An Historical and Scriptural Analysis of Papal Infallibility
by Greg Loren Durand and Eric Tuttobene
Copyright © 1989-2005
Rome's Doctrine of Mary
Was Mary Really Born Without Sin?
The honor, glory, reverence, and exaltation bestowed upon the Virgin Mary by the Roman church is the one feature of Romanism which Protestants find most offensive. In one of his official pronouncements, Pius XII (1939-1958) characterized Mary as follows:
From the moment of your Immaculate Conception, until the day in which after your Assumption into heaven, [God] crowns you Queen of the Universe.... Oh conqueress of evil and death, inspire in us a deep horror of sin.... Receive, oh most sweet Mother our humble supplications. Above all, obtain for us that on that day, happy with you, we may repeat before your throne that hymn which is sung today around your altars. You are all beautiful, oh Mary. You are the glory, you are the joy, you are the honor of our people. Oh Mary, Gate of Heaven, no one shall enter in but through thee.(1)
Pius acknowledged and formalized many of the current doctrines of "Mariology" -- Rome's theological teachings about "The Blessed Virgin" -- in the above pronouncement, including the "Immaculate Conception" and the bodily "Assumption" of Mary into Heaven. Romanists are expected to believe these doctrines without question because they were pronounced by an infallible pope. However, how do such doctrines compare with Scripture?
The so-called Immaculate Conception of Mary was officially defined in 1854 by Pius IX. Recorded in the Catholic Encyclopedia is the following definition of this doctrine: "We declare, pronounce, and define that the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, at the first instant of her conception was preserved immaculate from all stain of original sin... and that this doctrine was revealed by God, and therefore must be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful."(2) However, the next page of the same source surprisingly admits that "no direct... proof of the dogma can be brought forward from Scripture."(3) It is pointed out, rather, that this idea was a "gradual development" within the theological structure of the Roman church.
The doctrine of Mary's alleged sinlessness is another example of "gradual development" of Rome's theology. The Council of Trent affirmed, "The Blessed Virgin Mary was free of all stain of original sin by virtue of her immaculate conception and she was also free of all actual sin, whether mortal or venial.... She remained for her whole life absolutely sinless as... a special privilege of God."(4)
Once again, no scriptural proof of the dogma is offered by Rome. We should not be surprised, therefore, that when these doctrines are compared with the Bible, they are found to be in direct conflict with its teachings on the universality of sin:
As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one... for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.... (Romans 3:10b, 23)
...[A]s by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned (Romans 5:12).
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us (1 John 1:8-10).
Scripture clearly affirms the fundamental truth that all men and women, including Mary, have been and continue to be born with the fallen Adamic nature, and are in desperate need of God's redemptive grace. Mary herself openly acknowledged this fact about herself in Luke 1:47 when she exclaimed, "...[M]y soul hath rejoiced in God my Saviour." Obviously, only a sinner needs a savior.
Interestingly, there has even been considerable opposition among several popes to Mary's alleged immaculate conception and sinless nature. Leo I (440-461) stated, "The Lord Jesus Christ alone among the sons of men was born without sin." Grelasius I (590-604) said, "For Christ alone was truly born holy, who in order that He might overcome this condition of corruptible nature was not conceived after the manner of men." And finally, Innocent III (1198-1216) declared, "Eve was produced without sin, but she brought forth in sin. Mary was brought forth in sin, but she brought forth without sin."(5)
The biblical principles of the sinfulness of man and Christ's unique exclusion from partaking of this nature were apparently fully understood and supported by these "infallible" popes. And yet, Rome persists in teaching what is blatantly contrary, not only to the Scriptures, but also her own past leaders as well.
The Alleged Bodily Assumption of Mary
The "Assumption" -- that is, the belief that Mary was raised from the grave shortly after her death and was enthroned as Queen of Heaven -- became infallible Roman doctrine in 1950 by the pronouncement of Pius XII: "On the third day after Mary's death, when the apostles gathered around her tomb, they found it empty. The sacred body had been carried up to the celestial paradise. Jesus Himself came to conduct her hither; the whole court of heaven came... [singing] 'Lift up your gates... and the Queen of Glory shall enter in.'"(6) Pius then proceeded to define the Assumption as "divinely revealed... [and] therefore now a dogma and article of faith."(7) He also cited Matthew 27:52 to support the doctrine. Unfortunately, this passage, which details the resurrection of many saints at the moment of the crucifixion of Christ, would exclude Mary, for she was very much alive at that time.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about this doctrine, and indeed all the doctrines of Mariology, is that, in the face of a complete lack of any supportive evidence from Scripture, Romanists living after 1950 have accepted and continue to accept without question a doctrine which was unknown to the world for nineteen and a half centuries. The Roman church stubbornly defends this and other doctrines against the absence of scriptural or historical evidence on the grounds that, because of the infallibility of the pope, no such evidence is required to substantiate his decrees. Rather than submitting blindly to papal assumptions, Romanists would do well to consider these words of the Apostle John, which were written long after Mary's death: "And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven" (John 3:13).
