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Mariolatry And Jesus Christ

( Originally Published 1870 )



I.

WHAT Rome has done for the saints generally she has done very much more boldly for the Virgin ; and here, especially, the most deplorable advances are to be noted. The position assigned to the Virgin is not a change merely ; it is the very overthrow of Christianity.

In a work which has been scattered broadcast over France, The Pilgrimage to la Saiette,' by the Abbé Lemonnier, the following words are put in the Virgin's mouth : ` My children, my Son is wroth with the transgressions of the people. . . . He threatens to punish them soon, and it is I that hold back His avenging arm ; but that arm is so heavy that I can no longer keep it from falling. You will never be able to know what pains I suffer for you. . . . Any other prayer than my own would have proved powerless.'

Thus we see Christ become an avenging God, and the functions of Christ pass entirely to His mother. We no longer say, with St. John, that ` we have an advocate with the Father ;' we say, with the theologians dear to the Pope, that we have an advocate for this is the expression used with the Son.

But even this is not enough, and often it is not only the office of Christ that disappears, but Christ Himself.

In another book, circulated quite as much, if not even more widely, the Rosary of May,1 we are introduced to a scene that takes place in heaven. The angels cry, ' There is no more faith on the earth.' ` Then God covered Himself with darkness ; but in that night, Mary still shone like the moon when the sun has set. . .. A great cry was heard in heaven. God withdrew His hand; the earth fell. Then Mary sprang from her seat, and stretched out her hand, and a second time saved the world.'

A second time ! Not only is Christ's office taken away from Him now ; but it even appears that it was not He who had formerly accomplished the work of redemption.

These two books have never, so far as we are aware, been the object of any censure; neither have many others that are replete with the same ideas. But even if they had been condemned, they might still be quoted, without injustice, as expressing what is now generally held, what may be heard everywhere, what Pius IX. has contributed more than any one to establish and foster. We shall be referred, no doubt, to certain authors who may have endeavoured to correct these heresies. ` Though the work of Jesus Christ may not be mentioned,' they say, ' it is nevertheless always understood. It is as united to her Son, as inseparable from her Son, that the Virgin is represented as redeeming and saving ; it is in the name of the merit and sacrifice of her Son that she intercedes with her Son Himself.' This is what those who are precluded from thinking that Rome can ever be wrong, are compelled to say. But nothing really is better calculated to show the serious nature of our accusation. For, if you admit that such considerations are necessary and indispensable, do you not thereby admit that those who never mention them those who assign to the Virgin the position described in the words we have quoted overthrow Christianity ? Do you not condemn the Pope, who suffers such things to be preached, and who, in fact, preaches them himself by his blind devotion to the new goddess?

II.

Nothing, moreover, can speak more eloquently against the position now assigned to the Virgin, than the silence of all the sober and earnest Christian books that have come from Catholic pens. In such books, either the Virgin occupies no place at all, or, if she does, it is a position that does not affect any fundamental truths. The scheme of Christianity is complete and perfect with-out her. Without her the Christian is strengthened, comforted, redeemed, saved ; without her he can find all that his soul requires. Her absence creates no void, no difficulty. There is no aspiration that cannot rise directly towards God, directly towards Him in whom the Christian possesses God. Look again at the great Catholic preachers of old time. Scarcely ever do they mention the Virgin in their ordinary sermons ; and in those in which they have to refer to her, what an immense gulf between their declarations and those of the preachers of to-day ! Read Bourdaloue on the Assumption. ' It is a matter of faith,' says he, ' that that maternity, divine as it is, is not properly and strictly what now constitutes the glory of Mary.' And see how far he carries the idea. He enumerates all the occasions in which Jesus Christ, during His ministry, deemed it necessary to show that, as regarded His work, there was nothing in common between His mother and Him-self. He represents her as appearing before the tribunal of her Son, the Judge of all men, and being there judged by Him like any other child of Adam. 'Jesus, therefore,' says he, ' considered the merits that Mary had acquired, and not the titles to honour that she had possessed. . . . He maintained that glorious character which the Scriptures attribute to the Sovereign Judge, of being no respecter of persons, and of rendering unto each according to his works.' And further : ' If Mary, after conceiving the Word of God, had not been obedient to His word, and had so far forgotten herself as to take pleasure in her own merit, and to presume upon it, she would not now enjoy albeit she is the mother of God the happiness and the glory to which she has attained. And why ? Because God could not have found in her, together with that august maternity, the character of His elect, which is justice and holiness. And so also if Mary, without having conceived the Word of God, had been, or could have been as obedient and humble as she was, as consummate in virtue, and as full of merit, I dare to say that, without being the mother of God, she would be as exalted as she is in glory, and as near to the throne of God.' Certainly after this either Bourdaloue, or Pius Ix. is a heretic. But if you say that it is Bourdaloue, take care, for you are at the same time condemning Chrysostom, from whom he declares that he borrowed the idea, and Augustine, from whom he might have borrowed it, for it is found twice in his works, and that very clearly expressed.

