The Drive for a New Solemn Definition on Mary

Five cardinals, with the support of a number of cardinals and bishops throughout the world and throughout the years, have sought to dogmatically define the spiritual motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary as mother of all humanity. The Church has long taught that Mary is the Mater Dolorosa (Suffering Mother), Co-redemptrix with Christ (“co” meaning with, not equal to), Mediatrix of all graces (because all grace comes through Christ, and Christ comes through Mary), and Advocate (because she prays for each of her children).

Additionally, to bolster our excitement at the actions of the Cardinals and the papal message from the World Day of the Sick, we receive the following news. Javier Cardinal Lozano Barragán stated in a Feb. 11 homily from St. Peter’s in the Vatican that the Mother of God is “corredentrice” with the Savior, the Italian word for Co-redemptrix.

The reason for our encouragement is fourfold. First, consider the location of the quote; second, consider the date of the quote. This is no passing comment. This quote, which was first reported on Vatican Information Services, fell on not any ordinary day and not in any ordinary place. Cardinal Lozano Barragán made this comment in a homily in the Vatican Basilica, St. Peter’s, on the sesquicentennial of the apparitions at Lourdes.

Thirdly, consider the inner unity of Cardinal Lozano Barragán’s Feb. 11 message with the message Pope Benedict XVI had pre-released for Feb. 11. The cardinal’s homily is a reflection of the papal message for the day. Both emphasize the co-suffering of Christ and his Mother. Both emphasize the co-suffering of the Blessed Mother of God with believers.

Finally, consider the proximity of the use of the term to the recent Cardinal-Bishop petition drive. It is difficult to assert that the public use of the term “Corredentrice” is somehow mutually exclusive from a worldwide petition drive for the Fifth Marian Dogma that five cardinals initiated a mere six weeks prior.

This is indeed great cause for our encouragement since much ecumenical controversy has encompassed the term in recent decades.

Catholics should be well acquainted with the four dogmatic teachings on Mary, the Mother of Jesus. She is 1) Mother of God (solemnly defined in the 5th century); 2) Perpetually Virgin (solemnly defined in the 7th century); 3) Immaculate Conception (solemnly defined in the 19th century); and 4) Assumed into Heaven (solemnly defined in the 20th century). Now, these were all defined over the course of the history of the Church, but these were all real truths about the Blessed Virgin during her lifetime.

Even more than being truths about Mary, these are truths about her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Each one teaches us many things about the person of her Son. Many, even in our time, have tried to say that Christ is only a man. Mary’s divine maternity affirms the union of the two natures in the one person of Christ. Mary’s perpetual virginity fulfills the prophecy of Christ’s messiahship from Isaiah. Mary’s Immaculate Conception teaches us that Christ, who received his flesh from the Virgin unstained by sin, is the unblemished lamb of sacrifice capable of atoning for our sins. Mary’s Assumption teaches us that Christ reigns in heaven over all that he has made with his Queen at his right hand.

But this is not all the Catholic Church teaches about the Blessed Virgin Mary. Truth be told, Catholics who ask, “what do we have to believe about Mary,” are asking the wrong question. This is not a question that reflects the dignity of the person of Mary or the truth about what is dogma. We must instead ask, “what has the Church always taught us about Mary that I may know my heavenly Mother and Queen.”

In addition to the four dogmas listed above, the following are doctrinal teachings of the Church, which Catholics must also believe.

Advocacy: The earliest recorded (which means practice predates the recording) prayer we have to the Blessed Virgin is the Sub Tuum Praesidium in the 3rd century. So Mary is seen as Advocate in heaven. This is not to diminish the one advocacy of the Holy Spirit of God, but rather human participation in it.

Mediation: Though Paul states that there is one mediator, Christ, he then in the same epistle asks for prayers. Why? Why not just ask Christ, Paul? Perhaps we misunderstand what St. Paul teaches us about mediation. The Church has always taught that the Blessed Virgin mediates grace to Christians. The all-holy Blessed Virgin does this in a preeminent way in heaven. Just as all grace and truth comes through Christ, Christ came through Mary. Hence, from Mary come all grace and truth because this is God’s desire and free initiative. Here again, we have human participation in the mediation of grace.

Coredemption: The same Apostle states in Colossians, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Col 1:24). How can there be any lacking in Christ’s afflictions? The will of each individual member of the body of Christ is that which is lacking in Christ’s afflictions. If he is the head of his body, the Church, he suffers for each member. And each member must unite his will to Christ’s to suffer for the sake of the body. Christ is the one who is head over his body, so this is all Christ’s work, but Christians are called to engage in the work of redemption, to “work out salvation.” So we have the one Redemption of Christ, and the human participation in redemption. To see Mary’s role in redemption, we need only look to the Blessed Mother in Scripture. She gives Christ his flesh, which he uses to sacrifice. So the flesh he offers in sacrifice is the flesh she offered him in her “yes” (fiat). She suffers with Christ at the foot of the Cross. Every Friday during Lent, we pray the stations, singing to the Blessed Mother along the way. She gave birth to us in her sufferings. We know that her sufferings are redemptive, not to take away from Christ’s redemption, but redemption by human participation in his one redemption.

All of this news enriches our Lenten journey. Are not the Stations of the Cross a perfect picture of true devotion to Mary Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate? I do believe that her secondary but powerful presence in the Stations has done much to bring Catholics closer to God throughout the years. The suffering mother brings us directly to the Cross, the source of all grace and redemption, just as she will with the proclamation of this dogma.

So we have three doctrinal truths that all hinge on participation in some divine reality. This definition will help foster a better understanding of these three realities—advocacy, mediation, and redemption, but particularly, I think, redemption. We are ever plagued by the temptation to say, humanity can do nothing to bring about its own salvation. However, man did do something in redemption. Christ, the New Adam, saved the first disobedient Adam through his obedience. But Christ is only man by the “yes” of a woman. And on the hill of Calvary, Christ is not only sacrificed, but freely given by both God the Father and Mary his mother. Truly, on the hill of Calvary, God and man share in the one redemptive sacrifice of Christ. And in making this offering of her Son in a way that no other human begin could, Mary, the New Eve, “became the cause of salvation for herself and the whole human race,” as St. Irenaeus says and the Second Vatican Council confirms in Lumen Gentium.

Let us also briefly mention St. Paul’s words from the Epistle to the Hebrews: “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them; and those who are ill-treated, since you also are in the body” (Heb 13:3). Being “in the body,” though separate in space, enables coredemption through this mysterious communion with the suffering. The Apostle understands well the goodness of coredemption—making up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ. This understanding needs to be brought more to the fore in our time.

Some may argue that dogmas destroy the mystery of the faith. Many in our culture use “dogma” as a pejorative. Politicians and pundits frequently use “dogmatic” to refer to blind faith. But this is a most unfortunate (and un-Catholic) perspective on dogma. In reality, the goodness of dogma is quite simple. Without a metaphysical understanding of the union between truth and beauty, a proper perspective on dogma is lost.

Very simply:

God is truth existentially; God is beauty existentially; Hence, all truth is beauty.
Dogmas magnify truth; Hence, dogmas magnify beauty.

Surely this would be a monumental event in Church history. And, since dogma is truth and truth is beauty, this would be good for ecumenism as well. After all, the “end” of ecumenism is the common pursuit of the one who is the Truth. This will open major doors for dialogue.

I will be praying for this this Lent.

Happy Sesquicentennial (150th Anniversary) of Our Lady of Lourdes!


Kevin Clarke is a graduate student at Franciscan University of Steubenville. The preceding article was excerpted from his blog, The Charcoal Fire.

Her Station Keeping: Immaculate Conception to Co-redemptrix


The recent history of Mariology has not always been told and so the recent reinvigoration of the movement for a fifth Marian Dogma by the group of five Cardinals remains a curiosity to some. Others believe the movement should be dropped since Cardinal Ratzinger in the year 2000 mentioned in an interview with Peter Seewald that he was not in favor of the title “Co-redemptrix.” The interview caused a stir in the English-speaking world when it was published two years later in God and the World; used ever since to question those who speak of the need for the official promulgation of the title. Since then, many still fail to make the distinction that Cardinal Ratzinger was not pope at that time, and he was not speaking in an official capacity. In fact, a careful examination of Joseph Ratzinger’s writings reveals he has a much deeper Mariology and understanding of all the issues necessary for such a title; he actually provides foundations that were missing in previous attempts to clarify the need for the title “Co-redemptrix.”

The intention of this article is to demonstrate that promulgation of the title and dogma “Co-redemptrix” is not a luxury but much rather a necessity, as even the dying of many religious orders reveals. John Paul the Great did much to heal misunderstandings in Mariology since Vatican II, but Joseph Ratzinger’s own words still ring true. Concerning Lumen Gentium, he made the statement: “The immediate outcome of the victory of ecclesiocentric Mariology was the collapse of Mariology altogether” (1), an outcome that not even Paul VI’s “introduction of the title ‘Mother of the Church’” could prevent (2). What allowed false interpretations that led to the collapse? What is the needed healing for the Church and the world? The five Cardinals are on the right track. The title “Co-redemptrix” is not a luxury, it is a necessity. It will help make sense of the titles “Mediatrix” and “Advocate” which Lumen Gentium did bestow on Mary. More importantly, it will restore the Mariology that our religious orders and our “domestic churches” (family homes) need to flourish.

Lourdes 150 Years Later

“I am the Immaculate Conception” was the response to St. Bernadette’s question, “What is your name?” It is a response the Church has meditated upon for the past 150 years, marked by the passing of the first anniversary of the Virgin’s apparitions in Lourdes in February 1858. Of course we know this is the same person who was the Mother of Jesus and that even before this interesting “new name” (cf. Rev 2:17) at the Lourdes apparition site the dogma of the Immaculate Conception had already been proclaimed. Almost 2000 years earlier, even the Angel Gabriel had already greeted Mary by just as fascinating a “new” name: “Full of Grace” (Lk 1:28). Names from God reveal callings or missions. Those who receive grace are to be sources of grace for others as St. Basil the Great tells us in his treatise on the Holy Spirit.

Some of Pope Benedict’s earlier writings on Mary (from 1979-1980) are contained in a more recent book called Mary: The Church at the Source. He follows an insightful observation to penetrate the mystery of Mary’s mysterious calling. He alludes to the mystery of personhood when discussing that John the Evangelist never uses Mary’s name in his gospel, but only calls her the “Mother of Jesus.” Ratzinger continues: “it is as if she had handed over her personal dimension, in order to be solely at (Jesus’) disposal, and precisely thereby had become a person” (3).

