Mary, Rome, and the Gospel

In the mid-19th century Charles Chiniquy was a priest in the French Canadian Roman Catholic Church.  To make a very long story short, Chiniquy constantly wrestled with the teachings of Rome since they didn’t mesh with the teachings of Scripture.  After a long and intense spiritual struggle, Chiniquy left Rome for the Reformation.  The unabridged edition of this book is quite long and detailed, but it is worth the effort.  (FYI, you can find it on Kindle for less than $2.00.)  I’m reading through the unabridged edition, and though I don’t agree with it all, it has been a fascinating read; it’s not one I’ll set down and forget about.

One section that stands out for me is where Chiniquy recounted a sermon about Mary that he preached when he was a Catholic priest.  (Speaking of Mary and Rome, here’s a summary of Rome’s teaching on prayer to Mary.)  Chiniquy’s sermon went like this (edited/abridged):

“I was sincerely devoted to the Virgin Mary.  Nothing seemed to me more natural than to pray to her, and rely on her protection.  The object of my sermon was to show that Jesus Christ cannot refuse any of the petitions presented to him by his mother; that she has always obtained favors she asked he Son, Jesus, to grant to her devotees. Of course, my address was more sentimental than Scripture, as it is the style among the priests of Rome.  But I was honest; and I sincerely believed what I said.”

“The Gospel says, in reference to his parents, …’he was subject unto them (Lk. 2:51).  What a grand and shining revelation we have in these few short words: Jesus was subject unto Mary!  Is it not written, that Jesus is the same today, as he was yesterday, and will be forever (Heb. 13:8)?  He has not changed.  He is still the Son of Mary… in his divine humanity, he is still subject unto Mary.  This is why our holy Church, which is the pillar and fountain of Truth, invites you and me, today, to put an unbounded confidence in her intercession.  Remembering that Jesus has always granted the petitions presented to him by his divine mother, let us put our petitions in her hands, if we want to receive the favours we are in need of.”

Chiniquy says quite a bit more about devotion and prayers to Mary in this sermon.  At one point, he says that because Jesus is so holy and we are so sinful, we cannot go directly to Christ.  Therefore, he preached, we should go to Mary – because she is the mediator and intercessor between sinners and Christ.  Chiniquy even quoted Pope Gregory XVI: “Mary is the only hope of sinners.”

Soon after he preached this sermon, Chiniquy was reading through the Gospels where he found accounts of Jesus rebuking Mary and the stories where Jesus says his mother and brothers are those who do the will of God (e.g. John 2:4, Mark 3:34-35, etc.).  These texts pierced his conscience like a sword, and he felt incredibly guilty (to the point of tears) for preaching lies:

“A voice, the voice of my conscience, whose thunders were like the voice of a thousand Niagaras was telling me: “Do you not see that you have preached a sacrilegious lie this morning, when, from the pulpit, you said to your ignorant and deluded people, that Jesus always granted the petitions of His mother, Mary? Are you not ashamed to deceive yourself, and deceive your poor countrymen with such silly falsehoods?  …Do you not see you have presented a blasphemous lie, every time you said that Jesus always granted the petitions of His mother?”

Chiniquy took his concerns to a bishop who could not answer his questions, but simply directed him to the early Church fathers.  Chiniquy then looked deep into the fathers, but did not find them advocating the worship of or prayers to Mary.  He continued to wrestle, thinking that he was able to put up with Rome’s several errors more than Protestantism’s many errors.  Later he came to the conclusion that there were more errors in Rome than in Protestantism.  Therefore he left Rome and her unbiblical superstitions, unchristian traditions, and distortions of the gospel.  By the way, Rome hasn’t changed her position on Mary.  The Reformation happened for a reason!

The above quotes can be found in chapter 46 of Charles Chiniquy, Fifty Years in the Church of Rome.

shane lems
hammond, wi

4 Replies to “Mary, Rome, and the Gospel”

  1. What exactly is the correct Protestant doctrine? Should we pray “that they may be one as we are one” as Christ? John 17:22

    Let us examine a few citations from the early Church Fathers that manifest the growing understanding of Mary’s spiritual and maternal role as the “New Eve,” who as the “new Mother of the living,” participates with Christ in restoring grace to the human family.

