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November 23, 2018 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Q. In Gen. 3:14, God curses the serpent (Satan) for the Fall started by Eve eating the fruit of the forbidden tree. In Gen. 3:15, in the Douay-Rheims version, it is stated, “I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.” The woman in 3:15 is said to be the Blessed Virgin, who will finally finish Satan.
Yet in the New American Bible translation, Gen. 3:15 reads: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.” The NAB leaves Mary out as crushing the head of the serpent and leaves her role in the drama nugatory. Can you explain how these differences can be reconciled? — E.D., Maine.
A. In his blog, Jimmy Akin of Catholic Answers said that one possible explanation for the discrepancy in the feminine and masculine pronouns (“she shall crush” and “he will strike”) is that an early copyist of the Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible mistakenly substituted the feminine pronoun for the masculine pronoun. He said that “in the Hebrew original, the Greek version used by the New Testament authors and in Greek-speaking Christianity, the pre-Jerome Old Latin edition, various early Fathers, and even Jerome himself all used the masculine rather than the feminine in this passage.”
In the original context of the passage, said Akin, “the woman that is being discussed is Eve. It was she who was deceived by the serpent (Gen. 3:13). Her seed, understood in the original context, is all mankind for ‘the man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living’ (Gen. 2:20).”
But “on a higher spiritual level” Akin continued, “it has other meanings. Since the serpent is understood as the devil (Rev. 12:9), and the ‘seed’ as Christ (cf. Gal. 3:16)…the passage is also to be understood as an annunciation of the gospel, in which Christ defeats the devil.”
He quoted two recent Popes on the matter. St. John Paul said in 2000 that “the Father’s plan begins to be revealed in the ‘Protoevangelium’ [“first gospel”] when, after the fall of Adam and Eve, God announces that he will put enmity between the serpent and the woman: it will be the woman’s son who will crush the serpent’s head.”
Pope Benedict XVI said in 2009 that Gen. 3:15 “is the announcement of revenge: at the dawn of the Creation, Satan seems to have the upper hand, but the son of a woman is to crush his head. Thus, through the descendence of a woman, God himself will triumph. That woman is the Virgin Mary of whom was born Jesus Christ who, with his sacrifice, defeated the ancient serpent once and for all. This is why in so many paintings and statues of the Virgin Immaculate she is portrayed in the act of crushing the serpent with her foot.”
“So both pontiffs acknowledge a Marian dimension to the text,” said Akin. “It is through her Son that Mary crushes the serpent’s head. There is thus no need to pit the Marian interpretation against the Christological one. They are in harmony.”
More than a century and a half earlier, Blessed Pius IX agreed with his Successors.
In his apostolic constitution Ineffabilis Deus (1854), which infallibly proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, the Holy Father wrote that “by this divine prophecy [in Gen. 3:15] the merciful Redeemer of mankind, Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, was clearly foretold: that his Most Blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary, was prophetically indicated; and, at the same time, the very enmity of both against the Evil One was significantly expressed.
“Hence, just as Christ, the Mediator between God and man, assumed human nature, blotted the handwriting of the decree that stood against us, and fastened it triumphantly to the cross, so the most holy Virgin, united with him by a most intimate and indissoluble bond, was, with him and through him, eternally at enmity with the evil serpent, and most completely triumphed over him, and thus crushed his head with her immaculate foot.”

Q. I love your column and always read it, but I have to object to your answer re Matthew Kelly. Many Catholics today have so much misinformation about the faith since Vatican II. There were many Protestant Bible studies, and many Catholics incorporated Protestant errors into their faith. Perhaps Mr. Kelly was one of them in speaking of Jesus having half-brothers or Mary being unmarried when she conceived Jesus. Some think our Lady had other children after the virginal conception of Jesus. Many also believe St. Joseph was a widower and a father, although Archbishop Fulton Sheen did not believe this. The late archbishop believed St. Joseph was a young man and that God gave him the graces he needed to be chaste in his marriage to our Lady. — M.M., via e-mail.
A. We are very much aware of the misinformation about the Catholic faith that has been foisted on Catholics in recent decades, having taught religion to children and adults during that time and having published nine books on the faith in an effort to correct that misinformation. One of our books, All Generations Will Call Me Blessed, has refuted the errors about the marital status and perpetual virginity of the Blessed Mother, and has also knocked down the theory that the “brothers” and “sisters” of Jesus were Joseph’s children from an earlier marriage.
Regarding this theory, we quoted St. John Paul as having said at an audience in 1996 that the same Holy Spirit “who had inspired Mary to choose virginity in view of the mystery of the Incarnation and who wanted the latter to come about in a family setting suited to the Child’s growth, was quite able to instill in St. Joseph the ideal of virginity as well.”
We also quoted Frank Sheed as having rejected the notion that Joseph was merely brought into the marriage with Mary “to keep the neighbors from talking.” Such an arrangement, he said, “would hardly be a marriage at all, but rather a mockery of marriage….We must think of them as truly husband and wife, with a true union of personalities, each bringing completion to the other, with a profound sharing of interests, sharing of lives, enriched by the special graces from God that their virginity called for” (To Know Christ Jesus, pp. 71-72).
Having said that, and having previously expressed the hope that Matthew Kelly will correct the erroneous statements you mentioned, we can’t ignore the huge contribution he has made toward rejuvenating the faith of millions of Catholics through his many CDs, his parish seminars, and 20 books that have sold more than 30 million copies in 25 languages. We have read only a couple of his books, and listened to a few of his CDs, and found nothing objectionable in them, so we can’t say that everything he has said orally or in writing is 100 percent reliable.
But we wouldn’t advise against listening to or reading what he says about the Catholic faith since he has had a positive impact on many once-lukewarm Catholics.
Without dismissing the validity of the points M.M. made, we think that it would be a mistake to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Q. In a recent column, you said that a marriage of a Catholic to a non-Catholic in a non-Catholic ceremony without a dispensation from the Catholic’s bishop is not a valid marriage. Does this mean that if the Catholic wants to marry someone else in the future, he would not need an annulment? — M.D.F., Pennsylvania.
A. He would still need an annulment, or what is called in this case “A Declaration of Nullity by Defect of Form.” Because the Catholic party to the marriage did not adhere to the requirements of canonical form (canon 1108), namely, he did not contract the marriage “in the presence of the local Ordinary or the pastor or priest or deacon delegated by either of them, who assist, and in the presence of two witnesses,” he must seek an annulment from a diocesan tribunal.
In his book 100 Answers to Your Questions on Annulments, Dr. Edward N. Peters wrote:
“Don’t make the mistake many people do…and assume that a DF [Defect of Form] case is not really an annulment. It most certainly is. The process for declaring nullity in such cases might be expedited and it might be less costly, but DF cases remain declarations of nullity. Indeed, roughly 25 percent of all the annulments declared each year in the United States are DF annulments” (p. 142).

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Fr. James Schall passed away today. A Jesuit priest & Georgetown professor, he served as mentor & model to a numberless many (including me). With penetrating insight & wit, he pointed us to Christ & those great Catholic minds we mustn't forget.

Fr. Schall, requiescat in pace.

Please pray for Raymond DeSousa today, who is a weekly Wanderer columnist who is undergoing serious surgery today.

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Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Catholic Replies

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