Mary Ann Collins
(A Former Catholic Nun)

October 2001
Revised October 2003


Ever since Martin Luther's cry of "sola scriptura" (Scripture alone is our authoritative source of truth), there has been an on-going debate between Catholics and Protestants as to whether the truth is to be found in the Bible alone, or in the Bible plus "Tradition". I will discuss tradition and the doctrine of infallibility later in this paper.

God gave us the Bible to teach us, to guide us, to correct us, and to enable us to lead Godly lives. Through the Bible, God reveals Himself and His ways to us. Scripture says:

"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." (Psalm 119:105)

"The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes." (Psalm 19:7-8)

"For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12)

"Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth." (John 17:17)

"…receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls." (James 1:21)

"The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple." (Psalm 119:131)

"…If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed: And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:31-32)

"For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope." (Romans 15:4)

"Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." (Matthew 24:35)

"The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever." (Isaiah 40:8)

"Forever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven." (Psalm 119:89)

If Christianity really works, then it has to work under all circumstances. That includes working for new converts who are isolated in prisons and have no Bible and no fellow Christians to help them. That kind of thing is happening today in some Muslim nations. You can get information about this from a ministry called Open Doors. (See the Endnotes.) [Note 1]

God has provided for such situations by giving us the Holy Spirit, who helps us remember things (especially Scripture) and enables us to understand the things of God. (See John 14:26 and 1 Corinthians 2:9-16.) It is through prayer and the guidance of the Holy Spirit that we are able to understand Scripture.

Jesus said that the Holy Spirit (the Comforter) "will guide you into all truth" (John 16:13; see John 16:7-15). Jesus said, "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." (John 14:26) (Scripture quotations are in the King James Version.)

The Apostle John said, "But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you; but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him." (1 John 2:27) I don't really understand what "the anointing" means, but this Scripture clearly shows that in some way God has enabled us to learn what we need to know directly from Him.

2 Peter 1:3 says: "According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue". In other words, God has already provided us with what we need for life and godliness. It is valuable to have Bibles and pastors and teachers. If they are available, then we should benefit from them as much as possible. But if those things are not available, then God is powerful enough to enable us to live godly lives without them. Jude 1:24 says that God is able to keep us from falling.


The Catholic Church officially states that Catholic tradition is equal in authority to the Bible. [Note 2] The problem is that Catholic tradition consists of various expressions of worship and belief of the Catholic people. [Note 3] It is nebulous. It keeps changing. You cannot find it written in one place. You can't really put your hands on exactly what it is.

My paper entitled "Mary Worship? A Study of Catholic Practice and Doctrine" gives information about tradition and the doctrine of infallibility. I have repeated it in Appendix B. For a real understanding of the subject I strongly recommend that you read pages 229 to 309 of the book "The Gospel According to Rome" by James McCarthy. Anybody who is serious about understanding the fundamental issues of Catholicism should read this book. You can go on-line and use a search engine to check his references to the "Catechism of the Catholic Church". (See Note 2) If you want a more thorough understanding of the historical aspect of tradition and infallibility, then read pages 22 to 71 of "The Church of Rome at the Bar of History" by William Webster.

For Jesus' evaluation of the religious traditions of his time, read Mark 7:1-13 and Matthew 15:1-9. Jesus rebuked the scribes and Pharisees because their traditions nullified the Word of God. He used Scripture to measure the validity of their religious traditions. He was distressed because the religious leaders of his time considered their traditions to be equal in authority to Scripture. He rebuked them saying, "This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." (Matthew 15:8-9) In Mark 7:8, Jesus says, "For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the traditions of men". (See Mark 7:6-8.)

The Bible clearly tells us that we are not to add to Scripture or take away from it. We need to stay with what has been written.

