Can we call Mary a goddess?

I know that there is little to no precedent of this in the Church’s tradition for this word, but there have been statements close to it, such as St. Alphonsus calling her “divine Mother”.

So why have the saints heaped so many titles and exaltations upon Our Lady, but have always refrained from calling her goddess? For fear of idolatry? But how can we ever know that we’ve gone too far in our devotion to Mary that we’ve fallen into idolatry? Why can the saints call her “divine Mother”, “Mother of God”, “mediatrix of all graces”, “co-redemptrix”, but not goddess?

Christ says, quoting the psalms, “ye are gods”. Does this not apply especially to Mary, who is said to be higher than all the angels and the saints?

Dear friend,

No; absolutely not! Goddess is defined as a female deity with supernatural powers in polytheistic (many gods) religions. Christianity is a monotheistic religion in that it worships only one God. We have only one God. We do not have minor gods. To have many gods corrupts the very notion of God. To have even just two gods means that one lacks that which distinguishes the other god as other. A god that is deficient in any way cannot be god.
St. Alphonsus referred to Mary as ‘divine mother’ in that she is the mother of Jesus who is God. By saying this, he was not calling her God. Since Jesus has a divine nature as well as a human one, and Mary is his mother, then she is the mother of God—even though her nature is human.

“Redemptorix” simply means that Mary co-operated in the redemption wrought by her Son. St. Joseph, St. John the Baptist, the Angel Gabriel and several other also co-operated in that redemption–though not in as exalted a way.

“Mediatrix” is another example of Mary’s co-operation in her Son’s redemption. She is a mediator of grace; not the origin of it.

The origin of “Ye are gods” is Psalm 82:6. The rest of the verse shows that God is not calling men equal to himself: “Ye are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; nevertheless, you shall die like men and fall like any prince.” The key here is “sons of the Most High.” This means that He considers them to be sons and therefore, gods in a loose sense, but certainly not His equal. This is just another example of Scripture using hyperbole; exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally.

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

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