, Fr. Peter Fehlner writes: “Anselm stands at a juncture in the development in the witness of tradition to this [i.e., the Immaculate Conception] great mystery of faith.”10 Fehlner further states that St. Anselm is considered the first of the great Western scholastics and that, with him, the systematic discussion of the possibility and fittingness of the Immaculate Conception begins.11

Strangely, however, so far as I can tell, scholars have given less attention to the influence of Anselm’s ideas, specifically, upon Scotus’ argumentation in favor of the Immaculate Conception.12 Charles Balic explains that Anselm “asserted the principles which, objectively considered, lead to the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception,”13 and that his “subsequent influence was immense.”14 Joseph Bruder claims, “The next step forward toward the theological vindication of Mary’s freedom from the stain of original sin is undoubtedly due to Saint Anselm.”15 “It is Saint Anselm… who helped Scotus turn the most forceful argument[s] of the opponents of the Immaculate Conception… into… powerful argument in its defense.”16 Scotus references Anselm and employs his insights at several key moments in his argument, and, apart from these Anselmian insights, Scotus’ argument is not successful.

Scotus’ Question and Solution17

Authorities Pro et Contra Mary’s Immaculate Conception

Was the Blessed Virgin conceived in original sin? Scotus cites ten authorities affirming that the Blessed Virgin Mary was, in fact, conceived in original sin. Beginning with Scripture,18 and then proceeding through Church Fathers, both East and West, Papal teaching,19 Canon Law,20 and ending with the most authoritative doctors close to his own time—e.g., St. Bernard21 and St. Anselm22—Scotus provides an impressive array of witnesses denying Mary’s sinless conception. If such an array of Fathers, Doctors and authoritative texts didn’t seem to present insurmountable obstacles to the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, the prospects of Mary’s privilege appear even bleaker when Scotus can offer only two authorities in favor of the doctrine. He cites only Augustine23 and Anselm.24

It is interesting to note that Scotus marshals Anselm both as an opponent to the Immaculate Conception and as providing reasons in its favor. As we shall see, Anselm’s reasoning wins out in Scotus over his conclusions. As Bruder notes, in the texts of Anselm, there seems to be insuperable evidence against Anselm’s having affirmed the Immaculate Conception. However, his ideas have an inner dynamism that carry Scotus beyond Anselm’s explicit affirmations, and provide an avenue into the insights that can both justify the Immaculate Conception, and refute the doctrine’s opponents.25

In addition to an arguably Anselmian flavor to Scotus’ entire argument,26 there are specific ideas of Anselm that serve as keys for Scotus in unlocking the mystery of how Mary could have been conceived without original sin. Anselm affirms that Mary was conceived in a state of original sin. However, according to Scotus’ reading of Anselm, this conclusion is (logically) inconsistent with Anselm’s attribution of the highest conceivable holiness to Mary as well as Anselm’s understanding of the nature of original sin and its transmission.

Anselm clearly asserted that Mary’s purity and holiness is that than which, under God, nothing could be conceivably higher.27 Scotus, reasoning from this Anselmian basis, concludes that such a purity and holiness must then also include the first instant of her existence; otherwise, there would be a holiness that is conceivably higher. Moreover, Anselm distinguishes both the state of original sin and the state of original justice from the “infected flesh” following upon sin and the fall. This provides Scotus with a needed logical opening to rebut those who say that the stain of original sin follows necessarily from human reproduction.28

Scotus then presents two common arguments affirming that Mary was conceived in original sin. The first is based upon the excellence of Mary’s Son as Redeemer. Jesus Christ as the universal Redeemer opens the gates of Heaven to all. But, if Mary did not contract original sin, she, by implication, would have had no need for Jesus to open to her the gates of Heaven. This is because, so the argument goes, the gates of Heaven are not closed to those who have no stain of sin, either original or actual. The purpose of this objection is to show that an affirmation of Mary’s Immaculate Conception places Mary outside of the realm of the Incarnation’s mediating and redeeming work.29

