Newsletter #5, Part 1

Dear Faithful,

Since we live in mainly a non-Catholic society, and since most baptized Catholics today are tainted with the heresies and evil fruits of Vatican II, when Our Lady of Mount Carmel seminarians go out in the world they will encounter many opportunities to defend the True Faith.

One particular Catholic teaching which is frequently challenged is the Perpetual Virginity of Our Lady (dogma  –  Virgin before Child-birth, Virgin in Child-birth, Virgin after Child-birth), especially her remaining a Virgin after the Birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

From the renowned century-old publication “Mariology” (Pohle-Preuss), a dogmatic treatise on the Blessed Virgin Mary, we have the following proofs supporting the Church dogma that Our Lady remained a Virgin after the Birth of her Divine Son Jesus Christ.  Though married, Our Lady preserved her virginity till death.  The same is true of St. Joseph, who as St. Jerome remarks, “was Mary’s protector rather than her husband, and like her, led a celibate life.”

This dogma was impugned in the early days by a sect called Antidicomarianites, in the fourth and fifth centuries by Helvidius, Jovinian, and Bonosus, and in modern times by Th. Zahn and other rationalist theologians. The Council of Capua (A.D. 389) denounced Bonosus as a heretic; his false teaching was censured at about the same time (A.D. 390) by synods held in Rome and Milan against Jovinian.

The dogmatic term Ever-Virgin (Semper Virgo), which had been coined early in the history of the Church, was incorporated in the Creed by the Fifth Ecumenical Council of Constantinople, A.D. 553.  The essential elements of the dogma of Mary’s Perpetual Virginity are severally emphasized by the Lateran Council of 649., which says:  “If any one refuse to confess, in accordance with the holy Fathers, that Mary was properly speaking and of a truth the Holy Mother of God and always an Immaculate Virgin . . . that she conceived of the Holy Ghost without seed and gave birth without corruption, her Virginity remaining inviolate also after parturition, let him be anathema.”  The Sixth Ecumenical Council of Constantinople (A.D. 680) expresses this truth more tersely as follows:  “The Virginity of Mary . . . remained before, during, and after parturition.”

Mary’s Virginity after Birth cannot be cogently proved from Sacred Scripture, but the dogma is deducible with moral certainty from the fact that she had resolved to remain a Virgin all her life.  It was this resolution which inspired her timid query:  “How shall this be done, because I know not man?”  Only after the Angel had assured her that her chastity would remain intact, did she consent to become the Mother of Jesus:  “Be it done to me according to thy word.”

Some of the Fathers (St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Ambrose, and St. Augustine) held that Mary was bound by a vow of perpetual virginity.  Suarez does not hesitate to call this “the Catholic view.”  It is confirmed by the fact that Jesus, when dying on the Cross, entrusted His Mother to the care of St. John.  The words:  “Behold thy son,” indicate that Mary had no other sons besides Jesus.  To honor one’s parents by faithfully providing for them is not only the duty but the right of every child, and Jesus would have violated the rights of His brethren, had He had any, by entrusting His Mother to John.

All Antidicomarianite heretics since Bonosus have appealed to those well-known passages of the New Testament in which mention is made of the “brethren” of Jesus.  It is to be noted, however, that these “brethren” are nowhere referred to as sons of Mary.  Jesus alone is called the Son of Mary.  So long as the Rationalists do not bring proof to show that “brethren of Jesus” is synonymous with “sons of Mary,” their assertion is gratuitous.

But what does the Gospel mean when it speaks of the “brethren of Jesus”?  Were they perhaps sons of St. Joseph by a previous marriage?  This explanation was suggested by St. Epiphanius, but has been generally rejected since the time of St. Jerome,  (1) because it is based on apocryphal sources and  (2) because the universal belief of Christians is and has always been that St. Joseph, like his holy spouse, abstained from carnal intercourse throughout his life.

 A simpler explanation, now generally accepted, is that since the term “brother” is used in both Testaments as a synonym for “kinsman” (nephew, cousin, etc.), the so-called “brethren of Jesus” were probably near relatives of His Blessed Mother.  We know this for certain in the case of three among the four who are enumerated by name as His brethren.  St. Matthew records the query:  “Is not His Mother called Mary, and His brethren James, and Joseph, and Simon, and Jude?”  And, indeed, there appears under the Cross, as the “mother of Jacob and Joseph,” a certain Mary who, according to St. John, was identical with the wife of Cleophas and is expressly designated as a “sister” (which probably means “cousin”) of the Blessed Virgin.  Hence, St. James the Less, who is emphatically called “the brother of the Lord,” was a son of Cleophas and Mary, not of Joseph and Mary.  That this “Jacobus Cleophae” is elsewhere called “Jacobus Alphaei” is presumably due to the circumstance that they are merely two different Greek forms of the same Aramaic name.  Now, if St. James the Less was a son of Cleophas (alias Alphaeus), it follows that his brother Joseph, (who is also numbered among the “brethren of Jesus”), was not a son of Joseph and Mary.  St. Jude, too, who introduces himself in his Epistle as “the brother of James,” was probably a cousin of Our Lord.

Ave Maria!
Father Joseph Poisson 

OLMC, Boston KY
May 15, 2019

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