Today, then, Mary is invested with the office that belongs to Jesus Christ ; it is she who is the refuge and the hope of all sinners. And this refuge has been made infinitely more sure, and, above all, infinitely more convenient than the cross of Christ. A kind of competition, to say it reverently, has been established between the mother and her Son ; and it is represented that there is every advantage in appealing to the former. The Catholic world is deluged with puffing advertisements that would, in trade, discredit any speculator who had recourse to them. Mary promises everything, and undertakes and engages to do everything. And what a wonderful position is assigned to Jesus Christ, the Judge of all men, whom Bourdaloue described as judging even His mother ! He no longer judges ; all He does is to suffer the most extraordinary and eccentric pardons to be wrung from Him by His mother. She does not even beseech, she orders and leads, leads as no sensible man, whatever the love he might bear to his mother, would suffer himself to be led by her. Try to think what would be your opinion of a magistrate who did the same thing. A judge may be merciful, no doubt, but only on condition that his dignity be not allowed to suffer, that the claims of justice be unimpaired ; and this, indeed, is the truth on which the great Christian doctrine of the redemption by Jesus Christ reposes. But according to the Catholicism of to-day, God is neither just nor merciful, for His justice and mercy do not belong to Him ; both are personified in a woman who, we admit, is proclaimed to be the holiest of women, but still to whom every one is at liberty to attribute as much indulgence and weakness as he pleases ; a woman, indeed, to speak truly, who has not even the virtues we should seek in an ordinary Christian, for never should we apply the title of Christian to a woman who was what Mary is described as being, who sold to all comers her protection and good services, and laboured unceasingly to dishonour the Gospel by shaking the great foundation of religion, and discrediting the saintly severities of justice.

Women are flattered by being shown a woman into whose hands God abdicates His power. Every Christian woman, on the contrary, should be indignant to see Christianity thus lowered, and to think that men should seek to seduce her by such a religion. But in Catholicism great care is taken that she should know no other. Eager and skilful in taking advantage of all the needs of the human heart, how should the Catholic Church not have made use of those instincts which are most developed in the hearts of women ? Nay, it would have been fortunate if she had been content to take advantage only of those that suited her. It would have been fortunate if she had not spoiled those instincts that were good, those that yearned for the Gospel, those that qualified women so admirably for the acceptance of God's ways in all their grandeur and holiness ! But everything has been vitiated and marred, including history. It is necessary that women should imagine that they owe to the Virgin alone, to the worship of the Virgin, all that the Gospel has done for them. It is necessary that they should see themselves on the altar in the person of Mary. There is a theology expressly fashioned for their benefit, and a literature too. Both the theology and the literature have all the characteristics of sentimental poetry. They are the profane development of one Christian truth ; they give a miser-able insipidity to all. Alas ! I am well aware that it is not for women only that so many pages are written about the Virgin, pages painfully weak in a Christian sense, and strong in imagination and passion. Is it possible to be ignorant of what the worship of the Virgin is for many young priests, and those among the best ? Is it possible not to perceive in certain books, and especially in many hymns, the unconscious expression of feelings which the priest is not allowed to entertain otherwise, and which he sanctifies, as best he can, by the sanctity of their object ? But if these yearnings of sickened hearts find an excuse in the miserable condition which Rome imposes on her clergy, this does- not prevent such teaching and such examples from being most injurious; and Rome, who suffers these things to go on, who has only praises to bestow on the advances of this religion, Rome is responsible for the evil, both before God and before men. And to what condition has woman been reduced by all this in countries where the priest is all-powerful ? To the condition of an ignorant and superstitious doll, who regards the Virgin Mary only as the close confidante of her vanities and vices.

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