Answering the rebuttals of a Catholic apologist, #34: “‘Queen of Heaven’ Condemned”

Today, we continue with our series responding to “Meeting the Protestant Challenge: How to Answer 50 Biblical Objections to Catholic Beliefs” (2019), written by Karlo Broussard. With this next installment, the Catholic apologist completes his five-chapter section on Mary as he disputes evangelical Protestants’ arguments that the notion of a “‘Queen of Heaven’ (is) Condemned.”

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The myth that Mary was crowned as “Queen of Heaven” following her “assumption” gained traction within Roman Catholicism in the 13th through 15th centuries. In his 1954 encyclical, Ad Caeli Reginam (“To the Queen of Heaven”), pope Pius XII formally defined the belief. Catholics believe Mary is co-ruler of Heaven, reigning beside Jesus Christ, as well as being Mediatrix and Co-Redemptrix. Protestant evangelicals object to this glorification/semi-deification of Mary as “Queen of Heaven” and often cite Jeremiah 7:17-18:

“Do you not see what they are doing in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem The children gather wood, the fathers kindle fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven. And they pour out drink offerings to other gods, to provoke me to anger.”

God was angered by the Jews of prophet Jeremiah’s time who committed idolatry by worshiping a pagan goddess (most probably Ashtoreth) as the “queen of heaven.” Evangelicals contend that Catholics commit similar idolatry by worshiping Mary as the “Queen of Heaven.”

Broussard responds with three arguments:

(1) Broussard posits that God’s disappointment with the Jews for their idolatrous worship of the pagan “queen of heaven” cannot be applied in the case of Catholics and Mary. Broussard claims that Catholics rightly “honor,” not worship, Mary, because of her “exalted place” as the “Mother of the Savior.” Broussard cites 1 Timothy 5:17 and 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 as Biblical precedents for rightly honoring individuals.

(2) Broussard then reasons that (A) just because a pagan goddess was illegitimately referred to as “queen of heaven,” (B) it doesn’t prove that Catholics can’t legitimately refer to Mary using the same title.

(3) Broussard refers back to the Old Testament for examples of queen mothers in 2 Chronicles 15:16 and Jeremiah 13:18. He acknowledges that, in both examples, the person spoken of is evil, but contends that does not detract from their legitimate royalty. Broussard argues that (A) since there were legitimate queen mothers in the Davidic Kingdom, then (B) “it’s reasonable to conclude that Mary is the new ‘queen mother’ in the restored Davidic kingdom” (p.189).

Let’s now respond to Broussard.

(1) Catholics strongly object to accusations that they worship Mary. They claim to “worship” (latrīa, Latin) God alone, but rightly accord “veneration” (dulia, Greek) to the saints and hyperdulia uniquely to Mary. This is lexical sophistry. No Catholic can precisely distinguish between latrīa and hyperdulia. Catholics pray to Mary as their Mediatrix and Co-Redemptrix for their salvation. Such practices are acts of WORSHIP. The honoring of pastors that the apostle Paul writes about in the two passages that Broussard presents as proof texts is certainly NOT the “honor” that Catholics bestow upon their semi-deified “Queen of Heaven.”

(2) I agree with Broussard’s contention that, in theory, the illegitimate usurpation of a title doesn’t ipso facto render the title to be illicit. However, nowhere in the New Testament do we find one verse that either explicitly or implicitly suggests that Mary is reigning as the “Queen of Heaven” and holding the divine offices of Mediatrix and Co-Redemptrix. All of these claims for Mary evolved over time as part of Catholic “Sacred Tradition.”

(3) Broussard’s attempt to leverage the existence of queen mothers in the Old Testament as a “reasonable” proof for Mary’s role as “Queen of Heaven” is grasping at straws. Broussard conveniently ignores all Biblical passages that state that God does not share His glory or throne with another.

“I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other.” – Isaiah 42:8

Keep in mind that half of Catholics’ “religious devotion” is directed towards Mary, in some cases even more so.

“For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.” – Isaiah 48:11

“‘And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’” – Luke 4:8

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – John 14:6

“Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne.” – Revelation 4:2

“Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” – Revelation 19:10

Mary humbled herself before God as His lowly servant (Luke 1:38), but Catholics have accorded her deific powers and crowned her co-regent of Heaven. We’ve previously discussed how Catholic Mariolatry is rooted in the syncretic adaptation of pagan mother goddess worship.

Who is the Queen of Heaven?
https://www.gotquestions.org/Queen-of-Heaven.html

Next up: “One Mediator”

Answering the rebuttals of a Catholic apologist, #33: “He Knew Her Not…Until”

Today, we continue with our series responding to “Meeting the Protestant Challenge: How to Answer 50 Biblical Objections to Catholic Beliefs” (2019), written by Karlo Broussard. With this next chapter, the Catholic apologist continues his section on Mary as he counters evangelical Protestants’ arguments that Mary was not a perpetual virgin because Scripture says, “He Knew Her Not…Until.”

