Fr. Felix Lopez has provided an outstanding theological documentation and commentary on the proper understanding of Our Lady’s Virginity during the Birth of Jesus as treated in the proceedings of the Second Vatican Council. Fr. Lopez’s monumental contribution illustrates that the Council’s discussion and outcome of the subject reflects the Traditional understanding since the fourth century that Our Lady experienced no violation of her physical virginity in giving birth to Jesus, which also presupposes the miraculous birth of Jesus, another essential component of the Church’s Tradition on the issue – Ed.
Mary’s virginitas in partu is a truth of faith that has become subject to debate in certain theological ambits, especially in the second half of the 20th century. References to this detail of faith is to be found in the first centuries of Christianity. 1 It is a fact that Tertulian, in his battle against the Valentinians, clearly denied the virginity of Mary in the birth (virgo, quantum a viro; non virgo quantum a partu). 2 But his was an opinion that remained an islet in patristic thought. The dogma developed along a different path. Clement of Alejandria3 and Zenon of Verona4 in the West, and Gregory Nacianzen5 and Gregory of Nisa 6 in the East, clearly affirm the virginity of Mary in the birth of the Son of God.
The crisis provoked by Jovinian, towards the end of the fourth century, would provide the opportunity to reflect more profoundly on the contents of the dogma of the virginitas in partu. The ex-monk affirmed, like Tertulian, that Mary had lost her virginal integrity in giving birth. Condemned by Pope Siricus in Rome, Jovinian moved to Milan, where his teachings were refuted also by Saint Ambrose and the Synod that he, Ambrose, convoked. 7 Both Saint Ambrose and Saint Jerome apply to the virginal birth of Mary, in this historical moment, the image of the porta clausa which appears in Ez 44, 2. This image clearly expresses the virginal integrity of Mary, including its corporal dimensión. Since the end of the fourth century, therefore, the doctrine of the virginitas in partu has been clearly stated: Mary has given birth to the Son of God while maintaining unscathed her virginal integrity, also in the physical-corporeal aspect.
Saint Augustine reaffirms the same doctrine with clarity in many of his sermons.8 But it would be Saint Leo the Great who would give, through his papal magisterium, a definitive backing to this doctrine, which finds authorized expression in the Tomus ad Flavianum:conceptus quippe est de Spiritu Sancto intra uterum Virginis, quae Illum ita salva virginitate edidit, quemadmodum salva virginitate concepit 9. From this moment, the doctrine of the virginitas in partu will appear in a continual and unaltered way in the teaching of the Magisterium, in the sermons of the Fathers and in the liturgical texts, which express the faith professed by the Church.
The debate concerning the virginitas in partu in the years preceding the Vatican Council II
How did it happen that a detail so solidly affirmed throughout sixteen centuries should become subject to discussion in the second half of the 20th century?
In 1952, the Viennese priest and physician A. Mitterer, published a work with the titleDogma and Biology of the Holy Family according to the worldview of Saint Thomas Aquinas and contemporary worldview. 10 In this work, Mitterer calls into question the traditional interpretation of the dogma of virginity in the birth, on the basis of modern biology. According to the Viennese professor, corporal integrity would not be an exigency of of virginity. If, by an accident or by a medical intervention, the septum pudoris were to be violated, this would not at all affect the person’s virginity. On the other hand, Mitterer argued, true maternity demands that the mother suffer all of the processes, pains and ruptures that giving birth entails. If we know that Mary is virgin and at the same time truly mother, then her true motherhood would demand a normal birth, and at the same
time, the ruptures suffered in her body would not harm her virginity, given that for Mitterer virginity consists solely in the absence of contact with the male and the lack of union between the ovum and the male seed. The birth would still be virginal, according to Mitterer, by virtue of the virginity of the conception. The Viennese priest is aware that his theory is in opposition with Tradition, but asks whether the Fathers who spoke of the matter acted as witnesses of the faith or whether their statements on this point are rather the fruit of the mentality of their time.
Mitterer’s work provoked a great polemic in the academic milieu. In the following years numerous articles were written on the subject, some in favor and others against the new interpretation. K. Rahner and O. Semmelroth published critical reviews of Mitterer’s book in which they manifest their agreement with the questions presented therein concerning the virginity of Mary during the birth and his new interpretation in the light of modern biology. 11 J. Galot published in 1960 an article in which, following the approach of Mitterer and invoking in its favor a text of Origen and some isolated affirmations of other Fathers prior to the fourth century, he attempts to sustain that a natural birth would be compatible with the perfect virginity of Mary. In other words, Jesus would have been born exactly like other men, but since virginity, according to Galot, consists solely in the absence of relations with man, and since the rupture of septum pudoris has been caused by the birth and not by conjugal relations, Mary may also be called virgin in the birth. 12
On his part, K. Rahner published in the same year an essay on the evolution of dogma, taking by way of explanatory model the virginitas in partu. 13 In his study, the German Jesuit distances himself from Mitterer insofar as he distinguishes the virginitas in partu from the virginitas ante partum. He deems that the real nucleus of the tradition concerning the virginitas in partu consists in considering it a totally human act which corresponds to the presence of grace in Mary, and is therefore unrepeatable, “miraculous,” virginal. This asseveration, according to Rahner, does not allow us to deduce with certainty with an obligatory character for all, affirmations concerning the concrete particulars of the birth. 14 In the final paragraphs of his essay, Rahner, presents a long list of questions on the subject. One of them, referring to the danger of docetism, will reappear—as we will have the opportunity to see—during the conciliar discussions led by Rahner himself. Others, referring to the concept of virginal integrity, have been answered—in continuity with all of Tradition—by the Magisterium of John Paul II.15
On 27 July 1960, the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office, delivered a note regarding the works that had been published concerning the argument about virginity in the birth. The decree was sent to some bishops and to the higher superiors of the Religious Institutes to which it was addressed. We offer a translation of the complete published text:16
“This Supreme Sacred Congregation has had to observe repeatedly, with profound preoccupation, in these recent times, that theological works are being published in which the delicate argument of the virginity in partu of Most Holy Mary is treated with deplorable crudeness of expression, and graver still, in open dissent against the traditional doctrine of the Church and the pious sense of the faithful. In the Plenary Congregation of Thursday, day 20 c.m., it has seemed necessary to the Most Eminent Fathers of the Holy Office, by virtue of their most grave responsibility to guard the sacred deposit of Catholic doctrine, to dispose that in the future the publication of such works concerning the said problem be prohibited.”
The notice is signed by Fr. Raimundo Verardo OP.
What weight does this notice carry? Many have held that it is not a notive of condemnation, but without doubt, it is not solely a warning about the delicacy of the subject. It contains an important statement: the works referred to are in “open dissent against the traditional doctrine of the Church and the pious sense of the faithful.” Similarly, the members of the Holy Office appeal to their “most grave responsibility to guard the sacred deposit of Catholic doctrine.” It seems, therefore, that point at issue is not an opinable one, in which one must simply moderate one’s use of language; rather the preservation of the “sacred deposit” is at stake.
Due to his importance in the development of our subject in the Vatican Council II, we cannot bypass the figure of the Louvainian theologian, G. Philips, who would be the final redactor of the Constitution Lumen Gentium. This author published an article in the journal Marianum titled Marie dans les sources de la Révélation.17 In it, having drawn attention to the polemic stirred by Mitterer’s book and having briefly expounded the doctrine of same, Philips highlights the fact that the Viennese professor has disregarded the history of the dogma, and has given prevalence to biology over the theological method which should begin from revealed facts.
He quotes the notice of the Holy Office which refers to the lack of delicacy in the treatment of the subject and the open dissent of these positions against the traditional doctrine. He points out that the doctrines of Mitterer have achieved a greater diffusion owing to Galot’s article. Philips affirms that the Jesuit minimizes the traditional doctrine of the corporal integrity of Mary in the moment of the birth.
In a brief presentation of the subject as taught by the Fathers, Philips cites a text by Saint Ambrose which affirms with all clarity the virginal integrity of Mary in the birth. This patristic reference will later accompany the text that refers to the virginitas in partu en LG 57 in a footnote, by way of a testimony of Tradition. For the Louvainian, it is clear that in the tripartite formula virgo ante partum, in partu, et post partum each member has its own content, and the second of them is not a simple redundancy in regard to the other two. He affirms, contrary to the opinion of Galot, that the Fathers did not wish to descend to physical specifications, not because the physical corporal integrity was a matter of indifference to them, but because they insist in the salvific significance of the supernatural fact. Throughout fifteen centuries, Philips affirms, the conviction of the Church has been universal: it is unacceptable to put in doubt the perfect corporal integrity of Mary. It is faith that imposes upon us the affirmation that her womb has remained inviolate, even if the Tradition does not present a solemn definition. 18 Tradition, in spite of the difficulties, has understood the affirmation of the symbol natus ex virgine in the most literal sense, excluding the rupture of the virginal seal by virtue of the value of the corporal integrity of Mary as sign for the economy of salvation.19 The spiritualization of creation, affirms Philips, penetrates the body. The complete certainty that the Fathers have judged rightly in this matter, is imposed upon us thanks to the unanimity without exception with which the Tradition interprets the indications of Scripture. 20
Other authors, like Philips, reacted in defense of the traditional doctrine against the propositions of Mitterer. 21 In this climate of debate, the conciliar work began. Anyone who reads today the Constitution Lumen gentium, promulgated on 21 November 1964, will discover in no. 57 an affirmation which refers to the virginal birth of Jesus: qui virginalem eius integritatem non minuit sed sacravit.
What was the process that culminated in this clear and concise conciliar formula? What is its significance? What influence did the preconciliar debate have in the final redaction concerning the virginitas in partu? Throughout these pages we will attempt to provide a response to these interrogatives. In doing so, we will follow in chronological order the developments and vicissitudes of the conciliar text that refers to the virginal birth of Jesus.
It is necessary to bear these preliminaries in mind in order to comprehend the different positions and the debates the framed the history of the text concerning the virginity in the birth which appears in Lumen gentium 57.
I.1. Preparations of the Conciliar Documents
The Documents which we see today promulgated as fruit of Vatican II, underwent a prolonged prior journey, from the thematic point of view as much as from the redactional point of view. It would be an error to think that Pope John XXIII had in mind all of the subjects that the future council should discuss. We may ask, how did the different subjects arise, that would become the focus of the general assemblies? How did the Marian question take shape? And still more specifically, how did the matter of the virginitas in partu come to appear in the Marian text?
In order to find the answer to these questions, it is necessary to return to the years immediately prior to the Council. From June of 1959 to April of 1960, consultations had been put to Bishops, Prelates, Major Superiors, Roman Congregations, Universities and ecclesiastic Faculties. But the Congregation of the Holy Office prepared, in accord with the Pope, a basic schema within which to catalogue the suggestions and contributions which would come from all parts, and thus to orientate the work of preparation of the schemas of the future conciliar constitutions.
In 1960 Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani was Secretary of the Holy Office.22 He would later be nominated president of the Preparatory Theological Committee.23 The consultants were Fr. Sebastian Tromp S.I., professor of the Gregorian University and future Secretary of the Preparatory Theological Committee and of the Doctrinal Committee, the Dominican Fr. Luigi Ciappi and the Franciscan Fr. Carlo Balić, president of the Academia Mariologica Internationalis, professor of the Pontifical Athenaeum Antonianum and future redactor of the schema De Beata. 24
The Schema pro Concilio Oecumenico prepared by the Holy Office is contained in the Acta et Documenta. 25 In this schema, the Marian question is included, as third paragraph, in the Constitution De Ecclesia, after the question of Christ and before that of the members of the Mystical Body and the pastoral activity of the Church.
Toniolo affirms that the redaction of the Mariological text was the work of Fr. Balić. 26 In the Balić archive we have found some documents that do not appear in Toniolo’s work. In two type-written pages, dated Romae die 18-II-60, Fr. Balić presents the doctrinal questions which should be addressed by the Vatican Council II (Circa quaestiones doctrinales in II Concilio Vaticano pertractandas). 27 He organizes his contribution in four points. The third point is dedicated to the Virgin (De Maria – Matre Ecclesiae). One of the questions he proposes to study is that of contemporary biological science and the Marian dogma of virginity in the birth.28 We have similarly found two other documents by Fr. Balić which, unfortunately, are incomplete and do not permit specification concerning the dates, but which we may place in this same period by
virtue of their content.29
The first of these documents bears the title Pro schemate Dei Ecclesia. The sub-title further explains the content and outlines that it is about some questions concerning the Virgin Mary.30 The second of the three points
outlined on the only page still conserved of this document, on speaking of privileges, proposes that the Council teach that Mary was, at the same time, truly and properly speaking mother of Jesus, and virgin, not only before and after the birth, but also in the same birth, conserving intact and integral in the birth that by which virgins may be distinguished from the married.31 The second of these incomplete documents consists of two pages. The title at the head of the paper is De Maria Matre Christi et Ecclesiae. Three points in the schema are conserved. The third deals with the virginity of Mary in the birth. This demonstrates the importance this matter of the virginitas in partu held for Fr. Balić.32 Having given his assessment of the thesis sustained by some authors in these years, he commences to present the theological reasons. 33
From the documents presented in the previous paragraphs, we can comprehend clearly that Fr. Balić, on the basis of Tradition and the common theological opinion, sustains that the virginity of Mary in the birth, with the preservation of physical integrity, is an un-renounceable truth of faith. Throughout the development of these pages we will see how he defended this to the end, striving to ensure that clear and explicit mention of the matter would appear in the conciliar Marian text which would refute the errors of the moment. Having provided this indispensable parenthesis to analyze Fr. Balić’s early sketches of the conciliar text, we return now to the thread of the general history of the composition of the text.
The Mariological themes that appear in the redaction of the Schema pro Concilio Oecumenico are that of the centrality of Mary in the mystery of Christ, the participation of Mary in the redemption, her universal mediation, the question of worship and two other matters: the virginity in the birth and the temporal death.
The text referring to the virginity of Mary in the birth is the following:
“Concerning the Virginity of Mary: let it be condemned (rejected), the recent pronouncement on the lesion in the body of the Virgin Mary in the birth in accordance with the biological laws, as a pronouncement that is contrary to the traditional dogma of the perfect Virginity, which is not founded upon the laws of nature, but upon the power of God.”34
Consilia et Vota
of the Bishops, Prelates and Major Superiors.
In this situation the consilia et vota of the Bishops, Prelates and Major Superiores consulted by mandate of Pope John XXIII play a decisive role. As is mentioned in the documents of the Theological Committee, the number of conciliar Father who requested that the question of Mary be treated was 600.
The greater part of the vota refer to the issue of Marian mediation. Regarding the matter of Mary’s virginity, there were four 35 who requested that the physical integrity of Mary be addressed. These are
contained in the section De Mariología, and within this, in De integritate physica. These four contributions revolve around two points:
- The first says:
“The doctrine concerning the physical integrity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the birth and after the birth should be illustrated, because recent writers in good faith think it open to consideration that, not the conception but the birth, produced the natural effects in the body of the Mother.” 36 In the note of this section appears the abbreviated name “Lancrastren,” which corresponds to the Bishop of Lancaster (England) who was at the time the Most Excellent Mons. Thomas Edward Flynn. In point 2 of his suggestions to the Council he mentions the matter of Mary’s virginity. 37
- This second point is:
“Since today there are some theologians who reduce the virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary to an empty formula, it is convenient that the genuine meaning of this dogma be safeguarded.”38
In the footnote of this section, three names appear: Novarcen, S. Ludovici, Trentonen. These names correspond to the bishops of Newark, Trenton and St. Louis, all from the United States. In their vota they had solicited a study on the theme of Mary’s virginity. 39
I.3. Considerations proposed by the Faculties of Theology.
Among the proposals sent to the Antepreparatory Committee by the Faculties of the Theology and the Roman Athenaeums we have found scarcely any references to the Mariological issue. Only isolated mention of the matter of Maternal Mediation. Exceptions to this approach are the Pontifical Athenaeum Antonianum and the Theological Faculty Marianum.
