Those who wish can instruct themselves here.
Some excerpt lovingly chosen by yours truly. Emphases mine. If the link should not work, follow the original site to click around.
The perpetual virginity of our Blessed Lady was taught and proposed to our belief not merely by the councils and creeds, but also by the early Fathers. The words of the prophet Isaias (vii, 14) are understood in this sense by
- St. Irenaeus (III, 21; see Eusebius, Church History V.8),
- Origen (Adv. Cels., I, 35),
- Tertullian (Adv. Marcion., III, 13; Adv. Judæos, IX),
- St. Justin (Dialogue with Trypho 84),
- St. John Chrysostom (Hom. v in Matth., n. 3; in Isa., VII, n. 5);
- St. Epiphanius (Hær., xxviii, n. 7),
- Eusebius (Demonstrat. ev., VIII, i),
- Rufinus (Lib. fid., 43),
- St. Basil (in Isa., vii, 14; Hom. in S. Generat. Christi, n. 4, if St. Basil be the author of these two passages),
- St. Jerome and Theodoretus (in Isa., vii, 14),
- St. Isidore (Adv. Judæos, I, x, n. 3),
- St. Ildefonsus (De perpetua virginit. s. Mariæ, iii).
The contrary doctrine is called:
- “madness and blasphemy” by Gennadius (De dogm. eccl., lxix),
- “madness” by Origen (in Luc., h, vii),
- “sacrilege” by St. Ambrose (De instit. virg., V, xxxv),
- “impiety and smacking of atheism” by Philostorgius (VI, 2),
- “perfidy” by St. Bede (hom. v, and xxii),
- “full of blasphemies” by the author of Prædestin. (i, 84),
- “perfidy of the Jews” by Pope Siricius (ep. ix, 3),
- “heresy” by St. Augustine (De Hær. h., lvi).
There’s a lot to click about, but most importantly there’s a lot to be ashamed of.
As August is the month of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, it might a good time investment (not more than a matter of minutes) to read the relevant entry in the Catholic Encyclopedia. It is rather well-written, concise and accessible to the everyday reader, and gives a historical perspective of the development of this devotion.
Once again, the rich tapestry of Catholic devotion is squarely put in front of the reader (with active links to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and to the Miraculous Medal, for example).
The older I get, the more I get to understand what a wonderful gift we have in Mary. It is not that I was stupid in years past (at least, I hope not), but rather that there are certain perceptions that go deeper in one’s person consciousness as the years slowly work in him. I understand only now that the treasure that I have discovered – nay: that I am slowly discovering – would have been able to give me a vast amount of consolation in years past. In a sense, it is as if a fountain of love had been besides me all the time, but I just hadn’t really noticed that I could actually drink out of it, thinking it a beautiful, decorative garden accessory instead.
I can’t stress often enough the importance, and the benefits, of the daily recitation of the Rosary. For those who might not be familiar with this queen of Catholic devotions, there is a link on the top right-hand corner of this blog.
Following a very interesting intervention of Schmenz in reply to a former post, I spent some time looking for some credible description of how a Catholic is to react to a decree of canonisation or beatification. This particularly in view of the upcoming beatification (and one day, perhaps, canonisation) of the late Pope JP II, an event which will clearly excite both an oceanic wave of enthusiasm and a smaller, but noticeable one of dismay.
I have already made clear that in my eyes the worth as a Blessed of John Paul II is to be seen in his saintly character, not in his working as a Pope. This is nothing new or wrong as a beatification or canonisation isn’t, nor could it ever be, a seal of approval of political action.
Now let us see what the Catholic Encyclopedia says on the matter of canonisation.
1) There are two types of canonisation, formal and equivalent.
Formal canonization occurs when the cultus is prescribed as an explicit and definitive decision, after due judicial process and the ceremonies usual in such cases. Equivalent canonization occurs when the pope, omitting the judicial process and the ceremonies, orders some servant of God to be venerated in the Universal Church; this happens when such a saint has been from a remote period the object of veneration, when his heroic virtues (or martyrdom) and miracles are related by reliable historians, and the fame of his miraculous intercession is uninterrupted
2) It is evident that modern canonisations are all formal ones; that they are the object of a prescription; that the decision is explicit and definitive. That they, as such, bind every Catholic. In matters of canonisation, “ours is not to reason why“. This is only logical, as the nature itself of the canonisation is to give the faithful certainty, not hope, that the canonised person is in Heaven.
3) Whether the decree of canonisation is an expression of Papal Infallibility (as, says the Catholic encyclopedia, most theologians think) or not, the result of the canonisation is evidently not less binding, and this is what interests us here. When the Church formally decrees that Titius or Caius are Saint Titius and Saint Caius, every Catholic is bound to accept this as part and parcel of his Catholic belief. Still, this mandatory belief does not stretch to the man in question having done everything right and not even to his having had heroic virtue; what every catholic is bound to believe is merely that the canonised person is in heaven.
Very different is the case of Beatification. The Catholic Encyclopedia again:
This general agreement of theologians as to papal infallibility in canonization must not be extended to beatification, not withstanding the contrary teaching of the canonical commentary known as “Glossa” […] Canonists and theologians generally deny the infallible character of decrees of beatification, whether formal or equivalent, since it is always a permission, not a command;
Clearly, here the Church is not saying “you have to believe”, but “you are allowed to believe”. You can therefore – as long as no canonisation intervenes – refuse to believe that the one or other person declared Blessed is in heaven in the same way as you can, say, not believe in the Fatima apparitions.There can be no question of infallibility, because there is no question of prescription in the first place.
In practical terms, this means that a Catholic is allowed to question the prevalent opinion that, say, John Paul II is in heaven but is not allowed to question the prescriptive decree that, say, Padre Pio is.