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The Catholic View of Mary’s Virginity

While Mary knew a preservative redemption and we are granted a normal chronological redemption (in the normal course of events), the agent is the same, Jesus Christ and his Cross. While the majority of Catholics are aware that the Immaculate Conception is in reference to Mary in the womb and not Christ, there are a few which confuse the title and doctrine. Similarly, many have a hard time distinguishing the Assumption of Mary from the Ascension of Christ.

Ignorance is even more widespread regarding the perpetual virginity of Mary. Some Catholics subscribe to the false Protestant assumption that the brethren in the Gospels were children of Joseph and Mary. The Lateran Synod of 649 AD defined the unique virginity of Mary. The definition is somewhat challenging to us today for many reasons. We tend to associate virginity with an absence of sexual activity. While this is certainly an essential component of the definition, it also places great store in Mary being physically intact. At the risk of being blunt, many women rupture or lose the virginal membrane due to physical exercise or medical intervention. However, we would still regard such “good girls” as virgins. The definition apparently insists that Mary was physically and morally a virgin.

Mary’s virginity is measured three ways: before the birth of Christ, during the birthing, and post-birth.

2 Responses

  1. With all due respect, who cares? More specifically, since a married woman who has sex is equally as pure as a virgin who’s never married, and the existence of an intact hymen has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with anything important ethically, what’s the big deal? If intercourse were to somehow “corrupt” Mary, why does the Church perform marriages? This perverse hymen obsession flies directly in the fact against the Church’s teachings about avoiding superstition. If anything, it resembles some primitive pagan misogyny. THIS MAKES NO SENSE! If there is any legitimate theological reason for the doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity, what is it? And, if the only reason is because of something to do with hymens, why on earth should any women stay in the Catholic Church?

    FATHER JOE:

    The Virginity of Mary matters for many reasons:

    It reaffirms the supernatural intervention of the Holy Spirit.

    It gives honor to God since Mary’s womb is reserved to the All Holy One.

    It is an expression of intensity for Mary in the role of “handmaid of the Lord,” belonging only to God.

    It is a relevant support, along with the model of Christ, for the perfect continence and purity of women religious, holy virgins and celibate clergy.

    While it is true that a married woman can be chaste and holy; it nonetheless, remains true that there is by necessity a preoccupation with the husband’s needs and with the elements of the conjugal act wounded by sin and concupiscence.

    The Church today would put less value in physical integrity than in moral virtue; however, the post referenced an older mindset. Indeed, Islam still places a heavy weight in the physical, even going so far that certain extremists will mutilate women.

    The issue is not that intercourse corrupts a woman, but it does change her. There is the giving of oneself on a level that touches core identity and which yearns for full realization or unity. It is for this reason that casual or recreational sex damages men and women. In Mary’s case, the sacred tradition is clear. She remains a perpetual virgin. She belonged wholly to God. Religious women are viewed as brides of Christ. The celibate priest is understood as married to the Church.

    While there is a preference for virginity, expressed both by our Lord and St. Paul, marriage is still regarded as a sacrament. Most people are not called to fully live out the evangelical counsels or to love God with a single-hearted devotion. But this is no reason to belittle the sacrifices and the celibate love of those who do so.

    The sacredness of virginity makes a wonderful sense, although a society infected by eroticism and an unrestrained militant feminism might not be able to see the truth. You ask important questions. I can only hope that you are open to genuine answers. Do you ask only rhetorical questions in a poorly feigned effort at dialogue? Are you more formed by a hostile secular modernity than by the Church and her deposit of faith?

  2. How was she a virgin? I don’t understand. Was she a virgin or not?

    FATHER JOE: Mary never engaged in sexual intercourse. Mary was also physically intact. Her virginity is regarded as perpetual. She is the Virgin Mother.

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