This is a response to Matt Slick the Founder of CARM about His criticisms of Christ’s Church in a series of criticisms of the Church that he is currently posting. Mr. Slick does not allow the copying of his entire article so I will take excerpts of his criticisms and refute his claims. For the purpose of this commentary Mr. Slick’s writing will be in italics and mine will be in bold. The name of this first article is:
Mary the subject of preaching and worship
In this edition of the series critical of Catholic teaching Mr. Slick quotes the following as His target to refute Catholic teaching:
From Vatican Collection Volume 1, Vatican Council II, The Conciliar and Post Conciliar documents. General Editor Austin Flannery, O.P. New revised edition 1992; Costello publishing company, Northport, New York. 1992 pages 420-421 (par. 65)
65. But while in the most Blessed Virgin the church has already reached that perfection whereby she exists without spot or wrinkle (cf. Eph. 5:27), the faithful still strive to conquer sin and increase in holiness. And so they turn their eyes to Mary who shines forth to the whole community of the elect as the model of virtues. Devoutly meditating on her and contemplating her in the light of the Word made man, the Church reverently penetrates more deeply into the great mystery of the Incarnation and becomes more and more like her spouse. Having entered deeply into the history of salvation, Mary, in a way, unites in her person and re-echeos the most important doctrines of the Faith: and when she is the subject of preaching and worship she prompts the faithful to come to her son, to his sacrifice and to the love of the Father. Seeking after the glory of Christ, the Church becomes more like her lofty type, and continually progresses in faith, hope and charity, seeking and doing the will of God in all things. The Church, therefore, in her apostolic work too, rightly looks to her who gave birth to Christ, who was thus conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin, in order that through the church he could be born and increase in the hearts of the faithful. In her life the Virgin has been a model of that motherly love with which all who joined in the church's apostolic mission for the regeneration of mankind should be animated.
IV. THE CULT OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN IN THE CHURCH1
66. Mary has by grace been exalted above all angels and men to a place second only to her Son, as the most holy Mother of God who was involved in the mysteries of Christ: she is rightly honored by a special cult in the Church. From the earliest times the Blessed Virgin is honored under the title of Mother of God, whose protection the faithful take refuge together in prayer in all their perils and needs. Accordingly, following the Council of Ephesus, there was a remarkable growth in the cult of the people of God towards Mary, in veneration and love, in invocation and imitation, according to her own prophetic words: "all generations shall call me Blessed, because he that is mighty hath done great things to me," (Luke 1:48).
Mr. Slick numbers his criticisms and in #1 He says the following:
“Catholic teaching that Mary was sinless, Mary herself admitted that God was her savior. A sinless person does not need a savior. It is in the person of Jesus that grace and truth (and virtue) are best exemplified. Our eyes should be kept on him.”
I especially liked the leap of logic made by Mr. Slick that a sinless person does not need a Savior. Seems to me that a sinless person already has been prepared by the Savior. I would like to see book, chapter and verse on this theological proclamation but I think the purpose of this rather odd speculation is to present to the reader a straw man to ponder and to argue against. Certainly despite Mr. Slick’s false innuendo Catholic teaching is that all needed a Savior. And the blessed mother of God never denies her Savior and always points to Him as our source of salvation. The Church agrees with her that Jesus is the beginning and the end of our salvation.
Now let's look at the issue of blessed mother's sinless nature. Consider that when the angel addresses the blessed mother at the annunciation, the greeting is almost a name change:
"Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women" (Luke 1:28, KJV).
Mary (Miriam in Hebrew) means "beloved." In biblical times a person's name reflected what they were. Name changes have great theological significance in the Bible and this is almost as if her name is being changed from "beloved" to "thou that art highly favored." Since this is before Jesus has been conceived, to what is the angel referring? No doubt to her singular devotion to God, forsaking all earthly distractions and desecrations, and the fact that she had been conceived without sin in preparation for this event.
Being conceived without sin does not mean that the blessed mother had no need of a redeemer. In fact, like every descendant of Adam, the blessed mother had vital need of a redeemer. The blessed mother's freedom from original sin was an unmerited gift of God in that she was redeemed by Christ at the moment of her conception. It is at the moment of conception that God creates the soul and hers was created in a state of sanctifying grace. If you had the opportunity to create your mother, wouldn't you make her perfect in every way? This is why there are the doctrines of the perpetual virginity and Immaculate Conception of Mary.
