Mary's Perpetual Virginity vs? Consummation?


Before I pose my question, I feel I need to introduce myself a bit. I am a Catholic convert. My forum name was my baptism name, which I will explain on a different post in a different topical thread. I have experienced many different protestant denominations in my search for truth before finally coming home. I even found myself defending Catholicism against my protestant brothers and sisters long before I considered coming home. I just wanted to be a truly informed ‘apologist’ (though somewhat amateur compared to the caliber of people like Jimmy Akin, Karl Keating, my friend Carl Olson and others).

In addition, I had a very bad bout of Leukemia which is a testimony in itself of which I am writing a book entitled, “A Journey of Miracles”. One incident occurring during my Leukemia is that I was literally dying when a Jesuit came to my room and offered me absolution. This was a profound turning point for me. But enough of all that. Now we should get to the question…

I have always thought of sexual relations as dirty…even in the context of a marriage. I know it’s probably wrong to think that way because I realize God did not institute marriage to be a ‘dirty’ thing, but a wonderful experience, as well as sexual relations within that institution.

I know that Scripture speaks of it in both ways. Paul speaks of marriage as a positive thing. He also gives advice in one of his pastoral letters that it is better to remain single for the sake of serving God more fully; to be consecrated to a life of holiness in service to God.

Having said all that, how does this tie in with Mary’s perpetual virginity? Well, I am just wondering, if sexual relations are not dirty within the context of a marriage…and Mary was married to Joseph, why would it be so wrong for her to engage in sexual relations w/ Joseph after the birth of Christ?

Now I have read some answers to questions related to this on this website. I know I will probably get responses like, “Mary was ‘consummated’ by the Holy Spirit.” or “It was necessary for Mary to remain pure as one having been a vessel of the new covenant (Jesus), born w/out the stain of original sin.” which of course ties in w/ the immaculate conception.

Therefore the question still remains…If sexual relations within the context of marriage is pure why would it be necessary for Mary to remain sexually inactive?

I thank you all for your gracious answers in advance.


My understanding of the church’s teaching on the matter (I’m not so good at finding references, I’m afraid, though!) is that Mary was in fact a consecrated virgin before she married and so to consummate her marriage with Joseph would have been to break vows of celibacy already taken.

Hopefully other people will be able to clarify or correct me!


One aspect of it is that she is the Ark of the New Covenant.

God destroyed Uzzah, who touched the Ark of the Covenant (trying to steady it) in the OT. (2 Sam 6:6-7) Mary, as the Ark of the New Covenant, had a special kind of purity, and the marital embrace would destroy that.

Also, St. Joseph knew that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and would not have considered acting as if he were equal to the H.S. by trying to conceive another child in Mary.

That’s my take on it!



Would it have been *wrong *for a husband like St. Joseph to engage in marital relations with his wife? It’s not about right or wrong but about good verses best.

You are familiar with I Corinthians chapter 7 where St. Paul tells us in his opinion it is better for virgins to remain virgins. St. Paul also writes that husbands and wives should not deny each other except by mutual consent to be free for prayer. Jesus wanted the* best* for His mother, so God provided St. Joseph as her husband and she remained a virgin. Mary and Joseph devoted their marriage to Jesus–their entire family life was a prayer.


Again, I want to thank you all for your gracious responses.

Ruthie wrote, “Mary, as the Ark of the New Covenant, had a special kind of purity, and the marital embrace would destroy that.”
I’m assuming ‘the marital embrace’ is referring to sexual relations within the context of marriage. Unless I’m misunderstanding Ruthie’s answer, it seems to me just another way of saying that sex is impure, even in the context of marriage.

Concerning the second part of Ruthie’s response, I don’t understand how Joseph impregnating Mary AFTER Jesus’ birth would be in competition w/ the Holy Spirit?

I also appreciate gardenwithkids’ response that it’s not about ‘right’ vs ‘wrong’, but ‘good’ vs ‘best’.

Btw, the issue I have trouble with here really has less to do w/ Mary and more to do with a moral outlook on sexual relations in general. I realize that Mary was unique in many ways and if she was a perpetual virgin I think that’s great and I happily concede to the Church’s teaching. I was simply using her as an example (and I think she is the perfect example) of why I think of sexual relations as impure. If it weren’t impure even in the context of marriage I don’t understand why it would be such a big deal for Mary to remain a virgin (aside from her unique role as the bearer of Christ).

Taken together w/ Paul’s admonition for people to remain celibate for the sake of serving God more fully, it would indicate that one could almost equate celibacy or purity…with holiness, which seems to imply the opposite as well.

Maybe I’m still just not getting it. :confused: :o


The way I have been thinking about it, is that married people have a vocation or a calling and celibate people have a vocation or calling. Can’t say one is better than another. They are both good.
They both glorify God. God gives different people different gifts.
That does not mean one is better than the other. Its when you think your gift is not good enough, or you know its not (like Cain) that you are headed for trouble I think. I am happy there is a balance and its not either or.


