Trial Anchors

Roman Catholicism teaches the faithful that Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven. It states that this too is a dogma of the faith, a truth divinely revealed by God and necessary to be believed for salvation. It goes so far as to assert that any who would dispute this doctrine have completely fallen from the faith and are condemned.37 Once again I had to conclude that Rome did not possess the truth of the historic church. What I found was complete silence in the writings of the Fathers regarding the end of Mary’s life. For the first six centuries nothing is said on this matter. The first Father to promote the teaching of her assumption was Gregory of Tours in A.D. 590, and he based his teaching on an apocryphal gospel found in the Transitus literature. The assumption doctrine actually originated with this literature38 sometime in the fourth or fifth centuries and this specific teaching — the Transitus assumption of Mary was officially rejected as heretical. It was placed in the same category with such heretics as Arius, Pelagius, and Marcion and was condemned by two popes in the late fifth and early sixth centuries — Gelasius and Hormisdas. These popes place this doctrine, its authors and the contents of their writings, as well as all who follow their teachings, under an eternal anathema.39 Thus, the early church viewed this doctrine not as the pious expression of the faith of the faithful but as a heretical doctrine that probably originated from gnostic sources. Discoveries such as these only underlined my growing awareness that Rome did not accurately represent the historic doctrine of the early church, much less what I saw in the New Testament.

Rome teaches that Mary is a mediatrix and even a co-redemptrix with Christ and that grace cannot be applied to man except through her.40 This teaching is also false. It not only contradicts the scriptural teaching of the unique and exclusive mediatorial role of Christ41 but there is not one word found in Scripture of Mary functioning in the role of mediatrix or co-redemptrix. Nor is there one word of this kind of teaching in the writings of the Fathers.

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that Mary has been given the title Queen of Heaven and that she rules over the church along with her son Jesus Christ. This is also false. There is absolutely nothing in Scripture of such a title or role being assigned to Mary. There is no Queen of heaven and earth. There is only one sovereign Lord and ruler over the church, and He is the God-man Christ Jesus. There is not a word of this Marian doctrine in the patristic writings. What is really surprising is that it actually originated, as with the assumption teaching, with the heretical Transitus literature.42

CONCLUSION

In light of these facts what can we conclude? Many Roman Catholics, like me for a number of years, are genuinely sincere in their belief that the Roman Catholic Church is the one true church, the ‘infallible’ authority established by Jesus Christ, which has preserved inviolate the apostolic tradition handed down from Christ to the apostles. But, sadly, the foundation upon which my presuppositions rested during those years was historically and biblically erroneous. The teachings of Keating, Hahn, Matatics, and others of like mind are not faithful to the facts of history. Scores of Catholics implicitly and uncritically accept what these men teach without serious study on their own simply because their arguments sound plausible. These apologists play on widespread ignorance within both Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, and many are being misled.

An example of my point came home to me recently when I heard Scott Hahn make the unbelievable statement (on tape) before a predominantly Roman Catholic audience that no bishop of Rome has ever been accused of heresy. Most Catholics will hear that without recognizing it as an outright falsehood, thus settling into convictions that are rooted in error. This is just one of many examples that could be used from the teaching of these apologists. I am compelled to conclude that they are guilty of seriously misrepresenting the facts of history and of true Protestantism.

The claims for Roman Catholic authority cannot be supported by the facts of history or the truth of Scripture. In reality the Roman Catholic Church has departed from the teaching of the historic catholic church and can no longer be rightly described as catholic, but as Roman. The supposed two-thousand-year consensus for the teaching of its tradition is nonexistent. Even knowledgeable Roman Catholic authorities admit this to be the case. Patrologist Boniface Ramsey states:

Sometimes, then, the Fathers speak and write in a way that would eventually be seen as unorthodox. But this is not the only difficulty with respect to the criterion of orthodoxy. The other great one is that we look in vain in many of the Fathers for references to things that many Christians might believe in today. We do not find, for instance, some teachings on Mary or the papacy that were developed in medieval and modern times.43