Jesus refers to the blessed mother's sinless nature when He addresses her as "woman" in John 2:4 and 19:26. Today, one looks at Him addressing her in this manner and thinks this is disrespectful or that He is admonishing her. In fact, the blessed mother was not the first sinless woman; Adam's wife was also created sinless. When she was first created, Adam named her "woman" (Genesis 2:23). It was after the fall, when she was no longer sinless, that her name was changed to "Eve" (Genesis 3:20).
By referring to the blessed mother as "woman," Jesus is recognizing her sinless nature. Like I said earlier, name changes in Holy Scripture are important.
“"Spouse"? Still researching to discover what is meant. The Catholic church doesn't seem to be too clear on this.”
She is the bride of the Church as she was given to the Church from the cross when Jesus said to St. John, “behold your mother”. Nothing theologically sinister here as you seem to suspect.
“It goes without saying that the countless images of Mary strewn throughout Catholic churches all over the world, are most assuredly shrines of idolatry since thousands of times a day Catholics over the world break the commandment of God by bowing before these images in worship.”
Of all of anti-Catholic bigoted claims this has got to be one of the most ridiculous I hear and of course this is another awkward attempt to build a straw man to refute. The straw man is that Mr. Slick assumes that Catholic teaching supports idolatry and that the Catholic faithful are following the teaching of the Church by indeed being idolatrous. I guess Mr. Slick is assuming that when someone kneels to pray near an object that they are worshiping that object or praying to it. It is as if he can read the thoughts of another. The truth is that he cannot find a Catholic that would do such a thing. Just to point out how ridiculous this assumption is let me use an appropriate example of my personal prayer practice. Each morning when I arise I kneel beside my bed to start my daily prayers. To Mr. Slick, using his thought processes, he would call my bed a shrine and my actions as worship of my bed, thus idolatry and label me as an idolater. By the way Mr. Slick, I kneel to pray to God beside my bed.
I guess we could not call Mr. Slick an art lover or perhaps he just cannot tell the difference between religious art and an idol. The Bible gives us a very clear example of an idol in the story of the golden calf made by the Israelites. The really believed this object they had created to be a God. No Catholic believes a object ot be a God because to do so they would cease to be Catholic because the teaching of the Church forbids in no uncertain terms the practice of idolatry. This is the official teaching of the Church relating to idolatry from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
III. "YOU SHALL HAVE NO OTHER GODS BEFORE ME"
2110 The first commandment forbids honoring gods other than the one Lord who has revealed himself to his people. It proscribes superstition and irreligion. Superstition in some sense represents a perverse excess of religion; irreligion is the vice contrary by defect to the virtue of religion.
2111 Superstition is the deviation of religious feeling and of the practices this feeling imposes. It can even affect the worship we offer the true God, e.g., when one attributes an importance in some way magical to certain practices otherwise lawful or necessary. To attribute the efficacy of prayers or of sacramental signs to their mere external performance, apart from the interior dispositions that they demand, is to fall into superstition.41
2112 The first commandment condemns polytheism. It requires man neither to believe in, nor to venerate, other divinities than the one true God. Scripture constantly recalls this rejection of "idols, [of] silver and gold, the work of men's hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see." These empty idols make their worshippers empty: "Those who make them are like them; so are all who trust in them."42 God, however, is the "living God"43 who gives life and intervenes in history.
2113 Idolatry not only refers to false pagan worship. It remains a constant temptation to faith. Idolatry consists in divinizing what is not God. Man commits idolatry whenever he honors and reveres a creature in place of God, whether this be gods or demons (for example, satanism), power, pleasure, race, ancestors, the state, money, etc. Jesus says, "You cannot serve God and mammon."44 Many martyrs died for not adoring "the Beast"45 refusing even to simulate such worship. Idolatry rejects the unique Lordship of God; it is therefore incompatible with communion with God.46
2114 Human life finds its unity in the adoration of the one God. The commandment to worship the Lord alone integrates man and saves him from an endless disintegration. Idolatry is a perversion of man's innate religious sense. An idolater is someone who "transfers his indestructible notion of God to anything other than God."47
I like most Catholics want to laugh when Protestants claim that Catholics worship statues. To a Catholic that is pure nonsense and ignorance. The thing is that we Catholics actually agree with Protestants that idolatry is condemned. However, what Catholics realize and Protestants fail to understand, perhaps because of their hatred for anything Catholic, is that God does not prohibit religious images when used properly. An example is the following:
(Exo 25:1 DRB) And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying:
(Exo 25:18 DRB) Thou shalt make also two cherubims of beaten gold, on the two sides of the oracle.
