Choose a topic from Vol 5:

Awareness of God

Awareness of God

The Faith of Israel

The Faith of Israel

The Importance of Man

The Importance of Man

Origin of the Gospels

Origin of the Gospels

The Divine Redeemer

The Divine Redeemer

The Catholic Church

The Catholic Church

The Papacy

The Papacy

The Biblical Tradition

The Biblical Tradition

The Blessed Virgin Mary

The Blessed Virgin Mary

Liturgy and Sacraments

Liturgy and Sacraments

Moral Problems

Moral Problems

Final Realities

Final Realities

The Ecumenical Movement

The Problem of Disunity
Reactions Among Non-Catholics
Bewildered Catholics
Combined Unity Services
Mutual Bible Study
Prospects of Reunion

The Blessed Virgin Mary

342. The Lutheran Dr. Oscar Cullmann, an observer at the Vatican Council, expressed disappointment later that the Council had emphasised the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary beyond actual references to her in the Bible - to the detriment of the interests of reunion.

He added that the Council could not rightly be expected to avoid a declaration on a subject so intimately bound up with the Catholic religion. We could add that it was one of equal importance to the Eastern Orthodox Churches. As a matter of fact, while insisting that devotion to Mary should be highly esteemed, the Council warned Catholics against exaggerations which could give non-Catholics mistaken ideas concerning it; so much so that some Catholics accused the Council of watering down Catholic devotion in the interests of reunion - misgivings which were quite unjustified. The Council did not depart from the principle that the interests of reunion are best served, not by ignoring differences of outlook, but by stating them clearly and studying more deeply the reasons for them in the hope of reaching agreement on the problems to which they give rise.

343. Mary was declared "Mother of the Church." Did she become that by her presence with the Apostles on Pentecost Sunday (Acts, 1:14)?

We must go back much earlier than that. The Holy Spirit descended upon a Church already founded by Christ, of which He is the Head, the members of the Church becoming by the very fact members of Christ. St. Paul speaks of his filling up what is wanting to the sufferings of Christ "for His body, which is the Church" (Coloss., 1:24). A mother brings forth not only the head but the head and members of her child. By becoming Mother of Christ, Mary became Mother also of all who would become members of His body, the Church. In actual fact that occurred at the moment of the Incarnation; but in the plan of God her destiny to be that goes right back to the beginnings of the human race when, after the sin of our first mother Eve, God promised to put enmity between Satan and the woman and her posterity. Mary was the Second Eve, destined to undo the work of the first. As the first Eve listened to an evil spirit and disobeyed God to our ruin, so Mary listened to a good spirit, obeyed God, and brought forth Christ for our salvation, Christ making us His members within His body, which is the Church. Mary is, of course, herself a member of the Church and subject to Christ as the Head of the Church just as any others of its members. She herself owes her redemption to Christ. But within the Church, and on a different level, she has a role of such importance that all other members will find that, through her motherhood of Christ, she is their mother also.

344. What I want is proof that the Marian dogmas defined by the Catholic Church were not new inventions.

If the Catholic Church has defined any doctrine as a dogma or necessary article of faith, you can take it for granted that such a doctrine was at least implicitly contained in the apostolic deposit of the Faith handed down in the Church by means of Scripture and Tradition. As a matter of erudition, if one wishes, one may go to the further trouble of studying to find out how the Marian dogmas are contained in the apostolic deposit of the Faith. But that is not necessary, for the Church by her teaching-authority has made the truth clear to us independently of our own researches.

345. I have read a book saying that Roman Catholics believe "Mary was the child of an immaculate conception."

The author of the book did not understand the Catholic doctrine. He was thinking in terms of biology. But the Immaculate Conception of Mary had nothing whatever to do with biology. She was as much the child of an ordinary and natural conception biologically as any other normal child, her father and mother being traditionally known as Joachim and Anne. What Catholic doctrine holds is that, at the moment she was naturally conceived, God preserved her soul when He created it from contracting the original or inherited sin by which all other ordinary descendants of Adam and Eve are affected. In other words, her soul was constituted from the very beginning in a state of grace, and was therefore immaculate from the moment of her bodily conception. The doctrine, then, concerns her soul, not her body. It declares that her soul, in the spiritual and supernatural order, was by the grace of God preserved free from any taint even of original sin. Incidentally, if a person did not believe in the existence of inherited original sin at all, he would believe in the immaculate conception of everybody!

346. Do the angel's words to Mary: "Hail, full of grace" (Lk., 1:28) prove the dogma of the Immaculate Conception?

They certainly confirm that dogma although of themselves they could not be regarded as an adequate and explicitly biblical proof of it. More telling would be God's promise in Genesis 3:15, declaring that He would put enmity between Satan and the woman. The early Christian Fathers interpreted the promised woman as a new Eve, as sinless as Eve herself was before the first sin; and the Church has defined the doctrine that, through the anticipated merits of Christ's redemptive work, Mary's soul was preserved from the contagion of original sin. As grace is the opposite of sin, the angel's salutation of Mary as "full of grace" brought out the radical opposition - the "enmity" - between the promised woman and Satan. Never for a moment was Mary, the Mother of Christ, under the actual dominion of Satan, as she would have been had she at any time been subject to sin. The Anglican Dr. E. L. Mascall, at a London conference with Eastern Orthodox theologians in 1948 - the discussions being published later in a book entitled "The Mother of God" - declared his own firm belief in the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, saying that if Mary was to be a worthy dwelling-place for the Divine Word she would have to be pure in every respect, which includes freedom from original sin by a special intervention of the grace of God. And he drew from the Orthodox Professor G. Florovsky the admission that before Pope Pius IX defined the doctrine in 1854 a number of prominent Eastern Orthodox theologians had upheld the doctrine.

347. Is the Catholic translation of the Angel's salutation to Mary: "Hail, full of grace" accurate?

The Catholic Douay version gives the English rendering of St. Jerome's Latin Vulgate translation of the original Greek words "Chaire Kecharitomene." These words St. Jerome translated as "Ave, gratia plena." The same sense, "Hail, full of grace", is found also in ancient Syriac and Arabic translations of the New Testament. There are no reasons for doubting the accuracy of such a rendering of the Greek text.

348. The Protestant Authorised Version has: "Hail, thou that art highly favoured."

Literally, the Greek words may rightly be given that alternative translation, but it does not adequately convey the sense of the angel's salutation. Protestant commentators themselves recognise this, and explain the text as meaning "full of grace." Dummelow's Commentary (1950 edition) says of Lk., 1:28, "The angel recognised in Mary a holiness of a very special kind which God had given her to fit her to be the mother of the Holy One." The Anglican Bishop Gore, in "A New Commentary on Holy Scripture" (1928) explains the verse as meaning "highly favoured or endued with grace ('gratia plena'); that is, a preeminent example of divine favour." Dr. Lowther Clarke's "Concise Bible Commentary" (1952) says that the meaning is "full of grace." Mr. E. V. Rieu, in his Penguin edition of "The Four Gospels" (1952), translates Lk., 1:28 as "Greetings, lady of grace." Peake's "Revised New Commentary" (1962) says: "Mary is a recipient of God's grace in a supreme degree." The Catholic translation of the text as "Hail, full of grace" undoubtedly gives the true meaning of it.