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Celibate Roman Catholic clerics had a low regard for sexual relations within marriage and taught that Mary, their spotless “Queen of Heaven,” was a perpetual virgin.

“The deepening of faith in the virginal motherhood led the Church to confess Mary’s real and perpetual virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made man. In fact, Christ’s birth “did not diminish his mother’s virginal integrity* but sanctified it.” And so the liturgy of the Church celebrates Mary as Aeiparthenos, the “Ever-virgin.” – CCC 499.

Protestants counter by pointing to Matthew 1:25:

“but (Joseph) knew her not until she had given birth to a son.”

The verse indicates Mary and Joseph had normal marital sexual relations after Jesus was born. Broussard attempts to refute the Protestant interpretation with three rebuttals:

(1) Broussard posits that the word “until” (Greek – heōs) doesn’t necessarily signal a change in future status. As an illustration, Broussard offers the saying of one friend to another, “Be safe until I see you again.” The speaker in that case isn’t implying that his friend should be unsafe after they meet again.

(2) Broussard provides examples in Scripture where heōs – “until” or “to” – is used to indicate a select period of time without reference to change in the future, such as 1 Timothy 4:13, 1 Corinthians 1:8, and 2 Corinthians 3:15.

(3) Broussard argues that, framed in context with preceding verses, Matthew is “trying to persuade his audience (in Matthew 1:25) that Jesus’ conception and birth were miraculous, not to tell us what Mary did afterward” (p. 185).

Let’s now respond to Broussard.

Did you catch Broussard’s argumentation? He’s claiming that, paraphrasing Matthew 1:25, “Joseph didn’t have sex with Mary until she gave birth to Jesus” only means that Joseph didn’t have sex with Mary while she was pregnant, and doesn’t convey that he had sex with her afterwards.

We fully understand that heōs – “until” or “to” – doesn’t always indicate/signal a change in future status. But in the case of Matthew 1:25, the clearest interpretation is that Joseph and Mary began normal, marital relations after Mary gave birth to Jesus. Broussard’s argument that “but (Joseph) knew her not until she had given birth to a son” connotes the same lack of future change as “Be safe until I see you again” is lexical subterfuge.

Are there ANY Bible verses that either explicitly or implicitly teach that Mary was a perpetual virgin? No, there are not. The notion is based solely on Catholic tradition. We’ve previously discussed that the Bible teaches Jesus had multiple half-siblings. See here.

The Roman Catholic church’s low regard for natural sexual relations within marriage meant that Mary, the chaste and spotless Queen of Heaven, could never have been “soiled” by her husband. In contrast to Catholicism, the Bible honors the sexual union of husband and wife. The apostle Paul wrote under divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit that married believers ought not to withhold themselves from each other as the Roman church claims Mary and Joseph did.

“Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” – 1 Corinthians 7:5

*Included in the RCC’s doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity is the not-widely-known assertion that as she was giving birth to baby Jesus, He miraculously passed through her hymen without rupturing it, thus preserving her “virginal integrity.”

Is the perpetual virginity of Mary biblical?
https://www.gotquestions.org/perpetual-virginity-Mary.html

What does the Bible say about sex in marriage?
https://www.gotquestions.org/sex-in-marriage.html

Answering the rebuttals of a Catholic apologist, #32: “The Lord’s Brothers”

Today, we continue with our series responding to “Meeting the Protestant Challenge: How to Answer 50 Biblical Objections to Catholic Beliefs” (2019), written by Karlo Broussard. With this next chapter, the Catholic apologist continues his section on Mary as he attempts to counter evangelical Protestants’ argument that Mary was not a perpetual virgin because the Bible speaks of “The Lord’s Brothers.”

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Both Catholics and Gospel Christians teach the doctrine of Jesus Christ’s virgin birth, but Catholics believe that Mary remained a virgin in perpetuity. Evangelical Protestants believe Mary entered into normal marital relations with her husband, Joseph, following the birth of Jesus, pointing to such verses as Matthew 13:55:

“Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?”

The verse clearly shows that Mary bore Joseph children after the birth of Jesus.

Broussard attempts to answer Protestants’ objections with three arguments:

(1) Broussard references his Greek lexicon and points out that the Greek word translated as “brothers” in the above verse, adelphos, can mean biological, blood-brothers, but may also mean kinsmen, and can even refer to fellow-believers.

(2) Broussard points to Matthew 27:56, which refers to “Mary the mother of James and Joseph.” It’s accepted by all that the particular Mary referred to in Matthew 27:56 was not the mother of Jesus. Broussard then proposes that the James and Joseph mentioned in Matthew 27:56 are the very same James and Joseph cited in Matthew 13:55 and handily concludes that they were not, therefore, the blood-brothers of Jesus.