The first of these, where Fr. Balić worked, devotes a great part of its Marian proposal to the matter of a correct presentation of Mary to the separated brethren. Insofar as concerns Mary’s virginity, it says:
“The Most Holy Virgin is Mother of Christ, author of grace and life for all, because she, maintaining her virginity insofar as she was fecundated by the supernatural power, conceived and gave birth to Him, nourished and in her role as mother served Him until his death.” 40
The Theological Faculty Marianum, in turn, presented a complete schema concerning the Virgin Mary. According to Toniolo, 41 this schema served Fr. Balić as a foundation for the redaction of the first schema of De Beata. Regarding the matter of Mary’s virginity, situated in the section Singularia B. M. Virginis privilegia, it reads as
“In the unfolding of her terrestrial life, She was truly Virgin and Mother; integral Virgin not only before, but also after the birth, which did not violate the integrity of her body, her mind and heart perennially and totally fixed on God (13); She who, unique among all women, gave birth, not in pain, but in joy (14), thus escaping the curse declared by God upon women.”42
In this schema, as in the one prepared by Fr. Balić, when the issue of Mary’s virginity is addressed, explicit mention is made of the integrity of the flesh in the moment of the birth.
In any event, we are dealing here with an approach which would later be called the “Mariology of privileges,” considered by some almost the very antithesis of the new Mariological model which emphasizes more Mary’s journey of faith and of love and her exemplariness for the Church and the faithful, that is, her closeness to us. But this new perspective does not eclipse the virtues of the first; rather, by building upon this very foundation of Mary’s intimate union with her Son, and with the Church, it enriches it with new horizons and values.
Quattuor Schemata Compendiosa
In June of 1960, John XXIII, with the Motu proprio “Superno Dei nutu” 43 constituted the Preparatory Pontifical Theological Committee. Cardinal Ottaviani was nominated president and Fr. Tromp S.I. Secretary. Commissioned to do so by Ottaviani, Fr. Tromp, from the 1st to the 7th of July 1960 composed three abbreviated schemas (tria schemata compendiosa). 44 These consist of three pages with the titles and the chapters of the three possible dogmatic constitutions on which the Preparatory Theological Committee will have to work. The three schemas are 1) De Ecclesia, 2) De deposito fidei custodiendo, 3) De ordine morali. But on 9 June 1960, Mons. Pericle Felici, Secretary of the Pontifical Central Preparatory Committee, sends to Cardinal Ottaviani a letter in which he proposes the subjects which Pope John XXIII entrusts to each Preparatory Committee.
The following subjects are proposed to the Preparatory Theological Commission: 1) De fontibus revelationis; 2) De Ecclesia catholica; 3)De ordine supernaturali praesertim in re morali; 4) De matrimonio; 5) De doctrina sociali. 45
To satisfy the Pope’s desire, Fr. Tromp elaborates a fourth abbreviated schema (quartum schema compendiosum): concerning the sources of revelation. The place assigned by Tromp to the question of the Virgin Mary was the last mentioned in the Quaestiones particulares to address in the future Constitution De deposito fidei custodiendo. Fr. Tromp had performed a substantial change: he had transferred the Marian question from
the precise place it held in the De Ecclesia schema of the Holy Office, to make of it a point of doctrine—the last—in the schema of Depositum fidei.
In the study of the archive sources we have found also the complete schema prepared about this schema. In the section dedicated to Mary, on page 16, there
is a point dedicated totally to the virginity and taken from the aforementioned schema of the Holy Office. The redaction bears the protocol PONTIFICIA COMMISSIO THEOLOGICA PREPARATORIA, Prot. 4/60:
“C) Perfect and perpetual Virgin.
Concerning the Virginity of Mary: let it be condemned (rejected), the recent pronouncement concerning lesion in the body of the Virgin Mary in the birth in
accordance with the biological laws, as a pronouncement that is adverse to the traditional dogma of the perfect Virginity, which is not based upon natural
laws, but on the power of God.” 46
The part dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the fifth and final point of the Quaestiones particulares, was articulated as follows in a first redaction:
5. Holy Virgin Mary. She is not on the surface (periphery), but in the center of Christianity: as Mother of the incarnate Word, Collaborator of Christ
Savior, most holy Mother of all the members of Christ, universal Mediatrix. Virgin before the birth, in the birth, after the birth. She must be venerated
with the cult of hyperdulia. She in herself is cause of the unity of the Church, though accidentally an occasion of division. Spiritual priesthood of Mary. 47
By Tromp’s indication the reference to the spiritual priesthood of Mary was withdrawn. But the reference to the perpetual virginity of Mary remains. It may
be seen that in the first sketches of what would become the Marian schema, as much in the case of the one redacted by Fr. Balić as in the one elaborated by
Fr. Ciappi, the subject of Mary’s virginity is present.
I.5. The utilization of the
Consilia et Vota
in the Theological Commission.
On 24 September 1960, Cardinal Ottaviani sent to all of the members the convocatory letter (Prot. 4/60) for the first plenary meeting of the Theological
Committee, set for the 27th of October 1960. He attached the edited fascicle of the Quattuor schemata compendiosa, concerning which he
requested observations and suggestions.48 Concerning the Marian question only
three members sent observations: V. Scherer,49 G. Philips50 and A. Michel. 51 The orientational survey had now finished and the Antepreparatory Committee
had concluded its task because on 5 June 1960 the Pope John XXIII created the Preparatory Committees, thus introducing the second phase of the Council. Not
all of the theological entities had been consulted, but nobody was deprived of the right to present suggestions. The Spanish Mariological Society
elaborated a votum, dated 8 September 1960, to send to the Holy Father manifesting the points which, in their opinion, should be addressed
concerning the Virgin Mary in the Council and the dangers to avoid.52 Fr.
Basilio de San Pablo and Fr. Narciso García Garcés sign the document.53
The first plenary meeting of the Theological Committee took place on 27 October 1960, in the Vatican. Fr. Tromp S.I. gave a brief explanation about the
elaboration of the Quattor schemata compendiosa. The relation of the meeting which he himself redacted, as secretary, is conserved. In it norms
are given concerning how to elaborate the schemas. He points out that they should not be dogmatic tracts but conciliar constitutions. He requests that what
is essential be addressed briefly, since it is denied by nobody, and that a greater space be dedicated to the matters that are placed in doubt. It is
interesting to note that by way of example he puts the maternity of Mary and her virginity in the birth. 54
Regarding the place assigned to the Virgin Mary in the ambit of the dogmatic Constitutions, the presidents of the four Subcommittees and the Secretary, in
the meeting they had in the environs of the Holy Office on 21 December 1960 agreed that the Marian question should be included in the De Ecclesia 55 schema. In this way, the De Beata, which was initially situated in
the De Ecclesia schema in the proposal of the Holy Office, and was later changed by Fr. Tromp S.I. to the De deposito fidei schema,
returns again to the De Ecclesia schema and there will remain. Its redaction passes to the competence of the De Ecclesia Subcommittee .
I.6. The Profession of Faith.
This is an important point which manifests the omnipresence of the matter of Mary’s virginity in the birth. In the leaflet which contains the vota
of the consultants of the Theological Committee, Fr. Tromp mentions in the introductory note that, in the meeting of 21 December 1960, it was unanimously
decided among all of those present, that the five conciliar Constitutions should be preceded by a Profession of faith. 56 In this moment, the process for the redaction of the Profession of faith
begins, which entails not only the matter of the content but also, later on, the question of its convenience. In the end it was not elaborated, but, given
its significance in relation to our subject, a brief study of the matter is of interest.
The aim was to redact a profession of faith which would reduce to one the Tridentine formula and the anti-modernist oath. Whatever was superfluous should
be removed and whatever best responded to the exigencies of the contemporaneous situation should be added. The result would be a profession of faith to be
uttered by the Fathers at the commencement of the Council.57 The President
commended to the members of the Subcommittee the task of clearly indicating what should be removed, added or changed, and to deliver their observations to
the Secretary to compose a new formula. The Holy Father approved the proposal. 58
The Subcommittee members made their proposals on the points they considered most necessary to include in the Profession of faith, in accordance with the
situation of the moment. We have several requests which address the matter of the virginity in the birth. 59
One of the members who solicited a more explicit declaration on the matter of virginity in its corporal aspect, was Unger. He asks that Mary’s perpetual
spiritual virginity be openly declared and that the words “mente et corpore” 60 be added. Fr. Ciappi O.P. also proposed a brief text to introduce into the
document which was being prepared.61 Bertetto presented a request soliciting
the introduction of all the Marian dogmas in the Professsion of faith. The paragraph referring to the Virgin this acquired a disproportionate extension
given that one of the intended goals was to make a more brief Profession of faith. This ensured that the proposals to introduce additions to the Marian
clauses of the Profession of faith, were not accepted.62
In the second gathering of the Central Preparatory Committee of the Council, which took place on 9 November 1961, Cardinal Ottaviani outlined to the more
than 50 cardinals present, the situation of the text of the Profession of faith. He relates that requests reached the Sacred Congregation of the Holy
Office, and that some Fathers in their proposals for the Council solicited a new formula of faith. The motive for the elaboration was to try to reduce to
one the formulas in use, the Profession of faith of the Tridentine Council and the anti-modernist oath. In this way, repetitions could be avoided and some
aspects which were no longer necessary to retain at that moment could be eliminated. The Holy Father, in an audience granted to Ottaviani in January 1961,
disposed that the project be carried out and that the Theological Committee which had been created to prepare the future constitutions of the Council would
assume responsibility for the new Profession. Within this Committee the Subcommittee De deposito fidei took over the task. The Subcommittee, on 17
March 1961, commended to Fr. Tromp the redaction of the new formula.63
In several sessions, the Subcommittee elaborated 4 redactions and in the month of August the definitive redaction was sent. In the month of September,
there was a general meeting of the doctrinal Committee, which on the first day addressed the matter of the Profession of faith. Some improvements were
indicated, and the Subcommittee, in two meetings of its own, elaborated the definitive text which was presented to the Fathers present in the General
At any rate, although the reference to the virginitas in partu did not end up being inserted in the text of the Profession of faith which was
prepared, allusion was made to the matter in the notes. In the Secret Vatican Archive, in the sections of the Vatican Council II, Batch 793, a booklet may
be seen which bears the title QUAESTIONES THEOLOGICAE, FORMULA NOVA PROFESSIONIS FIDEI. Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani is featured as its author and
it is edited by the Typis Polyglottis Vaticani, year MCMLXI. The text referring to the Most Holy Virgin is found on p. 6, under section 5, and it
“I confess that the Immaculate and ever Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Mother of men, must be singularly venerated by the Church, and I declare that her
genuine cult does not diminish the cult of God and of Jesus Christ, but rather increments it.” 65
On page 9 of the said booklet appear the notes which explain the reasons for the inclusion of some expressions in the text. Addressing point 5, which
contains the truths referring to the Virgin Mary, it explains that Semper Virginem has been written to counter recent errors concerning the
virginity of the Mother of God.66 None of the 50 cardinals present manifested
any reservation concerning the above-mentioned explanatory note.
On 22 January 1962, Cardinal Siri sent his votum to the Subcommittee in charge of the corrections to be made to the new Profession of faith. In it
he requests that the Holy Father be consulted concerning the convenience of elaborating the new formula only at the end of the Council. He explains as
reasons for this request that a formula elaborated outside of the counciliar hall would be received by the Fathers as an imposition, and would create ill
feeling. It would be more convenient that they themselves be protagonists in its confection. He also indicates that, even if a formula of faith be
elaborated before the Council, a second one would have to be elaborated at the end of it, containing the new truths proclaimed by it. 67 In a meeting held by the Central Subcommittee on 12 February 1962, the words
of Cardinal Siri were considered and the conclusion was reached that the Holy Father should be consulted concerning the convenience of elaborating the
Profession of faith at the end of the Council. The Fathers could emit the formula of faith heretofore commonly maintained. 68
Pope John XXIII decided to leave to the end of the Council the matter of the new Profession of faith. A letter of the Central Subcommittee about correction
of the schemas, in March 1965, contains the final details about the question we are discussing. These handwritten words appear: “ Inviata al S. Padre il 30. III. 1965”. The content of the missive is interesting. The first point relates how in the Vatican Council II the matter
of a new Profession of faith was not addressed and the story of the new Profession in the Council as it was being celebrated: the commendation of the task
by John XXIII to Cardinal Ottaviani, the inclination of the Fathers to postpone the matter to the end of the Council and the decision of the Pope thus to
proceed. The second point affirms that the work of elaborating a new formula of faith is still pending, but grave reasons advise leaving the task for the
postconciliar period, when with due calm so important a matter may be treated, taking on board also the doctrine of the Vatican II. It did not seem
opportune at that moment that the Profession of faith be redacted by an organism outside of the conciliar hall, because this would provoke a bad reception
on the part of the Fathers. Nor did it seem prudent to entrust the elaboration of the text to the Assembly, given that it already had a packed program and
opposing tendencies existed which would make it difficult to reach agreement. The missive adds in handwriting that in the audience of 1 April 1965, the
Holy Father has accepted the opinion to proceed to the new formula after the Council.69 We believe that these facts may be related to the redaction of the Creed of God’s People formulated by Paul VI in 1968.
We may conclude this section affirming that Mary’s virginity in the birth was present as a truth of faith in the redaction of the conciliar Profession of
II. THE REDACTIONS OF THE FIRST SCHEMA OF
The De Beata schema, that is, the text about the Virgin Mary which the Preparatory Theological Committee of the Vatican Council II elaborated, had
eight distinct redactions between the months of May 1961 and November 1962, before reaching the definitive text which was presented to the Council Fathers
in the first session of the Council in November 1962. It was previously presented to the Central Preparatory Committee, which suggested some corrections
that were introduced. We will now follow the redactional process of the document, especially insofar as concerns the subject of Mary’s virginity in the
II.1. First Redaction.
On 15 March 1961, in the meeting of the De Ecclesia Subcommittee, Fr. Balić was commissioned to redact the text about the Virgin. We do not know
what kind of schema was delivered to him, if it was simply a chapter to include in the Constitution De Ecclesia, or if it was an entire
constitution. It seems it was simply a chapter.70
At this time, the Spanish Claretian Narciso García Garcés sent a report to the Preparatory Committee with the title De positione B. Mariae Virginis in Corpore Christi quod est Ecclesia et de erroribus adnexis. Fr. Tromp passed this multi-copied report
to the members of the Subcommittee De Ecclesia who were in charge of the elaboration of the De Beata schema. In his report, Fr. García
Garcés states that the conciliar text being elaborated does not intend to put an end to the free disputes between the theologians, but indicates that those
truths which have been present in the faith of the Christian people in a serene way, for many centuries, sustained in a most ancient Tradition, affirmed in
the magisterium of all the bishops and taught in the catechism, cannot be called matters open to free discussion, although some theologians may
wish to introduce doubts concerning them. He points out the imprudence and the grave error of those who scorn the traditional doctrines, and affirms that
this simple norm refutes those who attack the virginity in the birth.71
In the month of May, Fr. Balić composed the first redaction. It consists of four pages. It bears the title:
CONCERNING MARY, MOTHER OF JESUS AND MOTHER OF THE CHURCH.72.
It consists of five paragraphs.73 The archive sources show us that the schema
was discussed in two sessions: the first on 2 June 1961 and the second on the 8th of the same month. Number 3 of the schema, which develops the
privileges of Mary, was discussed in the second session, that of 8 June in the afternoon. Concerning the question of the virginity in the birth, none of
those present manifests any reservation or observation. This signifies that all of those present concur in leaving the redaction as it is.
This first redaction of Fr. Balić is the point of departure and will be the point of reference of all the other redactions until the promulgation of
Chapter VIII of the Lumen gentium. Balić has re-situated the Marian question in the De Ecclesia in accordance with the first proposal
elaborated by himself in the schema of the Holy Office. It is of key importance to discover that the base criterion, which will be the inspiring principle
of this and all the other redactions, is the intimate and indissoluble union between the Virgin Mother and the Son, in the whole History of Salvation. He
underlines the Christ-centric end of the Marian privileges, which, beginning in Christ, reverberate to his glory, given that the glory of the Mother
glorifies the goodness and power of the Son.
