On Worshipping Mary

A defender of things Catholic had been arguing for days that the Catholic Church does not worship the Romish variant of Mary. In the deceptive manner that some Catholic apologists employ, on the third day of our exchanges, he wrote:

You have never addressed this question with me because I only discovered the issue yesterday.

His persistence in pressing the illogical and invalid assertion that Rome does not teach or in fact practice worship of Mary was not surprising. For years I have watched as those who would speak for Rome assert that, as concerns Mary and the other ghosts in the RCC pantheon, worship does not mean worship and venerate does not mean worship and render homage does not mean worship and pray to does not mean worship and sacrifice to does not mean worship. Words can be used to convey many meanings, a fact which the Magisterium has consistently used to its own purpose.

Regardless of what those who speak in Rome's cause may claim or how they redefine word meanings, the Roman Catholic hierarchy indeed does foster Mariolatry and worship of things and spirits of the dead. When the Ladies' Sodality meets every night in the chapel to toll their beads and pray the Rosary, they are rendering worship to Mary. When a little old man struggles up to a statue of Mary and, falling on his knees before it, places coins in a box, lights a candle and offers prayers to her that is worship. When a Black-robed Benedictine oblate prays to St. Maurus and calls upon him to heal a dying child, he is not only praying to a spirit for a miracle but actually rendering a lower-level of worship. When the Catholic faithful genuflect or cross themselves when crossing in front of the tabernacle where a consecrated host is kept, they might claim they are rendering honors to Christ, but the fact is they are worshipping a cracker.

One Christian church historian wrote concerning what Catholics apparently prefer to call the “unworship” of Mary:

The same worship is rendered to Mary as to Christ. Churches are built to her honour; her shrines are crowded with devotees; enriched with their gifts; and adorned with their votive offerings. To her prayers are addressed as to a divine being, and blessings are asked as from one, who has power to bestow them. Her votaries are taught to pray, 'Spare us, good Lady,' and 'From all evil, good Lady, deliver us.' Five annual festivals celebrate her greatness, and keep alive the devotion of her worshippers. In Roman Catholic countries the dawn is ushered in with hymns to her honour; her praises are again chanted at noon, and the day is closed with an Ave Maria sung to the Lady of Heaven.—James A. Wylie, The Papacy: Its History, Dogmas, Genius, and Prospects , p. 370.

My Catholic antagonist had asserted to me, just the previous day, that that he had only just became interested in the meaning of worship. Now, in what seems to be a typically RCC practice, he attempted to disguise what had been for him a continuing theme for quite some time. His tactic was to concentrate on the meanings of the word as used in a specific passage of Scripture. This was a subterfuge, presented as a new and heretofore unexplored issue. Peeling back the veneer from his “new” concern, it becomes clear that it is nothing more than the same old, tired issue.

Just a few days previously, I had provided him definitions from a Romish dictionary that once had been in a seminary library:

VENERATION. The word commonly used to express in English that worship given to saints either directly or through images or relics....

WORSHIP. Adoration and reverence paid to God...also for the honor paid to the saints...veneration.—William E. Addis & Thomas Arnold, Edd., A Catholic Dictionary, Benzier, 1893, p. 370

The man had rejected those definitions by raising the smoke screen that my copying of a quotation from a Catholic Dictionary on what he termed an “anti-Catholic forum” somehow invalidated that quotation. He countered by providing a definition from his Catholic Dictionary:


VENERATION OF THE SAINTS: Devotion to the saints, who are invoked in recognition of their presence before God and thus capable of intercession on behalf of the living and those suffering in purgatory; they are particularly honored as patron saints because of their example in this life. The O.T. sentiment of 2 Mc 15:12, that the holy ones pray for the community, reechoes in Heb 12:1, where the holy people of the O.T. are called a “cloud of witnesses.” Rooted in the Pauline doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ, the earliest testimony of such veneration is the reverence accorded to the martyrs of the early Church Since the fourth century, the veneration of saints has expanded to include all God's holy ones who enjoy the beatific vision and continue to intercede on our behalf; in their diversity, the saints offer an inexhaustible source of imitation and inspiration to Christians. The reverence shown the saints, called dulia, must be distinguished from latria, the worship and adoration given to God alone. [Peter M.J. Stravinskas, Ed., Catholic Dictionary, © 1993 Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division—this information not in the original email]

He followed this by asking me to:

Note the difference mentioned regarding veneration of saints and the worship of God.

In writing this, he had attempted to send the conversation down a bunny trail. I had not claimed that Catholics render the same worship to saints as they do to God. What I actually had written was:

Even so, I do not deny that many Catholics deny worshipping Mary.

What I am saying is that Catholics worship Catholic Mary despite their semantic denials. You have not shown anything to the contrary. You are only giving evidence to the semantic denials.

