Now, before I begin, lest you think that I am ‘Catholic bashing’, I can assure you, I am not. Now, before I begin, lest you think that I am Catholic bashing, I assure you that I am not. Nor am I suggesting that those who follow the Catholic faith are, by definition, not saved. Luke tells us in the Book of Acts, verse 17:11, that we are to be Bereans, testing every teaching against Scripture. Paul writes, “All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). My point is to merely take an intellectual look at the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and compare them to Scripture, which I consider all authority as the Word of God.
The biggest difference between the Protestant and Roman Catholic (RCC) churches is the issue of authority. Whereas the Protestant church was founded on the principle of sola scriptura, which means that the Word of God stands alone, the Church of Rome holds that its authority is on an equal footing with Scripture1, this being affirmed in1545ad – (Tradition is granted equal authority with the Bible.)
On what basis does the RCC claim equal authority with the Word of God?
The words of Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 16:18: And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.
The RCC maintains that in this passage, Jesus was instituting the Roman Catholic Church, with Peter as its head (and first pope). The Protestant church maintains that Jesus was referring to himself as the rock on which the Church would be built. According to the RCC, the gates of Hell will not prevail against its organization. According to Protestants, the gates of Hell will not prevail against the Lord.
Because of this interpretation, the RCC deemed that the doctrinal decisions made by their church leaders were in fact on an equal footing with Scripture. When decisions are made and edicts proclaimed that seem to conflict with Scripture, as this article will document, the RCC interpretation is binding over any other interpretation of the Word of God.
Ironically, it wasn’t Paul or James, but Peter himself who negated this line of thinking and clarified that Christ was indeed referring to himself, not Peter and not the Catholic Church. The Book of Acts records his comments on this:
Acts 4:11-12: “”This is the stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone. Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Additionally, I submit for your review the story in the Gospels of Jesus being out in the wilderness fasting and being tempted by Satan (Matthew 4:1-10). After 40 days and 40 nights, the devil came to Jesus and said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to turn to bread.” Jesus replied, “It is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God”.
Well, Satan had had millennia to study Scripture. He figured that he could play this game.
He then took Jesus to the highest point at the Temple in Jerusalem and said to Him, “If you are the son of God, throw yourself down – for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning you. In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” To which Jesus replied, “It is written, do not tempt the Lord your God.”
Not willing to give up that easily, Satan then took Jesus to the highest mountain where they could see over the land and all of the kingdoms within it. He gave it one last shot – “All these things I will give you if you will fall down and worship me.” Jesus replied, “Away with you Satan, for it is written, you shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve”.
Now, one would have to conclude that Jesus was a smart guy, right? At least smart enough to think on His feet when presented with the challenges of the devil. Did Jesus start making things up as He went along? Did He lay down new interpretations and create groundbreaking precedents? No, He did not. What He did in fact do was rely on the Word of God: “it is written.” If its good enough for Jesus in such a predicament, shouldn’t it be good enough for us in everyday life? Shouldn’t it be good enough for the RCC?
Here is a listing of extra-biblical decrees made over the years by the RCC. This article is designed to only focus on what I will call the Mary Mystery, her ascent in status via the Church of Rome over the years, and what it means to the Vatican today.
From that list, I am going to note the progress made by the RCC to take Mary from her human state to the state of being Mother of the Church.
- 431AD – Mary Worship began
- 600 – prayers directed to Mary (Ave Maria added in 1508)
- 995 – canonization of saints
- 1854 – immaculate conception of Mary (her sinlessness)
- 1950 – assumption of Mary (she never died)
- 1954 – Mary proclaimed Queen of Heaven
- 1965 – Mary proclaimed Mother of the Church
- 1980 – Mary proclaimed Spouse of the Holy Spirit
Mary’s Perpetual Virginhood
“Based on the Protoevangelium of James, (Circa 120 AD), it is written and accepted by the RCC that Joseph was a widower with children from his former marriage. According to this document, when Mary’s birth was prophesied, her mother, St. Anne, vowed that she would devote the child to the service of the Lord, like Samuel had been by his mother (1 Sam. 1:11). Mary would thus serve the Lord at the Temple, as women had for centuries (1 Sam. 2:22). A life of continual, devoted service to the Lord at the Temple meant that Mary was not able to live the ordinary life of a child-rearing mother, and so she was vowed to perpetual virginity.”2
Scripture says nothing about Joseph being a widower. Scripture does, however, tell of the siblings of Jesus. Matthew 13:55 names His brothers as James, Joses, Simon, and Judas. Mark 6:3 confirms this and additionally references the sisters of Jesus in the process. Luke 16:6 differentiates between Judas, the brother of Jesus, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus.
