Why I could never become a Roman Catholic – Part 2: The Cult of the Virgin Mary

26 May

A.  INTRODUCTION

In this second part, I explain why I cannot accept the veneration accorded to the Virgin Mary by the Roman Catholic Church.

As someone once noted, when one enters a Catholic Church one s greeted by a dead (or dying) Christ but by a living Virgin Mary.  This is even more evident in Spanish churches where the Virgin is in a central position above the altar and Christ pushed off to the side.  This is the heart of the marian idolatary for me.

This veneration appears to have its origin in the worship of the Egyptian goddess Isis (and perhaps other pagan goddesses of the ancient world) which was prevalent in the Roman Empire until the end of the pagan era.  In fact, there are “surviving images of Isis holding Horus in a pose remarkably similar to that of some early Christian madonnas.” (Constantine and the Christian Empire: Richard A Todd, in Lion Handbook: The History of Christianity, Lion Publishing, 1977, p132)

So what does the Church officially say about the Cult of the Virgin?

IV.  THE CULT OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN IN THE CHURCH

66. Mary has by grace been exalted above all angels and men to a place second only to her Son, as the most holy Mother of God who was involved in the mysteries of Christ: she is rightly honoured by a special cult in the Church. From the earliest times the Blessed Virgin is honoured under the title of Mother of God, whose protection the faithful take refuge together in prayer in all their perils and needs.  Accordingly, following the Council of Ephesus, there was a remarkable growth in the cult of the people of God towards Mary, in veneration and love, in invocation and imitation, according to her own prophetic words: “all generations shall call me Blessed, because he that is mighty hath done great things to me.”  Vatican Collection Volume 1, Vatican Council II, The Conciliar and Post Conciliar documents.  General Editor Austin Flannery, O.P. New revised edition 1992; Costello publishing company, Northport, New York.  1992 page 421.

While the Protestant churches have perhaps neglected Mary and not given her the respect she deserves,as “Blessed”, this quotation from the Second Vatican Council shows that the Roman Catholic Church has elevated the Virgin Mary to near divinity and designated her with titles, attributes and qualities that properly belong to the Lord Jesus Christ.  So how has such a heretical error come to be official doctrine of the Church?

B.  MARY AS THE MOTHER OF GOD

It has its origin in a mistranslation of the ancient description of Mary as “Theokotos” (literally “God-bearer”), but which, in the Roman Catholic West, has traditionally been rendered as “Mother of God” (a title of Isis).  Neither the term “God-bearer” nor that of “Mother of God” are ever used anywhere in the New Testament, in which she is merely referred to as simply “Mary“, “his mother Mary” (Matthew 1; Luke 1 & 2) or “Mary the mother of Jesus” (Acts 1:14).[1]  Nestorius (a fifth century Patriarch of Constantinople) prophetically warned against such usage arguing that “…if Mary is the Mother of God she has been made a goddess, and the Gentiles will be scandalized.” As we shall see, this is exactly what has happened.

This fundamental error in translation has the direct consequence of creating a whole raft of apparently consistent beliefs:

(i)  The Mother of God surely must then be the “Queen of Heaven” (the title of numerous pagan goddesses including Isis, Innana, Astarte/Asterah and Hera/Juno) and (in the words of a supposed apparition of Mary to an adolescent visionary) “the permanent Bride of the Holy Ghost“.[2]  Despite accepting Epiphanius of Salamis’ condemnation of the Collyridians – a heretical sect that offered cakes (or bread rolls) to Mary as a goddess who was “Queen of Heaven”, the Vatican appears to have adopted the title on the basis of an unsubstantiated, private revelation of  Pope Gregory the Great (7th century), which was the supposed source of the Marian prayer Regina Coeli, over the revealed word of God in the Bible, where adoration of “The Queen of Heaven” is clearly condemned[3].

(ii) The phrase “second only to her Son” has led some within the Catholic Church to see Mary as “co-redemptrix” with Christ – a view that was utterly alien to the Early Church! Indeed, there is no evidence that Mary was held in equal, let alone greater, esteem than the leading Apostles: Peter, Paul, John (the disciple whom Jesus loved),  Andrew (the first disciple) and James (the Brother of the Lord), who were all greatly revered throughout the first and second centuries, as accords with the Biblical account in Mark 3:32-35 and Jesus´ teaching in Luke 11:27).

