12-1-2 Catholic Opening Statement By Philip Bartlett: The Catholic View Of Mary
(Note: Mr. Bartlett was previously a Presbyterian at the time of his debate about the Sabbath transcripted elsewhere)
Important Preliminary Bases of Discussion
A common objection by those of the Protestant heretical faiths expressed in opposition to the fundamental Catholic Marian dogmas is that it is idolatrous. What I intend to prove, and what the intent of this debate is, is to defend the Marian dogmas of the Catholic Church as legitimate, and to defend the veneration of Mary as a legitimate activity. The fullness of the Christian church, which is the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church (commonly known among Protestants as Roman Catholicism) has defended the doctrines of Mary from her very inception. While the doctrines themselves may not have been as fully explored by the faithful, they were totally and entirely present from the very beginning, yet not expressed so clearly and consistently as we have them today. The clearness and consistency came over the course of many centuries as the doctrines and devotions were compared over and against heretical groups that formed and opposed the truth.
Before we can even engage in a “Biblical” discussion of Marian truth, we have to examine the origins of the Bible, and the authoritative interpretation of it. Without an authorized interpretation of a document, it is very easy for different renditions and meanings to derive themselves out of that same document according the likings of the individuals and persons who are interpreting the words. This has been the technique of the heretic, starting from the Gnostics, and ending with the many heretical Protestant groups we find present today. The fundamental doctrine of “sola scriptura” championed by most Protestants, is inherently fallacious and renders it absolutely impossible to come to a definitive truth on any issue since vague words can be interpreted many ways, and it is impossible to deduce the preconceptions of the author of words with 100% accuracy.
Where does the Bible come from? The Bible and its books were selected by the Catholic Church infallibly with the aide of the Holy Spirit in 383AD. Books including the Peters, Revelation, and the Johns were all highly disputed as to whether or not they were authentically from the apostles. In addition, letters like the Epistle of Clement, the Didache and others were seen by many as worthy of insertion into the Bible’s “table of contents”, especially that of the New Testament. Amidst all of this controversy, the Catholic Church determined infallibly precisely which books belonged in the Bible. Since no one could be absolutely certain which books came from the apostles, in the end people trusted that the Holy Spirit guided the Catholic Church infallibly in its determination of the contents of the divine revelation. The final authority on all matters was the Catholic Church’s interpretation of the sacred scripture, even as it had the authority to define the parameters of that scripture. It would be absurd to posit one without the other. All interpretations contrary to the universal Catholic Church’s interpretation would of course be heretical, and to this day are still heretical.
That said, the only value that can be derived from a Biblical discussion is a discussion preset within the parameters of divine authority, and as defined by the proper interpretation of the text. It has already been proven that sola scriptura is inconsistent and contradictory (because it cannot determine the truth of any matter with certainty). However, the catholic understanding of how to discern the divine will (the interpretation of the Catholic church founded and established on Christ and the apostles) is far more logically consistent, and of course provable through tests of logical consistency.
And of course, one more important point needs to be raised before we delve into the crux of the matter. Catholics do not rely on scripture alone to discern the will of God. The will of God for the Catholic, since the time of the apostles themselves, extended beyond the written scriptures, and into the oral Word of God as passed from the apostles in custom, words, and signs. This oral word would of course be protected and preserved by the Holy Spirit. How do we know that this oral word is authoritative? Very simply, because it is based on the only logically consistent methodology of discerning God’s will. Sola scriptura obviously is NOT logically consistent, as was demonstrated before through the problem of multiple interpretations.
So where does this place Mary. I will now offer to the world, and to my opponent Duncan Heaster and his heretical sect of the Christadephians, the Catholic interpretation of the scriptures relating to Mary, as enriched by its tradition and oral teaching. Please note that I have already proven that one is forced to accept the Catholic interpretation if he wishes to be logically consistent in his understanding of reality.
Do Catholics Worship Mary?
Catholics do not worship Mary. Catholics venerate Mary. This is a very important point that cannot be emphasized enough. Let us begin looking at the bible by examining this following important and essential verse where the angel comes and says to Mary:
Luke 1: 28 And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
As we can see from this verse, we have an angel of God most high saying the following words: “Hail, full of grace…. Blessed art thou”. This is almost the precise wording of the Catholic Hail Mary prayer. Now is the angel in this verse worshipping Mary as the angel worships God? Absolutely not! Rather the angel is venerating (respecting) Mary and giving her honor, but an honor that is less than the worship he gives to God. Catholics do the precise same thing. Informed Catholics will tell you that the worship of Mary as a goddess, or as God, would be a serious error and a very wicked sin. Rather, Catholics merely venerate Mary. We venerate her, and because as Christ said
Matthew 22:31 And concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read that which was spoken by God, saying to you: 32 I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.