349. Was not the Catholic translation an exaggeration to provide New Testament proof of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary?

That is an historically impossible supposition. St. Jerome wrote in 390 A.D. No one at that time had so much as thought of formulating the doctrine of Mary's Immaculate Conception. It is not contained explicitly in Scripture, nor is it mentioned in the writings of any-of the early Fathers. About the 6th century A.D. the liturgical Feast of Mary's Conception (without any reference to its having been an immaculate conception) was introduced, and from then onwards its observance gradually extended throughout both Eastern and Western Christendom. Between the 12th and the 15th centuries the question was raised and debated by theologians as to whether Mary had been preserved immaculate by a special grace when her own mother, St. Anne, had conceived her. From the 16th century onwards it had become the common belief throughout the whole of Catholic Christendom and certainly the majority opinion among members of the Eastern Orthodox Churches. In 1854 Pope Pius IX defined the doctrine as a dogma or Article of Faith, to be held by all Catholics as an integral part of divine revelation. It would, therefore, be an anachronism to suggest that St. Jerome in the 4th century adjusted his translation to support a developed doctrine of which he had never heard. He simply gave the actual sense of the Greek text by describing Mary as "gratia plena", or "full of grace."

350. The new English "Jerusalem Bible" translates Lk., 1:28 as "Rejoice, so highly favoured" instead of "Hail, full of grace."

In allowing that change the General Editor, Father Alexander Jones, permitted a departure from the magnificent French version, "La Sainte Bible", published by the "Ecole Biblique" in Jerusalem, a translation of which he claims to be making available to English readers. The French version has "comblee de grace"; that is, "crowned, laden, or filled with grace." Also, in 1965, a Catholic edition of the Protestant "Revised Standard Version" was published, with permission to make a few changes in it. One of these changes, for which the Catholic Biblical Association of Great Britain obtained authorisation, consisted of substituting "Hail, full of grace" for the Revised Standard Version's "O favoured one."

351. The English "Jerusalem Bible" explains in a footnote: '"So highly favoured', that is, as to become the Mother of the Messiah."

That is a quite inadequate explanation. It suggests that the favour granted to Mary was limited to the function she was to fulfil in the future, apart from any extraordinary grace already affecting her own soul even as the angel addressed her. But the Greek word "kecharitomene" denotes something which had already happened to her in the past and was still effective. So "La Sainte Bible", the French Jerusalem Bible, says in its footnote that the literal sense of the Greek is: "You who have been and have continued to be filled with grace." Undoubtedly the reason why she had been so sanctified was that she might become the Mother of the Messiah. But the angel saluted her as having been sanctified for the purpose he had come to announce to her. "Hail, full of grace" is an accurate and appropriate translation of the way in which the angel addressed her.

352. Does the new English "Jerusalem Bible's" translation, instead of "full of grace", remove a New Testament proof of Mary's Immaculate Conception?

The Catholic Church has never regarded the expression "full of grace" as explicit biblical proof of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. It proves only that Mary had a holiness of an entirely special kind conferred upon her by God to fit her to be the Mother of the Messiah, without saying when it had been bestowed upon her. The Church, therefore, holds that the words can be regarded as no more than a suggestion, not as proof, that she had such grace from the very moment of her conception. To arrive at the doctrine that her soul was preserved immaculate in and from the very moment when she was conceived one needs the assistance of other passages of Scripture, the developed later beliefs of the faithful, and the authoritative declarations of the Church. Still, one must agree that at least the suggestion of the doctrine of Mary's Immaculate Conception is much better brought out in the "full of grace" translation - originally adopted on quite other grounds - than in the "so highly favoured" which is offered us as an alternative rendering. "Hail, Mary, full of grace" will certainly retain its place among the prayers of Catholics.

353. Do not the Eastern Orthodox Churches reject the Roman Catholic doctrine?

The Eastern Orthodox Churches have never made any official pronouncement on the subject. Their members are quite free to accept it if they wish. Timothy Ware, in his book "The Orthodox Church" (1963) points out, on pp. 263-4, that the Orthodox Churches hold Mary to be "All-Holy" and "Immaculate" at least in the sense of her never having personally committed a sin of any kind. On the question as to whether she was also free from original or inherited sin, as the Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception maintains, he says that many orthodox theologians supported the doctrine before Pope Pius IX defined it in 1854, but not since then. To find some reason for rejecting it other than anti-papal prejudice, these theologians argue that the doctrine "seems to separate Mary from the rest of the descendants of Adam." But the Protestant theologian Max Thurian, in his recent book "Mary, Mother of the Lord and Figure of the Church" (1963), points out that Christ, as both truly God and truly man, was undoubtedly immaculate, and that if this did not separate Him as regards His human nature from the rest of the descendants of our first parents, neither could Mary's immaculate conception which belonged to the purely supernatural order separate her from the rest of the descendants of Adam. This Calvinist theologian has rightly solved the difficulty advanced by some of the Orthodox theologians to justify their rejection of the doctrine defined by Pope Pius IX in 1854.

354. Mary showed her own attitude by saying: "My soul has rejoiced in God my Saviour." Lk., 1:47.

She continues in verse 48: "From henceforth all generations shall call me blessed," showing our attitude towards her; and in verse 49: "For He that is mighty has done great things to me," giving the reason both for her attitude and our own. In her was fulfilled God's promise (Gen., 3:15), made when the first sin was committed: "I will put enmity between thee (Satan) and the woman." Mary was the promised second Eve with whom Satan is in radical opposition, so that she was never subject to him by the slavery of sin. The New Testament opens with the same assurance, the angel saluting Mary as "full of grace." We ourselves are purified from sin after our birth by our baptism. It was different with Jeremiah the prophet to whom God said: "Before thou earnest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee." Jer., 1:5. The soul of Mary, however, at the moment of her conception, not between her conception and birth, was filled with the redeeming grace of Christ, so that she was never subject to the dominion of sin.

355. The word "Saviour" indicates a need of being redeemed from sin.

It does; but as the Anglican theologian Dr. H. S. Box says in "The Blessed Virgin Mary" (1963) p. 78: "A person may be redeemed in either of two ways: by being cleansed from sin after being stained by it; or by being kept free from it altogether." There is of course only one Redeemer. Acts 4:12 tells us "there is no other name under heaven given to men whereby we must be saved" than that of Jesus Christ. Every grace given to men from the moment of Adam's sin, therefore, was derived from Christ, operating retroactively in previous ages. Abraham, Moses, and all others in Old Testament times owed such graces as they received to Him; and but for the grace of Christ Mary would have been subject to the dominion of sin. She owed to Him her more perfect form of redemption by prevention rather than by subsequent cleansing from sin. No wonder she rejoiced in God her Saviour who had done such great things for her, to render her a worthy dwelling place for the Word of God Incarnate.