Deuteronomy 4:2 says, "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you." In other words, adding to Scripture results in disobeying God. If we say that Tradition is equal in authority to Scripture, then we can no longer use Scripture to test Tradition, like Jesus did. Instead, we are allowing Tradition to determine how we interpret Scripture. Either this is "adding to Scripture" or else it is perilously close to it.

Deuteronomy 12:32 says, "What thing soever I command you, observe to do it; thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it." Proverbs 30:5-6 says, "Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar." Revelation 22:18-19 warns that adding to God's words can cause a person to have their name be removed from the "book of life".


The doctrine of papal infallibility is based upon Matthew 16:18 in which Jesus tells Peter, "And I say unto thee, That thou are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." A huge doctrine with immense historical consequences has been built upon one short verse. The question is, does the rock on which the church is built represent Peter or does it represent Jesus?

Peter himself answers this question when he says that Jesus is a living stone (1 Peter 2:4). (This is a Messianic prophecy which Peter quotes from Isaiah 28:16.) The Apostle Paul says that Jesus Christ is our spiritual Rock (1 Corinthians 10:4). In Romans 9:31-33, Paul says that Jesus was a rock of offense for the Israelites who were trying to be saved by works of the law instead of by faith.

In the New Testament there are three words for "stone". "Lithos" means a stone like a mill stone or a stumbling stone. The other two words are "petra" and "petros". "Vine's Expository Dictionary" says, "'Petra' [Strong's number 4073] denotes 'a mass of rock,' as distinct from 'petros,' [Strong's number 4074], 'a detached stone or boulder,' or a stone that might be thrown or easily moved."

In Matthew 16:18, the word for Peter is "petros," a detached stone that can easily be moved. The word for the rock on which the church is built is "petra," a mass of rock. Other examples of the use of "petra" show what a huge mass of rock is meant by the word. They include the man who built his house on rock, as opposed to sand (Matthew 7:24-27) and the tomb where Jesus' body was put, which was carved out of a rock (Matthew 27:60).

Debating the fine points of a language that most of us don't understand (Greek) is not the only way to approach this problem.

The Bible commends the people of Berea because they "searched the Scriptures daily" in order to "see whether these things were so". (Acts 17:10-11) God wants His people to check everything against Scripture.

In the days of the Apostle Paul, the Scriptures consisted of the Old Testament. The New Testament was in the process of being written (Paul and other apostles were writing letters and Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were writing the Gospels). Paul's epistles constitute about one-fourth of the New Testament. These are Scriptures that we study, and that theologians analyze. Paul was one of the leading theologians of his time. In addition, he had been to the Third Heaven where he had seen mysteries that he was not allowed to tell us about. (2 Corinthians 12:2-4) But the Bible does not criticize the Bereans for questioning what the Apostle Paul taught them. Rather, it commends them for checking it out for themselves by comparing his teaching with Scripture.

1 Thessalonians 5:21 says, "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." (According to "Strong's Concordance," the word "prove" means "to test".) God requires that every man and woman test all things for themselves.

However, the Catholic Church teaches that only the Magisterium of the Church (the Pope and the bishops in communion with him) has the right to interpret Scripture. People like you and I (and the Bereans) are not allowed to interpret Scripture for themselves. [Note 4]

Where does the Catholic approach leave Christian prisoners in countries where there is persecution? All they have to go on is prayer and their memory of Scripture. They can't read a Bible. They can't consult with a priest or bishop. They are often doing well if they get to see any Christians at all. Would God set up a system that doesn't take care of His most faithful followers, those who are willing to pay the highest price for serving Him?

Catholicism teaches that Christians are supposed to "receive with docility" any directives given to them by Church authorities. [Note 5] According to "Webster's Dictionary," "docile" means "disposed to be taught; tractable; as, a docile child". The word "tractable" means "capable of being easily led, taught, or controlled; docile."

