Mary and Joseph's Marriage never Consummated


#21

The purpose of the marriage of Sts. Mary and Joseph was different altogether. Theirs was a Jewish marriage – one based on contract – as opposed to Catholic marriage, based on covenant.

Also, the marriage’s main purpose was to assign a guardian for Mary, who vowed to remain a virgin (a tradition that she was a Temple virgin). Joseph in this matter is Mary’s legal guardian and he became so by the Jewish marriage contract.

I think.


#22

[quote=mrS4ntA]The purpose of the marriage of Sts. Mary and Joseph was different altogether. Theirs was a Jewish marriage – one based on contract – as opposed to Catholic marriage, based on covenant.

Also, the marriage’s main purpose was to assign a guardian for Mary, who vowed to remain a virgin (a tradition that she was a Temple virgin). Joseph in this matter is Mary’s legal guardian and he became so by the Jewish marriage contract.

I think.
[/quote]

In modern day vernacular, would this be more precisely termed a “civil union?” :stuck_out_tongue:

Alan (ducking for cover :bounce: )


#23

From Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation Redemptoris Custos:

  1. As can be deduced from the gospel texts, Joseph’s marriage to Mary is the juridical basis of his fatherhood. It was to assure fatherly protection for Jesus that God chose Joseph to be Mary’s spouse. It follows that Joseph’s fatherhood - a relationship that places him as close as possible to Christ, to whom every election and predestination is ordered (cf. Rom 8:28-29) - comes to pass through marriage to Mary, that is, through the family.

While clearly affirming that Jesus was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, and that virginity remained intact in the marriage (cf. Mt 1:18-25; Lk 1:26-38), the evangelists refer to Joseph as Mary’s husband and to Mary as his wife (cf. Mt 1:16, 18-20, 24; Lk 1:27; 2:5).

And while it is important for the Church to profess the virginal conception of Jesus, it is no less important to uphold Mary’s marriage to Joseph, because juridically Joseph’s fatherhood depends on it. Thus one understands why the generations are listed according to the genealogy of Joseph: “Why,” St. Augustine asks, “should they not be according to Joseph? Was he not Mary’s husband?.. Scripture states, through the authority of an angel, that he was her husband. Do not fear, says the angel, to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. Joseph was told to name the child, although not born from his seed. She will bear a son, the angel says, and you will call him Jesus. Scripture recognizes that Jesus is not born of Joseph’s seed, since in his concern about the origin of Mary’s pregnancy, Joseph is told that it is of the Holy Spirit. Nonetheless, he is not deprived of his fatherly authority from the moment that he is told to name the child. Finally, even the Virgin Mary, well aware that she has not conceived Christ as a result of conjugal relations with Joseph, still calls him Christ’s father.”

The Son of Mary is also Joseph’s Son by virtue of the marriage bond that unites them: “By reason of their faithful marriage both of them deserve to be called Christ’s parents, not only his mother, but also his father, who was a parent in the same way that he was the mother’s spouse: in mind, not in the flesh.” In this marriage none of the requisites of marriage were lacking: "In Christ’s parents all the goods of marriage were realized-offspring, fidelity, the sacrament: the offspring being the Lord Jesus himself; fidelity, since there was no adultery: the sacrament, since there was no divorce."

Analyzing the nature of marriage, both St. Augustine and St. Thomas always identify it with an “indivisible union of souls,” a “union of hearts,” with “consent.” These elements are found in an exemplary manner in the marriage of Mary and Joseph. At the culmination of the history of salvation, when God reveals his love for humanity through the gift of the Word, it is precisely the marriage of Mary and Joseph that brings to realization in full “freedom” the “spousal gift of self” in receiving and expressing such a love. “In this great undertaking which is the renewal of all things in Christ, marriage-it too purified and renewed-becomes a new reality, a sacrament of the New Covenant. We see that at the beginning of the New Testament, as at the beginning of the Old, there is a married couple. But whereas Adam and Eve were the source of evil which was unleashed on the world, Joseph and Mary arc the summit from which holiness spreads all over the earth. The Savior began the work of salvation by this virginal and holy union, wherein is manifested his all-powerful will to purify and sanctify the family - that sanctuary of love and cradle of life.”

How much the family of today can learn from this! “The essence and role of the family are in the final analysis specified by love. Hence the family has the mission to guard, reveal and communicate love, and this is a living reflection of and a real sharing in God’s love for humanity and the love of Christ the Lord for the Church his bride.” This being the case, it is in the Holy Family, the original “Church in miniature (Ecclesia domestica),” that every Christian family must be reflected. “Through God’s mysterious design, it was in that family that the Son of God spent long years of a hidden life. It is therefore the prototype and example for all Christian families.