We can safely conclude that Mary is living and that she hears the prayers that are directed to her. Mary of course does not assist directly as God, but rather intercedes for us with prayers to Christ on our behalf. As the scriptures record “the prayer of a righteous man [in this case a righteous woman] availeth much”. Does this mean that Christ is no longer sole mediator between God and man? Absolutely not! Christ is the sole mediator between God and man in the covenant sense of the New Covenant, and the satisfaction and redemption of our iniquities. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the proper interpretation of the sacred scripture.
Old Testament Types and Shadows
A common method of examining the scripture is to demonstrate from the Old Testament the hidden kernels that point to truths that will be fully revealed in the New Testament. For example we have the crossing of the Red Sea representing baptism, the Passover Lamb representing the sacrifice of Christ. Let us look at a very important type of Mary as an essential mediator for the people of God. Let us also look at her role as Queen of Heaven, or Queen of the Kingdom of Heaven, as presented in this type. Mary carries a special distinction among the saints of heaven who are presently alive with Christ in Glory.
1 Kings 2:12 And Solomon sat upon the throne of his father David, and his kingdom was strengthened exceedingly. 13 And Adonias, the son of Haggith, came to Bethsabee the mother of Solomon. And she said to him: Is thy coming peaceable? He answered: It is peaceable.14 And he added: I have a word to speak with thee. She said to him: Speak. And he said: 15 Thou knowest that the kingdom was mine, and all Israel had preferred me to be their king: but the kingdom is transferred, and is become my brother’s: for it was appointed him by the Lord. 16 Now therefore, I ask one petition of thee; turn not away my face. And she said to him: Say on. 17 And he said I pray thee speak to king Solomon (for he cannot deny thee any thing) to give me Abisag, the Sunamitess, to wife. 18 And Bethsabee said: Well, I will speak for thee to the king. 19 Then Bethsabee came to king Solomon, to speak to him for Adonias: and the king arose to meet her, and bowed to her, and sat down upon his throne: and a throne was set for the king’s mother, and she sat on his right hand. 20 And she said to him: I desire one small petition of thee; do not put me to confusion. And the king said to her: My mother ask, for I must not turn away thy face. 21 And she said: Let Abisag, the Sunamitess, be given to Adonias, thy brother, to wife. 22 And king Solomon answered, and said to his mother: Why dost thou ask Abisag, the Sunamitess, for Adonias? ask for him also the kingdom; for he is my elder brother, and hath Abiathar, the priest, and Joab, the son of Sarvia. 23 Then king Solomon swore by the Lord, saying: So and so may God do to me, and add more, if Adonias hath not spoken this word against his own life. 24 And now, as the Lord liveth, who hath established me, and placed me upon the throne of David, my father, and who hath made me a house, as he promised, Adonias shall be put to death this day. 25 And king Solomon sent by the hand of Banaias, the son of Joiada, who slew him, and he died.
What is present here is absolutely fascinating typology. We have Bethsabee, the mother of Solomon, the “Queen mother” who in the kingdom of Israel was always the king’s mother, being petitioned by a member of the house of God (Israel) to speak before the King and present a request, knowing that the weight of the Queen mother has great authority. The petition is not granted of course because Solomon in his wisdom can see that this is a plot that Bethsabee is not aware of, but even so, the dynamics of the situation present the greatest interest. It apparently was custom for people to seek the Queen mother as a very important and influential channel to the King, and to sway the King into the favour of the petitioner. This is what Catholics today find in Mary. Mary, with her righteous prayers, as Queen of the Kingdom of Heaven (Queen Mother of the New Israel), presents the requests that we give her to Christ (hence “pray for us now and at the hour of our death”). Because she is especially favoured by Christ, she can obtain for us what our prayers may not be because of our sinful condition before God, or because of our lack of grace. This of course does not detract at all from Christ being “sole mediator” of the New Covenant, as long as we understand what the scripture means by the words “sole mediator”, and what the apostle Paul intended by them.
We of course have the example in Exodus of Moses petitioning God and mediating between God and Israel that God would spare Israel despite its worship of the golden calf. Did this in any way detract from the sole mediatorship of Jesus Christ? The answer of course, is absolutely not. The sacrifice of Christ was the central sole mediation between God and men in the Old Covenant as in the New, as represented through the blood of the slaughtered animals. Once again, the prayer of a righteous man avails much.