The second argument against Mary’s sinless conception that Scotus discusses is based upon the mode of her conception.30 Mary, like all other human beings, excluding Christ, was conceived in the normal manner—from the union of a man and a woman—and in virtue of this, she was infected with original sin. Thus, for the same reason that all other human beings are infected with original sin, Mary also must have been first conceived with the stain of sin. Since her body was “begotten, and formed, from infected seed,” this infection was passed on, from her parents, to her body; and “since the soul was infected from the infected body,” she was conceived in the state of original sin.31

Scotus then offers a corollary support of Mary’s implication in sin. Mary, unlike Christ who willingly took on a passable mortal state with all of the sufferings incumbent upon it, suffered from all the effects of original sin: e.g., thirst, hunger, fatigue, etc.32 On this basis, Scotus’s opponents reason, this suffering undergone by Mary must have been the effects of sin, otherwise she would have experienced them unjustly. Because God is just, he would not have inflicted punishment for sin on a person not guilty of any sin unless there were a further intention or purpose, such as the meriting of redemption. Thus, Mary must have been conceived in the state of original sin.

Scotus’ Use of Anselm’s Analogy: The Offended King and the Universality of Christ’s Redemption

Scotus bases his refutation of the first argument, in favor of Mary having contracted original sin, on precisely the same premise as his opponents. However, whereas his opponents argue for the necessity of Mary having contracted original sin on the basis of Christ’s excellence in his work of mediation—thereby inferring that Mary must have needed redemption from at least original sin in order to fall under Christ’s universal work of mediation—Scotus believes the contrary conclusion follows. It is, rather, because of Christ’s excellence, His most perfect mediation, that Mary must have been conceived without original sin! To Scotus’ mind, the highest perfection of Christ’s mediation is found precisely in His preserving Mary from original sin. Surely, being preserved from all sin is a more excellent form of redemption than being liberated from an already established state of sin.33

Scotus, here, explicitly borrows Anselm’s allegory of the offended king.34 In Scotus’ account, a subject offends his king. The result is that the offender and all of his natural progeny are disinherited. The offense is legally established.35 The birth of each new member of the offender’s family is an occasion of offense to the king because of the injustice of the original offender.

The only way the offending subject and his descendants can be reconciled to the king is for a totally innocent member of the offender’s family to offer something more pleasing and gracious to the king than the original offense. If such an innocent person accomplished this act, Scotus avers that this would be sufficient for the king to overturn his prior decision, and re-inherit his out-of-favor subjects, thereby reestablishing good relations with them.36

In this account, however, even after the placation achieved by the innocent mediator, the natural generation of each new member of the human family still constitutes an offense to God, in virtue of the original offense. The offense is only remitted subsequently to the natural conception and birth of each new person. Positively, the offense toward God is remitted, but, on the other hand, God, nevertheless, takes some offense with the birth of each new person.37 Scotus suggests that beyond a post factum reconciliation, there is a conceivably greater way in which the king/God can be pleased with regard to both the mediator and the term of the latter’s mediation.38 The Mediator (Jesus), in virtue of the universality of His mediation, could and would prevent some child born of Adam from offending God in any manner: i.e., through original or actual sin.

Scotus provides three proofs for his assertion. These are based on comparative analyses between the mediation and redemption accomplished by Christ in those born in the state of original sin and the mediation and redemption wrought in Mary as she was conceived immaculately. The first proof speaks of the more excellent manner in which Mary is reconciled to God; the second, the evil from which Mary is liberated; and the third, the obligation of Mary to Christ that results from her being conceived without original sin. The result of Scotus’ three proofs is that, rather than diminishing Christ’s excellence vis-à-vis Mary as immaculately conceived, an affirmation of her privilege actually increases the excellence of Christ’s work in the Incarnation and enhances regard for Him.39

In the first proof, Scotus asserts that a truly most perfect and excellent mediator removes all punishment for sin. But original sin is a greater punishment than the loss of the beatific vision. Therefore Christ, the most perfect mediator, removes the punishment of original sin in some person.40