Did Mary Remain a Perpetual Virgin?
According to papal decree, Mary was not only a virgin at the moment Jesus was conceived within her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit, but she remained such throughout the remainder of her life: "Both before and after her miraculous childbearing she was a virgin and so remained all her days, according to the unanimous and perpetual tradition and teaching of the Church."(8) Of course, there is no evidence that this "unanimous and perpetual tradition and teaching" of Romanism existed prior to the Fifth Century. According to the Bible, Jesus had at least four brothers and three sisters (Matthew 13:54-58; Mark 6:1-6; Galatians 1:19). Rome attempts to refute this by saying that either the word "brother," when used in these verses in connection to Christ, actually means "cousin," or that "Joseph had been previously married and had children... [because the idea] that the 'brethren' were the children of Mary is incompatible with the Church's teaching of her perpetual virginity."(9)
There is no indication whatsoever, either from Scripture or from history, that Joseph was at any time married to another woman besides Mary. Apparently, the possibility of papal error is so inconceivable to Romanists that they are forced to rewrite the Bible and to make ridiculous speculations about historical events. Moreover, it is significant to note that the Greek language had an entirely different word for "cousin" (anepsios), as is found in Colossians 4:10 ("...Marcus, sister's son to Barnabas..."), which would have been used in this instance if Matthew had so intended. Likewise, in Psalm 69:8, which is a messianic prophecy of Christ's rejection by his own family, we find still more evidence that Mary had other children after Jesus: "I am a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother's children."
The Bible also says that Joseph "did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: and knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS" (Matthew 1:24-25). If Joseph never had sexual relations with Mary, as the Roman church is so adamant that its people believe, why then does the passage clearly suggest otherwise? Why did Matthew not simply write, "and he never knew his wife"? The answer, though unthinkable to Romanists, is obviously that the papacy is in error.
Does Mary Possess the Name Above All Names?
The unbiblical elements of Mariology unfortunately do not end with the aforementioned doctrines. In his book entitled, The Glories of Mary, Bishop Alphonse de Liguori made the following observations concerning the person of Mary:
All power is given to thee in Heaven and on earth... [so that] at the command of Mary all obey -- even God -- and thus... God has placed the whole Church... under the domination of Mary.....
The whole Trinity, O Mary, gave thee a name... above every other name, that at thy name, every knee should bow, of things in heaven, on earth, and under the earth.(10)
It is absolutely incredible that these and other such statements found in de Liguori's book received a written imprimatur from Cardinal Patrick Joseph Hays of New York, declaring it to be an accurate and official pronouncement of Roman doctrine, for the utter blasphemy that they contain goes well without saying. According to Matthew 28:18, all power is given to Jesus Christ, not Mary, and it is He, not Mary, whom "God hath highly exalted.. and given... a name which is above every name" (Philippians 2:9). It is at the Name of Jesus, not Mary, that "every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth" (Philippians 2:10) and it is the Name of Jesus, not Mary, which will be confessed by "every tongue... to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:11).
De Liguori went on to describe Mary as "truly a mediatress of peace between sinners and God" and stated that "sinners receive pardon... by Mary alone... [for she is] the Advocate of the whole human race...."(11) The Catholic Dictionary likewise instructs Romanists to "pray to her and she in heaven intercedes with her son, God the Son, for them."(12) Apparently, neither de Liguori nor the writer of the Dictionary ever read 1 Timothy 2:5, which clearly teaches that "there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." The following passage may also be cited in response to this wicked and idolatrous elevation of Mary: "Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God who justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us" (Romans 8:33-34).
In response to Pius XII's previously quoted statement that Mary is the "conqueress of evil and death," we need only to read Hebrews 2:14-15: "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." Mary's alleged role of "Gate of Heaven" likewise conflicts with the claim of Christ Himself: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.... Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.... I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.... I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me (John 10:1, 7, 9, 14:6).
Is Mary a Co-Redemptrix With Jesus Christ?