Thus, Mary and Joseph’s marriage was sacramental. Furthermore, it was not a unique exception to the canon law of Christian marriage, but an example of Christian marriage par excellence.


#24

Lack of divorce is sufficient evidence that a marriage is sacramental? That’s very interesting.

Regarding a marriage being open to children, what about modern day couples who don’t want to have their own children but wish to adopt? It seems like that would be OK based on the criteria of Mary and Joseph’s marriage containing offspring even though the marriage, via the marriage act, did not bring Him about.

Alan


#25

[quote=mike182d]Mary and Joseph were not bound by the Code of Canon Law any more than Malchezadeck was obligated to pray the Divine Office.
[/quote]

That’s not quite true. There are elements of the Code of Canon Law which are not only ecclesiastical law, not only divine law, but also natural law and as such was binding on all men even from the beginning of creation. The element dealing with the inability of someone who is perpetually, antecedently and permanently impotent being incapable of contracting a valid marriage pertains to the natural law as it invalidates by its very nature (as the Code itself notes). Other elements (such as the requirement of age which applies to Catholics including even those who defect from the Church) do not pertain directly to the natural law and thus would not necessarily be things that Mary and Joseph would have been bound by.


#26

The “function” of the marriage between Joseph and Mary was to protect Mary’s life. Hers would have been forfeit as an unmarried woman who was discovered pregnant. The Elders in the Temple would no more have accepted Mary’s story of the angel than the average father would today.

BTW, according to my Old Testament classes at BYU, under the norms at Jesus’s time, Mary would have been allowed to become pregnant by Joseph without scandal.

Marriage served two purposes, the procreation of the faith through children and the protection of the wife within larger society. In this last sense, it was a way to ensure Mary’s status within the community, I don’t recall women being able to hold property under Jewish law, clearly not under Roman law at that time.

Perhaps Joseph’s willingness to respect Mary’s purity was one of the greatest “marriage act” possible under the circumstances.


#27

[quote=mike182d]It really wasn’t until Theology of the Body that the Sacrament began to be truly understood in terms of the Eucharist and its proper role in our salvation history.
[/quote]

You seem to be saying here that people like St Thomas Aquinas did not understand the sacrament of matrimony! I admit that our understanding of the mysteries of faith can grow and deepen, but I would hesitate to say that we truly understand something as fundamental as matrimony while St Thomas Aquinas did not.

Personally, I think marriage should be treated exactly like the priesthood. People apply to seminary, go through rigorous study for six years (minimum) to understand the role of the priest, theology, and how their role fits into God’s plan. However, when two people decide to get married, often the priest just makes them sign a paper and their off on their own.

In most dioceses there is a policy setting a time of a few months (often about 6 months) prior notification before the wedding and there are classes and the like that are made available to the couple. Unlike the priesthood, marriage is a natural right. No one has a right to the priesthood. But two people capable of marrying each other and wanting to marry each other have a natural right to do so. A restriction of that right must be based on some compelling interest of the Church (such as for example concern for the soul of her children and so restricting mixed marriages or marriages with a disparity of cult)

I think there should be marriage “seminaries” where two people who wish to get married study the role of the married person in the Church, the theology of marriage, NFP, and even practical matters like how to raise kids.

As I said in most dioceses they provide classes and such for married couples. There is no need for every married person to be acquainted fully with the theology of marriage. Just because you are called to marriage doesn’t mean you are called, much less required, to be a theologian.

It is just as crucial to the life of the Church as the priesthood itself, as John Paul II so wonderfully explained, and it needs to be treated with the same regard.

Are you sure that’s what he said? It seems like you might be expanding on what he said a little. In any case, if there were no priests, the Church would assuredly die out since there cannot exist a Church without priests. But if there were no marriages, the Church would not die out (even though the faith wouldn’t propagate by way of children, it would still propagate by way of conversions).

In those regards, if the Church has a right to judge a seminarian’s vocation to the priesthood, they have every right to judge a person’s vocation to marriage.

No that’s not accurate. No one has a right to the priesthood. But people do have a natural right to marry in the sense I articulated above. At least that is what I have been taught. Maybe, I’ve been taught wrong.


