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Catholic Faith
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 Mary’s 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 Lady’s 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 Mary’s virginity was part of God’s 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 God’s 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 God.

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” (Canon 214).

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 Church’s magisterial teaching over the centuries has also always spoken of God in masculine terms.

  • The women’s 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, women’s liberation is simply part of the larger struggle for the eventual creation of a classless society.

  • Behind this feminizing of the Godhead is the deeper issue of liberation from Divine authority.

Catholic Faith
Vol. 2 - #2, Mar / Apr 1996

Copyright © 1996 by Inter Mirifica
No reproductions shall be made without prior written permission

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