(Exo 25:19 DRB) Let one cherub be on the one side, and the other on the other.
(Exo 25:20 DRB) Let them cover both sides of the propitiatory, spreading their wings, and covering the oracle, and let them look one towards the other, their faces being turned towards the propitiatory wherewith the ark is to to be covered.
(Exo 26:1 DRB) And thou shalt make the tabernacle in this manner: Thou shalt make ten curtains of fine twisted linen, and violet and purple, and scarlet twice dyed, diversified with embroidery.
Here God is saying that religious images are pleasing.
God speaks of how Aaron’s vestments should be adorned:
(Exo 28:33 DRB) And beneath at the feet of the same tunic, round about, thou shalt make as it were pomegranates, of violet, and purple, and scarlet twice dyed, with little bells set between:
(Exo 28:34 DRB) So that there shall be a golden bell and a pomegranate, and again another golden bell and a pomegranate.
God tells Moses to make a graven image of a snake to cure snakebites and when the people started worshipping it the king destroyed it:
(Num 21:8 DRB) And the Lord said to him: Make a brazen serpent, and set it up for a sign: whosoever being struck shall look on it, shall live.
(Num 21:9 DRB) Moses therefore made a brazen serpent, and set it up for a sign: which when they that were bitten looked upon, they were healed.
(2Ki 18:4 DRB) He destroyed the high places, and broke the statues in pieces, and cut down the groves, and broke the brazen serpent, which Moses had made: for till that time the children of Israel burnt incense to it: and he called its name Nohestan.
Notice what god said concerning the temple:
(1Ki 6:12 DRB) As for this house, which thou art building, if thou wilt walk in my statutes, and execute my judgments, and keep all my commandments, walking in them, I will fulfil my word to thee, which I spoke to David thy father.
(1Ki 6:13 DRB) And I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel, and I will not forsake my people Israel.
(1Ki 6:14 DRB) So Solomon built the house, and finished it.
Solomon’s temple was adorned with graven images and statues:
(1Ki 7:25 DRB) And it stood upon twelve oxen, of which three looked towards the north, and three towards the west, and three towards the south, and three towards the east: and the sea was above upon them, and their hinder parts were all hid within.
(1Ki 7:36 DRB) He engraved also in those plates, which were of brass, and in the corners, cherubims, and lions, and palm trees, in likeness of a man standing, so that they seemed not to be engraven, but added round about.
The Scriptures tell us that Solomon’s wisdom came from God:
(1Ki 3:1 DRB) And the kingdom was established in the hand of Solomon, and he made affinity with Pharao, the king of Egypt: for he took his daughter, and brought her into the city of David: until he had made an end of building his own house, and the house of the Lord, and the wall of Jerusalem round about.
(1Ki 3:2 DRB) But yet the people sacrificed in the high places: for there was no temple built to the name of the Lord until that day.
(1Ki 3:3 DRB) And Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the precepts of David, his father; only he sacrificed in the high places, and burnt incense.
(1Ki 3:4 DRB) He went therefore to Gabaon, to sacrifice there: for that was the great high place: a thousand victims for holocausts, did Solomon offer upon that altar, in Gabaon.
(1Ki 3:5 DRB) And the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, saying: Ask what thou wilt that I should give thee.
(1Ki 3:6 DRB) And Solomon said: Thou hast shewed great mercy to thy servant David, my father, even as he walked before thee in truth, and justice, and an upright heart with thee: and thou hast kept thy great mercy for him, and hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day.
(1Ki 3:7 DRB) And now, O Lord God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David, my father: and I am but a child, and know not how to go out and come in;
(1Ki 3:8 DRB) And thy servant is in the midst of the people which thou hast chosen, an immense people, which cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude.
(1Ki 3:9 DRB) Give therefore to thy servant an understanding heart, to judge thy people, and discern between good and evil. For who shall be able to judge this people, thy people, which is so numerous?
(1Ki 3:10 DRB) And the word was pleasing to the Lord, that Solomon had asked such a thing.
