Roman Catholic apologist John S Martignoni deals with Mary's atonement

by Matt Slick
2/26/2018

John S Martignoni is supposed to be a Catholic apologist. He and I have had a few engagements on Facebook. Of course, my view of Catholicism is less than favorable, and Mr. Martignoni has taken it upon himself to challenge one of the quotes that I placed on a Facebook group called 5 Solas vs. Catholic Church - Discussion Group.

I reproduced his entire post from the Facebook group colored it brown. My responses are in green.  Since his post is public on Facebook and since he has taken many things that I have said and placed them on his website with his responses, I see no problem with me doing the same here.

 In addition, I have underlined points in his statements in order to draw attention to them during discussion.  Following is the quote that generated his response.

"In the power of the grace of Redemption merited by Christ, Mary, by her spiritual entering into the sacrifice of her divine son for men, made atonement for the sins of man and (de congruon) merited the application of the redemptive grace of Christ. In this manner she cooperates in the subjective redemption of mankind." (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Ott, page 213). 

As I analyzed his post, I cited numerous mistakes he made. So, I collect them here at the beginning of this article.

  • First Mistake: Poisoning the Well by attacking me personally and accusing me of willing deception.
  • Second Mistake: Using mockery against me in his defense of his position.
  • Third Mistake: Failing to understand communicable and incommunicable attributes and mistakingly accusing me of making the term up.
  • Fourth Mistake: Committing the Fallacy of Composition by falsely misapplying something I said in a particular instance, to the whole of what I say about Catholicism's idolatry of Mary.
  • Fifth Mistake: Fallacy of Equivocation with the terms "suffer" and "sacrifice."
  • Sixth Mistake: Failing to do research to determine if I used a particular part of Ott's quote in my citations.
  • Seventh Mistake: Failing to do proper diligence in his research.
  • Eighth Mistake: Misapplying 1 John 5:16
  • Ninth Mistake: Misapplying James 5:20
  • Tenth Mistake:  Misapplying 1 Peter 4:8
  • Eleventh Mistake:  Changing terms by saying Mary can cover a multitude of sins when the original quote in question is about Mary atoning for sins.
  • Twelfth Mistake:  Attacking me personally and accusing me of deception based on select quotes, when he offered selective quotes - without citation - and which I attempted to provide per his paragraph 7.
  • Thirteenth Mistake:  Misrepresentaiton of the original argument by changing the focus on "atone" to "cover" and then asking a question based on the misrepresentation.

Let's get into it.

 

1) Forgive the length of this post, but I needed to be thorough in my comments contra Matt Slick. This is Slick's point #1 on Mary from his OP: "

2) 1. Mary made atonement for the sins of man: "...Mary, by her spiritual entering into the sacrifice of her divine son for men, made atonement for the sins of man and (de congruon) merited the application of the redemptive grace of Christ. In this manner she cooperates in the subjective redemption of mankind." (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Ott, page 213)."

To see the page in which this quote is contained, please go to here.   If you want to take a look at Ott's book online, go here.

3) My Response to Matt Slick's Point #1 in his O.P. on Mary:

4) Okay, the first point that I wish to make is that Matt Slick is very selective in how he quotes from not just official Church documents, but, apparently, from pretty much any Catholic source. He likes to quote Catholic documents in a way that seems, to the uninitiated, to prove his point. Yet, he has this very deceptive and decidedly un-Christian tendency to leave out nearby passages that absolutely contradict what he is saying. In other words, he takes his quotes out of context and, because I have seen him do it time and time again, I have concluded that it is deliberate rather than simply ignorant.

Notice how Mr. Martignoni begins his defense with an attack on my character by accusing me of being deceptive and decidedly unchristian. He states that he believes I'm doing this on purpose.  This is similar to the error in debate known as Poisoning the Well. It is where a person presents something about someone in order to discredit person's argument. 

Of course, Mr. Martignoni is entitled to his opinion.  But, to publicly state that I am deliberately being deceptive is libelous. Just for the record, in no way am I being deliberately deceptive. It is unfortunate that he resorts to such a weak and inappropriate tactic.

First Mistake:  Poisoning the Well by attacking me personally and accusing me of willing deception.

5) The whole point of his O.P. on Mary is to “prove” that Catholics view Mary in the same light as they view God. That what Catholics believe about Mary is idolatry. That Catholics attribute to Mary things that, according to the Gospel of Slick, are attributable only to God. He calls them “incommunicable attributes,” which is a phrase that I believe he just made up out of thin air. I asked him to tell me where in Scripture I can find the list of “communicable” vs. “incommunicable” attributes of God, but he has failed to do so as of yet.