I am well aware that Catholic apologists reject basic word definitions to claim that they don't do what they actually are doing.

Rather than address these allegations, he chose to lead the discussion in another direction; to a place where he might claim that he had overcome my arguments, which were:

1) that the Roman Catholic Church as an entity and in its membership tender worship to Mary.

2) that the Roman Catholic Church as an entity and in its membership denies, often appealing to arguments based on semantics, that worship

My Catholic antagonist had provided no valid evidence that my arguments were flawed. In his response, the Romanist failed to straightforwardly address my two points, offering instead a lame argument concerning a Catholic Dictionary I quoted from and his unsupported opinion. I provided him information from a reliable Catholic reference:

This article will deal with Christian worship according to the following definition: homage paid to God, to Jesus Christ, to His saints, to the beings or even to the objects which have a special relation to God.

There are several degrees of this worship:

If it is addressed directly to God, it is superior, absolute, supreme worship, or worship of adoration, or, according to the consecrated theological term, a worship of latria. This sovereign worship is due to God alone; addressed to a creature it would become idolatry.

When worship is addressed only indirectly to God, that is, when its object is the veneration of martyrs, of angels, or of saints, it is a subordinate worship dependent on the first, and relative, in so far as it honours the creatures of God for their peculiar relations with Him; it is designated by theologians as the worship of dulia, a term denoting servitude, and implying, when used to signify our WORSHIP (my emphasis) of distinguished servants of God, that their service to Him is their title to our veneration (cf. Chollet, loc. cit., col. 2407, and Bouquillon, Tractatus de virtute religionis, I, Bruges, 1880, 22 sq.).

As the Blessed Virgin has a separate and absolutely supereminent rank among the saints, the WORSHIP (my emphasis) paid to her is called hyperdulia (for the meaning and history of these terms see Suicer, Thesaurus ecclesiasticus, 1728).--Catholic Encyclopedia, © 1913 by the Encyclopedia Press, Inc. Electronic version copyright © 1997 by New Advent, Inc

Perhaps in reading the above Rome's champion had overlooked the highlighted references to and definitions of WORSHIP. Words such as devotion, veneration and honours are used in these definitions. But I did not stop with the words of the Catholic Encyclopedia for, trustworthy Catholic source though it may be, it is not an “official” source of Catholic teaching. I also provided a few paragraphs from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

971. 'All generations will call me blessed': 'The Church's devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worshipP.'[Lk 1:48 ; Paul VI, MC 56.] The Church rightly honors 'the Blessed Virgin with special devotion. 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.... This very special devotion ... differs essentially from the adoration which is given to the incarnate Word and equally to the Father and the Holy Spirit, and greatly fosters this adoration.'[LG 66.] The liturgical feasts dedicated to the Mother of God and Marian prayer, such as the rosary, an 'epitome of the whole Gospel,' express this devotion to the Virgin Mary.[Cf. Paul VI, MC 42; SC 103.]--Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), 2nd Ed., © 1994/1997 United States Catholic Conference, Inc.

Notice how here we are taught that devotion to [Catholic] Mary is a vital part of Catholic WORSHIP. In the citation from the Catholic Encyclopedia, devotion was used to define the special worship rendered to God alone.

2132. The Christian veneration of images is not contrary to the first commandment which proscribes idols. Indeed, 'the honor rendered to an image passes to its prototype,' and 'whoever venerates an image venerates the person portrayed in it.'[St. Basil, De Spiritu Sancto 18, 45: PG 32, 149C; Council of Nicaea II: DS 601; cf. Council of Trent: DS 1821-1825; Vatican Council II: SC 126; LG 67.] The honor paid to sacred images is a 'respectful veneration,' not the adoration due to God alone: Religious WORSHIP is not directed to images in themselves, considered as mere things, but under their distinctive aspect as images leading us on to God incarnate. The movement toward the image does not terminate in it as image, but tends toward that whose image it is.[St. Thomas Aquinas, STh II-II, 81, 3 ad 3.]Ibid.

Sonuvagun! Here, the Catechism speaks of the veneration rendered images and such. The Catholic Encyclopedia used the same word to describe the WORSHIP tendered saints.

Confronted with the above definitions from an official Catholic source, the Catholic apologist responded:

I guess I misunderstood the original posts. I thought that when you said worship relative to Mary you meant the same as worship relative to God. But now I see that you do not mean that at all. All you are saying is that the term worship is used sometimes for both.

In writing the above, it appears that he understood and, perhaps, even agreed with what I and other Christian writers mean when we declare that Catholics render worship to Mary, the ghosts of dead “saints” and things. Given those points, it would appear senseless for him to continue to whip what seemed to have become a dead horse in his stable. That was not the case, for the Catholic then wrote:

But what you have shown is that the Church is very careful to define exactly what they mean and don't mean when they use the word worship. The texts you quoted that use the word worship clearly define that it is not the adoration that we give only to God - which is what I and other Catholics have been saying all along.

