MUST Catholics Pray to Saints or be Excommunicated?

MUST Catholics Pray to Saints or be Excommunicated? May 31, 2018

[the following is derived from an exchange in the lively combox for my National Catholic Register article, “50 Reasons Why Martin Luther Was Excommunicated”. Since others may be confused about what he brings up, I thought it would be good to share my reply; greatly expanded presently, to strengthen the Catholic argument]


Peter Cohen: “But what is even more astonishing, is that even if you have faith and pray in Jesus name, according to Dave Armstrong, you should be excommunicated from the RCC for not praying to Mary.”

This is putting words in my mouth (very clever, but falsehood). I never said (and have never *thought*) such a thing. You asked me if denial of invocation of Mary would be another thing (beyond Luther’s 50) that would be heretical, and I said yes, but that Luther hadn’t yet denied it in 1521. Here is the exact exchange:

Peter Cohen: “Would it also be a reason if one denied that one could or should ever offer prayers to Mary?”

Me: “Yes it would.”

It is indeed heretical from a Catholic perspective, to say, “one can [or could or should] never invoke a saint.” But that’s not at all the same as asserting (as I do) that invocation of saints is good and sanctioned by the Church, but not *required or necessary*.

Therefore, it is false to claim that the Church (or I, myself) would say that one should be excommunicated for having faith in Jesus and praying to Him alone, and not to Mary. One can be a good Catholic their entire life and never do the latter. But most Catholics do, because we believe it is beneficial.

The problem with (post-1521) Luther is that he denied that anyone could or should pray to (invoke) the saints (as opposed to simply saying that it is unnecessary and not required, as all Catholics say). That’s heretical, and against both Scripture and ongoing sacred Catholic tradition.

And that gets to your other comments along those lines: why do it? etc. You stated: “But really, why should we even begin to reason in this manner, when we are completely assured that Jesus is our High Priest, that he is our mediator and that he indeed does have the power to hear all prayers offered simultaneously and that the Father hears us when we pray in Jesus’ Name. If it rules out any need to pray to Mary or the saints, in that Jesus is the perfect mediator, there is no basis to appoint any other person as a mediator on our behalf if they are in heaven. It cannot be compared when we pray together as believers on earth and on behalf of one another. “

Here are several of my papers explaining why we do it; why it is a good thing:

Dialogue: “Why pray to a saint rather than to God?”

“Asking Saints to Intercede: Clear Teaching of Jesus” 

“Why Pray to Saints Rather than God? (The Biblical Rationale)”

I also have dealt with the issue of “mediators” other than Jesus:

” ‘One Mediator’ (1 Tim 2:5) vs. All Human Mediation?” 


(originally 12-2-16 on Facebook)

Photo credit: St Dominic in Prayer, by El Greco (1541-1614) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]


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