Catholics worship Mary. Don't they?
One of the most frequent objections you will hear from Protestants about Catholics and Roman Catholics in particular is that Catholics worship Mary. Some Protestants in fact have invented a term for Mary worship: Mariolatry! So, is it true? Do Catholics worship Mary?
First of all, saying that all Catholics worship Mary is a little bit like saying that all Baptists wear suits to church. Obviously, not all Baptists wear suits, some of them only wear ties (tongue placed firmly in cheek).
Before we answer the question, wouldn't it be helpful to define our terms? Throwing out accusations without defining what we mean is a gross violation of the 9th Commandment, "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." (Exodus 20:16, NKJV)
The Meaning of Worship
The first term we should probably define is "worship." There are actually two basic definitions for the word worship.
1. Worship of a deity or god - "to honor or show reverence for as a divine being or supernatural power."
The second definition is quite different
2. Great respect or devotion to anyone - "to regard with great or extravagant respect, honor, or devotion."
In many traditional wedding vows, at least in the West, the groom would make a promise to "love, cherish, and worship" his bride. Did they mean that he was supposed to treat her like a literal god? Clearly not.
In almost every ancient church tradition, Mary was held in VERY HIGH esteem by the church. In fact, they had a special title for Mary... Theotokos - the "MOTHER OF GOD" or "God Bearer."
In other words, they didn't think of Mary simply as "the mother of Jesus," they highly regarded her as the very Mother of God Himself!
To put it very plainly, ancient Christians worshiped Mary not because she was a god, but because she was due "extravagant respect, honor, and devotion."
Regardless of what the Roman Catholic church currently teaches about Mary, in my view, this is the way that MANY Roman Catholics, as well as other Catholics (such as Orthodox) view Mary. They do not worship her as God, but they do love her and show magnificent respect for her unique role in Redemption.
This is in stark contrast to what I have heard several Baptist preachers say, especially around Christmas time... that "Mary is not special, she is just a sinner like us!!!" I don't know, maybe its just me, but I'm pretty sure that Pastor Joe Blow or any of us should not be given the title of THEOTOKOS!
The Roman Catholic View of Mary
Looking at the Roman Catholic view of Mary is a little beyond the subject of this post... Do Catholics worship Mary?
But not much. The fact is, BECAUSE of Roman Catholic tradition (Magisterium), a whole lot of Roman Catholics, particularly in third world countries have serious superstitions about Mary, to the point of worshiping her, if not as a god, about as close as you can get.
Ponder these Roman Catholic doctrines...
- The Roman Catholic Church teaches that Mary was born without sin (the Immaculate Conception).
- The Roman Catholic Church teaches that Mary lived completely without sin.
- The Roman Catholic Church teaches that Mary did die, but that her body was assumed into heaven (she did not decay).
- The Roman Catholic Church teaches that Mary is a Co-Redemptrix with Christ. Basically, this means that without her role AS A SINLESS mother, Christ could not be the redeemer.
That summary may not EXACTLY represent the Roman Catholic view, but it is close.
The problem with all of these doctrines is that NONE of them are taught in Scripture and ALL of them are based on Tradition alone.
I actually think (based on Scripture AND Tradition) that Mary is more important than most Protestants think, but what Roman Catholics teach goes beyond Scripture too far afield and opens up the temptation to worship Mary... as a god!
It is interesting to note that some Catholics (Such as Orthodox Christians) do not accept the positions of Rome mentioned above. They do however have a very, very high view of Mary as the holy Mother of God!
So, do Roman Catholics worship Mary? Some do. Some don't. Some in the right way. Some in a way that is clearly not right.
We might all learn so much from the Catholic traditions. A higher view of Mary (especially as the fulfillment of the NEW EVE and Genesis 3:15) should be something we should at least ponder.
Mary is my new and greatest human hero. I don't think she can hear me, even so, maybe an angel can get the message through, "Thank you Mary for humbling yourself, submitting to the will of God and bringing forth the Living Son of God into the world!"