That is what I had been trying to impress upon him; that the Roman cult defines the term “worship” in several ways, depending upon the point it is addressing. Rome has an arsenal of definitions for the word, and draws from it as necessary to make a point. My point had been, and remained, that the Catholic Church teaches that worship AT SOME LEVEL is to be tendered Mary, the “saints” and various and sundry things considered relics. My antagonist's words, from the above-cited post, appear to indicate he, for a time, at least, agreed with this position:

When/if the word worship is applied to Mary and the saints, it clearly means veneration or high esteem, not adoration.

Several days later, he resumed his unyielding stand on when he wrote:

If clarification and context are allowed in the interpretation of scripture, then the same should be allowed to the Church. If the Church says the worship or veneration given to the saints is not the adoration that belongs to God, it seems to me that a clear line has been drawn as to what the Church means.

I pointed out to him that most of the Christian apologists I know consistently make use of a literal/historical/grammatical hermeneutic when examining a passage in the Word of God or a paragraph the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I do not recall ever having argued that Catholic teaching required worship be offered to Mary, other things and spirits in the same manner or at the same level as that given God. Like the cult of Mithra, from which so much of RCC doctrine and practice is derived, Catholicism is explicit in declaring three levels of worship for her gods and sacred objects. Once again, this Romish apologist had shown himself to be unwilling to accept the clear teachings of the religious body for which he claimed to be standing. Rome has declared, in her Catechism, in her Code of Canon Law, in her councils and papal pronouncements, in her breviaries, liturgies and church calendars that worship is tendered, at different levels, to God Almighty, Mary and all the pantheon of “saints” and their leavings. The Magisterium of the RCC has declared that worship, in the form of dulia or hyperdulia is to be given to beings and things other than God Himself. In his apparent zeal not be found in error, the Romanist had taken a stand against not only my position on the issue, but also that of the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church. In other times, this would have rendered liable to a visit from the Holy Office. He wrote:

In the context in which that word is used, it is clear that Mary and the saints are venerated and God is worshiped. Don't miss the forest for the trees!

Having conceded the point at this time, he apparently had come up with a new permutation of the same argument; presenting himself as one seeking to learn the definition of the word “worship” as used in Luke 14:10. I pointed out that I had already provided him the Christian understanding of the word; adding that he easily have discovered this own by using the Online Bible, God's Word for Windows, or one of the other electronic concordances available free on the Web, assuming he did not own a Greek lexicon or concordance. I believe that his request for information was but bait to lead the unwary back to his never ending dispute over the meaning of worship as used in Roman Catholicism.

I offered another word translated as worship which was used by the Second Council of Nicea. In a discussion on page 423 of Addis and Arnold's Catholic Dictionary, the editors address the Council's use of the word proskunei in reference to the veneration to be rendered to images. I figured that, if he truly were interested, he might look up this use for himself.

This is interesting, because the Council chose not to use dulia, the preferred word for such veneration. It is interesting because proskunei is found in Acts 10:25 and 26, where it is recorded for all time as the word used to describe the worship that the Centurion Cornelius sought to render Peter.

And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped [PROSKUNAI him. But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man.--Acts 10:25-26, KJV

Golly gee! A council of the Catholic Church used the same word to describe the worship due objects that the Holy Spirit used to describe the inappropriate worship Cornelius attempted to give Peter. Guess there are times when the RCC indeed does teach that things are to be worshipped.

It is even more interesting, when one consider the RCC fantasy of apostolic succession. In Acts 10, Peter refused to permit people to bow down to him or to worship him in any way, yet his alleged successors offer their hands or rings or feet to be kissed and seem to enjoy being carried about on the shoulders of men, just like those idols the churches parade through the streets every now and then.

I suggested that the Catholic apologist read the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, a product of Vatican II, where one will find these words:

125. The practice of placing sacred images in churches so that they be venerated by the faithful is to be maintained. Nevertheless their number should be moderate and their relative positions should reflect right order. For otherwise the Christian people may find them incongruous and they may foster devotion of doubtful orthodoxy.—Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium, 4 December, 1963

Has the Roman Catholic Church in fact, if not in her written documents, elevated Mary to the level of deity? The Bible tells us that we are saved by Christ's atoning sacrifice. St. Bonaventure waxed poetic concerning just an image of Mary:

I would die near her image and be saved.--Alphonsus Liguori, The Glories of Mary, © 1931, Redemtorist Fathers, p. 75

Home | Mariology | Catholic Stuff | PTG Forum