Speaking of the incorrupt body of Mary in the transit, he affirms that Christ wished that the corporal integrity of the Mother in the birth itself remain
incorrupt and immune from all violation (voluit corporalem integritatem Matris in ipsomet partu incorruptam atque violationis immunem manere). 74 The physical virginity of Mary in the birth is explicitly affirmed, which in
that historical moment had been placed in doubt by some authors. The incisión in ipsomet partu will be a point of contention in the redaction of
the schemas of the Marian text in the second part of the Council. Together with the cited text appears the note (32). 75
He affirms in the same place that the body of Mary is virginal (sacratissimum virgineum corpus). He bases this on a text of Saint German of
Constantinople76 which presents the corporal virginity of Mary, in the same
line as many other Father, as one of the reasons which justify the corporal assumption of Mary into heaven. These patristic texts and their content were
well known to Fr. Balić, who participated and worked intensely as expert in the redaction of the text of the Bull Munificentissimus Deus. These
expressions about the virginity of Mary in the birth, present in the first redaction of the De Beata, leave no room for merely spiritual
interpretations of the virginity, leaving aside the physical reality. Gathering the thought of the living Tradition, they reaffirmed the comprehension of
the virginitas in partu according to the feeling of the Church in the past sixteen centuries.
II.2. Second Redaction.
On the afternoon of 2 June 1961 the first meeting of the De Ecclesia Subcommittee took place. Balić gave a lengthy dissertation on the vota of the bishops and explained the method to the contentment of all. The text is discussed, and all concur that, as a whole, it is acceptable.
The following meeting took place on June 8. It dealt only with Mary’s privileges, and discussed only the matter of the death. There are no changes
regarding the virginity.
The first redaction was thus received by the De Ecclesia Subcommittee, in its articulation as much as in its exposition. All were agreed. It was
not something that could be presented as Fr. Balić’s opinion. The observations manifested by the experts in the meeting are conserved and no reservation
exists concerning the matter of the virginity in the birth.
In the month of June, Balić organized the second redaction of the text on the basis of the observations of the Subcommittee. It bears the datemense iunio 196177 and the title De Maria Matre Iesu et Matre Ecclesiae (2nd red.)
This second sketch of the redaction was discussed in Ariccia, in the House of the Divine Master, in the sessions of the Subcommittee that took place from 6
to 14 July 1961.
II.3. Third Redaction.
In Ariccia, with all of the members of the De Ecclesia Subcommittee present, the second redaction of 6 July 1961 was submitted to examination. The
criticisms were not many. Concerning the text referring to the virginity of Mary, no observation or criticism was made. Fr. Balić, taking the observations
into account, composed the third redaction: Ariccia, die 12ª m. Iulii 1961. 78 The paragraph referring to the virginal integrity in the birth, is
maintained unchanged. The text was discussed on the afternoon of 14 July, Friday.
The relation prepared by Fr. Tromp as secretary of the Theological Committee79
is dated 10 November 1961. It narrates the works carried out in Ariccia. It affirms that the five chapters of the Constitution about the Church were
prepared on 25 June. Chapter 5 bears the title De Maria Matre Iesu et Matre Ecclesiae, Incipit: Immense bonitatis Creator. Pages 23-26 contain the
text of the chapter, and from 26 to 41, there appears for the first time the text of the Nota Introductoria and the Notae. 80
It is the first time that the Mariological schema is situated in the De Ecclesia schema, with an introductory note and a great wealth of notes (46
in total). In the preceding schemas, although they were indicated in parenthesis, the Notae or the Nota Introductoria had never been
presented to the Subcommittee. The Nota Introductoria is significant. It explains the schema’s redaction process. It affirms that the primary
source of the text is the living Magisterium of the Church, expressed in the pontifical documents of the previous hundred years. It explicitly rejects some
errors that have arisen concerning Mary. Insofar as concerns her virginity, it wishes to reject the error that considers the virginity in the birth as
“univocal, identical, without any other element than that of the virginity before the birth.” 81 This consists of an implicit allusion (which will be explicit in the notes)
to the works of Mitterer and Galot.
The text referring to the virginity in the moment of the birth ( quique voluit corporalem integritatem Matris in ipsomet partu incorruptam atque violationis immunem manere), is accompanied by note 33. In it
appears an explicit mention of the works of Mitterer and Galot. We consider necessary a detailed examination of the contents of this lengthy note, given
that in it are indicated the magisterial and traditional sources which make clear that the interpretation made by these authors concerning the virginitas in partu, considering the physical integrity as an element not necessary for the dogma, is incompatible with the doctrine of the
Note 33 commences speaking of the Profession delivered by Niceforos, Patriarch of Constantinople, to Pope Leo III, and accepted by same. In it the corporal
integrity of Mary in the birth is confessed:
“Virgin also, who gave birth supernaturally and ineffably, being conserved virgin after the birth, and her virginity according to nature was in no way
changed or damaged.”82
The second argument of the Magisterium presented by Balić in the note, is taken from the letter “Lectis dilectionis tuae” addressed by Pope Saint
Leo the Great to the bishop Flavian of Constantinope (13 June 449). In it the errors of Eutyches are refuted, who cast doubts upon the double nature of
Christ. Speaking of the assumption of the human nature of Christ, he explains his conception and birth from the Virgin Mary:
“By new birth engendered: because the inviolate virginity did not know concupiscence and provided the material of the flesh.” 83
The third document cited to give foundation to the text on the virginity in the birth which appears in the third redaction, is from the Lateran Council of
649. It was Pope Martin I and, according to Balić, although it was not an ecumenical council in the strict sense, it outlined the mind of the Greek and
Latin Churches. In canon 3 whoever does not confess the virginity in the birth is condemned with anathema:
“Anyone who does not confess, in accordance with the Holy Fathers, really and truthfully, the Holy and ever Virgin and immaculate Mary to be mother of God,
as she who conceived in the fullness of time without semen by the power of the Holy Spirit the very Word of God himself, really and truly, who before all
the centuries was born of God the Father, and engendered him incorruptibly, she herself remaining, even after the birth, in her indissoluble virginity,
must be condemned.”84
The final arguments of the note referred to by Fr. Balić are taken from Tradition, three from the Holy Fathers and the last from a XIX century theologian.
The first father cited is Saint Ambrose, whose testimony is one of the most clear and emphatic in favor of the virginitas in partu, which he had
to defend against the heresy of Jovinian, who had been condemned by Pope Siricius in 393. Ambrose proposes the ever Virgin Mary as model to the Christian
virgins, on the basis of the passage of the prophet Ezekiel (Ez. 44, 2) which speaks of the sealed door of the temple, seeing in it a symbol of Mary’s
“The door, then, is Mary, by which Christ entered this world, when he was delivered in virginal birth, and did not open the genital cloisters of virginity.
The seal of modesty remained incorrupt, and the signs of virginity withstood inviolate, as he was born of a virgin…” 85
The patristic argument continues with a quotation from Saint Augustine, although in the note only the reference is given, without the cited text. 86 Augustine’s cited text says:
“Virtue itself gave birth to the child’s members through the virginal womb of the inviolate mother, and that virtue, later, introduced through the sealed
doors of the maiden’s members (Jn. 20, 26). If here a reason is sought, it will not be admirable; if an example is asked for, it will not be singular. Let
us admit that God can do something which we confess ourselves unable to understand. In such cases, the whole reason of the act is the author’s power.” 87
The last patristic author cited is another great defender of the virginity of Mary: Saint Jerome. He found himself obliged to write a treatise ( Adversus Helvidium) to combat the heretical doctrines of Helvidius, who sustained that Mary had had other children after Jesus. Again, Fr. Balić
gives only the reference of Saint Jerome’s work (S. HIERONIMUS, in Epistola 48, 21; PL 22, 510), without including the text. We include it here:
“This is the eastern door, of which Ezekiel spoke, ever sealed, and limpid, and hidden, or that which leads to the Holy of holies; by which the sun of
justice, and our Pontiff according to the order of Melchisedec, entered and exited. One may respond to me, how did Jesus enter with the doors locked, with
palpable hands and pondered side, and showing bones and flesh, so that by the truth of his body he not be considered a ghost, and I will respond, how Holy
Mary is mother and virgin. Virgin after the birth, mother before being married.” 88
The final reference, to synthesize the Tradition in a few words, is from an author already known to us, the Jesuit Dionisius Petavius, who in his work De incarnatione treats the matter of the virginity in the birth:
“According to all the Fathers, it must be taken as true, that decree, which is confessed by the universal catholic Church, that the Most Holy Virgin
maintained intact and integral in the birth that by which virgins may be distinguished from the married.” 89
Balić ends the paragraph affirming that it is commonly taught that this doctrine must be taken as one of divine and catholic faith. 90
The last paragraph of the lengthy note that we have been commenting on, is dedicated to some modern authors who consider that the virginity of Mary in the
birth does not consist of some incorruptibility, and say that the virginity in the birth is univocal with the virginity before the birth. He gives the
concrete reference of the works of Mitterer and Galot, which are really the origin of the entire note and of all the affirmations concerning the virginity
in the birth that are made in the text.91
Towards the end of June the schema was sent with the third redaction, the introductory note and the notes to the members of the Theological Committee, with
a view to the plenary meeting in September.
II.4. Fourth Redaction.
Many Animadversiones meanwhile reached the Secretary of the Theological Committee from the members and consultants, concerning all of theDe Ecclesia text, but not a few concerning chapter V, De Maria Matre Iesu et Matre Ecclesiae 92.
In our study of the archive sources, we have had access to the observations made by the Committee experts concerning the Marian chapter, which we will now
proceed to study.
Fr. Domenico Bertetto SDB, along with other observations, explicitly addresses the matter of the virginity in the birth. Commenting upon note 33, in which
Mitterer and Galot are mentioned, he deems it convenient to proffer judgment against these authors. 93 Another theologian who presented notable observations on the question of
virginity, was the Capuchin Fr. D. Unger. He suggests that the the formula insimul mater, mente et corpore semperque virgo 94 be included in the text. His proposal was accepted and included in
the text of the fourth redaction. Although it is true that Fr. Unger’s suggestion was directed towards preserving the spiritual virginity of Mary, the
formula introduced (mente et corpore semperque virgo) equally includes the confession of perpetual virginal integrity in the body of the Mother of
God. Mons. M.M. Dubois, Archbishop of Besançon, succintly expresses his complete contentment with the Marian chapter (Hoc caput maxime mihi placet 95).
Protocol 5/61: 89/13 contains the interesting observations of G. Jouassard, professor in the Faculty of Theology of Lyon. 96 We must highlight the suggestions he offers to amplify and improve the
contents of the aforesaid note 33 elaborated by Balić. Some of them will be introduced in the text of the note when the Marian text is re-elaborated in the
third session of the Council, and will follow a long trajectory, appearing in the footnote that accompanies the text of chapter VIII of the Constitution Lumen gentium promulgated in November of 1964. Moreover, the act of completing the note clearly manifests Jouassard’s awareness that the doctrine
of virginity in the birth belongs to the Tradition and to the faith of the Church.
He begins with a clearer testimony to the virginitas in partu than the one found in the letter Saint Leo the Great sent to Flavian. The phrase he
suggests to introduce is:
“He was then conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, who gave birth to him, her virginity remaining intact, as with intact virginity
she conceived him.”97
This text is one of the four references that appear in the note of the definitive text to clarify the meaning of virginity in the birth, although it was
not at first included by Fr. Balić.
A second reference to be introduced in the note proceeds from the Council of Chalcedon, and a declaration by the Fathers to the emperor Marcian. The
Fathers mention having included the Epistle of Pope Leo the Great to Flavian, which is a testimony in harmony with the faith of Peter. Jouassard gives only
the reference. The text referred to is:
“and how the Mother of God was also called virgin, by virtue of the one who deigned to consecrate her virginity also after the birth and to seal the
integrity of the uterus, as worthy of God.”98
This reference to the Chalcedonian Council did not appear in Balić’s text. It will be another of the definitive references which the Constitution Lumen gentium offers on the virginity in the birth.
The next expert to make observations on the matter of the virginity was the French priest René Laurentin, professor of the Catholic Faculty of Anger. 99 He corrects the orientation that appears in the text, saying that it cannot
be based solely in the personal or individual dignity of the Mother of God, but must be related to the Incarnation, to a “new birth” of Christ, according
to the patristic doctrine. He labels the present mode of expressing the question as “sentimentalism.” 100 He presents objections to the use of the word violatione in the
text, because nowadays it is related to the act of “forcing” the woman by the man. Laurentin thinks that violatione obscures more than clarifies,
and that the text would lose nothing in terms of meaning if this term were eliminated. 101
Once the observations of the members of the Theological Committee and the consultants were received, in September 1961 the Plenary Meeting of the said
Committee took place. Fr. Tromp affirms that the chapter has practically remained as it was. 102
In the days from 16 to 23 of November 1961, the De Ecclesia Subcommittee met in the Domus Mariae, near Rome, in the via Aurelia. During
this meeting the fourth redaction was composed, which in Fr. Balić’s manuscript bears the date 19 November 1961. The typewritten text bears the date 20
November, protocol C.T. 19/61:20-S/C De Ecclesia.103
It bears a new title: Ch. 5: Concerning Mary, Mother of the Mystical Body of Christ. 104 In the third paragraph of this chapter, concerning the privileges of
Mary, there are variations on the matter of the virginity. According to Unger’s observations, an incision is introduced which effectively underlines the
spiritual sense of the virginity, but equally underlines the corporal sense, given that the perpetual virginity of mind and body are affirmed. Instead of
the “insimul mater semperque virgo” of the preceding redaction, it now reads “insimul mater semperque, mente et corpore virgo (cf. Lk 1, 27-34).” This expression will remain until the final redaction of the De Beata which will be sent to the Fathers. In accordance with Laurentin’s request, the expression violationis inmunem is
eliminated from the text and is substituted by illibatam. The perpetual virginity of Mary is confirmed anew, introducing a liturgical text taken
from the preface of the Mass of the Holy Virgin Mary. The amplified text says as follows: “
quique voluit corporalem integritatem Matris in ipsomet partu atque illibatam manere, ita ut «virginitatis gloria permanente lumen aeternum mundo
II.5. Fifth Redaction.
On 22 November, Wednesday, seventh day of the meeting of the De Ecclesia Subcommittee in the Domus Mariae, from 18.00 to 19.30, the
discussion on the Marian chapter commences. On 23 November, in the morning, the last session took place.
After these days of work in the Domus Mariae, the De Ecclesia Subcommittee met again in the months of December 1961 and January 1962. All
of the chapters of the Constitution De Ecclesia were concluded, including the one that treats the Virgin Mary. Fr. Balić prepared the fifth
redaction of the De Beata, which bears the date 20 January 1961.105
The title has been changed again: “Ch. V: CONCERNING MARY, MOTHER OF THE HEAD AND MOTHER OF THE MEMBERS OF THE MYSTICAL BODY OF CHRIST.” 106
In the Praenotanda mention is made of the possibility of treating the text in a separate schema. The desire to reject the errors that in these
times have spread concerning the Virgin is maintained without variation, and the error of considering the virginity of Mary in the birth as univocal with
and identical to the virginity before the birth, without adding any element, remains. As for the texts referring to the virginity, there is no substantial
II.6. Sixth Redaction.
We are going to consider now the observations which, according to our argument, were sent during the month of February to the Secretary of the Theological
Committee. We have in the first place the observations redacted by the Redemptorist B. Häring. The document is dated in Rome, 28-1-62. Fr. Häring manifests
his satisfaction with the greater part of the Marian text, but expresses some reservations, and one of them, of considerable length, refers to the questoin
of Mary’s corporal integrity in the moment of the birth. Häring thinks that the virginitatis gloria permanens which the liturgy sings refers to
the mystery of the virginity in the full sense. The conciliar document, according to the German Redemptorist, would lose much of its spiritual and
conciliatory vigor, if it descends to this question. He considers it more opportune not to touch the matter, given that it is not mature enough for a
solemn declaration of the Council.107
The next animadversiones recorded are by the Salesian D. Bertetto. There is no specific observation about matter of the virginity. He praises the
It seems significant to us that many of the experts present no observation or objection to the matter of the virginity in the birth, which features so
clearly in the schema presented for their evaluation. I believe that their silence may be interpreted as approval, which in some cases is made patent.