(iii) the use of “Mother of us All” (another of Isis’ titles), creates a vision of a Divine Family in Heaven, which complements the Holy Family on Earth, is largely responsible for the Islamic confusion over the nature of the Triune Godhead, into which Mary has effectively been inserted.  Additionally, it reinforces the false idea of Mary’s being “co-redemptrix, mediatrix and advocate“.

Naturally such a person could not have been anything other than immaculately conceived (obviating the need for salvation) and be bodily assumed into Heaven.  Of course, not a single one of these claims has any biblical support; nor do they find any support in the writings of the Apostolic Fathers.

The Council of Ephesus (431ad) is often cited (as in the quote from the Vatican Collection above) in support of this Cult of the Virgin.  Holly Hayes, who has an MPhil in Religious History from Oxford University, examined the relationship between the Cult of the Virgin Mary in Ephesus before and after the Council as part of her thesis.  She cites S. Vailhé, ‘Ephesus’.  The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. V (1909) in which it is stated that:

the opinion that the Blessed Virgin died there [in Ephesus] rests on no ancient testimony’.

Indeed, the earliest references associating the Virgin Mary with Ephesus are from Ephiphanius of Salamis (375 ad), who in the Panarion 3.78.11 “was concerned to point out that although the Bible says John was leaving for Asia, it does not say that Mary went with him.” (Hayes – unpublished MPhil Thesis, University of Oxford) and from a letter to the Christians of Constantinople from the Council of Ephesus which is far from clear in its meaning.

These “ ‘are the sum of the ancient contemporaneous evidence for Mary in Ephesus’ and both are indirect. Aside from these, there are no literary references to a legend, cult or church of Mary in Ephesus prior to 431.”

Furthermore, Hayes points out that “There is also no literary or archaeological evidence for either a tomb or relics associated with Mary in Ephesus” (Hayes, ibid)   and that “Archaeological evidence for devotion to Mary in Ephesus is also scant.” (Hayes, ibid)

Other scholars, like Dr Richard A Todd, point to the fact that “Isis in her travels became identified with many other goddesses, including Artemis, and was the ‘universal mother’ of later pagan religion.”

This gives a clue as to how Ephesus came to be associated with Mary as we know from the Bible that it was the city that belonged to Artemis:

27 There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of  the great goddess Artemis will be discredited; and the goddess herself, who is worshipped  throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.”   28 When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” (Acts 19:27-28)

What is more natural than that the worshippers of Artemis (and Isis) should “…look to Mary for comfort when paganism was outlawed and their temples destroyed at the end of the fourth century.” (Richard A Todd, ibid p132)

Though the New Testament is silent on the fate of Mary, the earliest writings about the tomb of Mary indicate that she died and was buried in Jerusalem with several 4th century documents placing her tomb in Gethsemane. This is conceded by the Catholic Encylopedia which states:

The apocryphal works of the second to the fourth century are all favourable to the Jerusalem tradition. According to the Acts of St John by Prochurus, written (160-70) by Lencius, the Evangelist went to Ephesus accompanied by Prochurus alone and at a very advanced age, i.e. after Mary’s death.”

The earliest sources (eg Transitus Mariae) are apocryphal, it is true, but all seem to have their origin in a single primitive document, which may have been written for liturgical use at Mary’s tomb, according to the biblical scholar Lino Cignelli who notes, “From the earliest times, tradition has assigned the authorship of the prototype to one Lucius Carinus, said to have been a disciple and fellow labourer with St John the Evangelist.”

Thus, it is unsurprising that this version was widely accepted by both the Eastern and Western Churches[4] and later documents claiming that Mary went with St John to Ephesus (eg the Syriac document copied in 874ad) were largely ignored by the Roman Catholic Church until the 19th century, when a nun, named Anne Catherine Emmerich, claimed to have had a vision of Mary’s last house in Ephesus (which is now a site of veneration for both Catholics and Muslims).

