|From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase|
In this series we're exploring five key distinctions between Roman Catholicism and authentic Biblical Christianity:
Doctrine: Tradition vs. Scripture (read here)
Authority: Church vs. Christ (read here)
Salvation: Works vs. Faith (read here)
Mediators: Many vs. One (read here)
The True Church: Visible vs. Invisible (read here)
Today we come to point number four: Are there many mediators between God and man as Rome claims, or one Mediator as Scripture says? Is Mary the saving Redeemer along with Christ? We are quoting approved Vatican sources (which bear its claim of infallibility) versus the Word of God.
4. Mediators: Many vs. One
Roman Catholicism puts priests, Mary the mother of the incarnate Christ, and a plethora of saints and angels first as mediators - and Christ second. Rome says Mary is the Mediatrix of salvation along with Christ:
"To begin, we can say without doubt that the title 'Mediatrix' [for Mary] is justified, and applies to all graces for certain, by her cooperation in acquiring all graces on Calvary.
"The Second Vatican Council...said:
"... in suffering with Him as He died on the cross, she cooperated in the work of the Savior, in an altogether singular way, by obedience, faith, hope, and burning love, to restore supernatural life to souls. As a result she is our Mother in the order of grace.
"This motherhood of Mary in the economy of grace lasts without interruption, from the consent which she gave in faith at the annunciation, and which she unhesitatingly bore with under the cross, even to the perpetual consummation of all the elect. For after being assumed into heaven, she has not put aside this saving function, but by her manifold intercession, she continues to win the gifts of eternal salvation for us. By her motherly love, she takes care of the brothers of her Son who are still in pilgrimage and in dangers and difficulties, until they be led through to the happy fatherland. For this reason, the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the [Roman Catholic] Church under the titles of Advocate, Auxiliatrix, Adiutrix, and Mediatrix...
"...since Mary was associated with her Son in acquiring grace for us, she will also share with him in distributing that grace to us. This fits well with the words of the Popes, who call her the administra of grace, meaning that she administers or dispenses it."1 The doctrine that Mary is Co-Redemptrix along with Jesus Christ is a commonly-accepted teaching among many Catholics:
A movement is underway, based on petitions to the Vatican signed by a number of Catholic leaders including the late Mother Theresa and six cardinals, to declare as official dogma what has long been unofficially taught in many Roman Catholic seminaries and churches: The doctrine that Mary is Co-Redemptrix along with Jesus Christ. The petition states:
"We believe the time opportune for a solemn definition of clarification regarding the constant teaching of the Church concerning the Mother of the Redeemer and her unique cooperation in the work of Redemption, as well as her subsequent roles in the distribution of grace and intercession for the human family."2
One of Mel Gibson's stated reasons for producing his motion picture, The Passion of the Christ, was to portray Mary as Co-Redemptrix. In the script Gibson puts words in Mary's mouth and portrays actions on her part that have no basis in Scripture but are based on church tradition, which elevates her to that role. An official Vatican website speaks approvingly of Gibson's portrayal, saying, "Mary Co-Redemptrix has been given her first international film debut in a supporting role, and it's a hit."3 Rome says that members of the visible church on earth are to pray to saints and angels:
"...the faithful in heaven, on earth, and in purgatory are one mystical body, with Christ for their head. All that is of interest to one part is of interest to the rest, and each helps the rest: we on earth by honouring and invoking the saints and praying for the souls in purgatory, and the saints in heaven by interceding for us. The Catholic doctrine of intercession and invocation is set forth by the Council of Trent, which teaches that
"the saints who reign together with Christ offer up their own prayers to God for men. It is good and useful suppliantly to invoke them, and to have recourse to their prayers, aid, and help for obtaining benefits from God, through His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, Who alone is our Redeemer and Saviour. Those persons think impiously who deny that the Saints, who enjoy eternal happiness in heaven, are to be invoked; or who assert either that they do not pray for men, or that the invocation of them to pray for each of us is idolatry, or that it is repugnant to the word of God, and is opposed to the honour of the one Mediator of God and men, Jesus Christ (Sess. XXV).
