So much ink has been spilled by my post on the issue of Virginitas in Partu. I am grateful to Fr. Abe for calling my post “brilliant.” However, it did not seem to be so to at least a single soul named “Fuschia” (not his real name, to protect his identity. Hereafter, I will rerfer to him as “F” for brevity).
I learned lately that F had already been expelled from this group. I am sad that this had to happen. This extreme disciplinary measure had to be done, after much prayer and discernment, to protect the faith of the other members of the group who may have been scandalized by the clearly heterodox views of F.
While F’s heretical views may be refuted (as have been done by some members of this group, including Fr. A), what I find appalling is his disrespect, if not contempt, to an ordained minister of God. I am referring to F’s unwarranted attacks on Fr. A This we cannot allow.
Man’s “ontological” equality with God?
I have been monitoring F’s post in the past. While I credited him with the benefit of the doubt, I must confess that I was concerned with the novelty – nay, heresy – of his positions. For instance, he claimed that man is “ontologically” equal to God. Well, I may not be a philosopher but I know fully well that such claim is absurd and dead wrong. The claim that man can be equal to God, ontological or otherwise, is nothing but satanic presumption. The view that man can be equal to God was first expressed by the infernal serpent in the Garden of Eden. The tempter hissed: “You shall be like God” (Gen. 3:4). When man believed that canard, look what happened! Indeed, to say that man is equal to God, albeit ontologically, still blurs the distinction between the creature and the Creator. That is simply unacceptable. We cannot repackage the diabolical lie by merely coating it with high-sounding philosophical terminology.
F’s heresies are alarming. First, he denied Mary’s title of Mother of God. That made him a Nestorian heretic. Instead of immediately recanting his Nestorian belief, he tarried until the opposition was already overwhelming. He went at great lengths justifying his proffered formula that Mary should best be called “Mother of Jesus our God” instead of what the Council Fathers decreed at Ephesus : Theotokos. Fortunately, F recanted – grudgingly.
The decision to expel F from the group is in accord with St. Paul ’s admonition: “He who is a heretic, after a first or second admonition, reject!” (Titus 3:10). F had all the opportunity to retract his errors and retrace his steps, but his pride, I believe, stood in the way. It is not yet too late for him to repent, though. And I ask God to flood F with His grace. I offer my prayers to the Blessed Virgin in reparation for F’s blasphemous remarks against Our Blessed Mother, Virgo Castissima.
Virginitas in partu
Since I was the one who posted an article on Mary’s virginitas in partu, and in effect triggered the maelstrom that followed, I am impelled by what I perceive to be my duty to end the controversy. Allow me to add my two cents worth in this issue.
Prefatorily, I must commend applaud for Fr. A for his spirited and vigorous, yet charitable defense of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He led the defense through completion, almost single-handedly. I wish I was with him. As I said, I missed the action because I just opened my email yesterday. Since I have always considered myself the Knight of Mary, I deem it imperative to answer some of F’s claims since he addresses his post specifically to me and Fr. A However, I will not repeat what Fr. A had already stated.
How many Marian dogmas are there?
All of us are aware that there are only four Marian dogmas. These are –
1. Divine Maternity
2. Perpetual Virginity
3. Immaculate Conception
4. The Assumption
As F would have it, the Mary’s virginitas ante partum, in partu and post partum should be treated as three separate dogmas. So how many Marian dogma’s would there be? 4 + 3 = 7? If F would count the Marian dogmas, it would appear –
1. Divine Maternity
2. Perpetual Virginity
3. Virginitas ante partum
4. Virginitas in partu
5. Virginitas post partum
6. Immaculate Conception
7. The Assumption
Of course, that doesn’t make sense. You and I know that there is such a thing as the proposed Fifth Marian Dogma – Mary as Mediatrix, Co-redemptrix and Advocate of the People of God. If Red is right, then the proposed dogma would be the Eighth.