That doesn't sound like Berean men who are studying the Scriptures to see whether or not what the Apostle Paul taught them is Biblical. Rather, it sounds like a young child who accepts without question whatever his parents tell him. In fact, I believe that is precisely what Jesus warned us against when He told us to "Call no man father". (Matthew 23:9)

On December 8, 1854, Pope Pius IX declared the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. The Pope said that if anybody "dares" to even think anything contrary to this dogma, then that disagreement will shipwreck their faith, cut them off from the Church, and make them become "condemned". And if anybody in any way outwardly expresses their disagreement, then they are subject to "penalties established by law". [Note 6 gives a link to this papal bull.]

The Pope's reference to legal penalties is significant because a man had been executed for heresy 28 years before this papal bull was issued. In 1826, a Spanish schoolmaster was hanged because he substituted the phrase "Praise be to God" in place of "Ave Maria" ("Hail Mary") during school prayers. [Note 7]


Did Jesus treat people like this for disagreeing in their hearts with something which He or the Apostles told them? With amazing patience He kept on teaching the crowds of people, healing the sick and demonstrating the love and the power of God. When His disciples didn't understand His teachings, He explained them. (Luke 8:5-15) When the rich young man turned away from Jesus, He didn't rebuke him or threaten him. He let him go. (Matthew 19:16-22) In John 6:48-68, Jesus gave a teaching that was difficult for people. Many of His disciples left him and no longer followed Him. He asked the Twelve, "Will ye also go away?" (Verse 67) He didn't threaten them or rebuke them. He didn't try to force them to believe what He taught them. He left them free to believe or not believe, to stay or to leave.

Now if Jesus didn't demand that people believe His teachings about morals and doctrine, then how can anybody else validly do it? Nobody else has the purity of doctrine, or the purity of heart, that Jesus did.

There was one occasion when James and John wanted to call down fire on some Samaritans who wouldn't listen to them. Jesus rebuked them saying, "You know not what manner of spirit ye are of." (Luke 9:55-56; see Luke 9:51-56.)

Look at how Jesus responded to "doubting Thomas". All of the Apostles except Thomas had seen Jesus after the Resurrection. Jesus had repeatedly told his Disciples that He would be crucified and then resurrected on the third day. In spite of all that, Thomas said that he wouldn't believe unless he put his finger into the holes from the nails, and put his hand into the wound in Jesus' side. When Jesus appeared again, did He rebuke Thomas? No. Did Jesus call down curses and anathemas on Thomas for not believing what the Apostles had said? No. He invited Thomas to put his finger into the nail holes and to put his hand into the wound in Jesus' side. In other words, he invited Thomas to check it out for himself. (See John 20:24-29)

Look at a theological confrontation that occurs in Galatians 2:11-16. Peter made a decision that was theologically incorrect. Paul publicly scolded Peter "to his face" for it, and then he wrote to the Galatian church about it. We have no record that Paul was rebuked for this. He certainly wasn't embarrassed by it because he used the incident as a teaching illustration in his Epistle to the Galatians.

According to the Catholic Church, Peter was the first pope. How does Peter address people? Does he demand that they believe what he says? Read the two epistles of Peter. (They are short.) In 1 Peter, he identifies himself as "Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:1). In 2 Peter, he identifies himself as "Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:1). He does not set himself apart as being in a higher position of authority than the other apostles.

It is Peter who tells us that all Christians are "a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people". (1 Peter 2:9) He tells us,"Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 2:5) Peter (supposedly the first pope) says that every Christian man and woman is a priest, and that our spiritual sacrifices can be acceptable to God.

Dangers of Infallibility


When the Disciples asked Jesus what the signs of the End Times would be, the first thing that He said was, "Take heed that no man deceive you." (Matthew 24:4) The main sign of the End Times is deception.

If every Christian reads the Bible and checks things out against Scripture (like the Bereans did), then the devil and his demon cohorts will have a tough job deceiving each of the Christians individually.

However, if Christians are required to accept whatever the Pope says "with docility" (like a trusting, unquestioning child), then the devil's job is much easier. If he can just deceive the Pope to the point where he declares an error to be doctrine, then the devil has successfully deceived everybody who is under the Pope's authority.

