A Reply to Rev. Gerard-Marie Anthony

In my previous blog post, I wrote about Mary’s exemplary life of faith as a daughter of Abraham. I gave an in-depth account of how the writings of the Apostles, especially Paul, and other passages of the Bible corroborate Mary’s statements in the Magnificat. The Rev. Anthony gave a thoughtful and passionate reply to my blog post. He took issue, however, with some of the things I said. He questioned my honesty and alleged that I was spreading false information about the Roman Catholic Church. The purpose of this reply is to clarify my position and to shed light on the accuracy of the statements I made about how the Catholic Church treats Mary as God.

As the Rev. Anthony may have observed, I focused almost exclusively on Luke 1:48 and the Magnificat. I stated that Catholics often quote this passage to support their elevation of Mary. However, at no point did I suggest that this is the only passage Catholics quote in support of their devotion to Mary. Being a former Catholic priest and a scholar of Catholic theology, I am familiar with the range of passages cited to defend Marian practices (for example, Genesis 3:15, Luke 1:28, and Revelations 12, to name a few). I focused on Luke 1:48 and the Magnificat because some Facebook friends (Catholics) cited it as one reason why Mary deserved all the titles bestowed on her by people. This is also why I noted that my blog post was “an expanded version” of my Facebook reply. I took the opportunity to put Luke 1:48 in context, showing that the highlight of the Magnificat is Mary’s reference to God’s covenant with Abraham. I then challenged Catholics to show us from the Magnificat or any of Mary’s statements in the Bible where she suggested that all generations shall bestow on her divine titles reserved exclusively for God.

Additionally, I clearly stated in my blog post that “Catholics deny that they treat Mary as God.” Nowhere in my post did I say that Catholics teach or believe that they worship Mary. But I did say that, “Simply stating that one does not worship Mary proves nothing. Official doctrinal statements (by the Magisterium), ecclesiastically approved prayers to Mary, Marian songs, and Marian devotional practices provide the strongest evidence based on which objective conclusions can be drawn.” The logic is clear: The fact that we deny something proves neither innocence nor guilt. Some people go to court and deny the charges brought against them, yet later the evidence proves them guilty. So, I went on to state that, “Official doctrinal statements (by the Magisterium), ecclesiastically approved prayers to Mary, Marian songs, and Marian devotional practices provide the strongest evidence based on which objective conclusions can be drawn.” From this one can notice that I mention four sources from which we can prove that Catholics do treat Mary as Deity – even if they deny it.

Of course, as the Rev. Anthony rightly stated, the Magisterium flatly denies that the Catholic Church gives to Mary what is due to God alone. I know that and I agree with him. But my point is this: If we delve deeper into the Magisterium’s declarations on Mary (in Encyclicals, for example), prayers to Mary approved by the Magisterium; and if we examine the actual content of Marian devotional practices, what shall we find? The Rev. Anthony rightly quoted the Magisterium’s denial that they elevate Mary to the level of God. Yet, evidence from the sources I’ve mentioned show otherwise. In my article, I quoted just one such proof, from #971 of the Catechism. I quoted that alone, because it was sufficient to prove my point. I could bring to the attention of my readers a whole lot more, but I decided to be brief. If the Magisterium believes and teaches that “devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship,” they have given us sufficient proof that their denial of idolatry is not to be taken seriously. Every Christian will agree that Christian worship is about God, not about Mary. Anyone who believes or teaches that devotion to a creature is intrinsic to the worship of the Creator is promoting idolatry. This is true, regardless of whether the creature involved is Noah, Abraham, Elijah, Peter, Paul, or Mary.

