Yesterday we showed that Catholic “truth,” as embodied in the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, was simply a fabric of wishful thinking and non-objective theology (a redundancy). Today we finish off Mary Month by showing the same for the dogma of the Assumption.
The Assumption—the Catholic “truth” that Mary was assumed bodily into Heaven—was proclaimed an official dogma of the Church by Pope Pius XII in his Munificentissimus Deus on November 1, 1950. This was announced ex cathedra, so it’s an irrefutable truth coming directly from God. The Pope said:
For which reason, after we have poured forth prayers of supplication again and again to God, and have invoked the light of the Spirit of Truth, for the glory of Almighty God who has lavished his special affection upon the Virgin Mary, for the honor of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages and the Victor over sin and death, for the increase of the glory of that same august Mother, and for the joy and exultation of the entire Church; by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.
It’s not clear from the above whether Mary actually died before she was vacuumed up; the usual assumption is that she did.
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Benedict XIV gave this dogma extra weight by proclaiming it a “probable opinion, which to deny were impious and blasphemous” (De Festis B.V.M., I, viii, 18). (Catholics have an official definition of “probable”, which is pretty funny.) At any rate, we know that you can go to hell for unconfessed blasphemy, so asserting that Mary rotted in the ground like the rest of us will, according to the Church, cause you to fry eternally.
Now the Bible says exactly nothing about Mary’s death or fate. As the Catholic Encyclopedia states, “Regarding the day, year, and manner of Our Lady’s death, nothing certain is known.” The doctrine of the Assumption was made up centuries after the supposed death of Jesus. As usual, this fabrication rested on dubious interpretation of the Bible, Church “tradition” (i.e., stuff that Church fathers made up), and “reason” (i.e., theological “logic”).
In his ex cathedra statement, Pius XII mentions scripture only fleetingly:
Moreover, the scholastic Doctors have recognized the Assumption of the Virgin Mother of God as something signified, not only in various figures of the Old Testament, but also in that woman clothed with the sun whom John the Apostle contemplated on the Island of Patmos.(24) Similarly they have given special attention to these words of the New Testament: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you, blessed are you among women,”(25) since they saw, in the mystery of the Assumption, the fulfillment of that most perfect grace granted to the Blessed Virgin and the special blessing that countered the curse of Eve.
Catholic theologians have also relied on dubious interpretations of the Psalms and Revelation as evidence for the Assumption. One website explains:
Catholics find the assumption of Mary prophesied in Psalm 132:7-8:
“We will go into his tabernacles: we will worship at his footstool. Arise, O LORD, into thy rest; thou, and the ark of thy strength.”
Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant (see Revelation 11:19-12:1). The Lord ascended into Heaven and also brought His ark, just as King David took up residence in Jerusalem and escorted the ark to the same place.
Not much evidence there, right? Instead, Pope Pius, in the Munificentissimus, relied heavily on the teachings of church fathers like St. John Damascene. But all of these appeared centuries after the “fact”. Here’s the traditional “evidence” summarized in the Catholic Encyclopedia:
The belief in the corporeal assumption of Mary is founded on the apocryphal treatise De Obitu S. Dominae, bearing the name of St. John, which belongs however to the fourth or fifth century. It is also found in the book De Transitu Virginis, falsely ascribed to St. Melito of Sardis, and in a spurious letter attributed to St. Denis the Areopagite. If we consult genuine writings in the East, it is mentioned in the sermons of St. Andrew of Crete, St. John Damascene, St. Modestus of Jerusalem and others. In the West, St. Gregory of Tours (De gloria mart., I, iv) mentions it first. The sermons of St. Jerome and St. Augustine for this feast, however, are spurious. St. John of Damascus (P.G., I, 96) thus formulates the tradition of the Church of Jerusalem:
“St. Juvenal, Bishop of Jerusalem, at the Council of Chalcedon (451), made known to the Emperor Marcian and Pulcheria, who wished to possess the body of the Mother of God, that Mary died in the presence of all the Apostles, but that her tomb, when opened, upon the request of St. Thomas, was found empty; wherefrom the Apostles concluded that the body was taken up to heaven.”
Of course, these statements don’t constitute independent evidence in the scientific sense. The doctrine probably arose once, and then subsequent Church fathers and theologians simply repeated it, with the Vatican taking each repeat as further strength for the hypothesis. It’s as if every time a scientific discovery was cited or referenced by another scientist, that discovery gained additional credibility!
Finally, to Pope Pius, Mary’s assumption must be true simply because it makes sense:
Among the scholastic theologians there have not been lacking those who, wishing to inquire more profoundly into divinely revealed truths and desirous of showing the harmony that exists between what is termed the theological demonstration and the Catholic faith, have always considered it worthy of note that this privilege of the Virgin Mary’s Assumption is in wonderful accord with those divine truths given us in Holy Scripture.
When they go on to explain this point, they adduce various proofs to throw light on this privilege of Mary. As the first element of these demonstrations, they insist upon the fact that, out of filial love for his mother, Jesus Christ has willed that she be assumed into heaven. They base the strength of their proofs on the incomparable dignity of her divine motherhood and of all those prerogatives which follow from it. These include her exalted holiness, entirely surpassing the sanctity of all men and of the angels, the intimate union of Mary with her Son, and the affection of preeminent love which the Son has for his most worthy Mother.
That’s about all the “evidence” for a bedrock doctrine of Catholic faith. In fact, it’s considered such a solid truth that if you deny it or scoff at it, you’ll go to hell! It’s amazing to me that such life or death matters (or rather, such afterlife and after-death matters) should require so little support. But then what do I know—I’m a secular Jewish scientist.
And let’s not hear any nonsense about this all being metaphorical, not taken literally by the faithful. Many Catholics do believe in the reality of the Assumption. To see one of them, go here, and have a gander at this justification:
Jesus would no doubt protect his mother from the terrible persecutions that followed [his crucifixion]. You will notice that there is no record of Mary’s death or where she went after the day of Pentecost, though we do know that she went home to live with St. John after Our Lord’s death right? We know that St. John was the last of the apostles to die and that at one point he was miraculously saved by God when being boiled in oil for his faith…yet he never mentions Mary in his letters but there’s just no way that he wouldn’t have known her fate…that just doesn’t make any sense.
I think that the NT [New Testament] is so silent about the Blessed Virgin because they all agreed to protect her. Can you imagine the PR blitz that would’ve occurred if the Jews or Romans could have found and tortured and killed the mother of this Jesus? Whew!
Ah, the power of faith!