    St. Justin Martyr (d.165), the early Church’s first great apologist, describes Mary as the “obedient virgin” through whom humanity receives its Savior, in contrast to Eve, the “disobedient virgin,” who brings death and disobedience to the human race:

    (The Son of God) became man through the Virgin that the disobedience caused by the serpent might be destroyed in the same way in which it had originated. For Eve, while a virgin incorrupt, conceived the word which proceeded from the serpent, and brought forth disobedience and death. But the Virgin Mary was filled with faith and joy when the Angel Gabriel told her the glad tidings…. And through her was he born…. (3)

    St. Irenaeus of Lyon (d.202), great defender of Christian orthodoxy and arguably the first true Mariologist, establishes Mary as the New Eve who participates with Jesus Christ in the work of salvation, becoming through her obedience the “cause of salvation for herself and the whole human race”:

    Just as Eve, wife of Adam, yet still a virgin, became by her disobedience the cause of death for herself and the whole human race, so Mary, too, espoused yet a Virgin, became by her obedience the cause of salvation for herself and the whole human race…. And so it was that the knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by Mary’s obedience. For what the virgin Eve bound fast by her refusal to believe, this the Virgin Mary unbound by her belief. (4)

    The teaching of St. Irenaeus makes evident the Early Church’s faith and understanding that Mary freely and uniquely cooperates with and under Jesus, the New Adam, in the salvation of the human race. This early patristic understanding of Mary’s unique cooperation appropriately develops into the later and more specified theology of Marian Coredemption.

    St. Ambrose (d.397) continues to develop the New Eve understanding, referring to Mary as the “Mother of Salvation”:

    It was through a man and woman that flesh was cast from Paradise; it was through a virgin that flesh was linked to God….Eve is called mother of the human race, but Mary Mother of salvation


    1. In protestantism, it is proper to acknowledge Mary as the Mother of God who played a very important role in God’s plan of salvation. Scripture says she is the “favored one” who is “blessed among women” (Luke 1). However, Scripture never portrays her as a co-mediator, a co-redeemer, or as someone we can or should pray to. In protestantism, Scripture alone is our highest and final source of authority.

      Concerning the church fathers, first of all, they are not infallible – they are wrong and sometimes disagree with one another (as with theologians throughout the ages). Even the quotes you noted weren’t uniform; “mother of salvation” doesn’t mean she is a co-savior any more than “Mother of God” means she is a co-god. Augustine’s understanding of original sin included Mary.

      Secondly, there are examples in the fathers that show Mary was subordinate to Christ, and not a co-redeemer/mediator. So Henry Chadwick said that in some of the early portrayals (mosaics) of Mary “remain largely within the older tradition in which the Virgin appears in the context of representations of Christ’s birth at Bethlehem and is subordinate to Christ.” The tradition of revering/worshiping Mary did grow through the ages, but another example against this would be the iconclasts, many who thought that revering images/icons of Mary and others were rooted in pagan religions. J. N. D Kelley said that prayers to Mary are almost “non-existent in the first four centuries [of the church]. …Centuries had to elapse before the doctrines of Mary’s exemption from original sin and actual sin, of her position as intercessor and mediator of graces, of her corporeal assumption into heaven and elevation there above cherubim and seraphim, could be come elements in the day-to-day faith of Catholic Christians, much less be formulated as dogmas” (Kelley).”

      If a person starts with the papist presupposition that the Roman Catholic Church is the only pillar of truth and teaches only the truth, then that person might believe what she says about Mary as co-redeemer/mediator. However, if a person’s presupposition is that God’s word has authority over the church and alone is truly trustworthy and infallible, then that person will not view Mary as co-redeemer/mediator.

      Thanks for the comments, sorry for the lengthy response!


  2. Shane, thank you for your resources I see you’ve done your homework on the Catholic faith. “In protestantism, it is proper to acknowledge Mary as the Mother of God”. Wow I think you’re in the minority. I would like to continue correspondence through email , and I’ll let our comments along with the article challenge your readers. The topic of coredemptrix and comediator is difficult and is not official church doctrine. God bless you my brother in Christ and God bless Father Chiniquy . Gabriel gonzalez 513 @


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