Should the Catholic Church Elevate Mary’s Status to Co-Redeemer, Mediator of All Graces, and Advocate of Mankind? – Program 6
|By: Dr. John Ankerberg; ©1997|
|What does it mean to say that Mary is co-redeemer? Could God have saved anyone if Mary had not cooperated with His plan?|
Mary: Co-Redeemer with Jesus Christ – Co-Mediator with Jesus
Newsweek magazine on August 25 reported that a growing movement in the Roman Catholic Church wants the pope to proclaim a new controversial dogma: that Mary is a Co-Redeemer, Mediatrix of All Graces, and Advocate for the people of God. Such a move would elevate Mary’s status dramatically beyond what most Christians profess.
- Dr. Walter Martin: What I’m objecting to, from a biblical perspective, is that the Mary of the Bible is not the Mary of Catholic theology. We have now developed what Bishop Strossmayer said in 1870, “We have made a goddess of the Virgin Mary.”
Still, Newsweek has reported that in the last four years the Pope has received more than four million signatures from 157 countries, an average of 100,000 letters a month asking him to speak ex cathedra, that is, “infallibly” declare these new ideas as official Church doctrine. Among the thousands of Catholics supporting this dramatic new doctrine are the late Mother Teresa, 500 bishops and 42 cardinals, including Cardinal John O’Connor of New York, Joseph Glemp of Poland, and half a dozen cardinals at the Vatican itself. Newsweek said, “Nothing like this organized petition drive has ever been seen in Rome.”
If this movement succeeds, Catholics would be obliged as a matter of faith to accept that Mary participates in the redemption achieved by Jesus Christ; that all graces that flow from the suffering and death of her Son are granted only through Mary’s intercession with Jesus; and third, that all prayers and petitions from the faithful on earth must flow through Mary, who will then bring them to the attention of Jesus.
The question is, “Will Pope John Paul use his papal infallibility to officially proclaim Mary as Co-Redeemer, Mediator of All Graces, and Advocate of mankind?” If he does, what will it mean? Where did such elevated ideas about the Virgin Mary come from? If the Catholic Church embraces these new ideas, will they be turning away from the very faith they are supposed to defend?
To help answer these questions, we’ll hear excerpts from our debate with Roman Catholic priest and Jesuit Professor Fr. Mitchell Pacwa and the late Dr. Walter Martin, Protestant scholar and authority on American religious institutions. We invite you to join us.
- Ankerberg: The Vatican has now received more than four million petitions from Catholics in 157 countries asking the Pope to elevate Mary’s status to being a Co-Redeemer and a Co-Mediator with Jesus Christ. Today we will examine the claim that Mary should be viewed as the Mediatrix of All Graces.
- First, let’s define terms. What is a Mediator? According to Webster’s Third International Dictionary, a mediator is one that mediates between parties at variance to reconcile them. Interestingly, the very example Webster’s gives is 1 Timothy 2:5 where it states, “For there is one God and there is one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”
- As Newsweek magazine stated, there seems to be no biblical support for the Roman Catholic claim that Mary serves as a go-between or Mediatrix between God and man. But the Roman Catholic Church disagrees. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church we are told about Mary: “Taken up to heaven, she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation…. Therefore, the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the title of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress and Mediatrix.” Mediatrix is the feminine form of mediator.
- But in an official response from the Vatican concerning reports the Catholic Church will make any new announcements about Mary, the papal spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, told the Catholic news service, “No such proclamation is planned or even being considered.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church also advises, “Mary’s function as Mother of Men in no way obscures or diminishes the unique mediation of Christ.”
- In April, the Pope warned, that “The Church’s teaching makes a clear distinction between the mother and the Son in the work of salvation.” But notice, according to the Pope both the mother and the Son do work in our salvation. And it is right here in defining the work of Mary in salvation that the Church’s denial that Mary’s function as Mediatrix of All Graces in no way diminishes Christ’s unique status rings hollow.
- What kind of work does the Catholic Church say Mary does? Pope Leo XIII stated: “Every grace granted to men has three successive steps: by God it is communicated to Christ, from Christ it passes to the Virgin, and from the Virgin it descends to us.” So first, all blessings coming down from Heaven must first pass through Mary.
