I’ve been publishing excerpts from the book I wrote with David Gustafson, and today was going to publish David’s reply to my reply, but he already did it himself in the combox. Instead, here is another of his observations. He has problems with Pius IX’s high praise of Mary…
I understand your point, and will address it in a moment, but before I enter that conversation, I want to give one more example, to round out my complaint of distorted honor to Mary:
In an earlier chapter, we discussed Pope Pius IX’s 1854 definition of the Immaculate Conception, the doctrine that gave its name to Washington’s National Shrine. Five years earlier, in 1849, Pius IX had asked the Catholic bishops of the world about their desire that the doctrine be defined as official church dogma. His encyclical letter, Ubi Primum, included this high praise for Mary:
From our earliest years nothing has ever been closer to Our heart than devotion‑-filial, profound, and wholehearted‑-to the most blessed Virgin Mary. Always have We endeavored to do everything that would redound to the greater glory of the Blessed Virgin, promote her honor, and encourage devotion to her…. Great indeed is Our trust in Mary. The resplendent glory of her merits, far exceeding all the choirs of angels, elevates her to the very steps of the throne of God. Her foot has crushed the head of Satan. Set up between Christ and His Church, Mary, ever lovable and full of grace, always has delivered the Christian people from their greatest calamities and from the snares and assaults of all their enemies, ever rescuing them from ruin…. The foundation of all Our confidence, as you know well, Venerable Brethren, is found in the Blessed Virgin Mary. For, God has committed to Mary the treasury of all good things, in order that everyone may know that through her are obtained every hope, every grace, and all salvation. For this is His will, that we obtain everything through Mary.
Again, if Pius IX’s references to Mary were replaced by references to Jesus Christ, this excerpt would be uncontroversially Christian. As it is, however, it says things of Mary that should be said only of God: Nothing was “closer to [his] heart” than devotion to Mary? “The foundation of all [his] confidence” is Mary?
Not every papal statement is regarded by Catholics as an ex cathedra, infallible pronouncement. Can we therefore take this as a personal lapse by Pius IX and say that it’s not representative of Catholic Marian devotion, which should be Christ-centered? Or would that be an intellectually dishonest dodge?
How would you respond to David’s question?