With apologies to Charles Dickens, these are the best of
times - at least as far as relations between the Roman Catholic Church and
her separated brethren. Or so the flood tide of ecumenical bilge issuing
from Rome would have us to believe. But is that the way things really are?
Are the issues which separate us such a big deal that they cannot be
overcome if Christians show a little tolerance? Folks, when the Magisterium
interprets Scripture, what they come up with seems, at first blush, to be
very nearly what the Christian church believes. Rome projects a willingness
to unite with her separated brethren, but never believe she will budge one
micron on her doctrine or dogma. And, should some future pope even hint at
relenting, there is always The Sacred Congregation of the Faith (The
Inquisition) to haul him back into line.
While acknowledging that Christians "think differently"
concerning Scripture, the RCC does concede the Word of God might be useful
in achieving unity:
At the same time, however, they "think differently
from us ... about the relationship between the Scriptures and the Church.
In the Church, according to Catholic belief, an authentic teaching office
plays a special role in the explanation and proclamation of the written
word of God". Even so, "in [ecumenical] dialogue itself, the sacred
utterances are precious instruments in the mighty hand of God for
attaining that unity which the Savior holds out to all."--SECOND
VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Decree on Ecumenism (Unitatis
Just how "differently" do Christians and the Magisterium
think on the relationship between Scriptures and the Church? Just for
giggles, let's examine a few issues.
Nearly 25 years ago, Paul VI wrote:
57. Christ is the only way to the Father (cf. Jn.
14:4-11), and the ultimate example to whom the disciple must conform his
own conduct (cf. Jn. 13:15), to the extent of sharing Christ's sentiments
(cf. Phil. 2:5), living His life and possessing His Spirit (cf. Gal. 2:20;
Rom. 8:10-11). The Church has always taught this and nothing in pastoral
activity should obscure this doctrine.--Marialis Cultus,
Apostolic Exhortation of Paul VI, February, 1974)
Continuing that line of thinking, the Catholic catechism
2680 Prayer is primarily addressed to the Father; it
can also be directed toward Jesus, particularly by the invocation of his
holy name: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us sinners.--Catechism
of the Catholic Church (CCC), (c) 1994/1997 United States Catholic
In Scripture, the prophet Jeremiah wrote:
Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to
the LORD. Let us lift up our heart with [our] hands unto God in the
heavens.--Lamentations 3:40, 41
Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer
and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto
Well, from this it would not seem there is much
difference between Christians and the teachings of Rome. Keep reading in the
Catechism and you soon come to this mention of praying in communion with
2682 Because of Mary's singular cooperation with the
action of the Holy Spirit, the Church loves to pray in communion with the
Virgin Mary, to magnify with her the great things the Lord has done for
her, and to entrust supplications and praises to her.--CCC; Op.
Scripture is replete with examples of believers coming
together in prayer and of exhortations to continue in prayer. However, I am
aware of no instance where we are told of believers joining together with
the dead to pray. On the other hand, we certainly can find examples of what
the Lord God thinks about calling upon the dead or praying to the dead:
There shall not be found among you any one that
makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses
divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or
a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one
who calls up the dead. "For whoever does these things is detestable to the
LORD; and because of these detestable things the LORD your God will drive
them out before you.--Deuteronomy 18:10-12 NASB
John MacArthur's comments on this passage make it crystal
clear what the Lord thinks about those who try to contact the dead,
particularly in an effort to influence the future.
18:9–12 the abominations of those nations.
