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Our readers asked:

Did Mary Have Labor Pains?

Ginny Kubitz Moyer Answers:

Did Mary Have Labor Pains?

There’s lots of debate around this one.   After the Fall, in Genesis 3:16, God tells Eve, “I will intensify the pangs of your childbearing; in pain shall you bring forth children.”    The Genesis author thus portrays labor pains as the consequence of original sin.

Catholics, however, believe that Mary was conceived without original sin: “[Mary] was preserved from all stain of original sin and by a special grace of God committed no sin of any kind during her whole earthly life.” (CCC 411).  Given that, many conclude that she would not have suffered labor pains.  This view was held by many early Church Fathers, and was mentioned in the Catechism of the Council of Trent.

That said, other theologians dispute this logic.   If, as the Church teaches, baptism frees us from original sin, then shouldn’t all baptized women be free of labor pains? Equating labor pains with sinfulness also seems to imply that women with difficult labors are more sinful than those with easier ones.   On the other hand, it’s possible that God could have granted Mary a pain-free delivery as a special privilege.

In the end, it’s worth remembering that the Church has not made a dogmatic statement on the question.  Although the Church teaches that Christ’s birth was a virgin birth, the details of the delivery itself are open to speculation.

Ginny Kubitz Moyer is the author of Mary and Me: Catholic Women Reflect on the Mother of God. You can visit her blog at www.blog.maryandme.org

 
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The Author : Ginny Kubitz Moyer
Ginny Kubitz Moyer is the author of the award-winning book Mary and Me: Catholic Women Reflect on the Mother of God. She lives with her family in the San Francisco Bay Area and blogs at randomactsofmomness.com.
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  • Ginny Kubitz Moyer

    Jane,

    Thanks for the response. Certainly, Mary was conceived free of original sin, and it’s also clear that she never committed a sin at any point in her life. As you’ve said, this makes her different from us; even when original sin is erased from the rest of us by baptism, we still commit sins. That’s definitely not in question.

    As you probably saw from my answer, there are divergent opinions on the question of whether or not Mary suffered labor pains. Even the definition of “effects of sin” as they relate to Mary is open to discussion among theologians. For example: Suffering is widely seen as an effect of sin, therefore many conclude that Mary, being sinless, would not have had the suffering of labor pains. That said, she clearly did suffer at other points in her life (witness the emotional pain of seeing her Son crucified, and the popular title Our Lady of Sorrows.) In that sense, she was clearly not free from all of the effects of sin (even though those sins were committed by others and not by her).

    Ultimately, my purpose was to share some of the reasons both for and against the idea that Mary did not have labor pains. In the final analysis, the Church has not made a definitive statement about it. The things we can say with full confidence are that Mary was “preserved immune from all stain of original sin” (Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus) and that she remained sinless based on God’s grace (CCC 493).

  • Jane

    Yes, all women who are baptized are freed from original sin. But your logic ends there. Baptized women still feel the EFFECTS of the original sin. Otherwise, once we were baptized, we would all be sinless, perfect, immaculate. Mary was sinless from the moment of her conception, and therefore was never bound by the EFFECTS of original sin. There is a BIG difference there, a big difference between her and baptized women. So to say “If, as the Church teaches, baptism frees us from original sin, then shouldn’t all baptized women be free of labor pains?” is just not logical. The answer is no, baptized women shouldn’t be free of labor pains, because they were not CONCEIVED without original sin, and are still bound to feel its effect in their lives. Otherwise, we could all be canonized right after our baptisms.

  • cathyf

    An interesting note about labor pain is that it is a uniquely human phenomenon. The human head is too big to be birthed through the human pelvis, precisely because we walk upright and have large brains.

    Perhaps somehow the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was making our brains bigger.

  • Steve

    Also to add to the speculation, a key word in Gen 3:16 is “intensify.” To me, that does not imply that pre-fall women would necessarily have no pain whatsoever, just that post-fall women would have more than a pre-fall women.

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