(3) Broussard argues that the dying Jesus would not have entrusted the care of His mother to the apostle John if she had had additional sons (John 19:26-27). Broussard includes an additional point with this argument, one that I’ve often heard from Catholic apologists. In her response to the angel Gabriel’s message that she would bear the Messiah, Mary asked, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34). Broussard claims that Mary’s incredulous response can only be interpreted to mean that she had already taken a vow of perpetual virginity during her and Joseph’s betrothal period.

Let’s now look at Broussard’s arguments, one by one.

(1) We agree with Broussard that adelphos does not necessarily refer to blood-brothers, but according to the context used in Matthew 13:55, Joseph-Mary-brothers, it’s reasonable to assume the reference is to biological brothers. Classical Greek did have a word for “cousin,” anepsios, but this word is never used for Jesus’s brothers in the New Testament Greek text. There are several references to Jesus’s brothers in the New Testament, including Matthew 12:46, Luke 8:19, and Mark 3:31. Catholics must ask themselves why these men, if they were only Jesus’s cousins, were so often in the company of His mother?

(2) The other gospel writers help to identity the other Mary, referred to in Matthew 27:56. John identifies her as the “wife of Clopas” (John 19:25) and Mark identifies her as the mother of the apostle known as James the Younger (Mark 15:40). Broussard flouts Scriptural evidence and leapfrogs reasonable hermeneutics by concluding that the James and Joseph referred to in Matthew 13:55 are the same James and Joseph of Matthew 27:56.

(3) Jesus Christ did not entrust His mother to the care of His half-brothers because they were not believers at the time of His death.

“For even his own brothers did not believe in him.” – John 7:5

Which leads us to one of the strongest proofs for the existence of Jesus’s biological half-brothers; verse 8 from the Messianic Psalm 69:

“I have become a stranger to my brothers, an alien to my mother’s sons.”

Broussard’s second point to this argument is irrational. Mary did not question angel Gabriel’s announcement that she would bear the Christ because she had taken a vow of perpetual virginity, as the Catholic apologist fancifully posits. She questioned the message, rather, because she had not yet entered into marital relations with her betrothed husband, Joseph. Catholics must twist Scripture like pretzels in order to concoct Mary’s supposed vow of perpetual virginity from Luke 1:34.

Another text evangelicals use to show Mary wasn’t a perpetual virgin is Matthew 1:25, “but (Joseph) knew her not until she had given birth to a son.” Broussard will attempt to refute that one next week.

My, my. Broussard and Catholicism in general expend a lot of time and energy on this claim for Mary’s perpetual virginity. Why is that? In the pagan religiosity that Catholicism adapted, virginity was viewed as a spiritually superior state (see the Vestal Virgin Wiki article here). Sex was viewed as base and even “dirty.” Catholics could not envision their semi-deified Queen of Heaven, their co-mediator and co-redemptrix, as having ever been “defiled” by Joseph on the marriage bed. Yet God’s Word states that the marriage bed is undefiled when honored (Hebrews 13:4).

Next up: “He Knew Her Not…Until”

Answering the rebuttals of a Catholic apologist, #31: “Mary Needed a Savior”

Today, we continue with our series responding to “Meeting the Protestant Challenge: How to Answer 50 Biblical Objections to Catholic Beliefs” (2019), written by Karlo Broussard. With this next chapter, the Catholic apologist continues his section on Mary as he counters evangelical Protestants’ arguments that “Mary Needed a Savior.”

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The Roman Catholic church teaches that Mary was not only initially preserved from original sin (aka a sin nature) at the moment of her alleged “immaculate conception,” but that she also “committed no sin of any kind during her whole earthly life” – CCC 411. Not so fast, object Protestants, who point to Luke 1:47 where Mary exclaimed,

“…my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”

Protestants rightly ask, How could Mary have exalted God as her Savior if she was sinless? This is a difficult verse for the Roman Catholic church and Broussard presents the church’s rationale. Fasten your seat belts.

The RCC agrees that God is Mary’s Savior, but in a “singularly unique way.” How so? Pope Pius IX posited the following:

“In view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, [Mary] was preserved free from all stain of original sin.”

Broussard elaborates, “Unlike we who are saved by the application of a past event, Mary was saved by the application of graces of a future event” (p. 174).

In plain English, Catholics argue that Mary was saved by God at the moment of her conception based upon the merits of Jesus’s future propitatory sacrifice and kept sinless by God’s grace, so that Mary could rejoice in her Savior, even though she was allegedly always without sin. Some Catholics also zealously advocate for the sinlessness of John the Baptist and Mary’s husband, Joseph, although the RCC has not officially ruled on those two cases.

Let’s now respond to Broussard.