Notice is mocking "Gospel of Slick." 

Second Mistake:  Using mockery against me in his defense of his position.

I do not believe that Catholicism teaches that Mary is the same as God. I do not teach that Roman Catholicism claims that Mary is equal to God.  However, it is clear from the writings of Roman Catholicism that Mary is elevated to such a high degree that she does have qualities of what could be easily labeled as a goddess.  And, yes, they attribute many things to Mary that belong to God. For an article on this, please see Roman Catholicism, comparing Mary to God.

And, of course, I'm thoroughly convinced that Roman Catholicism promotes idolatry in its adoration of Mary.  Consider the following as evidence, not found in scripture, as support of that assertion:

Mary is the all holy one (CCC 2677); second to Eve (Mystici Corpois Christ, par. 110); is prayed to (CCC 2679); sits at the right hand of Christ (Pope Pius X, 1835-1914, Ad Diem Illum Laetissimum, 14); is Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix(CCC 969); the mother of the members of Christ (CCC 963); Queen over all things (CCC 966); brings eternal life by her intercession (CCC 969); helped make atonement for sins (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Ott, page 213); crushed the head of the serpent (Pope Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus); delivers souls from death (CCC 966). When considering the Church, there is no better way than to look to Mary, (CCC 972). Catholics entrust themselve to Mary's prayer (CCC 2677). And, no man goeth to Christ but by His Mother," (Vatican Website: Encyclical of Pope Leo 13th on the Rosary, Octobri Mense, Pope Leo 13th, 1903-1914).

Obviously, they elevate Mary to something comparable to a goddess. Now, Roman Catholics will deny this, but this is, after all, part of the debate. Agreements and disagreements occur in discussions. I urge the reader to decide whether or not the Roman Catholic Church has elevated Mary beyond the status declared in Scripture.

Communicable and incomminicable attributes

There is no list in the Bible that contains the communicable or incommunicable attributes of God. For Mr. Martignoni to ask such a question is like asking where is the verse in the Bible that defines the Trinity. Nevertheless, he should be aware of the communicable and incommunicable attributes of God.

So, regarding the incommunicable attributes, he believes it is a phrase that I "just made up out of thin air." Unfortunately, his comment reveals a profound ignorance of theology. Let me quote from Catholic sources on this topic.

  • "Taking as the basis of classification the ways by which the attributes are developed, they are divided into positive and negative. Among the negative attributes are simplicity, infinity, immutability. The chief positive attributes are unity, truth, goodness, beauty, omnipotence, omnipresence, intellect and will, personality. Some authors divide them into incommunicable and communicable. The former class comprises those which belong to God alone (e.g., all-wise, self-existent, omnipotent) to the latter belong those which are predicable, analogically, of God and creatures; as good, just, intelligent." (catholic.com/encyclopedia/divine-attributes)
  • "The person is the totally incommunicable or that which is not shared, he is a sin- gular existence, and, therefore, he is his own being." (http://www.pass.va/content/dam/scienzesociali/pdf/acta14/acta14-sanchez.pdf) 
  • "Accordingly, each Divine Person is a subsistent incommunicable, internal Divine Relation," (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Ott, p. 69)

 Mr. Martignoni has demonstrated his ignorance of Christian theology and, in my opinion, he has embarrassed himself.  It took me less than five minutes for me to find the above quotes by doing a quick search on the Internet.  Of course, quotes available to me from Protestant sources. But, I assume he will dismiss those. Nevertheless, if he wants to learn with the opposing position is, he really does need to study more. Apparently, he did not take upon himself to do much the same and instead, falsely accused me of making up the terms. 

Third Mistake:  Failing to understand communicable and incommunicable attributes and mistakingly accusing me of making up the phrase incommunicable attributes. No, I did not make it up.

  • "...the incommunicable attributes of God (that is, those attributes that God does not share or “communicate” to others) and the communicable attributes of God (those God shares or “communicates” with us)...Examples of the incommunicable attributes would be God’s eternity (God has existed for all eternity, but we have not), unchangeableness (God does not change, but we do), or omnipresence (God is everywhere present, but we are present only in one place at one time). (Grudem, Wayne A.; Grudem, Wayne A.. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (p. 156). Zondervan. Kindle Edition. underline added)
  • "None of the divine perfections are communicable in the infinite perfection in which they exist in God, and at the same time there are faint traces in man even of the so-called incommunicable attributes of God." (Berkhof, Louis. Systematic Theology (Kindle Locations 872-873). Kindle Edition.)

