“What about Mary Worship?” Its a question frequently asked among my Protestant friends.
I get it. I also used to believe that Catholics worship Mary. I had read all sorts of sources that I trusted that “proved” that the Catholic views about Mary were unbiblical and elevated Mary to the status of God. Words like Co-Redemptrix, Immaculate Conception, Ever Virgin create a real stumbling block with the Catholic church for Protestants.
So, how did I solve the problem of Mary on my journey into the church? It was easy once I realized two things:
1. I can’t rightly judge what I don’t understand.
Once I took the time to understand what the Catholic church really teaches about Mary, it became clear that the teaching isn’t unbiblical. On the contrary, it actually is supported by far more scripture passages than my Protestant understanding did!
2. I discovered that the sources that I trusted were guilty of distortions, taking things out of context and sometimes outright lies.
Take for example, Matt Slick, over at the CARM website. He wrote this about the Catholic church’s beliefs about the Blessed Mother, Mary:
“material from Roman Catholic sources” say Mary is “the all holy one,” is to be prayed to, worshipped, that she “brings us the gifts of eternal life” and she “made atonement for the sins of man”
Whoa. If that statement were true, no wonder people would think Catholics worship Mary! But its not true.
When I took the time to read the supposed “Roman Catholic sources” for myself it became disturbingly clear that Matt Slick ripped those phrases from their context to make them say the OPPOSITE of what they really say. And Matt Slick isn’t alone. I found that source after source repeated the same scandalous distortions.
Take a look at the alleged “quote from Catholic sources” that Mr. Slick presents. Its an egregious distortion of the real quote. Here is what Matt claims that the source
“Mary, by her spiritual entering into the sacrifice of her divine son for men, made atonement for the sins of man and (de congruon) merited the application of the redemptive grace of Christ. In this manner she cooperates in the subjective redemption of mankind.” (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Ott, page 213) – Matt Slick
That sounds like it “proves” the Catholics worship Mary doesn’t it?? Most of Matt Slick’s readers wouldn’t bother to check his sources because what he says confirms what they already believe – that Catholics worship Mary.
We humans are prone to not question information that confirms what we already believe, making us prone to circular reasoning. But those who seek truth test their sources to see if they are true. They know that there is a true north and that our feelings and perceptions are often not a reliable measure of truth. I was on a mission to find the truth so I decided to test my sources and when I read the real quote in context, I was stunned.
So, let’s test Matt’s claim.
The words in red in the first paragraph below show that the context of the quote Matt distorted. Remember that context is everything!
Christ alone truly offered the sacrifice of atonement on the Cross; Mary merely gave him moral support in this action. Thus Mary is not entitled to the title “Priest” (sacerdos). Indeed this is expressly laid down by the Holy Office (1916, 1927). Christ, as the Church teaches, “conquered the enemy of the human race alone (solus)” (D 711); in the same way, He alone acquired the grace of Redemption for the whole human race, including Mary. The words of Luke 1,38: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord,” imply Mary’s mediate, remote cooperation in the Redemption. St Ambrose expressly teaches: “Christ’s passion did not require any support” (De inst. virg. 7).
The words in red in the second paragraph are the words that Matt Slick left out.
In the power of the grace of Redemption merited by Christ, Mary, by her spiritual entering into the sacrifice of her Divine Son for men, made atonement for the sins of men, and (de congruo) merited the application of the redemptive grace of Christ. In this manner she co-operates in the subjective redemption of mankind.”
Do you see how he left out words to make the quote sound like it says the opposite of what he claims it does? For anyone who cares about truth, this should be a red flag that Slick isn’t a trustworthy source when it comes to what the church believes.
If he doesn’t know what de congruo means than he doesn’t rightly understand the text.
And remember, we can’t judge what we don’t understand.
Pope Pius X explains what de congruo means in the Encylical “Ad diem illum”: The Blessed Virgin merits for us de congruo what Christ merited de condigno) is, as the present tense “promeret” shows, not indeed to be taken as referring to the historical objective Redemption, which occurred once and for all, but to her ever-present, intercessory co-operation in the subjective redemption.*
Indeed this is expressly laid down by the Holy Office (1916, 1927). Christ, as the Church teaches, “conquered the enemy of the human race alone (solus)” (D 711);
“Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked by the Church under the titles of Advocate, Auxiliatrix, Adjutrix and Mediatrix. This, however, is to be so understood that it neither takes away from, nor adds anything to, the dignity and efficaciousness of Christ the one Mediator.” (underline mine)
Do you see what anti-Catholic Matt Slick did there? The Church clearly states that those terms should NOT be understood the way Matt Slick present them. Slick takes the words out of context to claim the Church says what she herself says she does NOT mean.
Context is everything. Words mean things. Objective and subjective have different meanings.
We Are Co-Laboers With Christ. So was Mary, in a Unique Way.
Let’s now take a look at what Ludwig Ott’s quote was actually referring to: the biblical concept of our participation in Christ’s suffering and co-laboring with Christ.
“Mary was a co-laborer with Christ like we are. For example, we affirm that Jesus is the one High Priest in the new covenant, but the New Testament also calls us to share in that priesthood (Rev. 1:5–6; 1 Pet. 2:5,9).
We share in Christ’s sufferings (Matt. 16:24; 1 Pet. 4:13).Paul calls himself a “co-worker with Christ” (1 Cor. 3:9) who shares in Christ’s sufferings (2 Cor. 1:5; Phil. 3:10) 2 Cor. 1:6 says , If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. Rom. 8:17,and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
One verse Protestants often miss is: Eph. 3:13) Col 1:24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His body, which is the church.
Peter (1 Pet. 4:13). But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed“. –Mary, Mother of Salvation, Catholic Answers
In speaking about Mary’s participation in Christ’s work, the Catechism of The Catholic Church explains how Mary cooperated in bringing Jesus Christ incarnate to us when she said “yes” to the angel. “By pronouncing her “fiat” at the Annunciation and giving her consent to the Incarnation, Mary was already collaborating with the whole work her Son was to accomplish”. Did you catch that? She was collaborating with the whole work her Son was to Accomplish. How was she collaborating? She carried and birthed the Savior of the World! That is her subjective cooperation in the Incarnation.
So, No, Catholics don’t worship Mary. They honor her just as Jesus honored her. The Catholic Church’s teaching about Mary is completely compatible with scripture. It is Christ honoring. And it is beautiful. We are among the generations that call her blessed.
As a Protestant, I had missed so much that scripture says a lot more than I ever realized about how Mary was chosen to fulfill a unique role in bringing Christ to us. I had never thought about the role the king’s mother in the Davidic kingdom or ,the strong scriptural parallels of the ark of the covenant to Mary’s role, Mary’s relationship to Eve, and so much more.
Its too much to cover in this post, so if you are interested in more, stay tuned for future posts. But I’ll give a sneak preview. The Ark of the Covenant carried types and shadows of Jesus (the bread, the staff, and the tablets) and it was so holy that men would die if they touched it. Mary carried Jesus and he got half his DNA from her! If an object had to be holy to carry types and shadows, doesn’t it make sense that God would save Mary from original sin and preserve her in holiness so she could carry God in her womb?
If you would like to learn more now about why Mary matters, check out this video by a former Protestant an discover the biblical and historical evidence for the Catholic teaching. Pax.