It is not that the Church of Rome does not affirm any truths that are truly catholic and apostolic. There is a body of doctrine that Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox churches all share in common. The problem is with the teachings that are added to this common consensus, those that were introduced many centuries after the apostolic age and which the Church of Rome teaches are necessary to be believed for salvation. These added doctrines are a departure from the faith of the early church and the truth of Scripture. It is not the Reformation that introduced novel doctrines but the evolving Roman Catholic Church. The facts reveal that the Reformers’ teachings can be validated both by Scripture and by the teaching of the Fathers. Therefore, historic Protestantism stands in the genuine tradition of historic Christianity, and those Roman Catholics who, like me, have left their church can be assured that, on the basis of the truth of history and Scripture, they have followed the biblical course, aligning themselves with the historic Christian truth and, thus, a biblical church.

History testifies that the Roman church is not an infallible interpreter of Scripture, that its popes are not infallible, that it did not establish the canon for the church, and that much of the teaching of its tradition was either completely unknown or explicitly repudiated by the Fathers of the early church.

Roman Catholic apologists justify the church’s tradition on the basis of a theory of development-that is, that church tradition is a development of doctrine that was implicitly accepted in the early church and became more explicit over time. This is not supported by the facts. The teachings of Roman Catholic tradition were, in reality, repudiated by the early church. They are not supported, furthermore, by the principle of unanimous consent, and they plainly contradict Scripture. What we discover is not a development of truth but a departure from it. Roman Catholic teaching in its exaltation of tradition, the papacy, and the church is a depreciation of the authority of Scripture and the supreme authority of Jesus Christ. In the end, the Roman church has displaced divine authority with human authority. The Reformers’ accusations still stand, supported by both Scripture and history.

What is so tragic in this controversy is not simply that men and women have embraced error regarding church history but that, in so doing, many have implicitly accepted Roman Catholic teaching on salvation, which is a perversion of the true gospel. Rome teacghes that one merits eternal life through one’s own good works. This perversion is the same ‘gospel’ in principle that the apostle Paul denounces in his epistle to the Galatians. The sad result is that multitudes of Roman Catholics have a zealous love for and confidence in their church, without understanding biblical salvation. I was one such Catholic, struggling on in my darkness until God in His sovereign grace opened my eyes to the righteousness that is in Christ alone. I fear that many Roman Catholics have been inoculated against the truth of the gospel because they have been misinformed about the facts of history. Consequently they do not take seriously the salvation teachings of the Reformation, dismissing them as heresies that have emanated from men who have rebelled against the ‘infallible’ church. But what they do not realize is that just as the Reformers were right on the issues of history they were also right on the doctrine of salvation. The gospel they proclaimed of faith alone, grace alone, and Christ alone is the biblical gospel, the message of saving truth.

I conclude this article by making an appeal to Roman Catholics to ‘come out from them and be separate’ (2 Corinthians 6:17). Why do I say that? Am I being impolitic in this counsel, especially when many evangelicals are saying we should not call upon Catholics to leave their communion? Let me begin with an illustration. Dollinger was one of the most celebrated Roman Catholic historians of the late 18th century. Just before Vatican I, which convened to discuss the issues of papal rule and infallibility, he co-authored a book under the pseudonym, Janus, titled The Pope and the Council. In it he appealed to this council, in light of the facts of history, not to pass decrees that would contradict the truth. His plea fell on deaf ears. He refused to recant his position and was later excommunicated from the church he loved. His commitment to truth exacted an enormous price. When asked why he would not repudiate his intellect and reason for the sake of communion with Rome he stated:

Because…if I did so in a question which is for the historical eye perfectly clear and unambiguous, there would then be no longer for me any such thing as historical truth and certainty; I should then have to suppose that my whole life long I had been in a world of dizzy illusion, and that in historical matters I am altogether incapable of distinguishing truth from fable and falsehood.44