Moses gave a strict injunction not to copy, imitate, or do what the
polytheistic Canaanites did. Nine detestable practices of the Canaanites
were delineated in vv. 10, 11, namely: 1) sacrificing children in the fire
(see 12:31); 2) witchcraft, seeking to determine the will of the gods by
examining and interpreting omens; 3) soothsaying, attempting to control
the future through power given by evil spirits; 4) interpreting omens,
telling the future based on signs; 5) sorcery, inducing magical effects by
drugs or some other sort of potion; 6) conjuring spells, binding other
people by magical muttering; 7) being a medium, one who supposedly
communicates with the dead, but actually communicates with demons; 8)
being a spiritist, one who has an intimate acquaintance with the demonic,
spiritual world; and 9) calling up the dead, investigating and seeking
information from the dead. These evil practices were the reason the Lord
was going to drive the Canaanites out of the land.--John F. MacArthur,
Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible, Word Publishing 1997
There can be little doubt that that warning to the Hebrew
people wandering in the wilderness holds true to this day, for God does not
For [there is] one God, and one mediator between God
and men, the man Christ Jesus;--1 Timothy 2:5
There must be some mistake here,. Catholics seem always
to be praying to Mary or some saint or other. In my experience, they
seek the help of these dead people (or their spirits) in order to obtain all
manner of boons. I have stood by as Catholics prayed to Jude for the health
of a friend or family member. Catholics light candles and pray to Erasmus
for the relief of abdominal pain, to Roch for their cattle, to Basilissa for
healing chilblains. Coin collectors pray to Eligius. Folks bitten by dogs
look to Ubald for support. Gabriel the Archangel is the patron "saint" of
those who work in the telecommunications industry. (praying to angels is a
whole other subject).
Rome, and those who pretend to speak for her, usually are
quick to claim that Catholics do not pray to these dead people, but
with them. If that is true, why is the prayer known as the Hail
Mary directed to her? True, in this prayer, the petitioner is
asking dead Mary to pray for him, but in order to do so, he must
first pray to her.
Hail, Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with you.
Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb,
Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners
now and at the hour or our death. Amen
Apart from the sheer foolishness of seeking help from a
dead person, the very attempt to do so appears to be flying in the face of
God's warning in Deuteronomy 18. Perhaps the new catechism's teaching that
Christ is the only way to God is in error and all the stuff we read and hear
about praying to Mary and other dead people is the way things really are.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I
approved 25 June last and the publication of which I today order by virtue
of my Apostolic Authority, is a statement of the Church's faith and of
catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, the
Apostolic Tradition and the Church's Magisterium. I declare it to be a
sure norm for teaching the faith and thus a valid and legitimate
instrument for ecclesial communion.--Fidei Depositum, Apostolic
Constitution promulgated by Pope John Paul II, October 11, 1992
Well, if we are believe JP2, the catechism isn't wrong.
That must also mean that the claims that dead Mary is mediatrix of God's
grace, co-redeemer, advocate and the source of salvation must not really be
the official, infallible teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. Whoops!!!
That can't work either, for the Pope is infallible when speaking ex
cathedra on matters of faith and morals. And popes have had plenty to
say about praying to Mary.
The Catholic Church, endowed with centuries of
experience, recognizes in devotion to the Blessed Virgin a powerful aid
for man as he strives for fulfillment. Mary, the New Woman, stands at the
side of Christ, the New Man, within whose mystery the mystery of man[Cf.
II Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern
World, Gaudium et Spes, 22: AAS 58 (1966), pp. 1042-1044.] alone finds
true light; she is given to us as a pledge and guarantee that God's plan
in Christ for the salvation of the whole man has already achieved
realization in a creature: in her.--(MarialisCultus; Op. cit.
Not only do We earnestly exhort all Christians to
give themselves to the recital of the pious devotion of the Rosary
publicly, or privately in their own house and family, and that
unceasingly, but we also desire that the whole of the month of October in
this year should be consecrated to the Holy Queen of the Rosary. We decree
and order that in the whole Catholic world, during this year, the devotion
of the Rosary shall be solemnly celebrated by special and splendid
services.--ON DEVOTION OF THE ROSARY,Supremi Apostolatus Officio,
Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII , September 1, 1883
Among the various supplications with which we
successfully appeal to the Virgin Mother of God, the Holy Rosary without
doubt occupies a special and distinct place. . . --Ingravescentibus
Malis, Encyclical of Pope Pius XI promulgated on September 29, 1937.