The second proof reasons from a consideration of the primary object of Christ’s work. The object of Christ’s mediation and Redemption is more commonly ascribed to the remission of the original sin than actual sin. Moreover, it is universally held that Christ’s work in Mary was so perfect so as to preserve her from all actual sin. Therefore, on the twofold basis of the primary object of Christ’s mediation and the actual perfection of Christ’s work in Mary, Scotus contends that it is more reasonable to believe that Mary was preserved from all sin—both committed and contracted.41

The third proof Scotus offers in this section concerns the obligation that one would have towards Christ in the event that He redeem the person from contracting original sin as well as committing actual sin. He argues that a person not reconciled to God in the highest manner is not obliged as much as one perfectly reconciled. Viewed negatively, this fact entails that, if Mary was conceived in a state of original sin, she is not obligated to Christ in the highest degree. She would be more obliged if she were conceived without original sin. The positive corollary of this is that Mary, because conceived immaculately, is obliged in the highest degree to Christ.42 Rather than derogating from Christ’s excellence and glory, as was feared by so many of Scotus’ predecessors,43 Mary’s conception without original sin actually manifests Christ mediation, and, in turn, glorifies Him in the highest degree.

This argument bears the obvious imprint of Anselm—the allegory is taken directly from him. Scotus (1) accepts the insight of Anselm and (2) explains Mary’s preservation exclusively in terms of the merits of Christ.44 Scotus, however, extends these merits to a mode that Anselm had not envisioned. Like Anselm, again, Scotus affirms that Christ’s mediation is quantitatively or extensively universal throughout all times and all places.45 Like Anselm, Scotus reasons that Christ is the most excellent Mediator. On this basis, Scotus (3) crosses a modal boundary and considers Christ’s mediation qualitatively or intensively.46

How Mary Could Have Been Conceived Without Original Sin Given Natural Generation: Scotus’ Rebuttal ad mentem Anselmi

We now turn to Scotus’ response to the argument affirming Mary’s conception in original sin, which states that Mary must have been conceived with original sin because she, unlike Christ, was conceived through the normal means of generation.47 According to this account of the transmission of original sin, the actual conferring of original sin comes through the infected seed of the parents who engage in the conjugal act in a concupiscent manner.48 In framing his response, Scotus directly appeals to Anselm’s teaching of justice and injustice.49

Anselm’s profound treatment of original justice and original sin shaped Scotus’ perception and understanding of these matters. Anselm provides specific conceptual tools that allow Scotus to articulate very clear notions of human nature, original justice, original sin, and the conferral and transmission of the latter two.

Scotus does not here provide Anselm’s argumentation. However it is clear that he presupposes and employs Anselm’s insights. Scotus shows how, even granting the kind of connection between infected flesh and the transmission of original sin to the soul that his opponents were presupposing, the arguments against the Immaculate Conception do not follow.50 On the one hand, this proves that to Scotus’ mind, Anselm had effectively dissociated any essential connection between the natural generation of the flesh and the contracting of original sin. On the other, it seems that Scotus, at this point, likely because Anselm was not yet universally viewed as an authority,51 was following the general pattern of his entire treatise: to grant his opponents’ premises, and show that their conclusions do not follow, but actually support the Immaculate Conception.

Scotus argues that even if one grants that original sin is contracted via the concupiscent conjugal act and its infected seed, it does not follow that this transmission is necessary, because, even in those who have contracted original sin, after the reception of Baptism, original sin is eradicated from the soul while its effects remain in the body, i.e., concupiscence.52 So, the flesh remains infected, yet the soul is pure after Baptism. This serves as proof that there is no intrinsic link between infected flesh and the moral state of the soul.