(1Ki 3:11 DRB) And the Lord said to Solomon: Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life nor riches, nor the lives of thy enemies, but hast asked for thyself wisdom to discern jndgment;
(1Ki 3:12 DRB) Behold I have done for thee according to thy words, and have given thee a wise and understanding heart, in so much that there hath been no one like thee before thee, nor shall arise after thee.
(1Ki 3:13 DRB) Yea, and the things also which thou didst not ask, I have given thee; to wit, riches and glory: so that no one hath been like thee among the kings in all days heretofore.
(1Ki 3:14 DRB) And if thou wilt walk in my ways, and keep my precepts and my commandments, as thy father walked, I will lengthen thy days.
(1Ki 3:15 DRB) And Solomon awaked, and perceived that it was a dream: and when he was come to Jerusalem, he stood before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and offered holocausts, and sacrificed victims of peace offerings, and made a great feast for all his servants.
(1Ki 3:16 DRB) Then there came two women that were harlots, to the king, and stood before him.
(1Ki 3:17 DRB) And one of them said: I beseech thee, my lord, I and this woman dwelt in one house, and I was delivered of a child with her in the chamber.
(1Ki 3:18 DRB) And the third day after I was delivered, she also was delivered; and we were together, and no other person with us in the house; only we two.
(1Ki 3:19 DRB) And this woman's child died in the night: for in her sleep she overlaid him.
(1Ki 3:20 DRB) And rising in the dead time of the night, she took my child from my side, while I, thy handmaid, was asleep, and laid it in her bosom: and laid her dead child in my bosom.
(1Ki 3:21 DRB) And when I arose in the morning, to give my child suck, behold it was dead: but considering him more diligently, when it was clear day, I found that it was not mine which I bore.
(1Ki 3:22 DRB) And the other woman answered: It is not so as thou sayst, but thy child is dead, and mine is alive. On the contrary, she said; Thou liest: for my child liveth, and thy child is dead. And in this manner they strove before the king.
(1Ki 3:23 DRB) Then said the king: The one saith, My child is alive, and thy child is dead. And the other answereth: Nay; but thy child is dead, and mine liveth.
(1Ki 3:24 DRB) The king therefore said: Bring me a sword. And when they had brought sword before the king,
(1Ki 3:25 DRB) Divide, said he, the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other.
(1Ki 3:26 DRB) But the woman, whose child was alive, said to the king; (for her bowels were moved upon her child) I beseech thee, my lord, give her the child alive, and do not kill it. But the other said: Let it be neither mine nor thine; but divide it.
(1Ki 3:27 DRB) The king answered, and said: Give the living child to this woman, and let it not be killed; for she is the mother thereof.
(1Ki 3:28 DRB) And all Israel heard the judgment which the king had judged, and they feared the king, seeing that the wisdom of God was in him to do judgment.
God was not displeased by what Solomon had done:
(1Ki 9:3 DRB) And the Lord said to him: I have heard thy prayer and thy supplication, which thou hast made before me: I have sanctified this house, which thou hast built, to put my name there for ever; and my eyes, and my heart, shall be there always.
The question to those of you who condemn Catholic practices in regards to images is why with the evidence that images can please God when they order our minds towards God you condemn them when God is pleased. After all Christ Himself is called the image (eikon) of the invisible God:
(Col 1:15 DRB) Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature.
“We should look to Christ alone. When you take your eyes off of Jesus and put them on anything else, or anyone else, you will be led astray.”
Certainly Catholic Christians would not disagree in any way to the statement you made but you obviously make this criticism to present another straw man that suggests that Catholic Christians look to another source for salvation or that devotion to the blessed mother of God somehow, although not specified, takes away from our devotion to Christ. The truth is the reason we admire the blessed mother is because she represents one who has achieved what we have hope for both in her devotion to her Son and in always focusing humanity on Her Son she reminds us of the true source of salvation. You further accuse the blessed mother of God of leading men astray but in reality nothing could be further from the truth.
“Where does it say that Mary was exalted above angels and men second only to her son? This would mean that Mary is just under Jesus, the creator of the universe, in position. Vatican II's comments are not biblical. This teaching can not be found in Scripture and should be abandoned.”
I guess in your opinion it is wrong for one to read the Bible and come to theological conclusions. Yes, the blessed mother of God was exalted above all creatures by being chosen to be the God bearer and by saying yes to God she became the model or aspiration of obedience for all humanity. From mankind’s perspective it is right that she would be the most honored of all men below Jesus who was not only fully God but fully man as well. This is not a contradiction to Scripture but instead reasonable and in the case of it being the teaching of the authoritative Church, it is inspired teaching. The only way one could miss this teaching in Scriptures is to not go to the Scriptures to learn but instead to go to them to support their suppositions.
