You are all beautiful, Mary,
And the original stain [of sin] is not in you.
Your clothing is white as snow, and your face is like the sun.
You are all beautiful, Mary,
And the original stain [of sin] is not in you.
You are the glory of Jerusalem, you are the joy of Israel, you give honor to our people.
You are all beautiful, Mary!
~English Translation of a Fourth Century Hymn to the Blessed Virgin Mary
In an article entitled A Truly Blasphemous Prayer to Mary by Roman Catholic Pope Pius XII, a modern-day antidicomarianite (a person who denies Mary’s perpetual virginity), Pastor Kenneth Temple, goes for the trifecta of anti-Catholic apologetics. He attacks Catholic Marian beliefs, the papacy, and the Catholic teaching on the Communion of Saints in a single posting by accusing Pope Venerable Pius XII of blasphemy for composing an intercessory prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary used during the Marian year of 1954. Pastor Temple asserts the prayer shows that Catholics engage in idolatrous high worship and adoration of Mary which derogates from the worship due to God alone.
Pastor Temple is not the first Protestant writer to use this particular prayer to assault Catholic teaching. In the February 1954 edition of the Concordia Theological Monthly, the prayer was used to accuse Bishop Venerable Fulton Sheen of mariolatry (pp. 150-153). John MacArthur, a Calvinist minister from California, gave a talk in 2006 using the prayer to declaim Marian devotion. A search of the internet will find a number of Protestant writers using the prayer to accuse Catholics of idolatry, blasphemy, and other crimes against the Almighty.
There is a common theme in these critiques of Pius XII’s Marian prayer. All of them claim Catholics give adoration to Mary. Most of them claim that the Catholics engage in deception when they say they do not give adoration to Mary. They all apply a curiously Protestant notion that prayer, worship, and adoration, are always synonymous. None of them discuss what the Catholic Church actually teaches about Marian dogma. None of them discuss why Catholics believe it is acceptable to engage in intercessory prayer to Mary and the saints. None of them discuss how Catholics distinguish between adoration and veneration. For that matter, none of them even discuss how a Catholic would understand the words of the prayer. They indict, but they judge without evidence.
This paper is my attempt to answer to the charges Pastor Temple against Pope Venerable Pius XII in regards to this prayer.
Here are Pastor Temple’s words of deprecation in their entirety:
This prayer of Pope Pius XII is truly blasphemous.
Pastor Temple then links to a YouTube video entitled Virgin Mary's 7 Steps to Godhood Via Catholic Dogma Exposed by "Bible Answer Man" Walter Martin. The hour long video was filmed by Larry Wessels, the director of Christian Answers of Austin, Texas, who interviewed Robert Zins, the founder of A Christian Witness to Roman Catholicism. In this interview, these gentlemen spoke about the prayer attributed to Pope Pius XII which appeared in the third chapter of Dr. Martin’s book, The Roman Catholic Church in History (Livingston, NJ: Christian Research Institute, Inc., 1960) titled simply, “Mary, the Mother of Jesus.”
Pastor Temples adds the following addendum:
Pastor Temple attacks one of the many prayers that is found in a book entitled The Prayer Book: Beautiful and Helpful Prayers from Ancient and Modern Sources, [Rev. John P. McConnell and Jex Martin, ed., Chicago: The Catholic Press, Inc. (1954)]. It was a popular devotional work during the 1950's and can still be found at used booksellers. The book contains prayers, sundry devotional material, and depictions of religious art work painted by some of the great masters as well as popular contemporary religious art of the day. The book also offers explanatory material about some of the basic beliefs of Catholics. Pastor Temple’s post first interested me because I happen to own the book and its companion, The Life of Christ: Our Lord's Life with Lessons in His Own Words for Our Life Today, [Rev. John P. McConnell and Jex Martin, ed., Chicago: The Catholic Press, Inc. (1954)].
Even though Pastor Temple correctly references The Prayer Book: Beautiful and Helpful Prayers from Ancient and Modern Sources as the source for the prayer he quotes in his posting, it is a certainty that he is not aware that Pope Pius XII did not compose the prayer found in the book. It is an edited version of the prayer Pope Pius XII actually gave. Considering that the book contains numerous other prayers to Mary and the saints, including several other prayers attributed to Pope Pius XII, it is surprising that Pastor Temple would not have used them as well in attacking Catholic devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Anyone who reads the book would find that it was written for teenagers and young adults. It starts out with a brief primer to inform the reader on what prayer is (“a loving conversation between two persons, God and man”), and why we should pray (“the desire that God’s Will be done”). In a later chapter, the book discusses the practice of intercessory prayer to saints:
[Id. at pg. 240]
If Pastor Temple had read the book, he would have seen some of Pope Venerable Pius XII’s thought on the purpose of devotional prayer:
[The Prayer Book, supra. at pg. iii. Taken from Mediator Dei ¶ 32.]
