Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Is Mary more compassionate than Jesus? - Part I

Recently, one of my brothers in Christ asked me to confirm that Roman Catholics view Mary, practically speaking, as more compassionate than Jesus. If one does a search for the phrase "more compassionate than Jesus" one will not find a conciliar document - or probably even a papal encyclical.

One will encounter certain testimonials, such as this one: "I was taught as a RC youngster that approaching Mary was "easier" than approaching Jesus because she was more compassionate than Jesus was/is," (link) but these may be easily dismissed by RC apologists as being merely faulty memories of youth (though I suppose many folks would be able to confirm that they too were taught such a view of Mary). Likewise one may find a phrase like "more compassion than Jesus" from questionable internet apologists (example) who oppose Catholicism.

Nevertheless, there are also other ways in which inappropriate devotion to Mary can be seen in Roman Catholic writings. For example, this site (link - caution - images) provides prayers of "reparation" to be made to Mary for "Blasphemy against the Blessed Virgin Mary"! I wish I were joking, but I am not.

But this is not a post specifically about Mariolatry (as evidenced by the very idea that Mary is capable of being "blasphemed") but more specifically about the supposed greatness of Mary's compassion. In the prayer there to Mary, the writer calls her: "the Immaculate Virgin and most compassionate Mother of God." Now, we could chalk this up to simply flattery of Mary in the hopes of getting her favor, but the question remains: is she is truly "most compassionate"? Is not Jesus more compassionate?

Someone might argue that "most" is simply being used as synonym for "very." While this cannot be totally ruled out, consider whether we would interpret the other extreme comments in the prayer as equally hyperbolic. Would we consider "immaculate" as simply meaning "very pure"? Would we interpret "Most glorious Virgin Mary" to mean that she was only "very glorious"? Would we interpret "most holy Mother" to mean that she was only "very holy"? And what about the appellation "the supreme comforter of the afflicted" -- shall we interpret that in the prayer to mean only a very good good comforter of the afflicted? Surely, when we consider he phrase in context, it seems to be meant to be taken literally, as though there is no greater comforter of the afflicted, no more glorious person, and that she is totally free of sins.

But let us turn to a book. This book is called, "The Glories of Mary," and was originally written in Italian by "St." Alphonsus de Liguori, founder of the "Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer," and was translated into English by a "Father" of that congregation. The book was approved and commended by Achbishop Wiseman of Westminster.

Under Section II - Mary is the Hope of Sinners, the following example and prayer are provided (pp. 97-99):
Blessed John Herold, who out of humility called himself the Disciple, relates, that there was a married man, who lived at enmity with God. His wife, who was a virtuous woman, being unable to engage him to give up sin, begged him, in the wretched state in which he was, to practise at least the devotion of saluting our Blessed Lady with a 'Hail Mary,' each time that he might pass before her picture. He began to do so. One night this wretched man was on his way to commit a crime, when he perceived a light at a distance: he drew near to see what it was, and found that it was a lamp, burning before a devout picture of Mary, holding the child Jesus in her arms. He at once, according to custom, said the 'Hail Mary." In the same moment, he beheld the Divine Infant covered with wounds, from which fresh blood was streaming. Terrified, and at the same time, moved to compassion, at this sight, he reflected that it was he, who, by his sins, had thus wounded his Redeemer. He burst into tears, but the Divine infant turned his back to him. Filled with shame, he appealed to the most Blessed Virgin, saying : 'Mother of Mercy, thy Son rejects me: I can find no advocate more compassionate and more powerful than thee, for thou art his Mother; my Queen, do thou help me, and intercede for me.' The Divine Mother, speaking from the picture, replied: 'You sinners call me Mother of Mercy, but, at the same time, you cease not to make me a Mother of Sorrows, by crucifying my Son afresh, and renewing my sorrows.' But as Mary can never let any one leave her feet disconsolate, she began to implore her Son to pardon this miserable wretch. Jesus continued to show himself unwilling to do so. The most Blessed Virgin, seeing this, placed him in the niche, and, prostrating herself before him, said: 'My Son, I will not leave thy feet until thou hast pardoned this sinner.' 'My Mother,' then said Jesus, 'I can deny thee nothing; thou willest that he should be forgiven; for love of thee I pardon him; make him come and kiss my wounds.' The sinner, sobbing and weeping, did so, and, as he kissed them, the wounds were healed. Jesus then embraced him, as a mark of forgiveness, and he changed his life, which, from that time, was one of holiness ; and he always preserved the most tender love and gratitude towards this Blessed Virgin, who had obtained him so great a grace.

O most pure Virgin Mary, I worship thy most holy heart which was the delight and resting-place of God, thy heart overflowing with humility, purity, and Divine love. I, an unhappy sinner, approach thee with a heart all loathsome and wounded. O compassionate Mother, disdain me not on this account; let such a sight rather move thee to greater tenderness, and excite thee to help me. Do not stay to seek virtues or merit in me before assisting me. I am lost, and the only tiling I merit is hell. See only my confidence in thee and the purpose I have to amend. Consider all that Jesus has done and suffered for me, and then abandon me if thou canst. I offer thee all the pains of His life; the cold that He endured in the stable; His journey into Egypt; the blood which He shed; the poverty, sweats, sorrows, and death that He endured for me; and this in thy presence. For the love of Jesus take charge of my salvation. Ah my Mother, I will not and cannot fear that thou wilt reject me, now that I have recourse to thee and ask thy help. Did I fear this, I should be offering an outrage to thy mercy, which goes in quest of the wretched, in order to help them. O Lady, deny not thy compassion to one to whom Jesus has not denied His blood. But the merits of this blood will not be applied to me unless thou recommendest me to God. Through thee do I hope for salvation. I ask not for riches, honours, or earthly goods. I seek only the grace of God, love towards thy Son, the accomplishment of His will, and His heavenly kingdom, that I may love Him eternally. Is it possible that thou wilt not hear me? No: for already thou hast granted my prayer, as I hope ; already thou prayest for me; already thou obtainest me the graces that I ask; already thou takest me under thy protection : my Mother, abandon me not. Never, never cease to pray for me until thou seest me safe in heaven at thy feet, blessing and thanking thee for ever. Amen.
*** End of Quoted Materal ***