I wrote this paper because I'm afraid that this is precisely what is going to happen. There is something supernatural which has been appearing as "Mary". She is trying to get the Pope to proclaim that Mary is Co-Redemptrix (she and Jesus together redeemed us from sin). [Note 8] She says that she will put her "sign" on the foreheads of her followers during the End Times. According to "Webster's Dictionary," one of the definitions of the word "sign" is "mark". So "Mary" wants to put her mark on people's foreheads. [Note 9]

The Bible says that Satan can appear looking like an angel of light. (2 Corinthians 11:14) I am afraid that this false "Mary" will lead the Catholic Church into deception. If she can deceive the Pope into declaring false doctrines, then the entire Catholic Church will be required to believe them.

She will be difficult to resist. She is beautiful and persuasive. An encounter with something supernatural like this can be overwhelming. It is difficult to keep a clear mind and "try [test] the spirits whether they are of God". (1 John 4:1)

The Apostle Peter was so deceived by the devil that Jesus rebuked him saying, "Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offense unto me; for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men." (Matthew 16:23, Mark 8:33, Luke 4:8) The devil successfully deceived Peter concerning an important matter of faith (the death and resurrection of Jesus, as prophesied by Jesus Himself). So how can the popes (who claim to be the successors of Peter) say that the devil is incapable of deceiving them?


It has been said that "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely." [Note 10] When you give any one man (the Pope) or group of men (the Magisterium) the power to define what people are required to believe in order to be able to go to Heaven, then you invite abuses of power.

History is full of examples of this abuse of power. There are popes who came to power by murder, by armed conquest, and by buying the papacy. Many popes openly fornicated with women and with boys. Some popes were incredibly cruel. For example, Pope Stephen IV condemned a man to be killed by having little pieces of his body cut off of him every day until he died. Pope Benedict IX was bisexual, he had sex with animals, and he gave orders for people to be murdered. He also practiced witchcraft and Satanism. [Note 11] (Please forgive the gory details, but I can't make my point without mentioning them. I've tried to keep it to a minimum.)

Obviously, not all popes are like that. But some were. There is no guarantee that it won't happen again.

David Yallop wrote the book, "In God's Name: An Investigation into the Murder of Pope John Paul I." Vatican insiders asked Yallop to investigate the death of John Paul I because they suspected that he was murdered. Yallop did his homework. His information comes from interviews with Vatican insiders and Mafia gangsters. He gives a revealing and disturbing picture of life in the Vatican, including a quotation of Pope John Paul I to a visiting relative. The Pope said, "There are two things that are hard to find in the Vatican: the truth and a good cup of coffee."

I realize that there have been scandals in many Christian denominations throughout Church history. Jesus warned us about wolves in sheep's clothing. (Matthew 7:15) Therefore, we should not be shocked when we discover some of them.

In Matthew 7:15, Jesus is talking about false prophets. Prophets are people who claim to speak for God. That is precisely what the Pope does. He claims to be the vicar (representative) of Christ. The Magisterium also claims to speak for Christ. The "Catechism of the Catholic Church" says that whoever listens to the Pope and the bishops (the Magisterium) is actually listening to Christ. [Note 12]

There have been tares among the wheat, and wolves among the sheep, throughout Church history. No denomination has been perfect. However, only the Catholic Church claims to be infallible. That claim makes wolves in sheep's clothing far more dangerous because of the power that it gives them over the minds (and therefore the lives) of other people.


Jesus promised us that the gates of hell will not prevail against His Church. That requires the supernatural intervention of God. According to the Bible, God has done this by sending us the Holy Spirit to teach us and to guide us. 2 Timothy 3:16 says that Scripture is the key to sound doctrine and instruction in righteousness.

