|Fra Angelico, The Annunciation (1434)|
Mark Shea does a good job tackling this idea in his Mary, Mother of the Son trilogy: he shows how each Marian doctrine tells us something about Christ and/or about our redemption. Here’s a briefer version of his same explanation. In a nutshell, Marian doctrines matter because of Christ, not because of Mary herself. This makes intuitive sense: when Hebrews 11 lays out a litany of Old Testament Saints who achieved epic things by faith, the author’s not trying to inflate their egos in Heaven. He’s showing us the power of faith.
What this means is that attacks on the Marian doctrines often devolve into attacks on Jesus Christ and Sacred Scripture. An easy test is, “Could this argument be used against Christ, too?” You’d be amazed how often the answer is “yes” when it comes to the anti-Marian arguments. For example, St. Paul says in Romans 3:23 that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” In context, he’s talking about all peoples, since he’s spent the entire Letter so far comparing the Jews to the various Gentiles (rather than talking about individuals). That is, the Jewish people are the chosen people, but they sinned and failed; the various Gentile peoples also sinned and failed. Neither Gentile nor Jew can claim that their status renders them without need for a Savior. Some Protestants proof-text this verse to “disprove” the Immaculate Conception by claiming that St. Paul really meant all individuals, with no exceptions. But if that’s the case, then Paul is arguing against Jesus Christ’s sinlessness, not just Mary’s. After all, Christ was born “under the Law” (Gal. 4:4).
There was a particularly egregious example of this “aim for Mary, hit Christ and Scripture” trend recently, and I’m unwittingly involved in it. A Protestant calling himself MackQuigly read a post I wrote showing that the Apostles called the “brothers” of Christ have different fathers than Jesus (Acts 1:13). The obvious implication is that these aren’t literal brothers, but cousins, since they also have different mothers (Mark 15:40). But MackQuigly takes my post and argues that this shows that the Virgin Mary had two husbands.
Literally, he is so committed to the idea that Mary cannot be ever-Virgin that he has to invent multiple marriages for the Virgin Mary, marriages never reported (or even hinted at) in Scripture. In defending why Mary couldn’t remain a Virgin, he makes arguments that stab directly at the heart of Christianity. I want to look at two of them in particular.
First, he claims of his theory:
This makes perfect sense because it would be inappropriate for God to command Joseph to enter into a sham marriage and not “render unto the wife due benevolence” 1 Corinthians 7:3. Neither would God cruelly punish Mary with a loveless barrenness, contrary to the very first command which he gave mankind, “Be fruitful, and multiply…” Genesis 1:28.
Worse, by not having biological children, MackQuigly’s argument would suggest that Jesus violated “the very first command which [God] gave mankind, “Be fruitful, and multiply…” Genesis 1:28.” See what I mean? In trying to attack Catholicism and Mary’s Virginity, MackQuigly has unwittingly made an argument that Christ sinned, and didn’t fulfill the Law perfectly (Matthew 5:17-18).
Immediately after this, MackQuigly says:
The Roman Catholic idealization of celibacy is a pagan anachronism they retain from their marriage-shunning ancestors – the fornicating priests of ancient Babylon. (Such teachings regarding celibacy are satanic, see 1 Timothy 4:3).
|Rembrandt, Apostle Paul (1635)|
It’s actually not from the Babylonians at all (that’s absurd pseudohistory that no serious scholar believes). Instead, we idealize celibacy because Scripture does. St. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 7, explains that celibacy is the ideal, and a gift from God. First, he writes in 1 Cor. 7:1-2,
Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.
But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment. For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.
For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.
That is, Jesus just praised those who become like eunuchs (that is, celibate) for the Kingdom of God. That’s exactly what the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church asks of Her priests. And Christ clearly says that he who can receive this instruction should. In other words, not every man is cut out for a life of celibacy, but the one who is should strive for it. You’ll notice that this is the exact same hierarchy St. Paul has.
Much more could be said. For MackQuigly’s theory to be right, the Virgin Mary would have to have married at least three times in a very short period, since James and Judas (both “brothers” of Christ) were sons of different men. As I explained in the original post:
Albrecht Altdorfer, Christ on the Cross Between Mary and St John (1512)
Obviously, Mary wasn’t previously married (Luke 1:26-27), and St. Joseph is very much alive when Jesus is twelve (Luke 2:41-42). Since Jesus is only about thirty when He starts His public ministry (Luke 3:23), that doesn’t leave a lot of time for Mary to (1) remarry, (2) have another son, (3) have her second husband die, (4) marry a third time, (5) have another son, and (6) have both of these sons grow up to be Apostles. Yet for these to literally be Jesus’ half-brothers, that’s what Protestants are claiming.
As a theory, it’s an outlandish stretch, and there’s not a shred of Biblical evidence suggesting Mary remarried even once. One would assume that if Jesus had two stepdads, one of the Gospels would have mentioned this.
But hopefully, the theory is so self-evidently absurd that I don’t need to pick it apart too much. Instead, I just want to focus in on what I described above: Mary matters because Christ matters. If celibacy is evil and pagan, then Christ is evil and pagan. If you can’t be human and sinless, then Christ wasn’t human (or wasn’t sinless). God the Father is perfect Divinity, and no humanity. The Mother of God is perfect humanity, and no Divinity. God the Son is perfect Divinity and perfect Humanity, fully God, and fully Man, the Son of God, and the Son of Man. That’s why understanding Mary matters.