We have deemed it Our duty to exhort again this year
the people of Christendom to persevere in that method and formula of
prayer known as the Rosary of Mary, and thereby to merit the powerful
patronage of the great Mother of God.--Superiore Anno,
Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII promulgated on August 30, 1884
What exactly is "praying the Rosary?" For an excellent
Christian look at the ritual involved in praying repeated prayers of the
Rosary, click here
As a Catholic youth, I sometimes joined other Catholics
in praying the Rosary. It was my observation then that many who droned the
incredible string of Hail Marys involved in this ritual appeared more
interested in getting it over with than worshipping. Even today, some of my
Catholic relatives who go through this rite twice daily say the interminable
Hail Marys at light speed. They repeat the words so quickly that they
are indeed unintelligible. To me, it appears they are paying dues, not
Why do they do it? What motivates the Catholic faithful
to get on their knees, often before a lighted candle and an effigy of dead
Mary, and run through 50 prayers to dead Mary and but five to Almighty God?
Well, one reason might be that the infallible popes have held out a
carrot. By faithfully honoring dead Mary by praying the Rosary, Catholics
are promised an early release from Purgatory.
In favor of those who shall do as We have above laid
down, We are pleased to open the heavenly treasure-house of the Church
that they may find therein at once encouragements and rewards for their
piety. We therefore grant to all those who, in the prescribed space of
time, shall have taken part in the public recital of the Rosary and the
Litanies, and shall have prayed for Our intention, seven years and seven
times forty days of indulgence, obtainable each time. . . We remit all
punishment and penalties for sins committed, in the form of a Pontifical
indulgence, to all who, in the prescribed time, either publicly in the
churches or privately at home (when hindered from the former by lawful
cause) shall have at least twice practiced these pious exercises; and who
shall have, after due confession, approached the holy table. We further
grant a plenary indulgence to those who, either on the feast of the
Blessed Virgin of the Rosary or within its octave, after having similarly
purified their souls by a salutary confession, shall have approached the
table of Christ and prayed in some church according to Our intention to
God and the Blessed Virgin for the necessities of the Church.--Supremi
Apostolatus Officio; Op. cit.
Faithfully praying the Rosary also can solve the world's
social problems, according to a papal declaration:
We do not hesitate to affirm again publicly that We
put great confidence in the Holy Rosary for the healing of evils which
afflict our times--Ingruentium Malorum, Encyclical of Pope Pius
XII promulgated on September 15, 1951.
Shoot!!! One pope even assures us that praying the Rosary
is a good way to obtain immortality.
Very admirable is this crown interwoven with the
angelic salutation which is interposed in the Sunday prayer, and unites
with it the obligation of interior meditation. It is an excellent manner
of prayer . . . and very useful for the attainment of immortal life--Acta
Leonis, 1898, Vol. XVIII, pp. 154,155
Praying the Rosary involves repeating the same prayers to
Mary and, to a lesser extent, God the Father. Was this what Jesus had in
mind when He spoke out against repetitious prayers?
5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the
hypocrites [are]: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in
the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say
unto you, They have their reward.
6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast
shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which
seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen [do]: for
they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things
ye have need of, before ye ask him.
9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as [it is] in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is
the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.--Matthew
Praying the Rosary sure looks like praying to dead Mary
to me. But a pope assures us it is a different kind of praying.
We do not pray to the Blessed in the same way as to
God; for we ask the Holy Trinity to have mercy on us, but we ask all the
Saints to pray for us . . . Yet our manner of praying to the Blessed
Virgin has something in common with our worship of God, so that the Church
even addresses to her the words with which we pray to God: "Have mercy on
sinners." . . For, so great is her dignity, so great her favour before
God, that whosoever in his need will not have recourse to her is trying to
fly without wings.--Augustissimae Virginis Mariae, Encyclical
of Pope Leo XIII, September 12, 1897)
Why ask a dead person for help? God the Father is
The LORD [is] nigh unto all them that call upon him,
to all that call upon him in truth. He will fulfil the desire of them that
fear him: he also will hear their cry, and will save them. The LORD
preserveth all them that love him: but all the wicked will he destroy.--Psalms