Monday, April 29, 2019

LIGUORI’S IDOLATRY AND THE CATHOLIC CHURCH’S ACCEPTANCE OF IT


Alphonsus Mary Antony John Cosmas Damian Michael Gaspard de’Liguori (shortened to Alphonsus Liguori) was an 18th century Italian Catholic bishop, theologian and mystic who was also made a “doctor” of the Catholic Church and eventually a “saint.”  Liguori wrote a number of books, but one of special note is called The Glories of Mary.  This book is a collection of quotes, devotions, discourses and prayers of certain fathers concerning Mary.  It is said that The Glories of Mary is widely regarded as his “finest masterpiece,” and it is still around today.  As you can tell by the title, this book exalts and glorifies Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ.  It can be read online here:


This particular edition claims to be the “first complete translation of the work ever made into the English language.” 

While the book does acknowledge God and the work of His Son, Jesus Christ, there are some serious issues with it.  But lest anyone try to say that we are denying that anything in his book is scriptural, we will start off on a positive note.

The Positve


  • In the book, Liguori admits that Mary’s “…divine Son offered and paid the superabundant ransom of His precious blood, in which alone is our salvation, life and resurrection” (p. 14 - Emphasis added). 

  • He also admits that “The fulness of grace was in Christ as the head from which it flows…” (p. 14).

  • He admits “…for we know that Jesus is our only Saviour, and that by his merits alone he has obtained and does obtain for us salvation.” (p. 150 – Emphasis added)

  • He admits that God has “…supreme dominion, even over Mary.” (p. 200)

Contradictions

These are all true and biblical statements.  But contradictions in the book abound.  On the one hand, he says some truly biblical things like:


  • “Distrustful sinners, say, why do you fear?  If you fear because you have offended God, remember that Jesus with his own lacerated hands has nailed your sins to the cross, and having satisfied the divine justice for them by his death, he has removed them from your soul.” (p. 227-228) 

Sounds great, doesn’t it?  But then he immediately turns around and says:


  • “But if ever… you fear to have recourse to Jesus Christ because his divine majesty alarms you… if you ever wish for another advocate with this mediator, invoke Mary, for she will intercede for you with the Son, who will graciously listen to her, and the Son will intercede with the Father, who can refuse nothing to this Son… this divine mother… is the ladder of sinners, by which they ascend anew to the height of divine grace.  This is my greatest confidence – this is the whole ground of my hope.” (emphasis added - p. 228)

Mary’s intercession is his greatest confidence?  If you fear Jesus, are you supposed to go to the “kinder, gentler” Mary?  Apparently (according to this book) Mary’s intercession is better than Jesus’ intercession.

Furthermore, he says things like this:


  • “And to increase our confidence… when we have recourse to this divine mother, we may not only be sure of her protection, but that sometimes we shall be sooner heard and saved by invoking her holy name than that of Jesus our Saviour… Because it belongs to Christ, as our judge, to punish, but to Mary, as our advocate, to pity.” (emphasis added – p. 149)

Ok, first of all, the Bible says that Jesus Christ, the Son of Almighty God, is our advocate (1 John 2:1-2).  Not Jesus and Mary.

Secondly, Liguori is making a false distinction between Mary and Jesus.  He is pitting one against the other.  He is implying that pity is not a strong characteristic of Jesus, but it is for Mary.  He seems to be saying that Jesus’ job is to punish, not to pity.  But our Savior is not someone who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities (Hebrews 4:15).  He is certainly able to feel empathy toward, and relate to, His people, in fact, more than any other human.  His voluntary suffering on the cross is proof of that (John 10:11, 15, 18).

Let’s go on:


  • “… I pray you to consider them [the ideas in this book] as meant and spoken by me according to the sense of true and sound theology, and of the holy Roman Catholic Church, whose obedient son I profess myself” (p. 13).

