Historian reveals how Pius IX decided to proclaim dogma of Immaculate Conception

21 Feb 2008

By The Record

Blessed Pope Pius IX, who declared the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854, is seen in a painting in this undated file photo. Photo: CNS

In an article published by L’Osservatore Romano, Italian historian
Francesco Guglietta, an expert on the life of Pius IX, has revealed how the
Pontiff decided to consult with the bishops of the world to proclaim
the dogma of the Immaculate Conception on December 8, 1854.

Guglietta points out that the revolution that ended with the
proclamation of the “Roman Republic” in 1848 and that forced the Pope
to take up residence for nine months in Gaeta, south of Rome, had a
profound effect on the Pontiff, who like Cardinal Giovanni Maria Mastai
Ferretti, had openly sympathized with the European revolutionary
“During this lapse of time, in fact, Pius IX progressively lost
trust in the processes of the ‘revolution’ that were taking place in
Europe and distanced himself from the liberal Catholic environment,
beginning to see in the insurrection movement, as well as in the
‘modernity’ of that time, a dangerous snare for the life of the
Church,” Guglietta writes.
The expert points out that “understanding what happened with the
thinking of Pius IX in Gaeta is of significant historic relevance” and
is an “area of research not yet explored.”  Nevertheless, he said, the
Pope’s sojourn in Gaeta was fundamental for his decision of proclaiming
the Marian dogma of the Immaculate Conception.
According to tradition, Pope Pius IX spent a long period in prayer
in Gaeta before a painting of the Immaculate Conception by Scipione
Pulzone preserved in the so-called Chapel of Gold, and that moment of
encounter with God convinced him to proclaim the dogma.
However, French historian and professor Louis Baunard said that
while gazing upon the Mediterranean from the city, “the Pope mediated
on remarks made to him by Cardinal Luigi Lambruschini: Holy Father, you
will not be able to heal the world unless you proclaim the dogma of the
Immaculate Conception.  Only this dogmatic definition will reestablish
the meaning of the Christian truths and bring minds back from the paths
of naturalism upon which they have become lost.”
According to Guglietta, naturalism, which rejected all supernatural
truth, could be considered the “backdrop” for the Pope’s proclamation
of the dogma.  “The affirmation of the Immaculate Conception of the
Virgin laid a strong foundation for affirming and strengthening the
certainty of the primacy of grace and the work of Providence in the
lives of men.”
He said Pius IX, despite his enthusiasm, welcomed the idea of
consulting with the bishops of the world, who expressed their
agreement, leading him to finally proclaim the dogma.