Many of the Church Fathers held firm to the belief that Mary was a perpetual virgin

Our Lady Ever-Virgin

 

“[T]he Word himself, coming into the Blessed Virgin herself, assumed for himself his own temple from the substance of the Virgin and came forth from her a man in all that could be externally discerned, while interiorly he was true God. Therefore he kept his Mother a virgin even after her childbearing”.

 Cyril of Alexandria

 

A list of various of the Church Fathers who believed that Mary remained a virgin can be found e.g. in the article, “Mary: Ever Virgin”, at: https://www.catholic.com/tract/mary-ever-virgin

 

….
The perpetual virginity of Mary has always been reconciled with the biblical references to Christ’s brethren through a proper understanding of the meaning of the term “brethren.” The understanding that the brethren of the Lord were Jesus’ stepbrothers (children of Joseph) rather than half-brothers (children of Mary) was the most common one until the time of Jerome (fourth century). It was Jerome who introduced the possibility that Christ’s brethren were actually his cousins, since in Jewish idiom cousins were also referred to as “brethren.” The Catholic Church allows the faithful to hold either view, since both are compatible with the reality of Mary’s perpetual virginity.

 

Today most Protestants are unaware of these early beliefs regarding Mary’s virginity and the proper interpretation of “the brethren of the Lord.” And yet, the Protestant Reformers themselves—Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Ulrich Zwingli—honored the perpetual virginity of Mary and recognized it as the teaching of the Bible, as have other, more modern Protestants.

 

The Protoevangelium of James

“And behold, an angel of the Lord stood by [St. Anne], saying, ‘Anne! Anne! The Lord has heard your prayer, and you shall conceive and shall bring forth, and your seed shall be spoken of in all the world.’ And Anne said, ‘As the Lord my God lives, if I beget either male or female, I will bring it as a gift to the Lord my God, and it shall minister to him in the holy things all the days of its life.’ . . . And [from the time she was three] Mary was in the temple of the Lord as if she were a dove that dwelt there” (Protoevangelium of James 4, 7 [A.D. 120]).

“And when she was twelve years old there was held a council of priests, saying, ‘Behold, Mary has reached the age of twelve years in the temple of the Lord. What then shall we do with her, lest perchance she defile the sanctuary of the Lord?’ And they said to the high priest, ‘You stand by the altar of the Lord; go in and pray concerning her, and whatever the Lord shall manifest to you, that also will we do.’ . . . [A]nd he prayed concerning her, and behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him saying, ‘Zechariah! Zechariah! Go out and assemble the widowers of the people and let them bring each his rod, and to whomsoever the Lord shall show a sign, his wife shall she be. . . . And Joseph [was chosen]. . . . And the priest said to Joseph, ‘You have been chosen by lot to take into your keeping the Virgin of the Lord.’ But Joseph refused, saying, ‘I have children, and I am an old man, and she is a young girl’” (ibid., 8–9).

“And Annas the scribe came to him [Joseph] . . . and saw that Mary was with child. And he ran away to the priest and said to him, ‘Joseph, whom you did vouch for, has committed a grievous crime.’ And the priest said, ‘How so?’ And he said, ‘He has defiled the virgin whom he received out of the temple of the Lord and has married her by stealth’” (ibid., 15).

“And the priest said, ‘Mary, why have you done this? And why have you brought your soul low and forgotten the Lord your God?’ . . . And she wept bitterly saying, ‘As the Lord my God lives, I am pure before him, and know not man’” (ibid.).

 

Origen

“The Book [the Protoevangelium] of James [records] that the brethren of Jesus were sons of Joseph by a former wife, whom he married before Mary. Now those who say so wish to preserve the honor of Mary in virginity to the end, so that body of hers which was appointed to minister to the Word . . . might not know intercourse with a man after the Holy Spirit came into her and the power from on high overshadowed her. And I think it in harmony with reason that Jesus was the firstfruit among men of the purity which consists in [perpetual] chastity, and Mary was among women. For it were not pious to ascribe to any other than to her the firstfruit of virginity” (Commentary on Matthew 2:17 [A.D. 248]).

 

Hilary of Poitiers

“If they [the brethren of the Lord] had been Mary’s sons and not those taken from Joseph’s former marriage, she would never have been given over in the moment of the passion [crucifixion] to the apostle John as his mother, the Lord saying to each, ‘Woman, behold your son,’ and to John, ‘Behold your mother’ [John 19:26–27), as he bequeathed filial love to a disciple as a consolation to the one desolate” (Commentary on Matthew 1:4 [A.D. 354]).