According to the Catholic Church, God has miraculously protected the popes from making errors when they make pronouncements about faith or morals. This idea has a natural appeal. We would all like to have magical protection from error. Also, it is nice to be able to be passive spectators, receiving "with docility" whatever our superiors give us, without having to face the responsibility of checking it out for ourselves. But attractive or not, this idea is not supported by Scripture or by Church history. (See the Appendix.)

What is our source of authority? God. He reveals Himself and His ways in the Bible, which He has given us for instruction in doctrine and in how to live a Godly life. (2 Timothy 3:16) And He has sent the Holy Spirit to enable us to understand Scripture, and to "guide us into all truth." (John 16:13)

A Challenge

I have a challenge for you. It will require some work on your part, but it will be worth the effort.

I have discussed the question of our source of authority. Now, I want to demonstrate it to you. You have thought about the issue. Now, I want you to personally taste the difference between Scripture and Roman Catholic tradition.

I can't do this for you. You have to experience it for yourself, in order to understand.

Before reading the rest of this chapter, please ask God to give you wisdom and discernment. (James 1:5)

I want you to read some statements by Pope Pius IX. They are from his encyclical, "Ineffabilis Deus". You can read it online. Some Internet addresses are below. If they don't work for you, then you can do an Internet search for "Ineffabilis Deus."

Please read the sections, "The Definition" and "Hoped-for Results." They are near the end of the encyclical. You can find them quickly by searching the web page for "The Definition." (When you have the encyclical online, go to EDIT. Select FIND. Type "The Definition." Then hit ENTER.) "Hoped-for Results" comes immediately after "The Definition."

We are going to compare what Pope Pius IX said about Mary, with what the Bible says about her. In reading the material, please pay attention to the tone of the writing, as well as to the contents. Please notice how the Pope speaks-his attitude, his bearing, his approach towards his readers, and the general tone of his writing.

Please notice how you feel while you are reading the encyclical. Sometimes we can "sniff" things that our intellects don't pick up. We have expressions reflecting that. For example: "There's something fishy going on." It means that something doesn't smell right-I don't know what's wrong; I can't explain it; but there is something wrong here.

I'll give an example from my own life. When I was a Catholic, I used to recite certain special prayers in order to earn indulgences on behalf of the "poor souls in Purgatory." One day, while I was doing it, something just didn't feel right about it. I stopped doing it. Months later, I realized that reciting prayers is not praying. If my reason for saying the prayers was to earn indulgences (rather than sharing my heart with God), then I wasn't praying. Years later, I realized that Purgatory doesn't even exist. My "sniffer" picked up the problem long before my mind understood it.

I'm asking you to activate your "sniffer" when you read this encyclical. You can ask God to help you do it.

This papal bull is as official as they can get. It is an "infallible" pronouncement of Catholic doctrine. The Pope who wrote it is on his way to becoming a canonized saint. Pope John Paul II beatified him on September 3, 2000. (You can read about this online.)11 Beatification is the last step before canonization.

* * * * * * *

Have you read the material from the encyclical? If so, then please read what the Bible says about Mary, the mother of Jesus.

The first two chapters of the Gospel of Matthew, and the first two chapters of the Gospel of Luke, have information about the infancy of Jesus, and the time when He was in the Temple, asking questions of the religious leaders. Those Scripture passages are too long to quote here. You can read them in your own Bible. I have quoted all of the other Scripture passages about Mary, the mother of Jesus. (In searching for the word "Mary," I found more references to other women named Mary than I did for Jesus' mother.)

Some women went to the tomb after Jesus was crucified. They included women named Mary, but the mother of Jesus is not mentioned as being one of them. Matthew 28:1 refers to: "Mary Magdalene and the other Mary." Mark 16:1 says that they are: "Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome." Luke 24:10 refers to: "Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them." So the "other Mary" in Matthew 28 is Mary, the mother of James. (Presumably, "Mary the mother of James" refers to the disciple James and not to the man whom Paul referred to as, "James the brother of Jesus.")