Giving the benefit of the doubt, let’s assume that these men (and women) were not the blood brothers and sisters of Jesus, but merely were stepsiblings from a previous marriage, as the Catholic Church asserts.
Does Scripture address this? Yes, it does. Matthew 27:56 clearly says that Mary, the mother of Jesus, is also the mother of James and Joses. Mark 15:40 confirms this, as does Mark 16:1.
So we can see by Scripture that Mary indeed was not a virgin for the duration of her lifetime, since she was the mother of several children besides Jesus.
Mary’s Sinless Nature and the Immaculate Conception
The RCC maintains that Mary was sinless throughout her life. “But by a special intervention of God, undertaken at the instant she was conceived, she was preserved from the stain of original sin and its consequences.” 3
What does Scripture say about this?
Romans 3:23: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
Friend, there is no “out” clause there. The word “all” in this reference is translated from the Greek word, pas (Strong’s 3956), which means: “all, all things, every, all men, whosoever, everyone, whole, all manner of, and/or every man.” There is no wiggle room for assumption here. When the Lord said “all,” he meant “all.”
Additionally, Mary confirmed her own sinful nature and need of a Savior as recorded in Luke 1:47. Scripture is clear on this one as well.
Hebrews 7:26 For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens
Jesus was the only Person to have ever lived a sinless life. To claim that Mary did as well is to say that Christ is “one of” the sinless, not “THE” sinless one. Without Christ’s unique, sin-free life, where does that leave His sacrifice? Where does that leave the promise of salvation?
Was Mary blessed? YES!! Mary was chosen among women to be the vessel who bore the Messiah. The Bible honors Mary as the mother of Jesus and calls her “blessed…among women” (Luke 1:28) but notabove women. What does this mean to us today? Nothing. No offense intended, but Mary’s job is done.
Matthew 12:46-50 tells the story of Jesus speaking to the multitudes. In the middle of His sermon, He is interrupted and informed that His mother and brothers are outside of the building and that they wish to talk with Him. Does He stop speaking and go to them? No. His response was, “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” Indicating the crowd He was addressing, He continued, “Here are my mother and my brothers, for whoever does the will of the Father in heaven is my brother, my sister and my mother.”
Jesus made it clear to those He was teaching that Mary was no more or less a sinner in need of a Savior than anyone else in that room. Was He being disrespectful? No. He was making a point: We all have the responsibility of doing the will of the Father, no matter how great or small.
The Heavenly Assumption of Mary
Enoch “walked with God; and he was not, for God took him” (Gen. 5:24). He was translated so as not to see death (Heb. 11:5). Elijah was taken to Heaven in a fiery chariot (2 Chron. 2:1-13).
Scripture is silent about the death of Mary. This is where the RCC fills in the gap.
“The doctrine of the Assumption says that at the end of her life on earth Mary was assumed, body and soul, into heaven, just as Enoch, Elijah, and perhaps others had been before her. Some people think Catholics believe Mary “ascended” into heaven. That’s not correct, Christ, by his own power, ascended into heaven. Mary was assumed or taken up into heaven by God. She didn’t do it under her own power.”4
“The Church has never formally defined whether she died or not, and the integrity of the doctrine of the Assumption would not impaired it she did not in fact die, but the almost universal consensus is that she did die. Pope Pius Xll, in Munificentissimus Deus (1950), defined that Mary. “After the completion of her earthly life”–note the silence regarding her death–“was assumed body and soul into the glory of Heaven.” In short her body wasn’t allowed to corrupt, it was not allowed to remain in a tomb”. 5
The RCC theory that Mary was “assumed” into Heaven has no basis whatsoever in Scripture. The doctrine of the assumption is pure conjecture, and dare I say it, wishful thinking on the part of the RCC. The RCC needs for Mary to have been assumed into Heaven, for without that particular piece of the puzzle, the remaining two topics have nothing upon which to rest.
From catholic.com : “Where is the proof from Scripture alone? Strictly speaking, there is none. It was the Catholic Church that was commissioned by Christ to teach all nations and to teach them infallibly, guided, as he promised, by the Holy Spirit until the end of the world (John 14:25, 16:13). The mere fact that the Church teaches the doctrine of the Assumption as something definitely true is a guarantee that it is true” (underlined emphasis author’s).
