|By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©2000|
|This article looks at what the Roman Catholic Church teaches about Mary, and compares that with what the Bible tells us. The authors also examine the messages in the “Marian apparitions”—appearances of “Mary” to various people throughout the world.|
Among all the women in history, none have been more venerated than Mary, the mother of Jesus. However, this veneration can be almost exclusively attributed to the influence of the Catholic Church. For example, one of the most powerful men in the world today is Pope John Paul II. In his new book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, which has sold in the tens of millions of copies, he refers to his “total abandonment to Mary” and to having chosen the following slogan as the motto for his papacy, “Totus Tuus” (“I am completely yours, O Mary”).
But who is Mary, according to the Bible? Mary is the young virgin woman who was chosen by God to bear the Messiah into the world (Mt. 1:18-25; Lk. 1:27-32, 39-41). Although Mary was “greatly troubled” (Lk. 1:29) by the angel’s announcement of her chosen role, she faithfully submitted to God’s will: “May it be to me as you have said” (Lk. 1:38). Throughout her life, she was amazed at the privilege God had given her. When she visited Elizabeth and heard Elizabeth prophesy amazing things about her child, she said, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Lk. 1:46–47). When Jesus was born and the shepherds worshipped Him and told of their angelic visitation (what the angels had told them about Jesus), “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Lk. 2:19). At Jesus’ dedication in the temple, she was even more awed over the prophecies given about her child (Lk. 2:23).
Thus, the biblical portrait of Mary is of a godly woman who was, not surprisingly, often taken aback in her role as Jesus’ mother. But was she in any way unique or different from the rest of the human race? According to the Bible, she was different only in her earthly role as Jesus’ mother; otherwise, she had no special graces, powers, or abilities.
Although the Catholic Church has a billion followers and claims that it accepts biblical teaching, we find in Scripture just the opposite of what the Catholic Church teaches about Mary. The Catholic Church teaches that Mary was sinless, but Mary is clearly said to be a sinner like all of us (Lk. 1:47; Rom. 3:23). The Catholic Church teaches that Mary was a perpetual virgin, but the Scripture teaches she had at least six other children (Mt. 13:55–56).
Although Jesus gave the appropriate respect to Mary as His mother, He never set her apart as the Catholic Church has. According to Rome, Mary has been more blessed by God than any other mortal. In the words of Pope Paul VI, citing Vatican II, “The place she occupies in the Church [is] ‘the highest place and the closest to us after Jesus.’” But according to Luke 11:27–28, Jesus Himself denied Catholic views when He taught that those who obey God are actually far more blessed than Mary—than if they had given birth to the Messiah Himself: “As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, ‘Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.’ He replied, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.’”
Today, the Catholic Church views Mary as
As Co-redemptrix, she cooperates with Christ in the work of saving sinners. As Mediatrix of all graces, she now dispenses God’s blessings and grace to the spiritually needy. As Queen of Heaven, she rules providentially with Christ, the King of Heaven. Thus, “There is one Mediator between Christ and men, the Holy Mother Mary. Mary is the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to Jesus but by Mary.” (Cf. 1 Tm. 2: 5–6)
As a result of such teaching, the Catholic Church logically teaches Mary’s right to veneration by faithful Catholics. Because of her role in the economy of salvation, Mary is worthy of special adoration.
That Catholic theology places Mary very close to Christ Himself can be seen from the following chart:
Mother of God
Sinless (immaculate conception) Perpetual virgin
Ascended (assumed bodily into heaven)
Queen of heaven
Son of God
Born of a virgin
Ascended bodily into heaven
King of heaven
Dispenser of all redeeming grace to mankind
Redeemer and Savior of man
|Co-redemptrix in the salvation of man|
In light of this, it is difficult to deny the response of Protestants that Mary has been elevated from the status of a creature into, in Berkouwer’s words, “the supernatural perfection of the life of God” or that “Mary’s role is often delineated by Catholicism in a way that the gospels ascribe exclusively to Christ.” In our book, Protestants and Catholics: Do They Now Agree? (1994 edition), we documented the Church’s official position, citing numerous popes and official texts.
Consider a few excerpts: “Nothing according to the will of God comes to us except through Mary. . .nobody can approach Christ except through the Mother”; “With Jesus, Mary has redeemed the human race”; “[Mary] offered him [Jesus] on Golgotha to the eternal Father. . .for all the children of Adam.” These statements from Pope Leo XIII, Pope Pius XI and Pope Pius XII were reiterated at Vatican II and by modern Catholic theologians. Vatican II declared, “Taken up to heaven, she did not lay aside this saving role, but by her manifold acts of intercession continued to win for us gifts of eternal salvation.” In The Catholic Catechism we read, “Alongside her Son, Mary has become part of this plan [of salvation] by contributing her share to the justification of the human race, beginning with herself and extending to everyone ever justified.”
In essence, the Catholic Church’s exaltation of Mary at the theological level has resulted in her worship at the grass-roots level. This is why Carson remarks, “The [historical] development of Mariology has been accompanied by an ever increasing tendency to accord Mary a worship that, in much popular devotion, is indistinguishable from that offered to God alone.” Although the Catholic Church technically distinguishes latria (adoration due to God alone) from hyperdulia (special veneration given only to Mary), one can only wonder how such fine distinctions are to be maintained in actual Catholic practice when one is attempting to give hyperdulia to Mary but not latria? We agree with noted theologian R. C. Sproul who remarks, “I think, however, for all practical purposes, that I can say without fear of ever being proven wrong, that millions of Roman Catholic people in this world today worship Mary, and in doing so, believe that they are doing what the Church is telling them to do.” The late noted expert on comparative religion, Dr. Walter Martin concluded, “This is indeed the elevation of a creature to Deity. . . .”
As we documented in Protestants and Catholics: Do They Now Agree?, even Catholic authorities confess that there is no scriptural warrant for their unique teachings on Mary and that Catholic views are a result of the evolution of Church tradition and papal pronouncement. 
Unfortunately, however, there is also a logical connection between the Catholic Church’s exaltation of Mary and the occult revelations from Marian apparitions throughout the world.
One simply cannot deny that Catholic Mariology approaches, and, in practice often constitutes, idolatry. We think such idolatry is a principal reason for the worldwide occult activity associated with official Catholic Mariology.
For example, around the world there are literally hundreds of sites of Marian apparitions encompassing thousands of messages from “Mary” given to Catholic believers. Revelations from “Mary” have occurred in almost all of the 50 states and dozens of countries. No one can deny the fact of these supernatural manifestations, whether they are personal visions, apparitions, materializations, or channeled revelations. Nor can one deny that the messages these revelations bring are opposed to the teachings of the Bible. In fact, they consistently conform to Catholic theology as we documented in our book.
In the messages of these apparitions in general, leading Catholic Mariologist Father John Lozano affirms, “the devotion to the Immaculate Heart [Mary] appear as a means of salvation.” In other words, devotion to Mary is taught as a way of salvation.
Thus, proof that these worldwide Marian apparitions could not come from the biblical Mary can be seen in the teachings the occult “Mary” gives. Mary not only presents herself as a savior, but Satan allegedly fears Mary “more than God Himself.”  The individual Catholic teachings that Mary has consistently supported in her apparitions and revelations include the necessity of penance, Marian devotion, belief in purgatory, participation in the Mass and the Rosary. But all of these are wrapped up in the Catholic doctrine of salvation by works and none of this is biblical as we have documented in Catholics and Protestants: Do They Now Agree? (1995 edition).