On this basis, Scotus contends that although original sin might commonly—one could say naturally, secundum quid—be propagated via the infected flesh, there is nevertheless no essential (necessity following upon nature of sin or human generation) connection between the infected flesh and original sin. Therefore, God could simply prevent original sin in the flesh in the first instant of its union with the soul so that the infected flesh had no causal power upon the soul. As for the other objection, e.g., Mary’s sufferings, Scotus reasons that God could have taken away Mary’s suffering, but because sufferings are useful for meriting, he allowed the suffering of Mary to remain while preventing her from contracting original sin in her soul.53

Scotus argues for the possibility of Mary having been conceived without original sin by first noting that original justice and grace, insofar as God’s acceptance of them is concerned, are identical. But Baptism removes original sin; therefore, it seems that nothing prevents God from giving someone grace in the first instance of conception, because, as was stated earlier, there is no necessary link between infected flesh and the contraction of original sin.54

This negative rebuttal is not the entire story. In his ad quaestionem, Scotus does not leave the issue of the transmission of original sin at his critique of the arguments which affirm the necessity of contracting original sin on the basis of the natural descendent from Adam. Scotus provides a positive argument in favor of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, on the basis of Anselm’s locating of original justice and sin exclusively within the will, and the distinctions between nature/justice and nature/sin that follow from this distinction. Scotus is not merely refuting, but, more importantly—to his mind—both establishing the greater probability of Mary’s conception without the stain of original sin than with it, and showing how there are no good arguments to the contrary.

Scotus’ Solution ad mentem Anselmi

In this section of his argument, Scotus presents three possible states in relation to original sin into which Mary could have been born.

  1. Mary never contracted original sin.
  2. Mary contracted original sin, but only for an instant.
  3. Mary contracted original sin and was in this state for some duration, and, in the last instant of this duration, was purged of it.

Because the latter two hypotheses presuppose that Mary was conceived in original sin and do not directly relate to Scotus’ articulation of his defense of the Immaculate Conception, we will pass over them and deal only with the first possibility that Scotus presents.

Scotus admits that only God knows, so far as he is concerned, which of the three possibilities is actually the case (this was prior to the 1854 formal definition of the Immaculate Conception). However, he then goes on to offer this principle as a guiding theme to his own reflection on Mary: “If the authority of the Church or the authority of Scripture does not contradict such, it seems probable that what is more excellent should be attributed to Mary.”55 It is clearly more excellent for Mary to have been conceived without original sin, both in terms of Christ’s mediation and Mary’s reconciliation; therefore, Scotus believes that he is justified in believing that Mary was in fact conceived without original sin.

Although absent from the Ordinatio text on the Immaculate Conception, in the parallel passages from the Paris, Barcelona, and Valencia manuscripts, Scotus cites Anselm in favor of the Immaculate Conception, when he says that “it was fitting that this Virgin should shine with a purity so great, that, except for God, no greater purity could be conceived.”56 Luigi Gambero, when discussing this statement, cites a parallel text from Anselm’s Orations: “Nothing is equal to Mary: no one except God is greater than Mary.”57 These affirmations inform Scotus’ own opinion concerning excellence, greatness and perfection, including his mature treatment of the Immaculate Conception in the Ordinatio. Therein Scotus states that it seems probable that what is more excellent should be attributed to Mary.

Following the statement of his opinion, Scotus goes on to reply to the authorities listed at the beginning of the question. Scotus grants to the authorities that it is the case that every child of Adam is a debtor to original justice and lacks this because of Adam’s willful disobedience in the Garden. From this, it follows that there is a basis for every natural descendant of Adam to contract original sin, which is the absence of original justice. However, on the other hand, Scotus argues that it is nevertheless possible that in the first instant of the creation of a new soul, grace could be infused. That person would not lack original justice. On the one hand, upon the basis of natural propagation, the soul will not be born in the state of original justice; but from this, it does not necessarily follow that the soul will be born in the state of original sin. God could just as easily confer grace, if he so desired, prior to the contraction of original sin as he could after its contraction.