I stand, a former Roman Catholic, with thousands whose conscience has compelled them to leave the church they once loved. So I reiterate the counsel of Catholic apologist Karl Keating: ‘we have a solemn responsibility to seek and respond to truth.’ That will be costly. I believe that a Roman Catholic who is sincerely committed to following truth will eventually leave the Roman Catholic Church, realizing as the Reformers taught that it is not the historic, biblical, holy, catholic church. Keating and Hahn feel no qualms about urging men and women to forsake evangelical Christianity for Roman Catholicism. I appeal to you, then, on the basis of the truth of history and Scripture, to leave your Catholic heritage. I give you the following reasons.

First, the ultimate commitment the Scriptures call us to is the person of Christ, not a church. We are called to trust, love, worship, and follow Christ exclusively. Inherent in that commitment is full acceptance of all that Scripture teaches regarding salvation and, in particular, the truth of the gospel. Paul states in Galatians 1:6-8 that any who embrace a perverted gospel actually deserts Christ. If a Roman Catholic obeys the salvation teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, it must logically result in disobedience to God and a desertion of Christ because these selfsame teachings invalidate God’s Word. The Scriptures point us to the person of Christ, not a church, as the source of our eternal salvation.

The ‘gospel’ promulgated by the Church of Rome is a perversion of the gospel of grace. Therefore, to stay within Roman Catholicism is to be identified with a system that fundamentally denies the sufficiency of the work of Christ alone. Christ lays the issue squarely before us in uncompromising terms when He says, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it’ (Mark 8:34-35). There is no mention of the church as a means of salvation here or anywhere else in Scripture. To follow Christ means a life of denying self to live for His sake and the gospel’s. This means we must be openly identified with Him and His truth and be willing to suffer the rejection, the ostracism, the criticism, and even loss of life that such identification can bring. Centuries of faithful evangelical Christians have learned these truths by sailing through such troubled waters. Can we do less, if necessary? There is a cross at the very center of our identification with Christ and His gospel. Jesus makes clear that we cannot seek peace and unity at any cost. Truth divides. Much of the ecumenical movement of the last fifty years or so would have us downplay the importance of truth for the sake of unity. But the ultimate issue is not unity; it is commitment to Christ. And that means a commitment to truth. The whole basis for church unity and for following and worshiping Christ is the truth of the gospel (cf. John 4:23-24; Galatians 1:6-8; Ephesians 1:13; Philippians 1:27-28; 3:2-11; Colossians 2:6-15.). If we forsake truth for a man-made unity, we actually forsake Christ!

Finally, I appeal to Roman Catholics to come out because the Church of Rome is moving farther and farther away from truth. The church has historically demonstrated a terrible resistance to correction and reform. By the anathemas of Trent and Vatican I and the papal decrees on Mary we have seen a continued and progressive departure from truth and a hardening of the Roman Church theologically against the gospel. On the other hand, there is a disturbing trend developing, a growing tolerance of pagan religions in the name of unity and peace. In 1986, when the pope stood with the representatives of the major religions of the world on a public platform to pray for peace, he did something that would have been unthinkable for a bishop of the catholic church in the early centuries of Christianity. Can you imagine a bishop of the second century standing on a public platform with the representatives of Gnosticism, Roman deities, and other pagan religions to pray for peace? Such a person would have been condemned for apostasy. Christ’s gospel proclaims the fact that He alone is the answer to the sin of the world and that He alone can bring peace to men’s hearts. I ask you, can one be true to Christ and remain in a system that so fundamentally denies Him in teaching and practice? Ponder your answer carefully.

The issues that separate Protestants and Roman Catholics are not minor. They are major. They have to do with the eternal destinies of men and women. They hit right at the heart of truth, both biblical and historical. The defining issue is truth. The Reformation was not unnecessary, unjustified, or a tragedy. The tragedy lies in the fact that it was necessary. It was, in fact, one of the greatest revivals ever witnessed in the history of the church, and it restored the church to the truth of the true gospel that had become obscured and perverted through the traditions of men.

