Mankowsi: Why the Immaculate Conception?

The truth is often at right angles to the common perception. Fr Paul Mankowski sj asks "Why the Immaculate Conception?" in Women for Faith & Family, Vol v.1 (1990).
There is a strain of feminist Mariology which feels repugnance at the dogma of the Immaculate Conception because it views the notion as demeaning to women. Orthodox theologians were so scandalized by the particularly feminine dimension of sinfulness (according to this school) that they found it necessary to cook up the idea of an immaculate conception in order to sanitize the event of the incarnation. I hope I have shown that this way of thinking has got things exactly backwards. In articulating its belief that Mary was free of original sin, the Church is thrusting the Blessed Virgin into the heart of the problematic struggle of temptation and grace; it is the opposite of insulation. It is not some angelic perfection, but her humanity which is vindicated by Pius IX’s definition - her dependence on merits of Jesus Christ, her constant reenactment of the drama of Adam’s choice, a drama which is no less dramatic for its happy ending, a drama which ultimately includes us all, in the vision of the Woman clothed with the sun, crushing the serpent at the worlds’ end.
The introduction punctures a number of balloons:
Further, if we speak of the Virgin Mary as constitutionally incapable of sin, it is all the more difficult to discover in her the humanity which is by its very weakness transparent to God's power. Consequently, in an age like our own especially, she is all the more likely to be treated as precisely that sort of Ideal which cannot warm our affections or stir our courage.
One obvious, all-too-predictable solution, is to deny the Immaculate Conception and the sinlessness of Mary, under the fatuous pretense that by doing so, she will become more "human", and so more accessible to the rest of us sinners. Wrong on all counts, the most obvious being that a human who sins is less human after he succumbs that he was before. Still, there is a persistent, though imbecile, way of speaking in which some public figure who has an adulterous affair or a personal foible come to light thereby reveals a "human side" of himself. In fact, it is in keeping his commitments and displaying evidence of virtue that a man is most fully human; in giving in to temptations, even trivial or petty ones, he becomes that much more bestial.
When we fall, we fall from a human dignity, not an angelic one; our skid may well end at a level of animal savagery, but we never "tumble down" into humanity. It was natural indeed that the Legion inside the Gerasene demoniac pleaded to be cast into swine -- not because pigs are of themselves wickeder then men, but because the elevator, so to speak, was already at that floor. There is no point, then, in exploring this avenue further. I think the way out is more direct. A friend of mine is fond of saying, "Whenever I hear the word 'dialogue', I reach for my dogma." Let us, in the same spirit, reach for our dogma and see if it has anything to say to us.