The most important moment that Mary is identified as the Mother of Jesus is when John the Evangelist is preparing us to understand that Mary is now the New Eve. This moment is at the foot of the Cross when Jesus looks down and says to her, “Woman, behold your son” (Jn 19:26). What then is the mystery of human personhood which we are called to contemplate concerning the one revealed as: “Full of Grace,” “Immaculate Conception,” “Mother of Jesus,” and “Woman.” Can we as beloved disciples understand it better if we will stand with her “at the Cross her station keeping”? How is Mary’s calling as “Immaculate Conception” further revealed at the Cross?

Orientale Lumen and Human Personhood

In his Apostolic Letter Orientale Lumen, we catch John Paul the Great’s deep appreciation for the East’s theology of the person: “The East helps us to express the Christian meaning of the human person with a wealth of elements. It is centered on the Incarnation, from which creation itself draws light. In Christ, true God and true man, the fullness of the human vocation is revealed. In order for man to become God, the Word took on humanity” (4). It is the same theology which guides his “Theology of the Body”; inspired by the mysticism of St. John of the Cross whose writings are immersed in the tradition of the Greek Fathers.

In Orientale Lumen, John Paul the Great basically reiterated the great Doctor of the East and West, St. Athanasius: “God became Man, that man might become God” (5). It is the very source of St. Louis de Montfort’s True Devotion proclamation that “what God is by nature, the Virgin is by grace.” Pope John Paul the Great wants the West to recover this aspect of the catechetical tradition which the East preserved more consistently: “We believe that the venerable and ancient tradition of the Eastern Churches is an integral part of the heritage of Christ’s Church, the first need for Catholics is to be familiar with that tradition, so as to be nourished by it” (6).

Several articles on Catholic Exchange discuss deification through Christ’s grace … the patristic understanding of how man “becomes God” without loss to man’s personal identity (7). These have not always emphasized that where this takes place is in man’s self-emptying (cf. Phil 2:7 kenosis) … where Christ makes it possible for human love to become divine. The basis of John Paul the Great’s Theology of the Body is the development of Vatican II’s Christology when it proclaims that “Jesus fully reveals man to himself” (8) and so “man can fully discover his own self only in a sincere giving of himself” (9). Jesus had already explained the process of deification: “Whoever loses himself (becomes a gift) for my sake will be found (become a true person)” (cf. Mt 10:39, Lk 9:24); and: “Man has no greater love than to lay down his life for his beloved” (Jn 15:13). If we are to “become God”…Who is the model of true Personhood, then we must become Love by God’s power working within us “to desire and to work” (Phil 2:13). The Fathers tells us that we are made in the image of God to become the likeness of God … real persons.

Vatican II: Her Station Keeping?

Ratzinger’s comment becomes more revealing. It is Mary who loses herself for Jesus’ sake: “It is as if she had handed over her personal dimension, in order to be solely at (Jesus’) disposal, and precisely thereby had become a person” (10). In her self-emptying at the foot of the Cross something greater is occurring in her than in any other human redeemed by Christ. As the Immaculate Conception she is already the Church (the Spouse) in person and an actual part of Jesus’ Redemption by her special share in the Spirit prior to all others. Jesus’ Spirit is at work in her at the Cross to suffer in faith with the Redeemer. The fuller meaning of the Immaculate Conception is being revealed. The “mournful mother weeping” is the Woman, “wailing aloud in pain as she labored to give birth” (Rev 12:2). Jesus then proclaims: “Woman, behold your son!” (Jn 19:26). At the Cross, her calling as the Immaculate Conception was further revealed…she was now the new Eve. Jesus could now say to all disciples: “Behold your Mother!” (Jn 19:27)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us: “Mary became the Woman, the new Eve” (11). Though she was the Immaculate Conception from the beginning, the fuller meaning of this grace was not revealed in her without her always making a gift of herself in the service of her Son. Whenever the Spirit applies Christ’s redemption to us, we now always find Mary “again in travail until Christ be formed in you” (cf. Gal 4:19). We never experience the Spirit apart from Mary, the Woman. She is truly our Mother here and now whenever we are touched by grace and participate in Jesus. She is redeemed by Christ’s coming into this world for us men and our salvation, but the Church has been clear she is redeemed in a unique manner: “Mary belongs more to Christ than to Adam” (12). Her work as the Immaculate Conception remains a work of Christ in her.

When Vatican II placed the Virgin within the framework of the Church by including chapters on Mary within the document Lumen Gentium, a shift in emphasis was made to correct false exaggerations (even tendencies) that seemed to make Mary an alternate to Christ. Lumen Gentium’s structure was a reaffirmation that she, too, is redeemed by Christ and was dependent upon the Word’s Incarnation for the grace in which she shared. Sadly this shift of emphasis was misinterpreted by many. Some people began to think that talk of Mary as “model” and “exemplar” meant that her motherhood was an analogy only. She became for many more of a model than a mother.

Restoring Her Station

Ratzinger wrote that the immediate effect of this shift, known as the victory of ecclesiocentric Mariology, “was the collapse of Mariology altogether” (13). Paul VI tried to prevent such misunderstandings by officially bestowing the title “Mother of the Church” upon Mary with the promulgation of Lumen Gentium. This title was supposed to “express the fact that Mariology goes beyond the framework of ecclesiology and at the same time is correlative to it” (14). In other words, it was supposed to affirm her real motherhood without being a source for false exaggerations that make her parallel to Christ.

What is ironic is that the Church recognized the need to bestow a title on Mary after this shift at Vatican II in order to prevent a breakdown in Mariology. Did Paul VI’s particular title prevent the breakdown? The obvious answer according to Ratzinger is “No.” More ironically, and having spoken against the title “Co-redemptrix” while Prefect for the Congregation of Doctrine of the Faith, Pope Benedict is now being asked by several Cardinals to reconsider the views he held on the title’s fittingness before becoming Pope. In the case of the Arian crisis it took the term homoousios to restore real orthodoxy to Christology. Can the title “Co-redemptrix” do the same for Mariology and give greater glory to Christ?

Lumen Gentium used the actual titles of “Advocate” and “Mediatrix” for Mary (15). Without “Co-redemptrix” these titles are open to misinterpretation and we are left with the idea that Mary is more a model for us as to how each of us is to be an advocate or a mediatrix. The Greek word perichoresis describes how some terms help to explain one another and give a better picture of the whole through their interplay. For a true perichoresis to occur with “Advocate” and “Mediatrix,” the title “Co-redemptrix’ is necessary for orthodoxy. “Co-redemptrix” affirms that Mary is in Christ in the Spirit during the Redemption (16). It is a reaffirmation of her calling as the Immaculate Conception. “Mediatrix” can then explain why Mary is present in our receiving the Redemption because of her priority as “Co-redemptrix”; thus grace is not received apart from her. Grace (the indwelling of the Spirit) is still directly from Jesus as communicated by the Spirit, but inseparable from Mary’s role in the Spirit. “Advocate” sheds more light on Mary’s continued office of obtaining the Spirit for us and Mary’s constant prayers that Jesus send the Spirit for us.

The five Cardinals who recently relaunched the effort to restore Marian orthodoxy amongst Roman Catholics through the official promulgation of the title “Co-redemptrix” have joined with John the Evangelist to comfort Mary “at her station keeping.” They have wrapped their arm around religious orders in order to lend them support. The have stood with every “domestic church” to reinvigorate them with renewed Marian devotion. The greatest hope is that united with Mary, the rest of us will better learn to give ourselves to God at the foot of the Cross … at every Liturgy of the Eucharist … and become a real person through the grace of sanctification (which is our deification) …

“Hail, O perfect purity, immaculate bridal-chamber of the Word, cause of the deification of us all, sweet sounding echo of the voice of the prophets! Hail, O glory of the apostles! … O most holy Mother of God, save us!” (17)

Matthew Tsakanikas is director of the Benedictine College Institute for Religious Studies, an outreach program for the theological formation of Catholic schoolteachers in Kansas.


(1) Mary: The Church at the Source, p. 24.

(2) Ibid, p. 24.

(3) Ibid, p. 16.

(4) OL #15.2

(5) St. Athanasius, De inc. 54, 3: PG 25, 192B; quoted in CCC 460.

(6) cf. OL #1.4.


(8) Gaudium et Spes, #22.

(9) Ibid., #24.

(10) Mary The Church at the Source, p. 16.

(11) CCC #726

(12) Ratzinger, God and the World, p. 304.

(13) Mary The Church at the Source, p.24.

(14) cf. Ratzinger, p.29.

(15) see: LG #62.

(16) cf. Paul VI, Credo of the People of God #14-15.

(17) Acathist Hymn, Sixth Ode, Byzantine Daily Prayer, p.964.

Mary Co-redemptrix: The Beloved Associate of Christ, Part I

Even though the explicit treatment of Mary’s collaboration in the work of redemption has appeared in ever-sharper relief in the Papal Magisterium only within the past two centuries, there is well-founded reason to say that it is part and parcel of the Tradition that has come down to us from the apostles and makes progress in the Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (cf. Dei Verbum 8). The indissoluble link between the “woman” and “her seed,” the Messiah, is already presented to us in the Protoevangelium (Gen 3:15) (1), where the first adumbrations of God’s saving plan pierce through the darkness caused by man’s sin. The identification of the “woman” with Mary is already implicit in the second and nineteenth chapters of the Gospel of St. John where Jesus addresses his mother as “woman” (2) and in the twelfth chapter of the book of Revelation (3).

Mary, the New Eve

The Apostle Paul had already explicitly identified Jesus as the “New Adam” (cf. Rom 5:12-21; 1 Cor 15:21-22, 45-49) and it was a natural and logical development for the sub-Apostolic Fathers, Justin Martyr (+c.165), Irenaeus of Lyons (+c.202) and Tertullian (+c.220), to see Mary as the “New Eve” (4), the God-given helpmate of the “New Adam.” Virtually all of the experts are agreed that the classic presentation of Mary as the “New Eve” achieves full maturity in the writings of St. Irenaeus of Lyons. Of Irenaeus’ Eve-Mary comparison René Laurentin says:

Irenaeus gives bold relief to a theme only outlined by Justin (Martyr). With Irenaeus the Eve-Mary parallel is not simply a literary effect nor a gratuitous improvisation, but an integral part of his theology of salvation. One idea is the key to this theology: God’s saving plan is not a mending or a “patch-up job” done on his first product; it is a resumption of the work from the beginning, a regeneration from head downwards, a recapitulation in Christ. In this radical restoration each one of the elements marred by the fall is renewed in its very root. In terms of the symbol developed by Irenaeus, the knot badly tied at the beginning is unknotted, untied in reverse (recirculatio): Christ takes up anew the role of Adam, the Cross that of the Tree of Life. In this ensemble Mary, who corresponds to Eve, holds a place of first importance. According to Irenaeus her role is necessary to the logic of the divine plan.