Out of curiosity, I looked up the meaning of the word “intrinsic” on Google. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the word means “belonging to the essential nature or constitution of a thing” (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/intrinsic). Every true Christian will agree that Christian worship is exclusively reserved for God. If devotion to a human being is intrinsic to Christian worship, it means that devotion to that individual belongs to the essence of Christian worship. The Magisterium of the Catholic Church believes this to be true. But it wants us to believe also that they are not promoting idolatry. They cannot have it both ways. The teaching that devotion to Mary is intrinsic to Christian worship is an affront on God’s inspired Word. No Apostle or Prophet supports such a teaching. If devotion to Mary is intrinsic to Christian worship, then Mary and God both deserve worship. In vain does the Magisterium try to distinguish between Latria, Hyperdulia and Dulia. The appeal to semantics does not erase the reality of idolatry. The Magisterium’s only hope is to obey God’s commands in the Bible and not create their own version of Christian worship. I can write an essay in which I deny that I have visited Rome, but if my footprints, DNA and surveillance footage place me in Rome, then my denial is proven to be false. If the Magisterium’s denial of the sin of idolatry is to be taken seriously, then they should back up their statement by putting a stop to some of their Marian doctrines/Dogmas and the Marian devotional practices it promotes among the faithful. The evidence is in the doctrines and practices, not in the statement of denial.

In defense of the Magisterium, the Rev. Anthony quoted #487 of the Catechism which says that what the Catholic Church believes about Mary is based on what it believes about Jesus. But we must ask, “What exactly does the Magisterium believe about Christ?” The Scriptures bear testimony to Christ, because in Christ the Scriptures find their fulfillment (Luke 24:27, 45-47). In Jesus’s own words, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:39-40; emphasis mine). The Scriptures paint for us the most accurate and the most reliable portrait of Christ. If the Magisterium claims to base its teachings about Mary on what it believes about Christ, then we must find out what it believes about Jesus. More importantly, we must find out if what it believes about Christ is based on the Scriptures, for as Jesus has said, the Scriptures testify about him. So, where do the Scriptures bear testimony that devotion to Mary is intrinsic to the Christian worship? Can we find this teaching in the Old or New Testament Scriptures? To be faithful to Christ, the Magisterium must be faithful to the Scriptures. If the Magisterium teaches anything which contradicts the Scriptures, it is contradicting the testimony of Christ.

The Magisterium has no right and no authority to contradict the Scriptures. It has no right to rise above the Scriptures inspired by the Holy Spirit. But, we know that the Magisterium’s teaching that devotion to Mary is intrinsic to Christian worship contradicts the testimony of the Scriptures. The Scriptures bear testimony about Christ. Therefore, to undermine the Scriptures is to undermine Christ. We have evidence now that the Magisterium is promoting a teaching which undermines the testimony of the Scriptures. It claims to base its teachings about Mary on what it believes about Christ. But the Scriptures testify about Christ. The same Scriptures also tell us about Mary. Where did the Magisterium get the idea that devotion to Mary is intrinsic to the worship of God? The Magisterium is in error, for it is corrupting Christian worship by neglecting the testimony of the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures. If what it believes about Christ is the basis for what it teaches about Mary, then the Scriptures should bear them witness. It is not me the Magisterium is dealing with; they are dealing with the Holy Spirit who inspired the Scriptures the Magisterium is contradicting. The Magisterium should remember the following warning: “Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar” (Proverbs 30:5-6; emphasis mine).

The Rev. Anthony also quoted #971 of the Catechism in which the Magisterium confirms that “From the most ancient times the Blessed Virgin has been honored with the title of ‘Mother of God,’ to whose protection the faithful fly in all their dangers and needs . . .” These words of the Magisterium only confirm that they have no problem treating Mary as they would God. In one moment, they deny treating Mary as God; yet in another moment they are not shy to make statements which clearly elevate Mary to the level of God. In #971 of the Catechism, the Magisterium proudly describes for us what Catholics have been practicing since ancient times. It says that Catholics fly to the protection of Mary in all their dangers and needs. If we did not know that the Magisterium was talking about Mary, we would think that the statement was referring to God. And rightly so, because to God alone do Christians fly for protection in all their dangers and needs. If we fly to Mary in all our dangers and fears, the obvious conclusion – which the Magisterium will not admit – is that Mary is our God. In the Old Testament, faithful people did not know of anyone to whom they run for protection in all their dangers and fear, except God. Likewise, in the New Testament, Christians did not know of anyone, apart from God, to whom they run in all their dangers and needs. If we fly to Mary in all our dangers and needs, is it necessary to run to God? The conclusion is obvious: God and Mary are equivalent. Christians can run to Mary for protection in all their dangers and needs just as much as they can run to God for protection in all their needs and dangers. If we fly to Mary for protection in all our dangers and needs, she must be Almighty. Unless we believed that she possessed Almighty power, we would not run to her for protection in all our dangers and needs. The Magisterium has confirmed the conclusion without explicitly stating it: Mary is our God.