Among the members, experts or consultants of the Committee who present no reservation on the matter, are: Bertetto SDB, Xiberta, Dander SJ, Mons. Dubois,
archbishop of Besançon, García Garcés CFM, Brinktrine, Betti OFM, who briefly says quo ad doctrinam nihil adnotandum, Dhanis SJ, Ciapii OP, P.
Felipe de la Stma. Trinidad OCD, Jouassard, Unger OFM Cap., Trapè OAR, Mons. Schröffer, bishop of Eichstätt, Mons. Audet, auxiliary bishop of Quebec,
Delhaye, Backes. It may be seen, therefore, that the immense majority of the consultants have no reservations about the matter, they consider it
appropriate to be introduced in the conciliar text which was being redacted, as expression of the ecclesial faith maintained uninterruptedly by the living
Tradition of the Church since the times of Saint Ambrose.
René Laurentin manifests that the errors mentioned in section IV, 2 of the Praenotanda should be judged and rejected distinctly. He clearly
affirms that he considers the first error mentioned (that of understanding univocally the virginity in the birth and after the birth) as related to a
matter belonging to dogma, but indicates it would be useful to assess what in this matter is formally dogmatic, by what title and for what reason. 109
André Bride, professor of the Catholic University of Lyon, presents a good reflection about the influence exerted by the surrounding environment and the
fashion of the moment concerning the interpretation of the dogmas. He affirms that today (hodie appears underlined in the original text many
pastors of souls teach that Mary gave birth like other mothers, to console these. He points out that this manner of proceeding does not merit the name of
theology, but is rather a fluctuation before all the winds of doctrine, which accommodates the dogmas to the prevailing inventions or sensibilities of the
Finally, H.E. Mons. John Wright, bishop of Pittsburg (USA), evaluates the text very positively. 111 In a document which summarily contains the interventions of the persons
consulted, that of A. Michel may be found. He expresses satisfaction with the text. One of the reasons for his satisfaction is that the intact virginity
and the corporal integrity in the birth itself is affirmed, which prevents many useless disputes about the matter. 112
The third plenary meeting of the Theological Committee took place in Rome in the days 1-10 of March 1962. At the proposal of Fr. Balić, it was approved
that the schema be placed as autonomous, separated from the De Ecclesia, as an independent constitution.113 Out of this select meeting emerged the text of the sixth redaction of the De Beata, with the title: DE BEATA MARIA MATRE DEI ET MATRE HOMINUM, dated 10 March 1962.
II.7. Seventh Redaction.
Both Fr. Balić and Fr. Tromp, found themselves obliged to seek a redactional consensus for the text, which had to be presented in May to the Central
Committee. The request of the bishop of Eichstätt, H.E. Mons. J. Schröffer had to be taken into account; he requested that the value of the Magisterium and
the progress of the dogmas be highlighted.
Owing to this proposal and other emendationes a re-elaboration of the sixth redaction had to be made with some abbreviations and additions,
especially concerning the mediation of Mary. So, on 12 April 1962 the De Ecclesia Subcommittee met in the Holy Office to work on the agreed text.
Thus is born the seventh redaction of the De Beata. It bears the title: “Constitutio: DE MARIA MATRE DEI ET MATRE HOMINUM.”114
Before being presented to the Central Preparatory Committee which would meet in May for a first session, it was delivered to Pope John XXIII. Here arises
the disagreement that Fr. Tromp reflects in his Diario. The Pope detains the Constitution about the Virgin Mary so that it not be transmitted to
the Central Committee and afterwards to the Council. He does not want a Constitution to be made about the Virgin. The reasons for this decision are unknown
to us. Fr. Tromp briefly outlines the facts in his Diario. On April 25, Thursday, Mons. Felici delivers to Fr. Leclercq the Constitution on the
Virgin, telling him that the Holy Father did not wish there to be a Constitution totally dedicated to Mary. So, the Constitution must not be printed or
sent to the Central Committee. The next day, April 26, Fr. Tromp had a conversation with Cardinal Ottaviani about the matter, and immediately afterwards
elaborated a memorandum for the Cardinal who was to have an audience with the Holy Father the following day. 115 In a handwritten note, with Protocol 3/62:7, may be read:
“Today 25 April 1962 H. Ex. Felici has called me to return to me the text of the Constitution about the BVM, telling me that the Holy Father prefers that
it continue no further. But on the 27th I have returned it to His Ex. Felici.” 116
In the memorándum elaborated by Fr. Tromp the motives for which he considered it necessary to maintain the constitution about the Virgin are
outlined.117 The reasons presented to the Pope to maintain the Constitution
on the Virgin are eight.118 We have found in the VSA a document written by
Fr. Balić in these same dates. We believe we may affirm that it was elaborated to be presented to the Holy Father showing the numerous requests made by the
Fathers that the Marian argument be addressed in the Council, but given the swiftness with which events unfolded, we cannot assure that they were presented
to the Pontiff. It bears the title Pro-memoria. It does not have an exact date, but it was written towards the end of the month of April 1962. The
protocol number (Prot. C.T. 3/62:10, De B.V.M.), shows us the temporal proximity to the memorándum written by Tromp (Prot. C.T. 3/ 62: 8)
and also possesses a similarity in the contents. In this document, Balić makes a summary of the number of requests and of the arguments proposed to be
treated. He also mentions the vota referring to the matter of the virginity in the birth.
He underlines that in several of the vota of the Fathers reasons are adduced to prove not only the convenience but also the necessity of having
the Council address the subject of the Virgin Mary so that the Catholic doctrine given by the Magisterium in the last decades be confirmed, clarified and
illustrated. Among the reasons of convenience, he points as much to the ignorance and prejudice of the Protestants concerning the Catholic doctrine, as to
the “maximalism” and “minimalism” of Catholic theologians. He cites as example the writings of the bishops of Lancaster in England, and of St. Louis and
Trenton in the USA, who are scandalized by the new and erroneous doctrines of some Catholics in the matter of Mary’s virginity in the birth, and demand a
clear definition concerning this point.119
After the audience with Cardinal Ottaviani, the Pope received the petition and granted that the De Beata schema make its final trajectory as
independent Constitution. Fr. Tromp indicates as much in his Diarium: “27 April 1962: Saturday. 9 in the morning. His Eminence visited the Supreme
Pontiff. It was decided that the Constitution about the Most Holy Virgin be treated in the ordinary way.” 120
With a letter of presentation dated 12 June, Fr. Balić delivered to Fr. Tromp a votum which he himself had prepared concerning the Marian
Constitution. In the letter he says that he has delivered a copy of the votum to Cardinal Ottaviani. He asks Tromp to assess the convenience of
making a copy of his manuscript to deliver it to at least some of the Fathers who form the Central Committee and who must decide on the matter. 121
In his votum, Balić reflects anew the concern that not a few have shown in the USA at the new theories about the virginity in the birth, and cites
the aforementioned requests of the bishop of St. Louis and the bishop of Trenton. The latter affirms that the new interpretations leave the dogma almost
void of content and meaning.122
Further on, he cites a text of Saint John Damascene which clearly touches the matter of the virginitas in partu and its relation with the mystery
of Mary’s Assumption. The Damascene juxtaposes the figure of Eve who by her disobedience to God suffered the pains of birth together with the other
consequences of sin, with the figure of Mary who by her obedience has conceived without male concourse and has given birth without knowing the pains of
childbirth.123 On p. 61 of his note, Balić, commentating the cited patristic
text, affirms that the Fathers deduce the reality of Mary’s Assumption from her divine maternity, intimately united to her virginity in the birth.
Moreover, the miraculous reality of the body of Mary adorned with the divine maternity and with the perpetual virginity, was already confessed in the first
Symbols with the words: “qui natus est de Spiritu Sancto ex Maria Virgine.” 124 Tromp will not deliver Balić’s manuscript to the Central Committee
On June 20 at 12.10 the discussion of the De Beata schema commences. In the VSA may be found the document which contains the observations of the
Fathers. In general, the text is approved and praised. Concerning the matter of the virginity there is only one observation, from Cardinal Silva Henríquez,
archbishop of Santiago de Chile, asking that the mention made of the virginity in the birth with such detail be omitted, and preferring that a general
clause be introduced about the perpetual virginity.125
It is interesting that the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Janssens, gave the schema a placet iuxta modum, manifesting reservations only
on the matters of Mary’s mediation and spiritual maternity.126 Later on, in
the second conciliar stage, he will express severe judgments on the matter of virginity in the birth and the mention of the Jesuit Galot in the notes which
were present at the time. Similarly, the Cardinal of Vienna, König, whose present evaluation of the text is very positive (Schema optimum est 127) will present, after the summer of 1963, together with the
German-speaking Episcopal Conferences and the Scandinavian bishops, a lengthy criticism of the text, and in the month of November 1963, as President of the
Subcommittee in charge of the redaction of the Marian text, will ask Mons. Gerard Philips for the elaboration of a completely new text.
On 11 June 1962, from 9.00 to 11.00 in the morning, the Subcommittee met to revise the observations of the Central Committee. In one of the copies of the
schema edited by the Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis, Fr. Tromp annotated the commentaries. There was no correction concerning the matter of thevirginitas in partu. At the beginning of the text, Tromp writes by hand: “König, Döpfner, Suenens, Valeri schema optimo.” 128
There also exists a manuscript by Fr. Tromp, cited in his Diarium, 129 containing the replies of the Subcommittee for the revision of the
observations made by the Central Committee. It was redacted on July 16. It explains that in the schema prevalence has been given to the Pontifical
Magisterium because in it the progress of the doctrine is given. Likewise, the Fathers are frequently quoted in the schema (Augustine, Epiphanius,
Damascene, Amrose, Leo the Great, etc.).130 There is no response to the
observation by Cardinal Silva Henríquez, but his proposal was not accepted and therefore there were no modifications in the text regarding the matter of
The corrections suggested by the Fathers and introduced in the text are contained in the Acts of the Vatican Council II. 131 Although the text was sent to print on October 10, the final touches were
delivered to the Secretary of the Theological Committee for the final revision on 26 October 1962, the Council having commenced fifteen days earlier. On
November 10 the Secretary of State communicated the decision of the Holy Father to send the schema to the Council Fathers. 132
II.8. Eighth Redaction
Thus came to light the eighth and final redaction of the Constitution De Beata. 133 The text was printed around the end of October or beginning of November
1962, along with the Constitution on the Church.134
The printed document of the two constitutions consists of 124 pages. It bears the title: “
SACROSANCTUM OECUMENICUM CONCILIUM VATICANUM SECUNDUM – SCHEMATA CONSTITUTIONUM ET DECRETORUM de quibus disceptabitur in Concilii Sessionibus – SERIES
De Ecclesia et De B. Maria Virgine (Sub secreto), TYPIS POLYGLOTTIS VATICANIS – MCMLXII”. The schema about the Virgin covers pages
93-122. The text of the schema: pp. 93-98, the Praenotanda: pp. 99-101, the Notes: pp. 101-122.
The text of both constitutions, approved by Pope John XXIII on 10 November 1962, was distributed to the Fathers on November 23, during the first session of
the Vatican Council II. It was thought that the Constitution De Beata would be studied before the Constitution De Ecclesia but this did
As regards our subject, in the Praenotanda, as in the third and fifth redactions, the desire is maintained without variation to condemn the
contemporary errors about Mary. The error of considering the virginity in the birth in a way that is univocal, identical with the virginity before the
birth, without any extra element, is mentioned again with the same words in section IV, 2. In the text the same expressions of the previous redactions are
maintained: “sacratissimum virgineum corpus”, “insimul mater semperque, mente et corpore virgo”, “ corporalem integritatem Matris in ipsomet partu incorruptam atque illibatam manere”. These are clear expressions which seek to highlight the
reality of the physical, corporal virginity of Mary, including the moment of the birth.
The text notes are abundant and long. Referring to the matter of the virginity, note 25 supports the text “ insimul mater semperque, mente et corpore virgo.” It takes as foundation texts of the Magisterium drawn from Denzinger, in its edition prior to
1962. To be specific: Denz. 6, 13, 20, 111A, 144, 148, 214, 218, 256, 290, 429. These are principally confessions of faith from the fourth century up to
the Lateran Council IV (1215).
Note 31, one of great extension and content, corresponds to the longest text: “ corporalem integritatem Matris in ipsomet partu incorruptam atque illibatam manere.” It repeats without variation the contents of note 33
which accompanied the text in the third redaction and which we have studied previously. To avoid repetitions we remit to what we have presented there.
By way of final evaluation of this stage of our study, it must be said that the contents of the last redaction of the De Beata schema roundly
affirm that the corporal integrity is essential to the dogma of Mary’s virginity in the birth. This doctrine is presented with foundation in numerous texts
of the Magisterium and of the Tradition. The purpose is to demonstrate clearly that the interpretations of the dogma made by Mitterer and Galot, who wish
to put aside the corporal sense of the virginitas in partu, are not in conformity with the faith of the Church. As affirmed at the end of note 31,
it is commonly taught that this doctrine should be taken as one of divine and catholic faith.
But reading number 57 of the final redaction of the constitution Lumen gentium, which speaks of the virginal birth of Christ, one finds a Spartan
affirmation with a formula taken from the liturgy: qui virginalem eius integritatem non minuit sed sacravit. What were the reasons that motivated
this redactional change in the second phase of the Council? What is the meaning of these words in the definitive text? Was it the intention of the Council
to leave open to theological discussion the matter of the contents of the virginitas in partu?
In the second part of our study we will respond to all of these questions.
VIRGINITAS IN PARTU
IN VATICAN COUNCIL II, Part II
In number 57 of the Constitution Lumen Gentium there appears a phrase, taken from the liturgy, which refers to the virginity of Mary in the birth
of Jesus (virginitas in partu): qui virginalem eius integritatem non minuit sed sacravit. In the foregoing part of this work we have
studied the disputes that arose around this point of Mariology in the years prior to the Council and during the preparatory phase. In that polemical
climate, Fr. Carlo Balić, redactor of the first schema of the Marian text, introduced clear affirmations concerning the virginal integrity of Mary in the
birth: corporalem integritatem Matris in ipsomet partu incorruptam atque illibatam manere. What happened that led to the clear affirmations of the
first schema being substituted by this more sober liturgical text? How should this change be interpreted? Has there been a change of position in the
Magisterium of the Church with regard to the virginitas in partu? In this second part we will attempt to respond to these questions.
Genesis of the Second Schema
On November 23, 1962, the text of the Marian schema elaborated by Balić was distributed to the Council Fathers.135 That same day, the Presidency Committee 136 announced that the schema concerning the Virgin would be discussed
immediately after the one on Unity, towards the end of the session which would come to its close on December 8. 137 But matters took a different turn. This schedule provoked objections by
some who feared a Mariological exaltation stirred by the proximity of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, which might endanger the ecumenical
Cardinal Ottaviani had delegated the Cardinal of Quebec, Mons. Roy, on November 24, to redact the Marian schema, but the following day, November 25, the
General Secretary of the Council, Mons. Felici, communicated to Cardinal Ottaviani on behalf of the Secretary of State that there was a change in the order
of discussions in the aula. Ottaviani manifested reservations because he considered that the time allotted was not sufficient for the study of De Ecclesia, and, on the other hand, it would be sufficient to study De Beata. He thought that the Holy Father would be satisfied to see
one Constitution already approved.139 On November 26, at the commencement of
the 27th General Congregation, Mons. Felici communicated the change of order to the Fathers. 140
In the session of the 28th, Ottaviani attempted to re-establish the first order of business that had been decided. But the Presidency Committee
of the Council gathered in an extraordinary session and maintained the more recent order. 141 Between the 1st and the 7th of December 1962, the
discussion concerning the Constitution on the Church was initiated. The majority of the interventions dealt with the Church, but there were also some
interventions addressing the Marian theme, either united to De Ecclesia, or independently. The General Secretary communicated to the Fathers that
whoever had not had the opportunity to make a verbal intervention could submit their observations concerning De Ecclesia in writing before 28
February 1963.142 It was not sufficiently clear if the requested observations
referred exclusively to the schema concerning the Church or if those containing suggestions and critiques concerning De Beata should also be
included. Among the oral interventions of the council Fathers and the written observations, there are some which refer to the matter of the virginity in
The Archbishop of Smyrna, Mons. Descuffi, points out that the virginity in the birth is a very controversial topic in our times. He proposes the
substitution of the words of the official text which treat the matter clearly and explicitly by other more generic terms: “She was at once Mother and ever
virgin in mind and body.”143 Against this, the bishop of Tebe, in Egypt,
Mons. Ghattas, speaks on behalf of the Coptic Church insisting that the perpetual virginity of Mary does not admit any shadow of doubt. He affirms that
before, during and after the birth of Jesus she has remained ever virgin. It is worth mentioning that he bases his affirmation on the passage that recounts
the vision of the prophet Ezequiel (Ez 44:2), referring to the door of the temple. That door is Mary, who, conceiving and giving birth to Jesus, remains
The Cardinal of Tokyo, on the other hand, Mons. Tatsuo Doi, preferred that the text on the virginity of Mary in the delivery be removed. By way of reasons
for this he cites the recent controversy surrounding the topic, the difficulty of providing a clear explanation of it and the pastoral prudence that
recommends caution when it comes to making public statements.145 Mons. de
Povenchères, bishop of Acqui, with other French bishops, considers it useless to speak of the virginity in the birth in such a precise way in our times. 146
Having presented the observations made by some bishops, we must consider the silence of a great majority who offer no objection in this point of the
studied text. And also those unpublished animadversions which are clearly in favor of an open treatment of the matter of the virginitas in partu.
