Thoughts on Catholic Mary and Worship

Folks who deal with apologists or others who are caught up in the web of Roman Catholicism might wish to visit a Christian web site called Catholic Teaching Examined. Among the many useful and informative articles available there is one by Greg Litmer that addresses one of the most glaring of Romeís heresies. It is quoted below, with the authorís permission.


By Greg Litmer

I can envision a Roman Catholic priest reading the title of this article and thinking, "There goes another one claiming that we worship Mary and that is not true!" In many authorized Roman Catholic books it is denied that the Roman Church teaches that Mary is to be worshiped. The position that is taken is that Mary is viewed as a human being, but only a human being and in no way equal with God.

In the book, What the Church Teaches, by Conway, which bears the Nihil Obstat and the Imprimatur, this statement is made:

"God's Mother is worthy of honor. He honored her Himself in choosing her from among all His creatures. We never forget the basic truth of our religion: there is only one God, and He alone is to be worshiped. But that does not mean that we are forbidden to pay reasonable, sensible honor to creatures. God explicitly commands you to honor your own father and mother. Is it then wrong to honor God's Mother?

"From the beginning, the Church has given to Mary the highest form of honor that can be properly given to any creature. She is human, just as we are. We must never adore her; that is for God alone. But otherwise we cannot honor her to excess, because it is not possible to overestimate the privileges God gave her in making her His own Mother.

"Most of the opposition to Catholic devotion to Mary results from a misunderstanding of the nature of that devotion. We do not try to deify Mary nor make her equal to God in any respect."

Despite statements such as this, it is obvious that in the Roman Catholic Church there is a great deal of emphasis placed upon Mary. There are Holy Days of Obligation devoted to Mary, there are prayers whose subject is Mary, there are shrines devoted to Mary that are visited by thousands of pilgrims a year, and there are doctrines in Catholicism that separate Mary from all others. The Catholic Church teaches that Mary was born without sin, while all others were born in sin. It teaches that she was received into heaven bodily. It teaches that she is the Co-Mediatrix with Christ. It calls Mary: Virgin of Virgins, Mother of God, Queen of Heaven, Queen of Sorrows, Refuge of Sinners, Virgin Most Merciful, and on and on. If such does not constitute worship, exactly what is it?

Roman Catholic theologians, recognizing that there is no scriptural authorization for their attitude toward Mary, have arrived at the following formula, presented in the Code of Canon Law, Canon 1255 (20th century), to distinguish between the worship given to God and what they give to Mary. It reads:

"The worship due to the most holy Trinity, to each of the divine Persons, to our Lord Jesus Christ, even under the sacramental species, is called cultus latriae (highest kind of worship, adoration); that which is due to the blessed Virgin Mary is called cultus hyperduliae (special veneration or worship); that which is due to the others who reign with Christ in heaven is called cultus duliae (veneration or worship). To sacred relics and images there is also due a veneration and worship which is relative to the persons to whom the relics and images refer."

To put it simply, the Roman Catholic Church divides worship into three kinds; Latria, which is the highest form of worship and is to be given to the Godhead only; Dulia, which is something of a secondary form of veneration that is given to saints and angels; Hyperdulia, which is a higher form of veneration, called in the Canon Law a special veneration or worship. Even though such a formula is totally without scriptural precedent, it may sound plausible to the uninformed reader. In actual practice, though, this theological formula is useless. Most Roman Catholics do not, or cannot, make the distinctions. In truth, most do not know that they exist.

During the twelve years of parochial school education, I did not once hear of latria, dulia, and hyperdulia. If I had, how could a second grade child make such a distinction when he takes part in the May Festival Crowing of the statue of Mary with prayers and songs being offered to her? Each classroom had a crucifix, but each classroom also had a statue of Mary. We were told again and again of Fatima and Lourdes, and the wondrous things done there. We were taught to go to Mary in prayer, indeed the Rosary contains fifty Hail Mary's. I remember well in high school, the football coach was Gerry Faust, now coach at Notre Dame University. Before every game the players were to kneel before the statue of Mary and offer prayers to her. During the game, at crucial times, Mr Faust wandered the side lines yelling, "Everybody say a Hail Mary!" There may be a distinction made in theory, but no distinction exists in practice.

To me, the true attitude that the Roman Catholic laity is taught to possess toward Mary is expressed in some of the prayers they are taught to say to her by rote. Consider the words of the Hail Mary. "Hail Mary, full of grace! The Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of they womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen."

Another prayer we were taught went like this: "Remember, O most loving Virgin Mary, that never was it known that any one who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, and sought thy intercession, was left forsaken. Filled, therefore with confidence in thy goodness, I fly to thee, O Mother, Virgin of Virgins; to thee I come, before thee I stand a sorrowing sinner. Despise not my words, O Mother of the Word, but graciously hear and grant my prayer."

The same things that a Catholic requests of God the Father and our Lord Jesus, in Roman Catholic prayers, are the same things requested of Mary.

While the formula of latria, dulia, hyperdulia does permit the Roman Catholic Church to officially deny worshiping Mary, it's actual practice shows otherwise. God is to be the object of our honor and reverence and we must be careful not to give honor due to Him and His Son to anyone else. The first century church did not afford Mary any special position, and it certainly gave her no special veneration or worship. Hyperdulia, as well as the formula of which it is a part, is a theological attempt to justify a system of belief that promotes the worship of Mary. (From Catholicism Examined, edited by Greg Litmer and David Riggs, p. 160-162

Posted with authorís permission).

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