Ask Father Hardon
Catholic Faith - Vol. 2 - #2, Mar / Apr 1996
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
Q. Mary's Perpetual Virginity - Did Our Lady vow perpetual virginity before she was
espoused to St. Joseph? T.H., Nebraska
A. It is the common teaching of the Church that Our Lady did vow
her virginity before she was espoused to St. Joseph. This is clearly implied
in Marys response to the angel at the Annunciation. The angel told her, You
shall conceive in your womb and bring forth a son, you shall call His name
Jesus. Our Ladys reply was a question, How shall this happen, since I do
not know man?
The Blessed Virgin, therefore, asked what she did because she had promised
God that she would remain a virgin.
We might also say that Marys virginity was part of Gods eternal plan. His
Divine Son was to become man, so He was conceived and born of a human mother;
but He had only one Father, the First Person of the Holy Trinity.
Q. Does justification come from faith alone? What do works have to do with justification? T.H., Nebraska
A. The expression, Justification from faith alone, has as many
meanings as there are different Protestant denominations. However, the Thirty-nine
articles of the Anglican Church provide one standard definition. It says,
We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and
Savior Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works and deservings. Wherefore,
that we are justified by Faith only, is a most wholesome Doctrine, and very
full of comfort (Article XI).
The term faith in the Protestant vocabulary means trust in Gods mercy
that a person is assured eternal salvation. This trust, so it
is claimed, is based on the belief in absolute predestination. Those will
be saved for whom Christ died on the cross. On these premises, there is no
place for good works, which we perform by cooperating with the grace of
Thus, according to Martin Luther, after the sin of our first parents, free
will is a term without meaning, and when it does what is in its power, it
sins mortally. In other words, fallen man has no free will. Good works, on
these terms, are a contradiction. Why? Because we have no free will to perform
good works in cooperation with Divine grace.
Q. When and how should the laity speak up when it comes to the liturgical, doctrinal, and
catechetical abuses of priests? May we write our bishops? B.M.A., Florida
A. The Code of Canon Law could not be clearer in expressing the rights
which the laity have to authentic teaching and guidance by their bishops and
priests. Among other provisions, the Code declares:
- All the Christian faithful have the duty and the right to work so that the
divine message of salvation may increasingly reach the whole of mankind in
every age and in every land (Canon 211).
- The Christian faithful are free to make known their needs, especially spiritual
ones, and their desires to the pastors of the Church (Canon 212 § 2).
- The Christian faithful have the right to receive assistance from the sacred
pastors out of the spiritual good of the Church, especially the word of God
and the sacraments (Canon 213).
- The Christian faithful have the right to worship God according to the prescriptions
of their own rite approved by legitimate pastors of the Church, and to follow
their own form of spiritual life consonant with the teaching of the Church
By now, volumes have been written in commentary on these prescriptions of
Canon Law. Never before in canonical history have the laity been given such
freedom and, in fact, responsibility to speak up and act on their justifiable
grievances against abuses by the clergy.
Q. Our parish priest said God is not a male and we should be able to pray "Our Mother
who art in heaven." How far can we go with seeing God as our mother? B.M.A., Florida
A. The feminist movement has deeply penetrated what were once authentically
Catholic circles. It is absolutely unwarranted and unjustified to address
God as Our Mother. There are several basic reasons for this prohibition.
- Sacred Scripture invariably and unqualifyingly speaks of God in the masculine gender.
- All the Churchs magisterial teaching over
the centuries has also always spoken of God in masculine terms.
- The womens liberation movement
wants to feminize God as a protest against what it calls the patriarchal domination in Christianity. Its roots go back to
Marxism. Thus Nikolai Lenin urged that the success of a revolution depends
upon the degree of participation by women. On these grounds, womens liberation
is simply part of the larger struggle for the eventual creation of a classless
- Behind this feminizing of the
Godhead is the deeper issue of liberation from Divine authority.
Vol. 2 - #2, Mar / Apr 1996
Copyright © 1996 by Inter Mirifica
No reproductions shall be made without prior written permission