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French Catholics denounce Mary books

The Church in France has stood up for the Virgin Mary by denouncing two new books that question whether she was a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus Christ.

In a number of statements, it has criticised the best-selling Mary, The Mother Of Jesus by Catholic journalist Jacques Duquesne and Mary, A Dogmatic Journey by Dominican theologian Dominique Cerbelaud.

"The two books gravely offend the Catholic faith," declared Bishop Jean-Louis Brugues, head of the French bishops' doctrinal commission that recently reviewed the two works.

Reuters reports that although the Vatican kept an Index of Prohibited Books until the 1960s, bishops rarely comment about objectionable publications anymore.

"This is rare enough to call it an event," the Paris Catholic daily La Croix wrote last week.

The two books attack a central dogma about Mary, who the Church teaches was a virgin who conceived by the Holy Spirit. Honouring Mary is a pillar of traditional piety in the world's largest church and Pope John Paul is strongly devoted to her.

Liberal Christians in some Protestant traditions see the virgin birth as a symbolic way to honour Christ's mother.

The commission accused Duquesne, a leading French journalist, of "ignorance of Christian thinking" for denying the virgin birth and saying Mary had other children after Jesus -- a point the Catholic Church also disputes.

Duquesne says Church thinking has not kept up with science. "In Jesus' time, people did not know how children were born," he said when "Mary" was published.

The doctrinal commission was more critical of Cerbelaud, a priest who teaches theology at Lyon's Catholic University and argued in his 2003 book that the virgin birth dogma came about "for reasons that spring from collective psychology".

It said his book "could trouble many people's faith" and had been the basis for many of Duquesne's arguments. But it stressed this did not mean a personal condemnation, which could have put his permission to teach theology in jeopardy.

French Catholics denounce Mary books (Reuters 19/12/04)

Catholic Bishops Conference of France
Jacques Duquesne (Delirium)
Jacques Duquesne (Amazon search) | Marie
Dominique Cerbelaud (Amazon search)

20 Dec 2004