Pope Venerable Pius XII also offers an explanation why Marian devotion is an important aspect of a Christian’s prayer life:
Because of the mission she received from God, her life is most closely linked
[The Prayer Book, supra. at pg. 42]
[Id. at pg. 189]
[Both passages are taken from Mediator Dei ¶ 169]
When we link our prayer through Mary to our adoration of Jesus, we are given another way to pray to Our Lord through the Blessed Virgin Mary. True devotion to Mary and saints leads us closer to Jesus. True devotion does not in any way impede our focus on Jesus. In fact, it allows us to see the Mystery of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ more fully because we experience it as the saints and His mother experienced it. We do not experience Jesus Christ in isolation. Rather we encounter Him in community, in the “Cloud of Witnesses” who are the saints (Heb. 12:1). See also, Catechism of the Catholic Church, ¶ 1161. What a wonderful way to encounter Him by meditating on the intimacy of the love between the Incarnated Child and His mother? How better to understand His love for us as we pray to Him in the company of Our mother in grace (Jn. 19:26-27) and his friends, the saints?
One last note before we move onto the next book that Pastor Temple references. In the YouTube video, Messrs. Wessels and Zins pit the unbiblical tradition of man, sola scriptura, against the teaching of the Church which they derisively call “sola ecclesia.” They conflate Rom. 3:23, a passage about personal sinfulness, to attack dogma of the Immaculate Conception which addresses original sin, to claim that Catholics believe that Mary did not need a savior. On the page before where the prayer of Pope Pius XII which is the subject of Pastor Temple’s complaint appears, one will find:
[The Prayer Book, supra., pg. 88]
The second book to which Pastor Temple refers is also no longer in print. Dr. Martin’s own website does not reference it nor does his ministry offers it for purchase. It has pretty much disappeared from most public libraries. Occasionally, anti-Catholic writers still make reference to it though. Fortunately, I did find a copy of The Roman Catholic Church in History (Livingston, NJ: Christian Research Institute, Inc., 1960) in a private college library some 300 miles from home.
I finally got the opportunity to travel to Cincinnati to peruse Dr. Martin’s book. In Chapter 3 entitled, “Mary, the Mother of Jesus,” the prayer can indeed be found on pp. 45-46. There, Dr. Martin claims that the Mary of the Bible is not the same Mary that Catholics venerate. While he occasionally quotes Scripture to refute the Catholic position, he fails to note how Catholics interpret those same passages (Id. at passim).
For example, he repeats the tired old argument that Catholic Marian devotion is in fact a deification of her (pp. 44, 53-62). Because Catholics call Mary “Queen of Heaven” and “Mother of God,” titles that pagans used for some of their goddesses, Dr. Martin argues Catholics treat Mary as a goddess.
This argument is specious. First, similar-sounding titles do not prove identity. Pagans called some of their gods “Father,” too. Yet, no one would mistake Zeus or Odin for the First Person of the Holy Trinity, God the Father. Second, unlike Ashtoreth and Ishtar, the Blessed Virgin Mary is truly the mother of Jesus Christ, who is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. Third, scripture tells us that Jesus Christ is “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev. 19:16) At His name, every knee must bow in heaven, on earth, and in hell and every tongue confess that He is Lord ( Phil. 2:10–11). If Jesus Christ is truly King of heaven as Scripture states, then what does that make Mary, His mother? Because of her relationship to Christ, she is both Queen of heaven and Mother of Our Lord, unlike Ashtoreth or Ishtar, who never did exist.
Catholics call Mary Queen of Heaven and Mother of God because those titles say something about the nature of God who truly took on flesh and became like us in all ways except sin. We honor Mary with those titles because God chose to fill her with His grace. We call her blessed because God blessed the handmaiden of the Lord (Lk. 1: 27-41).