And shortly after this, he says: 


  • “God has ordained that all graces should come to us through the hands of Mary.... Nor should this appear to any one inconsistent with sound theology…” (p. 13).

True, consistent and sound theology?  Where is there any recognizable biblical evidence to believe that “all graces should come to us through the hands of Mary”?  This “sound theology” is foreign to Scripture. 


  • “… the blessed virgin is so great and sublime, that the more we praise her, the more there is to praise.  So that St. Augustine says: All the tongues of men, even if all their members were changed to tongues, would not be sufficient to praise her as she deserves” (p. 16).

This is something that can only be said of God, Himself, or of Jesus.  No mere human should be praised at that level.


  • “Oh woman, blessed among all women, thou art the honor of the human race, the salvation of our people.  Thou hast a merit that has no limits, and an entire power over all creatures.  Thou art the mother of God, the mistress of the world, the queen of heaven.  Thou art the dispenser of all graces, the glory of the holy Church.  Thou art the example of the just, the consolation of the saints, and the source of our salvation.  Thou art the joy of Paradise, the gate of heaven, the glory of God.” (p. 673)

Wow!  It’s hard to know where to start on this one.  Mary is certainly blessed among all women to have been privileged to bear, raise and live with the Savior of the world.  But as far as the “honor of the human race,” the “salvation of our people,” having unlimited merit and power over all creatures, being the glory of the church, the dispenser of all graces, the source of salvation and the glory of God… If only Jesus Christ could get that level of worship and adoration from His people!  Remember, God is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5; 34:14).  These titles can belong to no human other than Jesus, Himself.  It is blasphemous to claim otherwise.  Concerning Mary being the “gate of heaven,” did not Christ tell us that He is “the door,” (John 10:7, 9)?  That is, the door / gate to Heaven?  Wasn’t it Jesus that said, “I am the way, and the truth and the life… (John 14:6)?  Jesus did not say, “…no one comes to the Father but by Me and My mother.”


  • “It is not possible, Oh Lady, that thou shouldst abandon him who places his hope in thee… If thou dost only wish for our salvation, it will be impossible that we should not be saved.” (p. 784-785)

Do they really believe this stuff?  That it is impossible to perish if one places his hope in Mary?  No, the truth is, Jesus Christ is our hope (Colossians 1:27; 1 Timothy 1:1).


  • “Oh, blessed is he who clings with love and confidence to those two anchors of salvation, Jesus and Mary!” (p. 21)


Does this mean that if Jesus fails to save us that Mary is the back-up?


  • “Keep far from me my infernal enemies, and come thyself to take my soul and present it to my eternal Judge.” (emphasis added – p. 22)

So, she can leave Heaven and personally come to receive your soul?  On what basis can anyone say this?


  • “… all graces are dispensed by the hand of Mary alone, and that all those who are saved, are saved solely by means of this divine mother; it may be said, as a necessary consequence, that the salvation of all depends upon preaching Mary, and confidence in her intercession.” (p. 19-20 – Emphasis added) 

Concerning Mary as “dispenser,” on what biblical basis can Mary dispense anything at all? 
 
Saved solely by Mary?  Doesn’t this contradict what Liguori stated earlier, that “Jesus is our only Saviour, and that by his merits alone he has obtained and does obtain for us salvation”?  Yes, it does.  Check the first set of quotes above and see.  Jesus needs no help from Mary (or anyone else) to “dispense graces.”

So, does salvation depend upon “preaching Mary,” as Liguori suggests?  Then why don’t we see this concept in the Bible?  No one went about preaching Mary.  According to Acts 5:42, the apostles went about “teaching and preaching Jesus.”  In Acts 8:5, Philip was “proclaiming Christ.”  Saul kept “increasing in strength and confounding the Jews… by proving that this Jesus is the Christ” (Acts 9:22).  Apollos “powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ” (Acts 18:28).  And there are many others like this.  But no one “preached Mary.”  Yes, she was a humble and godly servant of the Lord (Luke 1:48), but it’s all about Jesus Christ, folks, not His mother. 


