“The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”  (Luke 1:35)

     From time to time a Catholic speaker may make the innocent mistake of referring to Mary as an unwed mother. However, it is abundantly clear that the Virgin Mary was legally married to Joseph at the time she conceived Jesus (when the Annunciation took place). Thus, the Gospel of Matthew refers to Joseph as Mary’s “husband” at 1:19, and additionally the angel sent to Joseph calls Mary Joseph’s “wife” at 1:20 (as Joseph considered whether to divorce Mary). Again, at verse 1:24, Mary is called Joseph’s “wife.”
     It is true that Saint Luke refers to Mary’s betrothal to Joseph at Luke 1:26, but as Dr. Scott Hahn points out in The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, Mary’s “betrothal to Joseph was already a legally binding marriage.” This is why Joseph could not simply walk away from Mary without first getting a divorce, and because Joseph and Mary were legally married “such a betrothal could only be terminated by death or divorce [according to] Deut. 24: 1-4” (The Ignatius Catholic Bible Study, The Gospel of Matthew, page 18).
     In his Apostolic Exhortation, Guardian of the Redeemer, Pope Saint John Paul II makes clear that at the time of Mary’s Annunciation Joseph and Mary were married. The Pope stated:

“Addressing Joseph through the words of the angel, God speaks to him as the husband of the Virgin of Nazareth. What took place in her through the power of the Holy Spirit also confirmed in a special way the marriage bond which already existed between Joseph and Mary. God’s messenger was clear in what he said to Joseph: “Do not fear to take Mary your wife into your home.” Hence, what had taken place earlier, namely, Joseph’s marriage to Mary, happened in accord with God’s will and was meant to endure. In her divine motherhood Mary had to continue to live as “a virgin, the wife of her husband” (cf. Lk 1:27).” (no. 18)

The Virgin Mary was never an unwed mother. It is entirely incorrect to suggest that God planned it otherwise.

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Ref. Image: painting of Juan Simon Guiterrez, “Holy Family,” at Wikipedia, Public Domain, U.S.A.


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  1. The following is from the transcript of Scott Hahn that you cite . It actually says that Mary was NOT married. Can you explain?
    In other words Matthew is reminding the Jews of the legacy of David’s line. Why? Because what was the scuttlebutt about this young 13-year-old Jewess named Mary getting pregnant before she was married? Messing around, right? Whenever you see in the New Testament, Jesus called “the son of Mary,” that’s derogatory. Why? It was an illegitimate birth in the eyes of the townspeople, probably. What’s Matthew doing? What’s new? The appearance of sexual immorality or even the reality of infidelity has never thwarted God’s purposes. In the case of sex with the father-in-law, and in the case of a harlot, in the case of a foreign woman and in the case of an adulteress. I mean what more is left?

    In other words if God’s purposes had been fulfilled through the Davidic monarchy up until now and he didn’t complain about David coming from such women and there was Solomon, then this seeming scandal should not throw you too far off. And it goes on, verse 11, “Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers at the time of the deportation of Babylon.” And now all of a sudden some very good information that we never really had absolute certainty about anywhere in the Old Testament, “After the deportation of Babylon, Jechoniah, Shealtiel, Zerubbabel,” well, we know him. We don’t know what happened after him, Abiud, Azor, Zadok, Achim, Eliud, Eleazar, Natthan, Jacob, “Joseph, the husband of Mary of whom Jesus was born who is called the Christ.” In other words, we have now the proof that they didn’t lose the line. It didn’t fizzle out. God didn’t forget.


    1. Scott is talking about the perception of the “townspeople.” I’ve listened to that tape. That is not Scott’s position, but he relays the false perception. But in reality God saw to it that Mary was in a legal marriage, and Scott confirms this in his comment to Matt. 1:18 in the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible. Tom


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