It wasn’t a question of sex being ‘dirtier’ (within the confines of marriage, sex is a great gift the spouses offer each other, a coming together to make two into ‘one flesh’, ordained by God Himself).

Look at it this way. If (as Catholic teaching–both Scriptural and Sacred Tradition) has it that Mary was a consecrated virgin, and Joseph had agreed to be her husband in order to safeguard her (as women, in those days, needed to have a husband, father, or brother to protect them) . . then both Mary and Joseph had freely agreed to marry, knowing there would not be sexual relations, and that this was acceptable to both of them as a ‘higher’ calling. Higher not meaning sex was ‘bad’, but that purity, in this sense, being approved by both and intended to be offered as a prayer–was the CALLING God had given to both (Mary and Joseph).

This also explains why Mary, when the angel told her she would conceived, asked, HOW can this be? If she was expecting to have normal ‘relations’ with Joseph at any point. . .she wouldn’t ask ‘how’, would she?

It also explains why Mary and Joseph refrained from relations afterward. First, Mary had vowed virginity and Joseph had accepted this (thus vowing his continence as well). Bearing the Son of God did not ‘violate’ this virginity --and therefore, the original agreement would have continued on after Jesus’ birth.

There is no mention also in Scripture of any person, besides Jesus, who has Mary as his mother. All the ‘brethren’ named are proven to have another mother than Mary.

Finally, if Mary and Joseph had been a ‘normal’ couple, planning to have sexual relations, you make God into an ADULTERER by ‘using’ Mary, begetting a child with her, and then saying, “OK, Joseph, your turn.”

If they were a ‘normal’ couple then God would have been horribly WRONG to ‘take’ Mary from Joseph. . .and Mary and Joseph would have been in Jewish law SINNERS if Mary had gone from being the mother of a child with God to being the mother of a child from Joseph. For God never stopped being Jesus’ father. . .the bond between Mary and God was not broken due to God’s death or his ‘divorcing’ Mary. . .therefore, Mary remained in a ‘spousal’ relationship, though virginal, with God just as she remained in a ‘spousal’ relationship, equally virginal, with Joseph.

Hope that helps!


Since MAry had children she could npot have remained a perpetual virgin.


No basis for the uncategorical assertion that Mary had “children”.


Mary had a unique role both virgin and mother. Sexual relations within marriage is the way in which women typically become biological mothers. Motherhood is a noble vocation. Yet, women who dedidicate themselves to the Church as virgins or celibates can become “spiritual mothers”.

Mulieris Dignitatem (The Dignity of Women) is a long document, but you might find it enlightening to read what John Paul II wrote about women, virginity and motherhood. [/FONT]


Again…thank you for your replies. I think some of your replies have clarified things for me. I think I have a question that is more to the point…

How does one distinguish between ‘expressing love’ and ‘lust’ in the act of sexual relations. It seems to me that one could still lust even in the context of marriage, which would be morally wrong wouldn’t it? :blush: :confused:


[FONT=Trebuchet MS][size=4]It seems to me that one could still lust even in the context of marriage, which would be morally wrong wouldn’t it? :blush: :confused:


Yes, one can lust even in the context of marriage and yes this would be morally wrong. But it certainly can be seen and overcome, and the marriage can become ‘lust free’ and stronger than ever.

Lust ‘objectifies’ the person who becomes an ‘object’ instead of a person.

However, use of words like ‘lusty’ to mean virile, potent, full of vigor etc. have somewhat confused the issue so that people now might think that because they feel a strong ‘potency’ with their spouse, that they are ‘lusting’ (which may not be the case at all if they are still viewing their spouse as the PERSON whom they love, and not the object of gratification for their sexual or other desires).


Genesius, the holiness of Mary’s body having this special relationship to God the Son was to be respected by her husband, as her vocation as not to become anyone’s wife and mother, but to become the Mother of God. Marriage is good and special; Christian marriage is sacred by the grace of Christ, but its purpose in being sacred is to elevate Marriage to the level of being able to sanctify the participants. Mary was sanctified from conception in order to be a fitting dwelling place for God the Son Incarnate. Her special vocation thus precludes the good but lesser vocation of natural marriage and even the sanctified Christian marriage which is to provide the means of sanctifying the spouses. Mary, already sanctified, did not need this lesser means of sanctification, lesser, that is, in comparison with the graces of sanctification given her at her Conception and subsequent pregnancy. St. Joseph, however, was sanctified by the marriage to Mary, especially in sacrificing his personal needs in order to safeguard and support his Most Holy Wife.


The Desposyni (plural from Greek δεσπόσυνος (desposynos) “of or belonging to the master or lord”[1], as in Gr. δεσπότης (despotes) “Lord, Master”) is a contemporary term used to refer to alleged blood relatives of Jesus mentioned in Mark 3:21 and Mark 3:31.

