Uh, no

Ah, the unbridled passion of Roman Catholic youth.  Passion was surely involved in the conception¹ and production of this poster spotted nearby.

img_20161201_190345_370.jpgThe Legion of Mary.  Hmm.  Never knew such a thing existed.  I suppose I can deal with someone paying more attention to Mary than I’ve given her.  Perhaps I should pay a little more attention.  I might even go as far as to acknowledge a kernel of truth in the hyperbolic verbal formula “mother of God.”  It’s impossible, however, for me to conceive of the obtuseness that puts such an overtly off-base idea as devotion to Mary on a poster.  Really?  Devotion?  To Mary?

Nothing in Hebrew prophecy suggests the human mother of Jesus was to be iconized or viewed as a fountain of blessing.

No one prays to Mary in scripture, and no one ever should have afterward.

Luke does present the so-called “Magnificat,” a humbly devoted prayer of Mary prior to the birth of Jesus, but no writer of Christian scripture manifests any interest in devotion to Mary.

The official LoM website features this prayerful address:  “O Mary, conceived without sin.”  In reading that expression, one might logically infer that other conceptions are thought to have involved sin.  That implication is offensive.  No one prays to any other child who was also conceived without sin.  But the adverbial phrase “without sin” is at issue, and it invites confusion:  it’s not really intended to modify the verb (according to official R.C. doctrine), but rather, the product of the verb, i.e., Mary herself.  In other words, the assertion is not that Mary’s parents didn’t have intercourse; it’s that the embryonic Mary was qualitatively different from any other human embryo to that point.

The “immaculate conception”—a doctrine fabricated without relation to any biblical text—is one that some non-Catholics will be surprised to discover relates not to Mary’s parents per se, but to the pre-born Mary in utero and her supposed freedom from “original sin” in the womb.  (Some Catholics have been confused on this doctrine, and a papal clarification was issued at some point.  Neither does the “immaculate conception” pertain to Mary’s own virgin state prior to the birth of Jesus.  That assumption a common mistake made by Catholics and non-Catholics alike.)

At the end of the day, the idea that Mary was without original sin while the rest of us are born with it is (a) loading the conversation theologically and (b) making Mary out to be special in a way the scriptures do not claim she was.

The silliness of human religion baffles me.  Joining the Legion of Mary might make some passionate college student feel s/he is perpetuating and building on centuries of something.  The Legion might offer a sense of camaraderie with other, equally off-track souls.  Whatever its draw, the Legion of Mary has nothing to do with authentic Christianity.

B. Casey, 12/2/16

¹ Originally I had “immaculate conception” above, but I was fearful of needless offense at the outset.  Then I realized this whole diatribe will be inherently offensive to a few, and I wasn’t willing to forgo the piece, so I put “immaculate” in this footnote!


5 thoughts on “Uh, no

  1. Steve 12/21/2016 / 4:00 pm

    When one’s theology (e.g., original sin) leads to such contortionistic hermeneutic methods that lead to such unfounded conclusions (e.g., immaculate conception to avoid the issue of Jesus ‘contracting’ sin via birth), then one should probably re-evaluate his/her theology. Just a thought… (BTW…that also is a good rule of thumb for lifelong C of Cer’s and our ‘theology’ conclusions too! just sayin’…)


    • Brian Casey 12/21/2016 / 8:02 pm

      You’ve coined a phrase — Contortionistic Hermeneutic Methods — and I’m gonna credit you every time I use the initials CHMs!


  2. Jonna Statt 12/22/2016 / 9:34 am

    It does help to keep in mind that whatever you grow up with is normal for you. If you grow up in a fervent Catholic home, where your Mom prays the Rosary and you have these little plastic statues of Mary around, then this is what you do,. You even feel sorry for those who do not see Mary as a direct link to get prayers answered through her “influence” with Jesus.

    It was interesting when my grandfather wonderfully got saved when in his early 80’s, he didn’t have enough courage to leave the only church he had ever known, but joyfully read “My Daily Bread” type devotionals for the first time. When Mom once while visiting saw his rosary, he said half sheepishly – “oh, I don’t even say the Hail Mary’s anymore – I just skip over those beads”:-)

    Once I got saved in my late teens, our ex-Catholic pastor had a good analogy – when you have successful surgery, you don’t praise the scalpel – you praise the surgeon. Mary was just an instrument in God’s hand, and a special one at that, but never worthy of worship.

    It really takes insight, of which I readily admit to often lacking, in knowing how to lovingly reach out to Catholics. Yet since my husband and I both came out of that background, we are thankful for those who did make that effort many years ago.


    • Brian Casey 12/26/2016 / 7:20 am

      Jonna and Mike, this was a very “centering” comment, helping to frame the scenario in my head. You’re right (I’ll put this in my words, expanding it) that “normal” can be off-track to varying degrees and often related to what one has lived with since the family of origin.

      My vague sense of Catholic youth activities and dynamics, along with what I know of the specific place I saw the Legion of Mary poster, hints to me that there is likely some group psychology and extreme ardor going on here, too. I would suspect, then, that those around the age of 20 involved in this surely grew up with some Mariology if not Marilotary, but that they have recently caught a bug that moves them further into it with other “on-fire” friends. You may remember that my wife grew up in a Catholic home, too. I checked this with her, and she had the same particular mistaken idea about the doctrine of “immaculate conception”: she grew up thinking that applied to the conception of Jesus.

      Wonderfully on-target anecdotes and wisdom from your grandfather and the youth pastor from your teens. I’ll have to remember the latter! Thank you for sharing.


  3. Brian Casey 12/22/2016 / 7:55 pm

    Via FB
    Ed Wilson: Worship of Mary was very natural to Romans, who always had multiple gods.unfortunately, it persist to this day.

    My reply: Interesting comment. I hadn’t thought of it from that perspective. I suppose it would be a serious investigation to determine the origins of mariolatry (to use a pejorative yet I-think-appropriate term), but I suspect you’re right that a large part of its beginnings would be connected to natural Roman leanings in the time of the Empire. I don’t suppose you’ve read Gibbons’s Maybe he speaks to this. I wonder if 2nd, 3rd, and 4th-century “church fathers” deal with Mary much, or if this was under the radar for a while.


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