In a challenge recently posted at his website (www.ntrmin.org), Eric Svendsen critiques the Marian titles "Spouse of the Holy Spirit" and "Mother of God." He believes that the use of these titles paints Catholic theology into a "heretical corner." The thrust of his argument is this:
"If Mary is the 'Mother of God' because of her 'parenting' role in the Incarnation, and if Mary is the 'Spouse of the Holy Spirit' because of His 'parenting' role in the Incarnation, then doesn't it follow that Jesus must be the Son of the Holy Spirit? Put another way, doesn't the same reasoning that leads Roman Catholics to conclude that Mary is the 'Mother of God' (viz., her biological relationship to Jesus) also lead us to the conclusion that since the Holy Spirit, as the true 'Spouse' of Mary, is the biological 'father' of Jesus, then He must also be the Father of God?"
Svendsen seems to argue that if Christ's conception is the fruit of the union of two spouses, then the "Husband" must be the Father of God if the "wife" is the Mother of God. Is he right to think this? Below is a single hypothetical situation which demonstrates that the thrust of Svendsen's argument is wrong.
Suppose a husband and wife want to have a child. They are married, and are therefore spouses. But they have no children, because the man is infertile. Now suppose that, due to the marvels of modern medical technology, another man's seed is able to be transplanted into the husband. The husband and wife then conceive in the normal way, and have a son. They conceive by the act which is reserved only for spouses, and thus in the act of conception affirm their spousehood. And the mother is truly the mother of the resulting child. But would we say that the husband is the biological father - the "real" father - of the child? No, it is clear that he is not. And thus Svendsen's argument must be wrong, for here we have two spouses who conceive through the act reserved only for spouses, in which the wife is truly the mother of the resulting child while the husband is not the father.
Seem pretty outlandish? Sure. But this is exactly what happens in the conception of Christ, as Svendsen himself recognizes: one person (the Holy Spirit) communicates the "seed" of another (the Father) to the mother (Mary). Since the communication of seed is an act reserved solely for spouses, this communication affirms that Mary is indeed the Spouse of the Spirit. And since the resulting child, while properly called the Son of the wife, is not the Son of the Husband, the Spirit is not the Father of God. Thus Mary can be both Spouse of the Spirit and Mother of God without necessitating that the Spirit be the Father of God.
American Catholic Truth Society
August 31, 2002