I wrote these series of articles (see menu sidebar to the left) as a Catholic for Catholics, but I no longer accept Catholic teaching as the authoritative source of truth.I have not attempted to align these articles with my current views.

A brief tutorial about what Catholics believe regarding Mary. Many Protestant anti-Catholicsclaim Catholics worship Mary but this is incorrect.

I discuss the various doctrines of the Catholic Church regarding Mary, the mother of Jesus.

It is not my intention to prove these doctrines from the Bible and tradition, rather, I merely give evidence that:

I do not address doctrines which Protestants and Catholics agree on such as the virgin birth of Christ.

   Mary, Mother of God


Index


Objections / Questions Doctrines
Did Jesus Have Brothers?
Was Mary Born Sinless?
Was Mary a Virgin For Life?
Is Devotion to Mary a Modern
      Invention?

Is this Topic Really Significant?
    Immaculate Conception
Mother of God
Perpetual Virginity
Assumption
Mediatrix & Co-redemptrix
Devotion to Mary
New Eve
Mother of the Church
Queen of Heaven
Immaculate Heart

For more: Marian Doctrines | Anti-Catholic view of Mary | Mary | Reformer's Devotion to Mary | Early Church Fathers on Mary


Did Jesus Have Brothers?


In the following verse, reference is made to the brothers of Jesus:

Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? (Mark 6:3)

The standard non-Catholic interpretation is that these were children of Mary. However, there are two verses which both refute this. From this we must conclude James and Joses are not blood brothers of Jesus, nor are they children of Jesus' mother, Mary.

  1. Matthew 27:56     In Matthew's account of the crucifixion we encounter a Mary who is the mother of James and Joses.

    Among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee's children. (Matthew 27:56)

    It is unlikely that this Mary is the mother of Jesus because if she were she would be identified as such.

    This supports the Catholic view that Jesus did not have siblings and that Mary remained a virgin for life.

  2. John 19:25     In John's account of the crucifixion we learn that there was another Mary other than the mother of Jesus (not counting Mary Magdalene). This third Mary is the sister of Jesus' mother.

    Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. (John 19:25)

    It is unlikely that Mary's parents named two daughters by the name Mary yet we see two sisters both named Mary. This verse demonstrates that it was the common practice to use the word sister to refer to someone other than a daughter of the same mother. In like manner it is reasonable to expect that the word brother is used for relatives other than blood brothers.

    This supports the Catholic view that Jesus did not have siblings and that Mary remained a virgin for life.


Was Mary Born Sinless?


Protestant anti-Catholicstypically misrepresent this Catholic teaching. The Catholic church does not teach that:

Regarding Mary's sinlessness, the Catholic Church does teach that:

Links:


Was Mary a Virgin For Life?


In our modern culture we have a disdain for lifelong consecrated virginity. Yet that kind of life is supported by the Bible:

For I would that all men were even as I myself.... I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I.... He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord. (1 Corinthians 7:7,8,32)

The church has a long tradition of consecrated virginity. See Virginity

There is an early writing called the Protoevangelium of James which was written about 150 A.D. which declares that Mary was a virgin for life:

And the priest said to Joseph, Thou hast been chosen by lot to take into thy keeping the virgin of the Lord. But Joseph refused, saying: I have children, and I am an old man, and she is a young girl. (Para 9)

Joseph, whom thou didst vouch for, has committed a grievous crime. And the priest said: How so? And he said: He has defiled the virgin whom he received out of the temple of the Lord, and has married her by stealth. (Para 15)

It is interesting that there was such an interest in the topic at such an early date.


Is Devotion to Mary a Modern Invention?


Protestant anti-Catholicstypically represent devotion to Mary as a modern invention. However, it appeared quite early in church history. I will give a couple of examples to demonstrate this.

There is an early writing called the Protoevangelium of James which was written about 150 A.D. and is subtitled The Birth of Mary the Holy Mother of God, and Very Glorious Mother of Jesus Christ. It tells the story of Mary who was dedicated by her parents to lifelong service as a virgin in the temple:

I will bring it [the child Mary] as a gift to the Lord my God; and it shall minister to Him in holy things all the days of its life. (Para 4)

Even the Bible itself contains a passage which sets the tone for Catholic devotion to Mary.