Ask Christians we ask each other for our prayers. This is nothing other than asking our fellow Christians to mediate or intercede with God for us. This of course does not detract from Christ’s sole mediatorship as covenant head and representative. The heretic might object “do not we stop praying for each other after we die?” The answer is found in Revelation, and that answer is no. We have clear descriptions of the saints and angels in heaven offering prayers for the saints in earth, their prayers being offered up to God as incense and a sweet sacrifice:
Revelation 5:1 And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven, as it were for half an hour. 2 And I saw seven angels standing in the presence of God: and there were given to them seven trumpets. 3 And another angel came and stood before the altar, having a golden censer: and there was given to him much incense, that he should offer of the prayers of all saints, upon the golden altar which is before the throne of God.4 And the smoke of the incense of the prayers of the saints ascended up before God from the hand of the angel. 5 And the angel took the censer and filled it with the fire of the altar and cast it on the earth: and there were thunders and voices and lightnings and a great earthquake. 6 And the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound the trumpet.
Revelation 6:10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying:
How long, O Lord (Holy and True), dost thou not judge and revenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?
Was Mary Conceived Without Original Sin?
The answer to this question is yes. Going back to the first scripture quote in this essay, we find the words “hail full (or filled) with grace”. This proves that Mary from birth was completely filled with the grace of God. Nevertheless, this does not stop her from calling the Lord her “saviour” later on in Luke. How then is God her saviour if she was born filled with holiness and grace, and without any hint of sin? Because God counted Christ’s merits to her before she was born, that is why. With all other people, of course, God counts Christ’s merits at baptism, when the grace of God first enters the soul and original sin is washed away through the covenantal waters, as the ultimate expression of a living vibrant faith.
Was Mary Perpetually Virgin?
The answer to this question is absolutely. The scriptures cannot prove the issue either way, since all references to “brothers” of Christ can easily be interpreted in the original languages to mean cousins or relatives in general. There is no word that specifically means brothers. Therefore, since the language is so vague, it comes down to a matter of interpretation. And of course, there is only one authentic interpretation of scripture.
As we can see, the catholic interpretation of Mary is thoroughly rooted in the scriptures, the scriptures that the Catholic Church determined were scriptures of course. Without the Catholic Church, there would be no canon of the New Testament. In the same way, without the Catholic Church, there can be no authentic and completely accurate interpretation of the New Testament and the doctrines of Mary. The Catholic dogmas of Mary are true and completely holy, and no Catholic need be ashamed of even one of them. I end with some quotes from the early fathers in their interpretations of the sacred writ:
Ephraim the Syrian
" You victorious martyrs who endured torments gladly for the sake of the God and Saviour, you who have boldness of speech toward the Lord himself, you saints, intercede for us who are timid and sinful men, full of sloth, that the grace of Christ may come upon us, and enlighten the hearts of all of us so that we may love him" (Commentary on Mark [A.D. 370]).
" The Book [the Protoevangelium] of James [records] that the brethren of Jesus were sons of Joseph by a former wife, whom he married before Mary. Now those who say so wish to preserve the honor of Mary in virginity to the end, so that body of hers which was appointed to minister to the Word . . . might not know intercourse with a man after the Holy Spirit came into her and the power from on high overshadowed her. And I think it in harmony with reason that Jesus was the firstfruit among men of the purity which consists in [perpetual] chastity, and Mary was among women. For it were not pious to ascribe to any other than to her the firstfruit of virginity" (Commentary on Matthew 2:17 [A.D. 248]).
" In being born of a Virgin who chose to remain a Virgin even before she knew who was to be born of her, Christ wanted to approve virginity rather than to impose it. And he wanted virginity to be of free choice even in that woman in whom he took upon himself the form of a slave" (Holy Virginity 4:4 [A.D. 401]).
" It was not the visible sun, but its invisible Creator who consecrated this day for us, when the Virgin Mother, fertile of womb and integral in her virginity, brought him forth, made visible for us, by whom, when he was invisible, she too was created. A Virgin conceiving, a Virgin bearing, a Virgin pregnant, a Virgin bringing forth, a Virgin perpetual. Why do you wonder at this, O man?" (Sermons 186:1 [A.D. 411]).
" Heretics called Antidicomarites are those who contradict the perpetual virginity of Mary and affirm that after Christ was born she was joined as one with her husband" (Heresies 56 [A.D. 428]).