With Irenaeus this line of thought attains a force of expression that has never been surpassed. Later writers will broaden the bases of the comparison but to our day no one has expressed it in a way more compact or more profound (5).

Let us pause here a moment to consider why St. Irenaeus is such an important figure for our consideration. Not only is he invoked implicitly—by being included among the Fathers—in the Marian magisterium of Bl. Pius IX, but he is also referred to explicitly in that of Pius XII, Paul VI, the Second Vatican Council and most notably in that of John Paul II. The Lutheran scholar Jaroslav Pelikan provides us with a fascinating hint about the importance of the Bishop of Lyons:

When it is suggested that for the development of the doctrine of Mary, such Christian writers as Irenaeus in a passage like this (in Proof of the Apostolic Preaching) “are important witnesses for the state of the tradition in the late second century, if not earlier” that raises the interesting question of whether Irenaeus had invented the concept of Mary as the Second Eve here or was drawing on a deposit of tradition that had come to him from “earlier.” It is difficult, in reading his Against Heresies and especially his Proof of the Apostolic Preaching, to avoid the impression that he cited the parallelism of Eve and Mary so matter-of-factly without arguing or having to defend the point because he could assume that his readers would willingly go along with it, or even that they were already familiar with it. One reason that this could be so might have been that, on this issue as on so many others, Irenaeus regarded himself as the guardian and the transmitter of a body of belief that had come to him from earlier generations, from the very apostles. A modern reader does need to consider the possibility, perhaps even to concede the possibility, that in so regarding himself Irenaeus may just have been right and that therefore it may already have become natural in the second half of the second century to look at Eve, the “mother of all living,” and Mary, the Mother of Christ, together, understanding and interpreting each of the two most important women in human history on the basis of the other (6).

Put simply, Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp who was a disciple of the Apostle John. There is every reason, then, to believe that what he transmits to us about Mary as the “New Eve” is an integral part of “the Tradition that comes to us from the apostles” (7).

This datum of the tradition has come into ever-clearer focus through the teaching of the popes in the course of the past 150 years, most notably in Bl. Pope Pius IX’s Bull of 1854, Ineffabilis Deus (8), Pius XII’s Apostolic Constitution of 1950, Munificentissimus Deus (9), and his encyclicals Mystici Corporis of 1943 (10) and Ad Cæli Reginam of 1954. In the last-mentioned document the Holy Father spoke in these explicit terms:

From these considerations we can conclude as follows: Mary in the work of redemption was by God’s will joined with Jesus Christ, the cause of salvation, in much the same way as Eve was joined with Adam, the cause of death. Hence it can be said that the work of our salvation was brought about by a “restoration” (St. Irenaeus) in which the human race, just as it was doomed to death by a virgin, was saved by a virgin.

Moreover, she was chosen to be the Mother of Christ “in order to have part with him in the redemption of the human race” (Pius XI, Auspicatus profecto).

“She it was who, immune from all sin, personal or inherited, and ever most closely united with her Son, offered him on Golgotha to the eternal Father together with the holocaust of her maternal rights and motherly love, like a New Eve, for all the children of Adam contaminated through this unhappy fall” (Mystici Corporis)…

From this we conclude that just as Christ, the New Adam, is our King not only because he is the Son of God, but also because he is our Redeemer, so also in a somewhat similar manner the Blessed Virgin is Queen not only as Mother of God, but also because she was associated as the Second Eve with the New Adam (11).

We may note that with the clarity which characterized all of his dogmatic statements the great Pontiff insists on Mary’s active, but subordinate role in the work of our salvation and in doing so invokes the authority of St. Irenaeus, the “father of Catholic dogmatic theology” (12).

The theme of Mary as the “New Eve,” with explicit references to St. Irenaeus, was duly cited in chapter eight of the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium 56 thusly:

Rightly, therefore, the Fathers see Mary not merely as passively engaged by God, but as freely cooperating in the work of man’s salvation through faith and obedience. For, as St. Irenaeus says, she “being obedient, became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race.” Hence not a few of the early Fathers gladly assert with him in their preaching: “the knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by Mary’s obedience: what the virgin Eve bound through her disbelief, Mary loosened by her faith.” Comparing Mary with Eve, they call her “Mother of the living,” and frequently claim: “death through Eve, life through Mary.”

In his Professio Fidei of June 30, 1968, Paul VI, expressly citing Lumen Gentium 56 as a source, called Mary the “New Eve” (13), and Pope John Paul II without a doubt made more references to Mary as the “New Eve” and examined the implications of this title more than all of his predecessors combined (14). Here is one of his last such references, which occurs in his Letter to the Men and Women Religious of the Montfort Families for the 160th Anniversary of the Publication of True Devotion to Mary:

St. Louis Marie contemplates all the mysteries, starting from the Incarnation which was brought about at the moment of the Annunciation. Thus, in the Treatise on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, Mary appears as “the true terrestrial paradise of the New Adam,” the “virginal and immaculate earth” of which he was formed (n. 261). She is also the New Eve, associated with the New Adam in the obedience that atones for the original disobedience of the man and the woman (cf. ibid., n. 53; St. Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses, III, 21, 10-22, 4). Through this obedience, the Son of God enters the world. The Cross itself is already mysteriously present at the instant of the Incarnation, at the very moment of Jesus’ conception in Mary’s womb. Indeed, the ecce venio in the Letter to the Hebrews (cf. 10:5-9) is the primordial act of the Son’s obedience to the Father, an acceptance of his redeeming sacrifice already at the time “when Christ came into the world” (15).

In this case there is a graceful reference which links St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort to St. Irenaeus of Lyons, while at the same time linking the reparation accomplished by the “New Adam” for the world’s salvation to that of the “New Eve.”

Let us allow Father Lino Cignelli, O.F.M., an expert who has studied the Mary-Eve parallel in Irenaeus and the early Greek Fathers at length, to offer us this penetrating analysis which may also serve as a summary of what we have found thus far in the Papal Magisterium:

From the human side, both the sexes contribute actively in determining the lot of the human race, but not however to the same extent. Ruin and salvation rest with the two Adams. With regard to Christ the New Adam, he can redeem because he is the God-man. As God, he guarantees the victory over the Devil and communicates life, incorruptibility and immortality, which are essentially divine goods; as man, he is the primary ministerial cause of salvation and the antithesis of Adam, cause of universal ruin.

The two virgins, Eve and Mary, beyond depending on Satan and God respectively, are ordained in their actions to the two Adams, with whom they share ministerial causality. They thus carry out an intermediate and subordinate task. Subordination, however, does not mean being simple accessories. Irenaeus clearly points back to the feminine causality of the ruin and the salvation of the human race. Eve is the “cause of death” and Mary the “cause of salvation” for all mankind (16).

Father Cignelli further comments that Mary’s “contribution, made in free and meritorious obedience, constitutes with that of Christ the man a single total principle of salvation. At the side of the New Adam, she is thus a ministerial and formal co-cause of the restoration of the human race” (17). Although we have not been able to review all of the texts here, this conclusion is fully justified by its use in the Papal Magisterium (18).

The Protoevangelium (Gen 3:15)

Intimately related to the concept of Mary as the “New Eve” are the words spoken by the Lord after the fall of our first parents. God metes out punishment first to the serpent (Gen 3:14-15), then to the woman (Gen 3:16) and finally to the man (Gen 3:17-19). What is particularly striking, however, is that the sentence passed upon the serpent already heralds the reversal of the fall. The Lord says: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; she shall crush your head, while you lie in wait for her heel” (Gen 3:15) (19). This text has become famous as the Protoevangelium (first gospel) and the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains why:

The Christian tradition sees in this passage an announcement of the “New Adam” who because he “became obedient unto death, even death on a cross,” makes amends superabundantly for the disobedience of Adam. Furthermore many Fathers and Doctors of the Church have seen the woman announced in the “Protoevangelium” as Mary, the Mother of Christ, the “New Eve” (20).

Scholarly discussions as to whether the text of the Protoevangelium should be translated “he (the seed of the woman) shall crush your head” (ipse conteret caput tuum as in the Neo-Vulgata) or “she (the woman) shall crush your head” (ipsa conteret caput tuum as in the Vulgata of St. Jerome) continue to be advanced (21). One wonders whether the Neo-Vulgata, which has chosen in favor of the neuter pronoun, really accords best with the way the text has been read and understood in the course of over 1,500 years. In any case Father Stefano M. Manelli’s treatment of the matter provides an excellent overview of this issue (22) and draws conclusions fully in harmony with the consistent use made of this text in the Papal Magisterium:

As Pope Pius IX summarizes it, both according to tradition (the Fathers and ecclesiastical writers) and according to the express declarations of the Papal Magisterium, the Protoevangelium “clearly and plainly” foretold the Redeemer, indicated the Virgin Mary as the Mother of the Redeemer, and described the common enmity of Mother and Son against the Devil and their complete triumph over the poisonous serpent. One can, therefore, without hesitation affirm that the content of the Protoevangelium is “Marian” as well as messianic. Not only this, but the Mariological dimension in reference to the “woman” must be also understood literally to be exclusive to that “woman,” to Mary, that is, to the Mother of the Redeemer, and not to Eve (23).

Pope John Paul II, while even conceding full weight to the Neo-Vulgata rendition, puts it this way:

Since the biblical concept establishes a profound solidarity between the parent and the offspring, the depiction of the Immaculata crushing the serpent, not by her own power but through the grace of her Son, is consistent with the original meaning of the passage.

The same biblical text also proclaims the enmity between the woman and her offspring on the one hand the serpent and his offspring on the other. This is a hostility expressly established by God, which has a unique importance, if we consider the problem of the Virgin’s personal holiness. In order to be the irreconcilable enemy of the serpent and his offspring, Mary had to be free from all power of sin, and to be so from the first moment of her existence (24).

It should also be noted that already in drafting the Bull Ineffabilis Deus it was confirmed that, for Catholic faithful, it is always necessary to read the biblical texts in the light of the patristic interpretation (25). This latter point has been further corroborated and validated in the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum (26).

Let us now proceed to the elaboration of this theme in Ineffabilis Deus of Bl. Pius IX.

The Fathers and writers of the Church … in quoting the words by which at the beginning of the world God announced his merciful remedies prepared for the regeneration of mankind—words by which he crushed the audacity of the deceitful serpent and wondrously raised up the hope of our race, saying, “I will put enmities between thee and the woman, between thy seed and her seed”—taught that by this divine prophecy the merciful Redeemer of mankind, Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, was clearly foretold; that his most blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary, was prophetically indicated; and at the same time the very enmity of both against the Evil One was significantly expressed. Hence, just as Christ, the Mediator between God and man, assumed human nature, blotted the handwriting of the decree that stood against us, and fastened it triumphantly to the Cross, so the most holy Virgin, united with him by a most intimate and indissoluble bond, was, with him and through him, eternally at enmity with the evil serpent, and most completely triumphed over him, and thus crushed his head with her immaculate foot (27).

Here we may note that the Pontiff gives an admirable summary of the Church’s understanding of the Protoevangelium and in so doing illuminates the teaching about Mary as the woman who was united with the Redeemer “by a most intimate and indissoluble bond, was, with him and through him, eternally at enmity with the evil serpent, and most completely triumphed over him, and thus crushed his head with her immaculate foot.” We should not be ignorant, however, of what Father Settimio Manelli points out in his recently published study i.e., that in recent decades there has been an unfortunate change of course in the interpretation of this text in that some modern exegetes are no longer willing to admit a Marian interpretation (28). By the same token the painstaking work of Father Tiburtius Gallus shows a consistent Marian interpretation of this text over the course of the centuries in medio Ecclesiæ (29), and the numerous commentaries on the Protoevangelium by the late Pope John Paul II continue to sustain the Marian interpretation on the part of the Magisterium. Let us conclude this part of our discussion with an excerpt from his Marian catechesis of January 24, 1996:

The protogospel’s words also reveal the unique destiny of the woman who, although yielding to the serpent’s temptation before the man did, in virtue of the divine plan later becomes God’s first ally. Eve was the serpent’s accomplice in enticing man to sin. Overturning this situation, God declares that he will make the woman the serpent’s enemy.

Exegetes now agree in recognizing that the text of Genesis, according to the original Hebrew, does not attribute action against the serpent directly to the woman, but to her offspring. Nevertheless, the text gives great prominence to the role she will play in the struggle against the tempter: in fact the one who defeats the serpent will be her offspring.

Who is this woman? The biblical text does not mention her personal name but allows us to glimpse a new woman, desired by God to atone for Eve’s fall; in fact, she is called to restore woman’s role and dignity, and to contribute to changing humanity’s destiny, cooperating through her maternal mission in God’s victory over Satan.

In the light of the New Testament and the Church’s Tradition, we know that the new woman announced by the protogospel is Mary, and in “her seed” we recognize her Son, Jesus, who triumphed over Satan’s power in the Paschal Mystery.

We also observe that in Mary the enmity God put between the serpent and the woman is fulfilled in two ways. God’s perfect ally and the Devil’s enemy, she was completely removed from Satan’s domination in the Immaculate Conception, when she was fashioned in grace by the Holy Spirit and preserved from every stain of sin. In addition, associated with her Son’s saving work, Mary was fully involved in the fight against the spirit of evil.

Thus the titles “Immaculate Conception” and “Cooperator of the Redeemer,” attributed by the Church’s faith to Mary, in order to proclaim her spiritual beauty and her intimate participation in the wonderful work of redemption, show the lasting antagonism between the serpent and the New Eve (30).

There are a number of points to be emphasized in this important catechesis. First, the Pope refers to the new woman, the antithesis of Eve, as “God’s first ally” (la prima alleata di Dio) and “the serpent’s enemy” (la nemica del serpente), and subsequently “God’s perfect ally and the Devil’s enemy” (Alleata perfetta di Dio e nemica del diavolo). Secondly, he points out that “the text gives great prominence to the role she will play in the struggle against the tempter” and that this new woman is called “to contribute to changing humanity’s destiny, cooperating through her maternal mission in God’s victory over Satan.” Thirdly, without hesitation he identifies the new woman as Mary “in the light of the New Testament and the Church’s Tradition.” This is an assertion of capital importance in the light of the resistance to a Marian interpretation even in certain contemporary Catholic exegetical circles. Fourthly, he points out that the enmity between the serpent and Mary is fulfilled in two ways: (1) she was removed from Satan’s dominion through her Immaculate Conception, which thus enabled her (2) to be “fully involved in the fight against the spirit of evil.” Fifthly, because of “her intimate participation in the wonderful work of redemption,” Mary is described as “Cooperator of the Redeemer” (Cooperatrice del Redentore), and thus there is a state of “lasting antagonism between the serpent and the New Eve.” Hence this catechesis serves as an excellent summary of the great lines of Catholic exegesis, the Catholic Tradition and the Papal Magisterium on the Protoevangelium.

Development of Doctrine

In his catechesis of October 25, 1995, Pope John Paul II traces the history of doctrinal development regarding Our Lady’s cooperation in the work of redemption in broad strokes, beginning, not surprisingly, with the Bishop of Lyons:

At the end of the second century, St. Irenaeus, a disciple of Polycarp, already pointed out Mary’s contribution to the work of salvation. He understood the value of Mary’s consent at the time of the Annunciation, recognizing in the Virgin of Nazareth’s obedience to and faith in the angel’s message the perfect antithesis of Eve’s disobedience and disbelief, with a beneficial effect on humanity’s destiny. In fact, just as Eve caused death, so Mary, with her “yes,” became “a cause of salvation” for herself and for all mankind (cf. Adv. Haer., III, 22, 4; SC 211, 441). But this affirmation was not developed in a consistent and systematic way by the other Fathers of the Church.

Instead, this doctrine was systematically worked out for the first time at the end of the tenth century in the Life of Mary by a Byzantine monk, John the Geometer. Here Mary is united to Christ in the whole work of redemption, sharing, according to God’s plan, in the Cross and suffering for our salvation. She remained united to the Son “in every deed, attitude and wish” (cf. Life of Mary, Bol. 196, f. 123 v.).

Mary’s association with Jesus’ saving work came about through her Mother’s love, a love inspired by grace, which conferred a higher power on it. Love freed of passion proves to be the most compassionate (cf. ibid., Bol. 196, f. 123 v.).

In the West, St. Bernard, who died in 1153, turns to Mary and comments on the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple: “Offer your Son, sacrosanct Virgin, and present the fruit of your womb to the Lord. For our reconciliation with all, offer the heavenly Victim pleasing to God” (Serm. 3 in Purif., 2: PL 183, 370).

A disciple and friend of St. Bernard, Arnold of Chartres, shed light particularly on Mary’s offering in the sacrifice of Calvary. He distinguished in the Cross “two altars: one in Mary’s heart, the other in Christ’s body. Christ sacrificed his flesh, Mary her soul.” Mary sacrificed herself spiritually in deep communion with Christ, and implored the world’s salvation: “What the Mother asks, the Son approves and the Father grants” (cf. De septem verbis Domini in cruce, 3: PL 189, 1694).

From this age on, other authors explain the doctrine of Mary’s special cooperation in the redemptive sacrifice.

At the same time, in Christian worship and piety contemplative reflection on Mary’s “compassion” developed, poignantly depicted in images of the Pièta. Mary’s sharing in the drama of the Cross makes this event more deeply human and helps the faithful to enter into the mystery: The Mother’s compassion more clearly reveals the Passion of the Son (31).

In time the seed of the doctrine expounded with such clarity by St. Irenaeus would continue to bear fruit through the meditations of Fathers, Doctors, saints and theologians on Mary’s presentation of the infant Jesus in the Temple, with special reference to Simeon’s prophecy (Lk 2:22-35) and her presence at the foot of the Cross (Jn 19:25-27). Here we can only hope to highlight a few of the important moments in this fascinating history of the development of the doctrine of Mary’s collaboration in the work of redemption (32). One can find an excellent historical overview in the treatment of Marian Coredemption through two millennia by Mother Maria Francesca Perillo, F.I., and Sister Maria Rosa Pia Somerton, F.I. (33), and in Mark Miravalle’s “With Jesus”: The Story of Mary Co-Redemptrix (34).

As always, in the history of doctrine, the patristic era is one of special importance because of the foundation laid by the Fathers. The late Father Bertrand de Margerie, S.J., in his essay, “Mary Co-redemptrix in the Light of Patristics” (35), analyzes the patrimony of St. Irenaeus at length and insists that “with him, the mystery of the Cross is already included in that of the Incarnation” (36). Indeed, he demonstrates that this is very largely the case with St. Ambrose, St. Augustine and many of the Fathers of the East and West (37). Mother Abbess Elizabeth Marie Keeler, O.S.B., performed a great service in marshalling the testimony of the Benedictine monastic tradition from the sixth to the twelfth centuries regarding Our Lady’s collaboration in the work of redemption (38), unearthing data heretofore not taken into consideration which developed from the patristic foundation. Here is a particularly significant text from Paschasius Radbertus (865):

Consider the love that was crucifying (cruciabatur) the Virgin in thinking of all she had heard and seen and known … filled as she was with the Holy Spirit … she was both Virgin and martyr … the sword piercing her soul set her above the martyrs (plusquam martyr fuit)… she loved more than all, and so suffered more than all… she was more than a martyr because she suffered with her soul, her love was so much stronger than her own, because the Virgin made her own the death of Christ (39).

Foremost among the development of Marian Coredemption at this time are the contributions of St. Bernard (+1153) and his disciple, Arnold of Chartres (+1156). St. Bernard, who has sometimes been called “the last of the Church Fathers,” is the first to teach of Mary’s “offering” of Jesus as the divine Victim to the heavenly Father for the reconciliation of the world. St. Bernard’s teachings are in the context of Mary’s offering of Jesus at the Presentation of the Temple (and not yet at Calvary):

O hallowed Virgin, offer thy Son; and present anew to the Lord this fruit of thy womb. Offer for our reconciliation this Victim, holy and pleasing to God. With joy, God the Father will receive this oblation, this Victim of infinite value (40).

The Abbot of Clairvaux is also the first to refer to the “compassion” (41) of Our Lady, a term which etymologically comes from the Latin “cum” (with) and “passio” (suffering or receiving), and therefore refers to her “co-suffering” or “suffering with” Jesus. According to Bernard, the Virgin Mother welcomes the “price of redemption” (42); stands at “redemption’s starting point” (43); and “liberates prisoners of war from their captivity” (44).

In addition, St. Bernard is the first theologian and Doctor of the Church to preach that Mary provided “satisfaction” for the disgrace and ruin brought about by Eve:

Run, Eve, to Mary; run, mother to daughter. The daughter answers for the mother; she takes away the opprobrium of the mother; she makes satisfaction to thee, Father, for the mother… O woman singularly to be venerated … Reparatrix of parents (45).

The pivotal Mariologist, Arnold of Chartres, St. Bernard’s renowned disciple, can rightly be considered the first author who formally expounds the explicit doctrine of Mary Co-redemptrix at Calvary. While two centuries earlier, John the Geometer had referred to the suffering of Mary with the crucified Jesus, Arnold specifies that it is Jesus and Mary who together accomplish the redemption through their mutual offering of the one and the same sacrifice to the Father. The French abbot tells us:

Together they (Christ and Mary) accomplished the task of man’s redemption … both offered up one and the same sacrifice to God: she in the blood of her heart, he in the blood of the flesh … so that, together with Christ, she obtained a common effect in the salvation of the world (46).

In a theological and terminological breakthrough, Arnold states that Mary is “co-crucified” with her Son (47) at Calvary, and that the Mother “co-dies” with him (48). In response to objections first raised by Ambrose that Mary did not suffer the Passion, was not crucified like Christ, and did not die as Christ died at Calvary, Arnold responds that Mary experienced “com-passion” or “co-suffering” (using the term of his master, Bernard) with the Passion of Christ: “what they did in the flesh of Christ with nail and lance, this is a co-suffering in her soul” (49). Further, Arnold explains that Mary is in fact “co-crucified” in her heart with Jesus crucified (50), and that the Mother “co-dies” with the death of her Son. Mary “co-died with the pain of a parent” (51).

Arnold concludes that the Mother of the Redeemer does not “operate” redemption at Calvary, but rather “co-operates” in redemption, and to the highest degree (52). It is the love of the Mother that co-operates in a unique way at Calvary, in a way most favorable to God: “(On Calvary) the Mother’s love co-operated exceedingly, in its own way, to render God propitious to us” (53).

How truly extraordinary was the contribution of Bernard and Arnold. The Mother’s role in redemption is affirmed by Bernard in the terms, offering, satisfying, and compassion. Her role at Calvary is proclaimed by Arnold in the terms co-crucified, co-dying, co-operating. These testimonies can be likened, in their theological insight and maturity, to contemporary testimonies to Mary Co-redemptrix by popes of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The doctrine and title development of the Co-redemptrix story, exemplified in an extraordinary way during this late patristic and early medieval period, will soon bear even greater fruit in bringing forth the singular title which most clearly expresses the Mother’s unique collaboration with and under Jesus in the redemption.

Mother Elizabeth also cites these beautiful texts from Arnold of Chartres:

The affection of his Mother touches him (Jesus crucified), since in that moment there is only one will in Christ and Mary and it is the same holocaust that the two offer together, she in the blood of her heart, he in the blood of his flesh (54).

The apostles having fled, the Mother stood beside her Son and, pierced by the sword of sorrow, was wounded in her spirit and concrucified (concrucifigebatur) by love (55).

The High Middle Ages ushers in a period in which references to “Mary’s special cooperation in the redemptive sacrifice” become ever more abundant both on the part of the great scholastic Doctors (56) and the mystics (57). Here I must limit myself to choosing a representation from each category. In his De donis Spiritus Sancti the Seraphic Doctor, St. Bonaventure (+1274), states:

Eve expels us from paradise and sells us (into the slavery of sin), but Mary brings us back and buys our freedom.

Mary, the strong and faithful woman, paid this price, since when Christ suffered on the Cross to pay this price to redeem us, the Blessed Virgin was present, accepting God’s will and consenting to it (58).

At this historical point enters the mystical contribution of St. Bridget of Sweden (+1373). The Revelations, the written record of a series of visions and prophecies granted to St. Bridget by Jesus and Mary, are highly regarded and reverenced by the Church during the Middle Ages, including a large number of popes, bishops, and theologians (59). The revealed words spoken by both Jesus and his Mother regarding Our Lady’s coredemptive role are truly significant in the development of the Co-redemptrix doctrine, as they will influence numerous theologians during the seventeenth century “Golden Age of Coredemption,” some 300 years later.

The Mother of Sorrows reveals in these prophetic visions through St. Bridget that “My Son and I redeemed the world as with one heart” (60). Jesus confirms the same truth in his own words: “My Mother and I saved man as with one heart only, I by suffering in my heart and my flesh, she by the sorrow and love of her heart” (61). It is difficult to argue with the supernatural testimony from such a Church-sanctioned and revered prophecy regarding the role of Mary Co-redemptrix—a testimony from the lips of the Redeemer and the Co-redemptrix themselves. The medievals, as a whole, did not.

The Rhineland Mystic, John Tauler (+1361) offers his own theological and mystical contribution to Mary Co-redemptrix. Like no other author before him, this Dominican theologian articulates with precision the sacrificial offering of the Mother at Calvary.

In the teachings of Tauler, the Mother of Jesus offers herself with Jesus as a living victim for the salvation of all (62), and the eternal Father accepted this oblation of Mary for the salvation of the entire human race: “God accepted her oblation as a pleasing sacrifice, for the utility and salvation of the whole human race … so that, through the merits of her sorrows, she might change God’s anger into mercy” (63). In the natural progression of the New Eve patristic recapitulation brought to its fullness at Calvary, John speaks of the sorrow the Mother plucked from the tree of the Cross in order to redeem humanity with her Son:

Just as Eve, boldly plucking from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, destroyed men in Adam, so thou hast taken sorrow upon thyself from the tree of the Cross, and with thy suffering sated, thou has redeemed men together with thy Son (64).

Addressing Our Lady, Tauler tells us of Mary’s foreknowledge of her co-suffering with Jesus, in which she would share in all his redemptive merits and afflictions:

He foretold to thee (Mary) all thy passion whereby he would make thee a sharer of all his merits and afflictions, and thou would co-operate with him in the restoration of men to salvation… (65).

St. Catherine of Siena (+1380), the great Church Doctor and Co-patroness of Europe, calls the Blessed Mother the “Redemptrix of the human race” both in virtue of giving birth to the Word and for the sorrow of “body and mind” that our Mother suffers with Jesus:

O Mary … bearer of the light … Mary, Germinatrix of the fruit, Mary, Redemptrix of the human race because, by providing your flesh in the Word, you redeemed the world. Christ redeemed with his Passion and you with your sorrow of body and mind (66).

When one of the foremost theologians of the Council of Trent becomes the champion of Mary Co-redemptrix, the theological and doctrinal credibility of the Co-redemption title becomes promulgated throughout Catholic theological circles. Jesuit Father Alphonsus Salmerón (+1585), renowned theologian, exegete, and one of the original followers of St. Ignatius, repeatedly explains and defends the title of Co-redemptrix in an unprecedented systematic treatment of the doctrine.

In a remarkable passage, Salmerón defends the Marian titles of Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate, and others as legitimate titles that rightly bespeak of the goodness and glory of Mary, full of grace:

Truly Mary, very near and uniquely joined to him, is called full of grace … how much he prepared that she as mother would pour out the fullest graces among us all as her sons as one who had been assumed by Christ, not out of any necessity, or out of weakness, but on account of the necessity to share and make clear, certainly, the goodness and glory in the mother that she would be (if it is permitted thus to speak) Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix, Cooperatrix of the salvation of mankind and to whom, as to an individual advocate, all the faithful ought to approach and fly for help (67).

Salmerón goes on to note that the participation of Mary Co-redemptrix does not distract, but rather adds glory to Christ himself, for all her excellence and her capacity to share in redeeming is derived from the redeeming capacity of Jesus:

The Mother stood near the Cross for this: that the restoration of mankind would correspond with the collapse of the world. As the fall of the world was accomplished by two, but especially by a man, so the salvation and redemption came about from two, but especially from Christ; for whatever excellence Mary has, she received from Christ, not only on account of a certain proper harmony, but also on account of the eminent capacity of Christ in redeeming, a capacity which with his Mother (whose works he needed least of all) he wished to share as Co-redemptrix, not only without her dishonor, but with the great glory of Christ himself (68).

According to Salmerón, the simple motive of the Co-redemptrix in the exercise of her many functions on behalf of humanity, which are identified in her titles, is Christian maternal love: “For love of us … she is all ours who is called Mother of Mercy, Queen of heaven, Mistress of the world, Star of the sea, Advocate, Co-redemptrix, Preserver, Mother of God” (69).

Throughout Salmerón’s extraordinary treatment on Marian Coredemption we find the repeated use of the prefix, “co,” in emphasizing the Mother’s rightful subordination and dependency on the Lord of redemption. He refers to the Mother’s “co-suffering” (70), “co-misery” (71), “co-sorrowing” (72); that she was “co-crucified” (73), that she “co-died” (74), “co-suffered,” “cooperated” (75), and was “co-united” (76) with Jesus in the redemption. This clear and generous theology of Mary Co-redemptrix provides solid dogmatic foundation for the following century’s explosion of theological literature on Coredemption.

St. Veronica Giuliani (+1727), a Capuchin Poor Clare and outstanding mystic, writes in her diary about Mary’s suffering on Calvary:

She participated in the same torments, not by way of the executioners, like Jesus, but she, by way of love and sorrow, participated in all the torments, one by one. The heart of Jesus and the heart of Mary both stood united in suffering and in love, and this they offered to God the Father for all of us mortals (77).

It is fascinating to note in St. Veronica Giuliani a common thread that can be found in the writings of saints and theologians, especially from the seventeenth century onwards: The hearts of Jesus and Mary become the symbols of redemption and coredemption respectively. In terms of the world of both academic and mystical theology one can speak of the seventeenth century as “the Golden Age of Marian Coredemption,” which largely coincides with the sunset of “the golden age of Spanish mysticism” and the “the golden age of French mysticism” (78). During this period consensus on Mary’s role in the work of redemption continued to grow and major clarifications became the common property of Catholic theology. Here is an example of that clarity in a book by Giovanni Agostino Nasi, Le Grandezze di Maria Vergine, published in Venice in 1717:

The pains of our Lord Jesus Christ, as pains of a God made man, were all of an infinite worth, so that the least of these would have been a superabundant price for the redemption of a thousand worlds. It is true, then, that the pains of the Virgin were not of such weight as to possess infinite worth and that per se they alone would not have sufficed for the redemption of the world. … But granting all this, as the pains of the Mother of God they indeed still had an exceptional worth beyond the human mind to conceive; and if they could not in truth be said to be infinite, one could however say that they were a quasi-participation in the infinite worth of the Savior’s merits. Our Lord Jesus Christ, by means of his pains, redeemed the world condignly. His most holy Mother, who was made his companion (socia) in this truly grand work, in contributing to it as well the most precious riches of her sorrows, in union with the pains of the Son, merited congruently to obtain in such a way the redemption of the world. So the human race is indebted to both the Son and the Mother for the incomparable blessing which by their mutual consent has been apportioned to it (79).

