Mariology of the Catholic Church

The Blessed Virgin Mary is depicted in a rose-garden with angels playing music. Roses are a symbol of Mary.

Mariology of the Catholic Church is the systematic study of the person of Mary, mother of Jesus, and of her place in the Economy of Salvation, within Catholic theology.[1][2][3]

Mary is seen as having a singular dignity above the saints. The Catholic Church teaches that she was conceived without original sin therefore receiving a higher level of veneration than all other saints. Catholic Mariology thus studies not only her life but also the veneration of her in daily life, prayer, hymns, art, music, and architecture in modern and ancient Christianity throughout the ages.[4][5][6][7]

The four dogmas of perpetual virginity, Mother of God, Immaculate Conception and Assumption form the basis of Mariology. However, a number of other Catholic doctrines about the Virgin Mary have been developed by reference to sacred scripture, theological reasoning and Church tradition. The development of Mariology is ongoing and since the beginnings it has continued to be shaped by theological analyses, writings of saints, and papal statements, e.g. while two Marian dogmas are ancient, the other two were defined in the 19th and 20th centuries; and papal teachings on Mary have continued to appear in recent times.[8][9][10]

In parallel to the traditional views, since the late 19th century, a number of other perspectives have been presented as a challenge to Catholic Mariology. Other Christian views see Mariology as unbiblical and a denial of the uniqueness of Christ as redeemer and mediator[11] to modern psychological interpretations of Mary as the equivalent of mythical Goddesses ranging from Diana to Guan Yin.[12][13][14] Many different notions similar to these have been addressed in the 1988 John Paul II Apostolic Letter Mulieris dignitatem ("on the Dignity and Vocation of Women",[not verified in body] for the occasion of the Marian Year. John Paul II also defines the feminine genius in this writing as well, referencing the life of the Mother of God.

Study of Mary and her place in the Church

Context and components

The study of Mary and her place in the Catholic Church has been undertaken from a number of perspectives and within a number of contexts, and in his address to the 2012 Mariological congress, Pope Benedict XVI stated that this study must be "understood and deeply examined from different and complementary viewpoints".[15] Pope Benedict XVI also emphasized that the study of Mary cannot be performed in isolation from other disciplines and that Mariology is inherently related to the study of Christ and of the Church, and expresses the inner coherence of these disciplines.[16]

Pope Benedict XVI has stated that Marian studies have three separate characteristics: first personalizing the Church so it is not seen just as a structure but as a person, secondly the incarnational aspect and the relation to God, and third Marian piety which involves the heart and the emotional component.[17]

Mary's position in Church can be compared to the aspect of the Petrine office in a dual sense.[18] This perspective on the duality of the roles of Mary and Peter highlights the subjective holiness of the heart and the holiness of the structure of the Church. In this duality the Petrine office logically examines the charisms for their theological soundness, while the Marian dual provides a balance in the spiritual and emotional sense via the service of love that the office can never encompass. Mariology and the doctrine of office are thus not "side chapels" in Roman Catholic teachings, but are central and integrating elements of it.[19] As referenced in the encyclical on the Mystical Body of Christ, Pius XII, 1943, her fiat gave consent for a spiritual marriage between the Son of God and human nature, thus giving humanity the means to salvation. Mary's rights (wedding feast at Cana), and Mary's love (fiat) are essential to salvation.

Maximalism and minimalism

Mariology is a field in which deeply felt pious beliefs of the faithful and hagiography may conflict with theological and critical historical reviews of beliefs and practices.[20] This conflict was recognized as early as the year 1300 by William of Ware who described the tendency of some believers to attribute almost everything to Mary.[21] Bonaventura warned against Marian maximalism. "One has to be careful as to not to minimize the honour of our Lord, Jesus Christ."[22] Both minimalist and maximalist have always seen in Mary a sign of the Church and viewed her as a model for all Catholics.[23]

In the 20th century, Pope Pius XII, "the most Marian Pope in Church history"[24] warned against both exuberant exaggerations and timid minimalism in the presentation of Mary.[25][26] The Vatican II dogmatic constitution Lumen gentium was specifically written in 1964 to avoid both Marian maximalism and minimalism.[27][28] Pope John Paul II was also careful to avoid both maximalism and minimalism in his Mariology and avoided taking personal positions on issues which were subject to theological debate.[29]