Sunday, 9 February 2014

Where I take issue with some Catholic teaching about Mary

There is no doubt that Mary, the mother of Jesus, plays an important role in salvation history. Like John the Baptist, her coming is prophesied in the Old Testament (Isaiah 7:14; Micah 5:23). She is personally visited by the angel Gabriel at the time of Christ’s conception and is told that she is highly favoured by God (Luke 1:28).

She prophesies about Christ while he is still in the womb (Luke 1:46-55), and is given the responsibility by God of being the earthly mother of the Lord. It is no wonder that Elizabeth, is inspired by God's Spirit, to say of Mary ‘Blessed are you among women’! (Luke 1:42)

These are all biblical truths to be treasured and affirmed. However, some Catholic traditions have added to these facts, other statements which the Bible does not affirm. These add to Scripture, contradict other biblical teachings and both elevate Mary and subjugate Christ. Specifically:

1. Mary was born without sin

‘the mother of God entirely holy and free from all stain of sin' (Lumen Gentium 56); ' the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all guilt of original sin' (LG 59) 

The Bible nowhere states this. This contradicts the plain teaching of Scripture that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Proverbs 20:9; Ecclesiastes 7:20; Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:10-12, 23). It means also that Christ was not the ‘second Adam’ (Romans 5:12-19), but rather Mary was. It also implies that Christ’s death and resurrection were not necessary for Mary’s salvation (Romans 5:8). The doctrine is a mistaken deduction from the truth that Jesus was born without sin. In fact, Jesus’ sinlessness was not jeopardised by being the son of a sinner.

2. Mary remained a virgin

' the Mother of God, ever virgin' (LG 69)

The Bible does not say this. It rather implies that Joseph had sexual relations with Mary after Jesus’ birth (Matthew 1:25). This is consistent with the fact that Jesus had siblings (Mark 6:3, 12:46,47), and that there is no suggestion of Joseph being polygamous.

3. Mary is the mother of the church

We believe that the Holy Mother of God, the new Eve, Mother of the Church, continues in heaven to exercise her maternal role on behalf of the members of Christ' (New Universal Catechism 975

Mary is nowhere given this title in Scripture, and it places Mary on a par with God himself, the only one Christians may address as ‘father’ (Matthew 23:9). This is an unwarranted deduction from Jesus’ instructions to John at the time of the crucifixion (John 19:26,27). He makes it clear elsewhere that the term mother (as opposed to Mother of the Church) can justifiably be applied to other women disciples who do his will (Matthew 12:48-50).

4. We should pray to Mary

 the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix’ (New Universal Catechism 969); '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' (NUC 971)

Scripture tells us only to pray to God the Father (Matthew 6:9). Communication with the dead is elsewhere forbidden (Deuteronomy 18:11; Isaiah 8:19). Christ is the only mediator between God and man. The Hail Mary in which Mary is enjoined to ‘pray for us sinners’ presupposes that we ourselves cannot have the confidence to enter ‘the Most Holy Place’ by the blood of Jesus alone. This is simply not true (Hebrews 10:19-22).

5. The assumption of Mary

‘the Immaculate Virgin...  on the completion of her earthly sojourn, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory and exalted by the Lord as Queen of the universe’ (LG 59)

Again, there is no biblical record of this event occurring. The ‘assumptions’ of Enoch, Elijah and Moses are mentioned (Deuteronomy 34:6; Jude 9; 2Kings 2:11; Genesis 5:24) but not that of Mary.

These and other more fanciful claims such as the pre-existence and immaculate conception of Mary herself (ie Mary was also conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit), can mean that in practical terms she ends up occupying a place equal if not higher than that of Christ himself. In some Catholic traditions she even becomes the Wisdom of the early chapters of Proverbs and the Woman of Revelation 12.

Christ makes it clear that it is those who do the will of God who are truly blessed (Luke 11:27-28) and while Mary is without doubt included in this number, she is by no means unique in this regard. I am sure she would agree with me. 


  1. Just a pedantic point but I'm pretty sure the doctricne of the immaculate conception actually refers to the idea of Mary being without original sin and does not mean she was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit - many people assume that 'immaculate' means without sex in this instance (because they think the RC church teaches that sex is dirty) whereas it actually means without sin (not that I disagree with your refutation of it above - I don't). I wasn't aware there was a doctrine of her pre-existence (is that official teaching??) but there is the doctrine of her assumption into heaven at the end of her life which I think would qualify as fanciful - certainly not scriptural....

