Thursday, December 26, 2019

Joseph's fiat

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

973 By pronouncing her "fiat" at the Annunciation and giving her consent to the Incarnation, Mary was already collaborating with the whole work her Son was to accomplish. She is mother wherever he is Savior and head of the Mystical Body.

The "fiat" alludes to the Vulgate rendering of Lk 1:38:

fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum

“let it be to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). 

Catholic theologians act like this means God was putting the plan of redemption up for a vote by giving Mary a veto. Of course, the Annunciation is an announcement of what God will bring to pass. 

I've read Catholic apologists claim that if the virgin birth was nonconsensual, then it was rape. That overlooks the elementary fact that rape requires sex: penetration of sexual intercourse. But of course, the virginal conception is nonsexual. Sexless rape?  

Be that was it may, let's play along with the Catholic argument for its own sake by drawing a comparison. In Mt 2, Joseph receives some revelatory dreams. These are premonitions of danger. The dreams implicitly raise the specter of alternate futures. If Joseph stays, his young son will be murdered by Herod's henchmen. But he can avert that hypothetical outcome if he gets out of Dodge in time. If things continue as is, along their current trajectory, Jesus will die a premature death. 

iii) This raises a question for Christian libertarians. Was failure to heed the angelic warning a live option for Joseph? Pause to consider what that would entail. We're not just talking about the fate of a lone individual. The fate of the whole human race would hang in the balance. The Incarnation would be in vain. Centuries of providential preparation would go up in smoke. God would have to start from scratch. So by parity of argument, why does Catholicism single out Mary's "fiat" but ignore Joseph's "fiat"? 

For that matter, the logic of the Catholic argument extends to so many other players in the history of redemption. Take the call of Abraham. 

1 comment:

  1. Mary was already immaculately conceived according to Catholicism. If Mary hadn't consented, then would God have to have had some other woman immaculately conceived? But a delay of (circa) 14 more years would invalidate the prophecies in Daniel about the timing of the appearance of the Messiah. Maybe God had multiple females immaculately conceived at the same time Mary was as alternatives if the first choice didn't consent. Or, it wasn't necessary because Molina was right about middle knowledge.