And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.... And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne. (Revelation 12:1,2,5)

The literal meaning clearly refers to Mary and speaks of her in exalted terms.


Is this Topic Really Significant?


The Catholic doctrines of Mary are tightly integrated with other key doctrines, however, they are not central to the gospel message of salvation. Even so, this does not mean that they are unimportant, as they greatly enhance the devotional and spiritual life of Catholics.

Many fundamentalist Protestants think that unity with Catholics is possible only if Catholics would give up their Marian doctrines, but for Catholics such a thing is impossible. It would be like asking the Fundamentalists to give up their doctrines regarding the 1,000 yearmillennium.

It is ironic that the first generation of reformers had a devotion to Mary and that this was not one of their objections to Catholicism. Yet subsequent generations added the Marian doctrines to their growing list of differences with Catholicism.

The primary significance of the Marian doctrines in the Catholic-Protestant war is that Protestant anti-Catholicsmake too much of them. As I have demonstrated in this article (and another devoted to the topic) there is ample Biblical support for them and, therefore, it is unreasonable to declare out of hand that anyone who accepts them is a heretic. The offenders should stop using this to generate needless division within the body of Christ.


Immaculate Conception


According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Mary was "redeemed from the moment of her conception" and she was "preserved immune from all stain of original sin."

By God's grace, Mary was given the grace of being free from original sin which was lost to the human race by Adam and Eve's transgression. This special grace "comes wholly from Christ."

Some common misunderstandings about the Catholic teaching:

  1. That Mary is deity.
  2. That Mary is the source of her sinlessness.
  3. That this contradicts the passage that all have sinned. (Romans 3:23; 5:12)

Answers to these objections — What the Catholic Church teaches:

  1. That Mary is not God. Those who claim that she is God or that Catholics worship her are misrepresenting the teachings of the Catholic Church.
  2. That Mary's sinlessness was given to her by God as a gift. Mary is a created human. It is her role as mother of Christ which makes her special.

Links:


Mother of God


This doctrine is very easy to explain:

In spite of the obvious conclusion, many Protestant anti-Catholicsobject to this doctrine.

Catholics have an interesting perspective on the deity of Jesus. Most Protestants don't really think about Jesus much until he began His ministry at age thirty. (See Attitudes About Jesus). They think about him at his birth but consider him merely as a child who would someday develop into his full potential. And yes, they admit that he was deity even at birth but they only worship Jesus as an adult.

For Catholics, the Annunciation (Christ's conception in the womb of Mary) is a most significant event. At that moment the Word of God took on human nature and from that instant Jesus was worthy of our worship. In addition, he should be worshipped at all stages of His life — as a single-celled gamete; as a fetus; as a newborn child; as a twelve year old; and on into adulthood.

There are Catholic orders which relate strongly to the baby Jesus. The Rosary dedicates 25% of the prayer to Jesus before adulthood. In relating to Jesus in the context of His earthly family we will naturally spend time with His family — with Mary and Joseph. Most Protestants, however, think of Jesus as a single man without any family connection. (See Attitudes About Mary). But Jesus, the Son of God, spent at least half his life within the context of a close family. Certainly we should relate to Him in this context as well.

Since Jesus is God and took on human nature from Mary's human flesh, she is the Mother of God in a very concrete way. To deny Mary as the mother of God is to deny that the fleshly nature of Jesus was God just as much as His Divine nature. This was the error of the Gnostics and others who denied that God took on human nature as His nature.

Links:


Perpetual Virginity


This is the doctrine that Mary was a virgin for her whole life.

See Was Mary a Virgin For Life?

A common objection to this doctrine by Protestant anti-Catholicsis to focus on the word "until" in the following passage.

And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS. (Matthew 1:25)

The objection is that the word "until" implies that "after" the birth of Jesus, Mary did have other children. But the following verse demonstrates that using the word "until" in this way is not Biblical.