Notes

    1. Karl Keating, Catholicism and Fundamentalism (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1988), 10.
    2. The Catholic Encyclopedia (New York: Universal Knowledge Foundation, 1912) gives the following background and definition for the term anathema: ‘To understand the word anathema…we should first go back to the real meaning of herem of which it is the equivalent. Herem comes from the word haram, to cut off, to separate, to curse, and indicates that which is cursed and condemned to be cut off and exterminated…. In the New Testament anathema no longer entails death, but the loss of goods or exclusion from the society of the faithful….But he who is separated from God is united to the devil, which explains why St. Paul, instead of anathematizing, sometimes delivers a person over to Satan (1 Tim. i,20; 1 Cor., v,5)….Anathema remains a major excommunication which is to be promulgated with great solemnity….In passing this sentence the pontiff takes his seat in front of the altar or in some other suitable place, and pronounces the formula of anathema which ends with these words: “Wherefore in the name of God the All-powerful, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, of the Blessed Peter, Prince of the Apostles, and of all the Saints, in virtue of the power which has been given to us of binding and loosing in Heaven and on earth, we deprive N- himself and all his accomplices and all his abettors of the Communion of the Body and Blood of Our Lord, we separate him from the society of all Christians, we exclude him from the bosom of our Holy Mother the Church in Heaven and on earth, we declare him excommunicated and anathematized and we judge him condemned to eternal fire with Satan and his angels and all the reprobate, so long as he will not burst the fetters of the demon, do penance and satisfy the Church; we deliver him to Satan to mortify his body, that his soul may be saved on the day of judgment.'” (1:455-56)
    3. Irenaeus expresses the principle of universality, antiquity, and consent: (1) Universality: ‘The universal church, moreover, through the whole world, has received this tradition from the apostles’ (Against Heresies II.9.1); (2) Antiquity: ‘True knowledge is that which consists in the doctrine of the apostles and the ancient constitution of the church throughout all the world, and the distinctive manifestation of the body of Christ according to the succession of bishops by which they have handed down that church which exists in every place, and has come even unto us, being guarded and preserved without any forging of Scriptures, by a very complete system of doctrine, and neither receiving addition, nor suffering curtailment in the truths which she believes’ (Against Heresies IV.33.8); (3) Consent: ‘The preaching of the church is everywhere consistent and continues in an even course and receives testimony from the prophets, the apostles, and all the disciples’ (Against Heresies III.24.1).
    4. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, Vincent of Lerins, A Commonitory II.4-III.7, Series Two, vol. XI, of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955).
    5. The Council of Trent states: ‘No one relying on his own judgment shall, in matters of faith and morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine, distorting the Holy Scriptures in accordance with his own conceptions, presume to interpret them contrary to that sense which holy mother Church, to whom it belongs to judge their true sense and interpretation, has held and holds, or even contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers, even though such interpretations should never at any time be published.’ (See The Council of Trent [Rockford: Tan, 1978], 18-19)
      This decree was reaffirmed by Vatican I.
    6. Scripture is described as being pure, perfect, eternal, sure, truth, forever settled in heaven; it sanctifies, causes spiritual growth, is God-breathed, authoritative, it gives wisdom unto salvation, makes wise the simple, is living and active, is a guide, a fire, a hammer, a seed, the sword of the Spirit; it gives knowledge of God, is a lamp to our feet, a light to our path, produces reverence for God, heals, makes free, illuminates, produces faith, regenerates, converts the soul, brings conviction of sin, restrains from sin, is spiritual food, is infallible, inerrant, irrevocable, searches the heart and mind, produces life, defeats Satan, proves truth, refutes error, is holy, equips for every good work, is the final judge of all tradition, is the Word of God (Heb. 4:12, Pss. 119: 9-11, 38, 105, 130, 133, 160; 19:7-11; 111:7-8; Is. 40:8; Eph. 5:26; 2 Tim. 3:15-17; Jer. 5:14; 23:29; Matt. 13:18-23; Eph. 6:17; Ps. 107:20; Titus 2:5; 1 Peter 1:23; 2:2; Acts 20:32; John 8:32, 10:35, 17:17; Matt. 15:2-9). Where are we told these things about tradition?
    7. The Catechetical Lectures IV.17, V.12, XII.5, in A Library of the Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church (Oxford: Parker, 1845).
    8. J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1978), 46.
    9. ‘See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ’ (Col. 2:8); ‘Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition….They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’ (Matt. 15:6, 9; cf. Mark 7:3-13; Gal. 1:14; Col. 2:22; 1 Peter 1:18).
    10. Irenaeus, Against Heresies III.1.1, in Alexander Roberts and W. H. Rambaugh, trans., in The Writings of Irenaeus (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1874).