Catholics who pray to Mary know she is not a goddess, but a created being like the rest of us. We honor her because God honored her. We offer her veneration, not worship, which God knows because He looks into our hearts and sees our intentions (I Sam. 16:7). Anti-Catholic writers mock the distinction between worship and veneration looking at outward appearances and judge according to their own opinions and prejudices ignoring the words of Jesus, “Stop judging by appearances, but judge justly (Jn. 7:24).”
Dr. Martin also disputes the settled theological dogma of Mary as Theotokos revealing himself to be a foursquare follower of the heretic Nestorius who was condemned at the Third Ecumenical Council of Ephesus in 431 AD. (See, Id. at pg. 53) In challenging this defined belief of the Church, he fails to cite any magisterial authority as to what Catholics believe about Mary as the Mother of God. Dr. Martin evinces little understanding of the meaning of the Incarnation or the significance of Mary’s totally grace-filled, unselfish cooperation on behalf of the whole world by giving her fiat to God taking on flesh through her. He fails to understand that Mary’s action is a call for all of us to bear Christ as members of the Body of Christ to the world.
Not only does Dr. Martin fail to interact with the Catholic interpretations of Scripture it uses to form its Marian dogmas, he barely cites any magisterial authority either. When he does, he fails to provide the sources for the quotes he uses to make his arguments. He even uses a fictitious speech attributed to Bishop Strossmayer at the First Vatican Council in 1870 as evidence. (p. 58) While some Protestant writers condescendingly claim that he did give the speech, the actual transcript of the First Vatican Council does not show that he gave it and Bishop Strossmeyer himself denied it on numerous occasions.
Worse, while Dr. Martin boasts of his knowledge of Catholic Marian doctrine (pg. 43), he shows his ignorance of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception misquoting Church fathers and other authorities out of context (a subject for another day). See, pp. 56-58. He even erroneously asserts that the Catholic Church teaches that Mary ascended into heaven the same way Jesus did (pg 47). Of course, there is a huge difference between Jesus' Ascension and Mary's Assumption. Jesus raised Himself. The Assumption of Mary was carried out by Jesus. Jesus lifted Mary up, just like we believe He will raise up each of us on the last day. The dogma of the Ascension shows Jesus was our Savior. The dogma of the Assumption demonstrates that Mary needed a personal Savior, too.
Pastor Temple references a third writing which he uses to defame Francis Joseph Cardinal Spellman (1880-1967). In the third chapter of The Roman Catholic Church in History, Dr. Martin offers as further evidence of Mary’s deification by Catholics the following quote allegedly appearing in a pamphlet to which Cardinal Spellman affixed his imprimatur:
Unfortunately, neither Dr. Martin nor Pastor Temple informs us of the name of the pamphlet that the quote is taken from. I searched a number of Catholic seminary and university libraries and databases looking for the source of the alleged quote, to no avail. Every single reference to the quote I found lists Dr. Martin’s book as the source of the quote as opposed to anything approved by Cardinal Spellman. In desperation, I even corresponded with Dr. Martin’s daughter who could not provide me the source of the quote. The quote is truly apocryphal. While Pastor Temple calls Cardinal Spellman a controversial individual, I personally find it controversial that a Christian minister, even a Protestant one, would use a potential fictive quote to accuse someone of grievous sin. To borrow Pastor Temple’s words, “Wow! Blasphemous!”
I do acknowledge that if one conducts enough online searches, passages can be found in genuine Catholic works which are similar-sounding to the first part and third part of Dr. Martin’s spurious quotation. For example, in Pope Leo XIII’s Encyclical Octobri Mense, ¶ 4, one finds the following:
In Catholic teaching, Mary’s role as a mediatrix is clearly secondary to Christ’s salvific mediation. While Protestants try to isolate Mary from Christ, Catholics focus on how Mary leads us to Him. The Servant of God Fr. John Hardon explains it thusly:
When we say through Mary, to Jesus, we mean that:
Through Mary’s voluntary consent we have received Jesus.
Through Mary’s example we are better able to imitate Jesus
Through Mary’s intercession we obtain graces from Jesus.
See, Father John Hardon’s Through Mary to Jesus (last accessed June 19, 2016).
Likewise, if one reads Latin, one might find St. Bonaventure stating in his Commentaries on the Four Books of Sentences of Master Peter Lombard, (III/ Sent., d. 3,p.1, a.1, q. 2):
Pope Saint John Paul II explains the meaning of Mary’s mediation as follows in his masterful encyclical Redemptoris Mater ¶ 21:
While one can find similar sounding references to the first part and third parts of Dr. Martin’s quote, I was not able to find anything similar to the second part. I was not able to find a single Catholic writer who has ever said, “Mary is the way and the truth and the life.” I have only found anti-Catholic Protestant writers saying that.
