Mary's ever virginity- contradiction with other church teaching?

As my first post here, I suppose I should give some background. I am a senior in a Jesuit high school. For the most part my theology classes have been the classes that have caused me to grow the most in both mind and spirit.

There is however one question regarding church teaching I have never received a clear answer on. I see a contradiction in two different teachings by the church and was hoping somebody could either clear it up for me.

The two teachings that do not seem to fit to me are Mary’s ever virginity and the need to consumate a marriage to complete it. If Mary and Joseph were married does that mean it was never legitamate because Mary was ever virgin? Or does it mean maybe Mary wasn’t ever virgin? Or does it mean that consumating a marriage is not necessary to make the marriage valid?

Unless I am mistaken on something, it seems one of these ideas has to budge to make the other two true.

Your thoughts would be appreciated.

Firstly I would like to welcome you here and say that this question is VERY good.

I would like to take your attention to Luke 1:34

But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?”

This is the Blessed Virgin Mary’s response when the Gabriel, the archangel announced that Mary would have a child.

Perpetual virginity.

Keep this in mind. If Mary were not already consecrated to God her response makes no sense. Think about it.

Suppose you are a young woman and an angel, or even a prophet came to you and said, “you will have a son - and he will be great”, bearing in mind that you were already promised to a man, why would you ask the question, “How can this be?”. It is understood that the man and woman would engage in the maritial act and concienve a child.

The question Mary asked can only come from a person who very early in their life has consecrated their body and soul to God alone.

Therefore, Mary is the burning bush. God dwelt in her and did not consume her. She was indeed a virgin, before, during, and after her birth of Jesus Christ - her Son.

This website will do a better job than I can explaining why the august Virgin and St. Joseph, indeed, were truly married.

I look at it this way. When you talk about consummating a marriage, or the marriage being legitimate, generally we are considering whether or not the marriage is a union in the eyes of God right? Thus discerning if the couple is adulterous or if the marriage was sacrimental, etc. Well, here’s how I see Mary’s marriage.

  1. It was certainly a bonding union in the eyes of God, since God quite literally instructed them to wed.

  2. A sacramental marriage confers grace. Did God pour out His grace on this marriage? It would be hard to think not. Mary is Full of Grace and Joseph was the picture of a perfect husband and father.

  3. The “legitimacy” of the marriage is a mute point for two reasons: A) God orchestrated the union, and B) They wouldn’t be adulterous or impure anyway because they both had vows of virginity.

Basically my answer is, of course it was a legitmate marriage, put together by God, blessed by God, designed by God, and there is no contradiction.

On that question though, I too am unsure. I’ll watch for answers from others.

BTW - Welcome to these forums.

Chris W

Two points:

*]The answer to this last is, according to current Cannon Law: No, it is necessary to consumate a marraiage to make it valid. Cf. Canon 1061: “A valid marriage between baptised persons is said to be merely ratified, if it is not consummated…”
*]Was the marriage of Joseph and Mary a *sacramental *one, or was it merely a natural marriage? I can see Mary Immaculate being given a pass, but was St Joseph (evetually) baptized? Does it matter?


Actually, the quote from canon law says the opposite of what you say it says. The valid marriage is called “ratified” if it’s not consumated. That means a non-consumated marriage is valid.

Thanks :tiphat: , you are correct. I dropped the word “not” from my intended comment. :o FTR, I had meant to type:

No, it is not necessary to consumate a marriage to make it valid.

I’d also misspelled *marraiage – That’ll teach me to respond to a thread in the middle of the night

The perpetual virginity of Mary is a doctrine of the church, part of the deposit of faith, and you can therefore be assured of its truth.

All of the requirements surrounding marriage, and validity and sacramentality of marriage, are found in Canon Law. While the Sacramental nature of marriage is part of the deposit of faith, the particular canon law requirements are not part of the deposit of faith, they are derived through the discipline of the church. Even today, the Catholic Church allows for a Josephite marriage under specific conditions. So, there is no doctrine that covers consummation of marriage being required, only disciplinary rules in canon law that are not absolute.

A second point to mention is that the Church governs marriage, however at the time of Mary and Joseph’s marriage they were not governed by the Catholic Church, which did not exist, but rather by Jewish law.

There is no conflict.

The term is actually, “a *moot *point.”

Sorry – it’s the writer and teacher in me.

In studying God’s revelation to us as found in the Scriptures, Sacred Tradition and in the Magisterial teachings of the Church, here is a principle that may help you with apparent contradictions such as this (I say “apparent,” because what seems like a contradiction, is really what might be called a paradox or a special exception to the rule).

The principle is that, while God has revealed to us ways that he has acted, and has bound us to observe certain laws and practices, **He himself is in no way bound by these specific ways. **If he was, he would not be soveriegn and omnipotent. Thus, since since He is God, if he wants to make a special exception, he can.

A common example of this is baptism. In the Bible, we are told that baptism is necessary for salvation (John 3:5; Acts 2:37-38; 1 Peter 3:20-21) and we are in fact commanded to baptise others (Matthew 28:18-20). We now, however, that there can be exceptions (think baptism of blood/desire, and the case of the Good Theif who repented on the cross). Another is Paul’s statement that ALL have sinned. Again, there are exceptions: Jesus, Mary, infants, etc.

Not contradictions, but *exceptions *for God’s good will and providence.