 

Athanasius

“Let those, therefore, who deny that the Son is by nature from the Father and proper to his essence deny also that he took true human flesh from the ever-virgin Mary” (Discourses Against the Arians 2:70 [A.D. 360]).

 

Epiphanius of Salamis

“We believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of all things, both visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God . . . who for us men and for our salvation came down and took flesh, that is, was born perfectly of the holy ever-virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit” (The Man Well-Anchored 120 [A.D. 374]).

“And to holy Mary, [the title] ‘Virgin’ is invariably added, for that holy woman remains undefiled” (Medicine Chest Against All Heresies 78:6 [A.D. 375]).

 

Jerome

“[Helvidius] produces Tertullian as a witness [to his view] and quotes Victorinus, bishop of Petavium. Of Tertullian, I say no more than that he did not belong to the Church. But as regards Victorinus, I assert what has already been proven from the gospel—that he [Victorinus] spoke of the brethren of the Lord not as being sons of Mary but brethren in the sense I have explained, that is to say, brethren in point of kinship, not by nature. [By discussing such things we] are . . . following the tiny streams of opinion. Might I not array against you the whole series of ancient writers? Ignatius, Polycarp, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, and many other apostolic and eloquent men, who against [the heretics] Ebion, Theodotus of Byzantium, and Valentinus, held these same views and wrote volumes replete with wisdom. If you had ever read what they wrote, you would be a wiser man” (Against Helvidius: The Perpetual Virginity of Mary 19 [A.D. 383]).

“We believe that God was born of a virgin, because we read it. We do not believe that Mary was married after she brought forth her Son, because we do not read it. . . . You [Helvidius] say that Mary did not remain a virgin. As for myself, I claim that Joseph himself was a virgin, through Mary, so that a virgin Son might be born of a virginal wedlock” (ibid., 21).

 

Didymus the Blind

“It helps us to understand the terms ‘first-born’ and ‘only-begotten’ when the Evangelist tells that Mary remained a virgin ‘until she brought forth her first-born son’ [Matt. 1:25]; for neither did Mary, who is to be honored and praised above all others, marry anyone else, nor did she ever become the Mother of anyone else, but even after childbirth she remained always and forever an immaculate virgin” (The Trinity 3:4 [A.D. 386]).

 

Ambrose of Milan

“Imitate her [Mary], holy mothers, who in her only dearly beloved Son set forth so great an example of material virtue; for neither have you sweeter children [than Jesus], nor did the Virgin seek the consolation of being able to bear another son” (Letters 63:111 [A.D. 388]).

 

Pope Siricius I

“You had good reason to be horrified at the thought that another birth might issue from the same virginal womb from which Christ was born according to the flesh. For the Lord Jesus would never have chosen to be born of a virgin if he had ever judged that she would be so incontinent as to contaminate with the seed of human intercourse the birthplace of the Lord’s body, that court of the eternal king” (Letter to Bishop Anysius [A.D. 392]).

 

Augustine

“In being born of a Virgin who chose to remain a Virgin even before she knew who was to be born of her, Christ wanted to approve virginity rather than to impose it. And he wanted virginity to be of free choice even in that woman in whom he took upon himself the form of a slave” (Holy Virginity 4:4 [A.D. 401]).

“It was not the visible sun, but its invisible Creator who consecrated this day for us, when the Virgin Mother, fertile of womb and integral in her virginity, brought him forth, made visible for us, by whom, when he was invisible, she too was created. A Virgin conceiving, a Virgin bearing, a Virgin pregnant, a Virgin bringing forth, a Virgin perpetual. Why do you wonder at this, O man?” (Sermons 186:1 [A.D. 411]).

“Heretics called Antidicomarites are those who contradict the perpetual virginity of Mary and affirm that after Christ was born she was joined as one with her husband” (Heresies 56 [A.D. 428]).

 

Leporius

“We confess, therefore, that our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, born of the Father before the ages, and in times most recent, made man of the Holy Spirit and the ever-virgin Mary” (Document of Amendment 3 [A.D. 426]).

 

Cyril of Alexandria

“[T]he Word himself, coming into the Blessed Virgin herself, assumed for himself his own temple from the substance of the Virgin and came forth from her a man in all that could be externally discerned, while interiorly he was true God. Therefore he kept his Mother a virgin even after her childbearing” (Against Those Who Do Not Wish to Confess That the Holy Virgin is the Mother of God 4 [A.D. 430]).

 

Pope Leo I

“His [Christ’s] origin is different, but his [human] nature is the same. Human usage and custom were lacking, but by divine power a Virgin conceived, a Virgin bore, and Virgin she remained” (Sermons 22:2 [A.D. 450]).

[End of quotes]

 

Despite all of this, we read that as late as February of 2017 (by Ronald L. Conte Jr.):

https://ronconte.wordpress.com/2017/02/03/a-nun-publicly-denied-marys-virginity/

 

A Nun publicly denied Mary’s Virginity

 

….

In a recent news story, Sister Lucia Caram, a Roman Catholic nun in Spain, publicly denied the dogma of the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The nun said: “I think Mary was in love with Joseph and that they were a normal couple – and having sex is a normal thing….”

 

This claim by Caram is abject heresy because it directly denies a dogma of the Roman Catholic Magisterium, Mary’s perpetual virginity (CCC 499 to 510; Denzinger 13, Nicene Creed; Councils of Ephesus, Constantinople II, and Florence). So any Catholic who rejects this teaching is guilty of heresy. And when one commits heresy knowingly, that is to say, in the knowledge that the heretical idea is contrary to the definitive teaching of the Church, the sin is formal heresy.

 

Now, based on the quotes from her in the press, we might say that instead of an obstinate denial of dogma, she is obstinately doubting the same. For she uses expressions such as “I wanted to say that it wouldn’t shock me if she had had a normal couple’s relationship with Joseph, her husband.” Even so, formal heresy is defined in Canon Law as obstinate denial or obstinate doubt.

 

“Can. 751 Heresy is the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith….”

 

Every infallible teaching of the Magisterium is to be believed with “divine and Catholic faith”, which is the full assent of faith (theological assent).

 

But it is the grave sin of heresy to obstinately doubt or to obstinately deny. For example, suppose that someone says, “Jesus was just a man, and not the Son of God.”

That claim is heresy. But if he changes the wording to: “Perhaps Jesus was just a man, or perhaps he was the Son of God.” That doubt, if it is obstinate, is still heretical. For faith in the teaching that Jesus is God made man is destroyed by either: the denial or the doubt. You do not have faith in Jesus if you say “maybe he is God, and maybe not”.

 

Which types of denial or doubt are obstinate? Denial or doubt, which one does not struggle against, and which is chosen resolutely, that is, steadfastly. By contrast, if a Catholics has passing doubts, from time to time, about any dogma, the doubt is not obstinate. Or if a Catholic has difficulty accepting a dogma, but continues to trust in the teaching of the Church, the doubt is not obstinate.

 

[Mark]
{9:22} But Jesus said to him, “If you are able to believe: all things are possible to one who believes.”
{9:23} And immediately the father of the boy, crying out with tears, said: “I do believe, Lord. Help my unbelief.”

 

In the case of Sister Lucia Caram, her public expressions indicate clear obstinacy. I am not judging her soul. I am simply believing her own words about her own beliefs. She has publicly clearly emphatically stated her considered belief that perhaps Mary was not a virgin, and that perhaps she had marital relations with Joseph. Sister Lucia Caram is guilty of public formal heresy, and she should not be permitted to receive holy Communion.

 

And yet we hear very little from Church leaders in response to this story.

 

“The remarks were denounced by the Bishop of Vic in Spain, who issued a reminder that Mary’s virginity was not in question and that statements to the contrary ‘do not conform’ to the faith of the Catholic church. The statement also apologized for any confusion Caram’s statements may have caused.”

 

The Bishop’s statement points out that Mary’s virginity is a dogma taught by the Second Council of Constantinople. But, as far as we know, he has not taken any formal action against the nun, nor has her Order. He should have publicly stated her excommunication, which is automatic under Canon Law for the sin of formal heresy (or formal schism). And other Bishops should also have spoken against her. Then her Order should expel her, if she remains unrepentant.

 

The Church today is facing a crisis of belief. Heretical ideas are widespread among the faithful, and it has reached the point where heretics openly proclaim their rejection of dogma, with little response from the Bishops and other Church leaders.

 

[End of quote]

 

At a higher level (namely, Archbishop), Gerhard Ludwig Müller – appointed head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2012, is believed to have denied the perpetual virginity of Mary amongst other doctrines. But he denied this:

https://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2012/08/muller-yes-i-do-believe-in-those-things.html

 

….

“The task of this congregation is not only to defend the Catholic faith but to promote it, to give the positive aspects and possibilities of the whole richness of the Catholic faith,” Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Muller told EWTN News in a July 20 interview.

