Sunday, June 28, 2009

Catholicism in Mexico Survives Only as a Cult?

I should point out a caveat about articles on religion in the popular media. I've noticed, from time to time, that not every article on religion is highly accurate. The following article, to which I was somewhat recently directed, provides an example with the headline: "Catholicism in Mexico Survives Only as a Cult, Priest Claims." This headline was, as far as I can tell, due to the failure of the editor to understand that the "cult of Mary" is the worship of Mary (hyper-dulia, to be specific in Roman Catholic terms) and not "a cult" in the sense that we use that term in English.

I understand how the editor might be confused. The worship of Mary in Catholicism in most English-speaking countries is downplayed significantly - seemingly to lure Protestants. The result is that some lay apologists seem unaware of the difference between worship (cultus or as we would tend to describe it, "religious veneration") and the sort of everyday respect we have for one another ("secular veneration" might be a way to distinguish it from the religious veneration discussed above).

And I know - I know - Roman Catholics in English-speaking countries are quick to say, "We don't worship Mary," by which they mean that they don't worship Mary as God. That's all very nice, but check out the photo of the church that accompanied this horribly badly headlined article (link to article - direct link to photo - another view of idol - a third view - a fourth view).

The choice of idols for this particular church shows a distinct emphasis - and that emphasis is on Mary. Of course, one's idols may be an inaccurate guide as to one's interest, but the idols in this particular church suggest that the reverence for Mary is primary, despite her never being called "God." One also sees the same thing in the shocked looks that were given when the American Secretary of State asked the absurd question, "Who painted this?" (link to photo of event)

Of course, this just showed Mrs. Clinton's ignorance of the local superstitions:
In 1531 a "Lady from Heaven" appeared to a humble Native American at Tepeyac, a hill northwest of what is now Mexico City.
She identified herself as the ever virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the True God for whom we live, of the Creator of all things, Lord of heaven and the earth.
She made a request for a church to be built on the site, and submitted her wish to the local Bishop. When the Bishop hesitated, and requested her for a sign, the Mother of God obeyed without delay or question to the Church's local Bishop, and sent her native messenger to the top of the hill in mid-December to gather an assorment [sic - assortment, I think, is meant] of roses for the Bishop.
After complying to the Bishop's request for a sign, She also left for us an image of herself imprinted miraculously on the native's tilma, a poor quality cactus-cloth, which should have deteriorated in 20 years but shows no sign of decay 477 years later and still defies all scientific explanations of its origin.
(source - as you'll see in the clearer image there, Jesus isn't completely missing, he's just hiding down at the bottom of the picture - direct link to picture - UPDATE: Someone complained to me that the guy at the bottom of the picture is not supposed to be Jesus but Juan Diego (technically he just complained that it wasn't supposed to be Jesus). Although there is no heaven-fallen-down guidebook for the idol, that seems to be reasonable - and my comment was in error - Jesus is entirely left out of the picture - although some have argued that Mary is supposed to be pregnant in the picture, in which case Jesus is sort of present as a baby bulge. FURTHER UPDATE - see below)

If this reminds you of Scripture - it should:

Acts 19:23-41
And the same time there arose no small stir about that way. For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, which made silver shrines for Diana, brought no small gain unto the craftsmen; whom he called together with the workmen of like occupation, and said, Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth. Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands: so that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth. [Note that Paul was not preaching that instead of Diana, statues of Mary should be made - a natural response if the Apostolic church were idolatrous.]
And when they heard these sayings, they were full of wrath, and cried out, saying, Great is Diana of the Ephesians. And the whole city was filled with confusion: and having caught Gaius and Aristarchus, men of Macedonia, Paul's companions in travel, they rushed with one accord into the theatre.
And when Paul would have entered in unto the people, the disciples suffered him not. And certain of the chief of Asia, which were his friends, sent unto him, desiring him that he would not adventure himself into the theatre.
Some therefore cried one thing, and some another: for the assembly was confused; and the more part knew not wherefore they were come together. And they drew Alexander out of the multitude, the Jews putting him forward. And Alexander beckoned with the hand, and would have made his defence unto the people.
But when they knew that he was a Jew [this was significant, because people knew that Jews did not have idols], all with one voice about the space of two hours cried out, Great is Diana of the Ephesians.
And when the townclerk had appeased the people, he said, Ye men of Ephesus, what man is there that knoweth not how that the city of the Ephesians is a worshipper of the great goddess Diana, and of the image which fell down from Jupiter? [Note that the Ephesians distinguished between Diana and Jupiter.] Seeing then that these things cannot be spoken against, ye ought to be quiet, and to do nothing rashly. For ye have brought hither these men, which are neither robbers of churches, nor yet blasphemers of your goddess. Wherefore if Demetrius, and the craftsmen which are with him, have a matter against any man, the law is open, and there are deputies: let them implead one another. But if ye enquire any thing concerning other matters, it shall be determined in a lawful assembly. For we are in danger to be called in question for this day's uproar, there being no cause whereby we may give an account of this concourse. And when he had thus spoken, he dismissed the assembly.