356. Romans 3:23 says: "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."

Catholic doctrine holds that those words apply to Mary in the sense that she, with all other human beings naturally descended from Adam and Eve, is the child of a guilty human race, and therefore was in need of redemption. That excludes any conflict of Catholic teaching with St. Paul's words. Mary knew, of course, that she owed her privilege (which theology describes as "redemption by prevention") to God, and in her "Magnificat" acknowledged the fact, saying: "My spirit has rejoiced in God my Saviour." Lk., 1:47. The Anglican writer G. D. Carleton puts things well in his book "Mother of Jesus" (1957) pp. 8-9 by saying that, while Mary was not exempted from the need of redemption, "she was saved through the foreseen merits of Christ's death. She is the most wonderful of all fruits of the redemptive grace of Christ. She, who is entirely immune from the power of sin, is she who most singularly is saved."

357. What is the basis for the Catholic doctrine that Mary was and ever remained a virgin?

The evidence is found both in Sacred Scripture and in the authentic Christian tradition embodied in the writings of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church. Briefly, from the biblical point of view, the Church finds the doctrine of the virginity of Mary, despite her motherhood, in the old Testament prophecy of Isaiah: "Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel" (Is., 7:14); in Mary's own words to the angel Gabriel: "How shall this be done, for I know not man," the angel replying that the power of the Holy Spirit would be responsible for the conception of the child to be born of her (Lk., 1:34-35); and in the words of the angel, reassuring St. Joseph: "That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit" (Matt., 1:18).

358. How was the conception of her child caused?

When Mary was told by the angel that she was to become the mother of a child to be called Jesus, she expressed her astonishment precisely because she had neither had nor contemplated having procreative relations with any man; whereupon the angel reassured her that "the power of the Most High" would alone be responsible for the origin of the child she was to bear, adding that nothing is "impossible" that God wills to do. God simply willed that she should be with child and that is all there was to it; just as, in the beginning of time, His creative "fiat" was enough, He having but to will "Let there be light," and "there was light." Gen., 1:3. One of God's attributes is that He is omnipotent, capable of doing things beyond the scope of ordinary natural laws and causing events we describe as miraculous occurrences.

359. I have read that "parthenogenesis" or the production of offspring without male fertilisation does occur naturally among some lower forms of life.

That is true; and some have accordingly proposed the theory that it might be possible some day to cause a woman by artificial means to have a child independently of fertilisation by any male agency. But there is an immense gap between theory and practical likelihood. Dr. E. C. Messenger, in his book "The Mystery of Sex and Marriage", after a close study of this subject, writes: "As yet, apart from the Incarnation (i.e., the conception and birth of Christ) no human being has ever come into existence without a human father. And in spite of modern researches, it seems unlikely that any such event will ever take place."

360. Some New Testament translations of Matt., 1:23 make him quote Isaiah 7:14, not as "a virgin shall be with child", but as "a young woman shall be with child".

Isaiah, writing in Hebrew, used the word "almah", meaning just a "young woman" who might or might not be a virgin, instead of the Hebrew word "bethulah" which meant a virgin in the strict sense. Since Isaiah went on to say that the "almah" would have a child to be called "Emmanuel" (or "God-with-us"), the word "bethulah", which excludes the idea of child-bearing, he would have thought inappropriate.

361. Were not the early Fathers responsible for the translation being "virgin", and not "young woman"?

They accepted that translation, but did not invent it. They were unanimous in holding that the prediction of "Emmanuel" or "God-with-us" referred to Christ. Knowing as a fact of Christian revelation that He was born of a virgin mother, they interpreted the prophecy of Isaiah accordingly, saying that the "almah" of whom he spoke must have been intended in the sense of "virgin" - a sense the word could have in the Hebrew language. By itself, the word "almah" does not settle the question; but if one knew from other sources that the girl referred to was a virgin, "almah" would rightly be translated as "virgin." The New Testament context justifies that translation. Quite recently an outstanding Hebrew scholar, a Protestant, Dr. E. J. Young, published a book called "Studies in Isaiah" (1954). In it he insists that "virgin" is the best possible translation of "almah"; and the Protestant "British Weekly", March 17, 1955, when reviewing the book, said "no one can afford to neglect Dr. Young's discussion of the subject and the conclusion at which he has arrived."

362. If Isaiah wrote in Hebrew "almah" or "young woman", Matthew in quoting him would have written "young woman", not "virgin".

Our present translations are those of St. Matthew's Greek gospel. His quotation is from the Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew made by the Jews at Alexandria over a century before the Christian era. These Greek-speaking Jews translated the Hebrew word "almah", not by the Greek word "neanis" meaning a young woman in general, but by the Greek word "parthenos" meaning "virgin." St. Matthew's use of the Greek word "parthenos" or virgin was due, therefore, to his quoting, not the Hebrew original of Isaiah, but the Greek translations made by the Jews of Alexandria.

363. Did not Papias, Bishop of Hierapolis in Asia Minor about 130 A.D. say that Matthew originally wrote his gospel in Hebrew?

Papias said that Matthew originally wrote in Hebrew a collection of the "logia" or sayings of Jesus. Most scholars hold that he wrote in Hebrew only a collection of Our Lord's sayings, not a complete gospel recording His life and activities. In that case, the first chapters of the Greek Matthew would not have been in it. This is a question which can never be settled, for the Hebrew manuscript of St. Matthew has long since perished and there is no copy of it in existence. Anyone who claims to know what words St. Matthew used in his Hebrew gospel is saying what he does not and cannot know to be true. In any case, it would not matter, granted that he wrote earlier in Hebrew the first chapter we have in the later Greek Matthew, whether he used the Hebrew word "bethulah" meaning virgin in the strict sense, or "almah" meaning a young woman who could have well been a virgin as not.

364. How do you explain Matt., 1:25 which says that Joseph "knew her not till she brought forth her first-born son"?

St. Jerome, the great biblical scholar of the fourth century, dealt even then with that problem. He pointed out that St. Matthew intended only to show that Joseph had nothing whatever to do with the conception of Jesus, not so much as thinking of anything beyond that. He quoted Hebrew instances where the expression "till" had no necessary reference to the future at all, as when we read in Genesis 8:7 that "the dove went forth from the ark and did not return till the waters dried up." That did not mean that the dove returned after the waters dried up. The dove did not return at all, having found resting places. Protestant biblical scholars give the same explanation as St. Jerome. Thus the Protestant Clarendon Bible Commentary says: "Matthew is entirely concerned with the virgin character of Mary at the time of the birth of Jesus. These words cannot be taken to imply that it (her virginity) was not afterwards preserved." The Protestant "New Commentary on Holy Scripture" says that Matt., 1:25 "is simply intended to make it clear that our Lord was not Joseph's son, and not to give any further information." Lowther Clarke's "Concise Bible Commentary," also Protestant, says that "he knew her not till" can mean "and afterwards too" he knew her not. Nor does the expression: "She brought forth her first-born son" imply that there were other children afterwards. Thus Exodus says: "Every first-born child shall be sanctified unto God." Parents had not to wait to see if other children were born before they could call their first their first-born. Any child of a woman who had not previously had a child would be her "first-born" whether any later ones were born or not.