#28

[quote=MamaGeek]So two people can be married in the church if they are capable of consumation, even if they have determined to be celibate, but two people who are incapable of consumation cannot, even if they would consumate if they could. I just don’t understand that policy.
[/quote]

It’s not that difficult to understand. Marriage involves the giving and receiving of the right to sexual intercourse – that’s part of the essence of the marriage vows and the essence of what constitutes a marriage. But if one is incapable of having sexual intercourse with this person, he can hardly give her the right to have sexual intercourse with him. This is a principle that is not unique to marriage.

If I tell someone, “I give you the right to request that I fly you Superman-style to China,” when I do not even have the capability to oblige that request, then what I say becomes meaningless since I cannot in any meaningful way give you the right to request something of me that I would not be capable of giving/obliging.


#29

[quote=Catholic2003]It depends on how “determined” they are. As I said, I believe both Mary and Joseph were willing and able to consumate the marriage had the other spouse requested it.
[/quote]

They were certainly physically able. This has always puzzled me since it seems that God placed the perpetual virginity of Mary on a tenuous footing by making it contingent on Joseph’s respecting this gift of God to Mary and Mary’s gift of herself to God. It would seem to me that God’s decree of predestination that Mary be a perpetual virgin would be logically prior to God’s decree of predestination that there be a marriage between Mary and Joseph. But if the former as a decree of predestination is logically prior to the latter, how could it be that what is predestined in the former is made contingent on what happens with respect to what is predestined in the latter?

Be that as it may I would add that Mary would have been willing as would have been her duty to respond to a reasonable request by Joseph (this is true for all marriages). But I wonder if there could have even been a circumstance under which it would have been reasonable for Joseph to ask the Mother of God for sexual intercourse. For other couples a request is reasonable under all kinds of circumstances. Perhaps for them there was no such circumstance.

Also I wonder if those who make a vow of chastity prior to the marriage are even obliged at all to honor requests made by the other party (who may or may not have also taken a similar vow prior to the marriage). Fr Heribert Jone speaks of how those who have taken a vow of chastity are still obliged to honor requests for sexual intercourse, but he appears to have in mind those who have taken such a vow after the marriage has already been contracted (this isn’t explicit in the text but it is the impression I have). So given the truth of the doctrine or tradition that Mary prior to her marriage consecrated herself as a virgin to God, perhaps she would not have even be obliged at all to honor such hypothetical requests. The reason I make this distinction and understand Fr Jone to speaking this way is that when one makes a vow of chastity after already contracting the marriage, the vows of the marriage take precedence, if you will, over the vow of chastity (except in some special cases where the marriage remains unconsummated and the vow causes the marriage to be dissolved). So the vow of chastity is understood in this case to be applicable only to the extent that is compatible with the prior vows of the marriage. But when the vow of chastity instead precedes in time the vows of the marriage, then would it not make sense to interpret the vows of the marriage to be applicable only to the extent that they are compatible with the prior vow(s) of chastity?

I have one more idea that would make it impossible for Mary to have been obliged to render the marital debt to Joseph, but I think that’s enough of my thinking out loud for now :slight_smile:


#30

Mike 182d,

Amen brother you hit the nail on the head.


#31

[quote=AlanFromWichita]Lack of divorce is sufficient evidence that a marriage is sacramental? That’s very interesting.
[/quote]

If anyone but the late Holy Father had written that, I would be saying the same thing. But I’m going to give John Paul II the benefit of the doubt, and assume that there is some deeper underlying truth to this statement.

[quote=AlanFromWichita]Regarding a marriage being open to children, what about modern day couples who don’t want to have their own children but wish to adopt? It seems like that would be OK based on the criteria of Mary and Joseph’s marriage containing offspring even though the marriage, via the marriage act, did not bring Him about.
[/quote]

Any willingness or even actual plans to adopt do not change the rules regarding marriage validity, which require that each party give to the other rights to request marital relations in a manner apt for procreation and not restricted solely to periods of infertility in the wife. If these rights are not truly exchanged, then what was entered into is not a valid marriage.

Note also that bearing a child from the Holy Spirit is quite different than adopting a child.


#32

[quote=tuopaolo]No that’s not accurate. No one has a right to the priesthood. But people do have a natural right to marry in the sense I articulated above. At least that is what I have been taught. Maybe, I’ve been taught wrong.
[/quote]

Very good points in your series of posts!

From the CLSA New Commentary on canon 1058 (“All persons who are not prohibited by law can contract marriage”):

Every person enjoys the natural right to marry. This fundamental right is rooted in the social nature of the human person and is recognized by Catholic social teaching. Therefore, the right to marry and to marry freely must be respected by both civil and ecclesiastical authority. Marriage is not, however, a merely private matter that concerns only the spouses themselves. It is also a societal institution whose health and vitality have a significant impact on the common good. Consequently, civil and ecclesiastical authorities have the right to regulate the exercise of the right to marry in the interest of the common good.