In the VSA folder which contains them, it is written that they were not published because the schema did not end up being discussed in the first conciliar
session.147 The bishop of Nicastro (Italy), for example, Mons. Vincenzo
Jacono, wrote on the 25th of January 1963 a statement that the virginity of Mary should be admitted not only before the birth but also in the
birth itself. He affirms that the fact of the virginal birth corresponds to the prophecy of Isaiah concerning the virgin ??? who conceives and gives birth
to a son. Just as she remains intact in the virginal conception, she maintains her virginity in the birth. 148
The bishop of Bilbao, Mons. Pablo Gúrpide, in a document dated 4 Abril 1963, also makes a strong defense of the Marian privilege in the birth of Christ.
With sorrow and scandal he has seen that doubts are being cast upon Marian privileges that have been pacifically possessed by the Christian faithful for
many centuries, among them the virginity of Mary in the birth.149
The Minister General of the Franciscans, Fr. Sepinsky OFM, asks that in the phrase referring to the virginity in the birth, the word corporalis be
changed to virginalis.150
Meanwhile, the work on the schemas continued in the Coordinating Committee. 151 From the 21st to the 27th of January 1963 they
worked on the revision of the schemas. Cardinal Suenens was chosen as redactor of De Ecclesia and De Beata. On the 23rd of
January, having expressed many reservations concerning the official text of the schema on the Church, he proposed a new schema composed of four chapters,
probably elaborated by Mons. Gerard Philips.152 The new schema addresses the
mystery of the Church, the bishops, the laity, and devotes chapter IV to the Virgin Mary. The aim is to insert the Marian schema in De Ecclesia,
distinguishing between the pilgrim Church and the glorious, pointing to the place Mary occupies in the latter. There is a desire to avoid presenting the
Marian theme as superimposed upon the theme of the Church and to avoid making a compendium of Mariology. The intimate connection between Mary and the
Church, as Daughter, archetype, spiritual Mother and eschatological image of same, must be presented. Her connection with the apostolate must also be
addressed, presenting her as spiritual Mother of the Church.153 In this
proposal one may intuit the path that the Council would later follow, making a new schema on the Church and introducing the Marian chapter as an integral
But on the afternoon of January 24, in response to a proposal by Cardinal Cicognani, agreement is reached to maintain the Marian text as autonomous, with
the title De Beata Virgine Maria, Mater Ecclesiae.154 With this new
title, and as an independent schema, it was sent in the month of May 1963 to the council Fathers requesting that they send their observations before the
end of June.155
The Doctrinal Committee had changed its approach in the face of the numerous criticisms received in response to the schema De Ecclesia. They
decided to abandon the official text and to take the text composed by Mons. Philips as the basis for discussion. 156
In a meeting held in Madrid from the 23rd to the 26th of April 1963, the Spanish Mariologists redacted a possible schema of the
Marian text. It bears the title De Beata Virgine Maria, Ecclesiae Mater. In number 6 of the schema, which is dedicated to the Marian privileges, a
clear and complete exposition is made of the virginity before, in and after the birth:
“Admirable above all appears the Mother of God in her divine maternity, remaining most integrally virgin: Virgin before the birth conceiving by the Holy
Spirit, remaining without corruption and without stain (23), and by a miraculous birth, conserving the glory of virginity, she poured upon the world the
eternal Light. Virgin after the birth, which conserved her solely for God in mind and most sacred body, once tabernacle of the divine Word.” 157
It is interesting to analyze the content of note 23 which accompanies the point referring to the virginity in the birth. In this note, it is affirmed that
the reality of the miraculous birth is present in many testimonies of the councils, the Roman Pontiffs, the Holy Fathers and the liturgies, and that the
denial of same should be judged as contrary to Catholic doctrine and to the faith. 158 In support of this argument it mentions the study by Fr. Solá S.I.
published in the book Conclusiones Mariologicae. In his study, Fr. Solá affirms that it must be considered as a divine and defined doctrine of
faith: that Mary was virgin before the birth, that she conceived without the seed of man, that she did not lose virginity on conceiving, that the birth was
miraculous and without pain, that she remained virgin and maintained always the corporal integrity. 159
This Spanish schema was sent to the president of the Committee De fide et moribus, Cardinal Ottaviani, on the 6th of May 1963 by Mons.
Casimiro Morcillo, archbishop of Zaragoza, on behalf of the Spanish bishops. Fr. Tromp gathered together and put in order, in the months of June and
September 1963, the observations that arrived concerning the Marian schema. 160 We do not know why the Spanish schema was not included by Fr. Tromp along
with the other schemas presented which were published by the Typis Polyglottis Vaticana in a sheet that was delivered to the council Fathers on
the 29th of October 1963 in the hall during the General Congregation LVII. 161
On 3 June 1963 Pope John XXIII died, and on the 21st of that month Paul VI was elected. On September 29 the second conciliar period was opened.
We deem it necessary, in order to comprehend well the reigning atmosphere, to provide some details before passing to the consideration of each one of the
observations sent by the Fathers that refer to our subject. Knowledge of certain facts will undoubtedly help to evaluate and comprehend some of the
positions manifested in the animadversions presented to the Marian schema, and more concretely to the matter of the virginitas in partu which is
It would probably be difficult to evaluate whether it was the discussions in the conciliar hall or the extraconciliar activities carried out by the
episcopal Conferences and the periti in their informative talks to the bishops, that had more importance in the future of the Marian text.
Influence of K. Rahner
Karl Rahner will play a key role in the matter that concerns us. In 1960 he published an essay on the evolution of dogma, taking as explanatory model the virginitas in partu.162 In it he sustains that Mary, by virtue of
being exempt from concupiscence, lived the birth in a unique way on a subjective level. Insofar as concerns the contents of the dogma, he thinks that what
is meant by corporal integrity is not sufficiently clear. The corporal aspect would be secondary, and what really matters is the subjective living of the
fact, the corporal realities implied by the dogma remaining inexpressible. This article provoked not a little perplexity in some Roman circles. Voices were
raised calling for measures to be taken against Rahner. These voices impelled Cardinal Döpfner to intercede on his behalf in an audience on the 24 th of January 1961 before John XXIII. On March 22, Rahner was nominated consultant of the preparatory Committee of the Council for the
discipline of the sacraments.163 In October 1961, Cardinal König asked Rahner
to revise the documents prepared by the Central Committee and to give him his opinion. 164 Rahner thus became the private counselor of the Cardinal of Vienna. In
the spring of 1962, Rahner had to write in Latin for König his opinions on the schemas prepared for the Central Committee. 165
On 7 June 1962, he receives from his Jesuit superiors the notification that, from that moment on, he would have a “precensura romana” in all of his
John XXIII, in October 1962, named K. Rahner a peritus theologian of the Council. Cardinal König brought him with him as advisor in the meetings
of the Theological Committee. In December he is present, alongside the Cardinal, in the meetings of the Mixed Committee, presided by Ottaviani. As peritus he was able to attend the sessions in the conciliar hall. According to Vorgrimler, this was boring, since in the hall the bishops only
presented the speeches which the periti had prepared for them beforehand. 167 He rarely participated in the official sessions. His specific work
unfolded in the margins of the official organizations. He spoke before the German-speaking bishops, was invited to speak by the South-American bishops and
participated in encounters with the French theologians.168 On 28 May 1963 the
General of the Jesuits communicated to Rahner that the Holy Office had withdrawn the precensura.
Rahner had to prepare commentaries on the schemas on the Church, the Virgin and Revelation. He writes to Vorgrimler on 4 July 1963: “Today I have sent my
dictations for the bishops on the three dogmatic themes of the Council to Döpfner to be photocopied.” 169
We cannot overlook the Conference of Fulda, which took place from 26 to 29 of August 1963. In it approximately seventy German, Austrian and Swiss bishops
gathered together with Cardinals Frings, Döpfner and Alfrink. Four of the six bishops from the Scandanavian countries and some French and Belgian bishops
When the German bishops received the schema De Beata, they asked Fr. Rahner to make observations on same, to be presented at the forthcoming
Conference of Fulda. In Rahner’s opinion, to accept the schema as it was would cause great harm to the ecumenical movement with the Protestants and
Orientals. All of the advances heretofore achieved in the ecumenical dialogue would be useless if the text were admitted. Since it seemed unlikely that
this schema be rejected as easily as that of the sources of Revelation, the best thing to do was to urge insistently that it be introduced as a chapter or
epilogue of De Ecclesia. This would be the easiest way to erase from the schema the points that are not sufficiently developed or might entail an
obstacle to ecumenism.170
The Fulda Conference drew much attention from the press; it was accused of being a “counter-council” or a conspiracy against Rome. To clarify matters,
Cardinal Frings visited Pope Paul VI at Castelgandolfo, informing the Pontiff of the work that was done there. Frings was greatly relieved to find that the
Pope had not taken seriously all of the accusations featured in the press about the Fulda meeting. On 3 September the Press Office of the Council published
a note correcting the arbitrary interpretations echoed in the press, affirming that the episcopal meeting of Fulda had taken place in a pacific and
friendly way, and that the bishops had gathered the better to study the future schemas of the Council. 171
On 12 September 1963, Rahner writes to Vorgrimler about his activity in Munich. He tells him he has redacted three documents with observations on the
official schemas. The one on De Beata is very strong.172 After the Fulda
encounter, the German-speaking bishops and the Scandanavian Episcopal Conference (which was made of just four bishops) jointly presented their observations
on the Marian text in a long document. Briefly, we will study the content of the text insofar as it relates to our subject.
We are aware that the parenthesis has been long, but it seems critical to show the influence of K. Rahner on the Cardinals and German-speaking bishops,
some French bishops and on the Latin American Cardinals and bishops.173 Given
this influence, it is not surprising that among the Fathers under Rahner’s doctrinal influence, opposition arose to the traditional interpretation
concerning the virginity in the birth, including the corporal integrity as featured in De Beata. It is suggested that all reference to the
corporal dimension of virginity be eliminated, opting instead for a solely generic reference: semper virgine.
of the Fathers
Bearing the foregoing in mind, we will now examine the objections that reached the Theological Committee concerning the Marian schema, before 28 February,
as had been requested in the first session of the Council, as well as in the spring months after the sending of the same Marian text to the Fathers in May
Fr. Tromp elaborated a summary of the animadversions which was distributed to the Fathers on 29 October 1963, in the General Congregation LVII. It
was later published in the Acta Synodalia.174 We prefer to study the
complete text of the animadversions the better to evaluate the observations of the Fathers concerning our topic. We will follow the order of
appearance in the Appendix of the volume of publication under the title ANIMADVERSIONES SCRIPTO EXHIBITAE QUOAD SCHEMA DE B. MARIA VIRGINE.
Firstly, we have the observations of Cardinal Bea. He asks that if the virginity in the birth is affirmed, it not be done only indirectly (non tantum in obliquo), because this would cause many problems for the Protestants.175 We cannot quite comprehend Cardinal Bea’s statement “ non tantum in obliquo”. It seems reasonable to interpret that in his opinion, if the matter of the virginity in the birth is addressed, it should
not be in a lateral way but extensively, thoroughly explaining the contents of the dogma.
We have already had occasion to study the commentaries of the Cardinal of Tokyo, in his intervention in the conciliar aula in December 1962. His criticisms
now reappear in writing. He desires that no mention be made of the corporal integrity of Mary in the birth, as conserved incorrupt and without blemish. He
considers it sufficient to affirm that she remained ever virgin in mind and in body. There are difficulties, in his judgment, with explaining positively
the nature of the corporal integrity in the birth, and furthermore, pastoral prudence advises not to expose so sacred and delicate a matter to the
curiosity and investigations of non-believers.176
We now encounter the reservations presented to the official text by the General Superior of the Society of Jesus, Fr. Janssens. Commenting on the notes to
same, he points out that the authors wish not only to affirm the virginity in the birth, which nobody doubts, but anatomically to define same. On this
point, he affirms the common Tradition from the time of St. Ambrose, but objects that the previous Fathers are not in agreement with it. He makes a defense
of J. Galot,177 whose name appears in note 31 of the schema De Beata
, saying that from an attentive reading of his article it may be seen that he does not affirm that the virginity before the birth is univocal with the
virginity in the birth.178 Curiously, Fr. Janssens had given his placet iuxta modum to this same schema the previous year, manifesting reservations only on the matter of the mediation and spiritual maternity of
Mary, making no mention of the matter of the virginity in the birth or of the reference to Galot in the notes.
Mons. J. McEleney, bishop of Kingston in the Caribbean, also presented his written objections. He states that independently of whatever importance the
doctrine of the physical virginity in the birth may have, the matter is of little import today and serves no pastoral end. It could be interpreted that the
Council wishes to teach that the woman suffers some type of contamination or corruption in the moment of delivery. 179
We should mention that the presentation of the dogma of the virginitas in partu in the Marian schema was not perhaps felicitous. The affirmation
that Mary remained without stain (illibatum) in the virginal birth of Jesus, was interpreted as an offense to the normal delivery of every woman.
This gave rise to confusion between the presentation and the content of the dogma, and some objections to the text wish to reject the
entire content, when it would have been possible simply to change the redaction. It could have been phrased positively, affirming the beauty of Mary’s
virginal integrity without in any way obscuring the greatness of maternity in any normal birth. As we will see, the commentaries of Fr. Rahner were behind
The observations on the text sent by the Marionite Patriarch of Antioch, Mons. Meouchi, confirm the previous observation. He believes that the affirmation semperque mente et corpore virgo sufficiently indicates the virginity in the birth. He manifests his disagreement with the text’s statement of the
virginity in the birth, because it indirectly affirms corruption of the integrity and contamination of the woman. This is insinuated by saying that only
the Virgin Mary has remained in delivery incorrupta et illibata.180
This confusion between the redaction and the content did not favor the conservation in the definitive text of a more explicit mention of the virginity in
Mons. Przyklenk, bishop of Januaria (Brazil), insists that he totally admits Mary’s virginity before the birth, in the birth and after the
birth as expressed by Paul IV and Clement VIII. He states his awareness that, according to some, it must be taken as a matter of divine and Catholic faith
according to the ordinary Magisterium. But, in his opinion, it has been an object of dispute among Catholics time after time throughout the centuries. It
would be convenient to reach greater clarity relating to the virginity before, in and after the birth, even though the common sentence may not permit the
achievement of a maximal certainty. 181 The bishop of Versailles (France),
Mons. Renard, proposes that in the phrase “quique voluit corporalem integritatem Matris in ipsomet partu,” the word virginalem be
replaced by corporalem. He sustains that virginity does not depend on corporeity or on physiological reality, which is present in virginity only
in a mysterious way.182 The tendency among the central European bishops to
separate virginity and corporeity may be noted anew.
