Did Mary suffer labor pains?


With the movie The Nativity Story, a lot of questions have been raised over it. While the Vatican hailed the movie, there are those conservatives who maintain the movie is theologically incorrect. One of the points these types harp on is that Mary did not undergo labor pains. I was always under the impression that the Church really has no definitive stance on this issue, that it is unnecessarry one way or the other, however since people often ask me my opinion about such things I want to be sure my response is within Church teachings. So my question is, Does the Church have a stance on this issue?


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Did Mary suffer in childbirth?


Please also see Ludwig Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma (p. 205), which states the following:

The dogma [of Mary’s perpetual virginity] merely asserts the factof Mary’s physical virginity without determining more closely how this is to be physiologically explained. In general the Fathers and the Schoolmen St. Thomas Aquinas] conceived it as non-injury to the hymen, and accordingly taught that Mary gave birth in miraculous fashion without opening of the womb and injury to the hymen, and consequently also without pains (cf. ST III:28:2).

However, according to modern natural scientific knowledge, the purely physical side of virginity consists in the non-fulfillment of the sex act … and in the non-contact of the female egg by the male seed… Thus, injury to the hymen in birth does not destroy virginity, while, on the other hand, its rupture seems to belong to complete natural motherhood. It follows from this that from the concept of virginity alone the miraculous character of the process of birth cannot be inferred, if it cannot be and must not be derived from other facts of [divine] revelation. Holy writ attests Mary’s active role in the act of birth (Matt. 1:25, Luke 2:7: “She brought forth”) which does not seem to indicate a miraculous process.

But the Fathers, with few exceptions, vouch for the miraculous character of the birth. However, the question is whether in doing so they attest a truth of [divine] revelation or whether they wrongly interpret a truth of revelation, that is, Mary’s virginity, from an inadequate natural scientific point of view. It seems hardly possible to demonstrate that the dignity of the Son of God or the dignity of the Mother of God demands a miraculous birth.

Ott’s work was first published in 1952 and it was given an English-language imprimatur in 1954. It is currently being published by TAN Books and Publishers.

At this point, the opinion of churchmen such as St. Thomas Aquinas on the issue remains an opinion. The theological opinion of the Fathers and Scholastics on the issue is, of course, quite valuable and important to the discussion; but it is also important to accurately classify the authority with which they have spoken. All that has been dogmatically defined at this point is that “Mary bore her Son without any violation of her virginal integrity” (Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, p. 205).

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Is the movie The Nativity Story anti-Catholic?

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