Thursday, April 30, 2015

Mary in the Roman Catholic Catechism

Several years ago I read through the Roman Catholic Catechism (RCC) ...twice. For those of you not familiar with the RCC, it is not like the Westminster Catechism or the Heidelberg.  It is almost 700 pages long with numerous footnotes referencing the church fathers, other documents, and Scripture. I expected to find merit theology, justification by works, tradition as equal with Scripture, as well as solid sections on many ethical issues of the day, such as divorce in the RCC. It did not disappoint. One thing I did not expect to find but did, was the prominence of Mary throughout the RCC. Reading the RCC one can see that she is a central part of Roman Catholic theology. Mary is one of the clearest examples of key Roman Catholic doctrines, such as Papal authority, extra-biblical tradition, invocation of the saints, liturgical power, and merit theology. Moving past theology into the 20th and 21st century, Mary gives the Roman Catholics a female power figure when the world was longing for someone to overthrow the patriarchy of the Scriptures. Here are some quotes about Mary's participation in Christ's work and her role in salvation and worship from the Roman Catholic Catechism. My only purpose in this post is to present the Roman Catholic teaching on Mary. All formatting is from the RCC except the phrases I put in bold. 

The preface by Pope John Paul ends with a prayer to Mary. "I beseech the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Incarnate Word and Mother of the Church, to support with her powerful intercession the catechetical work of the entire Church on every level…(p. 6)

Later the RCC talks about the obedience of faith saying, "Abraham is the model of such obedience offered us by Sacred Scripture. The Virgin Mary is its most perfect embodiment. (p. 39)

And further in the same section, "The Virgin Mary most perfectly embodies the obedience of faith. Throughout her life and until her last ordeal when Jesus her Son died on the cross, Mary's faith never wavered...And so the Church venerates in Mary the purest realization of faith." (p. 40)

And later, "The Virgin Mary is the supreme model of this faith... (p. 72)

In the section on her Immaculate Conception this is said, "Mary...was redeemed from the moment of her conception." (p. 123)

Pope Pius IX in 1854 said, "The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception...preserved immune from all stain of original sin." (p. 124)

And, By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long. (p. 124)

On her perpetual virginity it is said, "Mary is a virgin because her virginity is the sign of her faith... (p. 127)

"Finally, through Mary, the Holy Spirit begins to bring men, the objects of God's merciful love into communion with Christ." (p. 191)

In a section on the holiness of the Church the RCC says, "But while in the most Blessed Virgin the Church has already reached that perfection whereby she exists without spot or wrinkle, the faithful strive to conquer sin and increase in holiness. And so they turn their eyes to Mary: in her the Church is already the 'all-holy.'" (p. 220)  

Later under a section title "Wholly united with her son" it says, 
Mary's role in the Church is inseparable from her union with Christ and flows directly from it. This union of the mother with the Son in the work of salvation is made manifest from the time of Christ's virginal conception up to his death; it is made manifest above all at the hour of the Passion. Thus the Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the cross. There she stood, in keeping with the divine plan, enduring with her only begotten Son the intensity of his suffering, joining herself with his sacrifice in her mother's heart." (p. 251) 
Now it is possible to read these last two phrases simply as a mother suffering with her son. However, reading the rest of the description of Mary in the RCC it is unlikely that was the intention of the authors. 

The Catholics also believe that Mary did not die, but was assumed. 
Finally, the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory...The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son's Resurrection and in an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians...she is a preeminent and wholly unique member of the a wholly singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope, and burning charity in the Savior's work of restoring supernatural life to souls." (p. 252)
This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the final fulfillment of the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation....Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix." (p. 252) 
"The Church's devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship...the Blessed Virgin has been honored with the title "Mother of God" to whose protection the faithful flee in all their dangers and needs...The liturgical feasts dedicated to the Mother of God and Marian prayer, such as the rosary, an epitome of whole Gospel, express this devotion to the Virgin Mary." (p. 253)
The entire section on "I Believe in the Holy Catholic Church" ends with this:
After speaking of the Church, her origin, mission, and destiny, we can find no better way to conclude than by looking to Mary. In her we contemplate what the Church already is in her mystery on her own pilgrimage of faith and and what she will be in the homeland at the end of her journey. There "in the glory of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity," "in the communion of all the saints," the Church is awaited by the one she venerates as Mother of her Lord and as her own mother. 
In a section on the indulgences there is a discussion of where we can get merit from. Mary is included here. "This treasury includes as well the prayers and good works of the Blessed Virgin Mary. They are truly immense, unfathomable and even pristine in their value before God. " (p. 371)

Later in describing the church as teacher the RCC says this, "From the Church [the Christian] learns the example of holiness and recognizes its model and source in the all-holy Virgin Mary." (p. 490)

In the future I will interact with these statements explaining how despite protests to the contrary the veneration of Mary does undermine the work of Christ and the Church. I believe there are many theological, liturgical, and church polity problems in the Roman Catholic Church. But I wonder how many false doctrines have such a stranglehold on the typical Roman Catholic as the veneration of Mary? The veneration of the Virgin Mary has a long tradition in the Catholic Church, a tradition bolstered by centuries of liturgical training. A good Catholic may not know why Mary is important, but they know she matters immensely. How do they know? They have been taught through the prayers and the liturgy. 


Jennie and Julie said...
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Peter Jones said...

Jennie there are men I admire who stand on both sides of the aisle. Most men I know I agree that the RC's are in serious trouble. The question is are they child in rebellion who needs to be disciplined or do they need to be disinherited.

Let the saints be joyful in glory, let them sing aloud on their beds, let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two edged sword in their hand, to execute vengeance on the nations, and punishments on the peoples; to bind the kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron. Psalm 149:5-8