If Christians fly to Mary for protection in all their dangers and needs, they are treating her as God – plain and simple. The following prayer to Mary – known in Latin as Sub tuum praesidium – is approved by the Magisterium and is recited by many Catholics around the world: “We fly to your patronage, O holy Mother of God; despise not our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always from all dangers, O glorious and blessed Virgin” (https://www.smp.org/resourcecenter/resource/2827/; emphasis mine). To address this prayer to Mary is to treat her as we would God. If we remove Mary’s name from the prayer and replace it with God’s name, we will discover how the prayer works perfectly for Mary as for God. Let us try: “We fly to thy patronage, O God; despise not our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always from all dangers, O glorious and blessed God.” As we can see, the prayer works for Mary as well as for God. Contrary to what the Magisterium boasts of in the Catechism, the Scriptures testify that God a lone is the refuge to whom we run in all our dangers and needs. The Psalmist repeatedly calls on God a lone as a refuge in times of need. He says, “The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I called to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I have been saved from my enemies” (Psalm 18:2-3). David is praying to the one God. The content of his pray sounds like the prayer Sub tuum praesidium which Catholics address to Mary. The essential difference between the Catholic prayer and David’s prayer is that David is addressing God while Catholics are addressing Mary.

In addition to quoting from the Catechism, I also referred to the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary and briefly touched on the Hail, Holy Queen prayer “Most Gracious Advocate.” The Rev. Anthony will agree that the Litany and the Hail, Holy Queen are approved by the Magisterium for use by the faithful. I cited only a few of the titles conferred on Mary, not by God, but by human beings. At least some of these titles are equivalent to titles which are the exclusive prerogatives of God Almighty or of the Son of God. To attribute to a creature the titles of Deity is to treat the creature as Deity.

We must also note that all Christians are sons and daughters of the Heavenly Father. Mary is not more a child of God than other Christians. Writing to the Christians in Ephesus, the Apostle says, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1-2; emphasis mine). Furthermore, every Christian is the temple of the Holy Spirit. The Scriptures do not teach that Mary is more special a temple of the Holy Spirit than the rest of Christians: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20; emphasis mine). Paul was not speaking of Mary; he was speaking of all sons and daughters of God. Furthermore, the Scriptures do not support the strange idea that Mary “was in need of Christ’s redemption in a more excellent way.” In the Scriptures, God does not distinguish between those who are redeemed in a more excellent way and those who are redeemed in a less excellent way. There is one redemption by Christ for all people. The testimony of the Scripture is clear, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24; emphasis mine).

The same Scriptures also expose as false the idea that “the Father blessed Mary more than any other created person.” This idea comes from people, not from God. Neither Jesus, nor the Apostles, nor any Old Testament Prophet ever said that. God promised, rather, that he will bless all nations of the earth through Abraham. In Ephesians 1:3-6, Paul was not writing about Mary. He was writing to Christians in Ephesus. He stated what was true of all believers, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ, For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will” (emphasis mine). Paul does not say “Mary;” he says “us.” He teaches a fundamental truth of Christianity, that God has blessed us in the heavenly places with every spiritual blessing in Christ. This is our inheritance as believers. The Scripture does not say that God blessed Mary more than any other created person. We should not put words in God’s mouth or create our own version of Mary. As far as the Holy Scripture is concerned, God has blessed us all in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens.

PS: All Scripture quotations are based on the New International Version (NIV), unless otherwise indicated.

[Rev. Gerard-Marie Anthony is a Deacon of the Roman Catholic Church, a Catholic apologist and a friend with whom I worked closely when I was a Catholic priest. See the comment section for his response to my blog post, Mary: Daughter of Abraham].

 

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Ogoe