Now it cannot be said that there was never any opposition to the doctrine briefly outlined above, but neither did such opposition cause a major disruption or discontinuity in its development. One very notable voice of opposition came from the Jansenist Adam Widenfeld (+1678) in his anonymously published pamphlet of 1673 entitled Salutary Admonitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary to her Indiscreet Devotees (Monita salutaria B.V. Mariae ad cultores suas indiscretos), in which Our Lady is quoted as saying: “Do not call me Salvatrix and Co-redemptrix.” Widenfeld’s little work effectively launched a “pamphlet war” and was eventually put on the Roman Index (80). Worthy of note in the popularization of the teaching on Mary’s role in the work of our redemption and the term Co-redemptrix in the nineteenth century was The Foot of the Cross, a very popular book, written by Frederick William Faber (+1863), a convert from Anglicanism and the founder of the Brompton Oratory in London (81). Another significant stage in the divulgation of the teaching was the publication of the little book, L’Immacolata, Corredentrice Mediatrice, in 1928 by the distinguished Servite Mariologist and theologian, Cardinal Alexis Lépicier (82). In fact, by the time of this publication, the word Co-redemptrix had already passed into the Papal Magisterium.

Papal Teaching on Marian Coredemption before the Second Vatican Council

In his Rosary Encyclical Jucunda Semper of September 8, 1894, Pope Leo XIII drew out explicitly Mary’s sufferings on Calvary:

When she professed herself the handmaid of the Lord for the mother’s office, and when, at the foot of the altar, she offered up her whole self with her child Jesus—then and thereafter she took her part in the painful expiation offered by her Son for the sins of the world. It is certain, therefore, that she suffered in the very depths of her soul with his most bitter sufferings and with his torments. Finally, it was before the eyes of Mary that the divine sacrifice for which she had borne and nurtured the Victim was to be finished. As we contemplate him in the last and most piteous of these mysteries, we see that “there stood by the cross of Jesus Mary his Mother” (Jn 19:25), who, in a miracle of love, so that she might receive us as her sons, offered generously to divine justice her own Son, and in her heart died with him, stabbed by the sword of sorrow (83).

In this passage Leo touched upon themes that his successors would continue to develop in an ever-swelling crescendo in the course of the twentieth century: Mary’s offering of herself in union with Jesus in expiation for the sins of the world, her “mystical death” described in terms of “dying with him in her heart” (cum eo commoriens corde) and the spiritual maternity which flows from her participation in the sacrifice.

The word “Co-redemptrix” makes its preliminary appearance on the magisterial level by means of official pronouncements of Roman Congregations during the reign of Pope St. Pius X (1903-1914) and then enters into the papal vocabulary.

The term first occurs in the Acta Apostolicæ Sedis in a response to a request made by Father Giuseppe M. Lucchesi, Prior General of the Servites (1907-1913), requesting the elevation of the rank of the feast of the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady to a double of the second class for the entire Church. The Sacred Congregation of Rites, in acceding to the request, expressed the desire that thus “the cultus of the Sorrowful Mother may increase and the piety of the faithful and their gratitude toward the merciful Co-redemptrix of the human race may intensify” (84).

Five years later the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office in a decree signed by Cardinal Mariano Rampolla expressed its satisfaction with the practice of adding to the name of Jesus that of Mary in the greeting “Praised be Jesus and Mary” to which one responds “Now and forever”:

There are Christians who have such a tender devotion toward her who is the most blessed among virgins as to be unable to recall the name of Jesus without accompanying it with the glorious name of the Mother, our Co-redemptrix, the Blessed Virgin Mary (85).

Barely six months after this declaration, on January 22, 1914, the same congregation granted a partial indulgence of 100 days for the recitation of a prayer of reparation to Our Lady beginning with the Italian words Vergine benedetta. Here is the portion of that prayer which bears on our argument:

O blessed Virgin, Mother of God, look down in mercy from heaven, where thou art enthroned as Queen, upon me, a miserable sinner, thine unworthy servant. Although I know full well my own unworthiness, yet in order to atone for the offenses that are done to thee by impious and blasphemous tongues, from the depths of my heart I praise and extol thee as the purest, the fairest, the holiest creature of all God’s handiwork. I bless thy holy name, I praise thine exalted privilege of being truly Mother of God, ever-Virgin, conceived without stain of sin, Co-redemptrix of the human race (86).

On the basis of these last two instances Monsignor Brunero Gherardini comments that

The authority of that dicastery (the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office), now designated as “for the Doctrine of the Faith,” is such as to confer on its interventions a certain definitive character for Catholic thought (87).

Surely one of the most famous passages on this theme is that which we find in Benedict XV’s letter Inter Sodalicia of May 22, 1918:

The choosing and invoking of Our Lady of Sorrows as patroness of a happy death is in full conformity with Catholic doctrine and with the pious sentiment of the Church. It is also based on a wise and well-founded hope. In fact, according to the common teaching of the Doctors it was God’s design that the Blessed Virgin Mary, apparently absent from the public life of Jesus, should assist him when he was dying nailed to the Cross. Mary suffered and, as it were, nearly died with her suffering Son; for the salvation of mankind she renounced her mother’s rights and, as far as it depended on her, offered her Son to placate divine justice; so we may well say that she with Christ redeemed mankind (88).

It should be noted here that Benedict indicates that Mary’s presence beneath the Cross of Christ was “not without divine design” (non sine divino consilio), the very same phrase reproduced verbatim in Lumen Gentium 58, although with no reference to this text. Evidently deriving from the principle that “God, by one and the same decree, had established the origin of Mary and the Incarnation of divine Wisdom” (89), Benedict XV held that God had also predestined Mary’s union with her Son in his sacrifice, to the extent of offering him in sacrifice insofar as she was able to do so (quantum ad se pertinebat). It should also be pointed out here that Benedict was certainly not stating that the sacrifice of Jesus was not sufficient to redeem the world, but rather that, on the basis of the understanding of the “recapitulation” already articulated by St. Irenaeus, God wished the sacrifice of the New Eve to be joined to that of the New Adam, that he wished the active participation of a human creature joined with the sacrifice of the God-man.

The first papal usage of the term occurs in an allocution by Pope Pius XI (1922-1939) to pilgrims from Vicenza on November 30, 1933:

From the nature of his work the Redeemer ought to have associated his Mother with his work. For this reason we invoke her under the title of Co-redemptrix. She gave us the Savior, she accompanied him in the work of redemption as far as the Cross itself, sharing with him the sorrows of the agony and of the death in which Jesus consummated the redemption of mankind (90).

On March 23, 1934, the Lenten commemoration of Our Lady of Sorrows, Pius XI received two groups of Spanish pilgrims, one of which was composed of members of Marian Congregations of Catalonia. L’Osservatore Romano did not publish the text of the Pope’s address, but rather reported his principal remarks to these groups. Noting with pleasure the Marian banners carried by these pilgrims, he commented that they had come to Rome to celebrate with the Vicar of Christ

not only the nineteenth centenary of the divine redemption, but also the nineteenth centenary of Mary, the centenary of her Coredemption, of her universal maternity (91).

He continued, addressing himself especially to the young people, saying that they must

follow the way of thinking and the desire of Mary most holy, who is our Mother and our Co-redemptrix: they, too, must make a great effort to be coredeemers and apostles, according to the spirit of Catholic Action, which is precisely the cooperation of the laity in the hierarchical apostolate of the Church (92).

Finally Pope Pius XI referred to Our Lady as Co-redemptrix on April 28, 1935, in a radio message for the closing of the holy year at Lourdes:

Mother most faithful and most merciful, who as Co-redemptrix and partaker of thy dear Son’s sorrows didst assist him as he offered the sacrifice of our redemption on the altar of the Cross … preserve in us and increase each day, we beseech thee, the precious fruits of our redemption and thy compassion (93).

Let us consider now how this theme is treated in two encyclicals of the Servant of God Pope Pius XII. Our first passage comes from the Encyclical Mystici Corporis of June 29, 1943, promulgated during the height of World War II:

She (Mary) it was who, immune from all sin, personal or inherited, and ever most closely united with her Son, offered him on Golgotha to the eternal Father together with the holocaust of her maternal rights and motherly love, like a New Eve, for all the children of Adam contaminated through this unhappy fall, and thus she, who was the mother of our Head according to the flesh, became by a new title of sorrow and glory the spiritual Mother of all his members (94).

Let us underscore here the emphasis on Mary’s offering of Christ to the eternal Father as a “New Eve,” effectively drawing out the implications of the teaching of St. Irenaeus. Pius XII would offer yet another beautiful perspective on this joint offering of the Son and the Mother in his great Sacred Heart Encyclical, Haurietis Aquas, of May 15, 1956:

That graces for the Christian family and for the whole human race may flow more abundantly from devotion to the Sacred Heart, let the faithful strive to join it closely with devotion to the Immaculate Heart of the Mother of God. By the will of God, the most Blessed Virgin Mary was inseparably joined with Christ in accomplishing the work of man’s redemption, so that our salvation flows from the love of Jesus Christ and his sufferings intimately united with the love and sorrows of his Mother (95).

In this classic passage every word is carefully weighed and measured in order to make a declaration on the redemption and Mary’s role in it, which remains unparalleled for its clarity and precision. No doubt for this reason it is included in Denzinger-Hünermann’s Enchiridion Symbolorum (96). Pius professes that “our salvation flows from the love of Jesus Christ and his sufferings” (ex Iesu Christi caritate eiusque cruciatibus) which are “intimately united with the love and sorrows of his Mother” (cum amore doloribusque ipsius Matris intime consociatis). The Latin preposition ex indicates Jesus as the source of our redemption while three other Latin words, cum and intime consociatis, indicate Mary’s inseparability from the source. Finally, let us note Pius’ insistence on the fact that this union of Jesus with Mary for our salvation has been ordained “by the will of God” (ex Dei voluntate) (97).


(1) Cf. Michael O’Carroll, C.S.Sp., Theotokos: A Theological Encyclopedia of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Wilmington: Michael Glazier, Inc.; Dublin: Dominican Publications, 1982) (= Theotokos) 370-373; Stefano M. Manelli, F.I., All Generations Shall Call Me Blessed: Biblical Mariology trans. Peter Damian Fehlner, F.I. (New Bedford, MA: Academy of the Immaculate, revised and enlarged second edition, 2005) (= Manelli) 20-37.

(2) Cf. Theotokos 373-375; Manelli 364-383.

(3) Cf. Theotokos 375-377; Manelli 394-414.

(4) Cf. Theotokos 139-141; Luigi Gambero, S.M., Mary and the Fathers of the Church: The Blessed Virgin Mary in Patristic Thought trans. Thomas Buffer (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1999) (= Gambero I) 46-48, 53-58, 66-67; Paul Haffner, The Mystery of Mary (Leominster, Herefordshire: Gracewing; Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 2004) (= Haffner) 75-76.

(5) René Laurentin, A Short Treatise of the Virgin Mary trans. by Charles Neumann, S.M. (Washington, N.J.: AMI Press, 1991) 54, 57. Emphasis my own (except for recapitulation and recirculatio).

(6) Jaroslav Pelikan, Mary Through the Centuries: Her Place in the History of Culture (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1996) 43-44.

(7) Cf. Arthur Burton Calkins “Maria Reparatrix: Tradition, Magisterium, Liturgy” in Mary at the Foot of the Cross, III: Maria, Mater Unitatis – Acts of the Third International Symposium on Marian Coredemption (New Bedford, MA: Academy of the Immaculate, 2003) (= MFC III) 223-232.

(8) Cf. Arthur Burton Calkins, “The Immaculate Coredemptrix in the Life and Teaching of Bl. Pius IX” in Mary at the Foot of the Cross, V: Redemption and Coredemption under the Sign of the Immaculate Conception – Acts of the Fifth International Symposium on Marian Coredemption (New Bedford, MA: Academy of the Immaculate, 2005) (= MFC V) 508-541.

(9) Acta Apostolicae Sedis (= AAS) 42 (1950) 768; Amleto Tondini, Le Encicliche Mariane (Rome: Belardetti, Editore) (= Tondini) 626; Our Lady: Papal Teachings trans. Daughters of St. Paul (Boston: St. Paul Editions, 1961) (= OL) 519.

(10) AAS 35 (1943) 247-248 (OL 383).

(11) AAS 46 (1954) 634-635 (OL 705).

(12) Gambero I:51.

(13) AAS 60 (1968) 438-439.

(14) Cf. the Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem of August 15, 1988, #11 in Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II (Rome: Libreria Editrice Vaticana) (= Inseg) XI/3 (1988) 337-340, the general audience address of January, 24, 1996, in Inseg XIX/1 (1996) 115-117, the general audience address of May 29, 1996, #3-5 in Inseg XIX/1 (1996) 1390-1392, the general audience address of September 18, 1996, in Inseg XIX/2 (1996) 372-374. These are just a few of the more important citations.

(15) Inseg XXVI/2 (2003) 919 (L’Osservatore Romano, weekly edition in English (= ORE). First number = cumulative edition number; second number = page) 1829:3.

(16) Lino Cignelli, O.F.M., Maria Nuova Eva nella Patristica greca (Assisi: Studio Teologico “Porziuncola” Collectio Assisiensis #3, 1966) 36-37 (my trans.).

(17) Cignelli 235-236 (my trans.).

(18) Cf. Arthur Burton Calkins, “They Mystery of Mary Coredemptrix in the Papal Magisterium” in Mark Miravalle, S.T.D. (ed.), Mary Co-redemptrix: Doctrinal Issues Today (Goleta, CA: Queenship Publishing Company, 2002) (= MMC) 51-64.

(19) I have followed here the Douay-Rheims version which is a translation of St. Jerome’s Vulgate. For a discussion on whether the pronoun in the second part of the verse should be translated as he or she (favored in the Catholic tradition for well over a millennium) cf. Thomas Mary Sennott, The Woman of Genesis (Cambridge, MA: The Ravengate Press, 1984) 37-60. For a discussion of whether the verb should be translated as “bruise” or “crush,” cf. Sennott 61-80. For an in-depth treatment of the text, cf. Settimio M. Manelli, F.I., “Genesis 3:15 and the Immaculate Co-redemptrix” MFC V:263-322.

(20) Catechism of the Catholic Church (= CCC) 411.

(21) Cf. H.-L. Barth, Ipsa conteret. Maria die Schlangenzertreterin. Philologische und theologische Überlegungen zum Protoevangelium (Gen 3,15) (Kirchliche Umschau 2000). This work was reviewed by Brunero Gherardini in Divinitas XLV:2 (2002) 224-225. Cf. also Thomas Mary Sennott, The Woman of Genesis (Cambridge, MA: The Ravengate Press, 1984) 37-60; Ibid., “Mary Co-redemptrix,” in Mary at the Foot of the Cross, II (New Bedford, MA: Academy of the Immaculate, 2002) (= MFC II) 49-63.

(22) Manelli 20-37.

(23) Manelli 23-24.

(24) Inseg XIX/1 (1996) 1389-1390 (ORE 1444:11; John Paul II, Theotókos—Woman, Mother, Disciple: A Catechesis on Mary, Mother of God with a foreword by Eamon R. Carroll, O.Carm, S.T.D. (Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 2000) (= MCat) 93-94).

(25) Cf. Stefano M. Cecchin, O.F.M., L’Immacolata Concezione. Breve storia del dogma (Vatican City: Pontificia Academia Mariana Internationalis “Studi Mariologici,” No. 5, 2003) 191.

(26) Cf. Dei Verbum, especially 8, 10, 23.

(27) Tondini 46 (OL 46).

(28) Settimio M. Manelli, F.I., “Genesis 3:15 and the Immaculate Co-redemptrix” in MFC V:263; Cf. Edward Sri, Queen Mother: A Biblical Theology of Mary’s Queenship (Steubenville, Emmaus Road Publishing, 2005) 58-66, 146-154.

(29) Cf. Tiburtius Gallus, S.J., Interpretatio Mariologica Protoevangelii, Vol. I: Tempore post-patristico ad Concilium Tridentinum (Romae: Libreria Orbis Catholicus, 1949); Vol. II: Ætas Aurea Exegesis Catholicæ a Concilio Tridentino usque ad Annum 1660 (Roma: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 1953); Vol. III: Ab Anno 1661 usque ad Definitionem Dogmaticam Immaculatae Conceptionis (1854) (Roma: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 1954).

(30) Inseg XIX/1 (1996) 116-117 (ORE 1426:11; MCat 62-63).

(31) Inseg XVIII/2 (1995) 934-936 (ORE 1414:11; MCat 25-27).

(32) To date there are four volumes edited by Mark Miravalle: Mary Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate, Theological Foundations: Towards a Papal Definition? (Santa Barbara, CA: Queenship Publishing Company, 1995) (= CMA I), Mary Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate, Theological Foundations II: Papal, Pneumatological, Ecumenical (Santa Barbara, CA: Queenship Publishing Company, 1997) (= CMA II), Contemporary Insights on a Fifth Marian Dogma; Mary Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate: Theological Foundations III (Santa Barbara, CA: Queenship Publishing Company, 2000) (= CMA III), Mary Co-redemptrix: Doctrinal Issues Today (Goleta, CA: Queenship Publishing Company, 2002) (= CMA IV). To date there are also six volumes of Mary at the Foot of the Cross published by the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate (New Bedford, MA: Academy of the Immaculate, 2001-2006) and there are seven volumes of Studi e Ricerche published by the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate in their Bibliotheca Corredemptionis B. V. Mariae (Frigento: Casa Mariana Editrice, 1998-2005). There is a further volume entitled Maria “Unica Cooperatrice alla Redenzione.” Atti del Simposio sul Mistero della Corredenzione Mariana, Fatima, Portogallo 3-7 Maggio 2005 (New Bedford, MA: Academy of the Immaculate, 2005). All of these volumes contain numerous detailed historical studies of our argument.

(33) Mother Maria Francesca Perillo, F.I., and Sister Maria Rosa Pia Somerton, F.I., “The Marian Coredemption Through Two Millennia,” in MFC II:79-111.

(34) Mark Miravalle, “With Jesus”: The Story of Mary Co-Redemptrix (Goleta, CA: Queenship Publishing, 2003) (= With Jesus), chapters five through ten, 63-148.

(35) Bertrand de Margerie, S.J., “Mary Co-redemptrix in the Light of Patristics” trans. Salwa Hamati in CMA I:3-44).

(36) CMA I:7.

(37) Cf. With Jesus 63-75.

(38) Mother Abbess Elizabeth Marie Keeler, O.S.B., “The Mystery of Our Lady’s Cooperation in our Redemption as Seen in the Fathers of Benedictine Monasticism from the VI to the XII Century” in MFC III:259-294.

(39) MFC III:281. Cf. With Jesus 87-88.

(40) St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermo 3 de Purificatione Beatae Mariae; PL 183, 370.

(41) St. Bernard; PL 183, 438 A.

(42) St. Bernard, Homil. 4 sup. Missus est; PL 183, 83 C.

(43) St. Bernard, Sermon des 12 étoiles; PL 183, 430 C.

(44) Ibid.; PL 183, 430 D; Homil. 4 sup. Missus est; cf. Laurentin, Le Titre de Corédemptrice, Etude Historique, Paris, Nouvelles Editions Latines, 1951, p. 14 ff.

(45) St. Bernard, Homilia 2 super Missus est; PL 183, 62.

(46) Arnold of Chartres, De Laudibus B. Mariae Virginis; PL 189, 1726-1727.

(47) Arnold of Chartres; PL 189, 1693 B.

(48) Ibid.

(49) Cf. Laurentin, Le Titre de Corédemptrice, p. 15, note 51; “quod in carne Christi agebant clavi et lancea, hoc in ejus mente compassio naturalis“; PL 189, 1731 B.

(50) Ibid., p. 15, note 52; “concrucifigebatur affectu“; PL 189, 1693 B.

(51) Ibid., p. 15, note 53; “parentis affectu commoritur”; PL 189, 1693 B.

(52) Ibid., p. 15, note 54; “co-operabatur … plurimum”; Tractatus de septem verbis Domini in cruce, tr. 3; PL 189, 1695 A.

(53) Arnold of Chartres, Tractatus de septem verbis Domini in cruce; tr. 3; PL 189, 1694.

(54) MFC III:290. On Arnold, cf. Luigi Gambero, Mary in the Middle Ages: The Blessed Virgin Mary in the Thought of Medieval Latin Theologians trans. Thomas Buffer (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2005) (= Gambero II) 148-154, esp. 150.

(55) MFC III:291.

(56) Cf. Mother Maria Francesca Perillo, F.I., and Sr. Maria Rosa Pia Somerton, F.I., “The Marian Coredemption Through Two Millennia” MFC II:90-94.

(57) Cf. With Jesus 93-100.

(58) Gambero II:211. On the foundation of the Franciscan doctrine of Marian coredemption in Sts. Francis and Bonaventure and Bl. John Duns Scotus, cf. Peter Damian Fehlner, F.I., “The Sense of Marian Coredemption in St. Bonaventure and Bl. John Duns Scotus” in Mary at the Foot of the Cross – Acts of the International Symposium on Marian Coredemption (New Bedford: Academy of the Immaculate, 2001) (=MFC I) 103-118.

(59) Cf. St. Bridget, Revelationes, ed. Rome, ap. S. Paulinum, 1606.

