Today, in the Kalendar of the Roman Catholic Church, is the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. I only have a dim idea of what this is about. I suppose it has something to do with Mary’s sinlessness. Fair enough. But in truth it is not her heart, immaculate or otherwise, which really concerns the RC Church. It is her vagina.
I recall an antiphone from the Roman liturgy: “After the birth of your child, Mary you remained a virgin”. This is a dubious proposal at best; but the real question is, ‘why does it matter?’ Why should anyone care if Mary had sex after the birth of Jesus? The Gospels, of course, speak of Christ’s brothers and sisters. The RC Church explains it away as a reference to cousins or somesuch. Maybe that is so, but why bother? Why does it matter?
Mary was married to Joseph. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “sexuality is ordered to the conjugal love of man and woman. In marriage the physical intimacy of spouses becomes a sign and pledge of spiritual communion.” [para 2360]. Why, after the birth of Jesus should Mary and Joseph have abstained from this “sign and pledge of spiritual communion”? Quoting the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution Gaudium et spes the Catechism asserts that “the acts in marriage by which the intimate and chaste union of the spouses takes place are noble and honorable.” and further that “sexuality is a source of joy and pleasure.” It quotes Pope Pius XII saying “the Creator himself … established that in the [generative] function, spouses should experience pleasure and enjoyment of body and spirit. Therefore, the spouses do nothing evil in seeking this pleasure and enjoyment. They accept what the Creator has intended for them.” [CCC para 2362].
So according to the official teaching of the RC Church, sex in marriage is not just permissible, but good, God’s will, a spiritual communion. So why is Mary’s perpetual virginity necessary? Or even right? Should she and Joseph not have “accept[ed] what the Creator … intended for them”?
In truth, of course, the dogma of mary’s perpetual virginity points to the reality of the RC Church’s teaching and praxis. Whatever Pius XII and Vatican II and the Catechism may say, sex is dirty. It is tolerated because, well, if married Catholics didn’t have sex, where would the next generation of priests come from, to say nothing of the laity to pay for them? But we all know that that is a concession to human weakness. Denying your sexuality is the higher good.
Thus Mary is the greatest human being ever, the closest to God, because she was Virgin and Mother, yes, but because she also remained a virgin. This is the example the Roman Catholic Church holds up to the faithful.
God became human. In Jesus he took on our humanity. But he did so, we are told, in the womb of a woman who denied a vital part of that humanity, and a part which is “noble and honorable”.
Of course it won’t wash. In stripping Mary of her humanity, the Catholic Church diminishes her. Far from becoming ‘most blessed amongst women’ she becomes a plaster statue in church, a focus for sexual neuroticism and heaven knows what else.
The Catholic Church has backed itself into a corner over human sexuality. And it’s approach to the Immaculate Vagina of Mary is a large part of that. So on this Feast of Our Lady, virgin mother, yes, I accept that; But true woman, true human being too; I ask her prayers that we may find and accept our true humanity, the humanity which God created and gave us, and which includes our sexuality, and rejoice in the good things God has given us.
Holy Mary, Theotokos, Woman of Flesh in which God delighted to dwell, Pray for us.