    11. Ellen Flesseman-Van Leer, Tradition and Scripture in the Early Church (Assen: Van Gorcum, 1953), 133.
    12. ‘Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.By this gospel you are saved, if
      you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures’ (1 Cor. 15:1-4).
    13. Brian Tierney, Origins of Papal Infallibility 1150-1350 (Leiden: Brill, 1972), 16-17.
    14. St. Jerome, Prefaces to Jerome’s Works, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Songs, Daniel, Series Two, vol. VI, of Schaff and Wace, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 492-93.
    15. New Catholic Encyclopedia (Washington, D.C.: Catholic Univ., 1967), III:29.
    16. Gregory the Great, Morals on the Book of Job, vol. II parts III and IV, Book XIX.34, in A Library of the Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church, 424. The New Catholic Encyclopedia confirms that Pope Gregory did not accept a canonical status for the Apocrypha (II:390).
    17. Taken from his comments on the final chapter of Esther, in Commentary on All the Authentic Historical Books of the Old Testament; cited in William Whitaker, A Disputation on Holy Scripture (Cambridge: University Press, 1849), 48. Cf. John Cosin, A Scholastical History of the Canon (Oxford: Parker, 1849),111:257-58, and B.F. Westcott, A General Survey of the Canon of the New Testament (New York: Macmillan, 1889), 475.
    18. New Catholic Encyclopedia, II:390, III:29
    19. ‘If anyone does not accept as sacred and canonical the aforesaid books in their entirety and with all their parts, as they have been accustomed to be read in the Catholic Church and as they are contained in the Old Latin Vulgate Edition, and knowingly and deliberately rejects the aforesaid traditions, let him be anathema’ (Fourth Session, Decree Concerning the Canonical Scriptures, of The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent [Rockford: Tan, 1978], 18).
    20. Cited in Henry Bettenson, ed., Documents of the Christian Church (London: Oxford Univ., 1963), 116. Vatican I, after affirming that the bishops of Rome are the rightful rulers over the church to whom all Christians must submit in matters of faith and morals and discipline states, ‘This is the teaching of Catholic truth, from which no one can deviate without loss of faith and salvation’; cited by Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom (New York: Harper, 1877),11:263.
    21. Oscar Cullmann, Peter: Disciple, Apostle, Martyr (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1953), 207, 236.
    22. St. Augustine, Sermon XXVI.1 2, Series Two, vol. VI, of Schaff and Wace, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 340.
    23. Homilies of S. John Chrysostom on the Gospel of St. Matthew, Homily 54.3, in A Library of the Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church.
    24. Johann Joseph Ignaz von Dtlinger, The Pope and the Council (Boston: Roberts, 1869), 74.
    25. Cullmann, Peter: Disciple, Apostle, Martyr, 162.
    26. Karlfried Froehlich, St. Peter, Papal Primacy and the Exegetical Tradition 1151-1350. Found in Christopher Ryan, ed., The Religious Roles of the Papacy: Ideals and Realities 1150-1300 (Toronto: Pontifical Institute, 1989), 42, 4.
    27. The Council of Constance (A.D. 1414-1418) passed the following decree regarding the supreme authority of General Councils over popes: ‘This holy Council of Constance…declares, first that it is lawfully assembled in the Holy Spirit, that it constitutes a General Council, representing the Catholic Church, and that therefore it has its authority immediately from Christ; and that all men, of every rank and condition, including the Pope himself, is bound to obey it in matters concerning the Faith, the abolition of the schism, and the reformation of the Church of God in its head and its members. Secondly, it declares that any one, of any rank or condition, who shall contumaciously refuse to obey the orders, decrees, statutes or instructions, made or to be made by this holy Council, or by any other lawfully assembled council….shall, unless he comes to a right frame of mind, be subjected to a fitting penance and punished appropriately: and, if need be, recourse shall be had to the other sanctions of the law’ (Decree: Sacrosancta [A.D. 1415]; taken from Henry Bettenson, ed., Documents of the Christian Church [London: Oxford Univ., 1963], 135). The decrees of this council were officially approved by Pope Martin V (A.D. 1417-1431) and by Pope Eugenius IV (A.D. 1431-1447).
    28. Epistles of St. Gregory the Great, Book VII, Epistle 33, and Book V, Epistle 18, Series Two, vol. XII, of Schaff and Wace, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 226, 167.
    29. Vatican I states: ‘We teach and define that it is a dogma divinely revealed: that the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra, that is, when in discharge of the office of pastor and doctor of all Christians, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine regarding faith and morals to be held by the universal Church, by the divine assistance promised him in blessed Peter, is possessed of that infallibility with which the divine Redeemer willed that his Church should be endowed for defining doctrine regarding faith or morals; and that therefore such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are irreformable of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church. But if any one-which may God avert-presume to contradict this our definition: let him be anathema’ (Dogmatic Decrees of the Vatican Council, Concerning the Infallible Teaching of the Roman Pontiff, Chapter IV; cited by Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom [New York: Harper & Brothers, 1877], 2:270-71).