 

“We must speak about God the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and also about Holy Scripture, the great Tradition of the Church, our Creed and our belief. In this way our hearts will be more open and our thinking more profound,” he said. …

 

Archbishop Muller’s latest appointment, however, has been met with a degree of criticism from some who allege he holds unorthodox views on a range of issues – from the perpetual virginity of Our Lady, to the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, to the relationship of non-Catholic Christians to the Church.

 

“These are not criticisms, they are provocations. And not very intelligent provocations at that,” he said. “Either they have not read what I have written or they have not understood it.”

 

“Our Catholic faith is very clear,” he explained, “that at the consecration during Mass a change occurs so that the whole substance of the bread and wine is changed into the whole substance body and blood of Jesus Christ, and that this change is rightly called transubstantiation. And we have refused to accept all the other interpretations, consubstantiation, transignification, transfinalisation and so on.”

 

The Church is also equally clear on the “virginity of Mary, mother of Jesus, mother of God, before, during and after the birth of Christ,” Archbishop Muller stated.

[End of quote]

 

Last year (2017) he, now Cardinal Müller, was sacked by the pope Francis as reported by Michael Sean Winters in his article, “Cardinal Muller departs the CDF: What does it mean?”:

https://www.ncronline.org/blogs/distinctly-catholic/cardinal-muller-departs-cdf-what-does-it-mean

 

My colleague Josh McElwee reports this morning on the decision by Pope Francis not to reconfirm Cardinal Gerhard Muller for a second five-year term as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Holy Father has selected the longtime #2 at the congregation, Archbishop Luis Francisco Ledaria Ferrer, S.J. to move up to the top spot.

 

The fact that Cardinal Muller was sacked should not come as a surprise. Conservatives within the curia and more progressive types beyond have both long complained that the man, though very gifted intellectually, could not organize a one man parade. He couldn’t run the office. This had become increasingly apparent in the CDF’s continued wrong notes on the subject of clergy sex abuse. Those who see this as an ideological purge on account of Muller’s increasingly confused position on Amoris Laetitia haven’t been paying attention. And, it is more than a little ironic that the same arch-conservatives who are floating the narrative that Muller has been sacked because he stood athwart Francis’ supposedly heterodox agenda were the same people griping about Muller when he was appointed. ….Then, the objection was that Muller was too sympathetic with liberation theology. Now he is the paragon of orthodoxy. These lay faithful who think they embody the papal magisterium are not exactly consistent.

 

The second principal takeaway is that Pope Francis is completely unafraid to do what is best for the Church. Earlier this week, the Australian authorities brought charges against another high ranking Vatican official, Cardinal George Pell, who was put on a temporary leave of absence to return to his native country and have his day in court. The official statement from the Vatican was deeply ambivalent. Some leaders might think twice before removing a second high ranking official, worried that it would suggest a chaotic situation. Not Francis. He is not someone who cares how things appear so much as how things are. Indeed, this may be the most challenging part of the reform of the curia, getting an organization designed to promote those who work there to remember that its job it to help the pope govern the universal church. Concern with how things look is characteristic of the courtier mentality of years past, not the missionary mentality to which the Second Vatican Council and ALL subsequent popes have called the Church.

 

Third, by hiring from within, Pope Francis has shown he is not declaring war on the congregation and its staff. If he had wanted to do that, he could have brought in someone from outside, such as Argentine Archbishop Victor Fernandez. Or, he could have selected someone who worked at the CDF, but a long time ago, like Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, now the Archbishop of Vienna. I thought he might tap former CDF official and now Archbishop of Malta, Charles Scicluna. By promoting Archbishop Ladaria, Francis is indicating that he needs a change in management not a change in overall structure or constitution.

 

I have not been able to confirm Andrea Tornielli’s report that Pope Francis offered Muller a different curial post and that Muller declined, saying such a post was “beneath his dignity.” If this is true, it is outrageous. Curial officials serve at the pleasure of the pope. Their entire job is to help him. Cardinals take a special vow of obedience to the Holy Father. They pledge to support Jesus and His vicar even to the shedding of their blood, hence their red robes. Does Muller think his blood is less costly than his pride? I know this: If Pope Francis called Cardinal Sean O’Malley and told him he wanted him to go back to being the Bishop of the Virgin Islands or director of the Centro Catolico in Washington, O’Malley would be thrilled. I hope Cardinal Muller finds a job in which he can learn to cultivate the virtue of humility. ….

 

 

Advertisements