  2. Dear Peter,

    Great post as we need to reach the Catholic people. If you would like some well written and articles full of relevant information then please let me know. I have dealt extensively with Catholics on my blog from all over the world. I have a testimony of a Catholic nun who became a Christian and it makes amazing reading. May Jesus be your strength always and Holy Spirit guide you. Raymond Clements My wife and I managed to witness to a Catholic lady who was dying of cancer and she finally accepted Jesus as her Lord and Saviour after much battle over Mary who is always the sticking point. The Lady once she had a new recreated spirit read the bible for the first time with different eyes and could not believe what lies she had been told and also not been taught. She was very angry. She died a year later but we know where she went. Praise God.

    1. If you are going to start with the assumption (no pun intended) that Catholics need to become Chrsitians, and that they don't already accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior, then you don't know much about Catholics, only individual ones who probably hadn't paid attention.
      For the Catholic Church the idea of sola scriptura as the means of establishing what we believe falls at the first hurdle: who decided sola scriptura; in fact who decided what is scripture? The rise of secularism, after the Reformation, on the back of individual conscience and interpretation is part of the problem the Church must face today, as Protestants do not agree on many things, even what the doctrine of justification entails.
      Btw, I'm a Calvinistic Baptist who joined the RCC.

  3. Sorry Peter my Blog for Catholicism is which has some of my information on this subject. Blessings Raymond

  4. Matthew 1: 25 does not settle, in any way, the question of whether or not Mary and Joseph had sexual intercourse, nor does it settle the question of whether or not there were other children.

    The references in Mark do not necessarily refer to siblings, it could mean cousins. The language of the time did not differentiate.

    Nonetheless, I think this blog in particular doesn't help you in reaching out to others but actually closes doors.

    1. The New Testament names James the Just, Joses, Simon, and Jude as the brothers (Greek adelphoi) of Jesus (Mark 6:3, Matthew 13:55, John 7:3, Acts 1:14, 1 Corinthians 9:5).

      The term 'brother' (adelphos) is distinct in Greek from 'cousin' (anepsios).

      I suspect this is one of a small number of things we will have to agree to disagree on Alex. But that is because we have slightly different views about where ultimate authority lies. I can live with that and I'm sure most of my Catholic friends can too.

      Every opinion expressed risks closing a door but need not if we can agree to disagree on some things. I must be true to my beliefs as you must be true to yours. I'm not going to stop expressing my sincerely held views on some issues for fear of upsetting some people. Even if they are Catholics. Or Evangelicals.

  5. There are truths stated in the bible and there are truths that can be inferred from the bible. In order to prevent just anyone making up their own truths, this privelege is granted to the Pope who will make proclamations after careful study, reflection and consultation with others. That Mary was born without sin is no more fanciful than angels appearing and Jesus being born out of an immaculate conception or that mary was assumed into heaven...they are all fairy stories if you are an atheist and they are all truths of a spiritual nature if you are a believer. The only empirical facts seem to be that Jesus lived as is described in the New testament, that he taught as described and that he was crucified. Everything else is a Truth based on faith. So no need to worry about Mary :0)

    1. Jim, I think these are valid concerns that Peter raises and we do need to 'worry about Mary' in this regard. For me it comes down to where our hearts are. Are our hearts trusting in Christ alone for forgiveness and salvation or in Christ + (fill in the blanks).

      Why do we need to elevate Mary above say Joseph her husband or even the Apostle Paul, for example? How does that help the Church? I don't think it does.


    2. They are the standard protestant concerns that have been refuted convincingly time and time again by many good catholic authors. A good, modern one to read would be Scott Hahn.

  6. Peter.

    Can I suggest you read Hail Holy Queen by Scott Hahn.
    Just to say that Mary gave birth to a person. That person was Christ. Christ was God. Therfore, Mary is Mother of God.

  7. And the church is the Body of Christ, so therefore Mary is mother of the church. Mary is the new Eve, Christ the new Adam. The scene at the cross of Mary encouraging Jesus in his obedience on the cross (the dead tree that was to bring life) is the reversal of the scene in Genesis, that of Eve encouraging Adam in his disobedience to eat from the tree that would bring death.


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