Scotus cites Anselm’s De Conceptu Virginali, chapter three, wherein Anselm argues that sin exists only in the rational will.58 Anselm reasons that if justice is rectitude of the will preserved for its own sake, and that rectitude cannot exist except in a rational nature, then it is only a rational nature from which justice is due, since no nature is susceptible of justice except a rational nature.59 Justice’s privation is merely the absence of justice that ought to be present in the will as commanded by God. Since justice and injustice are predicated of the will alone, Anselm concludes that justice, or injustice, can exist only in a rational will. In chapter seven of the same treatise, when discussing the question of how human nature can be called unclean and conceived in sin, Anselm states his conclusion more boldly: “No being but the will is properly called unjust.”60 He then goes on to distinguish between the conception of a fetus that follows from the conjugal activity of the man and the woman, which of itself cannot produce a rational soul, and the conception of the person upon the uniting of the rational soul with the fetus.61

Although, Anselm reasons, the act that produced the fetus was concupiscent, and therefore infected the fetus, because justice and sin reside exclusively in a rational will, it is improper to say that the fetus is sinful or contains sin.62 Anselm compares the seed to spittle, arguing that just as one would not ascribe sin to spit, but rather to the ill will of one who maliciously spits. So also, one ought not ascribe sin to the seed, but rather to the one who generates, by means of this seed, in concupiscence. On the other hand, Anselm clearly asserts that upon the gaining of a rational soul, an entire person would gain the uncleanness of sin; but by the logic of his own explanation, this sin would not be contracted from the infected flesh, but rather from the absence of justice that God decreed ought to be present in the soul, yet does not confer on the basis of Adam’s moral headship of the human race.

In his reply to the first objection, Scotus again grants his opponents’ premise affirming the universality of Christ’s mediation, and, on this basis, concludes that Mary is, in fact, more deeply and perfectly indebted to Christ on the basis of her being conceived without original sin. Moreover, he, again, grants to his opponents their contention that Mary was indeed a child of Adam by nature prior to her reconciliation to God by grace. He also concedes that in that first instant of nature, Mary, secundum quid, ought, by virtue of her descent from Adam, to have contracted original sin. But, Scotus again replies, it does not follow that she necessarily contracts original sin.63 Moreover, given the absolute predestination of Jesus and Mary and exclusively moral-spiritual nature of sin, Adam’s natural headship of the human race need not and, in fact, does not extend to a moral headship of every member of the human race. Christ is before Adam in the will of God, and Mary is enclosed within Christ in the divine intention. Thus, Adam has no moral headship over Our Lord, and, because of Our Lady’s absolute and prior relationship to Jesus, Adam has no more headship over her either. Thus, any notion that Mary ought to have contracted original sin must be understood as merely de facto and not as proper or absolute.64

Scotus reasons that a given subject is naturally prior to both contraries that can be predicated of that subject. In this instance, the contraries are original sin and original justice and/or grace. In the order of natural priority, therefore, the human person qua nature is prior to both sin and grace. Scotus goes on to grant that, in some sense, one can even assert in the next moment of nature, that the privative opposite of original sin, as it is an absence or a negation, is prior to its contrary of original justice, as uninformed matter is to formed matter.65

Even though a person never exists in the temporal order without being in either a state of original sin or original justice/grace, it follows, on the basis that neither characteristic is essential to the nature of the human person, that neither characteristic is natural, i.e., an essential property, in a strict sense, to the human person. This insight provides Scotus with a non-temporal “moment” of nature prior to either the contraction of original sin or the infusion of original justice/grace in which God can act to either confer justice/grace or withhold it. In identifying the priority of nature, Scotus, interestingly, further recognizes and implies the priority of the freedom and prerogative of God to act in his creation.

This allows Scotus to affirm that Christ did, in fact, open for Mary the gates of Heaven. As in the case of the members of the Old Covenant, Mary’s preservation from original sin is also founded upon the foreseen merits of Christ’s life and Passion. Mary was never actually in sin, but apart from Christ’s preservation, she would have contracted original sin by reason, though not by natural necessity, of her origin.66

In the final section of his treatment of the question, Scotus gives special attention to St. Bernard. Bernard’s objections, given his renowned sanctity and the wide diffusion of his spiritual theology, along with the great influence he held among scholastic theologians after him, demanded careful consideration and delicate treatment. Against Bernard, Scotus reasons that sanctification can be spoken of in a similar manner with regard to the guilt that would have been present, had Mary not been preserved from contracting original sin, as it is spoken of concerning sin that is present in those who do contract original sin. In either scenario, if original justice or sanctifying grace is present in the soul, that soul is rectified and, to some degree, sanctified.