Thus, the actual evidence of an ancient cult of Mary in Ephesus is weak at best and would appear to only have occurred after the pagan era to accommodate those whose religion had been proscribed in favour of Christianity.

C. MARY AS THE QUEEN OF HEAVEN

Some Catholics claim biblical authority for Mary as “Queen of Heaven” (sic) citing John’s vision of “a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pangs, in the agony of giving birth.” (Revelation 12:1-2).  Lets examine this text to see if there is any validity in such a claim when the verses are put into the context of the rest of the chapter.

The vision John relates is very similar to the stories of the birth of the Egyptian god Horus (which was later adapted for the birth of the Roman god Apollo).  These universally told stories had been given a Jewish gloss, in which the 12 stars of the zodiac were replaced by the 12 Patriarchs of Israel and understood the Woman to represent Israel as God’s “chosen people”.  John has Christianised the Jewish version so that the Woman is clothed in the “sun of righteousness” (Christ) with her feet on the moon to indicate that her head is in heaven, and crowned by the 12 apostles, who have spread the Gospel (Matthew Henry, 1960).

It is clear that, as Henry states, that the Woman is representative of the Church, with whom Satan was angry and  who “went off to make war on the rest of her children, those who keep the commandments of God and hold the testimony of Jesus.” (Revelation 12:17).  This verse clearly shows that the Woman cannot be Mary.

Johns adaptation of this popular narrative has a dual purpose:  it illustrates his own theme while tacitly excluding “all heroes of other faiths from the position of world Redeemer.” (The New Bible Commentary Revised, 1970:1294).

Even more fundamentally, were the Woman, Mary, why did not John say so?  After all, he surely would have recognised the woman he took into his home as “mother” and who he buried in Jerusalem, even were she in a heavenly vision.  That he merely refers to her as “the Woman” throughout, strongly suggests that he was speaking of the Christian Church, the true Bride of Christ, and not the mother of Jesus.

D.  THE PERPETUAL VIRGINITY OF MARY

However, we will start by examining the claims for Mary’s “perpetual virginity” (sic) with which these false doctrines are inextricably entwined.

The origin of the myth of Mary’s perpetual virginity lies in the “Infancy Gospel of St James“, an apocryphal gospel, the authorship and date of which are dubious (why, were it written by Jesus’ brother James, would it be reliant on a synthesis of the Gospels of St Matthew (only in which occurs the visit of the Wise Men) and St Luke (only in which is recounted the birth of John the Baptist)?) and denied by all reputable scholars.

Right from the start the emerging belief in Mary’s perpetual virginity was challenged by leading figures in the Early Church such as Eunomius, Jovian, Helvidus, and Bishop Bonosus of Sardica.  It was also denied by the Antidicomarianites (an Eastern Sect, which flourished between 200 and 400ad), mentioned by both Origen and Tertullian, who also rejected the emerging false belief.  Later opponents included St. Ambrose, St. Hilary, and St Basil the Great, who wrote:

“[The opinion that Mary bore several children after Christ] … is not against the faith; for virginity was imposed on Mary as a necessity only up to the time that she served as an instrument for the Incarnation. On the other hand, her subsequent virginity was not essential to the mystery of the Incarnation.” (Homilia in sanctam Christi generationem, PG 31:1468).

Proponents of this doctrine, not surprisingly, ignore St Basil in favour of his near contemporaries St Jerome (who was concerned that Virginity should be valued more than Marriage) and St Augustine of Hippo, who is cited in the Catechism, in support of their claims.

Mary ‘remained a virgin in conceiving her Son, a virgin in giving birth to him, a virgin in carrying him, a virgin in nursing him at her breast, always a virgin’ (St. Augustine, Serm. 186, 1: PL 38, 999): with her whole being she is “the handmaid of the Lord” (Lk 1:38).”  (CCC 510)

The doctrine gained ground during the 6th century – despite opposition from St. Gregory of Tours – and in 553, the Fifth General Council granted Mary the title of honour “perpetual virgin”.

If this perpetual virginity, a doctrine espoused by St Augustine, confirmed by the Fifth General Council and incorporated in the catechism, were essential to faith, surely there would have been some Biblical evidence to support it.  There is none indicating that the innovation is neither true to Holy Scripture nor to the teachings of the Early Church.