For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. (Romans 11:25)

Interpreting the word "until" in this manner would imply that when the fullness of the Gentiles comes in, then the blindness of Israel will be removed.

Interpreting the following passage with this use of the word until we would have to say that after heaven and earth passes, then the law will no longer be valid.

For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. (Matthew 5:18)

And are we to interpret the following to mean that once Jesus returns for judgment that then he will break a bruised reed?

A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory. (Matthew 12:20)

Links:


Assumption


Why it's not shocking:

The doctrine of the Assumption of Mary declares that when it was time for Mary to leave this earth she was assumed bodily into heaven. Most fundamentalist Protestants consider this to be a shocking idea. But it is not really so shocking when you consider the following:

I don't believe a resurrected body can reside in the spiritual realm, so neither Christ nor Mary possess one when in heaven. A resurrected body can only live in this current physical realm (as illustrated by Jesus after his resurrection) and in the future new heavens and new earth.

There is reference to this doctrine in 400 A.D. in a writing about the Assumption of Mary. A couple of short excerpts:

Thy assumption will be after three days.... Christ descended with a multitude of angels, and received the soul of His beloved mother.... The holy body was taken up by angels into heaven.

Note that this was written about the same time that the doctrine of the Trinity and the canon of Scripture were finalized.

Links:

Read quotes from the early church fathers.


Mediatrix & Co-redemptrix


Mary has a role in redemption by her cooperation with God's plan by agreeing to be the mother of the Messiah. In this sense she is the redeemer of the human race. If she had refused God's call there would not have been a redeemer. This in no way diminishes Christ's role as redeemer.

Mediatrix, co-redemptrix The prefix co- does not mean equal with God. Rather, it means that Mary has been given a role in which she participates in God's plan of redemption.

An analogy — If someone shares the gospel with you and you get saved as a result, that person in a sense is your redeemer. But calling them this does not mean we are attributing deity to them but, rather, that their actions contributed to our redemption and that we wouldn't have gotten saved without their involvement. Just so, Mary's obedient agreement to be the mother of God provided the possibility of redemption for all humanity. In this sense Mary is the redeemer just as a person who shares the gospel is a redeemer.


Devotion to Mary


Devotion to Mary can be found in the writings of the Early Church Fathers from a rather early date, as early as 200 A.D. Protestant anti-Catholicsoften claim that it is a very modern invention of the Catholic Church but this is not the case. Even the Protestant reformers had a devotion to Mary.

Links:

Read quotes from the early church fathers.


New Eve


Just as Eve in her disobedience caused humankind to lose its grace of freedom from original sin; so Mary as the new Eve by her obedience allowed the redeemer access to the world. This doctrine appears early in the writings of the Early Church Fathers:

He became man by the Virgin, in order that the disobedience which proceeded from the serpent might receive its destruction in the same manner in which it derived its origin. For Eve, who was a virgin and undefiled, having conceived the word of the serpent, brought forth disobedience and death. But the Virgin Mary received faith and joy, when the angel Gabriel announced the good tidings to her that the Spirit of the Lord would come upon her, and the power of the Highest would overshadow her: wherefore also the Holy Thing begotten of her is the Son of God; and she replied, "Be it unto me according to thy word."

Dialogue with Trypho, Justin Martyr, Chap. 100, 110-165 A.D.


Mother of the Church


The logic of this is as follows:

  1. Mary is the mother of Jesus.
  2. Believers in Christ are the body of Christ — and this is a mystical reality, not merely a symbol.
  3. The Church is this body of Christ.
  4. Therefore, Mary is the mother of the Church.

To deny this conclusion is to claim one of the following:

This is an area in which Protestant anti-Catholicstypically have not considered the consequences of their anti-Marian views.


Queen of Heaven


This doctrine is straight from the Bible; the woman clothed with the sun (Revelation 12)


Immaculate Heart


This is a Catholic devotion in which Mary's physical heart symbolizes her love for Jesus.

Typically Protestant anti-Catholicshave no understanding about mystical, meditative devotion and contemplative prayer so the topic of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is difficult for them to grasp. They will ask "where is that in the Bible" as if that's the only question required for every discussion.