365. But were not later children born of Mary? In Mark 6:3 we read concerning Jesus: "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?"

There is one tell-tale phrase there which is really enough to settle the question. It was quite against Jewish custom to refer to a man according to the name of his mother rather than according to the name of his father. Thus, in Matthew 16:17 Jesus addressed Peter as "Simon, son of Jona." Even Renan, the French rationalist, who first argued that Mary had other children besides Jesus, abandoned that opinion later owing to this reference in Mark 6:3 to Jesus as "the son of Mary." "Such appellations," he wrote, "are employed only when the father is no longer alive and the widow has no other son." Moreover, Mk., 6:3 speaks of Jesus as "the son of Mary," then adding "and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon," not including these as also sons of Mary but obviously regarding them as brethren in a broader and more general sense than a literal one. Elsewhere these so-called brethren are depicted as older kindred critical of one younger than themselves, not as a first-born who would be older. Again, Lk., 2:41-52 speaks of Mary and Joseph going to Jerusalem with the child Jesus, giving not the slightest hint of any other children. But apart from all this there is an insuperable difficulty against taking references to the brethren of Jesus in the literal sense. When Jesus was dying on the cross He confided His mother to the care of John, the son of Zebedee (Jn., 19:26). If Mary had several other children to care for her, they would have had the duty of providing for her. Jesus, who had been so insistent on the obligation of children to their parents (Matt., 15:4), would never have dreamed of dispensing them from that commandment; and to break up a family would have been the last thing He would have thought of doing. Finally, the tradition of Mary's perpetual virginity could not have become current in the Church, as it did almost within the lifetime of her contemporaries, if it were known to all that she had other children, living, some of whom were prominent among the leaders of the Church, such as "James, the brother of the Lord" (Gal., 1:19). Scripture and the authoritative teaching of the Catholic Church alike require our insistence that Mary had but one child, Jesus, and no others.

366. What was the relationship to Jesus of those called his "brethren" in the New Testament?

Among the Jews the term had a very wide meaning. It could stand for relatives in general, in any degrees of kindred. In Hebrew there was no word for cousins, who were simply called brethren. Acquaintances and fellow-villagers would know when the word was or was not intended in the strictly literal sense that we are inclined at first sight to read into it. In 1963, the Rev. Max Thurian, a French Calvinist writing for Protestants, published a book called "Mary, Mother of the Lord." In it, pp. 38-39, he says that no argument can be drawn from New Testament references to James and Joseph, Simon and Jude as "brethren" of Jesus since, according to Jewish ways of speaking, they could simply have been cousins; and he points out that St. Matthew, 27:56, indicates James and Joseph as sons, not of Mary, the mother of Jesus, but of a different mother. He says that Protestant ideas on this subject are due to loyalty to entrenched positions of the Churches of their birth, not to sound biblical interpretation. He adds that if they hold the first Reformers, Martin Luther and John Calvin, were faithful to the Bible, they will find it difficult to explain why they do not still follow Luther and Calvin. On. p. 29 he quotes Luther's words: "Mary was a virgin before the birth of Christ and remained a virgin after it." Calvin he quotes as saying: "According to the custom of the Hebrews all relatives were called 'brethren'. There are certain strange people who want to suggest that the Virgin Mary had other children. What folly this is!"

367. Is the Catholic Church likely some day to settle this difficulty, which has caused so much controversy during the past four centuries?

The Second General Council of Constantinople in 553 A.D. defined as an Article of Faith that Mary remained ever a virgin. That excluded her having, after the virgin birth of Christ Himself, any other children. That definition was accepted throughout the whole of Christendom, both East and West. The Eastern Orthodox Churches today - although separated from the Catholic Church now as they were not then - adhere as firmly to this doctrine as do all Catholics. In 1779 A.D. Pope Pius VI issued a special condemnation of the opinion expressed by some that Isaiah 7:14, as quoted in Matt. 1:23, contained no real reference of any kind to the virgin birth of Christ. All scripture scholars, however, agree that if one ignores New Testament teaching, no conclusive argument for the virgin birth of Christ can be based on Isaiah 7:14. This has great importance. It used to be suggested that Isaiah 7:14 gave rise to the doctrine of Mary's virginity. But the opposite is the case. There is no evidence that the text in Isaiah had ever been understood by the Jews as predicting a virgin-born Messiah. Only the fact of the virgin birth of Christ as recorded in the New Testament carries the evangelist's mind back to the text in Isaiah, enabling him to realise its prophetic significance. Here we have a case exemplifying St. Augustine's saying that the New Testament is latent in the Old Testament; the Old Testament becomes patent in the New.

368. The Catholic Church declares Mary to be the "Mother of God". Since God is the Creator of all things and Mary but a creature, how can that be?

Mary certainly cannot be the Mother of God in the sense that she, a mere creature made by Him, gave His very existence to Him as her Creator! Clearly, there must be another aspect of this problem than the one you have in mind. It is this. When Mary conceived under the influence of the Holy Spirit, she provided a human nature which the eternal and pre-existing Son of God, who is equally God with the Father and the Holy Spirit made His own. As a result, the Child born of Mary was both God and man. That is what we mean by the doctrine of the Incarnation. Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, was therefore both truly God and truly man, one Divine Person existing in two natures, the Uncreated Divine Nature and a created human nature. In the early centuries of the Church, however, there arose some opponents of this doctrine who declared that Christ was only a man and not at the same time God, thus denying the Divinity of Christ. The Church, to safeguard the truth about Christ, defined at the Council of Ephesus, 431 A.D., something about His Mother, namely, that Mary is the "Mother of God." In other words, the Child born of her was not merely an ordinary child, but was God Incarnate, dwelling among the mankind He had come to redeem. St. Thomas the apostle rightly, therefore, addressed Christ as "my Lord and my God" (Jn., 20:28) and we rightly declare Mary, the Mother of Christ, to be the "Mother of God;" meaning, of course, the Mother of "God-as-incarnate" or "as made man." The definition of the doctrine made clear to those who had genuine faith in Christ what that faith implied. Christians generally have not found this doctrine a problem but have quite well understood the sense intended.

369. Catholics say that Mary was sinless during her whole life and even unable to sin. Surely that can be said of only one member of the human race, Christ Himself.

Christ, as simultaneously God and man, was the only one unable to sin by the very nature of things, owing to His Divinity. Mary, not being God in human form, could not in that way be incapable of sin. But this would not exclude a sinlessness dependent upon an extraordinary privilege due to altogether special graces conferred upon her by God. The Anglican Rev. George D. Carleton, in his book "The Mother of Jesus" (1957), p. 7, rightly says: "The Church everywhere has believed and asserted the actual sinlessness of Mary in deed, word, thought and desire, and the complete fulfilment by her of the divine will throughout her whole life."