It is more likely that a story about the birth of Romulus and Remus, the mythical founders of Rome, by the Roman historian Livy, which was widely circulates during the first decades of the 1st century, is the principal source.  In this story, the twins, who are sons of Mars (the Roman God of War), are immaculately conceived by Silvia, a Vestal Virgin.  Is it possible that early Matthew, wishing to signal that this was the birth of a very important person – more important than that of the founders of Rome – adapted this myth in light of a mistranslation of Isaiah 7:14?

The original prophecy in Isaiah does not use the Hebrew word for a virgin “bethuwlah” but rather  uses the Hebrew word “almah”, which has no exact translation in English but which has the sense of “a young maiden of childbearing age”.  While such a woman could be a virgin, the word does not imply that she must be (she could be married but yet to conceive).  This is very same problem that faced the translators of the Old Testament into Greek (The Septuagint).  There was no word in Greek that directly translated the word “almah”.  Their solution was to use the word “parthenos”, which translates as “virgin” in English; but St Matthew does not use this word in his account of the birth of Jesus, using instead the word “eginōsken” which translates as “knew” with the sense of having “sexual relations” and, thus, implying virginity.

Moreover, Matthew is the only Gospel to imply a Virgin Birth; the Gospels of St Mark and St John have no birth narratives at all; St Luke, who does have a birth narrative, makes no mention of it (Luke 2:4-5).  It does not even appear in the super-miraculous, apocryphal Infancy Gospel of St Thomas.  Equally striking is that the great rabbinic scholar and Apostle to the Gentiles, St Paul, appears to be completely oblivious to this aspect of the birth of Jesus, an event to which he only alludes twice (Galatians 4:4 & Romans 1:3-4).  In the former he writes:

But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law.”

Note that St Paul uses the word woman (gunaikos), not virgin (parthenos).  In the latter passage he refers to Jesus’ descent from David:

regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David,  and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in  power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.”

As both Jesus’ earthly parents were “descendants of David” (Matt 1: 1-17; Lk 2:4 & Lk 3:33-38), there is no implication other than that he is the “Son of David” as much through Joseph as Mary.

Even accepting that Mary was a virgin at the time of Jesus birth (as most mainstream churches do), there are no grounds to suppose that her virginity had to be perpetual, unless it is to elevate her status to that of a demigoddess and, thus, to deflect the faithful from reliance on Christ, their Saviour, alone.

In fact, Matthew 1:25 is very clear on the matter:

25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

Catholics theologians, following St Jerome[5], argue that the word “until” does not necessarily imply a change in condition and cite numerous Bible verses to support their claim.  Yet, this is merely semantics: there are an equal, if not superior, number of verses in which the condition has changed.  The meaning in each case is determined by context.  In Matthew 1:25, the context is clearly different from those verses cited by Catholic theologians.

The lack of sexual relations between Joseph and Mary (her virginity) is the central concept of the verse, as St Matthew wishes to demonstrate that Old Testament prophecy is being fulfilled in the birth of the Son of God.  The word “until” clearly shows a change of condition.

That Joseph and Mary had children after the birth of Jesus is well attested in Scripture (John 2:12; Matthew 13:55-56; Mark 3: 31-32 & 6:3; Luke 8:19-20; John 7:2-5 & 10; Acts 1:14; I Corinthians 9:5; Galatians 1:19).  There are also multiple instances in the book of Acts of James’ (the brother of Jesus) role as leader of the Church in Jerusalem.  Thus, to claim that Mary remained a virgin after the birth of Jesus is to unwittingly assign the unnecessary condition of Immaculate Conception to all of Joseph’s offspring.

Such a weak defence appears to be a clutching at straws in a vain attempt to defend the indefensible.  Therefore, this doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary has been shown to be both absurd and unnecessary to either the fulfilment of Old Testament Prophecy or Christology.

