Should the Catholic Church Elevate Mary’s Status to Co-Redeemer, Mediator of All Graces, and Advocate of Mankind? – Program 1
By: The John Ankerberg Show
|By: Dr. John Ankerberg; ©1997|
|The Roman Catholic church holds a view of Jesus’ mother Mary that goes beyond what the Bible tells us about her. Do the Catholics go too far in their veneration of Mary?|
The Virgin Mary
Newsweek magazine on August 25 reported that a growing movement in the Roman Catholic Church wants the pope to proclaim a new controversial dogma: that Mary is a Co-Redeemer, Mediatrix of All Graces, and Advocate for the people of God. Such a move would elevate Mary’s status dramatically beyond what most Christians profess.
- Dr. Walter Martin: What I’m objecting to, from a biblical perspective, is that the Mary of the Bible is not the Mary of Catholic theology. We have now developed what Bishop Strossmayer said in 1870, “We have made a goddess of the Virgin Mary.”
Still, Newsweek has reported that in the last four years the Pope has received more than four million signatures from 157 countries, an average of 100,000 letters a month asking him to speak ex cathedra, that is, “infallibly” declare these new ideas as official Church doctrine. Among the thousands of Catholics supporting this dramatic new doctrine are the late Mother Teresa, 500 bishops and 42 cardinals, including Cardinal John O’Connor of New York, Joseph Glemp of Poland, and half a dozen cardinals at the Vatican itself. Newsweek said, “Nothing like this organized petition drive has ever been seen in Rome.”
If this movement succeeds, Catholics would be obliged as a matter of faith to accept that Mary participates in the redemption achieved by Jesus Christ; that all graces that flow from the suffering and death of her Son are granted only through Mary’s intercession with Jesus; and third, that all prayers and petitions from the faithful on earth must flow through Mary, who will then bring them to the attention of Jesus.
The question is, “Will Pope John Paul use his papal infallibility to officially proclaim Mary as Co-Redeemer, Mediator of All Graces, and Advocate of mankind?” If he does, what will it mean? Where did such elevated ideas about the Virgin Mary come from? If the Catholic Church embraces these new ideas, will they be turning away from the very faith they are supposed to defend?
To help answer these questions, we’ll hear excerpts from our debate with Roman Catholic priest and Jesuit Professor Fr. Mitchell Pacwa and the late Dr. Walter Martin, Protestant scholar and authority on American religious institutions. We invite you to join us.
- Dr. John Ankerberg: There is a growing movement in the Roman Catholic Church that wants the Pope to use papal infallibility to declare that Mary is a new Co-Redeemer with Jesus Christ, Mediatrix of All Graces, and Advocate before Jesus for the people of God. This move would elevate Mary’s status way beyond what most Christians profess. Yet thousands of Catholics are supporting this elevation of Mary, including the late Mother Teresa, 500 bishops and 42 cardinals, including Cardinal John O’Connor of New York, Joseph Glemp of Poland, and half a dozen cardinals at the Vatican itself. Apparently in the last four years the Pope has received more than four million signatures from 157 countries, an average of 100,000 letters a month, asking him to declare these new ideas as official Catholic doctrine.
- Professor Mark Miravalle, the leader of this petition drive, says he is personally confident that the Church will make this recognition of Mary before the year 2000.
- Mother Angelica, whose Eternal Word Television Network reaches 55 million homes and 38 different countries, said during one of her talk shows: “If the Holy Father would define this dogma, it would save the world from great catastrophes and loosen God’s mercy even more upon this world.”
- The question is, “Will Pope John Paul use his papal infallibility to elevate Mary?” Well, John Paul’s devotion to Mary seems to have no limits. In his book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, the motto he chose for his papacy was totus tuus, “I am completely yours, Oh Mary.” The Pope believes that it was the Virgin of Fatima who rescued him from a gunman’s bullet and almost certain death in 1981. Newsweek states the Pope rarely delivers a homily or issues an encyclical now without praising Mary. He routinely refers to her using such words as “Mediatrix,” “Advocate,” and occasionally even “Co-Redemptrix.” So the world is now watching and waiting to see what the Pope will do.
