AUSTIN, Texas (Christian Examiner) -- The governor of Texas knows how to get people talking about a lot of issues – Catholic doctrine among them.
On Aug. 15, Gov. Greg Abbott posted a Catholic depiction of Mary, the mother of Jesus, to Facebook and commented on the holy day celebrating the assumption of Mary's body into heaven: "The Virgin Mary is exalted above the choirs of angels. Blessed is the Lord who has raised her up."
According to Catholic teaching, when Mary died her body was taken up to heaven as a foretaste of the resurrection that awaits all believers. Though the teaching has no basis in Scripture or extra-biblical records, celebrating the "heavenly assumption" has been a day of obligation for Catholics worldwide since the sixth century. In addition to being obligated to attend Mass, Catholics are also expected to refrain from work on that day.
Whether or not the governor, who is Catholic, intended to provoke debate, he certainly did. Responses to Abbott ranged from some calling his views on Mary "idolatry" while others said he deserved the responses for appealing to "religious nuts."
One commenter, responding to Catholics who liked the post, wrote, "Virgin Mary cannot bless you, she cannot hear you, she is resting just like the other dead, waiting to be raised just like the other dead; stop worshipping other gods and RECOGNIZE WE ONLY HAVE ONE THAT DIED FOR US AND THAT IS JESUS CHRIST ... OUR LORD AND SAVIOR, AMEN."
"So you're Catholic Mr. Abbott? So what? You worship idols; not something I'd be telling everyone," said another.
But the governor also had his defenders. One person said it is "out of respect to our Lord that we believe in Mary's assumption."
"Why would God allow Mary's body, whose worm was the first Tabernacle to hold Christ's precious body, to rot and decay? Jesus was still Mary's Savior as well, and we do not worship Mary."
Another wrote that the same people "harping on Catholics, calling them 'heretics,' are the same people jumping up and down when the government persecutes them for their faith in Christ. I pray for the day when we can all just stick together without gossiping and lying about each other's beliefs. May God bless you, Gov. Abbott, for being true to your faith and honoring the faithful of all backgrounds in your great State of Texas."
Another chastised Protestants for taking on the Catholic governor:
"It's great watching how fast all the Tea Party turns on a Catholic. Whatever happened to expressing 'Religious Freedom?' Or is it just your version of Christianity that you get to express?"
The governor's office has not commented on any of the responses to the Facebook post, which has been "liked" more than 6,700 times and has received nearly 1,000 comments.
Abbott normally posts comments about his faith on his social media pages (including Facebook and Twitter) each Sunday. Most often, his comments are far less "Catholic" in nature. On July 26, Aug. 2 and Aug. 9, he posted pictures of various crosses along with Bible verses, such as Proverbs 16:3, Matthew 19:26 and Proverbs 3:6.
The verses are often accompanied with well wishes or phrases such as, "Put your trust in God."
The image accompanying the Facebook post about the Virgin Mary contained a tag line that it was paid for by Texans for Greg Abbott.