#33

[quote=tuopaolo]They were certainly physically able. This has always puzzled me since it seems that God placed the perpetual virginity of Mary on a tenuous footing by making it contingent on Joseph’s respecting this gift of God to Mary and Mary’s gift of herself to God. It would seem to me that God’s decree of predestination that Mary be a perpetual virgin would be logically prior to God’s decree of predestination that there be a marriage between Mary and Joseph. But if the former as a decree of predestination is logically prior to the latter, how could it be that what is predestined in the former is made contingent on what happens with respect to what is predestined in the latter?
[/quote]

I don’t know about much about predestination, but I just want to say that I am personally certain that in actual historical fact, Joseph did not ever request payment of the marital debt from Mary.

Could this be related to how God never wanted Abraham to actually sacrifice Isaac, although God did want Abraham to be willing to sacrifice Isaac? Just a random thought.

[quote=tuopaolo]Be that as it may I would add that Mary would have been willing as would have been her duty to respond to a reasonable request by Joseph (this is true for all marriages). But I wonder if there could have even been a circumstance under which it would have been reasonable for Joseph to ask the Mother of God for sexual intercourse. For other couples a request is reasonable under all kinds of circumstances. Perhaps for them there was no such circumstance.
[/quote]

In his book The Invalid Marriage, canon lawyer Lawrence Wrenn raises the question of when, if ever, it is reasonable for an HIV-positive spouse to request relations from a non-infected partner. This issue doesn’t seem to have been definitively settled yet.

… I’ll have to continue this tomorrow; time for bed.


#34

For a marriage to be valid, it is only required that the partners (a man and a woman) be free of any ecclesiastical impediments, are able to give the marital debt (i.e. have sex), and freely give their consent.

At the moment of consent, a valid marriage has occurred.

The conssumation of the marriage, between two baptized persons, is what makes the marriage indissoluble.

This is why the Church to this day allows people to marry who have no intention of having sex. This is actually called a “Josephite Marriage,” after Our Lady’s marriage to Saint Joseph.

Saint Therese of the Child Jesus’ parents had originally attempted this, but found the sexual strain too unbearable and later had children!

The Church will sometimes dissolve a non-conssumated valid marriage. She will not actually annull it, however, unless there was some factor impeding the free consent exchanged by the partners.

So Our Lady’s marriage to Saint Joseph was indeed valid, just not sacramental or indissoluble.

Then again, my understanding is that, after the Fall, there were no absolutely indisolluble marriages before Christ Sacramentalized them, making them living images of the indissoluble union of Him with His Church.

Did I cover everything?


#35

[quote=Sacramentalist]So Our Lady’s marriage to Saint Joseph was indeed valid, just not sacramental or indissoluble.

Then again, my understanding is that, after the Fall, there were no absolutely indisolluble marriages before Christ Sacramentalized them, making them living images of the indissoluble union of Him with His Church.

Did I cover everything?
[/quote]

Everything except for Pope John Paul II’s statement that Mary and Joseph’s marriage was sacramental (see my post #23).


#36

[quote=tuopaolo]But when the vow of chastity instead precedes in time the vows of the marriage, then would it not make sense to interpret the vows of the marriage to be applicable only to the extent that they are compatible with the prior vow(s) of chastity?
[/quote]

Good questions. I do know that the marriage vows cannot be validly modified to exclude the exchange of the right of payment of the marital debt. Anytime this is done, what is entered into may be a convenient arrangment for the parties involved, but this arrangement is not the marriage relationship, so it is not a valid marriage.

From New Advent (paragraph split added, underline added):

There might be a sinful agreement between those contracting marriage which likewise nullifies their marriage — e. g., not to have more than one or two children, or not to have any children at all, until, in the judgment of the contracting parties, circumstances shall enable them to be provided for; or to divorce and marry someone else whenever they grow tired of each other. Such an agreement or condition denies the perpetual duties of matrimony, limits matrimonial rights, suspends the duty consequent on the use and exercise of those rights; if really made a sine qua non of marriage, it necessarily annuls it; the parties would wish to enjoy connubial intercourse, but evade its consequences.

The agreement to abstain from the use of conjugal rights is, however, quite different, and does not nullify the marriage contract. The parties to the marriage fully consent to transfer to each other the conjugal rights, but, by agreement or vow, oblige themselves to abstain from the actual use of those rights. Now, if, contrary to their agreement or vow, either party should demand the actual use of his or her right, it would not be fornication, though a breach of promise or vow. Such a condition, though possible, is not frequent nor even permissible except in cases of rare virtue.