In Catholic and Orthodox Christian belief, Mary alone is counted as a direct blood relative due to the doctrine of Perpetual Virginity, Joseph only as a foster father, and the rest as close relatives with no direct blood ties, such as step-siblings or cousins. In Protestant Christian belief, the desposyni include his mother Mary, his cousin John the Baptist (Luke 1:36); as well, his brothers as named in the New Testament: James the Just, Joses, Simon and Jude. In Ebionite belief, Joseph is viewed as the biological father of Jesus.

Different sects of Christians hold broadly divergent interpretations of what actual relation the family members listed in Matthew 13:55and Mark 6:3 may have had with Jesus, as a mortal or in his risen manifestation as “the Christ”[2]. Eastern Christianity, following Eusebius, believes that they were “Joseph’s children by his (unrecorded) first wife.” Roman Catholicism, following Mark 15:40, Mark 16:1, John 19:25 and Jude 1 agrees with Jerome that they were Jesus’ cousins, sons of another Mary, the wife of Cleopas, which the Greek word for “brother” or “relative” used in the Gospels would encompass. Following Hegesippus, Clopas was the brother of Joseph, and Simon was the cousin of Jesus. Both beliefs agree with the tradition that Mary remained a perpetual virgin,[3] thus having no biological children before or after Jesus. While such notable reformers as Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli as well as the 18th Century evangelist Wesley affirmed the perpetual virginity of Mary, most Protestants today believe that these family members were in fact the biological children of Mary and Joseph.[4]


You are now making a categorical assertion, which demonstrates simply that you do not accept Catholic apologetics on the topic. Your pointing out that the existence of long standing divergent views should also indicate to you a lack of agreement as to the power of the evidence you are citing to demonstrate the conclusion you originally, uncategorically drew.



This just just a troll, please stay on topic.



To Tantum Ergo:

Thank you for staying on topic and answering my question about lust vs. expressing love in context of marriage. It was very helpful and clarifies things a bit more for me.:thumbsup:

At this point I think I have exhausted everything I wish to know on this topic. All of you have been helpful. Thank you.


I appreciate your wanting a firm answer to your perfectly reasonable question. The sex act in marriage IS both a procreative act and an expression of love - a gift from God Himself - so you are correct in thinking that this union between Mary and Joseph would be absolutely acceptable. I agree with the logic, but due to the extraordinary nature of Mary, her chosen role in the Incarnation of God, and her sinless nature, I bow to the logic of far greater minds than mine in dealing with this question.

We humans have never known anyone free of Original Sin, so what was Mary like? Since some level of “lust” is necessary to ignite sexual congress was she free of this passion? Were Adam and Eve to engage in this act to reproduce before the Fall? I don’t know. I accept the Church’s teaching that she was “ever-Virgin” mainly because it makes sense to “me” that she would never be “violated”, especially after she had “conceived through the Holy Spirirt”. In a way, she was “married to God” throughout her life and Joseph was blessed with the job to protect her and the Messiah. I hope this helps. good question !


Just to add a little to this:
It is commonly known that once something is dedicated to God, it becomes sacred and cannot be used for any other purpose. It can only used in the service of God.

Mary, indeed was sacred. By her own conception and by carrying God in her womb, she was absolutely dedicated to God. Therefore, for her to be “used” in any other way was not possible. Just as the vessels used for the Eucharist are not used for anything else but only for the consecration of the bread and wine.

Those women that were dedicated to the Temple were only to be of service to the Temple - they were “consecrated - sacred” to the Temple, to be used for nothing else. I’m not saying that Mary was consecrated to Temple, but there were females who were (although it is a theory that maybe she was).

Mary was the Mother of God and Spouse of the Holy Spirit. Joseph’s job was to help raise, provide and protect Jesus and Mary and he understood this. In Jewish culture of the time, once a woman was the spouse of another man, no other man had access to her. This hold true for Mary as the Holy Spirit “overshadowed” her - this was Jewish “marriage speak.” So when the angel told Joseph that the Holy Spirit had overshadowed Mary, he knew then he was not to “have” Mary in a “normal” marriage. He understood that he would be their provider and protector.


Pause, for a moment and consider the greatness of God. This is the God, the mention of whose name or the mere sight of whom brought death, to speak to whom Isaiah’s tongue was purified with a burning coal. To stand on the ground near God’s presence Moses could not be shod. As God passed by on the mountain, Elijah buried his face in his cloak, unable to bear the vision. Once a year the high priest could enter the holy of holies where rested God’s footstool, the Arc of the Covenant. The proper response to these thoughts is fear of God.

The Immaculate Conception, the Incarnation and Perpetual Virginity seem perfectly reasonable within this context, and applying a carnal interpretation to them seems unworthy of the magnitude of the Incarnation. Here, this great God placed himself in the natural order by actually developing within a woman’s body.

How much more intimate this setting than a mere conversation or sighting? And if a conversation with God requires so much reverence and preparation, how much more the physical and intimate contact with him? And if the container bearing a few relics upon which God rested his feet could not be touched or intruded upon, how much more the body within which God himself dwelt?

So while a passing glance at the Incarnation might seem to leave room for a carnal interpretation, especially in the present day, a little reflection cures that for me.

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