Levity aside, there are just Four Marian dogmas. Virginitas ante partum, in partu and post partum, while each of which are de fide, are mere components or facets of the dogma of Mary’s perpetual virginity. Marian scholar, Msgr. Arthur Burton Calkins states: “It is the Catholic Church’s perennial belief in the three facets of this mystery which immediately touch upon the role of Our Lady that is the specific object fact that she was a virgin before (ante partum), during (in partu) and after the birth of Christ (post partum)” [Msgr. Arthur Burton Calkins, Our Lady’s Perpetual Virginity, in Mariology: A guide for Priests, Deacons, Seminarians, and Consecrated Persons, Mark I. Miravalle, ed. (Goleta: CA, Queenship Publishing, 2007) p. 277]
Understanding virginitas in partum
F’s comments revolved around the difficulty of how Mary’s virginity could remain intact in childbirth. As is F’s wont, he quoted theologians who question, if not assail, Our Blessed Mother’s in partu virginity. All of us are aware of what stripe F’s favorite theologians are – modernists, liberals and materialists. These are the destructive termites in the house of God.
Indeed, God’s truths would always remain a mystery for us. Confronted with these sublime and saving truths, I couldn’t help it but be awed and prostrate myself to thank and worship the God who reveals them.
The theologian, however, who approaches the mystery of Mary’s virginity with a heart full of faith and adoring respect, does not thereby forego the duty of studying the data of Revelation and showing their harmony and interrelationship; rather, following the Spirit … he puts himself in the great and fruitful theological tradition of fides querens intellectum.
In my post on the virginitas in partu, I cited prophetic text of Isaiah 7:14 and its fulfillment text in Matthew 1:23: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son.” I contented that these texts clearly prove not only Mary’s ante partum virginity but also her in partu virginity. I concluded that these verses – a prophetic text and a fulfillment text – tell us that the virgin shall be a virgin not only in conceiving her child but also a virgin in giving birth to her son.
F, citing his usual sources, concluded that there are no explicit nor implicit verses to support Mary’s in partu virginity! I will let Mariologist Dr. Mark Miravalle answer that point –
“Scripture implicitly affirms Mary’s virgin birthing of Our Lord in the great prophecy of Isaiah 7:14. The prophecy foretells that a virgin, beyond conceiving, will also bear a Son as a virgin: “Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son.” Therefore, it is not only a virgin’s conception, but also a virgin birth alluded to in Isaiah 7:14” [Mark I. Miravalle, Introduction to Mary ( Goleta , CA : Queenship Publishing, 2006) p. 58].
Without shred of proof, F further contended that no Church Father ever cited the Bible verses I mentioned.
Justin Martyr, as far as I know, is a Church Father. In his Dialogue with Trypho, he discussed Isaiah 7:14 to defend the Virgin Birth.
nor of the will of the flesh
nor of the will of man,
but he was begotten of God.
De la Potterie, following the doctoral thesis of, Peter Horftrichter argues that “in several Old Testament texts and later in Jewish tradition, the word “blood” also used in the plural for the loss of blood which is linked with a woman’s period; that is with menstruation and childbirth, hence of a birth.” Thus, “in the context for the laws of purification it signifies that Jesus, in being born, did not cause an effusion of blood in his mother; in other words, at the birth of Jesus there would not have taken place any shedding of blood. There would then be here a scriptural indication for what the theologians have in mind when they speak of the “virginitas in partu,” the virginity of the birthing of Jesus” [Ignace de la Potterie, Mary in the Mystery of the Covenant (Staten Island, NY: St. Paul’s, 1992) p. 148-149].
To deny the dogma of perpetual virginity of Mary in any of its components or facets makes one a heretic which incurs the penalty of latae sententiae excommunication.
To the early Church Fathers the contrary doctrine was called “madness and blasphemy” (Gennadius, De dogm. eccl., lxix), “madness” (Origen, in Luc., h, vii), “sacrilege” (St. Ambrose, De instit. virg., V, xxxv), “impiety and smacking of atheism” (Philostorgius, VI, 2), “perfidy” (St. Bede, hom. v, and xxii), “perfidy of the Jews” (Pope Siricius, ep. ix, 3), and “heresy” (St. Augustine, De Hær. h., lvi).