In Mons. Rodrizuez Olmos, on the other hand, bishop of S. Juan de Cuyo in Argentina, we find a clear defense of the corporal sense of Mary’s virginity with
the miraculous explanation of same, solely by the power of God. She was not affected by the pains of childbirth, which were a penalty for sin. He affirms
that the Marian privileges proceed from the divine Maternity and that the Lord made his mother worthy in the physical order by virginity and in the order
of grace by the Immaculate Conception.183 Another clear and strong
intervention in favor of mentioning in the text Mary’s corporal integrity in the birth came from the bishop of Laval, France. It is clear that Mons.
Rousseau did not share the positions taken in the matter by many of his brothers in his country’s episcopate. He asks that after the word virgo the words
“totally incorrupt, and certainly in the corporal birth itself” be inserted. Among the reasons he presents to justify this inclusion is the desire to
affirm more strongly the truth of the corporal integrity of Mary in the very act of giving birth to her Son. He states that this doctrine of the virginitas in partu, thus understood, has been accepted by the whole Church since the fourth century. In his opinion, a new affirmation of this
truth would not be necessary in the Council if it were not so audaciously denied by some contemporary theologians. By way of prophecy, he affirms that if
the Council remains silent on this matter, the denial of this truth will be spread with greater force by these same authors and their followers. 184
The intervention of Mons. Rusch, the then apostolic administrator of Innsbruck, is worthy of interest. In it the origin of the theological position on the
corporal integrity among the bishops of Germany, Austria and Switzerland, together with the French episcopate in its great majority and the schemas
presented by the Chilean bishops, is openly manifest. He requests that the paragraph referring to the corporal integrity in the birth be excluded from the
text “as according to Rev. Fr. Rahner,” given that the corporal integrity thus explicated is not commonly accepted. 185 Here is an explicit proof of the influence of Rahner’s positions on the
Fathers who were under his counsel.
Contrary to this, the Bishop of Albacete, Mons. Arturo Tabera Araoz, manifests the conviction that Mary, by virtue of her divine Maternity, was made
possession of God in her body and in her soul. From this reality it proceeds that Mary totally conserved her integrity (before the birth, in the birth and
after the birth), as does her Assumption. Speaking of the three moments or aspects of the virginity, he affirms that each one of these, and their peculiar
sense, belong to the faith. The Tradition and magisterium of the Church bear clear witness to this. He asks that the text referring to the Marian
privileges remain, unless something more ample is added.186
These are followed by the observations sent by Episcopal Conferences or groups of bishops from different regions. Firstly, a group of Argentine bishops
from the ecclesiastical province of Córdoba are cited, who request that the paragraph on the Marian privileges be phrased better, in a more dogmatic way
and speaking clearly and synthetically of the four Marian privileges (among them the perfect and perpetual virginity) in a positive sense. 187
A newly redacted schema was presented by the Chilean episcopate, led by the Cardinal of Santiago, Mons. Rául Silva Henríquez. It is a markedly
ecclesiotypical schema. It seeks to avoid the disputed questions, among which is included the determination of the contents of the virginitas in partu.188
We must yet ponder the animadversions to the Marian schema presented by the German-speaking bishops, together with the six bishops who formed the
Scandanavian Episcopal Conference. All together, they were fewer than ninety bishops. As we have explained previously, the critiques of the official text
were prepared by Fr. Rahner. We have indicated how, in a letter to his friend Vorgrimler, he says that his criticism of the Marian text was especially
strong. The document occupies twelve pages of the Acta Concilii, and is indeed a hard criticism of the official document. It particularly opposes
the question of Marian mediation, which he presents as a great obstacle to ecumenism.
The critique commences asking that the dogmatic reach of the text be clarified and declared within the text itself. The omission of this clarification
could greatly harm the development of Mariology and the free disputes among Catholics, within the margins of the Catholic faith, as well as the ecumenical
dialogue. If that clarification is not made, the danger arises that a theologian may impose upon others to receive an absolute and irrevocable assent,
matters that are not sufficiently clear and mature.189
A new redaction of the Marian text is requested, which should be united to the schema De Ecclesia and should present Mary as type of the Church.
It robustly states that the bishops who support the document cannot admit it as it now stands.
In the concrete observations addressing the matter of the virginity in the birth, we must say that when studied, the personal positions defended by the
professor of Innsbruck in his interpretation of the virginitas in partu may be noted point by point.
The critique affirms that it would suffice to maintain the affirmation semperque, mente et corpore Virgo, which states clearly and sufficiently
the virginity in the birth, adding that if necessary, the words ante partum, in partu, post partum may be added.
It accepts the statement made in the Praenotandae indicating the differentiation between the virginity before the birth and in the birth. It
underlines that this distinction is already clarified by affirming the virginity in the birth as a distinct moment of Mary’s virginity.
The text of the official schema that speaks of the corporal virginity in the moment of the birth ( quique voluit corporalem integritatem Matris in ipsomet partu incorruptam atque violationis immunem manere), is not accepted. The reason is that
it enters an excessively detailed determination of the sense of the virginity. The text is accused of teaching that the woman suffers “corruption” of
integrity in the birth and some type of “contamination,” given that it affirms that Mary alone remained in the birth “incorruptam” and “ illibatam.” This is intolerable to the modern woman.190
Finally, if the aforementioned paragraph were not to be withdrawn, it requests that the expression corporalis integritatem por virginalem integritatem be altered. The reason given in support of this request is to avoid the condemnation of Mitterer and Galot explicitly
mentioned in the notes as defenders of an erroneous doctrine about the virginity in the birth. In the animadversions it says that these are pious
authors.191 It states that the danger of Docetism must be avoided, which
proceeds from comparing the virginal birth with the entry of the risen Christ through the closed doors of the upper room where the disciples were. The
meaning of the true maternity of Mary would thus be obscured, and the separated brethren fear it would be an obstacle for the subsequent development of
We are going to consider finally the animadversions presented by the Episcopal Conference of Indonesia. It is a significant detail that two thirds
of the bishops who form this group proceed from central Europe, especially from Holland. In their objections to the text we can hear and echo of what was
previously expounded by the German-speaking bishops. It indicates that this point of doctrine is one of the questions disputed among the theologians. It
states that the virginity in the birth belongs to the dogma of the perfect virginity of Mary, but does not consider it appropriate that the Council
describe it in a physical way. It repeats the difficulty entailed by affirming the “incorruption” in Mary’s delivery, since this would cause offense to all
other women. Similarly, it insinuates the risk of Docetism without mentioning it, by requesting the affirmation that it is no obstacle to the true
maternity of Mary.193
Having presented the animadversions to the official text sent to Rome by the bishops, we must mention now a document presented by the Episcopal
Conference of the Abruzos, which was not included, we know not why, among the animadversions to the text. It is dated 16 September 1963 and
contains a vigorous petition that the doctrine of the virginity in the birth be reaffirmed. They ask that it be declared with clarity that Mary was virgin
not only before the birth but also virgin in the full and distinct sense during the birth and after the birth. They pray that the Council put an end, with
precise indications, to the polemics in this matter, which are contrary to the perennial sense that the Church has given to the dogma, and are scandalous,
rash and offensive for the faithful.194 The document is signed by Mons.
Perantoni, Archbishop of Lanciano, and the other eight bishops who formed the Episcopal Conference.
We continue now with the narration of events. On 29 September the second session of the Council began. On October 9 the insertion of the Marian text is
proposed for the decision of the Committee. In a letter of 10 October 1963, Cardinal Ottaviani communicates to Cardinal Agagianian that in the meeting of
the Doctrinal Committee the previous day, in the vote on the inclusion of the De Beata, the result had been 12 votes in favor, 9 against and 2 abstentions.195 On 15 October, Cardinal Agagianian writes to Ottaviani saying that two periti or two bishops should propose in the aula the reasons for and against the insertion. The same day, Ottaviani writes to Agagianian saying
that the Committee has met and elected Cardinal Santos to defend the independent schema and Cardinal König to defend the insertion. 196 On the morning of 24 October the two Cardinals made their intervention in
the aula, exposing the reasons in favor of the independent schema and of the inclusion. We do not know who redacted the text presented by Cardinal Santos.
The presentation of König seems to have been prepared in part by Mons. Philips 197 and in part by Rahner, as we will see later. The content of the
interventions of both prelates is sufficiently known.198 The vote would take
place the following October 29.
Throughout the month of October there was great activity outside of the conciliar aula, especially in the days prior to voting. Fr. Balić had written a votum about the Marian chapter of which he was redactor, in which he gave the reasons for his elaboration and also provided response to the
objections presented to the text. This 32-page script of Balić was published by the Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis, which created ill feeling arising
from the danger of confusing the opinions and reasons of the Franciscan Mariologist with the official opinions of the Council. The French newspaper Le Monde criticized the action on 30 October.199
In Balić’s publication, there are two differentiated parts. The first recollects the votum elaborated in May. There he indicates the history of
the official text, summarily presenting the desiderata of the Fathers before the Council. Insofar as refers to the history of the redaction, he
points out that in the preparation of the schema three aspects were borne in mind: the ecumenical movement, the Marian movement and the magisterial
function of the Church. In order to fulfill this latter function, the Council seeks to outline clearly the doctrine of the Marian dogmas, including the
virginity of Mary before the birth, in the birth and after the birth.200 In
the same section he affirms the necessity of a particular affirmation of the virginity in the birth in the sense that the Church has always given it. 201 In the response to the animadversions, he dedicates a long
paragraph to the matter of Mary’s corporal integrity. According to Balić, the Council cannot omit the affirmation of the conservation of the integrity in
the birth incorrupte et illibata servata. The reasons adduced are: to expound the integrity of the faith which the Council does not wish to
dissimulate, and to give a detailed description of the faith to the separated brethren, due to the recent disputes on the matter. Responding to the
difficulties presented by the Japanese bishops, he affirms that the fear that the incredulous may perform scientific inquisitions on the matter cannot
prevail over the Church’s duty integrally to propose the faith. If the Council were to keep silent on the matter, the separated brethren could think that
the Church had renounced its positions in this point. Moreover, Catholics would have doubts about this doctrine, and this could cause scandal to the
faithful and danger for the faith.202
Documents distributed outside the Conciliar Aula
As well as the official schemas, many documents were distributed by hand to the bishops at the entrance to the aula. The Secret Archive contains a batch of
these publications203 bound in book form. On the Marian theme we have found
1) A leaflet written by Fr. Schillebeeckx OP. He was the theologian of the Dutch bishops. It is dated 30 novembris 1962. In it, objections are
made to the Marian schema. As well as advocating for the inclusion in the schema De Ecclesia he says, referring to the virginity in the birth, that this
affirmation has quite a vague content in the Tradition and is not constant. He indicates that in recent years there has been much disagreement on the
matter among theologians. Nobody denies Mary’s integrity, but this refers to the “Christian integrity” after original sin, which has been redeemed, and is
therefore distinct from the integrity before the fall. Since it is not easy to know what the content of this integrity is, it is better that the Council
not treat it.204
2) The Mariology consultants of the Spanish bishops elaborated, on 26 October 1963, a 16-page document responding to all the objections presented by the
German-speaking bishops. It is signed by Fr. García Garcés CFM, Fr. Bernardo Monsegú CP and Fr. Llamera OP. In response to the difficulties for ecumenism
presented by the German-speakers, the Spaniards say that charity does not consist of deviating from the truth but in proposing it in the best way possible.
They also recall the warnings that were put to Popes Pius IX and Pius XII that the dogmas of the Immaculate and the Assumption would harm ecumenism, but
even so the proclamations were made.205 The objections presented to the
matter of Mary’s virginity in the birth also received their response. To the proposal not to condemn the “pious authors” mentioned in the official text,
and to mention only generically the virginity in the birth, without making mention of the corporal integrity or the miraculous birth, the Spanish
Mariologists respond that while not doubting the good intentions of those who propose this manner of proceeding, they fail to see its efficacy or
fruitfulness. They affirm that the doctrine of the virginity in the birth is present since the fourth century in the faith of the universal Church and that
the Word wished to honor also the body of his Mother, being born of her in a virginal way, by a miraculous birth, safeguarding her integrity. 206 They affirm that recently some authors have denied this privilege and
have marred its true meaning contrary to the common and traditional doctrine. And now some ask that the Council not explicitly propose this Marian
privilege, and that the traditional formula be reaffirmed only generically. They consider that it is not sufficient to propose a formula the meaning of
which has been denied by those authors, and that it would be convenient to clarify the true sense of the virginity so that it may shine with new light. 207
3) Another document, anonymous, was distributed outside the aula. In it three reasons are presented to vote “no” to the matter of the inclusion in the De Ecclesia.208
4) Five Eastern bishops signed a document that was also distributed at the entrance to the aula favoring an independent Marian schema. It argues that the
inclusion of the Marian schema would be an obstacle in dialogue with the Orientals. It is dated 25 October 1963. 209
5) Lastly, there is the integral text of the objections presented by the German-speaking bishops, which we have already studied and was also distributed
outside the aula in a non-official way.
Among the extra-conciliar activities, Fr. Besutti mentions the many conferences given by some bishops and by the periti. These include five
conferences by K. Rahner and one by R. Laurentin to the French episcopate.210
Rahner himself speaks in his letters of a conference to South-American bishops on 10 October, and another to the Brazilian bishops on 28 October. 211 In a letter to Vorgrimler, Rahner manifests his anticipation of the
voting of 29 October on the inclusion of the Mariological schema. He admits that he will be compromised if König’s thesis does not prevail, since it
proceeds from him.212
On the morning of 29 October, during the 57th General Congregation, the voting on the inclusion of the Marian text took place. At 10.52 the
Secretary Mons. Felici asked the Fathers, placeat ut Schema de B.M.V. ita aptetur ut fiat cap. VI De Ecclesia? Those who responded
negatively opted for an independent Marian schema. The Moderator of that day’s Congregation, Cardinal Agagnianian, clarified that the response in favor of
or against the inclusion did not affect the honor of the Virgin or the doctrine proposed in the schema. Of the 2,193 voters, 1114 gave their placet to the inclusion and 1074 non placet. The majority obtained was very narrow and only surpassed by 17 votes the 1097 required for
an absolute majority.
On the afternoon of 29 October, Fr. Alfonso Montá, General Prior of the Servants of Mary, wrote to Cardinal Ottaviani questioning the validity of the vote
on the Marian schema that had taken place in the morning session. As reasons he presents the lack of a more prolonged discussion on the matter before the
voting, the need of two thirds of the votes to obtain the majority, the tendentious manner in favor of König’s position in which the question was put to
the Fathers. He believes that if included in the schema De Ecclesia it should be chapter II, not VI. He manifests his fear that the Council will
yield to a minimalist tendency regarding Mariology in the Council, and thinks that the Christian people may react to this determination with a certain
resistance. Finally, he suggests that the Holy Father intervene in the matter. 213
Rahner writes to Vorgrimler on 30 October 1963 manifesting his satisfaction with the result of the previous day’s voting. He manifests his fear of the
possible victory of “the others” in the voting of 29 October, and describes his propagandist labors. 214 Through the testimony of his letters may be perceived the immense work
that was done in the distribution of copies of the schemas prepared by Rahner. 215
The atmosphere turned tense in the Doctrinal Committee that saw the schema on which it had worked long and hard rejected. On the afternoon of 5 November
1963, it met in the Vatican to discuss how to interpret the decision of the Council to include the Marian schema in that of De Ecclesia. A
proposal by Mons. Charue, bishop of Namur, supported by Cardinal König, was accepted: to establish a Subcommittee specifically to redact the Marian
chapter, made up of bishops who did not belong to the Doctrinal Committee, like the bishop of Lourdes. Thus was formed the Subcommittee formed by Cardinals
König and Santos, and bishops Doumith and Theas.216 With this decision, the
matter was left in the hands of Cardinal König, who was the President of the Subcommittee. In the plenary session of the Doctrinal Committee of 11
November, Ottaviani repeated that the official schema elaborated by the Committee itself should be used as basis. On 12 November, Mons. Theas communicated
to Fr. Balić that the Subcommittee had elected him to redact a new text. Since Balić refused, Mons. Gerard Philips, professor of Louvain, redacted the
text. That same day, the 12th, Cardinal König sent to Balić the text redacted by Philips asking his opinion. 217
On the morning of 14 November Cardinals König and Santos and some bishops met in the sacristy of St. Peter’s basilica to discuss the Marian schema. In his
diary Fr. Tromp relates that Cardinal Santos did not agree with König in several points. Santos wishes the schema to be the final chapter of De Ecclesia,
but König says that the Pope wishes it to be the epilogue; Santos wishes to take as basis the official schema of Balić, but König prefers as base text the
new document elaborated by Philips; Santos wishes that the bishops who have presented a schema be consulted, but König prefers to consult the Episcopal
Conferences.218 On 18 November a decisive meeting of the Subcommittee took
place in the sacristy of St. Peter’s. The four members of the Subcommittee were present with other bishops and the two periti, Balić and Philips.
