Mary and Joseph's Marriage: Consummation, Validity, and Perpetual Virginity


I believe Mary and Joseph’s marriage was never consummated, since I believe that Mary remains a Virgin to this day (and always will be). Ordinarily, however, in order for a Sacramental marriage to be valid, the man and woman must intend at the time of marriage to consummate their marriage and be open to procreation.

What does all this mean?

Was Mary and Joseph’s marriage sacramental?

Did Mary and Joseph intend to never consummate their marriage when they married? If so, was their marriage valid for reasons that do not apply to anyone else’s marriage? What are those reasons?

Had Mary made any kind of commitment to always remain a Virgin before her marriage to Joseph? If so, was this commitment made before her betrothal to Joseph or, after her betrothal, at the time of the Annunciation or later? If she did not commit to always remaining a Virgin before marrying Joseph, did she ever do so after marrying Joseph?

Did Mary and Joseph intend to consummate their marriage at some point after Jesus’ birth, but did Joseph die before this could occur?


No, it was not a sacramental marriage, as the sacraments had not been initiated by Christ. Valid marriages existed, but marriage had not been raised to a sacrament yet. Theirs was a valid marriage.

There are two general schools of thought. One believes that Mary was consecrated/dedicated to the Lord as a perpetual virgin, and her marriage to Joseph was for her protection and care, and for her to care for him in his old age. They were never going to consumate the marriage and violate her consecration. The other belief is that they were going to have a normal, consumated marriage, until the Annunciation, when they realized Mary was the Ark of the New Covenant, and she held God Himself, so Joseph would have never dared to consumate the marriage. I don’t believe the Church has declared one way or the other.

No, they never intended to and never did consumate the marriage after Jesus was born. They had a valid, but unconsummated marriage.


Are there any other cases in human history of valid marriages entered into with no intent to ever consummate the marriage? Could two Catholics, a man and a woman, go to a priest today and have their marriage celebrated if they never intended to consummate their marriage? If so, what conditions would need to apply? If not, what was special about Mary and Joseph’s wedding that made it not comparable to any other wedding? Was it, as you say, that Mary was the Ark of the Covenant once she had been pregnant with Christ and so she could not have sex with a man? Or was it for some other reason?


Mary’s Marriage - Jimmy Akin

You have an incorrect understanding of the doctrine of matrimony. It is unsurprising because it is confusing and widely misunderstood, and complicated by frequently changing Canon Law in regards to praxis and diriment impediments.

A marriage is valid immediately upon the exchange of consent between the couple. It is the consent and vows which make a valid marriage. Now a valid, unconsummated marriage may be dissolved for a select few reasons. A valid, sacramental and consummated marriage cannot be dissolved except for death. Joseph and Mary’s natural marriage was theoretically dissoluble, but of course they never availed themselves of that option.


This is mistaken.

Mary and Joseph were not baptized at the time of their marriage, so I would judge it was not sacramental.

Whether St Joseph became baptized at a later time, and whether baptism would have been necessary to initiate Mary into the sacraments are separate questions whose answers are unclear to me. :twocents:



What you are describing is called a Josephite marriage. A marriage in which the two spouses are living in continence. And yes there have been valid marriages in which the man and woman decide to live in continence. Blessed Bartolo longo for example lived in a Josephite marriage with his wife Marianna


Consummation is not necessary for a valid marriage.

Between two baptized Christians, consummation serves to remove the possibility of divorce. Prior to consummation, the marriage could dissolved by lawful authorities (the Pope).

Because Joseph and Mary were not baptized, and their marriage was never consummated, divorce was thus a possibility; indeed, Saint Joseph almost persued this option until an angel told him not to.


I think the answer to this question, as was said above in a roundabout sort of way, is that you’re anachronistically applying a modern Christian understanding (and even a modern Catholic Canon Law understanding) to an ancient Jewish marriage.



It was a valid marriage. I do believe that a married couple can remain chaste throughout their entire marriage however. I have heard of this, though it is rare.

The Sacraments came after the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus.