Scotus goes on to argue that concupiscence pace Bernard is not essentially related to the conception of natures. Even if the concupiscent “mixing of seeds” resulted in the conception of infected flesh, it would not have been impossible or unfitting for God, at the uniting of such flesh with the rational soul, to have infused the soul with grace in that instant in which the flesh and soul united to become a human person. In this scenario, such a person would not contract any infection from the flesh, conceived in carnal pleasure.


In this study we have seen how Anselm plays a central, even essential, role in Scotus’ formulation of his criticisms of the arguments against the Immaculate Conception, and also in his positive explanations of how the Immaculate Conception is both possible and, in fact, the more likely explanation of what God, in Christ, accomplished in the person of Mary. Mary’s purity, than which nothing under God is greater, the concept of original sin, its transmission, and the perfection and excellence of Christ’s mediation and Redemption are themes in which Anselm profoundly influenced Scotus, and, in turn, influenced the subsequent history of Christian piety, liturgy, theology, doctrine and faith. Although Anselm explicitly denies Mary’s exemption from original sin, it is arguable that, given his fundamental theological insights, he would have been more logical in affirming it.67 Scotus follows Anselm’s insights to their conclusion, and, in great part, through these, is able to affirm the Immaculate Conception. Through Scotus, Anselm still influences and guides piety and faith for millions of Christians worldwide.

1 Cf., Peter Fehlner, “Sources of Scotus’ Mariology in Tradition,” in Blessed John Duns Scotus and His Mariology: Commemoration of the Seventh Centenary of His Death-Mariologia Franciscana-III, edited by Peter Fehlner (New Bedford: Academy of the Immaculate, 2009), 257.

2L’Immacolata Concezione (Citta del Vaticano: Pontificia Academia Mariana Intl., 2003), 7-37.

3The Cult of the Virgin Mary in Anglo-Saxon England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 40-47. In prior times the feast was known to Latin Christians only in Sicily and Naples, likely through the presence and influence of Greeks. It is also known that Anglo-Saxons were present in Constantinople in the eleventh century. This suggests the historical background and motive for the feast’s entrance into England was via Greek influence. The Greek pedigree of England’s eventual adoption of the Immaculate Conception is further bolstered by the fact that in an eleventh century liturgical calendar presenting the feast of Mary’s Conception we also find for the first time in England mention of the feasts of the Eastern saints, John Chrysostom and Catherine of Alexandria. Cf., Clayton, 43-44.

4Mary at the Foot of the Cross V: Redemption and Coredemption under the Sign of the Immaculate Conception, edited by Peter Fehlner (New Bedford: Academy of the Immaculate, 2005), 346-350.

5 Scotus, in his discussion of the Immaculate Conception, cites Eadmer only one time, under the name of Augustine. Cf., Charles Balic, Ioannes Duns Scotus: Doctor Immaculatae Conceptionis: 1- Textus Auctores, (Rome: Marianum, 1954). 79.

6The Dogma of the Immaculate Conception: History and Significance, edited by Edward D. O’Connor (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame, 1958), 167, 187-193.

7Ibid., 188; Cecchin, 75-99.

8 Balic, “The Medieval Controversy,” 184-6.

9Decretum Gratiani (Venice, 1528), fol. 614: “De festo Conceptionis nihil dicitur, quia celebrandum non est, sicut in multis regionibus fit, et maxime in Anglia; et haec est ratio, quia in peccatis concepta fuit sicut et ceteri sancti, except unica persona Christi.” Quoted in Allan Bernard Wolter, Four Questions on Mary: A Selection, edited by Allen Wolter (Santa Barbara, CA: Old Mission Santa Barbara, 1988), 36.