The Roman Catholic Church is guilty of even greater heresy in confounding the Virgin Mary with the deity of Christ through the attribution to her of two Christological aspects:  Immaculate Conception and Bodily Assumption into Heaven.  Neither doctrine has support in Scripture or in the Early Church Fathers.  While they were popular lay beliefs – tolerated by the papacy – from medieval times, neither was accepted as a Doctrine of the Church until 1854 and 1950, respectively.  Both pronouncements, which rest on the dubious self-assumption of Papal Infallibility, were made ex-cathedra without the benefit of discussion in Council, and thus to me, smack more of pandering to populism than serious theology.

E.  THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION OF MARY

The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.” (Pope Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus – CC 491)

The false doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary directly arises from a combination of the mistranslation of Theokotos and the (as we have seen) entirely unnecessary doctrine of perpetual virginity.

While this doctrine has its roots in antiquity (the Church in Antioch celebrated the “Feast of the Most Holy and All Pure Mother of God” on 8th December as early as the 5th century), as Ott admits in his The Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, it

…is not explicitly revealed in scripture…Neither the Greek nor the Latin Fathers explicitly (explicite) teach the Immaculate Conception of Mary.” (pp 201-202).

Despite this, Catholic scholars claim a number of “proofs from Scripture” which, when they are subjected to scrutiny, prove to be highly interpretive and less than reliable.

The proof from Genesis 3:15 relies on a mistranslation of the Hebrew word ה֚וּא [] as “she” in place of the correct “he“.  Even The Catholic Encyclopedia recognises that “The translation “she” of the Vulgate is interpretative; it originated after the fourth century, and cannot be defended critically.”  Reliance on this proof appears to be as desperate a clutching at straws as the “until” argument for Mary’s supposed perpetual virginity.

Their second proof relies on the Vulgate translation of the word κεχαριτωμένη [kecharitōmenē] as gratia plena [full of grace], which differs from the original Koine meaning of “highly favoured” or “graciously accepted” [6], which all Protestant translations use.  Thus, once again, the proof relies on an idiosyncratic translation which according to The Catholic Encyclopaedia,  “…serves only as an illustration, not as a proof of the dogma.

A third proof relies on a part of a single verse in the Song of Songs (4:7b) which is lifted out of context and applied to Mary (a favourite practice of Catholic apologetics).

The last Biblical proof (I reject the Apocrypha as Scripture and thus the supposed proof based on a passage in the book of Ecclesiasticus) is a liturgically inappropriate attribution of the personalisation of “Wisdom” in Proverbs 8 to Mary.  While such an attributions of passages from the Old Testament to Christ or the Church are common in the New Testament and Patrisitic writings, they are not applied to individuals (other than Christ).  This attribution, which wholly ignores the original context, confounds Mary with her Son (cf John 1).  It is further evidence of how Mary has been all but deified by Catholics and logically leads to the false belief that Mary is a co-redemtrix and mediatrix with Christ.

These last were omitted from  “Ineffabilis Deus” as, in the words of The Catholic Encyclopaedia, they “…do not avail to prove the doctrine dogmatically…”

Surely, had God intended this to be a fundamental doctrine of the Church there would have been some explicit mention of it in the Bible. Yet there is nothing but dubious translations (and, in the case of Genesis and Song of Songs, translation from an earlier translation), a partial verse out of context and inappropriate attribution of passage which clearly is not referring to Mary.  So from where did it come?

Just as with Mary’s perpetual virginity, her miraculous birth is related in the pseudo-gospel of James. Yet, it’s origin is likely to be much older.

As with the Theokotos confusion and the doctrine of perpetual virginity, the Immaculate Conception may well have pagan origins.  Prior to the fourth century bc, when she became conflated with the goddess Ishtar, the Persian goddess Anahita was worshipped as  “the virgin,” “the immaculate”.  In the Graeco-Roman era, this belief had passed to Artemis/Diana, which returns us to Ephesus, though not to Mary.

The Patristic writers were divided on the issue.  Indeed, the earlier Fathers were very cautious with St Basil and St Chrysostom not accepting the immaculate conception and Origen being conflicted in his views.  The official view is that in this regard they “were in error” (The Catholic Encyclopaedia).  However, there were those who ascribed to the burgeoning belief, which, when  the British monk Eadmer espoused the idea in the 12th Century, was opposed by St Bernard of Clairvaux who,”…warned the faithful that this was an unfounded innovation” (Ott p201).  His arguments, despite the rebuttal by Peter Comestor, continued to be argued well into the 17th century.

