Dulia and Hyperdulia: Do Catholics Really Worship Mary?

Dulia and Hyperdulia: Do Catholics Really Worship Mary? July 27, 2014

Repeat after me:  Catholics do not worship Mary.

Catholics do not worship Mary.

Catholics do not worship Mary.

I mention this because that scurrilous claim has turned up several times recently in my comment boxes.  The accusation has shown up in response to various posts, tossed in by some well-meaning, God-fearing Christian who wants to protect society from the Catholic Church.

In his or her mind, prayer to the Mother of God is the ultimate evidence of apostasy:  The Bible clearly says that we should have no false gods, and by gosh (he thinks), praying to Mary is just off-the-charts idolatry.  Why, doesn’t Exodus 34:14 mean ANYTHING to you?

Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

Exodus 34:14 (NIV)

So let’s talk about it.


The Catholic Church teaches that God alone is worthy of worship.  However, there are those among us who, because of their heroic virtue, are deserving of acclaim and honor.

This is true in everyday society.  A best-selling author, an actor, an athlete, a favorite teacher–all, by virtue of their excellence in a field of endeavor, earn your acclaim and respect.

So, too, in the spiritual realm:  We hold in high regard those who, by their virtuous lives, have demonstrated how to better love God and our fellow man.  We call those virtuous people whose lives we admire, and who are now in heaven with Christ, “saints.”  And Mary, Jesus’ mother, is even more deserving of our admiration and praise.

The Church teaches that there are three types of honor which are due to those who are holy:

  • Dulia.  This is the honor and recognition which we accord to the saints.  Perhaps they died as martyrs rather than deny God; or they worked great miracles, since their friendship with God meant that He granted their prayers for healing or restoration; or they simply, as Therese of Lisieux, lived holiness in their own “little way.”
  • Hyperdulia.  This is, to put it simply, lots and lots of dulia.  This is the very special honor we accord to Mary, the Mother of God.
  • Latria.  This is true worship, and is given only to God.

St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church, writing in his Summa Theologiae (II-II, q. 103, a. 4; III, q. 25, a. 5), explained:

“In more technical terms used by the Tradition to draw this important distinction, devotion to Mary belongs to the veneration of dulia, or the homage and honor owed to the saints, both angelic and human in heaven, and not to latria, or the adoration and worship that can be given only to the Triune God and the Son incarnate. Because of her unique relationship to Christ in salvation history, however, the special degree of devotion due to Mary has traditionally been called hyperdulia. While latria is owed to her Son by reason of unity of his divine and human natures in the Person of the Word made flesh, hyperdulia is due to Mary as truly his Mother.”

One of Catholicism’s most frequently uttered prayers is the Hail Mary.  But is this idolatry?  No–it’s Scripture.

The words are drawn from the greeting in Luke 1:28, when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to tell her that she had been chosen to be the Mother of God:

Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.

And from Luke 1:42, the words spoken by Mary’s cousin Elizabeth:

Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb…

So no, Catholics don’t worship Mary.  In our prayer, we ask Mary to intercede for us with her Son.  And He will listen because, as James 5:16 tells us,

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

But did you ever meet someone who really doesn’t understand the important difference in how we pray to God and how we pray to Mary and the saints?

Catholic apologist Steve Ray, himself a convert to the Catholic faith, has published an excellent treatise on Protestant misconceptions regarding Mary and worship.  In it he explains that even if some people within the Church don’t fully understand the Church’s teaching on Mary, that doesn’t obliterate the truth of that teaching.  Steve writes:

If some Catholics fail to follow the Church’s teaching on these matters it certainly doesn’t impinge on the teaching of the Church. It merely means that some in the Church are uncatechized and not understanding or practicing what the Church teaches.

You can read the rest of Steve’s article here.