The two closest Catholic writers that I could find saying anything remotely similar is in St. Alphonsus de Liguori’s treatise The Glories of Mary, another person whom Protestant apologists find controversial, and St. Louis de Montfort in his Treatise on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin. St. Louis de Montfort was canonized by Pope Pius XII.
There is a verse at Sirach 24:25-26 (Douay-Rheims) which states, “In me is all grace of the way and of the truth, in me is all hope of life and of virtue.” This verse has been applied to the Blessed Virgin Mary by various saints in history to describe the intercessory nature of her mediation that is applied to us the graces granted her by her Son. As noted by St. Alphonsus at pp. 379-380 of The Glories of Mary:
For Saint Alphonsus, who is the Life, Virtue, Way and Truth from which the hope and the grace that we receive from Mary’s intercession come from? Our Lord Jesus Christ. Note too how St. Alphonsus, whom Protestants love to malign, clearly states that Mary’s mediation is different in both nature and in power to that of Jesus Christ. It is secondary and intercessory only.
St. Louis de Montfort says this in the first chapter of his Treatise on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin:
Pastor Temple may claim that the passages prove Catholics have Mary usurp Jesus’ singular salvific mediation (1 Tim. 2:5). However, he must first account for how Catholics understand her mediation. The Church teaches at Lumen Gentium ¶ 62:
Whenever we pray, or fast or give alms for a family member or friend we are acting as secondary mediators between God and humanity in the order of spiritual intercession which does not detract from the one mediation of Jesus, but manifests and redounds the power of Jesus Christ, our one Divine Mediator to the Father. Similarly, as to Mary, the term "mediatrix" refers to a secondary and subordinate female mediator who acts on and mirrors the intention of the primary and independent mediator; that is, the reconciliation of individuals to God. By virtue of the graces given her, by virtue of her motherhood, Mary by her intercession participates in the one mediation of Jesus Christ like no other creature, and hence, she more than any other creature deservedly and rightly may be called "Mediatrix" who is cooperating with Jesus in reconciling humanity with God.
Scripture provides us examples of Mary’s role as Mediatrix in the order of intercession. It was Mary's intercession at the wedding of Cana (Jn 2:1-11) that led to the first miracle of Our Lord and the beginning of his public ministry. At the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth, Mary's physical intercession in bringing the unborn Christ to his unborn cousin, John the Baptist, led to John's sanctification in the womb of Elizabeth (cf. Lk 1:41). These themes were noticed and highlighted by Saints Irenaeus, Augustine, Ephraem, Anselm, Bonaventure, Bernard and Thomas Aquinas to name a few. Now in modern times, Pope St. John Paul II, perhaps, has offered the best explanation of Mary's secondary mediation:
Another problem with Pastor Temple’s use of a secondary source for the prayer he criticizes is that he never considered the possibility that the prayer was not actually given by Pope Pius XII. After all, if one is going to accuse a pope of blasphemy, it might be a good idea to actually quote what the pope said or wrote. Going to the Vatican’s website, I found the actual Prayer of Pope Pius XII in the original Italian as it was given by him in a radio address on November 21, 1953 which is the Feast of the Presentation of Mary. The origin of this feast day can be found in the Protoevangelium of James written in the middle of the 2nd century AD, a document which shows the belief of the Early Church in both the Immaculate Conception and Mary’s perpetual virginity.
Alla Beata Vergine Maria, concepita senza il peccato originale.
[See also, Acta Apostolicae Sedis (1953), pg. 757]
Pastor Temple believes that Catholics play word games with the term worship. We don’t. The real problem is Catholics and Protestants understand the concept of worship differently. When Protestants, such as Pastor Temple, use the term “worship,” it is synonymous with adoration which is reserved for God alone. Even if they do not use precise theological language, Catholics differentiate between “worship of adoration” or “worship of veneration.”
Allow me to share some examples to help clarify my meaning.
Here is how one Evangelical Protestant minister defines it:
Here is how another Protestant minister defines it:
There is much to laud in these gentlemen’s definitions, but their definitions do not fully express what worship means. Catholic theology is a bit more expansive.
