One of the most common critiques among Protestants of Catholics is that Catholics supposedly worship Mary.
This of course is untrue. All Catholics I have ever come in contact with are repulsed at the idea of worshiping Mary. "A person only worships God," they tell me. The Church's teaching is very clear that God alone is to be worshiped.
But there are, I will admit, sometimes things that I hear or see things in the Catholic Church that give me pause as a former Evangelical. Most often, I have found however, this is due simply to my own inexperience and misunderstanding.
Here's an example of how I think this works:
I have been taught that a common Muslim critique of Christianity is that it is Tritheistic. Not Trinitarian, but Tritheistic - that is, a religion that has 3 gods. This is of course untrue, we say. We believe that there is 1 God, but that he has 3 persons. 1 God, 3 persons. Simple, right? Not to a Muslim. And honestly, not simple to most people.
3 persons but still only 1 God? Sounds silly, illogical, and downright confusing. They hear us baptize people "in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit". Sounds like three gods, not one. Now, a Muslim might admit that technically speaking, most Christians will say that there is only 1 God in their theology, but in practice we can all see that most people do not understand the idea of the Trinity very well if at all, and it most likely leads to them to act more as Tritheists than Monotheists.
Islam, they say, is clearly better at avoiding this problem. It sets aside the confusing, misleading talk of a Trinity - something that does not seem to be taught as explicitly as the oneness of God in Scripture - and emphasizes very clearly that there is only 1 God. They are following the 1st Commandment of the 10 Commandments better and more clearly than we are.
So how do Christians respond to such a critique? Are we sure that there aren't some uninformed Christians somewhere who worship 3 gods instead of the 1 God?
I can't prove there aren't. But what I do know is this: although Christians are not constantly qualifying the fact that they worship only 1 God, we all know that that is what we do and that is what we mean when we speak about the 3 different persons of the Trinity. And although the idea of the Trinity might have the potential of obscuring the fact that there is only 1 God, the doctrine properly understood does not, and in my experience does not.
This, I offer, is analogous to attacks that Catholics worship Mary. Catholics do not worship Mary. They give her the honor due her place in the plan of salvation but nothing more. She was the Mother of our Lord and God Jesus Christ the Savior of the World and thus should have some special place. Catholics are not constantly qualifying this because they all know that they honor Mary, but only worship God. Sometimes, however, and probably more often than many Protestants might think, they make it very explicit how they think about Mary in relation to God.
Here is some of the Church's teaching on Mary in it's own words which make it abundantly clear that everything is about Jesus:
"There is but one Mediator as we know from the words of the apostle, 'for there is one God and one mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a redemption for all.' The maternal duty of Mary toward men in no wise obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows His power. For all the salvific influence of the Blessed Virgin on men originates, not from some inner necessity, but from the divine pleasure. It flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on His mediation, depends entirely on it and draws all its power from it. In no way does it impede, but rather does it foster the immediate union of the faithful with Christ.
"For no creature could ever be counted as equal with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer. Just as the priesthood of Christ is shared in various ways both by the ministers and by the faithful, and as the one goodness of God is really communicated in different ways to His creatures, so also the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude but rather gives rise to a manifold cooperation which is but a sharing in this one source.
"The Church does not hesitate to profess this subordinate role of Mary. It knows it through unfailing experience of it and commends it to the hearts of the faithful, so that encouraged by this maternal help they may the more intimately adhere to the Mediator and Redeemer.
"But [this council] exhorts theologians and preachers of the divine word to abstain zealously both from all gross exaggerations as well as from petty narrow-mindedness in considering the singular dignity of the Mother of God. Following the study of Sacred Scripture, the Holy Fathers, the doctors and liturgy of the Church, and under the guidance of the Church's magisterium, let them rightly illustrate the duties and privileges of the Blessed Virgin which always look to Christ, the source of all truth, sanctity and piety. Let them assiduously keep away from whatever, either by word or deed, could lead separated brethren or any other into error regarding the true doctrine of the Church."
(Vatican II Council, The Dogmatic Constitution of the Church, paragraphs 60, 62b, 67b)
Anything good Catholics ever say about Mary is fully grounded in the goodness of God. She is who she is only because of God's incomprehensible grace that comes through Jesus alone.
Catholics don't worship Mary. They worship God.
Catholics don't worship Mary. They worship God.