Cardinal König asks the two periti to present, each one in ten minutes, how the discord that had arisen in the Council on 29 October could be
resolved.219 Balić indicated that to reach agreement it was necessary that
each side yield somewhat in its point of view, and handed to those present a possible schema composed by him, taking as basis the official schema and the animadversions presented by the German-speaking and Scandanavian Fathers. Toniolo comments that perhaps Balić thought that if the obstacle of the
German and Scandanavian bishops could be overcome, all would be resolved in the Council. 220 We think, rather, that Balić realized that here was the origin of all the
oppositions, since the schemas prepared by Rahner for the German-speaking and Scandanavian Episcopal Conferences had conditioned all the others (Chilean,
French, etc.). From this perspective, to overcome the obstacle of the Germans was to solve the problem. But it does seem licit to ask, why give such
special attention to objections presented by some eighty bishops? In evaluating this matter some weight may be attributed to the fact that the president of
the Subcommittee now in charge of the redaction of the Marian text, was the Cardinal of Vienna, F. König, one of the heads of the German-speaking
episcopate. In his written account of the composition of chapter VIII, Balić states that he decided to compose a new text even before being nominated as
redactor, because if the bishops of Germany, Scandanavia and Holland (those who most opposed the text), who lived side by side with non-Catholics, did not
demand a new schema but only some corrections, then the redaction of a new document could also satisfy those who only had a few objections. 221
As for Philips, he underlined the difficult of reaching agreement between the two sides. In the end it was decided that the two periti jointly
elaborate a schema to present to the Subcommittee before the end of February which could be discussed in the plenary session of the Doctrinal Committee in
the month of March.222
Cardinal Ottaviani, fearing that matters might unfold at a margin from the Doctrinal Committee, asked that all of the schemas be submitted thereto. In this
same meeting, Tromp requested the schema prepared by Philips and the Chilean schema. 223 Laurentin speaks of other schemas in circulation: the “English” one,
prepared by Butler, the Chilean, and the one he himself prepared, with biblical inflections, elaborated by the Secretariat of unity. 224 We know also that the Spanish bishops submitted a schema through Cardinal
Quiroga Palacios,225 although it was probably submitted—like those mentioned
by Laurentin—before the voting of 29 October. The Spanish schema clearly and strongly affirms Mary’s corporal virginity in the birth.
On 19 November, Cardinal Ottaviani writes to Pope Paul VI to communicate that he has mildly pressed Cardinals König and Santos, in accordance with the Holy
Father’s wishes, to present the Marian chapter before the end of the conciliar session. They have responded that they will do so as soon as possible, but
some doubt they will be able to achieve this, because König has decided to hear the opinion of the heads of the Episcopal Conferences on the schema De Beata, without knowing how many they are or what criterion they have followed in the election, thus introducing the intervention of the
Episcopal Conferences in matters of the Church’s interest.226
First schemas elaborated by Balić and Philips
Toniolo points out the coincidence in the title of the new schemas prepared by both authors: De loco et munere B. Virginis Deiparae in mysterio Christi et Ecclesiae, and sustains that Philips probably influenced Balić in this point, given
that Balić had the schema prepared by Philips, which was sent to him by Cardinal König. 227
a) The schema presented by Balić
On 18 November Fr. Balić delivered to Cardinal König and those present at the meeting a text of 15 sheets. It was composed of three parts, 1. Praenotandae, 2. the text of the official schema and in another column the same text corrected and amplified according to the corrections
presented by the German-speaking bishops and the Scandanavian Episcopal Conference, 3. Animadversiones quaedam. The text is dated 7 September
1963; therefore, it was written before the voting of 29 October.
Insofar as refers to our study of the virginity in the birth, the Franciscan maintains the first paragraph of no. 4 of the schema that refers to the Marian
privileges. There it is affirmed that Mary“mirabilis in sua vita, cum expers omnis culpae personalis, insimul mater semperque mente et corpore virgo exstiterit.” 228
But all of the next paragraph, which explicates the Marian privileges more fully, disappears in the new schema. The incision quique voluit corporalem integritatem Matris in ipsomet partu incorruptam atque illibatam manere, has been lost in the new redaction. It is the
only text prepared by Balić that does not contain an explicit reference to the virginity in the birth.
In the Animadversiones Balić states that, although ecumenical and pastoral sensitivities have been borne in mind, the doctrine cannot be presented
solely on the basis of Scripture, but that the thinking of the Church Fathers must also be presented, and the pontifical Magisterium. He makes a point
that, although obvious, seems to have been overlooked: if the observations of the German-speaking Fathers are taken into consideration, the observations
which have been presented in the contrary sense should equally be considered. In order the better to adapt the Marian schema as final chapter of the
Constitution on the Church, a paragraph should be introduced proposing Mary as type of the Church. In it, Balić underlines the ancient Tradition that
presents Mary as type and figure of the Church, insofar as she is virgin and mother. 229
b) The schema presented by Philips
On 12 November, Cardinal König sent to Balić the schema prepared by Philips. The Louvain professor had always been favorable to the insertion of the Marian
theme in the Constitution on the Church of which he himself was redactor. He was, therefore, the person best placed to carry out the conjunction of both
texts. In an article that he wrote in 1962230 he scans the Mariological
production of the years 1959-61. In the final pages he provides a synthesis of the Mariological principles situated in the history of Salvation. Philips
will use this synthesis as basis of the text of his first Marian schema.
The Louvainian theologian promotes the insertion of the Marian text as a way of presenting Mary’s place in the work of salvation and to avoid isolating
Mariology from theology. For the inclusion he proposes two solutions: to adapt the official text or to create a new one. In the first case, a prologue
would be necessary to link the Church to Mary, with a biblical exposition uniting the elements dispersed in the official schema and shortening the text
referring to the privileges. We should underline that Balić’s text presents the biblical doctrine in a dispersed way in the text and devotes, on the other
hand, an ample paragraph to the summary of the Marian privileges. Philips thinks it better to present all of the biblical citations, as a history of
salvation, and to present the Marian privileges briefly and sporadically throughout the text.
That second option, that of redacting a new text, would permit the consideration of the current needs of humanity, dynamically presenting the history of
salvation, Mary’s cooperation and the work of salvation and evangelical values in Mary’s life. 231
A copy of the first text redacted by Philips is conserved in Moeller’s archive. Handwritten, it indicates that Cardinal König asked Philips on the 8 th to redact the text, and he did so on 9-10 November.232 The
sources that inspired Philips are the official schema and his own writing of 1962. Regarding our subject, Philips reiterated Balić’s formulation,
introducing a paragraph from his text of 1962 which affirms the virginity in the birth: “
Nocte nativitatis, Deipara filium suum primogenitum, qui virginitatem matris illibatam conservavit et consacravit, gaudens amplectitur, eumque mox
reclinatum in praesepio, hominibus bonae voluntatis, pastoribus vigilantibus et sapientibus ex oriente magis, verum lumen quaerentibus, laetabunda
The source of the paragraph is the French text of the 1962 article, where he affirms that the new-born child has consecrated Mary’s inviolate virginity. 234 Some may consider that the text could be interpreted in a way that does
not entail affirmation of the corporal integrity in the birth, but Philips leaves no doubt in the main body of his article. He manifests that the
reiterated affirmations of the Tradition concerning the intact virginity, inviolate integrity, incorruptibility, singular mystery or admirable sign, cannot be interpreted in a simply spiritual sense. He affirms that this is the weak point of Galot’s reasoning in his article of
1960 concerning the virginitas in partu. Even though the Holy Fathers did not enter physiological details in their writings, this does not mean
that they do not assign importance to the absence of any corporal alteration, but that they seek to insist on the salvific significance of a supernatural
event. In spite of the difficulties, the Tradition has comprehended the affirmation of the virginity in its most literal sense because of the value ofsign, which has always been attributed to the corporal integrity of Mary in the economy of salvation. 235
The text of chapter VIII definitively promulgated in 1964 contains many of the expressions that already appear here, and we may have a first approximation
of its interpretation, which will be underlined by the clarifying notes that accompany it.
The first schema redacted by Philips also maintains a middle way, attempting to unite his biblical excursus with the contents of the official
schema. In it, following the thread of the history of salvation that relates to Mary in the Old and New Testaments, he includes the Marian prerogatives in
a Christological and ecclesiological key.
c) Trying to reach agreement
In their attempts to find a solution, Mons. Philips, as first redactor, and Fr. Balić, as co-redactor, held meetings on 24 and 25 November 1963.
Previously, Fr. Balić had composed two new schemas seeking a middle way. On 21 November he writes to Philips to make a proposal. In the first schema, he
makes a synthesis between the official text corrected according to the observations of the German-speaking bishops, and the text redacted by Philips. In
the second, following an idea proposed by Cardinal Santos, he elaborates a text taking parts of the different schemas proposed: the official text corrected
according to the indications of the German-speaking bishops, the schema prepared by Philips, the one prepared by the Spaniards, the Chilean schema and the
one prepared by Butler. It is interesting to note the affirmations which Balić introduces to this schema elaborated as synthesis of all the proposals. In
the section referring to Mary and the Child Jesus, he takes the words of the schema presented by Philips. He affirms that in the birth, the Firstborn has
conserved without stain and consecrated the virginity of the Mother.236 In
the section referring to Mary, as type of the Church Virgin and Mother, Balić now introduces affirmations about Mary’s perpetual virginity taken from the
Spanish schema. He indicates that Mary, virgin most integral before, during and after the birth, precedes the Virgin Church. 237 It may be observed that this is a summary of the text on the virginity
contained in the schema presented by Cardinal Quiroga Palacios on behalf of the Spanish bishops. 238
Philips did not wish to accept the schemas proposed by Balić. In his opinion, Balić tended to mix theology with the doctrine of faith. 239 So the meeting of the two Mariologists did not come to much. The meeting
of several periti in Santa Marta on 25 November, promoted and presided over by Philips, 240 did not fare much better. Balić wrote that, “unfortunately, the opinions
were so opposed that none of the fruits hoped for was achieved.”241
Finally, on 29 November, Fr. Balić wrote to Philips saying that he agreed to take the text elaborated by Philips as basis for the new chapter. He points
out that both sides must concede some ground in order to reach agreement, and he has already done so by accepting the text of Philips as basis. 242
Redactions of chapter VIII
We will now study the different redactions of chapter VIII of the Constitution Lumen gentium, focusing in our study on Mary’s virginal integrity
in the birth.
We will not delay in this, since we have already studied it above. To facilitate the reading we recall that it was composed by Mons. Gerard Philips on 9-10
November at the request of Cardinal König.
The text took as basis a biblical excursus elaborated by Philips in an article written in 1962. In the article a clear profession of faith is made in
Mary’s corporal integrity in the birth. In the schema Mary’s virginity in the birth is affirmed with the words: “
Nocte nativitatis, Deipara filium suum primogenitum, qui virginitatem matris illibatam conservavit et consacravit, gaudens amplectitur, eumque mox
reclinatum in praesepio, hominibus bonae voluntatis, pastoribus vigilantibus et sapientibus ex oriente magis, verum lumen quaerentibus, laetabunda
The second redaction was elaborated by Fr. Balić. It is dated 27 November 1963. In it he substantially accepts Philips’ text, but with notable additions
and omissions in the aspects where Balić thought that more robust affirmations were necessary or, on the contrary, where he wished to soften affirmations
by Philips.244 The title proposed by Philips is maintained: Caput VI seu Epilogus. De loco et munere B. Virginis Deiparae in mysterio Christi et Ecclesiae.
This second schema completes the first redaction by Philips, although he maintains his own positions. In an explanatory Praenotandae, Balić
clarifies that although half of the Fathers accepted the official schema on 29 October without demur, and the other half requested that it be adapted ( aptetur) to be incorporated in De Ecclesia, he has no problems with redacting a new Marian text, so long as the doctrine, not only
biblical but also of the Tradition and the Magisterium, is maintained.245 He
takes elements from Butler’s schema, especially quotations from the Church Fathers.
Balić remains faithful to his idea of manifesting unequivocally the virginity in the birth. In the paragraph referring to Mary and the Child Jesus,
speaking of the night of the Nativity, he adds to Philips’ text “qui virginitatem Matris illibatam conservavit et consecravit” some terms to
manifest more clearly the corporal integrity in the birth: “ qui integritatem virginalem Matris in ipsomet partu illibatam et incorruptam conservavit et consecravit”. As we will see, up to the last moment,
Balić will fight to keep the words in ipso partu or in ipsomet partu in the schema.
In the new section that refers to Mary as type of the Church, there is no longer a reference to Mary’s perpetual virginity as clear as the one that had
been taken from the Spanish schema in one of his final proposals. However, a text from St. Augustine appears which affirms that the Church cannot imitate
Mary as virgin in the corporal sense but only in the mind: “ Ecclesia ergo imitans Domini sui matrem –scribit Augustinus- quoniam corpore non potuit, mente tamen et mater est et virgo.”
Fr. Balić expected a response from Philips on the recently composed Marian text as soon as the second conciliar session ended on 8 December 1963. Seeing
that the days were passing and no reply was forthcoming, he wrote to Philips on 20 December, asking that he send his observations on the sketch prepared
for chapter VI of the schema on the Church.246 Philips responds on 5 January
1964, saying that he must make some consultations to ensure greater acceptance of the text. The text and Philips’ observations are dated 9 January. Balić
receives it on the 13th and on the 14th writes again reminding that, as was decided in the vote of 29 October, it was not a matter of
modifying the doctrine but only of deciding where to situate the Marian theme. 247
The third redaction is titled Caput VI. De loco et munere B.V. Deiparae in mysterio Christi et Ecclesiae. Written below: Textus correctus. 9 ian. 1964. In the copy conserved in the VSA, there are eight pages with the text, one of notes and five with the
title, Iustificatio emendationes quae in texto a P. Balić proposito introductae sunt. 248
Philips adopts the structure presented by Balić in six articles and accepts his argument, but with numerous emendationes. Let us see what relates
to our study in the text.
The text referring to the virginal birth of the Lord is now expressed with the following words:
In nativitate vero, cum Deipara Filium suum primogenitum, qui virginalem integritatem eius non minuit sed sacravit, hominibus bonae voluntatis
. This redaction is almost the same as what appears in the text promulgated in November 1964. There is no footnote to clarify the meaning of the text. The
liturgical text introduced by Philips is taken from the prayer over the gifts in the Mass of Mary’s Nativity, celebrated the 8th of September. 249
In the Iustificatio emendations presented by Philips, he states that he prefers not to maintain the words in ipsomet partu. He prefers
that no explicit reference be made against the theory of Mitterer and some others. He sustains that the position of these authors is excluded by the tenor
of the phrase.250 This statement seems very important to us. Both redactors
desire to exclude the sense in which Mitterer and some others have interpreted the virginity in the birth. The disagreement has to do with the manner of
making this exclusion. Balić preferred an explicit refutation leaving no room for doubt. Philips thought, and his was the position that won out, that it
was enough to affirm the dogma, for the error of Mitterer and others to be made evident.
In treating Mary as type of the Church, insofar as she is virgin and mother, he considers it better to employ the words of St. Ambrose and St. Augustine, 251 both great defenders of the virginity in the birth. In several texts of
these authors, establishing the parallel between the Virgin Mary and the Virgin Church, the physical reality of the Marian virginity appears. The words of
St. Augustine which already appeared in the previous redaction are maintained in the text.
Once he received the text from Philips, Balić set to work. He sent it to some Mariologists for their evaluation and judgment. He asked them to send their
responses before the end of January, since he had to meet with Philips by then. He consulted, among others, García Garcés and Llamera. We have records of
Llamera made no comment about the virginity in the birth, García Garcés did. He sustains that in order to affirm Mary’s perfect virginal integrity the
words in ipso partu, or partu miraculoso cannot be omitted. He justifies his position with a clear reason: the
presentation given in the text of the virginity in the birth was well known to the modern authors who deny it; which proves that it is an insufficient
Fr. Balić also prepared a paper giving reasons for the changes introduced to the schema sent by Philips. Its title isIustificatio emendationum quae in nova forma textus a cl. Dno. Philips propositi introducendae videntur. It contains firstly the Praenotandae (pp. 1-3), then the corrections to Philips’ text (pp. 3-15), and finally, the observations on the notes (pp. 15-16). It is dated 28
January 1964. Balić thought that this text could obtain a majority in the next session of the Doctrinal Committee.
On the precise point of the virginal birth, Balić re-introduces the words in ipso partu:
In nativitate vero, cum Deipara Filium suum primogenitum, qui virginalem eius integritatem in ipso partu non minuit sed sacravit (12), pastoribus et
Magis laetabunda ostendit
In the Iustificatio emendationum, Balić explains that the words in ipso partu must be retained. The truth of the virginal and integral
birth belongs to the faith and is thus most correctly expressed. The Council cannot ignore the matter. If it were to do so, it should not surprise us if
some others fall into the same error.255
It should be noted that Balić introduces in the text about the virginity in the birth a footnote containing references from the Magisterium and the
Tradition which explain its meaning. In note 12, the references appear which will later be present in the text promulgated by the Council and which we
consider supremely important for its correct interpretation, in accordance with Tradition, as the Doctrinal Committee itself will explain. The references
are canon 3 of the Lateran Council of 649, the Tomus ad Flavianum of St. Leo the Great, the Chalcedonian Council and St. Ambrose’s phrase inDe institutione virginis et Sanctae Mariae virginitate perpetua, where he comments on the passage of the prophet Ezequiel about the porta clausa of the temple. We will comment on these notes more amply later. For now, mention of them is sufficient.
On 2 February 1964, Philips sent three pages of corrections to Balić. He accepts the title Balić proposed, De Beata Maria Virgine in mysterio Christi et Ecclesiae.
Even though the two redactors agreed, as we have seen, that interpretations of the virginal birth which did not maintain Mary’s corporal integrity were
erroneous and should be rejected, they were not agreed on how to do it. Balić thought that an explicit reference was needed, introducing the words in ipso partu, but Philips sustained that it was sufficient to affirm the virginity in the birth with words taken from Tradition and the Liturgy,
without adding the words in ipso partu, to avoid any reference to the polemic raised by the works of Mitterer and Galot.
The text was maintained as in the previous redaction. But, in order to avoid prolonging the dispute between them, Philips suggested that the Doctrinal
Committee decide on the convenience of including, or not, the words in ipso partu: 256
In nativitate vero, cum Deipara Filium suum primogenitum, qui virginalem eius integritatem (in ipso partu) non minuit sed sacravit, pastoribus et Magis
This was composed by the Doctrinal Committee in the plenary sessions of March and June 1964. On 25 February, Fr. Balić delivered to the Secretary the
third, fourth and fifth redactions; the latter prepared in agreement by the two periti of the Subcommittee set up for the Marian schema. He also
submitted the judgments of some periti (surely Llamera and García Garcés) on the corrections introduced by Philips. 257
On 20 February 1964, the text of the fifth redaction was sent to Cardinal König as head of the Subcommittee. The plenary meeting of the Doctrinal Committee
was to take place from March 2 to 14. In the final session, on the evening of March 14, the Committee would examine the Marian chapter. Cardinal Santos
acted as moderator, since König was absent. Santos presented criticisms of the new schema, but Ottaviani, as president, proposed that it be accepted as
basis of the conciliar discussions. Mons. Philips presents the articles of the new schema one by one. Each point is followed by an open, though brief,
The plenary meeting of the Doctrinal Committee, held on the evening of 14 March 1964, was decisive for our argument. In it, the matter of maintaining the
words in ipso partu in the text, or not, was debated. The VSA conserve the recording of that day’s meeting. 259 Although it has the deficiencies typical of a recorded conversation
(persons speaking at a distance from the microphone, short commentaries in a low voice not totally understandable), the CDs permit a close following of the
debate of this point, which lasted a full twenty minutes.260
Having read the relevant text, Maria et Iesus infans, Mons. Philips explained to those present that the Committee should decide whether or not to
maintain the words in ipso partu, in the incision qui virginalem eius integritatem (in ipso partu) non minuit sed sacravit. There was a
footnote requesting the Committee’s decision on the matter. In his opinion, if, in addressing the birth of the Son of God (in Nativitate), the virginalem integritatem non minuit sed sacravit is already affirmed, to add in ipso partu would be an unnecessary repetition. Moreover,
these words had been introduced due to the recent controversy concerning the strict meaning of Mary’s virginity. 261
Cardinal Ottaviani agreed that the spreading of the error about the virginity should be prevented. Butler pointed out that if the phrase commences with the
words in Nativitate vero, the essential is affirmed and the addition of in ipso partu is unnecessary. This would be a repetition
and could stir controversies which the Council should avoid.262
Philips intervenes again to point out that it would also entail interpolating some words in a liturgical text, provoking confusion since they don’t belong
to the original.263 Cardinal Browne objected that the words were not totally
traditional. Philips answered that the words affirm that Mary conserved her integrity in the birth itself. 264 He continued that to be faithful to the Tradition the text would have to
say virgo ante partum, in partu et post partum. In his judgment, the words in ipso partu have a polemical character. For Philips, the
redactor of the text, the affirmation in Nativitate integritatem matrem sacravit affirm in a clear, certain and undoubtable way the
conservation of the virginity in the birth.265 Philips adds, in conclusion,
that the phrase must be understood not as the heretics did, but as the Catholic Doctors wrote of the matter. 266 As to how the Tradition and Catholic Doctors wrote, this we may see in
the footnote with which Philips accompanies the text and which we will briefly study.
Semmelroth intervened to ask that the words in ipso partu be withdrawn. In his view, in the controversy mentioned, no Catholic denies the
virginity in the birth; the difficulty lies in the internal explanation of the dogma. Therefore, he considers sufficient what is implicitly stated in the
expression virginalem eius integritatem non minuit sed sacravit.267
Semmelroth’s approach is the same as Rahner’s.268 At any rate, it does not
seem that the internal explanation of the dogma is opinable, if it must be taken, as Philips indicates, in the sense in which the Catholic Doctors wrote of
it; that is, understanding the integrity in a physical sense, if also including the spiritual.
Semmelroth was opposed by Fr. Parente, whose intervention cannot clearly be followed. His opposition to Semmelroth’s opinion may be perceived, indicating
that the Council cannot remain silent on the interpretations that lesion the virginity in the birth. 269 Cardinal Browne supports Parente saying that in partu must not
be withdrawn. He recalls the doctrine of St. Thomas that although physical integrity is not an exigency of virginity, it is true that the integrity of the septum pudoris is its eminent and natural adornment. Ottaviani adds that the Orientals speak of Aeiparthenos, ever virgin, before, during
and after the birth. Philips responds that the problem is the addition of the words to the liturgical text, and says another redaction would have to be
Mons. Charue intervenes to ask that in ipso partu be suppressed, reasoning that the words have been added to a liturgical expression. Butler
points out that there is agreement on the content and the difficulty only exists in the form of expressing it. The truth is contained in the expression in Nativitate vero virginalem eius integritatem non minuit.
Balić speaks to oppose the statements of Semmelroth. The Franciscan points out that although they affirm that nobody denies the dogma, since the fourth
century the traditional interpretation has been that the virginity in the birth consists of the corporal integrity, without rupture, without pain,
miraculously. And now it is denied.271 He mentions a study by the Spanish
Mariological Society on the matter which affirms that the birth consecrated Mary’s corporal integrity. What the integrity consists of, we cannot say, and
God has not wished to reveal it. He laments that Rahner is not present and says it is ridiculous to think that the lesion of integrity in the birth is
offensive to women. It is easy to distinguish by signs between a woman who has given birth and another who has not. Mary kept her integrity. It must be
affirmed with all the Tradition that she gave birth miraculously, by the grace of God. If we do not wish to affirm this, it must be said that in the birth
itself she conserved corporal integrity.272 Finally, he quotes Cardinal Bea,
to say that what belongs to the faith must be clearly affirmed.
Philips intervened again to advise that, in any event, the expression speaks explicitly of the virginity in the birth, even without those words.273 He states that the incisionqui virginalem eius integritatem non minuit sed sacravit was introduced to affirm that perfect virginity. 274 According to the Louvain professor, the only thing under discussion is
whether it is useful and opportune to enter a tone of controversy or better to affirm the virginity with the liturgical text, avoiding polemics. It should
be borne in mind that in this way, we state the matter clearly, and avoid all polemics. 275
Finally, when Cardinal Silva Henríquez advises that it is already six o’clock in the evening, the voting takes place. Only eight of the twenty-four
Committee members asked that the words in ipso partu be maintained. 276
On 14 April 1964 Fr. Tromp sends to the coordination Committee the printed text of De Ecclesia, including the chapter on the Virgin. The Doctrinal
Committee held a plenary meeting from 1-8 June 1964.277 This meeting would be
decisive for the sixth redaction of the text which will constitute the basis of the discussion of the Council Fathers. Regarding our subject, once the
words in ipso partu were suppressed, the redaction underwent no further modifications, in its seventh or eighth versions. The definitive
redaction, as it appears in the text promulgated on 21 November 1964, is:
In Nativitate vero, cum Deipara Filium suum Primogenitum, qui virginalem eius integritatem non minuit sed sacravit, pastoribus et Magis laetabunda
. The result of the voting that took place that day was 2151 placet, 5 non placet.
The text of the Subcommittee was corrected by the Doctrinal Committee, which elaborated the Textus emendatus. Two complementary documents to the
text were also elaborated: the Relatio generalis, explaining the document’s redactional itinerary,278 and the Relationes de singulis numeris, 279 showing the theological and pastoral structure, and the security of the
sources used in the elaboration of each number.
In the relatio al num. 53 it says:
Ex documentis biblicis illustratur progressus in revelatione de Maria; sed exprese notatur quod libri inspirati in Ecclesia Catholica, sicut oportet,
sub lumine plenae revelationis leguntur et
secundum mentem Traditionis intelleguntur
.280The value of the Tradition is thus underlined
when it comes to understanding the progress in revelation about the Virgin Mary.
For our purposes, the reference in this text to the virginal birth is critical:Deinde in nativitate Iesu, quando pastores et magi Oriente Puerum “cum matre eius” inveniunt. Partum autem Iesu fuisse virginalem verbis liturgicis et traditionalibus affirmatur. Quod Commissioni Doctrinali sufficiens et satis clarum videtur.281
It is clear that the conciliar text wishes to maintain the way that Tradition has considered the virginal birth. It is not, then, a matter of new language,
or a new vision of the question, but rather of reaffirming what the Church had maintained for centuries concerning this aspect of the Marian dogma. The
Doctrinal Committee considered these liturgical words sufficient to express the truth of faith of the virginitas in partu.
The testimonies cited in the footnote accompanying the text on the virginal birth of Jesus, corroborate the traditional interpretation. 282 When Philips explained to the Doctrinal Committee that the text should be
understood not as the heretics did but as it was interpreted by the Catholic Doctors, 283 he was referring to this traditional sense.
What are the testimonies presented by the Council text in the explanatory note?
We will now consider them briefly. One is from c. 3 of the Lateran Council of 649, under Martin I, which threatens to anathematize whoever does not confess
that Mary gave birth without corruption, remaining virgin after the birth (incorruptibiliter eam genuisse indissolubili permanente et post partum eiusdem virginitate). 284
The second testimony is from Pope Leo the Great’s Tomus ad Flavianum (449), which affirms that Jesus “was conceived of the Holy Spirit in the womb
of the Virgin Mary, who gave birth (remaining) intact in her virginity, just as she conceived with virginity intact.” 285
The third reference in the footnote is from the Council of Chalcedon (451). In a letter sent by the Council Fathers to the emperor Marcian, explaining the
mystery of the Incarnation, they state that “the virgin is called Mother of God by virtue of he who deigned to consecrate her virginity also after the
birth and to seal the integrity of the uterus, as was fitting for God; and at the same time she is in all truth called mother, by virtue of the flesh
which, of herself, she proportioned to the Lord.”286
The last citation in the note is a text of St. Ambrose taken from his work De institutione virginis. In it he applies the image of the porta clausa taken from Ez 44:2 to the virginal birth, and clearly affirms Mary’s integrity:
“Who is this door but Mary? Closed because virgin. The door, then, is Mary, through which Christ entered this world, when he was delivered in virginal
birth, and did not breach the genital cloisters of virginity. The seal of modesty remained incorrupt, and the signs of virginity withstood inviolate, as he
was born of a virgin, he whose sublimity the world was unable to bear.”287
The testimonies given leave no room for doubt that the will of the conciliar text, in continuity with the whole previous Tradition, is to maintain Mary’s
virginal integrity in the birth of Christ, including the corporal aspect. A merely spiritual interpretation of the virginity is not an option, or
confinement of the dogma to the virginal conception.
Although it was deemed opportune to withdraw from the redaction the words in ipso partu, the text affirms the virginity as always maintained by
the Church, as Philips explained to the members of the Doctrinal Committee, clare, certe et indubie. 288
This interpretation is confirmed by a Commentary on the text of LG 57 written by G. Philips after the Council. Discussing the moment of Christ’s
birth, he affirms that the Council wished to highlight “a fact of uncontestable importance.” He indicates that the virginitas in partu had been
questioned in recent times and that many bishops requested an unambiguous declaration to safeguard integrally the aphorism Virgo ante partum, in partu et post partum. According to the redactor of the text, “the Council believed the terminology employed to be sufficient
to achieve this objective without the necessity to enter into biological details.” 289 He emphasizes that the primitive Church invested great interest in the
virginity in the birth because, rather than simply underlining a Marian privilege, it was a matter of “showing a sign of the divine dignity of Jesus even
in the corporeity of his Mother.”290 It may be seen that although the text
did not wish to enter into biological details, nor did it wish to exclude the corporal aspect of the virginity, but rather considers this an essential
aspect of the mystery.
Philips clarifies that the Council’s intention was to rectify the thesis that defended a normal birth with loss of Mary’s corporal integrity as compatible
with virginity in the birth: “The modern-day mentality which so proclaims the corporal should not remain insensible towards the mentality of the primitive
Church which considered man as spiritually animated matter and his body as possessing the value of sign. The physicist A. Mitterer and the theologian P.
Galot concede too exclusive a value to the spiritual virginity. The Council esteemed that the liturgical formula was sufficient to rectify this aberrant
We believe this detailed study of all the vicissitudes of the text and the circumstances surrounding it has been worthwhile, the better to comprehend its
meaning. Having checked the explanations given by the redactor to the Doctrinal Committee, having seen the Relationis de singulis numeris, the
testimonies cited in the footnote and Philips’ own explanation of the meaning of the text in his Commentary on the conciliar Constitution, it seems we may
determine how it should be interpreted.
In our judgment, we conclude that the Vatican Council II sought in the text, with elegant language taken from the Liturgy and avoiding biological details,
to confirm the traditional sentence on Mary’s virginity in the birth which the faith of the Church had maintained uninterruptedly since the fourth century.
This traditional position demands the corporal integrity of Mary as content of the dogma of the virginitas in partu and is incompatible with the
new theories sustained by Mitterer and Galot, which seek to maintain a normal birth that would imply the loss of the corporal integrity at the same time as
affirming the virginity of Mary in the birth of Christ.