So then what is worship? The textbook definition of worship is the acknowledgment of another's worth, dignity, or superior position. Worshiping starts out as an act of intellectual assent which acknowledges the level of respect that is to be given by virtue of the dignity, status or office of the person, idea or thing which is the object of one’s worship. The decision to offer worship is an act of the will to express that assent. That decision then leads to an external action or response that expresses one’s assent to the worthiness of the person, idea, or thing to which the worship is directed.
When an external act of worship/honor is directed to God, it is more properly called the worship of adoration, or latria, or in contemporary language simply adoration. We see this understanding reflected in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
The Catechism goes on to state that there are three primary ways that created beings offer adoration to Our God. First is through prayer or lifting up of one’s mind toward God. Second is through sacrifice. Third, is through the making of promises and vows, such as those made in connection with the sacraments, doing good works, or dedicating oneself to consecrated religious life or to a vocation. See, Catechism of the Catholic Church ¶¶ 2098-2103.
In contrast, veneration represented by dulia and hyper-dulia is starkly different from latria. The honor shown to Mary and the saints are not lower degrees of adoration. Rather, dulia and hyper-dulia refer to the honor we pay to creatures BY VIRTUE OF THEIR ASSOCIATION AND RELATIONSHIP WITH THEIR CREATOR. Father Hardon again:
VENERATION OF SAINTS.
These definitions are reflected in the Catechism of the Catholic Church as well:
The Communion of the Church of Heaven and Earth
Like latria, there are three ways dulia and hyper-dulia are shown to the angels and saints. They are honored for their sanctity, we ask them to intercede before the divine Majesty, and we imitate their love and service of God. See, Hardon, John. Modern Catholic Dictionary accessed here on February 25, 2015.
Even after being informed as to this understanding of Catholic teaching, Protestants still say that as a practical matter Catholics do give adoration to Mary and the saints. Given such a blinkered vision of what worship is, it is quite understandable that they find Catholic expressions of veneration excessive. Catholics have the Mass, which is the highest form of worship/ adoration there is. We have the Liturgy of the Hours, the unceasing prayer of praise for God which is recited and sung by faithful Catholics for almost two thousand years. We have the sacraments which are visible signs of God’s grace operating in our lives. We have devotions, sacramentals, beautiful churches, shrines, basilicas, sacred music, paintings, prayers, relics, rosaries, statues, candles, ritual and rubrics which all orient us towards God. And for the purposes of this discussion, we have Mary and the saints who are poignant reminders of how God is still present in our lives, how He works in our lives, and how we encounter God even in miraculous ways. We know how veneration offered to Mary and the saints serve as an overwhelmingly efficacious conduit of God's grace to us.
As members of the Communion of Saints, as members of the Body of Christ, the honor we show Mary and the saints by virtue of their status as God's instruments in His salvific plan redounds on us. Worship is not merely a response to the Persons of God, but to the Opus Dei as seen in history, in the world today and in our own relationship with Him as well. It is fitting that we honor the very instruments He uses to effect His work-His angels, the saints, and most especially the Theotokos through whom Jesus Christ entered this world as Our Savior. Veneration of Mary and the saints is part of our loving and grateful response to our experiencing God working in His creation and in our lives. To better honor and love God, we should also honor and love the things of God.
Contrary to the bald assertions of Pastor Temple, veneration of Mary does not derogate my adoration of God. It magnifies our adoration of God.
When I stand in awe at the beauty of the Archabbey Church of Our Lady of Einsiedeln in Saint Meinrad, Indiana, am I not honoring Our Lord who inspired the monks to build it? When I marvel at Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, am I not praising Our Lord who inspired him to compose it? When I am inspired by the beauty of the painting of the Immaculate Conception at the Cleveland Art Museum to cross myself and pray, am I not praising Our Heavenly Father who inspired Murillo to paint it and for that matter for God’s operation of grace in Mary’s life?
How exactly does veneration of Mary, the Mother of God, or His saints derogate from the One who made them all? Pastor Temple and those who join him in his imprecation of dulia and hyper-dulia never tell us how the honor Catholics show to the beauty of God’s grace working in His creation detracts or diminishes in any way the adoration we show God directly. Frankly, the problem is not that Catholics think too highly of Mary and the saints. The problem is that Pastor Temple and those like him think too little of God.