Aside from the infancy and childhood of Jesus, the following Scripture passages are the only ones that refer to Mary, the mother of Jesus. Here is what the Bible says about her:

"While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him. Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother." (Matthew 12:46-50) (Also see Mark 3:31-35; Luke 8:19-21.)

"Is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things? And they were offended in him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house." (Matthew 13:55-57; also see Mark 6:1-6; Luke 4:16-31.)

"And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked. But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it." (Luke 11:27-28)

"And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now. This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him." (John 2:1-11)

"Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home." (John 19:25-27)

"Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day's journey. And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Phillip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren." (Acts 1:12-14)

"But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made unter the law." (Galatians 4:4)

The Scripture passages that I just quoted, plus the first two chapters of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, are all of the passages that refer to Mary, the mother of Jesus. The Bible doesn't tell us much about her.

Some Questions

I asked you to read two sections from the Pope's encyclical. The first one was, "The Definition." It has two parts: the actual definition of the dogma, and a warning not to doubt or disagree with the dogma. How did you feel when you read the warning? What was the tone of the warning? What was the Pope's attitude towards his audience?

The second section that I asked you to read was, "Hoped-for Results." How did you feel when you read it? What is the tone of the writing? What is the Pope's attitude towards Mary?

How did you feel when you read the quotations from Scripture? If you are not used to using the King James Version of the Bible, then it would be good to read those passages in your own Bible, in the translation that you are familiar with.

What is the tone of the Scripture passages? What is the attitude towards Mary? What is the approach towards the readers?

How much prominence does the Bible give to Mary? Compare that with what the Pope said about her.

In the section of the encyclical called, "Hoped-for Results," what did the Pope say about Mary? We know that she was the mother of Jesus. What else did the Pope say about her? Are any of those statements supported by what the Bible says about her?

You may have noticed that the Pope said that Mary would enable the Catholic Church to "reign." He said that, because of Mary, Rome would rule from "the river" all the way to the "ends of the earth"-in other words, throughout the world. ("The river" refers to the Tiber River, which is in Rome. The Vatican is located next to the Tiber River.) Look at Mary, as portrayed in the Bible. Would she want to create a super-power that would rule over the nations?

Some Observations

It is worth noting that, in the Bible, the last thing we hear about Mary, the mother of Jesus, is in the first chapter of the Book of Acts. She was in the upper room, with about 120 people, before the Holy Spirit came upon them on the Day of Pentecost.

Galatians 4:4 does refer to her, but only to say that Jesus was "made of a woman." It is a way of referring to the Incarnation of Jesus, rather than giving new information about Mary.

Scripture tells us about a woman who gave Mary special prominence and praise. It also records what Jesus had to say about it. The Bible says:

"And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked. But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it." (Luke 11:27-28, emphasis added)

Please ask God to give you His perspective about the passages that you read from the papal encyclical.

If you are a Catholic, then you may be so familiar with this kind of writing that you don't notice what it really says. If that is the case, then please read the section, "Hoped-for Results," again. Read it slowly. Think about what it says. There is a lot at stake here. The Apostle Paul said:

"Beware lest any man spoil [ruin] you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ." (Colossians 2:8)


The following information is taken from my paper, "Mary Worship? A Study of Catholic Practice and Doctrine". It comes from the section entitled, "How Did We Get Here?" I've repeated that information here for people who have not read the paper.