Nothing backs up this “doctrine” except that the Catholic Church says it’s so. Since the Catholic Church believes it can’t err, the teaching is held to be true by default.
Prayers to Mary
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now, and in the hour of our death. Amen.
Catholicism teaches that Christ is a stern, wrathful judge who cannot be approached by sinners. It teaches that Mary, on the other hand, is a tender, understanding, merciful intercessor who is more sympathetic and compassionate than the Lord and will plead our case to Him with the forceful persuasion of a loving mother.
The practice of petitioning Marian intercession is to pray to Mary, asking her to intercede as the mediatrix between man and God.
Where does this teaching come from?
Let’s begin again with the Word of God.
1Timothy 2:5 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.
Scripture tells us that there is but ONE mediator between God and Man: Jesus. The Church of Rome maintains that Mary and the saints are mediators as well, based on:
1Timothy 2:1 Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men,
The RCC makes no distinction between intercession and mediation. Intercession is praying to the Father for another, just as one would pray for the healing of a friend. Mediation on the other hand, is the practice of believing your prayers are heard only through another – a mediator or mediatrix.
Additionally, no distinction is made between the living and the dead. The RCC claims that the dead are in Heaven with the Lord and therefore can hear our prayers and intercede with the Father on our behalf. We have already documented that the RCC agrees that Mary did indeed die (although in 1950, the wording was changed to say “her earthly life was completed”).
What does Scripture tell us about communicating with the dead?
Deuteronomy 18:10-12: There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are anabomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you.
Wow. These are harsh words from the Lord. Communicating with the dead is an abomination?
Let’s turn back to Scripture and see if Jesus weighs in at all on the subject of prayer:
Matthew 6:7-8: And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.
Apparently, the message that Jesus was trying to get across is that we don’t have to chant things over and over as if the Lord is not listening to us. I guess you could say that not only is it an issue of quantity vs. quality, but additionally it is written that the Lord knows our needs, meaning that we don’t need for anyone who predeceased us to petition the Lord on our behalf.
In the next set of verses, Jesus gives us the model prayer:
Matthew 6:9: In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name
(addressed to the Father directly with thanksgiving)
Matthew 6:10: Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.
(offering submission to God’s will)
Matthew 6:11: Give us this day our daily bread
(prayer for needs and provision)
Matthew 6:12: And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.
(confession of sins asking our forgiveness and forgiveness of others, intercession for others)
Matthew 6:13: And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
(prayer for protection as we don the armor of God and praise for His glory)
Nowhere in this prayer do we see Jesus instructing us to pray to any entity other than the Father. Nowhere. If we were to ask for intercession from those who went before us to petition the Father, then why wouldn’t Jesus himself have told us about it? Why did it take until the 7th century for the RCC to tell us about it? Just something to think about.
One other way of looking at this is to consider your view of God. Ask yourself the following questions:
1. Is God big enough to hear my prayers, or does He need a “switchboard” to help Him?
2. Does God care so little about me that He will only listen to the requests of people appointed by the Catholic Church and not me directly?
3. If giving the power of an audience with the Father is, as the RCC maintains, Mary’s “call,” then what if she is too busy or deems me too unimportant?
God is omnipotent. Mary is not. She was a mere mortal, just as the rest of us today.
Our God is a jealous God. Exodus 34:14: for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. The RCC maintains that its members do not worship Mary. But isn’t praying for her help giving her preference over praying to the Father to ask for His help?
Even more so than this, God is a loving God. He desires (not requires) a relationship with us. He wants to be first in our lives, not to be relegated to second place. He longs to her from us, so why shut Him out?
The Queen of Heaven?
“Since Mary is Jesus’ mother, the fact that she is also the Mother of God is inescapable, for if Mary is the mother of Jesus, and if Jesus is God, then Mary is the Mother of God.”6
This sounds innocent enough, right? Well, let’s look again to Scripture.
John 1:1, 14: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God….And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.
Rev 1:8: I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.
You see, Jesus was God before Mary was even born. Mary is the vessel that produced the Messiah from the line of David, she is not the mother of God.
Now, assuming that you disagree with me and you do feel that Mary was the mother of God, how far are you willing to take it? In 1954, Mary was elevated to Queen of Heaven. In 1965, she was named Mother of the Church. Quite a promotion, eh?