    30. Tierney, Origins of Papal Infallibility, 12-13.
    31. The exact words of condemnation by the sixth ecumenical council are as follows:
      ‘After we had reconsidered….the doctrinal letters of Sergius….to Honorius some time Pope of Old Rome, as well as the letter of the latter to the same Sergius, we find that these documents are quite foreign to the apostolic dogmas, to the declarations of the holy Councils, and to all the accepted Fathers, and that they follow the false teachings of the heretics; therefore we entirely reject them, and execrate them as hurtful to the soul. But the names of those men whose doctrines we execrate must also be thrust forth from the holy Church of God….We define that there shall be expelled from the holy Church of God and anathematized Honorius who was some time Pope of Old Rome, because of what was written by him to Sergius, that in all respects he followed his view and confirmed his impious doctrines….But as the author of evil… having found suitable instruments for working out his will (we mean Theodorus….Sergius….Honorius who was Pope of elder Rune)….has actively employed them in raising up for the whole Church the stumbling blocks of one will and one operation in Christ our true God, one of the Holy Trinity; thus disseminating, in novel terms, amongst the orthodox people, an heresy similar to the mad and wicked doctrine of the impious Apollinaris….To Honorius, the heretic, anathema!’ (The Seven Ecumenical Councils, Second Series, vol. XIV, of Schaff and Wace, ed., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 342-44)
    32. Tierney, Origins of Papal Infallibility, 11. See also Charles Joseph Hefele, A History of the Councils of the Church (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1896), V:180.
    33. These are the words of Pope Pius IX relative to the teaching of the Immaculate Conception: ‘Therefore, if some should presume to think in their hearts otherwise than we have defined (which God forbid), they shall know and thoroughly understand that they are by their own judgment condemned, have made shipwreck concerning the faith, and fallen away from the unity of the Church; and, moreover, that they, by this very act, subject themselves to the penalties ordained by law if, by word or writing, or any other external means, they dare to signify what they think in their heart’ (The Decree of Pope Pius IX on the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, From the Bull Ineffabilis Deus [A.D. 1854]. Taken from Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, 2:212).
    34. Pelagius and Celestius used Mary, the mother of Jesus, as an example of one born free of original sin. Vincent of Lerins points out the origin of the teaching of the Immaculate Conception with these words: ‘Who ever originated a heresy that did not first dissever himself from the consentient agreement of the universality and antiquity of the Catholic Church? That this is so is demonstrated in the clearest way by examples. For who ever before the profane Pelagius attributed so much antecedent strength to Free-will, as to deny the necessity of God’s grace to aid it towards every good in every single act? Who ever before his monstrous disciple Celestius denied that the whole human race is involved in the guilt of Adam’s sin?’ (Vincent of Lerins, A Commonitory 24.62, Series Two, vol. XI, of Schaff and Wace, ed., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 149-50).
    35. Juniper Carol, ed., Mariology (Milwaukee: Bruce, 1955), 1:146.
    36. ‘For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ (Rom. 3:23). ‘There is none righteous, not even one’ (Rom. 3:10).
    37. Pope Pius XII affirms this in these words:
      ‘We pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory. Hence, if anyone, which God forbid, should dare wilfully to deny or call into doubt that which we have defined, let him know that he has completely fallen from the divine and Catholic faith….It is forbidden to any man to change this, Our declaration, pronouncement, and definition or, by rash attempt, to oppose and counter it. If any man should presume to make such an attempt, let him know that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul’ (Munificentissimus Deus [A.D. 1950], 44-45, 47; taken from Selected Documents of Pope Pius XII [Washington: National Catholic Welfare Conference])
    38. This fact is affirmed by the Roman Catholic historian and Mariologist Juniper Carol (Mariology, 1:149) in these comments: ‘The first express witness in the West to a genuine assumption comes to us in an apocryphal Gospel, the Transitus beatae Mariae of Pseudo-Melito.’
    39. In his decree, Decretum de Libris Canonicis Ecclesiasticis et Apocrypha, which was later affirmed by Pope Hormisdas, Gelasius lists the Transitus teaching by the following title: Liber qui apellatur Transitus, id est Assumptio Sanctae Mariae under the following condemnation: ‘These and writings similar to these, which….all the heresiarchs and their disciples, or the schismatics have taught or written….we confess have not only been rejected but also banished from the whole Roman and Apostolic Church and with their authors and followers of their authors have been condemned forever under the indissoluble bond of anathema’ (St. Gelasius I, Epistle 42; taken from Henry Denzinger, The Sources of Catholic Dogma [London: Herder, 1954], 69-70). Cf. Migne P.L., vol. 59, col. 162, 164.