370. Could even God without depriving one of freewill, make it impossible for any normal human being to sin?

Not according to the ordinary laws of divine providence for one is still in a state of probation in this world and not yet confirmed in grace by the Beatific Vision of God in heaven. In Mary's case, it was an altogether special and exceptional providence of God, in keeping with her unique office as the Mother through whom, to use St. John's words, "God so loved the world as to give His only-begotten Son." Jn., 3:15. An overwhelming influence of divine grace made it impossible for Mary, in exercising her free will, to choose evil of any kind rather than what was good and pleasing to God. We must keep in mind also what the motherhood of Jesus meant to her. His long and intimate association with her from the moment of her having conceived Him and throughout the years after His birth must have had a sanctifying influence upon her beyond estimate.

371. In her "Magnificat" Mary spoke of her humility, a virtue which is lost the moment one speaks self-consciously of possessing it.

Strictly speaking, Mary's reference to humility concerned, not the virtue of humility, but her insignificance and lowliness as a mere creature in the presence of her Creator, as when we speak metaphorically of a humble home or dwelling. All the same, she went on to speak of the mighty and the proud who would be brought low and "sent empty away" (Lk., 1:53). She was certainly aware that she was not among those proud ones and that she did possess the virtue of humility. Even that virtue, however, as all her other virtues, she regarded as God's gift for which she took no credit and in which she found no reason for self-complacency. She was not "proud" of her "humility", which would indeed be a contradiction in terms. All that God had done for her remained ever in her eyes an undeserved generosity towards her on His part.

372. But why had Mary to be sinless?

Basically, the reason for that is found in her relationship to Christ and to His Church. The Presbyterian Pastor Max Thurian says in his book "Mary, Mother of the Lord, Figure of the Church" (1963) p. 24, that Mary's sanctity is that of the Church which we proclaim holy as the mystical body of Christ. Our Lord's purpose, St. Paul tells us, Eph., 5:27, is "that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." That applies to Mary, for she, Mother of Christ, is Mother of both Head and members of His Mystical Body the Church. "Mary, full of grace, is holy," writes Pastor Thurian, "because in her the Gospel sees the living sign of a unique and predestined choice of the Lord, the response of faith from a perfectly human creature but one who was also totally obedient." That tribute has additional significance as coming from a Protestant biblical scholar.

373. Pope Pius XII defined the Assumption of Mary into Heaven only in 1950, which means that Catholics were free not to believe in it during thousands of years previously.

That does not follow. For over a thousand years before the dogmatic definition the ordinary teaching-authority of the Church had proclaimed the truth of the doctrine. In 1054 A.D., when the Eastern Orthodox Churches became separated from Rome, they retained the doctrine which was even then universally held throughout Christendom. Timothy Ware, in his book "The Orthodox Church", p. 264, says: "Orthodoxy firmly believes in Mary's bodily assumption, though without proclaiming it a dogma." That was the position in the whole of the Western Church also, until Pope Pius XII defined it as an Article of Faith in 1950. It had long been the unanimous teaching of all Catholic bishops. It was part of the Church's Liturgy, and the Feast of the Assumption, August 15, had long been a Holy Day of obligation. No instructed Catholic would have felt free in conscience to doubt the truth of the Assumption, thus repudiating the ordinary teaching-authority of the Church. This ordinary teaching-authority was confirmed by the extraordinary authority attaching to an infallible Papal Definition when, in 1950, Pope Pius XII proclaimed the doctrine as a dogma of the Faith. Although not expressly mentioned in Scripture, the doctrine is certainly involved in the revealed facts of Mary's intimate association with Christ, our Lord and Saviour, from His birth into this world through to His ascension from it into the Heaven from which He came.

374. Surely something important enough to be defined as a dogma or explicit Article of Faith should have been dealt with much earlier.

The importance of a doctrine does not of itself make it important that it should be defined at an earlier rather than at a later period. All Catholics at all times have had exactly the same faith in the sense of professing the general formula: "I believe in the Holy Catholic Church and in all that she believes and teaches." Later generations who attain to a more developed knowledge of the contents of the Faith simply believe explicitly what earlier generations believed implicitly. Earlier generations would say to us: "You know more clearly what the Catholic Faith requires of all who press it than we did; and, of course, that being the Catholic Faith, it is the Faith we ourselves professed although we were not so well-informed about it as you have the good fortune to be." However, as a matter of fact, the doctrine of the Assumption of Mary had already been known as quite certain Catholic teaching for over a thousand years before Pope Pius XII confirmed it infallibly by his solemn dogmatic definition in 1950.

375. Why precisely in 1950 did Pius XII decide to define the doctrine as a dogma?

The proclamation of the dogma of the Assumption had many important aspects, not precisely for the particular year 1950, but for our own times. Following upon two world wars, in which men forgot they were the children of the same heavenly Father, it directed our thoughts to our eternal destiny with Him, and to the supremacy of spiritual values. It reaffirmed the claims of faith upon us, as contrasted with an unbelieving rationalism and secularism. It exemplified the power given by our Lord to St. Peter who still speaks to us through his successors. And it strengthens our belief in the resurrection of the body, assuring us with the infallibility of divine revelation that Mary, both body and soul, is already glorified in Heaven. That what we hope to be true some day for ourselves is even now true of her is a pledge of grace and peace amid all the problems and anxieties confronting us in this world.

376. Respect for Mary is one thing; devotion to her and making her part of one's worship quite another. God Himself says, in Isaiah 42:8 "I am the Lord; I will not give my glory to another".

Isaiah himself completes the verse in a typical Hebrew parallelism: "Neither my praise to graven images." It should be obvious that God is forbidding the worship of pagan idols. But elsewhere God declares that He does give His glory to those who, in, with and through Christ, give themselves to Him. Thus Christ, in His prayer to His Father said of His disciples: "The glory you have given to me, I have given to them." Jn., 17:22. And St. Paul wrote to the

377. I was astonished to read in our "Daily Telegraph's" report of proceedings at the Vatican Council that the Polish Archbishop Gawlina said: "Even the founder of Protestantism composed several devotional works on the Mother of God".

That was in 1964, during the Third Session of the Council. The Archbishop quoted from Martin Luther's treatise on the "Magnificat," written in 1521. In it, Luther wrote: "We are able to learn there the true honour with which we venerate and serve Mary. How are we to address her? Consider her words and she will teach you what to say: 'O Blessed Virgin and Mother of God, how have you been able to be considered as nothing and disdained as of little consequence, seeing that God has none the less regarded you with all His grace and all His riches, and accomplished in you such mighty things! . . . What can please Mary more than that you should come to God through her, and from her learn to believe and hope in God?" The Calvinist Pastor Max Thurian, who was an observer at the Council, published during it in 1963 his book on "Mary, the Mother of the Lord." In it, p. 7, he wrote: "Through fear and contrariness, Protestants have not dared to meditate freely on what the Gospel tells us about the Mother of the Lord. Because she played a distinguished part in the Incarnation of the Son of God, it is theologically essential and spiritually profitable to consider the vocation of Mary . . . giving to her her rightful place in our devotions." He went on to quote Luther's sermon on Christmas Day, 1529: "Mary is the Mother of Jesus, and the Mother of us all. If Christ is ours, all that He has must be ours also; and His Mother, therefore, is also our Mother." Pastor Thurian maintains that it would be a big step forward towards reunion if only modern Protestants would go back to the teachings of Martin Luther on devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

