Thursday, March 22, 2007

Our Lady

I’ve been reading Tim Perry’s Mary for Evangelicals: Toward an Understanding of the Mother of Our Lord.

Don’t you just love these tendentious, prejudicial titles? It’s about as question-begging as “homophobia.”

It skews the analysis right at the outset with the presumptive imputation that Evangelicals just don’t “understand.” That’s why they reject Marian dogma. And it’s his job to enlighten us.

What we are then treated to is one of those stereotypically ecumenical, let’s-split-the-difference books.

One course, one of the problems with split-the-difference ecumenism is that Catholicism isn’t going to meet you half way. Marian dogma is just that—dogma.

Perry can make all of the concessive overtures he likes, but the motion is all coming from his end of the dialogue.

And it doesn’t matter what Catholic Bible scholars say, even when they’re right, for their correctives do nothing to alter dogma. Once the traditional prooftexts yield dogma, the conclusion remains even after the premise is withdrawn. You can admit that the prooftext was misused. But that retraction does nothing to retract the result.

Not that I, personally, have any particular problem with splitting the difference. When I read a book like Perry’s, I’m more than happy to split the difference. I support him whenever he opposes Marian dogma, and I oppose him whenever he supports Marian dogma.

In reading the book, two things came to mind. When, some years ago, I was in Vernazza—a picturesque little down on the Italian coast—I overheard a prayer service in which an old woman was leading other old women in the recitation of the Rosary.

It’s easy to see the emotional appeal of Mariolatry to peasant women. Women who had a hard life. Had a hard life with hard men—husbands, sons, and brothers. Mary is their great emotional refuge. At a functional level, she’s just another mother goddess.

But what accounts for her appeal to men? Well, it isn’t just any sort of man. The male architects of Mariolatry, as well as the men who are the most devoted to Mary, happen to be celibate clergymen. Popes and priests. Monks and prelates.

What we have here is a transparent case of sexual sublimation. They transfer their affection for the wife they never had to Joseph’s wife. Of course, this process of transvaluation is dressed up in very ethereal and rarefied terms, but any outsider can see that it’s simply an arrested, frustrated, and redirected exercise in libidinal energy. Sanctified lust. Spiritualized adultery.

Sodomy, concubinage, and Mariolatry are merely different outlets for their pent-up masculinity.

And even Catholic laymen who have a normal family life go along with this because, once it’s dogma, then it’s their duty to affirm it and defend it. That’s part of the package.


  1. Can I get a discount since I didn't get my full hour?

    I think I'm going to find an office with a leather couch.

  2. Anonymous said:

    "I think I'm going to find an office with a leather couch."

    PETA would disapprove of your taste in furniture!

  3. Steve,

    This is somewhat off-topic, but I would be interested in your response to a recent post on Reformedcatholicism with the title "Why Did Christ Die?" Paul Owen denies penal substitution in favor of some kind of "ransom" theory (more or less). Much appreciated...

  4. There's nothing wrong with supplementing penal substitution by drawing attention to other, sometimes neglected aspects of the atonement, such as Jesus' triumph over the dark side.

    However, Owen is simply repudiating penal substitution. For some standard exegetical literature in defense of penal substitution and related issues, cf.

    Leon Morris: The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross

    Leon Morris: The Cross in the New Testament

    Thomas Schreiner: Paul, Apostle of God's Glory in Christ.