Some of the faithful doubt that the Virgin Mary died and was resurrected before being assumed into Heaven. But the Apostolic Constitution of Pope Pius XII, Munificentissimus Deus, clearly and repeatedly refers to the death of the Virgin Mary. In no less than seven separate paragraphs this Apostolic Constitution refers, in one way or another, to the death of the Virgin Mary:
1. "In the same way, it was not difficult for them to admit that the great Mother of God, like her only begotten Son, had actually passed from this life." (n. 14)
2. " 'Venerable to us, O Lord, is the festivity of this day on which the holy Mother of God suffered temporal death….' " (n. 17, quoting the Sacramentarium Gregorianum)
3. " 'As he kept you a virgin in childbirth, thus he has kept your body incorrupt in the tomb and has glorified it by his divine act of transferring it from the tomb.' " (n. 18, quoting the Byzantine liturgy)
4. "…this feast shows, not only that the dead body of the Blessed Virgin Mary remained incorrupt, but that she gained a triumph out of death…." (n. 20, referring to the feast of the Assumption)
5. " 'It was fitting that she, who had kept her virginity intact in childbirth, should keep her own body free from all corruption even after death.' " (n. 21, quoting St. John Damascene)
6. " '…she has received an eternal incorruptibility of the body together with him who has raised her up from the tomb and has taken her up to himself in a way known only to him.' " (n. 22, a quote attributed to St. Modestus of Jerusalem)
7. "Hence the revered Mother of God…finally obtained, as the supreme culmination of her privileges, that she should be preserved free from the corruption of the tomb and that, like her own Son, having overcome death, she might be taken up body and soul to the glory of heaven…." (n. 40)
In no less than three places, this Apostolic Constitution, Munificentissimus Deus, also clearly refers to the Resurrection of the Virgin Mary:
1. "Thus, during the earliest period of scholastic theology, that most pious man, Amadeus, Bishop of Lausanne, held that the Virgin Mary's flesh had remained incorrupt-for it is wrong to believe that her body has seen corruption-because it was really united again to her soul and, together with it, crowned with great glory in the heavenly courts." (n. 28)
2. " 'What son would not bring his mother back to life and would not bring her into paradise after death if he could?' " (n. 35, quoting St. Francis of Sales)
3. " '…she has received an eternal incorruptibility of the body together with him who has raised her up from the tomb and has taken her up to himself in a way known only to him.' " (n. 22, a quote attributed to St. Modestus of Jerusalem)
Now the Assumption has been taught infallibly under Papal Infallibility:
"…we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory." (Munificentissimus Deus)
But Mary's death and resurrection, even though found in the same document, is taught non-infallibly under the Ordinary Magisterium. Since this teaching is non-infallible, some have said that one may believe that Mary never died, and that she was merely assumed into Heaven at the end of her earthly life. This idea is not heretical, but it does contradict an ordinary teaching (so the burden of proof is on those who adhere to this idea).
However, it is a heresy contrary to the infallible teaching of the Church to claim that Mary both died and was never resurrected, and that therefore her soul went to Heaven at her death, and it was her dead body which was assumed into Heaven to be joined with her soul there.
by Ronald L. Conte Jr.
November 8, 2006