Mariology is one of the most controversial aspects of Catholicism for Protestant Christians. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most misunderstood.
Here are 5 of the most common myths about the Catholic Church’s theology and veneration of the Mother of God:
Myth 1: Catholics worship Mary
Truth: This is no where near the truth, yet it’s still a common accusation made by Protestants. In reality, Catholics believe that Mary is just a creature, a fellow Christian, and saved by the grace of Jesus like the rest of us (see Myth 2).
In case there was somehow doubt about this, the Second Vatican Council in chapter 8 of Lumen Gentium is explicit regarding Mary: “[N]o creature could ever be counted as equal with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer. […] The Church does not hesitate to profess this subordinate role of Mary.” (LG 62)
Myth 2: Catholics think Mary didn’t need a Savior
Truth: Catholics believe that Mary was saved by the grace of Jesus Christ just like everyone else. Protestants (or anyone) who think otherwise are usually confused about the Church’s dogma of the Immaculate Conception.
The dogma of the Immaculate Conception says that Mary, “at the first instant of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace of the Omnipotent God, in virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of mankind, was preserved immaculate from all stain of original sin…” “[H]ence,” the Church concludes, “she was redeemed in a manner more sublime.” (Ineffabilis Deus; emphasis added)
In other words, the fact she was conceived without Original Sin, and afterwards never sinned, happened due to the gratuitous grace of Jesus Christ. Thus, in Scripture, Mary in all truthfulness “rejoices in God my Savior.” (Luke 1.47)
Myth 3: Catholic Mariology contradicts the Bible
Truth: Not only does the Bible not contradict Catholic Mariology, but it supports it. A lot could be said here, but here are a few examples:
Regarding the Perpetual Virginity of Mary: The Bible never says Mary had other children, and the “brothers and sisters” of Jesus traditionally have been understood (even by Protestants) as simply referring to close relatives of Jesus. In support of the doctrine, theologians since the early Church have interpreted Mary’s confusion about how she would conceive Jesus, despite the fact she was about to marry Joseph, as an indication she had taken a vow of virginity.
Regarding the Hail Mary prayer: The Bible says Christians should pray for each other (which is what the Hail Mary prayer asks Mary to do for us: “pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.”). And the first few lines are simply quotes from the Bible: “Hail Mary, full of grace” is how the angel Gabriel greeted Mary at the Annunciation; “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus” is what St. Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, exclaimed when Mary visited her. (Luke 1)
Myth 4: Mariology is a late medieval corruption of the faith
Truth: Actually, the earliest Christians were intensely interested in Mary’s unique role in salvation history. Though Mariology, like all areas of theology, has developed and matured over time, Protestants may be surprised at what they find if they read about the early Church fathers’ profound insight of Mary being the “New Eve.”
Myth 5: Mary obscures Jesus
Truth: It’s actually precisely the opposite: Mary’s entire life points to and honors Jesus.
In Scripture, after St. Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, venerates Mary upon seeing her (“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”; Luke 1.42-43), Mary immediately deflects all the glory back to God: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.” (Luke 1.46-48)
Does Scripture obscure Jesus when it tells the stories of the faithful? Of course not: remembering the lives holy men and women who served God by the grace of Jesus and honoring them is a way to ultimately honor God. The same is especially true of Mary, the perfect example of faith and the Mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ.