This is a reply to Matt Slick: Presbyterian pastor and head of the large and influential anti-Catholic Protestant CARM discussion forum. I am responding to his article, “Do Catholics Worship Mary?” (2-7-19). His words will be in blue.
Let’s define worship before we see if the Roman Catholic church advocates the worship of Mary.
Worship: “in its most general sense is homage paid to a person or a thing. In this sense we may speak of hero-worship, worship of the emperor, of demons, of the angels, even of relics, and especially of the Cross.[“]
Pastor Slick cites The Catholic Encyclopedia (“Christian Worship”). But unfortunately he engages in a little sleight-of-hand, by selectively citing (out of context) only what he wants to, for his own polemical purposes. This was only “the most general sense.” The article then goes on to carefully differentiate worship / adoration from veneration. Because Pastor Slick apparently can’t grasp (or accept) these distinctions, he proceeds with false premises throughout his article. Here’s what he deliberately did not cite:
There are several degrees of this worship:
if it is addressed directly to God, it is superior, absolute, supreme worship, or worship of adoration, or, according to the consecrated theological term, a worship of latria. This sovereign worship is due to God alone; addressed to a creature it would become idolatry.
When worship is addressed only indirectly to God, that is, when its object is the veneration of martyrs, of angels, or of saints, it is a subordinate worship dependent on the first, and relative, in so far as it honours the creatures of God for their peculiar relations with Him; it is designated by theologians as the worship of dulia, a term denoting servitude, and implying, when used to signify our worship of distinguished servants of God, that their service to Him is their title to our veneration . . .
As the Blessed Virgin has a separate and absolutely supereminent rank among the saints, the worship paid to her is called hyperdulia . . . [see also the articles on Dulia, Latria, Images, Saints, Relics, Adoration]
To be fair, Pastor Slick does cite some of this at the end of his paper, but it is chopped up and not presented in full, in context (the second and third paragraphs completely omitted). This will not do; it’s shoddy research and dishonest argumentation.
Honor and homage of created persons or angels is clearly taught in Scripture. For example:
1 Peter 2:17 (RSV) Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the [even the pagan, anti-Christian, persecuting] emperor.
For many more biblical examples of such honoring and veneration, see:
Bible on the Veneration of Angels & Men [9-10-15]
Catholics attribute to Mary both physical (altars, bowing down, feasts, locations )
We don’t sacrifice to Mary. This is what an “altar” has to do with: the Sacrifice of the Mass, which is making present the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on the cross. As for feasts, Protestants also express great honor and homage to their founders: Martin Luther, John Calvin et al and many great Christian figures throughout history (like John Wesley and Billy Graham). They make a great deal over “Reformation Day” (October 31). I don’t see how these things are any fundamentally different from Catholic feast days (more on this aspect below).
and spiritual (adoration, devotion to, entrust to, glory due to, looking to, prayer to, worship of) aspects of worship. . . .
“Ascribe to the LORD the glory due His name; . . . ” (1 Chron. 16:29).
The Catholic article Pastor Slick cited expressly denies (see above) that adoration and worship per se can be given to anyone but God, and states that if it is done, it’s idolatry (we totally agree with Protestants in this respect). Thus, Catholic doctrine is being deliberately misrepresented (a very common occurrence in anti-Catholic treatments of Mary). As for glory, the Bible repeatedly states that God shares it with His creatures.
The point is that Roman Catholics say they do not worship Mary, but they do the very things that are consistent with worship. In other words, they do everything consistent with the essence of worship while denying that they actually do it.
Only the most pathetically ignorant, nominal Catholic would ever do this (such uninformed people can be found in any and every Christian group). It’s a very basic teaching — constantly reiterated — that any Catholic who knows anything understands. Pastor Slick would certainly say that lying and bearing false witness is wrong: indeed, this is one of the Ten Commandments. Yet he shamelessly lies about Catholic teaching on Mary. It’s unconscionable. And he will one day stand and give account before God for this lying, if he and countless other anti-Catholics don’t repent of it. I warn him and others like him for their own good, in charity.
Pastor Slick shows photographs of several statues of Mary, and makes out that this is undeniably idolatry (that it couldn’t be otherwise). Yet a case from the Bible can be made for the use of statues and other religious images:
“Graven Images”: Unbiblical Iconoclasm (vs. John Calvin) [Oct. 2012]
How Protestant Nativity Scenes Proclaim Catholic Doctrine [12-15-13; expanded for publication at National Catholic Register: 12-17-17]
Biblical Evidence for Veneration of Saints and Images [National Catholic Register, 10-23-18]
Was Moses’ Bronze Serpent an Idolatrous “Graven Image?” [National Catholic Register, 2-17-20]
Pastor Slick acts as if bowing before a statue must be idolatry. Yet the Bible presents an acceptable bowing before men and angels, as veneration and honor (a statue simply represents a person):
Pastor Slick cites 1 Corinthians 7:35 (“undistracted devotion to the Lord”) and makes out that no one can be devoted to anything but God. Yet the Bible states that King David was devoted to the temple:
1 Chronicles 29:3 Moreover, in addition to all that I have provided for the holy house, I have a treasure of my own of gold and silver, and because of my devotion to the house of my God I give it to the house of my God:
Twice in the very same book (one in the same chapter) St. Paul refers to devotions to things other than only God:
