Dear Mr Bergoglio
I hope my views as expressed in this open address don’t upset you, but today I want to raise the subject of the ‘Holy Mother’. Don’t get me wrong, I admire the ‘Magnificat’ enormously. In it Mary sides unambiguously with the poor and oppressed, and proclaims red revolution at the top of her voice in one of the most ringing challenges in the whole of the Greek (i.e. New) Testament. (See my Post ‘Two red jewesses’)
No, I want to address the issue that divides the church right down the middle: her supposed virginity. In a province of my own country (Northern Ireland) young children have been brought up to hate ‘teags’ (Protestants) on the grounds that “they say that Our Lady wasn’t a virgin.” No doubt young ‘Prods’ have been brought up to hate Catholics because they say she was a virgin! It’s enough to make a saint swear!
My take on this as a lapsed anglican and a biologist is as follows:-
- The holy ovum was either fertilised by a sperm or it wasn’t. While studying at Oxford under Nobel Prize winner Dr Nicholas Gurdon, we got Sea Urchin eggs to start dividing in vitro without sperm by pricking them with a needle. This only worked with simple invertebrate ova: as I understand it no blastula would form if you pricked or otherwise stimulated a mammalian ovum. So there must have been a sperm. Spermatozoa only come from testes on the bodies of flesh and blood men. Does the church think that Holy Ghosts and Archangels come into this category? If they do, it raises a whole lot more questions!
- Staying with the gametes a little longer: only sperms can provide the Y chromosome needed to make a male. Mary’s holy ovum could only have contained X chromosomes; in other words if there was parthenogenesis, her baby could only have been a female (XX) not a male (XY). Hello, Baby Josephine!
- Where does the record indicate that Jesus mother was a virgin? The Bible uses the word ‘alma’, which may well have been mistranslated at some point in the past as ‘virgin’ but it is now acknowledged that it simply means ‘young woman’. (You can get your staff to look it up in a concordance for you. I recommend Crudens.)
- According to the Catholic doctrine of perpetual virginity all those siblings who are listed in the gospels and epistles must have been step-brothers and sisters, but the words used are the words for ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ not ‘step-brother’ and ‘step-sister’. So what’s the history of this non-biblical belief? Isn’t it time to revise this divisive doctrine? Only you have the power to do it.
- The Catholic church also maintain that Mary and Joseph led a celibate life together – or Mary wouldn’t have been a perpetual virgin. How perverse – an unconsummated marriage! So who fathered all Jesus’ siblings if it wasn’t Joseph? Don’t get your knickers in a twist, but experts on peasant life at that time surmise her kids could have resulted from rape, prostitution, or promiscuity. (See my recent Posts)
- When an admirer said to Jesus “Blessed be the womb that bore thee and the breasts that thou hast sucked” Jesus scoffed at the idea. No Mariolatry there then! (I can’t remember the reference, but your staff can look it up for you in the event that you don’t believe me.)
Why not take a step for ecumenism and use your enormous power to bring about healing reform in the worldwide ‘Body of Christ’ – the church.
Peter Turner, M.A., M.Sc. Zingcreed.