McBrien Insults The Blessed Virgin Mary
By Rev. WILLIAM G. MOST
by Questioning Her Faith in Her Divine Son
On pages 1079-1080 of McBrien's volume "Catholicism" (3rd ed.), the Notre Dame University Theologian dares to write:
"We find a somewhat negative portrait of Mary in the Gospel of Mark (3:20-35). It is just after Jesus' selection of the Twelve (3:13-19). He is in a house with them and a great crowd gathers outside. His own family concludes that 'He has gone out of his mind'(3:21). When his mother and his brothers arrive, they send word for Him to come out. Jesus is given the message. 'Who are my mother and my brothers?', he asks. Then He looks at his disciples gathered in the circle: 'Here are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.' (3:33-35). The negative view is strengthened in 6:4, which reports Jesus' return to his home in Nazareth and the skeptical reaction of his neighbors, friends, and relatives. Jesus complains: 'Prophets are not without honor, except in their home town, and among their own kin, and in their own house'....
Thus, in the Synoptic depiction of Mary during Jesus' ministry there is a development from the negative estimation of Mark to the positive one of Luke, with Matthew representing the middle ground."
Here, McBrien joins those other Modernists who have claimed that the passage in Mark may mean that Our Blessed Lady did not believe in her divine Son! Here he places the Evangelist St. Mark in opposition to the character of Mary as portrayed in St. Luke's Gospel. He includes Mary, the Mother of God, as among those in His family and relatives who thought Him out of His mind! This blasphemy is based on pure speculation that is in direct contradiction to the teaching and preaching of the Catholic Church regarding the Mother of the Lord who "holds the highest place and the closest to us after Christ" (Pope Paul VI in "Marialis Cultus", 27).
We may wonder how McBrien can be certain she did not believe in Him.
Vatican II insists in "Dei Verbum" 12, that we must pay attention to the unity of all Scripture. Certainly, one can suppose each Evangelist had his own special theological perspective, but since the Holy Spirit is the chief author of the Scriptures, there can be no contradiction among the Gospel Evangelists. McBrien admits that St. Luke pictures her as the first believer. As for Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 56, states that at the Annunciation, "She totally dedicated herself to the Person and work of her Son." Not only does McBrien ignore the rules for exegesis given by Vatican II, but he also ignores the injunction of Matt. 7:1: "Judge not." We must not state as certain the interior of a person, for we can seldom know it. McBrien seems certain Our Blessed Lady did not believe, but presents no reason for such an allegation, and with contrary reason from St. Luke and Vatican II. Earlier on the same page, he pontificates that "it is not possible to establish the time when Mary's own belief in her son's messianic significance began, or even the cause of it." We reply: "Even an ordinary Jew, not 'Full of Grace,' as soon as the angel Gabriel declared her child would reign over the House of Jacob forever, would at once know that this meant the long-awaited Messiah, for only He would reign forever".
As to the words of Jesus, "Who is My Mother?" Vatican II explained them in "Lumen Gentium" 58:
"In the course of His public life, she received the words of His preaching, in which her Son, extolling the Kingdom more than reasons of flesh and blood, proclaimed blessed those who heard and kept the word of God, as she was faithfully doing. "
In other words, Christ was teaching in a dramatic way, as He often did, that of the two kinds of greatness - being physically the Mother of God, and hearing and keeping the Word of God - the second was greater. Yet Our Lady was at the peak in both achievements. As Vatican II noted in Lumen Gentium 56, already at the Annunciation, she had "totally dedicated herself to the Person and work of her Son."
Chapter VIII of Lumen Gentium is magnificent. It starts with the fact the Blessed Virgin was joined with her Son eternally, by the eternal decree for the Incarnation. Then, it goes through every one of the mysteries of Our Lord's life and death, and shows Our Lady's role in each, and continues on into eternity after the end of time where she is, and always will be, Queen of the Universe by behest of Her Divine Son. This teaching of Vatican II provides a marvellous base for strong Marian devotion, since we can do nothing better than to imitate the ways of the Blessed Trinity in exalting one who was "Full of grace."
In Lumen Gentium 67, the Ecumenical Council stated that everything the Church has ever taught with regard to the veneration of Our Lady and Marian devotion is still of "great importance". Of course, there is no mention of this by McBrien. Nor does he bother to note what Pope John Paul II did in his "Redemptoris Mater", namely, to deepen the theology of the Council on her faith - a most remarkable thing! Her faith included obedience and total conformity to the will of the Father, even when called on at the time of His death to positively will that He die so horribly. She knew well that such was the positive will of the Father and this in spite of her love which, as Pius IX reminded us in "Ineffabilis Deus" - is so great that "only God can comprehend it."
As regards Notre Dame theologian McBrien's comprehension of such matters, he has cared only to heap insults on the Mother of God.
- Fr. William G. Most (author of such outstanding works as: Free From All Error; Catholic Apologetics Today; The Thought of St. Paul; The Consciousness of Christ - all available from CUF)
(See also Serviam, December 1994 for Fr. Most's refutation of McBrien's attack on Our Lady's perpetual virginity -ed. note)
Reprinted from SERVIAM issue of April/May 1995