1. The Dogma of the Immaculate Conception
While it did not seem to be even a secondary intention of Pius IX, while defining the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in the document Ineffabilis Deus, to resolve the question of the moment of the animation of the body by the soul, yet the formulation of this dogma required a precise sense to be given to such a moment if that same moment was to be the moment of the sanctification of Mary, the Mother of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
What, then, is the moment of Mary's sanctification so defined; and does the definition of that moment have an implication of benefit to this inquiry?
In the first place the conception of Mary is venerated as something extraordinary5; however, what is extraordinary is the moment6 and degree7 of her sanctification, not the divine-human act of her conception.
Secondly, 'The Roman Doctrine', as it is called, developed in part in answer to the possibility of a distinction between a first and a second instant of Mary's conception.
And while these instants are not categorically defined, yet there seems sufficient in the text to suppose that the first instant was the absolutely first instant of Mary's conception and the second instant was the moment of her sanctification8.
Thus Alexander VII, in 16619, replied to the possibility of a difference between a first and a second instant of Mary's conception and sanctification in the following way: the devotion of the faithful is based 'on the belief that her soul, in the first instant of its creation and in the first instant of the soul's infusion into the body, was ... preserved free from all stain of original sin (...)'10.
A question that arises is whether it is possible to conclude from this statement that there is an implicit doctrine that the first instant of the existence of Mary's soul, and the first instant of the infusion of that soul into the body, are one and the same instant?
It could first of all be said that this expression of things does not preclude the possibility that these two instants are in fact the same instant.
For if Mary's soul is sanctified at the first instant of its infusion in the body, and if this is not also the first instant of its creation, then it is being asserted that Mary's soul was not sanctified from the first instant of its creation.
But the sanctification of Mary's soul from the first instant of its creation is also asserted.
Therefore these two 'instants' are one instant.
Alternatively, if the first instant of the creation of Mary's soul is the moment of its sanctification, and this is not also the first moment of the infusion of that soul into the body, then that moment of sanctification is not the moment of its first infusion into the body.
But it is also asserted that the first instant of the soul's sanctification is the moment of its infusion into the body.
Therefore these two 'instants' are in fact one instant, but considered as two from the point of view of the two aspects of the mystery under consideration: the soul's creation and its creation in union with the body.
What this affirms, then, is not that the body was in existence before the soul, but that the soul did not pre-exist the body.
This is also what would follow if a soul is by definition the life of the body.
For how could it exist as prior to the body who's life it is?
Therefore the soul must come into existence either at the moment at which the body as a body comes into existence, or at some subsequent point.
The language of this affirmation concerning the first instant of the sanctification of Mary's soul, is a language which directs itself to the soul of Mary and not to the person of Mary, one in body and soul.
Thus Alexander VII says: "ancient indeed is the devotion of the faithful based on the belief that her soul ... was ... preserved free from all stain of original sin "11.
In other words, it could be argued, the very terms in which Alexander VII expresses himself are not as it were an answer to the question of the precise time at which God gives the soul to animate the body.
But in the section of Ineffabilis Deus entitled 'Explicit Affirmations', Pius IX says that the Fathers 'affirmed that the Blessed Virgin was, through grace, entirely free from every stain of sin, and from all corruption of body, soul and mind'12; and then afterwards, in the section entitled 'Of a Supereminent Sanctity' he goes on to say: 'They testified, too, that the flesh of the Virgin, although derived from Adam, did not contract the stains of Adam ... '13.
This therefore raises another question: if the body of Mary is conceived before the coming into it of the soul, then would that body be therefore free of its participation in the fall of creation?
For 'Because of man, creation is now subject "to its bondage to decay"'14.
In other words, if Mary is to be absolutely free, body and soul, of both the subjection of creation to futility (cf. Rom 8: 20), and decay (cf. Rom 8: 21), and original sin which is " the death of the soul"15, then it would follow that at the moment that her soul was created, sanctified and infused into her body, that this was the moment, too, that her body was conceived by her mother Anna16.
Thus if one had to choose between the following two possibilities: either that of the immediate or belated animation of the body by the soul, it would seem that the one which would yield the perfect conception of Mary, is the one which would allow no interval of time between the sanctification of Mary's soul and the creation of her body.
Finally, then, one is driven by argument to the view that Mary was conceived and sanctified, body and soul, at conception, and this is precisely what could be said to be implicit in the words by which Pius IX defines the Immaculate Conception : 'Mary, in the first instant of her conception ... was preserved free from all stain of original sin ...'17.
For Pius IX does not say that in the first instant of the existence of Mary's soul, that it was preserved free from all stain of original sin; rather, he says: 'Mary, in the first instant of her conception ... was preserved free from all stain of original sin ...'., where conception is now understood to be the absolute beginning of Mary, body and soul.