The teachings of Roman Catholic Christianity about the role of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, are some of the most misunderstood and exaggerated beliefs dividing the Body of Christ. Before presenting the teaching of the Church about Mary, there are some important givens or assumptions to be stated about the Church, Mary and the Bible.
The official teaching of the Church has never considered beliefs about Mary to be in any way equal in importance to truths about God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son of God, and the Holy Spirit. Vatican Council II expressed it best when the Council Fathers wrote:
The truths about Mary are important because they are still truth, since they are based in the Bible. But they are not central to the primary gospel message of our salvation through Jesus Christ. As an example of the basic gospel message without Mary, we have only to look at the writings of Paul. In Pauline theology, Mary is mentioned only once, and not even by name.
Roman Catholics believe that the understanding of the Church about Mary, as about all Christian truth (e.g., the understanding of the Trinity) deepens and becomes more accurate over the centuries under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
When the Catholic Church appears to teach "new doctrines" about Mary, it is often a statement of truth against some current errors or a clarification of truths that have always been taught and believed by Christians through the centuries. The Church believes that handing on these truths participates in the admonition of Paul.
Consequently, two fundamental criteria guide the teaching authority of the Catholic Church as it seeks to discern what are the authentic beliefs about Mary which Jesus through His Holy Spirit would have us know:
By Paul Flanagan and Robert Schihl.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture texts are taken from the New American Bible with Revised New Testament and Revised Psalms © 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
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Last Updated: January 3, 1997