10 Peter D. Fehlner, “The Predestination of the Virgin and Her Immaculate Conception,” in Mariology: A Guide for Priest, Deacons, Seminarians and Consecrated Persons, edited by Mark Miravalle (Seat of Wisdom: Goleta, 2007), 250.


12 I have searched all the main databases and bibliographies on both Scotus and Anselm, and was unable to find any work expressly on this topic.

13 Charles Balic, “The Medieval Controversy,” 169.

14Ibid., 177.

15The Mariology of Saint Anselm of Canterbury, (Dayton: Mount St. John, 1939), 28.

16Ibid., 53.

17Ordinatio Four Questions on Mary.

18 Rom 5:12: “In Adam, omnes peccaverunt…”

19 E.g., John Damascene, De fide orthodoxa III c. 2; Fulgentius, De fide ad Petrum c. 26; Augustine, In Ioannem tract IV c. 1, n. 10; Pope Leo III In nativitate Domini nostri Iesu Christi I, c. 1.

20 Decretum Gratiani.

21In Assump. B. Mariae Virginis, Sermo 2, n. 8.

22 Cur Deus homo? II, c. 16.

23 De nat. et gratia c. 36, n. 42.

24 De conceptu virginali et de originali peccato, c. 18.

25 Cur Deus Homo?, II, c. 16 (Schmitt, 2, 116): “Nam licet ipsa hominis eiusdem conceptio munda sit et absque carnalis delectationis peccato, virgo tamen ipsa unde assumptus est, ‘in iniquitibus’ concepta est, ‘et in peccatis concepit’ eam ‘mater’ eius, et cum originalis peccato nata est, quoniam et ipsa in Adam peccavit, ‘in quo omnes peccaverunt.’” In his earlier treatments of the subject of Mary’s conception Scotus attempts to explain away this objection on the basis that in the quoted section of dialog it is not Anselm, but his student speaking. Cf., Textus, 65: “Ad illud Anselmi potest dici quod verbum fuit discipuli sui, non ipsius Anselmi.”

26 Notions of fittingness, order and intensive perfection are implied throughout Scotus’ argument. Cf. Anselm’s discussion of order in De veritate, passim, but especially cc. 10-13. For intensive perfection see Monologion and Proslogion. Compare these texts with Scotus’ De Primo Principio. Cf., Robert Prentice, “The De Primo Principio of John Duns Scotus as a Thirteenth Century Proslogion,” Antonianum 39 (1964), 78-109.

27 Cf., De conceptu virginaili, 18 (Schmitt, 2: 159); Oratio 52 (Schmitt, 3:21).

28De Conceptu, c. 2, 3 (Schmitt, 2:414-3) Cf. De casu diaboli, cc. 1-4, 12, 16 (Schmitt 1: 233-42, 251-55, 259-62).

29 Wolter, Four Questions on Mary, 38.


31Ibid, 39.

32 Ibid.

33Ibid., 41.

34Cur Deus homo. II., c. 16 (Schmitt 2:118-22).

35 Cf., De conceptu, cc. 2-3, 19 (Schmitt 2: 140-3, 151-2). In these texts Anselm speaks of the gift of original justice (Cf., De casu diaboli, cc. 14-16 [Schmitt 1: 258-62]) and moral obligation to preserve this gift. With original sin comes the rejection and loss of the gift, but obligation to preserve the gift remains. Because of Adam’s sin, original justice is no longer given by God to the person on the occasion of that person’s natural generation, but, on the other hand, the original obligation still remains. Scotus explicitly asserts that offense following the loss of original justice is “legally established” (ista offensa statuitur non remittenda) (Wolter, 40).

36 Wolter, Four Questions on Mary, 41-2.

37 Ibid., 40.

38 Ibid., 41.

39Ibid., 41-2.

40 Ibid., 41.

41 Ibid., 41-2.

42Ibid., 42.

43inter alios, Anselm, Bernard, Aquinas and Bonaventure. For references and primary texts see, Ruggero Rosini, The Mariology of Blessed John Duns Scotus, (New Bedford: Academy of the Immaculate, 2008), 75; Balic, “Medieval,” 161-212.