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God,

That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Knitting Madonna

Image :  KNITTING MADONNA by Meister Bertram von Minden [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Browse Our Archives

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • $97155992

    Another important aspect is to realize that virtually all of Catholic teaching about Mary have basis in Sacred Scriptures.
    There is need to be quite upfront about this:
    Read more:

    • Victor

      ((( Was Blessed Mary, ever-virgin? Was Mary a virgin before she conceived our Lord Jesus? Was she a virgin during the pregnancy? And was she a virgin after the birth of our Lord Jesus? Did she deliver other children after our Lord Jesus?)))

      cpsho! ((( Was Blessed Mary, ever-virgin? Was Mary a virgin before she conceived our Lord Jesus?)))
      For whatever reason(S) some are still asking themselves if Mary was a virgin? I ask you, how can anybody prove such a statement without indirectly calling some of GOD (Good Old Dad’) Angels, Prophets, Saints and even humans a liar?
      For example… this post says that… The words ‘Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you’ were spoken by the angel Gabriel who appeared to Mary as far as Luke 1:28 is concerned.

      First Question: Are we Catholic Christians mislead and/or being lied to in some way by believing such things? Did Gabriel not say in so many words that GOD had not chosen Mary to be the Mother of God?
      As for the rest, let’s just cut to the chase and ask if this link that you’ve provided twice, basically mixing truth seeds with other so called possible truth to push certain agenda envelops?
      I’m almost sure that there are more qualified Christians out there who might feel moved to also comment and defend our “Faith” and if so, well, they all have my permission. LOL 🙂

  • Victor

    Long story short, I’ve cried to GOD (Good Old Dad) in the past to give me long life during Eternity with my parents and in an imaginary reality spiritual prayer, HE told me through my soul, spirit and Guardian Angel to honor my father and my mother and long life would I have.

    Longer story shorter, Mom and Dad are dead now and I did respect them but then maybe GOD was talking about Our Heavenly Mother and Father! What do YA Brothers and Sisters think?

    P.S. Atheist and non-believers of our Heavenly Mother will please dis=regard that Question? LOL 🙂


    God Bless Peace

  • Eteternal Questions

    Mary is not the mother of God, is the mother of Jesus the human. Jesus is the SON of God, YAWEH, Jehovah. When Jesus was on earth he was human just like the rest of us and Mary was the the mother of the human being Jesus, which is distinctly different from what Catholics refer to as God Jesus. Jesus is still the son of our creator God and sits at his right hand. This is distinctive because it symbolizes that Jesus is still the prince of the kingdom and not yet the king. As he told us himself and as the prophesies state, he will become king when he returns and establishes his kingdom on earth.
    God Jehovah is the creator of ALL things. This includes his first created son Jesus Christ. Mary was simply an earthly vessel to allow Jesus to become a human an fulfill his destiny. She Is the Mother of a human, not a god. Please understand that I say this with the utmost respect and reverence for our savior Jesus Christ. He is the second most important being in the this or any universe.

    • kathyschiffer

      Your explanation is straight from the Nestorian heresy, which was rejected in the fifth century. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/kathyschiffer/2012/08/mary-the-mother-of-god-honored-in-worlds-largest-stained-glass-window/

      • Eteternal Questions

        I also reject it Victor because it is a weak way to explain it. Your conviction of anything that God might or might not do is pure speculation. Of course God respects Mary, that is precisely why He chose her to bear his Son. Respect does not give her any powers to intercede or petition God on anyones behalf. Jesus told us that He is the way to the Father. He did not say that He and Mary (or “saints”) are the way.
        I have tremendous love for Mary and what she did for the world by playing the role that God gave her, but I do not think it is correct to put Mary at the Side of Jesus. She has not the same status.
        Revere her? absolutely, but to make her the focal point of your worship is taking away the spotlight from where it should always be, on God our creator and the gift that He gave us in His Son. God is Good, all the time. So lets put God first.

        Your prayers should be directly to God because He hears all of our prayers. No matter who we are or what our station in life, He hears. He hears my prayers the exact same way that he hears the prayers of the Pope. In prayer and in Gods eyes we are all equal. All his children, and all just as important. In this way also, it is not necessary (and even incorrect) to pray, (or call it ask) to Mary to intercede (pray for us) in petitioning our God and creator, Jesus instructed us to use Him for that (John 14:6).

    • Victor

      Eteternal Questions, with all due respect, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that GOD (Good Old Dad) would be very proud of His Only Begotten Son’s Mother and I dare say that GOD Jehovah and or who ever else we fallen humans think He might be, I`m sure that HE would respect The Mother of His Son. As a matter of fact, I`m spiritually convinced that He would even Resurrect Her body and Crown Her Our Mother of Heaven and Earth.

      For example, Jesus has done so much for silly old me and many Others so why would His Father not Honor Mary Our Blessed Mother?


      God Bless Peace

    • Lisa Ann Homic

      you don’t accept the trinity?

    • Vince Contreras

      You are in error. Jesus had both a human nature and a divine nature. But mothers don’t give birth to natures, they give birth to a person. Jesus was a Person who was both fully human and fully divine.

      Jesus is God.
      Mary is Jesus’ Mother.
      = Mary is the Mother of God.

      What part of that don’t you understand?

      • Eteternal Questions

        I understand your thinking, but I do not think that your thinking is without error either. True Jesus as a human was both human and divine, but that does not make him God. It may make him god, but not God (please note this spelling distinction) because he is the son of God. Just as your son, if you have one, is part of you, your flesh and your spirit, so is the son of God. You and your son, if you have one, are separate beings and entities. This is one major way that we were created in His image (Gods), meaning that we are al connected in the family relationship, but there is always a hierarchy. God first, then Son.
        Yes Jesus is divine because he is a spirit being just like his Father, and he has all the supernatural powers that go with that position, but how can the created be the same as the creator? It is not possible in any case. God created the universe and everything in it including his son Jesus, God (YAWEH, Jehovah) is the one and ONLY God (See 2nd commandment) so how is it that you can say that his Son is God? That idea simply is in contradiction to the scriptures and the same reason why you should not make use of any graven images the way some do (see Catholics). Even if you claim to not worship them (which is extremely questionable -bowing to an idol (statue)? I think that qualifies) simply having them in your place of worship is against Gods commandment. Would a jealous wife allow you to have photos of all the females from your office in your wallet? Think of how trivial that is compared to the jealousy of your creator. What part of all of these thoughts and Gods word dont you understand?
        I understand your word and belief, but you must understand that just because you believe that your thinking is correct does not necessarily make it so and just because someone, or people, believe a certain thing, does not mean necessarily that it is correct. You can think that what you believe is the truth all you want, but you believing that Jesus is God does not make him God.
        In the same manner, you can claim all you want that asking Mary for help by saying a “hail Mary” is not praying, but in reality it is prayer.

        • Morgan

          You said, “God created the universe and everything in it including his son Jesus, God (YAWEH, Jehovah) is the one and ONLY God (See 2nd commandment) so how is it that you can say that his Son is God?”

          That is, in essence, the heresy of Arias.

          It is remarkable that the Arian Heresy has been revived after nearly 1600 years. How could such a thing ever happen?

          “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons…” I Timothy: 4:1

          • eternal questions

            Hello Morgan,
            Who is giving heed to deceiving spirits here?
            You or I? that is not for me to say. Satan is like a shadow, smoke and mirrors. More skilled at deception than David Copperfield or any other magician or illusionist that ever lived.
            Im not an expert on all of your ancient made up notions such as “the heresy of Arias”
            Actually I don’t even know what that means or what it it refers to, so perhaps you can explain it and how it is relevant to your lack of an argument?
            Doctrines of demons?? I beg your pardon! I read from the Bible, not whatever literature this Arias idea comes from. The idea that I spoke of comes from scripture, not my own brain. Does not the bible state that it is the word of God, beneficial for teaching and reproving and setting things straight? Perhaps you are not familiar with this book?
            The Bible does not speak of “the heresy of Arias”
            So, please enlighten me!

          • Morgan

            The Arian Heresy is so well known that I thought you would have heard of it. It essentially denies that Jesus is God by saying that He is a ‘creature’ rather than the creator.

            Christianity holds that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, the light and the life, one with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one in essence and undivided.

            This is basic Christianity 101, and you can look it up anywhere. This is what all Christians everywhere believed and lived and died for in the early days of the church.

      • Mary is the mother of the incarnation, not of God. The Word made flesh, not the Word itself. And please do not capitalize Mother in the same way you capitalize God; that’s one of the things that makes protestants think you worship her.

        • Sarah Hodgins

          Jesus IS the Incarnation. He is God. She is his mother. Therefore she is the mother of God.

  • Episteme

    I once randomly (incompletely, but good enough for his purposes) explained intercessory prayer to a friend in one simple analogy: “Have you ever had your mother answer the phone for you and take a message? Mary, remember, is the Mother of God…”

    • David Patton

      A classic example of non -Biblical, human reasoning that sounds like a good idea and facilitates a form of religion.
      Luther was right.

      • Sarah Hodgins

        Have you ever actually studied Luther? Even Protestant theologians are ashamed of him! He was, in the words of another blog commenter, “stark raving mad”. Not only was he rude, violent, egotistical, mentally ill, and extremely emotionally unstable, he “translated” the Bible into the “common language”…in other words, as HE wanted it written. He added the word “alone” to the verse Romans 3:28 for we reckon a man to be justified by faith alone , removed 7 OT books, tried to remove the books of James, Hebrews, Jude and Revelation (but his own followers wouldn’t let him)…to sum up, he was NOT a Godly man. If you believe it’s likely or even possible for God to use a wicked and rather vile man to lead his revolution..may God save your soul.

        • David Patton

          Not only studied Luther, but more important, studied the Bible. This is the foundation of truth upon which anyone or anything can be measured. Luther understood this and respected God, and was therefore not a man pleaser.
          Carnal narcissists hate this.

          • Sarah Hodgins

            Says who? Luther?

          • Rob B.

            Given your great respect for Luther, may I ask you a question? Do you honestly believe his contention that man has no free will? I ask this because most admirers of Luther I’ve known have never actually read many (or even any) of his works; they admire him because they are supposed to do so as Protestants…

    • Rob B.

      As I tell my students, “even God is going to listen to his Mom.” 🙂

      • Eugene Edward Yeo

        I’m afraid I followed you on over from the “catholic and enjoying it” page, as I’ve for some reason been blocked there. My apologies to the admin of this page, but I’m unaware of any messaging system, and I was asked a question.

        Mr. B., you’d asked me which political parties followed strictly catholic teaching. I’m not aware of any individual party which does so, and so we are forced to research each individual candidate. If you’d like to discuss this further, you can find me on facebook using this very name and picture.

        I thank the admins of this page for their very kind patience.

  • Vince Contreras

    Anti-Catholic: “Catholics worship Mary.”
    Catholic: “Catholics do not worship Mary; we are taught in no uncertain terms to worship God alone. We give Mary honor and veneration because she is the Mother of our Lord, and God gave her a unique role in our salvation. We look to her as a proven powerful intercessor and as a model for purity and holiness. But we do not worship her. Got it?”
    Anti-Catholic: “Yeah but– Catholics worship Mary.”

    • geoffrobinson

      Just because you don’t use the word “worship” doesn’t mean it isn’t worship.

      • kathyschiffer

        Geoff, look at the common prayers Catholics offer to Mary.

        First, the Hail Mary: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, PRAY FOR US SINNERS now and at the hour of our death.”

        Then there’s this: “PRAY FOR US, Oh, holy Mother of God, that we may be worthy of the promises of Christ.”

        In a litany, a long prayer which takes the form of a prayer and response, the appeals to God are responded to using “Have mercy on us.” Appeals to Mary and the saints are followed by “Pray for us.”

        Keep looking. Go through every single Marian prayer known to Catholics. You will ALWAYS find that Catholics regard Mary as holy (a great example for us all) and as an intercessor (who is with her divine Son in heaven, and who intercedes for us).

  • johnnyc

    “well-meaning, ”

    You mean those same ‘well meaning’ protestants who actively seek to lead Catholics away from the One True Church?

    • David Patton

      Why not read the Bible and compare R.C.C. tradition with it’s clear and understandable teaching?
      That is what Paul taught us and to which Peter concurred.

      • Rob B.

        Is that the Bible that Luther edited or the actual Bible?

  • But then you have things like this:


    And while yeah, it’s not the official practice of the church, I doubt much of the folk Mariology and practices we see about saints (lst jude’s novena comes to mind) is cracked down as much as it should be. There’s official doctrine, and there is Catholicism in practice, and the latter, especially about Mary, seems to constantly flirt with making her almost a feminine face of God.