“The human nature took its biological essence from Mary. The divine nature is from God. But we have to be careful here. Mary is, however, the mother of the person of Christ who has two natures: divine and human. So, in that sense she can be said to be the mother of God.”
It is good to see you agreeing with the Church who defined these doctrines. There is a danger in attacking the blessed mother of God but also there is a danger in bearing false witness against the Church as this is a prohibition in the Decalogue. Building straw men is a common practice among anti-Catholics towards the Church and is a classic method used to bear false witness.
People do not realize that to attack the blessed mother is to also attack the atoning work of the father for mankind who sent His only Son for the sins of the world. He was born of a perfect vessel that was fitting for God and the Savior of the world, which was the blessed virgin who remained undefiled by man her whole saintly life. It is to her that we look to pattern our devotion to Christ as it is her that led a perfect life of devotion to Her Son, always pointing humanity to Him as the path to Salvation. She is the mother of the Church as Jesus at the Cross not only gave into her St. John but also to the Church. Jesus said to St. John and thus to the whole Church behold your mother. Likewise she was given the responsibility in eternity to be the mother us all. This is the closest of familial relationships which is for those who are “In Christ”. Just as God says to man, I am yours you are mine to believers, so to does He illustrate this relationship with His words from the Cross. This is why Christians from the beginning have called the blessed Mother of God, our mother. While one may be in the invisible church without this relationship with the blessed mother one cannot be of the Church and in God’s will without the fullness of the relationship which our Savior Has established through His grace for us all who are His.
One cannot reject the blessed mother without rejecting Her Son and the Church that He established with Himself as the cornerstone and the apostles as the 12 foundation stones, who themselves will sit in judgment of the twelve tribes of Israel. It is the structure built on these stones that ensures the endurance of His Church for all times as He promised. It is not a faith built on sand where one can attack those in His family in the most vicious, hideous and indeed, hellish of ways without suffering the eternal punishment of not only the separation of God but also the eternal pain and fires of hell in the company of Satan and all His minions, those seduced by Satan as Jesus said who would cry “Lord, Lord” and then be told that He never knew them and be thrown into the eternal fires designed not for them, as Jesus came to draw all men to Him for eternity, but for Satan and those in a familial unrepentant relationship where they do Satan’s will instead of the will of the Father. Woe to those who never knew Him and who have condemned themselves.
It is sad when one becomes so worldly that they cannot even recognize the heavenly and reject the example of the saints who have gone before who have suffered for their faith. Imagine the blessed mother of God at the foot of the cross watching her Son being defiled in the most brutal and humiliating way knowing that He is innocent of the charges against Him and deserving of all praise of mankind. It was such a horrible scene that even the followers, except the ladies who followed our Lord and the blessed St. John, were the only ones present at His sacrifice. No one else could bear it, either out of fear for retribution or out of love for the one they had followed for so long and learned that He was the Godman and the Savior of the world. St. Peter said it best at Capernaum, “where else can we go as you have the Words of eternal life” when they did not fully understand what He meant from His “hard teaching’ which is made clear on the cross when He said, “It is consummated after drinking the final cup of blessing from the hyssop branch. “It is finished” (consummated) meant that His atonement was just beginning bringing humanity into His presence of the New Covenant and out of the Old familial relationship of the Old Covenant. It was truly realized a few days later when He arose to fulfill prophecy as the final sign of the fulfillment of prophecy. The door is opened to heaven.
The blessed mother when referred to by our Lord as “woman” relates to her importance in the salvific plan of our father. It is her act of devotion and obedience that crushed the head of the Serpent (Satan) and defeated his plan for the condemnation of man. Sin entered the world through Eve and Satan and sin was defeated by the blessed Mother of our Lord. If she is not in heaven and saved by our Lord then there is no hope for us for none of us can ever reach the devotion and obedience of the one who is called by the angel of God the most blessed among women and consequently the most blessed of all humanity past, present and future. So do not let those who attack our mother defeat our hope in her Son and His promise for which His sacrifice has provided. May the Lord have mercy on those who do the work of Satan. God bless!
The writing in italics are taken from the CARM website where thy can be viewed in their entirety and are the writings of Matt Slick here: