Mary is seen as having a singular dignity above the saints. The Catholic Church teaches that she was conceived without original sin therefore receiving a higher level of veneration than all other saints. Catholic Mariology thus studies not only her life but also the veneration of her in daily life, prayer, hymns, art, music, and architecture in modern and ancient Christianity throughout the ages.
The four dogmas of perpetual virginity, Mother of God, Immaculate Conception and Assumption form the basis of Mariology. However, a number of other Catholic doctrines about the Virgin Mary have been developed by reference to sacred scripture, theological reasoning and Church tradition. The development of Mariology is ongoing and since the beginnings it has continued to be shaped by theological analyses, writings of saints, and papal statements, e.g. while two Marian dogmas are ancient, the other two were defined in the 19th and 20th centuries; and papal teachings on Mary have continued to appear in recent times.
In parallel to the traditional views, since the late 19th century, a number of other perspectives have been presented as a challenge to Catholic Mariology. Other Christian views see Mariology as unbiblical and a denial of the uniqueness of Christ as redeemer and mediator to modern psychological interpretations of Mary as the equivalent of mythical Goddesses ranging from Diana to Guan Yin. Many different notions similar to these have been addressed in the 1988 John Paul II Apostolic Letter Mulieris dignitatem ("on the Dignity and Vocation of Women", for the occasion of the Marian Year. John Paul II also defines the feminine genius in this writing as well, referencing the life of the Mother of God.
The study of Mary and her place in the Catholic Church has been undertaken from a number of perspectives and within a number of contexts, and in his address to the 2012 Mariological congress, Pope Benedict XVI stated that this study must be "understood and deeply examined from different and complementary viewpoints". Pope Benedict XVI also emphasized that the study of Mary cannot be performed in isolation from other disciplines and that Mariology is inherently related to the study of Christ and of the Church, and expresses the inner coherence of these disciplines.
Pope Benedict XVI has stated that Marian studies have three separate characteristics: first personalizing the Church so it is not seen just as a structure but as a person, secondly the incarnational aspect and the relation to God, and third Marian piety which involves the heart and the emotional component.