It is interesting that the concept gained a renewed popularity in the 19th century when Catherine Labouré, a Catholic nun and mystic, claimed in 1830 to have seen an apparition of Mary in which she saw an oval with the words  “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.” around its edge and these were included on her “miraculous medal” with the the “Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary inscribed upon it.

It is less surprising that there was a second apparition at Lourdes in February, 1858 (4 years after Pope Pius IX infallible (sic) declaration of Mary’s immaculate conception) in which the the apparition stated “Je suis l’Immaculée conception” (I am the Immaculate Conception).  Though initially sceptical, the Catholic Church bowed to local pressure and unproven claims of healing and recognised the vision, creating  a new shrine to Mary.

That such adoration of the “Immaculate Heart” has become integral to mainstream Catholicism is shown by the following quote from an article in Zenit in an article in 2012, which opens by quoting Padre Pio “The Madonna is the shortcut to get to God” before continuing:

There is no doubt that in order to see the face of Jesus, we must turn to His Mother, and it is to Her who we look to heal our diseases, to turn our tears into prayer.[7]

Such sentiments fly in the face of biblical teaching.  Nowhere in the Bible is there any mention of Mary mediating between believers and her Son or of her ever having healed anyone.  To claim that she “heals our diseases” is to attribute – without warrant – the prophecy of Isaiah 53:4, which properly belongs to Jesus (Matthew 8:17), to Mary.

Thus again Catholics are being encouraged, contrary to Holy Scripture, to adopt the heresy of displacing Jesus as the one mediator with his mother in a way that neither fosters salvation nor glorifies God.

We mentioned earlier that the belief in Mary’s Immaculate Conception flourished briefly in Antioch. However, the belief was ultimately rejected by the Orthodox Church, the antiquity of which is greater than that of Rome. Their Patriarchal Encyclical of 1895 states:

“XIII. The one holy, catholic and apostolic Church of the seven Ecumenical Councils teaches that the supernatural incarnation of the only-begotten Son and Word of God, of the Holy Ghost and the Virgin Mary, is alone pure and immaculate; but the Papal Church scarcely forty years ago again made an innovation by laying down a novel dogma concerning the immaculate conception of the Mother of God and ever-Virgin Mary, which was unknown to the ancient Church (and strongly opposed at different times even by the more distinguished among the Papal theologians).”

More recently, in their 89 page letter to Pope Francis detailing the heresies of the Roman Catholic Faith, the Orthodox Metropolitans Andrew of Dryinoupolis, Pogoniani & Konitsa and Seraphim of Piraeus & Faliro condemn “the dogma of the ‘immaculate conception’ and the ‘bodily assumption’ of the Mother of God“. [8]

Let’s now examine the claims for the bodily Assumption of Mary into Heaven.

F.  THE BODILY ASSUMPTION OF MARY INTO HEAVEN

“Finally the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death.”(Pope Pius XII, Munificentissimus Deus – CC 966)

 The Most Blessed Virgin Mary, when the course of her earthly life was completed, was taken up body and soul into the glory of heaven, where she already shares in the glory of her Son’s Resurrection, anticipating the resurrection of all members of his Body. (CC 974)

Regarding Marian relics, Calvin commented ironically that since the Roman Catholics believed in the Assumption of Mary, they have been deprived “of all pretext for manufacturing any relics of her remains, which otherwise might have been sufficiently abundant to fill a whole churchyard.