In the YouTube presentation Pastor Temple links to in his post, anti-Catholic writers, Rob Zins and Larry Wessels, outlined various claims against Pius XII’s prayer to the Blessed Virgin. These claims include:
In these expressions of ridicule and incredulity, Ron Zins and Larry Wessels throw around the word “blasphemy” like they were getting a nickel for every time they say it. Not once do these “good theologians” address how Catholics understand the words of the prayer, For example, while these fine worthies claim that the doctrine of the Assumption is nowhere to be found in the Scriptures, they fail to inform their listeners of the fact that Pope Pius XII’s Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus in which the Church officially defined the dogma of the Assumption, presents in ¶¶ 24-41 of that document the various scripture passages Catholic theologians over the centuries have used in support of the dogma. Now one would think that if these gentlemen were “good” theologians as they present themselves to be, they would have at least made reference to the Apostolic Constitution if for no other reason than to refute the Catholic interpretation of the biblical passages cited therein.
In their discussion of the prayer, these gentlemen made no other reference to any scripture, or magisterial documents, or even any teaching of Pope Pius XII himself to ascertain the meaning of the words he used in the prayer. They discuss the dogma of Theotokos pronounced at the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus in 431 AD without accurately stating what the dogma is. She did not give birth to God or the Trinity as these gentlemen state. Rather, the dogma states that Jesus was one man, divine and human, and not two separate persons. He is completely God and completely man with a rational soul and body. Mary is "Theotokos" because she gave birth not to man but to God who took on flesh as a man. The dogma teaches that the union of theses two natures of Christ took place in such a fashion that one did not disturb the other. The dogma was pronounced to condemn those who attacked His divinity and His humanity. It was pronounced to help Christians understand the ful meaning of the Incarnation and why it was necessary for our salvation. It is not an elevation of Mary to the status of goddess. She does become the fourth member of the Holy Trinity. It does not replace her as a divinity and make God into a created being. These men are not “good” theologians or even “good” liars.
Indeed, while these men accuse the Catholic Church of sophistry and deception, they engaged in their own brand of deception in the YouTube presentation. For example, it is suggested at the 22:20 minute mark that if you were to substitute God’s name for Mary’s, you could do no better prayer to Him. Of course, if a person were to actually do that, the prayer f Pope Pius XII would make no sense whatsoever because substituting God for Mary would make God a created being rather than the Uncreated One. They do the very thing they accuse Catholics of doing in the dogma of the Theotokos. Messrs. Zins and Wessels’ deceptive practices prey on the anti-Catholic prejudices of their listeners. They do not instruct, they are meant to incite.
Nor does the prayer “leave nothing for God” as is suggested by these gentlemen. Read the pertinent part of the prayer again:
Here, Mary is not the creator; she is God’s favored creation. She did not exist before God; she participated in the Son’s Incarnation. She did not formulate the plan of salvation; through her fiat, she was the voluntary instrumentality God used to carry it out. Mary is not the author of grace; she is the recipient of it. We honor her because God honored her with His grace. (Lk. 1:28-31) We honor the Donor of the gifts by honoring the donee. ( Cf., Mt. 10:41; Rom. 13:7; 1 Cor. 12:26; Eph. 6:5; 1 Tim. 5:17, 6:1; 1 Pet. 2:17.)
These “good” theologians notwithstanding, popular piety and theological teaching demonstrate the honor we give the Mother of God is not adoration, but is clearly subordinate to the honor given to her Son as shown by this ancient Marian hymn still sung today:
Mary the root, Christ the Mystic Vine; Mary the grape, Christ the Sacred Wine!
Mary the wheat, Christ the Living Bread; Mary the stem, Christ the Rose
Mary the font, Christ the Cleansing Flood; Mary the cup, Christ the Saving Blood!
The ubiquitous prayer addressed to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the “Hail Mary” reflects how Marian devotion should be situated in our lives. From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
In communion with the holy Mother of God
As clearly shown above, when we pray to Mary, we ask her to pray with us. She points us to Her Son. She provides the model of how we are to pray to God. If one does not seek Christ, one should not pray to Mary. Moreover, one cannot claim that Catholics supplant God with Mary or the saints as our prayers do not end with her or the saints, but are joined with their prayers to God.