378. Is there any evidence that the Catholic Church ever taught or permitted adoration of the Virgin Mary?

None at all. The Waldensian Professor John Miegge, a Protestant with no liking at all for devotion to Mary, says, on p. 179 of his book "The Virgin Mary" (1955) that in Roman Catholic teaching "Mary is not a divine person but continues exclusively and completely human. The Catholic theologians from Epiphanius to Thomas Aquinas and our contemporary Mariologists are quite unanimous on this point." He points out that Thomas Aquinas (who lived three centuries before the Reformation) taught clearly in his "Summa Theologica," Part 3, Q. 25, Art. 5, that since Mary is "purely a creature" and not God, adoration cannot be given to her. In a preface to Miegge's book, the Congregationalist Dr. Nathanael Micklem says: "It will not do to brush the whole movement aside with the contemptuous word 'idolatry'." London's Anglican "Church Times," reviewing the book, regarded it as a good antidote to a "barren Protestantism which so often regards Our Lady as simply 'a dead Roman Catholic'." And it is not without significance that the Lund 1950 Conference of Protestant Churches on "Faith and Order" included discussions on "Mariology" (the theology of Mary), not on "Mariolatry" (the adoration of Mary) - the latter reflecting a polemical bias of bygone ages.

379. All the same, Catholic children are taught that Mary is their heavenly Mother.

Our filial attitude towards Mary is more than justified by the words of Christ when dying on the cross, directing the attention of St. John the disciple as representative of all of us to Mary, saying: "Behold thy mother." Jn. 19:27. She associates her intercession with the redemptive work of Christ in which she shared, and in heaven she is interested in all whom He died to redeem. We rightly, therefore, ask a place in her prayers. She is part of God's provision for our needs and to neglect her is to deprive ourselves of very great helps towards that most important of all things in the end, the saving of our souls.

380. The Bible says there is "one mediator between God and men . . . Christ Jesus". 1 Tim., 2:5.

Christ is indeed the one principal Mediator. But the doctrine that there are many secondary mediators as well as the principal Mediator is quite biblical. And this applies not only to those in this life. Our Lord told the Jews not to think of Abraham as dead, but as living. God "is not the God of the dead," He said, "but of the living" (Matt., 22:32); and He declared: "Abraham rejoiced to see my day" (Jn., 8:56). In 2 Machabees. 15:14 we find Onias the High Priest saying to the people that Jeremiah the prophet "is a lover of his brethren and of the people of Israel: this is he that prayeth much for the people and for all the holy city." Onias lived in the second century B.C.: Jeremiah four centuries earlier! As for Mary, our Lord wrought His first miracle by changing water into wine during the wedding feast at Cana, in Galilee, through her intercession (Jn., 2:3); and she has not less interest in us, less charity towards us, and less power of intercession for us, because she is now in heaven.

381. On what is belief in Mary's intercessory power based?

The Catholic Church, as does the Eastern Orthodox Church, bases her teaching in this matter on Holy Scripture, apostolic tradition, and Christian common sense. Mary's intercession for us is, of course, included in the doctrine of the intercession of saints in general. The basic principle governing this is the New Testament teaching that the Church is the Body of Christ and that we, members of that Body, are members of one another. We can, therefore, pray for one another and ask one another's prayers. If we cannot ask the saints in heaven (including Mary, the Mother of Christ) to pray for us, then we cannot ask anybody to pray for us. Yet St. Paul regularly asked others to pray for him; e.g., "Brethren, I beseech . . . your prayers to God for me" (Rom., 15:30); "Brethren, pray for us" (I Thess., 5:25). Heb., 12:1 tells us, for our encouragement, that we are "compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses" - a heavenly throng of angels and saints aware of our difficulties, interested in us, and (surely) to whom we can pray. The Congregationalist biblical scholar, Dr. C. H. Dodd, in his "New Testament Studies", has a chapter on "The Communion of Saints." Quoting Hebrews 12:22-23, he explains that we are not only members of the household of the faith on earth but also of the heavenly Jerusalem, of innumerable hosts of angels and saints, and of the spirits of just men made perfect. So we live within the family of God which is not of this world only but exists as militant on earth and triumphant in heaven. We can, therefore, ask the prayers of other members of the family, the saints in heaven (including Mary, the Mother of Christ) on our behalf.

382. Jesus Himself said: "No man cometh to the Father but by Me". Jn., 14:6.

That always remains true; for we are the "Body of Christ" (I Cor., 12:27), of which He is the Head and we the members (Eph., 5: 23, 30). Every spiritual activity of the members for one another, whether in heaven or on earth, has its efficacy only through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is the way, the truth and the life, and through whom alone as principal Mediator and Advocate, we have access to the Father, the mutual prayers of the members of Christ for one another being blended secondarily and subordinate^ with His intercession for us as the one principal Mediator. Difficulties in this matter arise from inadequate ideas of the New Testament doctrines of Christ living in His members and that of communion of saints which contributes towards "the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Eph., 4:13) who, Head and Body, is, as St. Augustine put it, "the whole Christ."

383. At the wedding in Cana, Mary's attempt at intercession met with the response from Jesus: "Woman, what have I to do with you? My hour is not yet come". Jn., 2:4.

Those words have not the significance they may at first sight seem to have. Mary had said to Jesus: "They have no wine." She was moved by the host's embarrassment over insufficient provision for guests. Our Lord's reply to her was most mysterious. The text in Greak means literally: "Woman, what to me and to you?" The term "woman", as the Anglican Archbishop Temple points out in his "Readings in St. John's Gospel," implies no disrespect, which would be opposed to the commandment: "Honour thy father and thy mother." It was with immense love that Christ, dying on the cross, used the same expression when confiding His mother to the care of St. John, saying: "Woman, behold your son." Jn., 19:26. In English, the Archbishop notes, the term "woman" sounds repellent; but not so in Greek. Also, our Lord's words were not a refusal. Mary knew they were not, and at once said to the servants: "Do whatever He tells you." What, then, did our Lord mean? I have said His reply was mysterious. It was; profoundly so. Take His words: "What have I to do with you?" They could be rendered: "What are the relationships between us?" The key to the meaning is to be found in the very purpose of St. John's gospel, and the key to that purpose is found in its opening verse: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." The overriding purpose of St. John's gospel was to stress the Divinity of Christ, and Mary did not give Him that Divinity. She indeed brought forth Christ as a Person who was both God and man; but it was the created human nature only that Mary, in the strict sense of the word, had provided. In the present case, Mary was asking for a miracle, a manifestation of Divine Power, in the granting of which He would be acting in virtue of His Divine Nature as the Son of God, not in virtue of the created human nature by which He was her son. It was because He would be acting in the former and not in the latter capacity that He added that His "hour had not yet come" - at least for the full revelation of His salvific mission which would involve His passion, death and resurrection. However, as Dr. C. H. Dodd explains in "The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel," p. 365, any moment in which Christ gave a sign of His divine functions could at least in some sense be called His destined "hour;" and His Father willed that He should grant a preliminary and partial manifestation of His divinity and glory by performing the first miracle of His public life in response to Mary's request. By it, Jesus manifested the glory of His divinity, not only confirming the faith of His disciples, but also the belief of both the Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox Churches in Mary's intercessory power.

