To the editor:
It is baffling that Father Richard McBrien should keep repeating a very serious error in his March Courier column dealing with St. Joseph. No one more than St. Joseph himself would have been astonished to read that “Mary was betrothed or engaged to Joseph, but was already pregnant with Jesus before Joseph took her into his house.” One would think that a reputed theologian would have been aware that the word “betrothed” among the Jews referred to a true marriage having been celebrated with the woman fully entitled to be called “spouse.” The Blessed Virgin Mary’s “betrothal” was in fact a legally binding marriage and not a mere engagement in the contemporary sense.
In his beautiful Apostolic Exhortation on St. Joseph, “Guardian of the Redeemer” (nos. 2, 18), Pope John Paul II repeatedly reaffirmed the truth in conformity to Catholic Tradition.
“The ancient Jewish custom of betrothal provided for a contract and normally had a definitive value. It actually introduced the betrothed to the marital state, even if the marriage was brought to completion only when the young man took the girl to his home‚Ä¶ [It was] after her marriage to Joseph that Mary is found to be with child of the Holy Spirit”.
The Blessed Virgin Mary was not a “poor pregnant unwed mother” as I read recently in yet another Catholic newspaper.