I could go on much longer refuting these gentlemen’s specific comments, but I can add little to what others have said already. Unlike Pastor Temple and Messrs. Zins, and Wessels, real Catholic theologians, such as St. Alphonsus de Liguori in his The Glories of Mary and Bl. John Henry Newman in his Letter to Pusey on the occasion of his Eirenicon, as well as many highly-regarded Catholic apologists of the present day such as Father Dwight Longenecker [Distorted Devotions – Do Catholics Honor Mary Too Much?], Father Mateo [Refuting the Attack on Mary: A Defense of Marian Doctrines. El Cajon, California: Catholic Answers, Inc. 1999]; and by my friend, David Armstrong ["The Catholic Mary": Quite Contrary to the Bible? available here, Does St. Alphonsus de Liguori, in "The Glories of Mary", Teach That Mary is "Above God" and Can "Manipulate God"? (vs. Len Lisenbee), and Can We Honor Jesus Christ Through His Mother Mary? (vs. John Cranman)] address their vapid argumentation far better than I. To these worthy refutations of Protestant objections to Marian devotion of the sort peddled by Messrs. Zins and Wessels, I hesitantly offer these few additional comments.
Given how little any actual theology Messrs. Zins and Wessels actually discuss in their parsing of Pope Pius XII’s prayer, I was not surprised to see them fall back on the use of the fallacious argumentation style called argumentum ad passiones or an argument to emotion to supplement their lack of proof. A species of the red herring fallacy, an argument to emotion is tailored to convince an already sympathetic audience by using their predilections, their prejudices, their fears, or their passions to manipulate them into accepting one’s argument as true even if very little actual proof in support of the argument is offered.
Your typical beer commercial is the example I use with mock trial students to illustrate argumentum ad passiones. We often see beer commercials use attractive, buxom bikini-clad women to get men to buy a particular brand of beer, as if drinking the brew would cause almost-naked women to flock around the imbiber like starlings at a bird feeder full of corn. After all, if a guy can attract buxom, barely-dressed beauties simply by holding a BLARGH beer in his hand, who cares what it tastes like?
Messrs. Zins and Wessels use a similar, scantily-clad argument to appeal to their YouTube audience. Rather than talk theology, they talk bullfighter and Latin American exuberance. Rather than discuss what the Church actually teaches, they talk how large statues are and how people kiss rings. They play on stereotypes rather than on actual devotion. And for the purpose of our discussion, they focus on the effusiveness of the words used by Pope Venerable Pius XII in the prayer to discuss from their failure to discuss the Catholic theology upon which those words are grounded. These gentlemen use their audience’s predilection against Catholicism to convince their audience that Catholics give latria/adoration to Mary in the place of God without informing their audience how Catholics understand latria. If they had actually argued like “good” theologians do, the effusive nature of the language used in the prayer in question becomes irrelevant because the prayer by Pope Ven. Pius XII specifically acknowledges that Mary is a created being like the rest of us and is not able to do anything of the things mentioned in the prayer with the direction and help of God.
The statements of Pope Pius XII’s detractors here are designed to get the listener to focus on the grandiloquence and sentimentality of the words that Pope Pius XII uses as opposed to the theological foundation employed in the composition of the prayer. Rather than directly address the theology of the prayer, these gentlemen use charged language to attack the prayer as if their personal sentiments against the prayer somehow trump the sentimentality expressed by Pope Pius XII in the prayer. They put prose over substance, emotion over intellect, personal taste over theology, misdirecting over meaning.
Let me be frank. The argumentation employed by Mr. Zins, Mr. Wessels, and Pastor Temple in his post, are all designed to distract the reader from the actual cavil these gentlemen share against Marian prayer. For Calvinists, it doesn’t matter what language Pius XII chose to use in the prayer. It is the fact he engaged in intercessory prayer to Mary at all which they find objectionable. Even if Pope Pius XII had employed the tersest, unimaginative prose possible in his prayer to Mary, the opinion of Pastor Temple and the two gentlemen in the video would have been the same. The prayer to Mary is not acceptable to them because in their minds it is a prayer to a dead person whom they believe can’t even hear intercessory prayers. Their real objection is not the “high” language used by Pius XII in composing his prayer, it is making any sort of intercessory prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary herself to which they object.
Additionally, these men render all prayer as worship. Unlike “good” theologians, they apply the Protestant understanding of prayer to what Catholics do without informing their listeners that Catholics do not see prayers of petition necessarily as adoration unless such prayers are directed to God.
As an attorney, I know that the word “pray” has several different meanings. In the law, a petition for relief is called a “prayer.” In the classical literature I enjoy reading, characters address other characters with “I pray thee.” Some versions of the Bible use the word “pray” in conversations between two people. For example, the Protestant King James Bible states:
Was Elijah giving adoration to Elisha when he prayed to him?