  • She is called “the ladder of paradise,” the “gate of heaven,” the most true mediatrix between God and man.” (p. 170)

Again, Liguori is causing her to usurp the role of Jesus with these grand titles.  These are true of Jesus alone.


  • “But the point that we here propose to prove is, that the intercession of Mary is even necessary for our salvation: necessary, to speak properly, not indeed absolutely, but morally.” (p. 170)    

What is this supposed to mean, “morally” necessary?  Says who?  We have no biblical proof that she does, or even can, intercede for people from Heaven.  See the links at the end of this article.


  • “But of Mary alone can it be said, that not only was it her lot to be subject to the will of God, but that God was also subject to her will.” (p. 201)


This particular statement seems absolutely blasphemous at first, but the context is that Jesus, as a child, was subject to his mother.  So, not only was Mary subject to God (the Father), but it was also true that God (Jesus) was subject to Mary (His mother).  But Jesus is certainly not now subject to Mary, but rather, vice-versa. 
 
Furthermore, why only mention Mary concerning Jesus’ submission during His childhood?  Wasn’t Jesus also subject to Joseph (His father) at that time?  Why not say that God was also subject to Joseph’s will?  Joseph is purposely left out, while only Mary gets full mention.  Liguori, and those he quotes, seemed to be stacking the deck in favor of Mary’s “authority” to make sure it lines up with Catholic teaching.

These are just a few of the many unbelieveable (and unbiblical) statements found in this volume.  These examples of idolatrous statements are multiplied many times over in Liguori’s book. 

Catholic Response to Protestant Objections

It is a fact that some of these statements are hard for even some Catholics to swallow!  But wanting to defend their church, they will try to explain away the elephant in the room. 

It is interesting to see Catholics scramble to defend these teachings.  They have to work real hard to explain away such excessive devotion.  Some Catholics will say things like, “Just ignore them, since this is not ‘mainstream Catholicism.’”  Or, “These are just Liguori’s private writings.

Some will say, “It’s just one person’s work.  Liguori was not speaking ex-cathedra and therefore, it is not authoritative.  After all, we Catholics, have a certain amount of liberty in our devotion to Mary.

They may say, “You Protestants complain that we are ignoring God’s authority when we pray this way to Mary.  But we’re not excluding God at all, we’re just magnifying one of His people.  You can find people being magnified in the Bible!”

Or they may say, “It’s no big deal.  With all the other solid teachings that Catholicism has to offer, there is no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater.”

Some will condescendingly say that the Marian doctrines are on a “higher” spiritual or theological level – it supposedly requires much study or research.  It is too complex or advanced for certain people (read “Protestants” here).  They will say that Protestants are too biased or incapable of being “objective” on this topic, since some have a strong resistance to Mary.

Some of these responses downplay the book and some make excuses for it.  Either way, these are very weak and vague responses to those who question the book.  These are not valid answers to our serious objections, nor are they biblical answers.

Approved by the Church?

But does the Catholic Church really approve of such statements?  To our knowledge, the Catholic Church has never rejected or even corrected any part of this book, but rather, it seems to endorse it, as evidenced by the book’s popularity in Catholic circles and its availability in so many places.  We certainly don’t expect to ever see this book in the Catholic “Index of Forbidden Books.”

Furthermore, on the copyright page of Liguori’s book, we have the guarantee that the Catholic Church approves of it:


  • “This new and improved translation of ‘The Glories of Mary’ having been duly examined is hereby approved of.”

 
And it is signed by “John,” archbishop of New York, January 21, 1852 (apparently refering to John J. Hughes, New York’s first archbishop of its archdiocese).  And, as far as we can tell, most, if not all, of the newer editions of this book bear the official Catholic seals of approval, i.e., the “nihil obstat” (nothing hinders) and the “imprimatur” (let it be printed).