- In this series we want to ask the question, “Should the Pope elevate Mary to this new status? Is it biblically based? Is it the true faith the Church is to defend? So let’s examine the issues a little more closely.
- How many verses in Scripture do you think speak about Mary? Did you know there are only 19 verses total in the four gospels which mention Mary? And there is only one more verse in all the rest of the New Testament that cites her name?
- I’d like you to listen now to an excerpt from a debate that we held here on The John Ankerberg Show between Jesuit Professor and Roman Catholic Priest Father Mitchell Pacwa and the late Protestant scholar Dr. Walter Martin. Dr. Martin summarizes what many Christians in and outside of the Roman Catholic Church have concluded when they have compared the biblical Mary with the new evolving views of Mary. Listen:
- Dr. Walter Martin: I think, primarily, as you said, that Mary was the greatest woman that ever lived, the mother of our Savior, and as such, should be honored above all women. There’s no doubt about that. However, in Protestant theology, the development of Mariology – or as some have called it, “Mariolatry” – there is not only a concern in Protestant thinking, but also a concern in some areas of Roman Catholicism. Vatican II, specifically in the translations of the dialogue of the bishops, was very concerned with the fact that the Virgin Mary was receiving more attention, adoration, than Christ in Latin America and in Spain and in other parts of the world. They felt some of the delegates had gotten out of hand and they referred to it as “the cult of Mary.”
- My own personal feeling on the subject is that the Mary of biblical theology is quite different from the Mary of evolutionary Catholic dogma. The Mary of biblical theology is a simple Jewish maiden selected by God.
- She says, “Behold, the handmaiden of the Lord.” She says, “My soul doth magnify the Lord…my spirit rejoices in God, my Savior.” The fact that she identifies God as Savior indicates the fact that she is willing to confess the fact that she’s a sinner as everybody else who is in need of a Savior. The fact that Mary died is proof that she was a sinner because the wages of sin is death and death is passed upon all men, according to Romans 5:12, in that all have sinned.
- Ankerberg: You may ask: How has the status of Mary evolved from the simple peasant girl of the New Testament to being the “Queen of Heaven,” “Mediatrix of All Graces,” and “Co-Redemptrix of the Universe” with Jesus Christ? After all, Jesus, the apostles, and other writers of the New Testament say nothing about these elevated views of Mary that are found in Catholic theology today. So how did all of this come about?
- Well, first, these ideas took a long time evolving. It wasn’t until 431 AD that the Ecumenical Council at Ephesus proclaimed Mary to be the Mother of God.
- Then it took until 1854 for the Catholic Church to officially proclaim that Mary was immaculately conceived, meaning she was conceived without the stain of original sin.
- Following this ex cathedra announcement by Pope Pius IX, Mary’s status was further increased in 1950 by Pope Pius XII teaching that Mary was also free of all personal sin during her entire life. It wasn’t long until Mary was also proclaimed to be a perpetual virgin.
- Further, in 1950, Pope Pius XII used papal infallibility to officially declare that at the end of Mary’s life she had been taken up, body and soul, into Heaven.
- In 1953 and 1954, two papal encyclicals informed the Faithful that Mary had been coronated as Queen of Heaven and was now reigning with the King, Jesus Christ.
- Concerning Mary’s position as Mediatrix of All Graces, these ideas began to surface around the early eighth century, gained strength during the Middle Ages, and continue to the present time. For example, St. Germanus of Constantinople said about Mary, “Nobody can achieve salvation except through thee.” St. Bernard of Clairvaux said, “God wished that we have nothing except by the hands of Mary.”
- But this is not the end of Mary’s elevation in Catholic thought. From the fifteenth century until 1943 Mary has increasingly been identified as a Co-Redeemer or Co-Redemptrix of the Universe with Jesus Christ. The full evolution of this idea has taken a little longer to develop. But still, Pope Pius XII in his encyclical in 1943 made this amazing statement about Mary: “She offered him [that is, Jesus] on Golgotha to the Eternal Father.” That’s quite a statement. Once again, please keep in mind that even Catholic theologians agree that there is no explicit scriptural support for these assertions.