So, yes - Catholicism survives in Mexico as (to a large extent) the cult of Mary - as the veneration of an image that (like the image of Diana) is alleged to be of miraculous origin. It would be unfair to suggest that there is nothing more to it than that, but it is a significant aspect - despite the journalistic confusion such comments can create.


FURTHER UPDATE: Mr. Bellisario, seemingly unaware of the first update above (or perhaps he posted it before the update? Who knows!) has also complained that according to the divinely inspired legend that he obtained (from a Geocities web page that was so scholarly that it wasn't sure of the correct spelling of Mayan) the dude at the bottom of the idols is an angel (though no mention is made that this is supposed to be an angelic representation Juan Diego).


Anonymous said...

Don't deny the magic painting!

Love & Kisses,

Benny the Rat

Anonymous said...

Yes, Paul was criticizing the idolatry of the GODDESS Diana. He would NOT say to make statues of Mary not because the Apostolic
Church prohibited it then...but because the Apostolic church did not and does not see Mary as a GODDESS. Therefore, this passage in no way proves that the Apostolic Church is/was against venerating (not adoring) Mary. Geezz...please you are comparing apples and oranges. This is not good Bible scholarship.
A Faithful Catholic.

Janus said...

This is the biggest fake of the Roman Catholic Church.

Turretinfan said...

"Yes, Paul was criticizing the idolatry of the GODDESS Diana."

Yes. And you don't call Mary a "Goddess" although you call her Queen of Heaven, Mother of God, and many similar exalted titles. The Greeks didn't consider Diana to be Jupiter, even if they considered her a goddess. So, the parallel remains.

"He would NOT say to make statues of Mary not because the Apostolic
Church prohibited it then...but because the Apostolic church did not and does not see Mary as a GODDESS."

Your argument makes no sense. Catholicism clearly makes and worships statues both of Jesus and Mary these days. And yes, I know, you're not worshiping the statue itself, but the thing it represents, just like the Greeks didn't think that the statue itself was Diana.

"Therefore, this passage in no way proves that the Apostolic Church is/was against venerating (not adoring) Mary."

No, it simply shows a parallel between Greek idolatry and Roman idolatry. It also shows that Paul was not preaching a message that included idolatry. Otherwise, these idol-makers would be able to continue just by changing from making little Dianas to making little Marys.

"Geezz...please you are comparing apples and oranges. This is not good Bible scholarship.
A Faithful Catholic."

I think your judgment of the value of the work might be obscured by your adherence to the sect of Rome. The parallels are pretty clear.


Alex said...

That is not Jesus at the bottom of the image. Try to at least get a cursory understanding prior to your attacks.

Turretinfan said...

Thanks for your kind correction, Alex. I have updated the post.

Alex said...

I wasn't kind, and I should have been.

The angel is not Juan Diego. Actually, it has been said that the reflection of Juan Diego and his bishop can be seen in the eyes of Mary, but I have not seen the original image.

There are many symbolic attributes that can be found in the image. I used to know most of them, but I don't remember them any longer.

Mary is pregnant with Jesus in the image.

Turretinfan said...


I do seem to recall one website suggesting that the angel is supposed to be a Juan-Diego-ized Gabriel, i.e.a Gabriel with Juan Diego's face - or perhaps I misunderstood what the article was trying to convey. Of course, not every article out there is reliable. I'm going to post a follow-up article on the subject, which may be profitable.

In any event, I do sincerely appreciate the correction.