- Second, the Church claims that Mary can persuade God to grant requests that He might otherwise turn down. She is an extraordinary Mediator. Pope Leo XIII stated: “All men, moreover, are full of the hope and confidence that prayers which might be received with less favor from the lips of unworthy men, will be accepted by God when they are recommended to Him by the Most Holy Mother and will be favorably heard.”
- Pope Pius XII taught: “While Peter has the keys of Heaven, Mary has the keys to God’s heart,” and the Church guarantees that when Mary turns that key, the lock will open.
- Pope Pius IX stated: “We could not find a more powerful protectress or one more irresistible before God…. She obtains all she asks for and her prayer is always heard.”
- And then third, according to The Catechism of the Catholic Church, Mary’s powers in mediation even extend to salvation. The Catechism declares:
- By asking Mary to pray for us, we acknowledge ourselves to be poor sinners and we address ourselves to the “Mother of Mercy,” the all-holy one. We give ourselves over to her now, in the today of our lives. And our trust broadens further, already at the present moment, to surrender “the hour of our death” wholly to her care. May she be there as she was at her Son’s death on the cross. May she welcome us as our mother at the hour of our passing to lead us to her Son, Jesus, in Paradise.
- But these claims have no biblical basis. There are only 20 verses in the New Testament that even mention Mary’s name. Nowhere does the Bible teach that all grace from Jesus comes to us through Mary. Nowhere does the Bible say that if we really want our prayers to be answered, we should go to Mary. And nowhere does the Bible say Mary’s powers extend to salvation.
- Rather, the Bible says, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” [John 3:16] The Bible says since we have a great high priest, Jesus, the Son of God, “let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” [Heb. 4:16]
- Because of Jesus, not Mary, the Bible says: “We have confidence to enter the most holy place by the blood of Jesus…” [Heb. 10:19] The Bible teaches that only through Jesus are we encouraged to “draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.” [Heb. 10:22]
- God sent Christ into our world for the very purpose of being the unique Mediator between God and us. According to the Bible, as far as God is concerned, there is no other way to come to Him. There are no secondary ways, side ways, subordinate ways to Jesus. Jesus Himself said, “No man comes to the Father but through Me.” [John 14:6]
- This is the whole point of Hebrews 7, where we read: “Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore He is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” [Heb. 7:23-25]
- At the same time, while official Catholic dogma agrees that there is no Mediator like Jesus Christ, still Mary plays a subordinate role with Christ in salvation; she is a subordinate Mediator. In fact, Catholic theologians will say all Christians play a subordinate role in mediating the gospel. If another Christian asks you to pray for him, don’t you pray for him? In a subordinate sense aren’t you representing man to God through your prayer; you’re a subordinate mediator? And second, aren’t Christians asked by God to go and preach the gospel? When you proclaim the gospel, aren’t you representing God to man? In this sense, aren’t all believers called to be mediators? This is true biblically. And in this sense Catholicism argues that Mary should also be seen as a Mediator. Certainly she is not as much a Mediator as Christ, but she is not as little a Mediator as the rest of us.
- This very argument was presented during our debate between Roman Catholic priest and Jesuit Professor Fr. Mitchell Pacwa and Protestant scholar, the late Dr. Walter Martin. I’d like you to listen to it:
- Ankerberg: Yeah, but Vatican II says strictly that, “The blessed Virgin is to be invoked by the Church.” Do you take that as poetry?
- Pacwa: Oh no. She’s to be invoked and asked for her prayers.
- Ankerberg: Where do you get that in the New Testament?
- Pacwa: Well, first of all, it’s not forbidden in the New Testament, and secondly, what we do….
- Ankerberg: There’s one Mediator.
- Martin: 1 Timothy…..
- Pacwa: Well, again, if you understand that praying for one another is taking away from the Mediatorship of Christ, then it would be a sin. But if praying for one another is consonant with the Mediatorship of Christ because (a) we pray for one another as members of the Body of Christ and in the name of Christ, and (b) she, more than anybody has that right, because Christ was in her body and she was there at Pentecost…
- Martin: No.
