Isn’t the Catholic belief that Mary – who says “I am the handmaid of the Lord” – was assumed into heaven and who is called “Queen of Heaven” idolatrous?
Answer: Refer to the answer on page 8 to questions 71 and 72 regarding the Catholic doctrine on Mary. Particularly the statement there: That Mary has been assumed into heaven, body and soul, is a consequence of her incomparably close bond with Christ. What we will all receive at the end of time, the 'resurrection of the body', has already happened to her because she is His mother. This doctrine is especially important in our time in which the body is being so dreadfully debased by wars, by drugs, by pornography – when it is meant for the glory of God. In Mary, we always see our own dignity and hope. In her we recognize the greatness God wants to achieve with us. Once you have understood this you will never cease to revere Mary.
The belief in the corporeal assumption of Mary was formally declared as dogma by Pope Pius XII in 1950: “[W]e pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory” (DS 3903; No 487).
This dogma does not concern the historical tradition regarding the time, place and circumstances of Mary’s return to God (Jerusalem or Ephesus?). We have no reliable information concerning such historical details. It purely concerns a tradition of faith. Unlike Jesus Christ’s resurrection and rising up (Ascension), which was witnessed by the appearance of the resurrected one, there are no witnesses to Mary’s heavenly Assumption. It is an event brought about by God, but not an occurrence that can be dated. Unlike the raising of Jesus Christ and His Ascension into heaven, Mary’s Assumption is not the reason for the hope in our own raising up, but is the fruit of that hope and therefore an affirmation of our own hope.
We can mention particularly two aspects as the rationale for this belief. Firstly, we can refer to Mary’s particularly close bond to Jesus Christ, her son, and with His path. Community with Christ is community with the cross and resurrection. In principle, all Christians are called to this. Because of her unique bond with Jesus Christ, we anticipate in Mary what we are all called to: the resurrection of the body. The second aspect sees Mary as Eve, the new mother of life. She gave birth to the creator of life and through her Yes she made special contribution to the triumph of life over death. We can already say of her: Death has been swallowed up in victory (1 Cor 15:54). Thus Mary’s glorification is a light that shines forth on earth, until the day of the Lord shall come, a sign of certain hope and comfort to the pilgrim People of God (Lumen Gentium 68).
What does this dogma mean for us? In a situation where the flesh is worshipped by some as a tin god and hated by others because people feel hopelessly imprisoned in today’s structures and systems, little would be achieved if the Church proclaimed only programmes, principles and appeals. In Mary assumed into Heaven the perfection towards which we all tend and which we hope for stands before us as a glorious reality. It is a hope for all humankind. The flesh will also be saved [...] This hope holds because Jesus Christ was raised from the dead. He is the beginning and the permanent cause for our hope. In Mary we see that this hope bears fruit for us all and that this hope includes the perfection of all humankind. Thus in Mary God has realized and thus puts before the eyes of our faith the salvation all Christians hope for. (Slightly abbreviated and modified from Katholischer Erwachsenen Katechismus , Bd. 1: Der Glaube der Kirche (Catholic Adult Catechism). 1985. pp. 180-82).