  • Last week, we thoroughly discussed how Romans 3:10-12 precludes any exceptions to the Scriptural truth that “None is righteous, no, not one.” See here.
  • Nowhere in the New Testament is there a teaching of the preservation of anyone from sin as Roman Catholicism claims for Mary. The doctrine is a Roman fabrication.
  • If Mary was sinless, why did she go to the Temple to offer a sacrifice for her uncleanness in Luke 2:22? Broussard predictably omits any mention of that verse. See the article far below for more on this topic.
  • Why is it so important for Catholics that Mary be sinless? In Catholic theology, Mary was semi-deified and elevated to the offices of co-mediator and co-redemptrix, along with Jesus Christ. It followed that Mary had to have been sinless in order for her to hold those offices. The doctrine of Mary’s immaculate conception was eventually defined as binding Catholic dogma in 1854.
  • According to Catholic tradition, Mary’s mother was named Anne. If Mary had to have been sinless in order to bear Jesus Christ in her womb, as Catholics argue, it follows that Anne would also have had to been sinless to bear Mary, and that Anne’s mother would also have had to been sinless to bear her, etc., etc., etc.

Mary exalted her Savior because she was a sinner saved by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone, just like every other genuine Christian. She would be grieved to know how Catholics semi-deify her and worship her.

I hope you enjoyed the brevity of this chapter. It was Broussard’s shortest chapter up to this point.

If Mary was sinless, why was she unclean and had to offer a sacrifice for sin?
https://carm.org/catholic/mary-unclean-offered-sacrifice-for-sin

Next up: “The Lord’s Brothers”

Answering the rebuttals of a Catholic apologist, #30: “All Have Sinned”

Today, we continue with our series responding to “Meeting the Protestant Challenge: How to Answer 50 Biblical Objections to Catholic Beliefs” (2019), written by Karlo Broussard. With this next chapter and the four that follow, the Catholic apologist defends Catholicism’s “veneration” of Mary. In the first installment, Broussard attempts to counter evangelical Protestants’ insistence that Mary was not sinless with their argument from Scripture that “All Have Sinned.”

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Broussard begins the chapter by reiterating the Catholic teaching that “not only was Mary conceived without original sin, but she also remained free from personal sin throughout her life” (p. 168). He notes that evangelicals object to this doctrine by citing such proof texts as Romans 3:23:

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

How could Mary have been sinless when God’s Word clearly declares that all have sinned? Broussard presents three arguments:

(1) Broussard contends that while the Greek word, pas, translated as “all” in Romans 3:23 can mean “every single one without exception,” it can also be used in a non-absolute, hyperbolic sense, i.e., “intentional exaggeration to make a point.” Broussard then presents several examples in Scripture where “all” is used in a hyperbolic sense, including Matthew 2:3 and Matthew 3:5-6. But what about Romans 3:10-12 that also speaks of the sinfulness of all:

“As it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.’”

This passage precludes all possible exceptions with the clarifiers, “no, not one” and “not even one.” Broussard points out that the apostle Paul was quoting Psalm 14:2-3, in this passage, yet in v.5 that follows, David refers to the “generation of the righteous.” Broussard concludes, therefore, that the writers of Romans 3:23, 3:1-12, and Psalm 14:2-3 were employing non-absolute, hyperbolic speech.

(2) Broussard then presents two exceptions to an absolute interpretation of “all have sinned” that he claims Protestants are bound to agree with: (1) unborn babies and young children who have not yet reached the age of accountability and (2) Jesus Christ.

(3) In his final rejoinder, Broussard notes that Romans 3:23 is part of Paul’s larger argument involving all of Romans chapter 3, that salvation is obtained apart from the Law of Moses. Broussard asserts that Paul’s statement, “all have sinned,” in its proper context, refers not to individuals, but rather to sin being characteristic of both Jews and Gentiles.

Let’s now respond to Mr. Broussard.

(1) There’s no argument that pas/”all” in Romans 3:10 and also ouk/”none” and “no one” in Romans 3:10-12 can be used either as adjectives signifying absoluteness or as non-absolute hyperbole. However, Romans 3:10-12 includes the significant clarifiers; “no, not one” and “not even one.” Broussard attempts to dismiss these phrases, which clearly signify absoluteness, as hyperbolic speech with his appeal to Psalm 14:5, but evangelicals are not fooled. The Old Testament saints were “righteous” NOT because they were sinless, but because their hope for salvation was in God their Savior. In Romans 4, Paul writes that Abraham was righteous not because he was sinless, he surely wasn’t, but because of his faith/trust in God for salvation.

(2) Evangelicals believe, as the Bible teaches, that all people are born with a sin nature, but that God won’t hold children responsible for their sins until the age of accountability (see article far below). Jesus Christ on the other hand was/is the sinless God Man. He is the Exception to Romans 3:10 and 3:10-12 by His very nature. Can Broussard claim an advantage in his argument for Mary by presenting these two exceptions? He actually fails to mention another exception. Evangelicals are also hopeful that God will pardon the mentally disabled as mercifully as He will children who die before the age of accountability. However, the Mary we read of in the New Testament was neither a young child, mentally disabled, or Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God. In fact, Mary openly acknowledged she was a sinner in need of the Savior in Luke 1:47, “…and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” More on that specific topic next week.

(3) In Romans chapter 3, Paul certainly writes about the sinfulness of both Gentiles and Jews in general and their shared need of salvation in Jesus Christ by faith alone. However, the clarifiers “no, not one” and “not even one” in vv.10-12 clearly refer to individuals, not to groups.

In the chapters that follow, we’ll discuss why the false doctrine of Mary’s sinlessness is so vitally important to Roman Catholics.

Where do I find the age of accountability in the Bible?
https://www.gotquestions.org/age-of-accountability.html

Next week: “Mary Needed a Savior”

Throwback Thursday: The Immaculate Deception

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on October 15, 2015 and has been revised.

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The Catholic church likes to present itself as the holy repository and guardian of God’s unchanging truths, but even a casual study of the church’s history will quickly burst that bubble. This post will illustrate how “unchanging” Catholic truths have evolved over time.

God’s Word makes only relatively minor mention of Mary, so how did devotion to her within Catholicism grow to match and even eclipse the devotion offered to Jesus Christ? Capture112In the early years of Christianity, a fringe, heretical group called the Collyridians (from collyris, Greek: the ritual offering cakes used in goddess worship) adapted elements of pagan mother-goddess worship into the worship of Mary. Beginning in the late-300s, aspects of this Mariolatry began to creep into the mainstream church. Because Marian worship had no explicit support in the Bible or in the writings of the early church “fathers,” Marianists spawned their extra-biblical novelties with the syllogistic argument that since it was possible for God to do thus-and-thus regarding Mary, then He “must have.” Devotees were soon extolling Mary as the new Eve, Mary as a type of Elijah, Mary as Wisdom, Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant, Mary as God’s beloved spouse, etc., as they advanced the new Mary-goddess ideology. The common folk eagerly embraced Mother Mary as the “Christian” alternative to their former, beloved pagan mother goddesses. For information on the Collyridians and the pagan roots of Mariolatry see the excellent, “The Virgin: Mary’s Cult and the Re-emergence of the Goddess” (1976), by historian Geoffrey Ashe.

Marian devotion continued to grow within Catholicism and was flourishing by the Middle-Ages. Constantly pushing the envelope, her enthusiastic followers began to claim that Mary was born without sin, just as Christ was. Devotees could not conceive of Mary, the alleged “ark of the new covenant,” being a sinner yet carrying the sinless Jesus in her womb. Catholic religious orders routinely opposed each other on a wide variety of doctrinal issues and this evolving belief in the “immaculate conception” of Mary was no exception. The Franciscans strongly supported the notion of Mary’s immaculate conception while the Dominicans strongly opposed it. Dominicans Thomas Aquinas and Bernard of Clairvaux, who were both eventually canonized as “saints,” denied the theological novelty as did fellow Dominican “saint” and “mystic,” Catherine of Siena. Now here’s where it gets really interesting. Catherine claimed to have been visited by Christ many times and the church enthusiastically acknowledges those visits as authentic credentials of her sainthood. However, in 1377 Catherine asserted that Christ had visited her and personally informed her that Mary was NOT conceived without sin as the Franciscans and the others claimed! Click here for more information.

Over the centuries, opposition faded and popular demand for the official recognition of the doctrine of the immaculate conception reached a feverish pitch and was finally defined as binding dogma by pope Pius IX in 1854. As an official dogma of the church, Catholics are bound to believe Mary was born without sin. Denial of the dogma is a “mortal” sin and is alleged to incur eternal hell fire.

But who is right about the dogma of Mary’s immaculate conception? Is pope Pius IX correct or is the jesus apparition who visited “saint” Catherine in 1377 correct? If Catherine’s jesus was wrong about this issue, what else was he wrong about? The church canonized Catherine in 1461, although she did not believe in the dogma of the immaculate conception. So did God send her to hell in 1854 when the doctrine was officially defined? And whatever happened to the jesus who appeared to Catherine in 1377 and told her Mary was not immaculately conceived? Did he appear to other saintly mystics and give them erroneous information, also? Or was that jesus actually right about the immaculate conception and the pope wrong? If it was necessary for Mary to have been immaculately conceived in order to be the sinless “ark” of Jesus Christ, wouldn’t it logically follow that her mother, and grandmother, and great-grandmother and so on would also have had to been sinless as well?

Catholics around the world are compelled to “celebrate” the feast of the immaculate conception by attending mass on December 8th every year under threat of mortal sin, although the majority don’t. But Catholics still pray to Mary as their mediator and co-redeemer. Mary would be sorely grieved by the worship Catholics accord to her.

“And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” – Luke 1:46-47

“As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one.” – Romans 3:10

“But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” – Matthew 15:9

Catholicism’s Flying House!

The Miraculous Flying House of Loreto: Spreading Catholicism in the Early Modern World
By Karin Vélez
Princeton University Press, 2019, 292 pp.

4 Stars

About a month ago, as part of my Throwback Thursday series, I republished a post about the so-called Holy House located in Loreto, Italy. Catholic tradition has it that the small (13′ x 31′), stone structure was the childhood home of both Mary and Jesus in Nazareth in Judea and that angels miraculously transported the building, first to Trsat (in modern Croatia) in 1291. The inhabitants of that city were said not to have accorded the holy relic the proper degree of veneration, so the angels moved it to Recanati, Italy in 1294, and to an initial and then final location within Loreto in 1295. My those angels were quite capricious!

I had learned that a scholarly work on the “flying house” had recently been published and I discovered that our library had a copy much to my delight. Well, delight quickly turned to frustration as I began reading the book. The acadamese was as thick as pudding and I suspected the book was an expanded doctoral dissertation. A quick internet search confirmed that to be the case. Anyway, either my brain adapted to the affected pomposity or the author gradually toned it down because the last three-quarters of the book read pretty easily.

Okay, back to the “flying house” itself. The author barely examines the actual origins of the flying house myth, which she attributes to imaginative Catholics who had immigrated from Dalmatia (Croatia) to Recanati and Loreto. However, Vélez provides some fascinating information regarding the following:

  • Medieval Europe was awash with religious relics attributed to Jesus and Mary and claimed to have been brought from the Holy Land. Bishops and parish priests vied for the most spectacular relics. However, few relics could compete with the supposed house that both Jesus and Mary had allegedly inhabited.
  • The Holy House of Loreto myth was spread via the writings of influential 16th century Catholic writers. The pilgrimage destination of the Basilica della Santa Casa encompassing the Holy House, which was encased in an elaborate, carved marble “screen,” was largely completed by the end of the 16th century.
  • In that superstitious era, great spiritual powers were associated with relics. Pious pilgrims journeyed for hundreds of miles to view and possibly touch the relics. Vows were made and monies were contributed to the churches. It was big business. Evangelicals (and most modern Catholics) have no idea how popular pilgrimages once were as part of Catholicism. Many of the pilgrims to the Holy House scraped and collected dust from stone walls as a religious souvenir until the practice was prohibited. In a religion devoted almost exclusively to the sensory/tactile, a visit to the Holy House was to walk in the footsteps of the divine.
  • Another important relic, a painting of Mary attributed to Gospel writer, Luke, was initially displayed within the Holy House. Pilgrims journeyed to Loreto to view the painting as much as the Holy House. Inexplicably, the darkened painting was at some point replaced with a darkened statue of Mary and baby Jesus with no explanation. Luke was also claimed to have painted the famous Mary and Jesus icon located at Jasna Góra monastery at Częstochowa, Poland. Existing painted icons attributed to Luke number at least 28 (see here) although they are clearly different artistic styles.
  • Ignatius Loyola and the early Jesuits were champions of Marian veneration (i.e., worship) and adopted the Holy House of Loreto (174 miles from Rome) as their paramount Marian shrine. As part of their efforts to spread Catholicism throughout the world, they erected imitations of the Loreto flying house at several of their mission sites. While many of the painting and statue icons in Europe were purposely darkened to suggest antiquity as part of the relics charade, such as those at Loreto, in marked contrast no attempt was made to darken the icons created in Asia and the Americas because they clearly fell outside of the Medieval relics sham.

Despite its uniquely outrageous claim to contain the actual physical home of Mary and Jesus, the Basilica della Santa Casa was eventually eclipsed by other Marian shrines as pilgrimage destinations, such as those at Lourdes and Fatima. As a Catholic grammar school student, the nuns regaled us with tales of Lourdes and Fatima, but I don’t recall ever hearing about the Holy House of Loreto. No doubt the plausibility factor chipped away at confidence in the authenticity of this relic. Lourdes’ and Fatima’s apparition mythologies were safe and unassailable by comparison.

Although this book got off to a very slow start, I ended up really appreciating “The Miraculous Flying House of Loreto” for how it “deconstructed” Catholic relic “mythohistory” by example of the bogus flying house. The Holy House mythology and all of its trappings stands in marked contrast to the Gospel message of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.

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Above: In this fanciful mural, Mary with baby Jesus sits atop the Holy House as angels fly it up, up, and away.
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An ornately carved, marble shroud encases the alleged “Holy House” within the Basilica della Santa Casa in Loreto, Italy
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Pope Francis meditates inside the bogus “Holy House.” Note the icon of Mary and infant Jesus above the “altar.”
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The capricious flight of the “holy house” from (1) Nazareth, Palestine to (2) Trsat, Croatia, to (3) Recanati, Italy, to (4) two locations in Loreto, Italy.

Sociological forces that turned Lourdes into a national and continental phenomenon

The Happening at Lourdes: The Sociology of the Grotto
By Alan Neame
Simon and Schuster, 1967, 323 pp.

5 Stars

I recently submitted a post about the alleged Marian apparitions at the Massabielle Grotto in Lourdes, France in 1858 (see here), which prompted me to check our local library system to see if they had any books on the topic and found this fifty-two-year-old gem. Don’t let the age of the book dissuade you. Its revelations are still quite pertinent.

Author, Alan Neame, takes a very skeptical view of the Lourdes apparitions. Some of the cogent points include:

  • Fourteen-year-old Lourdes visionary, Bernadette Soubirous, had been thoroughly indoctrinated into Catholic Mariolatry and was quite familiar with the Marian myths that originated in the nearby towns of Bétharram and La Sallete, where Mary had allegedly appeared to two children just twelve years previous in 1846. The peasant folk of the French Pyranees region were steeped in religious superstition/cultism to a degree that would be shocking to a 21st century observer.
  • Devotees of the Lourdes cult often cite Bernadette’s claim that the apparition referred to herself as the “Immaculate Conception” during its sixteenth appearance as a proof of authenticity. Pope Pius IX had declared the Immaculate Conception of Mary as dogma only four years before in 1854 and they argue that Bernadette, an illiterate, could not possibly have learned of this dogma prior to the alleged visitation. The author points out that the Feast of the Immaculate Conception had been declared a Holy Day of Obligation one-hundred-and-fifty-years previous in 1708 by pope Clement XI and that all Catholics, especially those steeped in Mariolatry like the Soubirous family, were intimately aware of the doctrine.
  • French Catholic conservatives/traditionalists seized upon the Lourdes apparitions as a symbol of resistance to the militant secular state and the ongoing national political upheaval. The French National Pilgrimages (FNP) to Lourdes, which began in 1872, would become a rallying event for French political and religious conservatism. The rise of Lourdes as a national and European shrine coincided with the fall of the Papal States to the forces of Italian unification. Catholic conservatives from all across Europe would make the journey to Lourdes in symbolic support of the papacy and Roman Catholic traditionalism.
  • Interestingly, Bernadette Soubirous and all of the other Marian visionaries had contrasting versions of the apparition’s physical features and clothing.
  • After the apparitions were accepted as authentic by the church, the local parish priest, Dominique Peyramale, fought with the diocese to retain control of the grotto site. The apparition site eventually came under diocesan control and then the control of the French Catholic church. Credulous Lourdes devotees are oblivious to the “behind-the-scenes” ecclesiastical infighting among clerics over control of the apparition site that Neame examines with a good amount of detail.

Most evangelicals have no idea of just how popular pilgrimage destinations like Lourdes once were in Catholic-majority countries. In the small city (population: 13,946), there are still 200 souvenir shops and the second-highest number of hotel rooms in France after Paris. But the number of pilgrims has declined steeply in recent years. Lourdes used to boast of six million pilgrims per year only a decade ago, but the number is now half that.

“The Happening at Lourdes: The Sociology of the Grotto” is a revealing examination of the rampant cultic devotion to Mary that gripped Southwest France at the time of Bernadette’s alleged visions and of the forces that turned the Massabielle Grotto into a beloved symbol of religious and political traditionalism and conservatism in France and beyond. For anyone interested in the “back story” behind this “Mecca” of Marian cultism, this book is quite illuminating. Highly recommended.

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This old aerial photo shows the massive railroad facilities that were installed at Lourdes to handle the 16,000 pilgrims who descended upon the humble town daily. Those are all passenger trains. The grandiose Marian shrine complex (123 acres) in the distance is circled in yellow.

The Deception of Lourdes

There have been hundreds of purported appearances of Mary around the world over the centuries, but the Catholic church only officially recognizes a small number (16?). I would guess the two most famous alleged appearances were at Lourdes, France in 1858 and at Fatima, Portugal in 1917. There are VERY large shrines at both sites to accommodate the millions of pilgrims who visit each year. For the purpose of this post, let’s take a closer look at the alleged Lourdes apparition.

Fourteen-year-old, Bernadette Soubirous of Lourdes, the eldest daughter of a miller, claimed that a Marian apparition, which she named “Aquero” (translated “that which I am speaking of”), appeared to her eighteen times at the grotto of Massabiell (French-Bigorre dialect: ancient rock) between 11 February and 16 July 1858. The messages from the alleged apparition were simple, including the need for prayer and “penance.” As part of the sixteenth appearance, Aquero was alleged to have identified herself as the “Immaculate Conception.” Pope Pius IX had declared the immaculate conception of Mary as a dogma of the church only four years prior in 1854. When news of Bernadette’s allegations spread throughout the area, the local people were divided as to their authenticity, but some began to claim miraculous healings from the spring water at the grotto. The Catholic church launched an investigation and in 1862 ruled that the apparitions were authentic.

Bernadette joined a religious order, the Sisters of Charity, in 1866 and died in 1879 of tuberculosis at the age of thirty-five. Pope Pius XI canonized Bernadette as a saint in 1933. Her wax covered corpse, which is claimed to be “incorrupt,” is displayed at the Chapel of Saint Bernadette at the mother house of the Sisters of Charity in Nevers, France. The story of the alleged apparitions at Lourdes was actually made into a Hollywood film, “The Song of Bernadette” in 1943.