- Pacwa: …she was so filled with the Holy Spirit….
- Ankerberg: But if I pray “for” you, I don’t pray “to” you and say, “You’re my mediator.”
- Pacwa: No, but I can ask you…
- Ankerberg: I can pray for you but I don’t pray to you.
- Ankerberg: Now let’s talk about this argument. Are believers called to participate subordinately in Christ’s mediating work? Catholic theologian F. J. Sheed in his book, Theology for Beginners, writes:
- Saint Pius X called her [Mary] the first steward in the dispensing of all graces. With this we come to an element in the redemption which we too easily fail to notice. Christ redeemed us, but it is in God’s plan that the application to individual souls of the redemption Christ won should be by fellow members of the race…. We are all called to be stewards in the dispensing of graces…. The fact that our Lord is Mediator does not make our prayer for one another unnecessary; it makes it effective. Everyone’s prayers can help others…. All are meant to take a part in His redeeming work, but Mary above all.
- Now, the Pope, Fr. Pacwa and F. J. Sheed all agree that there is a line, an important, critical line, separating the mediation of Christ from all others. That is, there are certain critical attributes and functions that only Jesus Christ possesses and performs. Only He is God. Only He could pay for all of our sins. And here is where the line must be drawn. On the other side of the line, man is asked to proclaim the gospel, and is given the opportunity to pray to Christ for friends. But notice, it is all underneath Jesus, and all our efforts are for Him, and our prayers are made to Him.
- But Catholicism claims that Mary mediates between Christ and us. She is the special Mediatrix to the Mediator. But the Bible doesn’t say we need a special Mediatrix to represent us to Christ. We have the privilege of going directly to Christ. We could all go directly to Jesus all at once, because He is omniscient and omnipotent. He is God.
- On the other hand, since Mary is human and not omnipotent or omniscient, we all can’t go to her. And Catholicism’s elevation to this special Mediatorship between us and Christ cannot be based on the role believers are given to proclaim the Word of God or to pray for each other. That would be like mixing apples and oranges. It puts Mary on the wrong side of the line which separates the mediation of the God-Man, Jesus Christ, and the representation Christians do. It places Mary on Christ’s side of the line and gives her powers that the Bible says only Christ has.
- Second, Catholicism errs in stating that the basis of Mary’s mediation between Christ and mankind is her perfect holiness. Again Catholicism wrongly crosses the line and puts Mary over with Christ and says the same thing about Mary which the Bible says about Christ, namely, that He is sinless. As Pope John Paul II has made very clear, “In Mary’s case, we have a special and exceptional mediation, based upon her ‘fullness of grace [sinlessness].’”
- In F. J. Sheed’s quote we were told, “All are meant to take a part in his [Jesus’] redeeming work, but Mary above all.”
- Let me ask you, do you think that Catholicism has stepped over the line in defining how Mary mediates, and it cannot be justified by saying other Christians are asked to proclaim the gospel and pray for their friends? Her role of mediation is completely different than ours?
- If there is any doubt in your mind about this, look at what Pope Pius IX said about Mary: “God has committed to her the treasury of all good things, in order that everyone may know that through her are obtained every hope, every grace, and all salvation. For this is his will, that we obtain everything through Mary.”
- Further, he said, “Just as no one can approach the highest Father except through the Son, so no one can approach Christ except through His Mother.” Pope Pius XI said, “Every blessing that comes to us from the Almighty God comes to us through the hands of our Lady.”
- Pope Leo XIII prayed, “None, Oh Mother of God, obtains salvation except through thee; none receives a gift from the throne of mercy except through thee.”
- But nowhere in the Bible is Mary’s role in the dispensing of graces mentioned. Nowhere in the Bible will you find what these Popes have stated about Mary being in the mediating position between Jesus and all the rest of mankind. Such devotion to Mary crosses the line, and it is not justified by saying that the Church gives only secondary or subordinate honor to Mary.
