The Reason for the Cult
HISTORIANS admit that the early Christians neither worshiped nor venerated Mary or any other creature. Why, then, have so many Catholics become “Madonna worshipers,” as priest Franco Molinari has called them?
There are many reasons. Some of them stem directly from doctrines taught by the Catholic Church. For example, since the church teaches that Jesus is equal to God, this leaves no independent intermediary between man and God. God and Christ, surrounded by an aura of Trinitarian mystery, are no longer approachable, and for this reason the role of “intermediary” between the Divinity and humankind has been delegated to the “Madonna.” In certain Marian movements, mottoes such as “To Jesus through Mary” or “The Virgin, the link between us and Christ,” are common. In the opening speech of the Marian Year, John Paul II said that people must “return to God by means of Mary.”
Throughout history, God and Christ have often been represented as pitiless and inflexible judges. So it is not surprising, as theologian René Laurentin acknowledges, that some Catholics “have contrasted the vindictive justice of Christ with the mercy of his Mother: ‘Jesus wants to condemn, Mary wants to save.’” “Even if we have committed many sins,” writes a bishop, “the heavenly Mother will tenderly forgive us; if we are fearful of God’s justice, we will certainly not fear the heart of the Mother.” Evidently, “God does not give enough reassurance” for Catholics, concludes the Italian periodical Panorama.
Various councils and popes over the centuries have encouraged and continue to encourage the veneration of Mary and her images. Catholic theology uses various terms taken from the Greek in distinguishing the various grades of worship: latria is the worship of God, dulia is the veneration of the saints, and hyperdulia the “special reverence” reserved for the “Madonna.” In harmony with these definitions, in his recent encyclical letter, John Paul II reaffirms that the “images of the Virgin have a place of honour in churches and houses” because she is worthy of “special reverence.”
But is it not true that this “special reverence” has moved some theologians to consider her, as Panorama stated, “the fourth person of the Holy Trinity”? Is it not true that it has moved them to declare—as does a Marian catechism—that “her greatness borders on the infinite”?
In effect, therefore, the concept of Mary as a “perfect model of all virtues” serves to satisfy that which Panorama calls the “desire for security” of faithful Catholics, above all now in the midst of this generation’s present anxieties. Should it surprise us, then, that some of the Catholic clergy have condemned the devotionalistic extremes of the faithful?
A Guide for the Year 2000?
As has been said, according to the pope’s intentions, the revival of the figure of Mary will help to prepare for the year 2000. In the face of the fears and the anxieties caused by the “symptoms of malaise that pervade this generation,” the pope has placed his trust in the “Madonna” so that she may intercede with God and solve the world’s problems. But does the Bible direct us to Mary for a solution to these “symptoms of malaise”? In whom should we really trust in order to witness the realization of the “hope of a new era, of a new world”?
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The Madonna is venerated in different forms throughout the Catholic world