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Christian Understandings of Mary: Differences

Differences in the Christian Understanding of Mary

– Answered by Father Johann Roten, S.M.

Q: Why are there differences between Christian denominations regarding Mary?

A: There is a difference between Christian denominations as regards to Mary for a number of reasons:

Need to mark difference: Protestantism for centuries marked its difference with Catholicism mainly by opposing strong (and sometimes exaggerated) Marian devotion.

Insistence on Jesus Christ as sole mediator accepted by all Christian denominations but interpreted differently.

Importance of personal participation in salvation with works and help of others (saints) in some denominations (Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans) vs. "faith alone" as the only and "unilateral" act through which God saves (Protestant denominations).

Strictly Bible-related concept of Christianity (Protestantism) vs. the understanding of Christianity based on Scripture and Tradition (meaning the reading and interpretation of the Church as Christ's own institution) in Catholicism. The latter allows for a greater adaptation to historical and personal situations and needs.

A concept of God which stresses his role as judge (Protestantism) vs. a more compassionate God (Catholicism). The latter allows for a more generous place for Mary.

A more sober, severe, abstract, auditive religion (Protestantism) vs. a more visual, popular, feminine and person-oriented religion (Catholicism).

All of these explanations are generalizations. There are many shades and nuances in the actual practices of the various denominations. It is sometimes difficult to know what non-Catholic denominations practice given the broad range of personal interpretations.

All About Mary includes a variety of content, much of which reflects the expertise, interpretations and opinions of the individual authors and not necessarily of the Marian Library or the University of Dayton. Please share feedback or suggestions with


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