- When God says, “You shall have no other gods before me,” [Ex. 20:3] these words literally read: “You shall have no other gods before my face.” God is not saying you shall have no other gods above me, what He is saying is, you shall have no other gods above me, even with me, subordinate to me, in addition to me, you shall have no other Gods before His face, period. God demands undivided loyalty and devotion.
- Although the Roman Catholic Church is careful to say Mary is not an infinite and eternal being, like God, she is described in terms every bit as real as the false gods and goddesses of the ancient world. Remember, those pagan deities were described as finite beings with very human characteristics and passions. In comparison, Mary is described in terms far exceeding those pagan deities in her excellency, power and achievements. In Catholicism, Mary’s roles and how she is described makes her virtually indistinguishable from the Son of God Himself and only differs in degree in the minds of people.
- For example, the Bible says Jesus was the Son of God. Catholicism says Mary was the Mother of God. The Bible says Jesus was sinless; Catholicism says Mary was immaculately conceived and lived a sinless life. The Bible teaches Jesus was born of a virgin; Catholicism says Mary was a perpetual virgin. The Bible says Jesus ascended bodily into Heaven; Catholicism claims Mary ascended body and soul into Heaven. The Bible says Jesus is the King of Heaven. Catholicism says Mary is the Queen of Heaven. Jesus is the Mediator between God and man; Mary in Catholicism is the Mediatrix between Jesus and man. Biblically, Jesus is the only Redeemer and Savior of mankind; whereas in Catholicism, Mary is the Co-Redemptrix in the salvation of mankind.
- In our debate with Roman Catholic Priest Fr. Mitchell Pacwa and Protestant scholar the late Dr. Walter Martin, Dr. Martin’s brief summary says it all. Listen:
- Martin: All of these have raised her step-by-step to the place where Pope Pius XII, in the Marian Year in which he proclaimed the Assumption of Mary, said, “Enraptured by the splendor of your heavenly beauty and impelled by the anxiety of the world, we cast ourselves into your arms, O, immaculate mother of Jesus, and our mother, Mary. God crowned you Queen of the Universe. O, crystal fountain of faith, bathe our minds with eternal truths; O, fragrant Lily of all holiness, captivate our hearts with your heavenly perfume…. Happy with you we may repeat before your throne that hymn which is sung today around your altars: You are all beautiful, O, Mary, you are the glory; you are the joy; you are the honor of our people.”
- Sorry about that! She is not the “crystal fountain of faith”; Jesus Christ is the author and finisher of faith. She is not the “glory and joy and honor of Christians”; Jesus Christ is our glory. In Him is the hope of glory. Christ is the One we honor, and it’s pretty obvious, just from reading throughout the prayer, that titles are conferred upon her which belong to God. “Convert the wicked and dry the tears of the afflicted” is the job of the Holy Spirit, who “convinces the world of sin and of righteousness and of judgment.” It is the comfort that she is giving, allegedly, that is the very reason Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, which was to be our “Comforter.”
- Now, giving Mary all her due right, all the positions she is entitled to, she is not “our life, our sweetness and our hope.” And that we have to confess in the Catholic Church in which we say, “Our life, our sweetness and our hope, to thee we cry, poor banished children of Eve.” Now, Mary is not our life; Jesus Christ is our life. She’s not the sweetness of our life; He is the sweetness of our life. She certainly isn’t our hope, because “Christ in you is the hope of glory.”
- What I’m objecting to, from a biblical perspective, is that the Mary of the Bible is not the Mary of Catholic theology. We have now developed what Bishop Strossmayer said in 1870, “We have made a goddess of the Virgin Mary.” Now, that I think, is probably what upsets Protestants more than any other thing, apart from the infallibility of the papacy; which is the idea that Mary, a mere creature, created by God, is paralleled in Catholic theology dogmatically with Christ Himself. So that Cardinal Spellman in New York wrote, “O, Mary, gate of heaven, none shall enter in except through thee.”
- Sorry about that! Sorry! “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” [John 14:6] “I am the door of the sheepfold.” [John 10:7] “I am the gate. By me if any man enters in, he shall be saved.” [John 10:9] What we see in Catholic theology is the blasphemy of attaching to a woman, even in her high position, the titles and position and offices of God.