The first paragraph makes it clear that sinful “side agreements” do not invalidate a marriage unless they are raised in importance (by at least one of the parties) to the level of the marriage vows themselves.


#37

It would seem that the Pope is giving his support to an opinion common among some theologians. The following might be of some help. It’s from the website to the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston:

If two people are married in the Church but never consummate the marriage because they previously agreed to live in a perpetual state of virginity, would the marriage be considered valid? Although I can’t personally find any evidence in the Bible for the lifelong virginity of Mary, the Catholic Church upholds the belief that Mary and Joseph remained virgins for life. If that’s so, was their marriage valid? Thank you very much!

This very question was much debated and considered in Church history, especially in the medieval period of the Church as our understanding of the sacrament of marriage - together with the other six sacraments - became more refined. It was basically a clash of ideas. Roman civilization had held that the consent of the parties makes marriage. Today, the Code of Canon Law still teaches this clearly and definitely: "Can. 1057 §1 A marriage is brought into being by the lawfully manifested consent of persons who are legally capable. This consent cannot be supplied by any human power. "§2 Matrimonial consent is an act of will by which a man and a woman by an irrevocable covenant mutually give and accept one another for the purpose of establishing a marriage. " Likewise, The Catechism of the Catholic Church also teaches that consent makes marriage: "1626 The Church holds the exchange of consent between the spouses to be the indispensable element that 'makes the marriage. 'If consent is lacking there is no marriage. "1627 The consent consists in a ‘human act by which the partners mutually give themselves to each other’: ‘I take you to be my wife’ - ‘I take you to be my husband.’ This consent that binds the spouses to each other finds its fulfillment in the two ‘becoming one flesh.’ "1628 The consent must be an act of the will of each of the contracting parties, free of coercion or grave external fear. No human power can substitute for this consent. If this freedom is lacking the marriage is invalid.

Meanwhile, the Germanic world held to the legal principal that one takes ownership of a thing by use of it. They held the same for the covenant of marriage: marriage came into being when the spouses made use of their mutual right to each others bodies, in other words when they consummated marriage. Even the word ‘consummation’ discloses this original Germanic understanding.

As the Catholic Church brought the Roman and Germanic world together, theologians began to understand that both consent and consummation have a specific place in the formation of the covenant and contract of marriage. By the consent of the parties, the contract of marriage comes into being. If both parties are baptized, the contract is also a sacrament and obtains a “special firmness” as a result of sacramental grace (can. 1055 §2). If the parties proceed from there to consummation, their sacramental union becomes, by the act of consummation, absolutely indissoluble - a permanent and lasting bond which can only be destroyed by the power of death. The Church can and does dissolve marriages which have never been consummated, but only at the request of one of the parties and only after incontrovertible proof of the lack of consummation has been supplied. (The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith handles such requests.) The Code of Canon Law reflects the importance of both these elements in saying: "Can. 1061 §1 A valid marriage between baptized persons is said to be merely ratified, if it is not consummated; ratified and consummated, if the spouses have in a human manner engaged together in a conjugal act in itself apt for the generation of offspring. To this act marriage is by its nature ordered and by it the spouses become one flesh. “§2 If the spouses have lived together after the celebration of their marriage, consummation is presumed until the contrary is proven.”

. . . Were [Mary and Joseph] married? Yes, because they had exchanged between themselves consent to marry and therefore had a ratified marriage, remembering that God intended marriage from the beginning to be perpetual and exclusive. Did they have the sacrament of marriage? If you believe that both Mary and Joseph received baptism (which many of the Fathers of the Church held and which I believe), than yes they had the sacrament of marriage which enjoys a special firmness as a result of sacramental grace. Did they consummate their marriage? No, so their marriage was not absolutely indissoluble. But it was a true marriage nonetheless and their love for one another and their joy in Christ their son left no room for them ever to desire or think about leaving for another.

Can we consider this the last word on the subject?


#38

Bump?


#39

[quote=Sacramentalist]Can we consider this the last word on the subject?
[/quote]

Works for me.


#40

[quote=Elzee]This has always confused me. I’ve always heard that a marriage can easily be annulled if it has not been consummated. Is this true?
h’.
[/quote]

where did you hear it? non-consummation may be a grounds for annulment, depending on the reasons for it, but by itself does not render a marriage invalid. don’t have access to canon law here, but your source should tell you where in canon law this is stated. not possible to rebut hearsay, which is why it is not accepted as evidence in court.


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