Rome has spent centuries modifying its doctrines of Mary to such a point that Mariology so closely parallels the life and redemptive work of Christ that the two have nearly become indistinguishable from one another. Perhaps the last remaining hurdle to be overcome in this regard is to pronounce Mary as a co-redemptrix with her Son. It is therefore not surprising to note that the papacy is already moving in this very direction. Under the heading of "Co-Redemptrix," the Romanist Dictionary of Theology states: "[It is] a term in Catholic theology whose possible meaning has not yet been precisely determined. It seeks to express Mary's role -- unique in personal and saving history and ever valid and efficacious -- in the historical beginning of redemption and its fulfillment by the Redeemer Jesus Christ."(13)
The gradual progression to declare Mary as co-redemptrix began in 1921 with Benedict XV (1914-1922), who claimed that she suffered alongside her dying Son, and thus shares in the credit for the redemption of mankind. Two years later, in 1923, this pronouncement was sanctioned by Pius XI. Expounding upon this idea, Bishop de Liguori, who eventually was canonized as a Roman saint for his work in promoting Mariology, wrote, "The way of salvation is open to none otherwise than through Mary... [and since] our salvation is in the hands of Mary... he who is protected by Mary will be saved; he who is not, will be lost."(14) How contrary to the clear teaching of Scripture is this idolatrous statement:
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God (John 3:14-18).
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement (Romans 5:8-11).
It is a common tactic of Romanists to attempt to deflect the charge of idolatry which is frequently brought against them by claiming that they do not render the same worship to Mary which they render to God. According to one source:
[Latria is] the veneration due to God alone for his supreme excellence and to show people's complete submission to him. It is essentially adoration. As absolute latria, it is given only to God, as the Trinity, or one of the Divine Persons, Christ as God and as man, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and the Holy Eucharist. Representations of God as images connected with the Divinity may receive relative latria, which is given not to the symbol but to the Godhead, whom it signifies.(15)
Elsewhere, we are told, "Dulia is the special worship, generally called veneration, given to the angels and saints because as friends of God they share in His excellence.... Hyperdulia is the veneration proper to the Blessed Mother alone; it is the highest form of veneration short of adoration."(16) Thus, when the Romanist bows, kisses, prays to, or otherwise offers "special worship" to a statue of Mary, he utilizes the alleged distinction between latria and dulia to relieve his conscience of the guilt of what the Scriptures denounce as brazen idolatry. Most Romanists, however, have not considered the fact that, whereas latria is transliterated from the Greek word meaning "to render religious homage," dulia comes from the Greek word signifying bondage and thus is the service rendered by a slave to his master. Clearly, the latter, in a religious context, is the highest form of devotion possible and yet Romanists reserve hyperdulia for Mary alone, not the members of the eternal Godhead. The Scriptures, however, know nothing of Rome's invented distinction between latria and dulia, for the two are used interchangeably throughout both Testaments to describe religious service or worship which has God only as its proper object:
I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage [i.e. service to others beside the true God; Hebrew ebed, a derivative of abad, and douleia in the Greek Septuagint]. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve [Hebrew abad -- "to serve, to be in bondage to; latreuseis in the Septuagint] them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments (Exodus 20:2-6).
No man can serve [douleuein] two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve [douleuein] God and mammon (Matthew 6:24).
Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, serving [douleuon] the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews.... And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers: unto which promise our twelves tribes, instantly serving [latreuon] God day and night, hope to come (Acts 20:18b-19, 26:6b-7a).
Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants [douloi] of men (1 Corinthians 7:23).
For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve [douleuein] the living and true God (1 Thessalonians 1:9).
How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve [latreuein] the living God? (Hebrews 9:14)
In light of such astounding declarations concerning Mary, as well as Rome's insistence that she be known as "The Mother of God," it is difficult not to get the impression that she is more than human; indeed, she would be more than angelic, since even the righteous angels refuse to receive either latria or dulia from men. Furthermore, given the pattern of introduction, definition, support, and eventual formalization which is so characteristic of the history of Roman dogma, there are many who expect that the next official papal pronouncement will declare Mary to be associated with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in matters of salvation, and that she will indeed become "Mediatrix of All Graces" and "Co-Redemptrix" with Christ. One can only wonder how much time will elapse before Mary, the simple handmaid of the Lord, will be praised and exalted so highly that she will become united, by infallible papal decree, with the members of the Godhead in some sort of monstrous "Holy Quadrinity."
It is safe to say that the adoration, or hyperdulia, of Mary by Romanists was anticipated and conclusively dealt with by Christ Himself in Luke 11:27-28: "And it came to pass, as [Jesus] spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked. But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it."
1. De Revolutionibus, 5 March 1619.
2. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIV, page 316..
4. The Bishop of Cremora, Luitprand, quoted by Ralph Woodrow, Babylon Mystery Religion (Palm Springs, California: Ralph Woodrow Evangelistic Association, 1966).
5. Henry H. Halley, Halley's Bible Handbook (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1965), page 775.
6. Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume IV, page 435.
7. Ibid., Volume VII, page 796.
8. Council of Trent, Session IV.
9. Attwater, Catholic Dictionary, page 54.