384. Surely the Dogma that Mary is "the mediatrix of all graces" goes too far.

That doctrine has not yet been defined by the Church as a dogma; but it is not just an optional pious opinion. As Mother of the Redeemer, Mary certainly had a special part in the mystery of redemption. Our Lord alone, of course, paid the price of our redemption on Calvary; but that the redeeming graces due to that are mediated to us through Mary so reflects the belief of Catholics everywhere, the considered verdict of Catholic theologians and the declarations of Popes and Bishops on the subject that, even though not yet technically defined as a dogma, i t must be regarded as the accepted Catholic doctrine and the safe and common teaching of the Church. This does not mean that we have to ask for every grace expressly through Mary's intervention or intercession. Whether we do so or not, every grace will in fact come to us from Christ through her as a secondary and subordinate channel of His redemptive influence in our lives. What we are really acknowledging is the place God gave her in His plan of salvation. As both sexes co-operated in our downfall, Adam and Eve, both sexes co-operate in our restoration by grace, Jesus and Mary; and we go to God as He came to us, through Mary. The doctrine of itself in no way gives rise to excesses in the practice of a multitude of devotions to Mary, but rather to a general awareness of our own indebtedness to her subordinately to, but in, with and through our one Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

385. Why did the Vatican Council make no reference to the rosary, the most popular of Roman Catholic devotions to Mary?

The Council regarded it as its duty to set out clearly Mary's place in the Christian religion. Its document on Mary is entitled: "The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, in the Mystery of Christ and the Church." It concerned itself with what divine revelation has to say about Mary's role in God's plan of salvation as indicated in both the Old and New Testaments, and as involving her relationships with Christ and His mystical body, the Church. This approach provided the theological foundation for the esteem in which Mary is held by Catholics. As regards devotions to her, the Council contented itself with saying: "The various forms of piety towards the Mother of God which the Church has approved within the limits of sound and orthodox doctrine" should be "generously fostered" and "highly esteemed." Undoubtedly, one such form of piety is to be found in the recitation of the rosary. Pope John XXIII, in his "Journal of a Soul", notes that never on any day did he omit saying the full fifteen decades of his rosary. The most remarkable tribute I have found to the beauty and value of the rosary was, strangely enough, written by the Anglican theologian, Dr. Austin Farrer. In his book "Lord, I Believe," (1955) p. 68, he says "If I had been asked two dozen years ago for an example of what Christ forbade when He said 'Use not vain repetitions', I should very likely have referred to the fingering of beads. But now if I wished to name a special sort of private devotion most likely to be of general profit, prayer on the beads is what I should name. Since my previous opinion was based on ignorance and my present opinion is based on experience I am not ashamed of changing my mind." He adds that "the use of the rosary" should be taught to children. On p. 69 he writes: "A rosary comes into our hands. Whenever we are doing nothing else, we can use it. We do not have to find a subject on which to fix our meditation, for the devotion of the rosary supplies us with a chain of scenes impossible to forget . . . scenes so well chosen that everything in heaven or on earth crowds into them. If I follow the fifteen scenes or mysteries of the rosary I shall stick to the beaten track; and I am unlikely to quarrel with the beatenness of it, when I consider whose feet have trodden it." No Catholic could put things better than in those final words of Dr. Austin Farrer.

386. Are Catholics obliged to believe in the apparitions and messages attributed to the Virgin Mary in 1858 by St. Bernadette at Lourdes, in France?

Not by any act of faith in the same way as they are obliged to believe in the truths revealed by Christ and the Apostles, and which the Church is divinely-commissioned to safeguard and preach to all mankind. So the Church speaks of the "apostolic deposit" of the Faith and of the truths it contained as constituting "public revelation", which concluded with the death of St. John, the last of the Apostles. But the Church does not deny that God may grant or permit special heavenly manifestations and revelations to individuals or groups of individuals during succeeding ages. Recipients of such favours may themselves be inspired with a divinely-given personal faith in them. But others who only hear or read of them are free, as Pope Benedict XIV declared, to form an opinion of them according to their own prudent judgment of the value of the evidence that can be produced on behalf of their reality. As regards Lourdes, official commissions appointed by the Church fully investigated the facts at the time and gave the verdict that the manifestations there can safely be accepted as supernatural interventions and that the devotions they have inspired promote the spiritual welfare of those who adopt them. Although they are not essential elements of the Catholic Faith as such, there is nothing in them contrary to that Faith, and they cannot be simply dismissed as unimportant, even though some Catholics may not feel personally attracted to or impressed by them.

387. Are not the miracles at Lourdes scientifically proved?

Here we must be careful. Science examines the observable facts. At Lourdes there is a Medical Bureau, open to all scientists of any religion or of none, for the checking of all cures there which are claimed to be miraculous. But, as scientists, the investigators can do no more than say that no known natural factors can account for some given cure. If they say they are speaking according to their present degree of knowledge and that future scientific discoveries may show that such cures can be due to merely natural causes, they are indulging in speculation, not offering a scientifically verifiable opinion. From a philosophical point of view it could be argued that there was, in a given case, such a lack of proportion between a sudden cure and any possible natural causes that science will never find a natural cause capable of it. All philosophers would admit such a lack of proportion were we to suggest that, not men, but a particularly gifted swarm of mosquitoes built the Sydney Harbour Bridge! From a religious point of view, a man of faith could reasonably believe the cure to be supernaturally caused by God and therefore to be truly a miracle. But philosophical and religious judgments go beyond the scope of science as such.

388. Why do some scientists reject the Lourdes miracles?

Most of those who do so have not studied the facts. The famous Father Teilhard de Chardin, writing in the French periodical "Etudes", January, 1909, on "The Miracles of Lourdes and Canonical Investigations," listed twenty-five cases where he said that God had directly intervened, by-passing the laws of nature, and said: "Official science is silent on the matter; it feigns ignorance, or retreats before the explanation, dodging phenomena which it finds embarrassing; and so it is disloyal to its reputation for impartiality and absolute respect for facts." Some scientists have taken his reproach to heart. Thus, in 1958, Dr. Michel Agnellet published a book entitled "I Accept the Facts." Describing himself as a materialist and unbeliever, he said he approached the subject "with all the scepticism I owe to an atheist education followed by a medical training;" and concluded only with the honest admission that the facts of Lourdes remain "a giant question-mark in the scientific mind." On the other hand, Dr. Alexis Carrel, a Nobel Prize winner in Physiology and Medicine, and later Medical Director of the Rockefeller Institute in New York, wrote in his world-famous book "Man, the Unknown" that "the most important cases of miraculous healing have been recorded by the medical Bureau of Lourdes." Earlier, Dr. Carrel had described in his book "Journey to Lourdes" how he himself had witnessed one such case occur. He said that he was an agnostic at the time but that, unable to deny the miracle which took place before his very eyes, he there and then recovered his belief in God.

389. Recently a Dr. Donald James West published a book entitled "Eleven Lourdes Miracles", denying that they could rightly be regarded as miracles.

Dr. West is a medical man and an authority of physical and parapsychological research. He says he visited the Lourdes Medical Bureau, making a scientific study of the evidence recorded there for his eleven chosen cases claimed as miraculous. He concluded that in no case was it proven that the alleged miracle was beyond purely natural and psychological causes, even though those causes might not be fully explicable yet. But that was not a scientific judgment, for science cannot say definitely what is or is not beyond causes not yet scientifically known. A more reasonable attitude was adopted by Dr. Kenneth Walker, a London surgeon who was also an agnostic. In 1952, after a thorough study of the facts of Lourdes, he wrote that he found "little to support the view of some of my medical colleagues" that some unknown psychological forces can account or could account for those facts. He said that those who believe in God have their answer to the problem. They say miracle. But Dr. Kenneth Walker said that he himself, as an agnostic, could not accept that explanation. Where believers said miracle, he had to say insoluble mystery and leave it at that. Dr. Donald West, if on other than scientific grounds he was bent on remaining an agnostic, could well have left it at that also.

390. "Time" magazine, May 19, 1967, said many Catholics doubt whether Mary really appeared at Fatima, in Portugal, to the three shepherd children on May 13, 1917.

"Time's" article was devoted to Pope Paul VI's visit to Fatima in 1967, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the apparitions there. Undoubtedly many Catholics, although well aware of the reported apparitions, have not personally examined the facts relating to them; and many more, without actually doubting their reality, have taken little or no interest in them. Such indifference cannot be written off-hand as being perverse, for belief in such apparitions and the adoption of devotions associated with them do not rank among the essentials of the Catholic religion. The Catholic Faith as such imposes upon us belief in the divinelyrevealed truths given to the world directly by Christ and the Aposles, and taught as such by the Catholic Church. It is noteworthy that the Vatican Council, in its document on the Blessed Virgin Mary, made no reference to any apparitions ascribed to her in post-apostolic times, whether at Lourdes, Fatima or anywhere else. The omission of any mention of these did not, of course, imply any denial of them; it at most indicated that they were regarded as being of secondary importance in comparison with the basic and essential articles of faith. Nowhere is acceptance of them included in any profession of the Catholic Faith required of converts asking to be received into the Catholic Church.

391. "Time" said that, if nothing else, the youngsters' impressionable ages (seven, nine and ten) make the authenticity of the Fatima apparitions questionable.

It can be admitted that were there no evidence for the Fatima apparitions in 1917 beyond the word of the three young children, it would be rash to place any reliance upon them. They could be not unreasonably dismissed as the fantasies of excited and imaginative children. But there were external events which occurred precisely as the children said the Blessed Virgin had predicted. She said World War I would soon end (it did in the following year, 1918) but that before long another would break out (World War II began in 1939). During the apparitions in 1917 the children were told that the two youngest of them would not live much longer. Two years later, in 1919, the two of them, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, died during the influenza epidemic which followed upon World War I. All three children lived to see the fulfilment of the Blessed Virgin's promise to them on July 13, 1917, that on the following October 13 she would give a miraculous sign visible to all present at the scene of the apparitions, confirming the reality of them. The sign was duly granted on the date specified.

392. It is claimed that a so-called "Miracle of the Sun" was witnessed by thousands.

News of the July 13 promise spread widely and three months later, on October 13, some 70,000 people, believers and sceptics alike, assembled at the scene of the reported apparitions. The sky was overcast with dark clouds and it was raining heavily. Suddenly, before all present at the time, a remarkable phenomenon occurred. An apparent displacement of the sun took place, which seemed to come down through the clouds, radiating changing colours on all sides. Reports of this and of all other events at Fatima were subjected to a thorough investigation by a special Commission appointed by the Bishop of Leiria. Only after eight years did the Commission finalise its report. After a further six months of personal deliberation the Bishop declared the fact of the apparitions to be reasonably credible and permitted, without imposing, public devotions to the Blessed Virgin under the title "Our Lady of Fatima." Of course, people may admit a thing to be "reasonably credible", yet dismiss further thoughts about it and, not feeling particularly drawn towards devotion to "Our Lady of Fatima," remain content with their own forms of piety. But that is a personal matter and it does not entitle them to say that others who think and feel differently have not reasonable grounds for doing so.

393. Were there any non-Catholics present who saw the alleged miracle and were impressed by it?

I have read of only one such case. There could have been others. But it must be remembered that Portugal is a Catholic country, and also that the presence of non-Catholics was not to be expected under the existing conditions. The event occurred on October 13, 1917. The First World War, which did not end till November, 1918, had brought to an end the tourism which usually brings with it a flow of foreign visitors to Portugal. However, there was one Protestant school teacher there, a Miss Mabel Norton, acting as an English governess for the children of a Portuguese family. On October 13 the family, not confident that anything would happen but thinking it might, invited her to go to Fatima with them in their car, a journey of some miles. She went out of curiosity and saw for herself the inexplicable phenomenon of the displaced and rotating sun. Later thoughts about the extraordinary event led to her eventually becoming a Catholic.

394. What became of the famous "1960 Fatima Secret"?

In 1941 the eldest of the three children, Lucy dos Santos, then a nun aged 34, was asked by the Bishop of Leiria, the diocese which includes Fatima, to write an account as far as she could remember of what the Blessed Virgin had said during the apparitions. Lucy's document contained what has come to be known as the "Threefold Message." The first two parts called for repentance of sin and a renewed practice of prayer, especially by the recitation of the rosary and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The third part of the message was given to the Bishop in a sealed envelope with instructions, said by Lucy to be her understanding of God's Will, that it was not to be opened and read until 1960. There was no instruction that this third part of the secret was then to be made public. That rested with the ecclesiastical authorities. Wide publicity led to an equally widespread curiosity which was destined to remain unsatisfied. A Vatican pressrelease in February, 1967, said that the sealed envelope had been sent in 1960 to Pope John XXIII, who opened it and read its contents. But knowledge of those contents died with him, for he ordered the document to be placed in the Vatican Archives without publication of what it contained.

395. Surely Sister Lucy expected the third part of her message to be published.

Sister Lucy, now a Carmelite nun, during a press-interview concerning the non-publication of the contents of the envelope in 1960, said that in what she had written she had found it difficult to express herself properly, and that what she had written may have seemed too obscure and confused to warrant publication. She added that apparently God had wanted to use her only to remind the world of the need to avoid sin, making reparation for it by prayer and penance, Catholics particularly renewing their devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and to the regular and fervent recitation of the rosary. She declared herself quite content to accept as God's Will whatever the appropriate ecclesiastical authorities might decide. On her own implicit admission, the essential part of the Fatima message was contained in the first two sections, and the third can evidently be dismissed as being of no practical importance.