[SECTION UNDER REVISION]

G.  DEIFICATION OF MARY AS CO-REDEMPTRIX, MEDIATRIX OF GRACE AND ADVOCATE

Roman Catholics have always told me that there is no such confounding of Mary with the Deity and that I merely have not understood the theology.  So let us examine that theology further:

In countless hymns and antiphons expressing this prayer, two movements usually alternate with one another: the first “magnifies” the Lord for the “great things” he did for his lowly servant and through her for all human beings the second entrusts the supplications and praises of the children of God to the Mother of Jesus, because she now knows the humanity which, in her, the Son of God espoused.(CCC 2675)

“ ‘Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death:’  By asking Mary to pray for us, we acknowledge ourselves to be poor sinners and we address ourselves to the “Mother of Mercy,” the All-Holy One.”  (CCC 2677 on the Ave Maria)

Mary is the perfect Orans (pray-er), a figure of the Church. When we pray to her, we are adhering with her to the plan of the Father, who sends his Son to save all men. Like the beloved disciple we welcome Jesus’ mother into our homes, for she has become the mother of all the living. We can pray with and to her. The prayer of the Church is sustained by the prayer of Mary and united with it in hope.”  (CCC 2679)

After speaking of the Church, her origin, mission, and destiny, we can find no better way to conclude than by looking to Mary.” (CCC 972)

“From the Church he learns the example of holiness and recognizes its model and source in the all-holy Virgin Mary…” (CCC 2030)

and I ask blessed Mary, ever virgin, all the angels and saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord, our God.”  (Penitential Rite, RC Mass)

Here again in the Catechism we find Mary displacing her son, the Christ, as both the source of the Church and as the one on whom we should fix our eyes, “Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2), who said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. (John 10:7a)

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”  (John 15:5)

The Catholic Catechism is clearly in conflict with the revealed Word of God as set out in the Holy Scriptures, subverting it with man-made traditions, which – no matter how honourable in intent – misdirect  devotees from the true focus of worship, our one Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Furthermore, Catechismal statements such as these are reflected in the declarations of supposed apparitions of the Virgin (eg Lourdes, Fatima) whose claims would have shocked the Apostles and Early Church.  Interestingly, such visions were rare prior to the 11th century ad and are (and always have been) predominantly to women.[9]

I do not intend a detailed examination of these apparitions and there pro-Marian statements but to look at a single example: that of the apparition at Marienfried/Pfaffenhofen (Germany).  It is claimed that the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared  to 12 year old Barbara Reuss at Marienfried on three occasions (April 25th, May 25th & June 25th, 1946).  The messages allegedly, inter alia, included the following heretical statements:

Where the strongest confidence reigns and where it is taught to men that I can do everything, there I will spread peace.” (First Vision)

I am the powerful Mediatrix of Graces. As the world can find mercy only through the sacrifice of the Son with the Father, so can you only find favour with the Son through my intercession. Christ is so unknown because I am not known.” (Second Vision)

I am the powerful Mediatrix of Grace. It is the will of the Father that the world acknowledge this position of His Handmaid. People must believe that I am the permanent Bride of the Holy Ghost and the faithful Mediatrix of All Graces. God wants it so.” (Third Vision)[10]

Yet nowhere in Holy Writ – nor in the teachings of the Early Church – is there any evidence that Mary is all powerful as suggested in the first excerpt; let alone the sole mediator to Christ as stated in the second excerpt; or worse still the “wife of God”(sic) as implied in the third excerpt.  Such professions are clearly ‘revelations’ that claim to surpass or correct the Revelation of which Christ is the fulfilment” and thus contrary to the Church’s official teaching in the Catechism.[11]  Yet the Catholic Church has not deigned to condemn their heresy (though neither has it sanctioned it) but rather granted the indeterminate status of constat de supernaturalitate (ie evidence of supernatural intervention), which can only mislead  credulous folk to false worship.

As has so often been the case in our exploration of the Marian cult, such ascriptions to Mary would appear also to have pagan origins as is revealed by Hislop’s discussion of the Assyrian goddess, who became identified with Ishtar of Nineveh (and later with Aphrodite), in which he writes:

“...as the mother of grace and mercy, as the celestial ‘Dove’, as ‘the hope of the whole world’ (BRYANT) was averse to blood, and was represented in a benign and gentle character. Accordingly, in Babylon she bore the name of Mylitta–that is, ‘The Mediatrix’.”[12]

Despite this, some in the Roman Catholic Church (eg Mark Miravalle[13])hold the view that Mary is not just the “Mother of God” (sic), but is a “co-redemptrix, mediatrix and advocate” with the Lord Jesus Christ, though this is not universally accepted as others retain a more traditional stance.  Although it is not currently a doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church – as there are as many opposed to it as for it – there is a fear that a ultra-Marian Pope – like the present incumbent, Pope Francis I – may follow the example of his predecessors (Pius IX & Pius XII) and make an “infallible” (sic) proclamation ex-cathedra that makes it a binding dogma on all Catholics.  Were this to occur, it is hard to see how the Roman Catholic Church could justifiably continue to be considered orthodoxly Christian.

