Where is the Virgin Mary When You Really Need Her?

There’s some really big sin to slap down

One of the bullets that struck Pope John Paul II on 13 May 1981 is now attached to the crown of the Lady of Fátima statue in Portugal. The thirteenth of May, you see, happens to be the Feast Day of the Lady of Fátima, and the pope had been an ardent devotee of the Virgin Mary his whole life. So he was convinced that Mary had saved his life; she had guided the bullet to miss a major artery. We’re tempted to wonder if Mary’s effort hadn’t been half-hearted: why didn’t she guide the bullet to miss the pope altogether? Piety has a way of blunting common sense.

I do have to wonder what prior century I’m living in—or may have been suddenly transported to—when I read a National Geographic article titled 500 Years of Virgin Mary Sightings in One Map.

At the top of the map we find this explanation:

“Starting in the 16th century, the Roman Catholic Church instituted a strict vetting process for miracles like the 2,000 sightings of the Virgin Mary claimed since A.D. 40. To be worthy of belief and church support, apparitions must be deemed miraculous with a high degree of certainty and in line with church doctrine, and found to have had a positive impact.”

“…deemed miraculous with a high degree of certainty…” ? They only wish.

I don’t know if the ardent Catholic investigators check out all reports of Mary appearing on tree bark or toast—one piece of Virgin Mary toast brought $28,000 at auction—or if they seek to verify all of the Mary statues that supposedly bleed or weep.

If this is how Mary chooses to use her time and talents, I suggest that she should apply for a job upgrade. There are much bigger things to worry about. Yes, an attempted papal assassination is worthy of attention, but is there any way we can petition the Holy Mother to take her role as Queen of Heaven more seriously?

THIS is where she really needs to show up: every time a priest is about to rape a child, Mary should pop up in the room, scowling like the most severe nun ever. There could be variations on her message, “You will rot in hell,” “Put it back in your pants,” “Don’t even think about it,” “Not even my son can save you if you do this.”

The problem, of course, is that the Holy Mother doesn’t have a strong role model. Pope Francis, that smiling master of public relations, has fallen down on his job as well. He likes to have informal chats with reporters on the papal plane, but it would be far better to hold monthly news conferences at the Vatican, with the sole purpose of bringing the world up to date on what he’s doing to prevent priests from raping kids. We need to know how many priests have been handed over to local police; how many predator priests have been fired after being moved on to other parishes; how many bishops and cardinals have been fired for helping with the cover-ups. The pope also needs to give the world an update on how the church has improved its vetting processes to detect priest candidates who remain stuck in sexual adolescence; also, Holy Father, describe the resources that have been gathered to help celibate clergy understand human sexuality.

Maybe we’re expecting too much of a church that counts on Mary worship to coddle the gullible; actually, Mariolatry is big business, so no doubt they deem it best to keep that product as far away as possible from the criminal activity responsible for the collapse of the church’s moral authority.

David Madison was a pastor in the Methodist Church for nine years and has a PhD in Biblical Studies. His book, Ten Tough Problems in Christian Thought and Belief: a Minister-Turned-Atheist Shows Why You Should Ditch the Faith, was published last year by Tellectual Press.