Virginity Defined

No, this is not a thread on when exactly virginity is lost (although that is an interesting issue I may bring up someday). I was wondering where the Church actually defined that Mary was a perpetual virgin. I am aware that she is thusly referred to by a Council or two, but is a passing title equivalent to an actual definition?

I also need more information on Matthew 1:25. The example I heard for years from apologists is where the Bible says Jesus will “reign until the end of time”. Yet there is a clear reason for saying the Bible saying that, because the end of time is an end of our “life choices”, so it makes sense that Jesus could still reign after then without contradicting that verse. But why did Matthew say Joseph did not consummate the marriage until Jesus was born? If it had said that they did consummate until He was conceived, that would make sense, because the virgin birth is clearly what is being protected by the verse. But why does verse 25 say “until she gave birth”?

It had been asserted by the Early Church Fathers since the beginning of the Church, so – in a sense – it didn’t require ‘definition’. Remember: councils don’t act proactively; they respond to controversies of the day. Since no one doubted Mary’s perpetual virginity, it wasn’t something that they had to address.

But why did Matthew say Joseph did not consummate the marriage until Jesus was born? If it had said that they did consummate until He was conceived, that would make sense, because the virgin birth is clearly what is being protected by the verse. But why does verse 25 say “until she gave birth”?

Recall that Matthew’s goal is to demonstrate that Jesus’ father wasn’t Joseph (or any other man), but rather, that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Today we can tell, with relative certainty, when conception takes place; moreover, we can easily enough determine paternity through a simple test. In those days, however, it wasn’t quite so easy. :wink:

So, Matthew picks a point at which there can be no dispute: if he asserts that there was no intercourse before Jesus was born, then no one can attempt any sort of argument about Jesus’ paternity. That is, if Jesus is already a newborn baby, no one can attempt to say, “well, his father really was this guy over here…”; Matthew has already blunted that argument by asserting Mary’s virginity through the birth of Jesus.

Ok, that answers Matthew. Thanks. But as to the first point, are you saying the Church may say someday (in maybe Un Unum Sint II) that Protestants becoming Catholic do not have to believe in Mary’s perpetual virginity?

Why would the Church allow the belief in an untruth?

Ecumenism has been (perhaps rightfully) leniant in not pushing non-infallible ideas on Protestants considering conversion

The Second Council of Constantinople (553) mentions “incarnate of the holy and glorious Mother of God and ever virgin Mary” (DS 422). John Paul II wrote “This doctrine is confirmed by two other Ecumenical Councils, the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) (DS 801) and the Second Council of Lyons (1274) (DS 852), and by the text of the definition of the dogma of the Assumption (1950) (DS 3903) in which Mary’s perpetual virginity is adopted as one of the reasons why she was taken up in body and soul to heavenly glory.”

Mary was mentioned as “ever virgin” merely in passing, as a title, not as the subject of the definition, however.

This idea that goes around that a generally accepted doctrine is dogma doesn’t seem to make sense though; what percent of the faithful equals “generally accepted”. Likewise with frequent teachings. How often is “frequently taught”. Without the guidelines we don’t know when the guidelines have been met.

A Catholic apologist wrote:

“Shortly after, St. Basil the Great (d, circa 380) accepted Mary’s perpetual virginity and claimed that it reflected the general sense of believers, though he did not consider it to be a dogma.”

Hmm, maybe the Pope should make a definition this Easter

Along with the other councils that have been mentioned in this thread, the one that comes closest to an actual definition is the Council of the Lateran, 649, convened by Pope Martin I, wherein it stated:

If anyone does not, according to the Holy Fathers, confess truly and properly that holy Mary, **ever virgin **and immaculate, is Mother of God, since in this latter age she conceived in true reality without human seed from the Holy Spirit, God the Word Himself, who before the ages was born of God the Father, and gave birth to Him without corruption, her virginity remaining equally inviolate after the birth, let him be condemned.

Source: campus.udayton.edu/mary/questions/faq/faq18.html

Mary as Mother of God is the dogma being defined here, but the true reality of Mary’s perpetual virginity is cited in the definition as one prerequisite truth that is used to formulate the understanding of Mary as the Mother of God (the use of the word “since” indicates proof). It is cited along with the Virgin Birth (conceived in true reality without human seed from the Holy Spirit…] and gave birth to Him without corruption), the Incarnation (conceived…] God the Word Himself), and the Trinity (who before all ages was born of God the Father).

I think “inviolate after the birth” just meant that that the birthing did not change the state of her virginity. The Catechism of Trent specifically says that the birth did not take her virginity

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