1 Corinthians 7:5 . . . that you may devote yourselves to prayer . . .
1 Corinthians 16:15 . . . they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints;
Jesus casually assumes that a person can be devoted to their master (Mt 6:24; Lk 16:13). And there are other instances:
Acts 1:14 All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, . . .
Acts 2:42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Acts 6:4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
1 Timothy 4:12-15 Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.  Till I come, attend to the public reading of scripture, to preaching, to teaching.  Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophetic utterance when the council of elders laid their hands upon you.  Practice these duties, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress.
1 Timothy 5:10 and she must be well attested for her good deeds, as one who has brought up children, shown hospitality, washed the feet of the saints, relieved the afflicted, and devoted herself to doing good in every way
Isn’t it sad that a Presbyterian minister can be so ignorant of God’s Holy Word: the Bible? He didn’t have five minutes to do a search like this? In the very example he gives of supposedly illegitimate “devotion” (citing the Catechism), it’s made crystal clear:
This very special devotion . . . differs essentially from the adoration which is given to the incarnate Word and equally to the Father and the Holy Spirit . . . (CCC #971)
Does he not have eyes to see? Is he unable to draw the most basic distinctions? But this is what anti-Catholicism does to an otherwise sound mind.
Pastor Slick cites 1 Peter 4:19, which says that we “entrust” our souls to God. Then he tries to make out that “entrusting ourselves to her prayer” (CCC #2677) is somehow contrary to this, even though (again!) the same passage — that he himself cites — states that “we abandon ourselves to the will of God together with her.” The Bible says that mere men are entrusted with many things: “the oracles of God” (Rom 3:2), an apostolic “commission” (1 Cor 9:17; 2 Tim 1:12), “the message of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:19), the “gospel” (Gal 2:7; 1 Thess 2:4; 1 Tim 1:11; Titus 1:3), the apostolic [oral] tradition or “commandment” or “truth” (1 Tim 6:14, 20; 2 Tim 1:14; 2:2).
So we can’t “entrust” ourselves to prayers of the holiest woman who ever lived; the mother of God the Son: Second Person of the Trinity, according to James 5:16 (“The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.”)? St. Paul said that his followers could trust his teaching, too (1 Cor 7:25).
I imagine Pastor Slick would then reply that we can’t ask dead people to pray for us, let alone “entrust” ourselves to them. Why, then, does Jesus teach that it was fine to pray to a dead man (Abraham) and ask him to intercede (Luke 16)? Why is it that King Saul could talk to the dead prophet Samuel and ask him for requests? Samuel never said that he couldn’t do so; he simply refused to answer his petitionary request for a military victory (1 Sam 28:3-25). And how is it that dead men in heaven (Rev 5:8) and angels (Rev 8:3-4) somehow have possession of our prayers, to present to God, if we haven’t asked them to intercede for us?
Pastor Slick then argues that because there was a “feast to the Lord” (Ex 32:5), therefore there can’t be a feast to anyone else or anything. This is clearly false, and absurd as well. The Jews in New Testament celebrated many feasts, and Jesus and the disciples observed them (see Jn 4:45; 5:1; 12:20), and there is much biblical evidence for holy days. The apostles in Jerusalem celebrated Shavuot or the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost (Acts 2:1). This was when the tongues of fire came upon their heads and people spoke different languages. It didn’t celebrate God directly, but rather, the wheat harvest (Ex 34:22).
Jesus celebrated Sukkot (or the Feast of Tabernacles or Festival of Booths): see John 7:1–52. It celebrates the fall harvest and also the exodus of the Jews from Egypt. All feasts were ultimately in praise of the Lord, just as all veneration of saints and angels is praise of God their creator (praising a great painting is in effect praise of the painter of the painting). So what is the (biblical) problem with celebrating Mary the mother of Jesus, or any saint with a feast? There is none that I can see.
Pastor Slick notes the passage, “So our eyes look to the Lord our God, Until He shall be gracious to us,” (Psalm 123:2). Yes, of course. He applies the usual fallacious Protestant either/or reasoning: because we ultimately look to God, we can’t (so were told) look to anyone else. It’s not true, and it’s not biblical. The New Testament states twice that we can even look to ourselves (Gal 6:1; 2 Jn 1:8). We can look to ourselves but not to the magnificent example of the Blessed Virgin Mary? Pastor Slick cites the Catechism, #972 (what he cited is in blue):
After speaking of the Church, her origin, mission, and destiny, we can find no better way to conclude than by looking to Mary. In her we contemplate what the Church already is in her mystery on her own “pilgrimage of faith,” and what she will be in the homeland at the end of her journey.