The Early Fathers used Scripture as the standard against which they tested Church tradition. The modern Catholic doctrine that Church tradition is equal in authority with the Bible is contrary to the writings of the Early Fathers. [Note 13]

According to the official teaching of the Catholic Church, Catholic men and women are not allowed to believe what they read in the Bible without first checking it out with the Catholic Church. They are required to find out how the bishops of the Church interpret a passage and they are to accept what the bishops teach "with docility" as if it came from Jesus Christ Himself. They are not allowed to use their own judgment or follow their own conscience. They are required to believe whatever the bishops teach without questioning it. [Note 14]

The Catholic Church teaches that when the bishops officially teach doctrine relating to faith and morals, then God super-naturally prevents them from making any errors. This is called "infallibility". It applies to official councils, such as the Second Vatican Council. It also applies to other teachings, as long as the bishops and the Pope are in agreement about them. [Note 15]

The Pope is said to be infallible whenever he makes an official decree on matters of faith and morals. According to Catholic doctrine, it is impossible for the Pope to teach false doctrine. Catholics are expected to obey the Pope without question even when he is not making an "infallible" statement about doctrine. They are expected to submit their wills and minds to the Pope without question. [Note 16]

The Early Fathers, and the theologians and canon lawyers of the Middle Ages, never taught that the bishops or the Pope were infallible. This is demonstrated by the fact that in 680 A.D. the Sixth Ecumenical Council condemned a pope as a heretic. It was not until the fourteenth century that the theory of infallibility began to emerge. With the development of this theory came a change in the interpretation of some biblical passages. [Note 17]

The history of the early Church shows that the Bishop of Rome was considered to be just another bishop. For example, Pope Gregory (590-604 A.D.) explicitly stated that all of the bishops were equal. He specifically repudiated the idea that any one bishop could be the supreme ruler of the Church. [Note 18]

The claim for papal infallibility does not stand up to the test of history. For example, Pope Zosimus (417-418 A.D.) reversed the pronouncement of a previous pope. He also retracted a doctrinal pronouncement that he himself had previously made. Pope Honorious was condemned as a heretic by the Sixth Ecumenical Council (680-681 A.D.). He was also condemned as a heretic by Pope Leo II, as well as by every other pope until the eleventh century. So here we have "infallible" popes condemning another "infallible" pope as a heretic. In 1870, the First Vatican Council abolished "infallible" papal decrees and the decrees of two "infallible" councils. [Note 19]

In the seventeenth century, the Catholic church officially condemned Galileo as a heretic because he taught that the earth revolves around the sun. This did not conflict with the Bible or with the teachings of the Early Fathers. However, it was contrary to seventeenth century Catholic theology. The Greek philosopher Aristotle taught that the sun revolves around the earth. Aristotle influenced Thomas Aquinas, a thirteenth century theologian and "doctor of the Church" whose theology had a major impact on the Catholic Church. Some modern astronomers believe that Galileo was right. Others believe that Einstein's theory of relativity makes the question irrelevant. [Note 20] Either way, Galileo was not a heretic for disagreeing with Aristotle. The "infallible" pronouncement of the Catholic Church regarding Galileo's teaching was wrong.

The doctrine of Assumption of Mary was officially declared to be a dogma of the Roman Catholic faith in 1950. This means that every Roman Catholic is required to believe this doctrine without questioning it. However, as we will see, the teaching of the Assumption originated with heretical writings which were officially condemned by the early Church.

In 495 A.D., Pope Gelasius issued a decree which rejected this teaching as heresy and its proponents as heretics. In the sixth century, Pope Hormisdas also condemned as heretics those authors who taught the doctrine of the Assumption of Mary. The early Church clearly considered the doctrine of the Assumption of Mary to be a heresy worthy of condemnation. Here we have "infallible" popes declaring something to be a heresy. Then in 1950, Pope Pius XII, another "infallible" pope, declared it to be official Roman Catholic doctrine. [Note 21]


I encourage you to link to this article. You have permission to quote from this article, as long as you do it fairly and accurately. You have permission to make copies of this article for friends and for use in classes.


Aardsma, Gerald E. "Geocentricity and Creation", "Vital Articles on Science/Creation," July 1994, Impact No 253. Santee, California: Institute of Creation Research. It is available on-line:

"Catechism of the Catholic Church". Washington, DC: U.S. Catholic Conference, 2000. This book comes in numerous editions and languages. Because it has numbered paragraphs, statements can be accurately located in spite of the variety of editions.