I could obtain more quotes on the phrase "incommunicable attributes," but I hope that what I've provided is sufficient to demonstrate, in contradiction to Mr. Martignoni's assertion, that I made the phrase up.

6) The quote Matt relates in his point #1 about Mary making “atonement for the sins of man,” is, according to Matt, attributing to Mary something only attributable to God. But, let’s talk about what Matt left out of his citation from “Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma” by Ludwig Ott:

Good, context is always important. I again point out that if anyone wants to read the actual quote in context please go here.

7) First, the quote Matt cites is from a section of Ott’s book subheaded: “Mary’s Co-Operation in the Redemption.” (I will have a question related to that for Matt in a few moments.) The very first sentence of that section says this: “...[Mary’s co-operation] must NOT be conceived in the sense of an equation of the efficacy of Mary with the redemptive activity of Christ, the SOLE Redeemer of humanity (1 Tim 2:5)." So much for Catholics equating her with God, right? The passage also states: “Her co-operation in the objective redemption is an indirect, remote co-operation, and derives from this - that she voluntarily devoted her whole life to the service of the Redeemer, and, under the Cross, suffered and sacrificed with Him.” “Remote” and “indirect” - yessir, Mr. Slick, that sounds exactly like what Jesus did, doesn’t it? His efforts were "remote" and "indirect."

It is a logic error to take one comment and represent the hole with it. It's called the Fallacy of Composition. The quote from Ott that Mr. Martignoni uses to "contextualize" the quote about Mary's atoning contribution, does not mean that elsewhere Roman Catholicism does not assign to Mary attributes a belong to God. That is called the fallacy of composition and seems to dabble in a category error, as well.

Fourth Mistake:  Committing the Fallacy of Composition by falsely misapplying something I said in a particular instance, to the whole of what I say about Catholicism's idolatry of Mary.

I'm not exactly sure what his point is. But when he says "that sounds exactly like what Jesus did, doesn't it? His efforts were 'remote' and 'indirect.' At this point, he quotes from another source, perhaps Fundamentals of Catholicism, by Fr. Kenneth Baker, Vol. 2. But what I find interesting is that by doing so, he's removing himself from the context of Ott's work. Is he then guilty of what he accuses me of doing by taking things out of context? He is now doing patchwork quotes. I would think that he would keep within the context of the quote instead of going to different books. I find his inconsistency interesting.

Nevertheless, Jesus' efforts were not remote and indirect. He was right there, present. 

I can't help but notice that he is actually making my point when he adds, "she voluntarily devoted her whole life to the service of the Redeemer, and, under the cross, suffered and sacrificed with him."  This is exactly the problem.  It is a kind of equivocation. Did Mary suffer?  Of course.  Did she sacrifice?  Well, perhaps in some sense of the word. But the problem is the lack of clarification in Catholic theology and in Mr. Martignoni regarding the extent and the nature of the atoning work that separates Christ from Mary. This equivocation, that is yet another fallacy of logic, is something the Roman Catholics are quite guilty of at this point.

Fifth Mistake:  Fallacy of Equivocation with the terms "suffer" and "sacrifice."

8) This same section of the book further states: "Christ ALONE truly offered the sacrifice of atonement on the Cross; Mary merely gave Him moral support in this action.” Yep, that indeed is equating Mary with God. Anyone can see that. But wait, there’s more: “Christ, AS THE CHURCH TEACHES, ‘conquered the enemy of the human race ALONE’...Christ’s Passion did not require any support.”

I am fully aware of the quote "Christ alone truly offered the sacrifice of atonement on the cross." I've never hidden that from anybody and it is on my website for people to view. His failure to disclose this is yet another error. 

Sixth Mistake:  Failing to do research to determine if I used a particular part of Ott's quote in my citations.

But, it still does not excuse the quote of associating Mary with Christ's atonement.  Here it is again.

"Christ alone truly offered the sacrifice of atonement on the Cross ... In the power of the grace of Redemption merited by Christ, Mary, by her spiritual entering into the sacrifice of her divine son for men, made atonement for the sins of man and (de congruon) merited the application of the redemptive grace of Christ. In this manner she cooperates in the subjective redemption of mankind." (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma2, Ott, page 213). 

Such a declaration is consistent with the erroneous practice of the Roman Catholic Church to elevate Mary to a status that does not belong to her. This is evidence of their idolatry.