Pope Pius XII proclaimed Mary to be the Queen of Heaven on October 11, 1954. The full text of the Encyclical on Proclaiming the Queenship of Mary can be found here. I will only cite two of his comments in this:
35. But the Blessed Virgin Mary should be called Queen, not only because of her Divine Motherhood, but also because God has willed her to have an exceptional role in the work of our eternal salvation.
36. Now, in the accomplishing of this work of redemption, the Blessed Virgin Mary was most closely associated with Christ; and so it is fitting to sing in the sacred liturgy: “Near the cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ there stood, sorrowful, the Blessed Mary, Queen of Heaven and Queen of the World.”
Does Scripture address this? The 44th chapter of the Book of Jeremiah is dedicated to the subject of there being a “Queen of Heaven,” past or present and the Lord’s opinion of that particular classification.
In addition to her titles of “Mother of God” and “Queen of Heaven” Mary is also known as the “Spouse of the Holy Spirit.”
Citing Prudentius in his February 2, 1974 writing, Apostolic Exhortation For the Right Ordering and Development of Devotion To the Blessed Virgin Mary (full text here), Pope Paul VI proclaims this marital relationship between the Holy Spirit and Mary, “The unwed Virgin espoused the Spirit.” And from the writing of Pope John Paul II, On the Mystery and Worship of the Eucharist, penned on February 24, 1980 (full text here), we have:
“In order that this unity and the constant and systematic collaboration which leads to it may be perseveringly continued, I beg on my knees that, through the intercession of Mary, holy spouse of the Holy Spirit and Mother of the Church, we may all receive the light of the Holy Spirit.”
How far will the RCC go in the promotion of this woman’s role? Would you believe me if I told you that a movement is afoot to elevate her once again to being the sinless, co-redemptrix of salvation? Given the comments from Pope Pius XII above, it shouldn’t surprise you. Let’s look at where the Church stands today on this issue.
In 1996, the Pontifical International Marian Academy was asked by the Vatican to investigate the possibility of redefining the Marian titles to include “Mediatrix, Coredemptrix and Advocate” (summary can be found here.) Their findings were absolute on the Mediatrix and Advocate roles, but with no binding precedent, they were inconclusive on the title of “Coredemptrix.”
The group that is in charge of this groundswell effort is Vox Populi (Voice of the People), led by Dr. Mark Miravalle. Its mission is to gain the approval of the 5th Marian Dogma, her elevation to co-redemptrix for salvation. The outline of the request can be seen athttp://www.voxpopuli.org/info.asp. How do they explain this deviation from Scripture?
“This ‘collaboration’ or ‘co-operation’ or ‘participation’ of the Mother of Jesus ‘Marian coredemption,’ or more specifically, Mary is referred to as ‘the Coredemptrix with the Redeemer’” (Vox Populi FAQ)
In other words, “Jesus couldn’t have done it without her,” and Vox Populi feels that we therefore need to recognize that and declare Mary the co-redemptrix of salvation. The group’s website cites many examples of the current Pope, John Paul II, using the terminology “co-redemptrix” in his addresses, using the same definition as they. They are asking that the doctrine of co-redemptrix no longer just be referenced, but that it becomes official church doctrine, ExCathedria.
Vox Populi released a statement on June 11, 2000 announcing that its petition for the 5th Marian Dogma, the Papal Definition of Our Mother Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix of all Graces, and Advocate, and the Triumph of Her Immaculate Heart, had surpassed the 6,000,000 signatures mark.
Peter confirmed that Jesus is the rock on which the Church should be built, not himself and not the Catholic (or any other) Church. Matthew, Mark and Luke confirmed that Mary was not only the mother of Jesus, but of several other children as well. Mary confirmed that she herself was a sinner in need of a Savior.
Friend, Mary did not ask for this attention. Better yet, I feel quite comfortable in saying that Mary would be saddened and ashamed that people are placing so much undue importance on her role in this day and age. Mary had a role to fill and she obeyed the Lord and filled that role. Her job is now done. Let her rest in peace.
The Mary Mystery? I am sure that she is as bewildered by all of this as I am.
1. Tradition and Living Magisterium © 1912 The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XV
2. Mary: Ever Virgin © 1996 Catholic Answers, Inc.
3. The Immaculate conception and assumption © 1996 Catholic Answers, Inc.
6. Mary: The Mother of God © 1996 Catholic Answers, Inc.