- For example, revered Catholic theologian Dr. Ludwig Ott in his massive 544-page book, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, states: “The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary is not explicitly revealed in Scripture.” Concerning Mary’s bodily assumption he writes, “The direct and express scriptural proofs of Mary’s bodily assumption are not to be had.” And concerning Mary’s high position of being Mediatrix and Intercessor in Heaven, Ludwig Ott says, “Express scriptural proofs are lacking.”
- Well then, why did these new ideas about Mary develop? What is the reasoning behind these new views? Let’s examine the first one: “Mary is the Mother of God.” Every Catholic knows that at the heart of Catholic liturgy is the “Ave Maria” or the so-called “Hail, Mary.” Even if you’re not Catholic, you’re probably familiar with the words, “Hail, Mary, full of grace. Blessed art thou among women. Blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.” This is a very important part of the liturgy of the Catholic Church. You probably also know the next part of it: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now in the hour of our death. Amen.”
- I want to ask you which words and thoughts in these short phrases have raised controversy among Christians. First, what do you think about the statements, “Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.”
- Do you agree or disagree with these statements? If you’re a Christian, you should agree. Why? Where did these words come from? They come from Scripture. These are simply verbatim quotes taken from Luke 1:28 in the New Testament. These words could never be repugnant to any Christian who held to the authority of the Scripture. “Hail, Mary,” is simply a greeting given to Mary.
- What about the words “full of grace”? Well, we acknowledge that Mary was indeed filled with grace. The Bible says so. But we must remember that being full of grace does not mean as Catholicism later came to teach – that Mary is completely sinless. Why? Do you know that the Bible also says that such people as Stephen, Elizabeth, Barnabas and others were also “full of grace”? Well, it does. Yet nobody has ever taught that because they were full of grace they lived completely sinless lives.
- Now, what about the words, “Blessed art thou among women”? Well, this is a true statement. The Bible says that all future generations will indeed call Mary blessed. Here, there’s no dispute. And certainly the words “blessed is the fruit of her womb, Jesus,” no Christians can have any dispute about that. Only the fact that these words are used in the form of a prayer to Mary raises certain questions, but as to the meaning of the words themselves so far in this statement, in and of itself there is no point of controversy.
- But moving on, how about the second part of this liturgy which says, “Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now and in the hour of our death. Amen”? Do you think there should be any objections to saying that Mary is holy? Well, in one sense the Bible describes every person who puts his faith in Jesus Christ as being “holy and blameless” before God. For example, Ephesians 1:4 wonderfully declares, “For He [God] chose us in Him [that’s Christ] before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight.”
- Most Roman Catholics have never understood the wonderful promises in Hebrews 10:10 where it says about all who have put their trust in Jesus: “we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” This is our position in Christ before God. He sees us completely holy: no sin.
- Then a few verses later the Bible says in Hebrews 10:14, “By one sacrifice Christ has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” We have here first our eternal position – we have been made perfect because of Christ forever; and second, we have our progressive development – we are those being made holy. So in that sense, Mary and every Christian is holy.
- On the other hand, if you say that your pastor or Sunday School teacher is living a holy life, that does not necessarily indicate that you are worshipping them. Since Mary was a Christian, she was holy just as you and I are holy before God, but she is not to be worshipped or prayed to any more than you would pray to your pastor.
- Now what about the phrase, “Mother of God”? Some of you say, “I don’t like that idea. Where did that phrase come from?” It came from the Council of Ephesus in 431. It was ratified again at the Council of Chalcedon in 451, the one ecumenical council that is endorsed by virtually every Christian church today. The phrase “Mother of God,” which was used in these Councils, was the Greek word theotokus. “Theo,” God, and “tokus,” bearer, literally meant “bearer of God.” Mary brought forth the Son of God. And of course, it was understood at the time of the Council that this meant that Mary was the mother of God, not in the sense that Jesus Christ in any way received His divine nature from Mary. No, she in no way generated the divine nature of Christ. Rather, it meant that since Jesus is God and Mary is His mother in regards to His human nature, then in that sense, Mary is the mother of God. There was no confusion at Chalcedon that the title, Mother of God, ascribed to Mary, attributed to her any vague notion of deity. The Council simply articulated the fact that Mary was the earthly mother of the One who is God Incarnate. Simple as that. That’s why officially there’s been no Protestant objection to the title “Mother of God.”