Heintz, Peter. "A Guide to Apparitions of Our Blessed Virgin Mary," Part I, 20th Century Apparitions. Sacramento, California: Gabriel Press. This is a Catholic book. It covers 60 apparitions in detail. It is methodical, with 33 categories of information for every apparition. The book is out of print. According to the publisher (who is now out of business), copies of the book were sent to major Marian institutions. The book can be obtained from the following web site:

Johnson, Paul. "A History of Christianity. New York: Simon & Schuster, a Touchstone Book, 1995". The author is Catholic.

McCarthy, James G. "The Gospel According to Rome: Comparing Catholic Tradition and the Word of God". Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1995. The author is a former Catholic.

Webster, William. "The Church of Rome at the Bar of History". Carlisle, Pennsylvania: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1996. The author is a former Catholic.

Yallop, David. "In God's Name: An Investigation into the Murder of Pope John Paul I." This was originally published by Random House in 1985. The latest publication was by Trans World Publishers in 1994.


1. Open Doors has been smuggling Bibles and other Christian materials into Communist and Muslim nations for over forty years. They have a free newsletter which tells what our persecuted brothers and sisters are enduring around the world. Their web site address is:

2. “Catechism of the Catholic Church,” paragraphs numbered 80, 84, 86, and 97. The “Catechism of the Catholic Church ”comes in numerous editions and languages. Because it has numbered paragraphs, statements can be accurately located in spite of the variety of editions. You can get the book in regular bookstores and at

3. "Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs numbered 78, 98, 113, 2650, and 2661.

4. "Catechism of the Catholic Church," paragraphs numbered 85, 100, 891, and 2051.

5. "Catechism of the Catholic Church," paragraphs numbered 87, 1310, and 2037.

6. "Ineffabilis Deus" ("Apostolic Constitution on the Immaculate Conception"). Encyclical of Pope Pius IX, issued December 8, 1854. Near the end of this papal bull there is a section called "The Definition." The statements that I described are in the last paragraph of that section. If these addresses don't work for you, then do a search for "Ineffabilis Deus."

7. Paul Johnson, "A History of Christianity," page 308.

8. Peter Heintz, "A Guide to Apparitions of Our Blessed Virgin Mary," pages 100-114.

9. Peter Heintz, pages 125-129.

10. I believe that this quotation comes from Lord Acton, but I'm not sure. Whatever the source, the quotation is widely known.

11. Paul Johnson, “A History of Christianity.” This book shows many examples of abuses of power in the chapter “From Martyrs to Inquisitors” (pages 67 to 124). (Paul Johnson is Catholic.) The book “Vicars of Christ” by Peter de Rosa also has numerous examples of abuses of power. (Peter de Rosa is a Catholic and he used to be a priest.)

12. "Catechism of the Catholic Church," paragraphs numbered 87, 862, 891, and 2051.

13. William Webster, "The Church of Rome at the Bar of History," pages 22-33. For a description of how pious practices can become official Catholic doctrine, and how this conflicts with both Scripture and the writings of the Early Fathers, see James G. McCarthy, "The Gospel According to Rome: Comparing Catholic Tradition and the Word of God," pages 281-309.

14. "Catechism of the Catholic Church," paragraphs numbered 85, 87, 100, 862, 891, 939, 2034, 2037, 2041, and 2050.

15 "Catechism of the Catholic Church," paragraphs numbered 890, 891, 939, 2033, 2034, and 2049.

16. "Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs numbered 892, 2037, and 2050.

17. William Webster, pages 34-55.

18. William Webster, pages 56-63.

19. William Webster, pages 63-71.

20. Gerald E. Aardsma, "Geocentricity and Creation," in "Vital Articles on Science/Creation," July 1994. Information about Aristotle's influence on Thomas Aquinas comes from a class on Metaphysics which I took at a Catholic college.

21. William Webster, "The Church of Rome at the Bar of History," pages 81-85.