While this desire to find someone holier than one’s sinful self to intercede on one’s behalf is wholly understandable, it is unnecessary and entirely contrary to Scripture in which we are told:

For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, 6 who gave himself a ransom for all.” 1 Timothy 2:5-6

“15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.” Hebrew 13:15

 “4 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”  1Peter 2:4-5

“9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”  1Peter 2:9

“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  Hebrews 4:14-16

“For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.”  Ephesians 2:18

1For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba![m] Father!’ 16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness[n] with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.”  Romans 8:14-17

“My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1 John2:1-2

“14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”  I John 5:14-15

H.  CONCLUSION

Hence, as we have seen, nowhere in Holy Scripture do we find Mary mentioned in such terms, which appertain to Christ alone.  In fact the polar opposite is true as is demonstrated by Jesus own words as recorded in Mark 3:32-35 and Luke 11:27

32 A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, ‘Your mother and your brothers and sisters[a] are outside, asking for you.’ 33 And he replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ 34 And looking at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.’

27 While he was saying this, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!’ 28 But he said, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!’

The Bible is crystal clear (as we have seen above) that it is through Christ, our High Priest, that we have direct access to God as a  “chosen people” and a “royal priesthood” who are “joint heirs with Christ”  – no other intermediary, no matter how worthy of respect, is required: not even His mother.

The risk in replacing Biblical truth with human tradition is that it leads people away from God and into superstition and false worship.  In light of this, the cult of Mary is probably my greatest stumbling block to ever converting to Roman Catholicism.

_____________________________________________

ENDNOTES

[1]  Mary is only ever mentioned as “Jesus’ mother” or “his mother” and never by name in John’s Gospel.

[2] Babara Reuss, Marienfried (1946)

[3]  Jeremiah 7:16-20 & 44:24-30.

[4] Cf Epiphanius of Salamis, Gregory of Tours, Isidore of Seville, Modest, Sophronius of Jerusalem, German of Constantinople, Andrew of Crete, and John of Damascus.

[5]  See Jerome’s  Against Helvidius.  Helvidius, citing Tertullian and Victorinus, argued against Mary’s remaining a virgin after the birth of Jesus, which Jerome feared would devalue the importance of virginity among the faithful.

[6]  Cf Paul’s use of the closely related word ἐχαρίτωσεν [echaritōsen] (which shares a common root χαριτοω) in Ephesians 1:6, which is generally translated as “with which he has favoured us” except where the verse has been translated from the Vulgate which used the Latin gratificavit nos (has graced us).

[7]  Best Wishes for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Rome, December 7th, 2012 Zenit.org  http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/best-wishes-for-the-feast-of-the-immaculate-conception

[8] La Stampa, Vatican Insider, 15th April 2014 citing Heresy XIV (p 5 of the Metropolitans’ Epistle).

[9]  An exception is the earliest such apparition which, by oral tradition, pertains to St James the Greater in 40ad (prior to Mary´s death and/or supposed assumption) and is the source of the veneration of Nuestra Señora de Pilar in Zaragoza, Spain.  Of course, there is no corroborating evidence for the oral tradition other than its antiquity.

[10]  http://www.miraclehunter.com/marian_apparitions/messages/marienfried_messages.html

[11]  “Christian faith cannot accept ‘revelations’ that claim to surpass or correct the Revelation of which Christ is the fulfilment, as is the case in certain non-Christian religions and also in certain recent sects which base themselves on such revelations.” [CCC 67]

[12]  Hislop A. Two Babylons. 1858. Loizeaux Brothers, 2nd American edition 1959, p. 157

[13]  A professor of theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville and supporter of Lúcia of Fátima.

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