"This had already been explained by St. Thomas [Aquinas]:
"Prayer is offered to a person in two ways: one as though to be granted by himself, another as to be obtained through him. In the first way we pray to God alone...But in the second way we pray to the holy angels and to men [saints]...that by their prayers and merits our prayers may be efficacious."4
"There is indeed 'one mediator of God and man, the man Christ Jesus'. But He is our mediator in His quality of our common Redeemer; He is not our sole intercessor nor advocate, nor our sole mediator by way of supplication. In the eleventh session of the Council of Chalcedon (451) we find the Fathers exclaiming, 'Flavianus lives after death! May the Martyr pray for us!' If we accept this doctrine of the worship of the saints, of which there are innumerable evidences in the writings of the Fathers and the liturgies of the Eastern and Western Churches, we shall not wonder at the loving care with which the Church committed to writing the sufferings of the early martyrs, sent these accounts from one gathering of the faithful to another, and promoted the veneration of the martyrs....Canonization [designation of a dead person as a saint who may be prayed to], therefore, creates a cultus [a system of religious belief and ritual] which is universal and obligatory."5 Rome says that sins must be confessed to an earthly priest:
"Penance is a sacrament...in which forgiveness of sins committed after baptism is granted through the priest's absolution to those who with true sorrow confess their sins and promise to satisfy for the same....As an outward sign it comprises the actions of the penitent in presenting himself to the priest and accusing himself of his sins, and the actions of the priest in pronouncing absolution and imposing satisfaction. This whole procedure is usually called, from one of its parts, 'confession', and it is said to take place in the 'tribunal of penance' [i.e., the confessional booth], because it is a judicial process in which the penitent is at once the accuser, the person accused, and the witness, while the priest pronounces judgment and sentence. The grace conferred is deliverance from the guilt of sin and, in the case of mortal sin, from its eternal punishment; hence also reconciliation with God, justification. Finally, the confession is made not in the secrecy of the penitent's heart [i.e., directly to God]...but to a duly ordained priest with requisite jurisdiction and with the 'power of the keys', i.e., the power to forgive sins which Christ granted to the [Roman Catholic] Church."6
Biblical Christianity recognizes that Jesus Christ is the only Mediator between God and man. Scripture makes no claim that Mary is a Mediatrix or Co-Redemptrix, and in fact states that she was in need of redemption herself and professed Christ as her Savior:
And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord." And Mary said: "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state [the word in the original has to do with sinfulness] of His maidservant; for behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed" (Luke 1:41-48).
[Scripture also states that Mary was among the 120 in the upper room on the day of Pentecost, and indicates that she received the Holy Spirit and spoke in other tongues proclaiming Christ, just as the other believers. She is not given any elevated position. See our article, Did Mary Speak in Tongues at Pentecost?] Scripture prohibits prayers to the dead or the worship of angels:
And when they say to you, "Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter," should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them (Isaiah 8:19-20).
They joined themselves also to Baal of Peor, and ate sacrifices offered to the dead. Thus they provoked Him to anger with their deeds, and the plague broke out among them (Psalm 106:28-29).
Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God (Colossians 2:18-19).
For to which of the angels did He ever say: "You are My Son, today I have begotten You"? And again: "I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son"? But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says: "Let all the angels of God worship Him" (Hebrews 1:5-6). Scripture teaches that there is one Mediator:
For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5).
For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance (Hebrews 9:13-15).
For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood. And it is yet far more evident if, in the likeness of Melchizedek, there arises another priest who has come, not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life. For He testifies: "You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek." For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God. And inasmuch as He was not made priest without an oath (for they have become priests without an oath, but He with an oath by Him who said to Him: "The Lord has sworn and will not relent, 'You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek' " ), by so much more Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant.
Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing. But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people's, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever. (Hebrews 7:14-28). Scripture teaches that two persons of the Godhead alone act as Intercessors:
My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous (1 John 2:1).
Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God (Romans 8:26-27).
Next - 5. The True Church: Visible vs. Invisible
1. William G. Most, "Mary, Mediatrix of all Graces" in the "Teachings" section of the website of the EWTN Global Catholic Network, an official website of the Vatican, as viewed on December 10, 2009 at http://www.ewtn.com/faith/teachings/marya4.htm.
2. "Cardinals Hoping for a 5th Marian Dogma" as viewed on the website of the EWTN Global Catholic Networkon December 10, 2009 at http://www.ewtn.com/library/MARY/z5mardogm.htm
3. Dr. Mark Miraville, "Gibson's Passion and Mary 'Co-redemptrix' " as viewed at http://www.ewtn.com/library/MARY/pasmarco.htm on the website of the EWTN Global Catholic Network on December 10, 2009. Miraville is a Professor of Theology and Mariology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville (Ohio).
4. The Catholic Encyclopedia, entry on "Intercession (Mediation)" as viewed on December 10, 2009 at http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08070a.htm.
5. The Catholic Encyclopedia, entry on "Beatification and Canonization" as viewed on December 10, 2009 at http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02364b.htm
6. The Catholic Encyclopedia, entry on "Confession" as viewed on December 10, 2009 at http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11618c.htm