St. Jerome had the most colorful words for the opponents of Mary’s perpetual virginity: “I was requested by certain of the brethren not long ago to reply to a pamphlet written by one Helvidius. I have deferred doing so, not because it is a difficult matter to maintain the truth and refute an ignorant boor who has scarcely known the first glimmer of learning, but because I was afraid my reply might make him appear worth defending!” (Adversus Helvidium). If St. Jerome were still alive and would write a treatise against F and his theologians, I wonder if he would also call each of them an “ignorant boor.” Without meaning to offend our dear brother F, I was just wondering…
I wish to end by pointing to the lot of A. Mitterer, the theologian quoted by F with gusto. Dr. Albert Mitterer’s 1952 study Dogma und Biologie which questioned Our Lady’s physical integrity and the absence of pain resulted in a monitum issued by the Holy Office (now the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) stating that “theological works are being published in which the delicate question of Mary’s virginity in partu is treated with a deplorable crudeness of expression and, what is more serious, in flagrant contradiction to the doctrinal tradition of the Church and to the sense of respect the faithful have” and thus prohibiting the publication of such dissertation in the future. Mitterer’s work is condemned!
Red can opt to stay on the side of Helvidius, or of Mitterer and his favorite theologians. We at apologia should stay on the side of Our Holy Mother the Church. As defenders of the faith, we can do no less. We should be part of the solution, not the problem.
The Church understands Mary’s virginity during the birth of Christ as an absence of any physical injury or violation to Mary’s virginal seal through a special divine action of the all-powerful God. This divine act would safeguard Mary’s physical virginity which is both a symbol and part of her perfect, overall virginity; a virginity both internal and external, of soul and of body.
The Fathers of the Church overwhelmingly taught the “miraculous birth” of Jesus that resulted in no injury to the Blessed Virgin Mary’s physical integrity. St. Augustine stated that “it is not right that He who came to heal corruption should by His advent violate integrity” (Sermo 189, No. 2; PL 38, 1005).
Doctors of the Church like St. Thomas Aquinas defended the miraculous and painless nature of Christ’s birth (ST, III, Q. 28, a. 2).
The Magisterium of the Church teaches it in no unmistakable terms. Pope St. Leo the Great in his famous Tome to Flavian made it clear that Mary’s physical virginity was protected in the process of the miraculous birth of Jesus Christ: “Mary brought Him forth, with her virginity untouched, as with her virginity untouched she conceived Him” (Enchiridium Patristicum 2182).
Pope Paul IV, in Cum quorumdam hominum, admonished all who deny that the Blessed Virgin Mary “did not retain her virginity intact before the birth, in the birth, and perpetually after the birth.”
The Roman Catechism (Catechism of the Council of Trent) continued the succession of papal and conciliar teaching on how Jesus was born without injuring Our Lady’s virginity and without any experience of pain:
“For in a way wonderful beyond expression or conception, He is born of His Mother without any diminution of her maternal virginity. As he afterwards went forth from the sepulcher while it was closed and sealed, and entered the room in which his disciples were assembled, although “the doors were closed” (Jn. 20:19), or, not to depart from natural events which we witness every day, as the rays of the sun penetrate the substance of glass without breaking or injuring it in the least: so, but in a more incomprehensible manner, did Jesus Christ come forth from His Mother’s womb without injury to her maternal virginity …
To Eve it was said: “in pain you shall bring forth children” (Gen/ 3:16). Mary was exempt from this law, for preserving her virginal integrity inviolate, she brought forth Jesus the Son of God, without experiencing, as we have already said, any sense of pain.”
Vatican II reiterates the traditional teaching of the Church: “This union of the mother with the Son in the work of salvation is made manifest from the time of Christ’s virginal conception … then also at the birth of Our Lord, who did not diminish his mother’s virginal integrity but sanctified it … (LG, No. 57).
The Catechism of the Catholic Church clarifies that “the deepening of faith in the virginal motherhood led the Church to confess Mary’s real and perpetual virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made man” (CCC No. 499).
I end this rejoinder with a prayer I borrow from St. Jerome , the great defender of Mary’s perpetual virginity:
Santa Virgen de las virgenes, ruega por nosotros!
Madre purisima, ruega por nosotros!
Madre castisima, ruega por nosotros!
Madre virginal, ruega por nosotros!
Madre sin mancha, ruega por nosotros!
Madre inmaculada, ruega por nosotros!
Ave Maria purisima, sin pecado concebida!
Viva Jesus y Maria!
Viva la Virgen!
Viva Señor San Jose!