How is this a whit different from looking to the heroes of the faith (all dead) in Hebrews 11?:
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
 For by it the men of old received divine approval.
 By faith we understand that the world was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made out of things which do not appear.
 By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he received approval as righteous, God bearing witness by accepting his gifts; he died, but through his faith he is still speaking.
 By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death; and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was attested as having pleased God.
 And without faith it is impossible to please him. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
 By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, took heed and constructed an ark for the saving of his household; by this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness which comes by faith.
 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was to go.
 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise.
 For he looked forward to the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
 By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.
 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.
 These all died in faith, not having received what was promised, but having seen it and greeted it from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.
 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.
 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return.
 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.
 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son,
 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your descendants be named.”
 He considered that God was able to raise men even from the dead; hence, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.
 By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau.
 By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff.
 By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his burial.
 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.
 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter,
 choosing rather to share ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.
 He considered abuse suffered for the Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he looked to the reward.
 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king; for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.
 By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the first-born might not touch them.
 By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as if on dry land; but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned.
 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.
 By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given friendly welcome to the spies.
 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets —
 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, received promises, stopped the mouths of lions,
 quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.
 Women received their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, that they might rise again to a better life.
 Others suffered mocking and scourging, and even chains and imprisonment.
 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, ill-treated —
 of whom the world was not worthy — wandering over deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
 And all these, though well attested by their faith, did not receive what was promised,
 since God had foreseen something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.
All this, and yet it is supposedly impermissible to “look” as an example of the godly Christian to Mary: the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ? It’s ludicrous.
“This twofold movement of prayer to Mary has found a privileged expression in the Ave Maria: Hail Mary [or Rejoice, Mary]: . . .” (CCC 2676)
Most of the Hail Mary is right from Scripture:
“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28 RSV, Catholic edition)
As to this translation, Baptist Greek scholar A. T. Robertson stated:
“Highly favoured” (kecharitomene). Perfect passive participle of charitoo and means endowed with grace (charis), enriched with grace as in Ephesians. 1:6, . . . The Vulgate gratiae plena “is right, if it means ‘full of grace which thou hast received‘; wrong, if it means ‘full of grace which thou hast to bestow‘” (Plummer). (Word Pictures of the New Testament, II, 13)
So far, it is not a prayer, but praise, or veneration, from the angel Gabriel to Mary (right in Scripture).
“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb [Jesus]!” (Luke 1:42: from Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist; again it is veneration, not a prayer]
“Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.”
Even now, it’s not a prayer, meaning that we are seeking answers directly from Mary rather than God. No, it’s asking her to intercede on our behalf (“pray for us” as opposed to “answer our prayer request yourself”), to God. None of this is “worship.” It’s not even prayer. As for asking a human being to pray (or in only a strictly limited sense, praying to [or through] them as a “conduit” to God), I already went through that above. Repetition is a fine teacher, so here it is again (worded slightly differently):
Jesus taught that it was fine to pray to a dead man (Abraham) and ask him to intercede (Luke 16). Saul talked to the dead prophet Samuel and asked him for requests. Samuel never said that he couldn’t do so; he simply refused to answer his request for a military victory (1 Sam 28:3-25). Dead men in heaven (Rev 5:8) and angels (Rev 8:3-4) somehow have possession of our prayers, to present to God: because (so it is reasonably surmised) we have asked them to intercede for us.
All that is the Bible, not me, or some Catholic dogma that is thought to be “anti-biblical” and not grounded in Holy Scripture. Pastor Slick and all Protestants have to grapple with it. They claim to be especially “biblical” Christians. Very well, then: I challenge them to get to work. I have provided tons of Scripture to ponder. It all has to be interpreted somehow by them.
As for “mother of God”: see the following biblical and Christian history argumentation:
How to Correct Some Misunderstandings About Mary (“Mother of God”) [National Catholic Register, 2-20-19]
On the Title “Mother of God” / Theotokos (vs. Steve Hays) [5-14-20]
Conclusion: Pastor Slick has failed to establish even a single one of his many points. Catholics do not teach the propriety or allowance of worshiping and adoring Mary as they worship and adore God alone. It’s simply a lie and an outrageous one (bearing false witness) to assert this. But it’s been happening these past five centuries and there is no indication that it will end (at least not in the tiny minority of Protestant anti-Catholics) anytime soon.
All we can do is educate such deluded people and speak truth to them, with a profuse use of Bible passages in order to achieve that end.
Photo credit: The Annunciation (1444), by Barthélemy d’Eyck (fl. 1444-1469) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]