Actually, all these are on speculations. We may not know for sure what transpired between them for all the years they stayed together. Marriage was instituted by God in the garden of Eden, and Adam and Eve consummated their marriage.
Joseph & Mary’s marriage would not be a normal marriage without consummation as it would negate the blessings of God to be fruitful. Thus it would be very difficult to understand the predicament of Joseph in that marriage.


Consider Saint Elzear and his wife Blessed Delphina. Only after marriage did Delphina tell Elzear that she had made a vow of celibacy. His reaction? He did the same!


The irony is - to have a non-consummated marriage, you have to be able to consummate, but choose not to. They will marry you, even knowing you do not intend to sleep together, as long as you could if you wanted to.

A couple who are unable to consummate a marriage because of age, infirmity or illness, and know this before marriage, are not able to be married!! No matter how truly and purely you love each other, no matter how helpful it would be to both to spend their lives together, if you can’t have sex before marriage, you can’t get married!!!

And you may not live together in chaste harmony, because it will give cause to scandal!!!

This is the cruellest of the many, many rules I find abhorrent.


Because this happens so frequently…

Seriously, they want to live together, but only as roommates. If everyone knows they are just roommates, then there would be no scandal. But since they are never intending to have sexual relations, then why is it required for them to live together? They can’t live with someone else who is their sex? In my bachelor days, I had many friends, but if I couldn’t be roommates with them for some reason (serious or trivial), I wouldn’t be devastated.


I would think the blessing of raising God Himself would be enough to overshadow any missed blessings of having sexual intercourse. I simply don’t comprehend that as a predicament for Joseph.


Marriage has existed since the dawn of humanity. It has changed only due to baptism; among the unbaptized, it has remained essentially unchanged.

There is thus no anachronism. The original poster simply had a mistaken premise that consummation is necessary for validity. This is incorrect; a marriage is valid at the moment the vows are exchanged (although a *secret *intent to withhold consummation may nullify these vows).


Just my two cents, but I believe the consummation of marriage was based on intent, to bear and raise children?

Mary and Joseph raised Jesus!

I’m certainly no canon lawyer, but I would think that if two people were married, adopted children, raised them up and never had sexual relations, but lived for the mutual benefit of one another, their children, and lived a life of holiness, then their marriage would be valid!

Interesting thread, many times I have some of my non-catholic friends point out that if Mary was ever virgin, then the marriage of her, and Joseph, was not valid. I have always defended that consummation, is based on intent, but again, I have never looked into Canon law, on this subject!

God bless!


It doesn’t matter how often this happens - frequently or not - if it happens once it is a tragedy, and it is happening to me - my church will not let me marry the love of my life because I was honest about us not being able to have sex. But if we could, and chose not to, they would be happy to marry us.

I am not talking about being flatmates - if I wanted a flatmate I would choose a woman. No roommate ever gave me the love and support that this man can. It is not a flatmate situation. I am not devastated at not having a flatmate, I am devastated at not being able to live a holy marriage with the man I love, because one of us is handicapped.

Read what I wrote about people being sincerely in love and wanting to spend their lives together, but unable to have sex, for whatever reason. Someone in a wheelchair and paralysed. Someone after an accident. Someone with a medical problem - it matter not the reason. They want to live their lives as husband and wife, but are unable to have sex. Do you only live together so you can have sex conveniently? No, you want to live together so you can share your lives 24/7 - the ups and downs, support each other when needed, share expenses, chores, triumphs and tragedies. To support someone else with unconditional love, for the rest of their lives. But no! Not allowed, and not allowed to live together in case we give cause for scandal !!!


It is considered settled doctrine in the Catholic Church that Mary remained a Virgin.


Yes. This is called a “Josephite” marriage.


Your premise is flawed; if you cannot have intercourse, there is simply no need to get married.

And you may not live together in chaste harmony, because it will give cause to scandal!!!

This is the cruellest of the many, many rules I find abhorrent.

Again, this is a flawed premise. It is not strictly forbidden for a couple to live as brother and sister if not married.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit