Wednesday, August 15, 2012



Today is the Feast of the Assumption in the Catholic Church so, naturally, I went to Mass this morning. The homily I heard from one of our deacons (I don’t know his name; for reasons that might become clear as you read this, we don’t go to what is still considered our parish much any more, opting to go to either my childhood church or to one of the other parishes in Naperville.) was deeply troubling to this Catholic, Christian, and devotee of Mary the mother of Jesus.

The deacon started off by saying that the Assumption was defined, and the Feast declared, in 1950 by Pius XII, who was speaking ex Cathedra (i.e., with Papal infallibility) in making the declaration. He also pointed out that this was the first ex Cathedra declaration by a pope since 1854, when Pius IX defined the Immaculate Conception. He was right on both counts. But what he said next was shocking, and, while I don’t have a photographic memory and wasn’t writing anything down, I can quote with only the risk that perhaps an article or two may have been changed:

Here we have the nucleus of our faith.”

Huh? The nucleus of our faith, at least as I understand it, is that Jesus Christ is true God and true man, born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, that Jesus is the second Person of the Holy Trinity, that He died for our sins, and rose from the dead, and that, by faith in Him and in His resurrection, we have been granted eternal salvation with Him in heaven. (Some Catholics might argue with the section of that sentence after the comma.) That is the nucleus of our faith; from that nucleus spreads plenty more. But the nucleus of our faith is neither the Immaculate Conception nor the Assumption; they are among the other things that spread from the nucleus of our faith. Indeed, the Church was around, and souls were being saved through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, for over 1,800 years before the first of those doctrines was declared.

The deacon went on to say that, again, closely quoting:

Many of our brother Christians accuse us, wrongly, of worshipping Mary, but this is untrue. Worship is reserved for God.”

Right on both counts: We don’t worship Mary (though I suspect a lot of Catholics don’t know that.); we venerate Mary. A nuance, maybe, but an important one. And, correct, many Protestants do accuse us of worshipping Mary, but one can see how they might think that we do.

Then came the real whopper, enough to make me say “C’mon!” in a sufficiently hushed tone to be polite but to be audible by those around me. The deacon said, again closely quoting:

Many of our brother Christians say ‘There is nothing special about Mary.’”


Which Protestants say “There is nothing special about Mary”? Maybe, and only maybe, one might be able to find some backwoods, spin-off, rogue fundamentalist sect in the backwoods somewhere that might say things like “There is nothing special about Mary,” but “many of our brother Christians”? C’mon! One of the foundations of the Reformation, and hence of virtually all Protestant faiths, is sola scriptura, roughly translated “The Scripture Alone” or “Only the Scripture,” and it holds that the Scripture alone is the foundation of our faith. According to sola scriptura, Church tradition plays no role in the faith, contrary to what we Catholics believe.

Hence the Protestant faiths adhere to the Bible with varying degrees of strictness. Anyone who adheres to the Bible has read the first few chapters of Luke and Matthew and John 19: 26-27 and thus thinks that there is plenty that is special about Mary.

The Protestants clearly differ with us in our approach to Mary, and there is plenty to debate about her role in our faith and in our lives. Setting up straw men does nothing to advance that debate.

I have had a lifelong devotion to Mary, the mother of Jesus, but that does not mean that those who don’t are somehow deficient in their dedication to her Son. And I strongly suspect that Mary is not happy about her being used as a cudgel with which to beat our fellow Christians over the head.

For more of my thoughts on politics and the ironies that permeate life, along with a healthy dose of what some call cynicism but I call realism, see my other posts on The Insightful Pontificator.

For more of my thoughts on political issues, see Mighty Insights at Rant Politics.

For some of my thoughts on financial issues, see Mighty Insights at Rant Finance.

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