44 Bruder, 52.

45Giovanni Duns Scoto; Studi e ricerche nel VII Centenario della sue morte, edited by Martin Carbajo Nunez (Rome: Antonianum, 2008), 127.


47 Wolter, Four Questions on Mary, 43; 47-52.

48 Balic, 164-7.

49 Wolter, Four Questions on Mary, 43; De Conceptu, cc. 3, 7.

50 Timothy Noone, “The Singular Participation of Mary Immaculate in the Merits of Christ, Her Son and Redeemer, According to Scotus: Continued Reflections on a Theological Breakthrough,” in Mary at the Foot of the Cross VIII, edited by Peter Fehlner (New Bedford: Academy of the Immaculate, 2008), 169. Scotus’ omission has apparently led Timothy Noone to think this particular objection not all that serious. He calls this the “lesser problem of propagation,” and in the cited article, when discussing this objection to the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, he does not consider the problem of propagation, as it was understood traditionally, but, like Scotus, moves directly to a consideration of how Scotus’ opponents’ arguments do not establish their case. While not incorrect, I think that this minimizing of Scotus’ own position regarding original sin and its transmission is misleading. Noone neglects to mention that Scotus preceded his reply by alluding to Anselm’s more extensive treatment of the question, which the Subtle Doctor was presupposing. Cf., Ordinatio, II d. 30 q. 2: “Praeterea deordinat totam animam; ergo si est aliqua una culpa, in illa potentia, est ad cuius deordinationem tota anima deordinatur; illa sola est voluntas, quia sicut ipsa ordinata alias, ita deordinata deordinat; non est autem aliquid positivum, ergo est privatio justitiae oppositae huic culpae” (Ord. II d. 30 q. 2, Vives XIII, 293). Even if the problem of propagation is not as difficult as that of the universality of Christ’s redemption and the manner in which Mary was redeemed, it nevertheless is a very important moment in Scotus’s positive articulation of Mary’s privilege, whose explanation has roots in Anselm.

51 This is hinted at by Wolter, “Scotus’ Lectures on the Immaculate Conception,” in Scotus and Ockham: Selected Essays (St. Bonaventure, NY: Franciscan Institute Publications, 2003),152; Bruder, 63.

52 Wolter, Four Questions on Mary, 43.

53 Ibid.

54Ibid., 43

55 Wolter, 45: “Sed si auctoritati Ecclesiae vel auctoritati Scripturae non repugnet, videtur probablie quod excellentius est, attribuere Mariae.” Cf., Christic principle, Ordinatio III, d. 13, q. 1-4.

56 Comparable to language in Scotus: “Nempe quia decens era tut ea puritate, qua maior sub deo nequit intelligi…” (De Conceptu c. 18, Schmitt, 2:159).

57 Cited in Luigi Gambero, Mary in the Middle Ages (San Francisco: Ignatius, 2005), 111. Also: “Nihil est aequale Mariae; nihil, nisi Deus, maius Maria” (Oratio 52, Schmitt, 3:21), and Proslogion c. 2.

58 Wolter, 43.

59 De Conceptu, c. 3 (Schmitt, 2: 143).

60 “[E]t [peccatum et iniustitam] non esse nisi in rationali voluntate” (De Conceptu, c. 7, Schmitt, 2: 147).

61 Ibid., (Schmitt 2: 148-9).

62 Ibid.

63 Wolter, Four Questions on Mary, 44, 46-7.

64 For further discussion on Scotus’ understanding of how original sin is inherited and its implications see, Alessandro Apollonio, “Mary’s So-called ‘Debitum Peccati Originalis’,” in Bl. John Duns Scotus and His Mariology, 331-348; Peter Fehlner, Appendix to Ruggero Rosini, Mariology of Blessed John Duns Scotus, 255-268.

65 Ibid., 48-50.

66Ibid., 48, 51.

67 See Bruder, 60-1; Balic, “The Medieval Controversy,” 169; Fehlner, “Sources,” 270-4.