- On the other hand, I’m sure that the terms, “Holy Mary, Mother of God” are used wrongly by many people around the world today to imply a lot more than what the Church Fathers meant at Ephesus and Chalcedon. Still, the words in and of themselves, properly qualified, properly defined, are not wrong. They are accurate.
- But what about the next phrase, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death”? Now, to the vast majority of Christians this phrase certainly raises objections. It views Mary as one who can intercede for us either now or at our death. It makes Mary a kind of mediator between God and us of our redemption. But this is wrong. The apostles in the New Testament insisted on the sole, unique, mediatorial function of Jesus Christ.
- In 1 Timothy 2:5 the Bible clearly teaches, “For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.” The Bible knows absolutely nothing about two mediators, first Jesus, and then a second or sub-mediator, namely, Mary. Only Jesus is our Mediator before God.
- However, in spite of the New Testament’s firm and clear teaching on this matter, once the Church Councils had declared that Mary is the Mother of God, false assumptions about Mary’s power and influence began to surface. For example, around the seventh century a feast was dedicated to commemorating the conception of Saint Anne, Mary’s mother. The ideas circulating around this feast assumed Mary was conceived without original sin, but it took until the twelfth century for a monk by the name of Eadmer, a pupil of St. Anselm, to write the first monograph on the subject of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. By 1567, Pope Pius V condemned those who were saying that only Christ had been born free from original sin, implying Mary also was free from original sin. Finally, on December 8, 1954, Pope Pius IX, having consulted the leadership of the Church, spoke ex cathedra, that is, he spoke infallibly and declared that the “Immaculate Conception of Mary” was to be henceforth accepted as official dogma of the Catholic faith.
- What exactly does the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception teach? Why does this new teaching concerning Mary raise enormous problems? Well next week we’ll look at those areas and answer those questions. But I’d like to leave you with this. Concerning this evolution of ideas in the Catholic Church concerning Mary, what is more properly called the Community of Faith, or Catholic Tradition, did you know that there was disagreement down through the years from some of the Church’s key theologians on this matter? In brief, there has not been unanimity of thought on the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. Listen:
- Martin: Look, you said something very important that is really a key. You said, “The Immaculate Conception in 1854 was the result of the long centuries of the accumulated community of the Church,” right?
- Fr. Mitchell Pacwa: Right.
- Martin: I want you to listen to some of the long centuries. Clement of Alexandria, “The Word, Jesus Christ, alone was born without sin.” Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, one of the greatest theologians in the Church, “He, Christ, alone being made a man but remaining God never had any sin nor did He take on flesh of sin, though He took flesh of the sin of His mother.” Ambrose, “Of all that are born of women, the Holy Lord Jesus was the only One who experienced not the contagion of earthly corruption.” St. Bernard, “For this reason, our astonishment is not small in seeing that some of you are believed to be able to introduce a new feast that is unknown to the rite of the Church that cannot be approved by reason, that it is condemned by the ancient traditions, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.” You and Bernard do not agree, and he’s canonized!
- Pacwa: That’s right.
- Martin: You’re not!
- Pacwa: But the authority of Peter to declare that Mary is conceived without sin is something that, in spite of some…. again, you can pick out a list of people who did disagree with the Immaculate Conception…
- Martin: The “community of faith.”
- Pacwa: It’s part of the community of faith. You also have to take a look at the faith of the folks. And one of the reasons that the Pope used to define this is that the Holy Spirit speaks to the Church and will not allow the Church to make error. Therefore, because the community of the Church is the Body of Christ, filled with the soul of the Holy Spirit, that…and the faith of the Church, through the ages, the dominant faith – not, you know, a few – the dominant faith therefore has to be listened to.