What to make of the Marian apparition at Lourdes and elsewhere? The purported entity never speaks of the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone, but always admonishes the visionary/visionaries to double-down in their attempts to merit their salvation, with exhortations for more and more prayer, penance, reliance on sacramentals (e.g., religious medals, rosary, holy water, scapulars), obedience to church authorities, and works-righteousness in general. Bernadette, like the other visionaries, was either a religious hysteric or a tool of a demonic entity. The bottom line for all of these apparitions is they encourage devotion and worship of Mary among pious Catholics. Six-million Catholics from around the world visit the shrine at Lourdes, France each year. Yes, folks, that’s 6,000,000 souls per year or 16,438 per day.

Out of curiosity, I checked Amazon to see if there was any commerce in the “holy water” of Lourdes and sure enough there were MANY examples (see photo above for just one example). Poor, credulous Catholics chase after apparitions that exhort them to work harder at meriting their salvation, while the genuine Good News! Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone, goes unheeded.

Below is just one example of the popular Mariolatrous views within Catholicism:

“God the Son imparted to his mother all that he gained by his life and death, namely, his infinite merits and his eminent virtues. He made her the treasurer of all his Father had given him as heritage. Through her he applies his merits to his members and through her he transmits his virtues and distributes his graces. She is his mystical channel, his aqueduct, through which he causes his mercies to flow gently and abundantly.” – from “Treatise on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin” by St. Louis de Montfort

In contrast, the Bible mentions nothing about Mary in connection with salvation.

“He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” – John 3:36

In fact, Mary is conspicuously missing in all of the epistles of the New Testament.

Are the apparitions of Mary really Mary?
https://carm.org/are-the-apparitions-of-mary-really-mary

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Postscript: Writing this post motivated me to check our local library system to see if they had any good examinations of the apparitions at Lourdes. Sure enough, they had “The Happening at Lourdes: The Sociology of the Grotto” (1967) by Alan Neame. I’m about one-third of the way through this very interesting book, which I will be reviewing down the road.

 

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Photo above: Catholic Mariolaters gather at the Massabiell grotto at Lourdes. Bernadette Soubirous claimed Mary appeared to her eighteen times in the rock cleft where a statue has been placed.

Was Mary really sinless?

Roman Catholicism teaches that Mary was conceived without original sin and lived a totally sinless life. Why do they teach such a thing? Because Mary holds such an exalted place in Catholicism and is claimed to share many of the offices of Jesus Christ (e.g., Advocate, Mediatrix, Co-Redemptrix, Channel of all Graces, etc.), Catholics argue she must necessarily have been sinless just as Jesus was since they allege she also played a role in redemption.

But doesn’t the Bible say all men are sinners?

“As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” – Romans 3:10-12

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” – Romans 3:23

How do Catholics get around those passages in defending the sinlessness of Mary?

A couple of weeks ago, I was listening to the 1/15/19 podcast of the “Called to Communion” Catholic talk radio show and apologist, David Anders (above photo), attempted to deftly sidestep Scripture’s clear and unambiguous teaching on the sinfulness of all mankind, including Mary. We begin at the 48:35 mark of the podcast:

Tom Price, show moderator: This (question) is from Andy, checking us out on Facebook. “My brother-in-law and I are discussing the sinlessness of Mary. He used Romans 3:23 as a proof-text that all have sinned, including Mary. How do I respond to that?”

David Anders: So Romans 3:23 says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. What’s Paul’s point in the argument? His purpose in writing the book of Romans is not to speculate on the doctrine of Mary. Mariology doesn’t enter into the thing at all. He’s talking about the grace and “Judential”* relationships in relation to the Law of Moses. It’s just not even concerned with Mariology. And we use this kind of language all the time in an imprecise way. I remember Colin Donovan (Catholic theologist) used this illustration when he said, “Everybody went to the ballgame.” Well, NOT EVERBODY went to the ballgame, but you know what he meant. Or “Nobody goes to that restaurant anymore because it’s too crowded” as Yogi Berra would say. This is just colloquial language in how St. Paul’s speaking. He’s not making an argument about Mariology one way or the other. If you want to go for Mariology go to the Gospel of Luke.

Tom Price: Yeah, and don’t get hung up on the word “all” in this particular case.

David Anders: Right.

We can all agree that people sometimes use “all” as a generality without meaning every specific case, but was that Paul’s intention in Roman 3:23? The “no, not one…not even one” of Romans 3:10-12 precludes Anders’ sophistry. Mary acknowledges she was a sinner in need of the Savior in Luke 1:47. She also offered up a sin offering along with a burnt offering in Luke 2:22-24. Yes, Mary was a sinner in need of the Savior as we all are. Catholic apologists must deviate from the precise and crystal clear meaning of Scripture in this example in order to justify their doctrine of the sinlessness of Mary.

*Anders routinely invents words during “Called to Communion” broadcasts, such as this example; “Judential.”