But what if a Catholic doesn’t agree with the book?  Can he claim that the writings of “official saints” (like Liguori) are wrong?  Did Liguori get to be a “doctor” of the Church by writing things that contradict its teachings?  We wouldn’t think so.  They must have considered his teachings orthodox (i.e., traditionally accepted as true).  Anyway, it seems that all the evidence points to the Catholic Church’s embracing and complete acceptance of “The Glories of Mary.”

Conclusion

Scripture nowhere tells us that those who have died and gone to Heaven can in any way intercede for us on earth.  Catholics only assume Mary’s intercession. 

The problem with this sort of thing is that the distinction between the Savior and mankind (including Mary) is blurred by such exalted language.  Whenever a person is given the attributes that only God has in Scripture, then he / she is given too much “devotion.”  The highest levels of intimacy and exalted compliments should be reserved for Jesus alone.

Therefore, this book is blasphemous and the “Mary” that Liguori glorifies is not the humble handmaid called Mary in the Bible.  Instead of “The Glories of Mary,” this book’s title could have rightly been “The Idolatries of Liguori and Other Catholics.”

See also these articles on praying to Mary and the saints:



3 comments:

  1. Hey Russ,

    If you have time, I'd appreciate your input on this article:

    https://rationalchristiandiscernment.blogspot.com/2019/01/debunking-catholic-answers-on-queenship.html

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  2. I'll add this which was originally posted as an article on my blog to your comments section:

    Following are a few excerpts from a Roman Catholic devotional prayer book titled "Devotions in Honor of Our Mother of Perpetual Help" (pages 38-39), which contains extremely idolatrous prayers to Mary from "Saint" Alphonsus Liguori:

    "Come then to my help, dearest Mother, for I recommend myself to thee. In my hands I place my eternal salvation and to thee do I entrust my soul. Count me among thy most devoted servants, take me under thy protection and it is enough for me. For, if thou protect me, dear Mother, I fear nothing not from my sins because thou wilt obtain for me the pardon of them nor from the devils because thou art more powerful than all Hell together nor even Jesus my Judge Himself, because by one prayer from thee He will be appeased. But one thing I fear that in the hour of temptation I may neglect to call on thee and thus perish miserably. Obtain for me then the pardon of my sins, love for Jesus, final perseverance and grace always to have recourse to thee O Mother of Perpetual Help."

    "Most Holy and Immaculate Virgin and My Mother Mary, to thee, who are the Mother of my Lord, the Queen of the World, the Advocate, the Hope and the Refuge of Sinners I have recourse today, I who am the most miserable of all. I render thee my most humble homage O Great Queen and I thank thee for the graces thou hast obtained for me until now and in particular for having saved me from Hell which I have so often deserved. I love thee, o most amiable Lady; and for the love which I bear thee, I promise to serve thee always and to do all in my power to make others also love thee. I place in thee all my opes and I confide my salvation to thy care."

    "Most Holy and Immaculate Virgin! O my Mother! Thou who art the Mother of my Lord, the Queen of the world, the advocate, hope, and refuge of sinners! I, the most wretched among them, now come to thee. I worship thee, great Queen, and give thee thanks for the many favors thou hast bestowed on my in the past; most of all do I thank thee for having saved me from hell, which I had so often deserved. I love thee, Lady most worthy of all love, and, by the love which I bear thee, I promise ever in the future to serve thee, and to do what in me lies to win others to thy love. In thee I put all my trust, all my hope of salvation. Receive me as thy servant, and cover me with the mantle of thy protection, thou who art the Mother of mercy! And since thou hast so much power with God, deliver me from all temptations, or at least obtain for me the grace ever to overcome them. From thee I ask a true love of Jesus Christ, and the grace of a happy death. O my Mother! By thy love for God I beseech thee to be at all times my helper, but above all at the last moment of my life. Leave me not until thou seest me safe in heaven, there for endless ages to bless thee and sing thy praises. Such is my hope. Amen."

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