Questions:  What about others at the cross who were followers of Christ and who truly loved him? Did they too enter into the sacrifice of Jesus and "make atonement for the sins of man" through their suffering as Mary supposedly did?  Did they too, in their love for Christ "offer him up" to the Father?  If not, why not?  Why is only Mary thus considered to participate in the sacrifice when others obviously suffered and loved him too and were there at the crucifixion as well?  What about the Apostle John who loved Jesus and was loved by Jesus?  Did he too "make atonement for sins" by spiritually entering into the sacrifice of Christ?   I think that to be consistent a true Catholic must also affirm that anyone else who was there at the cross who loved Christ who was "indirect" and "remote" also, like Mary, by their "spiritual entering into the sacrifice of her divine son for men, made atonement for the sins of man."

9) WOW! Why did you leave all of that out of your quote, Slick? But, let’s now get to the point - how exactly is it that Mary makes “atonement” for “the sins of men”?

I can't help but wonder if Mr. Martignoni does minimal research and then reacts of if he just reacts and does almost no research at all. If he would have gone to my website, and also perused some of the other posts on the Facebook forum, he would have seen my reference to the issue of "Christ alone truly offered the sacrifice..." Etc.  But, since he has already demonstrated an ignorance about important biblical theology (communicable and incommunicable attributes) and since he is quoting references not from Ott, while demanding context be observed, I cannot put much faith in Mr. Martignoni's ability to be objective and sufficient in his research in these areas since he failed to do so. 

Seventh Mistake:  Failing to do proper diligence in his research.

10) First, we need to state, that it is not atonement for “ALL” the sins of men. That is not what is being said here. But, can someone other than Christ make atonement for sin? Well, the Bible says they can. For example, 1 John 5:16 states, “If any one sees his brother committing what is not a mortal sin, he will ask, and God will give him life for those whose sin is not mortal.” There is a sense of atonement here for the sins of other.

The fact that the Roman Catholic Church is apparently associating Mary's work with the atonement of Christ is problematic. Remember, Ott said, "Mary, by her spiritual entering into the sacrifice of her divine son for men, made atonement for the sins of man..." Now, to someone like myself who believes in the word of God and the sufficiency of the atoning work done by Christ alone, I cannot associate any creature with that sacrifice in any way that takes away from Christ. I refuse to affirm that anyone helped Jesus, or with him made atonement for sins. Roman Catholics, because of their exceedingly high view of Mary, apparently have no problem doing that. Again, this is further evidence of idolatry.

Citing 1 John 5:16 as a support that someone else can make atonement is a bad attempt to justify Mary's making an atonement for sins. The verse is talking about asking, in context (v. 15), God to intervene in peoples' lives. It says nothing about anyone making atonement.

Eighth Mistake:  Misapplying 1 John 5:16

11) But, perhaps a “sense” of atonement isn’t good enough. Well, then, how about James 5:20, “...let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will COVER a multitude of sins.” Covering of sin. Atoning for sin.

The word "cover" there is the Greek Kalupto.  It occurs 8 times in the New Testament:  Mat. 8:24; 10;26; Luke 8:16; 23:30; 2 Cor. 4:3; James 5:20; 1 Pet. 4:8.  It means to cover something up.  However, in 2 Cor. 4:3 it means to conceal.  In James 5:20 and 1 Pet. 4:8, the usage is figurative. We know this because no sinner can atone for sins. Only Jesus could do that. If Mr. Martignoni is trying to assert that James 5:20 can be used to justify the idea that "anyone" can atone for sins, then that would be heretical. 

Scripture says, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement,” (Leviticus 17:11).  Sinful people do not atone for sins before the infinitely holy God.  Mr. Martignoni needs to study basic biblical theology concerning Jesus and his atonement.

Ninth Mistake: Misapplying James 5:20

12) Still not convinced? Here’s the kicker, 1 Peter 4:8, “Above all hold unfailing your love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins.” Love - the love of human beings - covers sins. A human being’s love for another, can “cover a multitude of sins.” How is that possible if only Jesus can atone for sins? Here’s the thing, Slick - as members of the Body of Christ, we are able, in various ways, to share in what the Head has done. Some are allowed to share in certain ways, while others are allowed to share in other ways. Each in accord with what Christ Himself allows and ordains - the members of the body having different functions (1 Cor 12:14-21).

Also, 1 Pet. 4:8, where "love" covers sins is equally problematic.  Would Mr. Martignoni like to be consistent and assert that love also atones for sins? I hope he would not move into such heresy as he attempts to justify how Mary atone for our sins.  That would be another mistake.

Still not convinced of what? Is Mr. Martignoni saying that sinners can now atone for sins?  That is both fascinating and heretical. 

At this point, I'm convinced that Mr. Martignoni is failing to properly distinguish between the atoning sacrifice of Christ and how we, as Christians, can be loving. The verse says that love covers a multitude of sins. A mistake that he makes is not to address alternate possible interpretations. He assumes one, and bases an argument on that assumption. How does he know that the term "cover" does not refer to people being willing to forgive others in the context of their love? The point is that if he is going to assert that love atones for sins, then he's going to great lengths to try and justify that Mary entered into the sacrifice of Christ the atone for sins. The heresy of saying that Mary atones for sins does not go away when Mr. Martignoni quotes 1 Pet. 4:8 in its figurative usage about how love covers sins. That is yet another mistake on his part.

Tenth Mistake:  Misapplying 1 Peter 4:8

13) Mary, by virtue of her singular role in salvation history as “the mother of my Lord,” is, through her co-operation with her Son, and because of her great love, able to “cover a multitude of sins.” And, since Catholics believe Mary is without sin (which I will cover with my comments on Slick’s point #10), it is not her sins which she is covering but the sins of others. But, in no way, shape, or form - as the quotes cited above make clear - are Catholics saying that Mary is equal to Jesus. Any claim to the contrary is absolutely false.

I think it's interesting that Mr. Martignoni takes a quote from one place and combines it with another one from somewhere else in order to defend his position about Mary. He does what he accuses me of doing. 

So, he says that Mary is covering the sins of others.  Heresy begets heresy.

Again, I never say that Roman Catholics say that Mary is equal to Jesus. But I do say that they attribute things to her that belong to God alone. For this, they are guilty of idolatry.

Eleventh Mistake:  Changing terms by saying Mary can cover a multitude of sins when the original quote in question is about Mary atoning for sins.

14) Matt Slick’s selective (and deceptive) use of quotes, is rather disappointing coming from one who calls himself a Christian.

Again he accuses me of being deceptive. Yet, in the way he quotes things he should be careful since he comes very close to doing what he accuses me of.

It is a shame that someone who was supposed to represent Catholicism in a supposed to be a competent apologist must resort to personal attacks on my character.

Twelfth Mistake:  Attacking me personally and accusing me of deception based on select quotes, when he offered selective quotes - without citation - and which I attempted to provide per his paragraph 7 above.

15) Now, my question on this point for Matt Slick: Is it biblical for Mary to be able to cover a multitude of sins? 

Notice that he asks a question that is not related to the original issue.  He changed the word from "atone" to "cover" and then asks a question based on the latter term.

Thirteenth Mistake:  Misrepresentaiton of the original argument by changing the focus on "atone" to "cover" and then asking a question based on the misrepresentation.

Mr. Martignoni has attempted to shift the focus away from Mary's atoning for sins by using the word "cover" that he got from James 5:20 and 1 Pet. 4:8!  Neither of those verses deal with Jesus' atoning for our sins.  Furthermore, sinners don't atone for sins before God.  Only God does that; namely, Jesus.  The fact that he moves away from Mary's atoning sacrifice towards the word "cover" is an admission by him of the difficulty of the original quote. Otherwise, he would not have worked so hard to change what it actually says. Let's review the quote one more time.

"Christ alone truly offered the sacrifice of atonement on the Cross ... In the power of the grace of Redemption merited by Christ, Mary, by her spiritual entering into the sacrifice of her divine son for men, made atonement for the sins of man and (de congruon) merited the application of the redemptive grace of Christ. In this manner she cooperates in the subjective redemption of mankind." (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Ott, page 213).  

Mr. Martignoni is failed to alleviate the problem. If anything he has made it worse. The quote from Ott is revealing as well as heretical. Only Christ can atone for our sins and no one else in Scripture is said to atone for our sins.

Conclusion

Mr. Martignoni has failed to make his point. He's committed numerous lgoical and exegetical mistakes. And, he's embarrassed himself with his ignorance of christian theology (incommunicable). Furthermore, his attacks on my person by accusing me of willful and purposeful deception, is shameful.

John S Martignoni how to address issues logically and specifically without accusing his opponent of willful sin. The ad hominem attack serve no purpose in true dialogue and only demonstrates the weakness of his position, his emotional commitment to his error, and his lack of objectivity.

 

 

 

 

 
 

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.