40. Popes Leo XIII and Benedict XV make these statements: ‘When Mary offered herself completely to God together with her Son in the temple, she was already sharing with him the painful atonement on behalf of the human race….(at the foot of the cross) she was a co-worker with Christ in His expiation for mankind and she offered up her Son to the divine justice dying with him in her heart (Jucunda semper)….Thus she (Mary) suffered and all but died along with her Son suffering and dying-thus for the salvation of men she abdicated the rights of a mother toward her son, and insofar as it was hers to do, she immolated the Son to placate God’s justice, so that she herself may justly be said to have redeemed together with Christ the human race. (De Corredemptione; cited by Carol, ed., Mariology, 1:383, 37)

41.’For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus’ (1 Tim. 2:5).

42.’Since explicit testimonies to Mary as Queen date from the fifth century and are linked closely with her divine Maternity, the richest source of this doctrine is the Transitus Mariae literature. In proclaiming the glories of the Mother of God and in describing her triumphant entrance into paradise, they hail her as a glorious queen’ (Carol, ed., Mariology, 1:177).

  1. Boniface Ramsey, Beginning to Read the Fathers (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1986), 6.
  2. Cited by W. J. Sparrow Simpson, Roman Catholic Opposition to Papal Infallibility (London: John Murray, 1909), 324.