Now, consider, dear Reader, whether or not this tale suggests that Mary is more compassionate and approachable than Jesus? It is hard to read it any other way. For Jesus, in the tale, rebuffs the sinner, but Mary is the solution. Indeed, the man in the tale asserts: "I can find no advocate more compassionate and more powerful than thee...." Now doubtless those advocating the papist position today might argue that there is no better advocate before Jesus than Mary - and not simply no better advocate than Mary. But the problem is this: Scripture is clear that Jesus is compassionate and merciful to those who come to him. Furthermore, Jesus is our advocate, and is the mediator between God and man.

We need Jesus, not Mary, to plead our case for the forgiveness of our sins. Mary was blessed, indeed - but not with the role of mediatrix. Scripture nowhere teaches or hints at such a role for the mother of Christ, the Son of God.

So, let us turn from what is - in essence - idolatry that would be offensive to Mary if she were still with us, and turn instead to the pure worship of the One True God, by His Son, our Savior, Jesus the Righteous!

As the Orthodox are so wont to say: Lord have mercy!


P.S. This is Part I, but it is the main part. Part II is planned simply to be the provision of a similar example of an excessively high view of Mary.

UPDATE: updated to address a typographic error, and to clarify one point.


Anonymous said...

Humans can't be the object of blasphemy? So it isn't blasphemy when Muslims call the Apostle Paul a liar, and cite 1 Corinthians 9? If this isn't blasphemy, what is it?

One year at the March for Life there was a troup of anarchists in black standing at the side of the road and chanting obscenities against the Virgin Mary. The devil knows who his enemy is.

Turretinfan said...

Mr. Douglass,

Calling Paul (or me) a liar when we preach about God, is denying the substance of the Gospel that we preach. It's not possible to blaspheme Paul or TurretinFan, but it is possible to blaspheme God and His word.

The idea that anarachists chanting obscentities against the Mother of the Messiah somehow validates your position is absurd. By that standard, the Church of Scientology - which receives the same kind of obscenity shouting (and related anarchist nonsense) must also be validated.

But it is not. It could not be. Scientology is itself an anti-Christian religion. So likewise their opposition of Catholicism doesn't validate (or invalidate) your religion.


Anonymous said...

Calling Paul (or me) a liar when we preach about God, is denying the substance of the Gospel that we preach.

Not necessarily. Suppose I agree with your Gospel. Nevertheless, I think you are a fraud. You don't believe the Gospel you preach, even though it happens to be true. My opinion is slanderous, but not blasphemous.

Anyway, you seem to recognize in an inchoate way that to call St. Paul a liar is an indirect insult to God. Because it is an indirect insult to God, it is properly qualified as blasphemy. Well, can't you see the obvious indirect insult to God which is contained within the proposition "Mary was a whore"?

The troupe of anarchists blaspheming Mary does not necessarily validate Catholicism, but it does provide a concrete example of wicked men insulting Mary specifically out of a desire to express their hatred of God's law. It shows that blasphemy need not be directed to God immediately.

Turretinfan said...

Mr. Douglass,

What your arguments establish is that men can blaspheme God, by attacking his saints.

Assuming, for the sake of the argument, that this were so, that is consistent with my position that one cannot blaspheme Mary, or Paul, or me.

But I don't even see any warrant for saying that insulting the servants (and handmaidens) of God is itself blasphemy, although it is indirectly offensive to God.

So, while I agree that it is sinful to defame Mary's name, it is primarily sinful under the 9th commandmant (thou shalt not bear false witness) and not under the 3rd commandment (thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain).

Thus, insults to Mary (whether true insults or false insults) are not properly called blasphemy. There is no Scriptural warrant to do so.

Instead, the term blasphemy is properly reserved for sins that are primarily violations of the third commandment. Thus, we see it constantly used in Scripture except in three places - each of which is in the mouth of an unbeliever:

1) The unbelieving Jews spoke of Stephen as supposedly "blaspheming Moses" and the temple/law (Acts 6:11, 13);

2) Jezebel and her false witnesses spoke of Naboth as supposedly "blaspheming the King" (1 Kings 21:10, 13); and

3) the Townclerk of Epheseus acknoledged that Paul (and company) had not blasphemed the "goddess" Diana (Acts 19:37).

In short, no Scriptural case can be made for use of the term "blaspheme" as proper to describe defamation (or other injury) to any believer, whether Mary or me.


P.S. I agree that calling Paul (or me) a liar would not necessarily be addressed to the Gospel that we preach. I was trying to give the question the benefit of the doubt. Much more so, if Paul (or I) was called a liar for other things, there would be no proper charge of blasphemy.

Carrie said...

I have always found this assertion from the Catholic catechism odd:

2162 "The second commandment forbids every improper use of God's name. Blasphemy is the use of the name of God, of Jesus Christ, of the Virgin Mary, and of the saints in an offensive way."

The first sentence seems to conflict with the second.

Turretinfan said...

Carrie: yes, there's that. There's also the numbering problem. And, at the end of the day, what we conclude from that sort of definition is the same thing we conclude from seing their images "venerated" and their names invoked in prayers.