The Irish Times

Recently, the Irish Times religious correspondent, Patsy McGarry, wrote an article based on a couple of my pieces here in this blog. One issue he raised was what I said here about the question of whether Mary had other children besides Jesus. It had come up in the readings of a recent Sunday Mass. I had suggested that the teaching about the perpetual virginity of Mary came out of the early Church rejection of sexuality, and contributed to the narrow attitudes that have come down to our day.

Another priest responded to the article. He raised al the usual arguments for Mary’s virginity, the ones that I have been hearing from Church people all my life. The standard one is that in the original Aramaic the same word was used for brother and cousin, and that proved that the ‘brothers and sisters’ mentioned in the Gospels were really cousins. That always sounded fairly dodgy to me.

I don’t have any issue about Mary’s virginity.  I don’t know that it matters very much, one way or another.  But I do have an issue about Church teaching on sexuality. I think it is, and has been, seriously defective, and oppressive.  If we are to begin to think in new and fresh ways about sexuality in the Church, we need to move away from the old, tired ideas that produced the negativity that we have suffered from, and that has completely lost credibility. We need to listen to the ‘signs of the times’, to the ‘good sense of the people’, and come up with new teaching that celebrates the beauty and goodness of human love and sexuality, while at the same time recognising its potential to destroy when it goes wrong.