(60) St. Bridget, Revelationes, L. I, c. 35.

(61) St. Bridget, Revelationes, IX, c. 3.

(62) John Tauler, Sermo pro festo Purificat. B. M. Virginis; Oeuvres complètes, ed. E. P. Noël, Paris, vol. 5, 1911, p. 61.

(63) Ibid., vol. 6, pp. 253-255.

(64) Ibid., p. 256.

(65) Ibid., p. 259.

(66) St. Catherine of Siena, Oratio XI, delivered in Rome on the day of the Annunciation, 1379, in Opere, ed. Gigli, t. IV, p. 352.

(67) Alphonsus Salmerón, Commentarii in Evangel., Tr. 5, Opera, Cologne, ed., Hiérat, 1604, t. III, pp. 37b- 38a.

(68) Salmerón, Commentarii, vol. 10, tr. 41, p. 359b.

(69) Ibid., vol. 11, tr. 38, p. 312a.

(70) Ibid., vol. 3, tr. 43, 495a; cf. X, 51, 425 a; cf. Laurentin, Le Titre de Corédemptrice, pp. 15-16.

(71) Ibid., vol. 3, 51, 426a, 424a, 429 b; vol. 11, 38, 311b; vol. 10, 51, 426a; cf. Laurentin, Le Titre de Corédemptrice, pp. 15-16.

(72) Ibid., vol. 3, 43, 495a.

(73) Ibid., vol. 3, 43, 399 b; vol. 11, 2, 188a.

(74) Ibid., vol. 10, 51, 426b.

(75) Ibid., vol. 6, 6, 39a.

(76) Ibid., 36b.

(77) Mother Maria Francesca Perillo, F.I., “Marian Coredemption in St. Veronica Giuliani,” in MFC I:246. Cf. the entire article MFC I:237-265 and also Mother Maria Francesca’s doctoral thesis, Maria nella Mistica: La mediazione mariana in santa Veronica Giuliani (Pregassono: Europress; Piano della Croce: Casa Mariana Editrice, Collana di Mariologia curata da Manfred Hauke, #5, 2004).

(78) Mother Maria Francesca Perillo, F.I., and Sr. Maria Rosa Pia Somerton, F.I., “The Marian Coredemption Through Two Millennia” MFC II:94-95; With Jesus 113-129.

(79) Mother Maria Francesca Perillo, F.I., and Sr. Maria Rosa Pia Somerton, F.I., “The Marian Coredemption Through Two Millennia” MFC II:98. The original Italian text is found in Juniper B. Carol, O.F.M., De Corredemptione Beatae Virginis Mariae: Disquisitio Positiva (Vatican City: Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis, 1950) 373.

(80) Cf. Theotokos 66-67; With Jesus 121-123.

(81) Cf. Arthur Burton Calkins, “Mary the Coredemptrix in the Writings of Frederick William Faber (1814-1863)” in MFC I:317-343.

(82) Cf. Angelo M. Tentori, O.S.M., “Mary Co-redemptress in the Writings of Cardinal Alexis Henry Mary Lépicier, O.S.M.” in MFC II:361-379.

(83) Tondini 204-206 (OL 151).

(84) AAS 1 (1908) 409; my trans. (emphasis my own); cf. Laurentin 23; Prob 21.

(85) AAS 5 (1913) 364; my trans. (emphasis my own); cf. Laurentin 24; Prob 21.

(86) AAS 6 (1914) 108; Joseph P. Christopher, Charles E. Spence and John F. Rowan (eds.), The Raccolta (Boston: Benziger Brothers, Inc., 1957) #329, pp. 228-229 (it should be noted that the English translation is rendered in the first person plural whereas the Italian is in the first person singular; emphasis my own); cf. Laurentin 24-25; Prob 21.

(87) Brunero Gherardini, La Madre: Maria in una sintesi storico-teologica (Frigento (AV): Casa Mariana Editrice, 1989) 271 (my trans.).

(88) AAS 10 (1918) 181-182 (OL 267).

(89) Tondini 32 (OL 34).

(90) Il Redentore non poteva, per necessità di cose, non associare la Madre Sua alla Sua opera, e per questo noi la invochiamo col titolo di Corredentrice. Essa ci ha dato il Salvatore, l’ha allevato all’opera di redenzione fino sotto la croce, dividendo con Lui i dolori dell’agonia e della morte, in cui Gesù consumava la redenzione di tutti gli uomini. Domenico Bertetto, S.D.B., ed., Discorsi di Pio XI 2:1013; OL 326 (emphasis my own); cf. Laurentin 26; Carol, “Our Lady’s Coredemption,” Mariology 2:384.

(91) Il Papa diceva che essi venivano a celebrare presso il Vicaro di Cristo non solo il XIX centenario della Divina Redenzione, ma anche il XIX centenario di Maria, il centenario della Sua Corredenzione, della Sua universale Maternità. OR 25 marzo 1934, p. 1 (my trans.; emphasis my own).

(92) Quei giovani dovevano seguire il pensiero ed il desiderio di Maria Santissima, che è nostra Madre e Corredentrice nostra: dovevano sforzarsi ad essere, anch’essi, corredentori ed apostoli, secondo lo spirito dell’Azione Cattolica, ch’è appunto la cooperazione del laicato all’apostolato gerarchico della Chiesa. OR 25 marzo 1934, p. 1 (my trans.; emphasis my own); cf. Prob 21; Laurentin 26-27. Laurentin comments that coredeemer here is simply a synonym for apostle in the larger sense of the word!

(93) O Mater pietatis et misericordiæ, quæ dulcissimo Filio tuo humani generis Redemptionem in ara crucis consummanti compatiens et Coredemptrix adstitisti … conserva nobis, quæsumus, atque adauge in dies pretiosos Redemptionis et tuæ compassionis fructus. OR 29-30 aprile 1935, p. 1; OL 334 (emphasis my own); cf. Laurentin 27; Carol, “Our Lady’s Coredemption,” Mariology 2:384.

(94) AAS 35 (1943) 247-248 (OL 383).

(95) AAS 48 (1956) 352 (OL 778).

(96) D-H 3926.

(97) On this topic I have only been able to highlight some of the most important texts from among the numerous passages which could have been cited. For further references, cf. MMC 64-79.

Mary Co-redemptrix: The Beloved Associate of Christ, Part II

The Situation on the Eve of the Second Vatican Council

First, it must be remembered that the Second Vatican Council was convoked just at a time when Marian doctrine and piety had reached an apex (98), which had been building on a popular level since the apparition of Our Lady to St. Catherine Labouré in 1830 (99) and on the magisterial level since the time of the dogmatic definition of the Immaculate Conception on December 8, 1854 (100). This Marian orientation had accelerated notably during the 19-year reign of the Servant of God Pope Pius XII (1939-1958) with the consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on October 31, 1942 (101), the dogmatic definition of the Assumption of Our Lady on November 1, 1950 (102), the establishment of the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1944 (103) and of the Queenship of Mary in the Marian Year of 1954 (104).

Secondly, and as a consequence of this comprehensive “Marian movement,” much study, discussion and debate had been devoted to Mary’s role in salvation history, specifically to the topics of coredemption and mediation. These scholarly deliberations were largely occasioned by the initiatives undertaken by Cardinal Désiré Joseph Mercier (1851-1926) in favor of the proclamation of Our Lady as Mediatrix of all graces (105), and continued until the International Mariological Congress held at Lourdes in 1958. These disputes are carefully chronicled and analyzed in Juniper Carol’s masterful study on “Our Lady’s Coredemption” which appears in the three-volume Mariology (106). Major adversaries were Professors Werner Goosens and Heinrich Lennerz, S.J. Goosens argued against the incompatibility of secondary mediators and redeemers with Christ as the “One Mediator” according to 1 Timothy 2:5-6 (107), a matter which had already been addressed and clarified by St. Thomas Aquinas (108) and Pope Leo XIII in his Encyclical Letter Fidentem Piumque of September 20, 1896 (109).

Lennerz, on the other hand, presented what Carol considered to be “the gravest speculative difficulty” to the doctrine of Marian coredemption. If Mary was herself redeemed by the Precious Blood of Christ, how could she at one and the same time cooperate in the redemption of others (110)? Carol had already carefully summarized a response on the basis of the competent scholarship at the time that he wrote (111), which is in full harmony with what I now present in ways that may be less technical for the modern reader. Let us begin with these observations by the biblical and patristic scholar, Father Lino Cignelli, O.F.M.:

Insofar as redeemed by God through the merits of Christ, Mary is revealed as the receptive, graced, object of redemption, both with respect to the One and Triune God, the principal Savior, and with respect to the man Christ, ministerial Savior. Insofar as Co-redemptrix, she is instead the complement of the man Christ and his “helper” in the work of universal salvation. She represents the feminine component of the dimension or the human causality of the objective redemption, and is thus the associate of the historical Christ or the Second Adam and Savior.

Mary, therefore, is soteriologically active only in relation to other men, not already in relation to herself. In the work of redemption it is necessary to distinguish two logical moments: Christ alone redeems Mary and, together with her, redeems the rest of humanity (112).

Thus Father Cignelli presents the mystery of the Immaculate Conception and the coredemption in terms of the classical teaching of Irenaeus and the Fathers: in order to function as the New Eve, Mary had to be redeemed in advance; only then could she collaborate in the redemption of others. While she could not be actively involved in her own initial grace of redemption, which is always a pure gift, she could be in the case of others.

Now let us consider these further clarifications about the “two logical moments of the redemption” offered to us by the late Father Gabriele M. Roschini, O.S.M. (+1977) (113), founder and first President of the Theological Faculty “Marianum” and a master in the field of Mariology:

The objective redemption of Christ therefore is constituted by two elements: 1) by the Passion and death of Christ and 2) by the intention with which Christ offered his life to the Father. The first of these two elements is common to both Mary and to all the other redeemed; the second, on the contrary (which is the principal element in the objective redemption), is different. The first intention of Christ was that of redeeming Mary with preservative redemption; the second intention of Christ, instead, was to redeem, along with Mary (the New Adam with the New Eve) all the others with liberative redemption.

This double intention is implicit in the double mode of redemption: preservative for the Virgin and liberative for all the rest. Otherwise (or without this double intention) these two undeniable modes of redemption would be inexplicable. The end then for which the Redeemer intended first to redeem the Virgin (with preservative redemption) is precisely so that the Virgin would be in a position to be able to cooperate with him in the (liberative) redemption of all the others. In short: Immaculate because Co-redemptrix (114).

Father Roschini’s clarifications are of the greatest importance to what we are considering. What Father Cignelli presented in terms of the logical, but not chronological, difference between the “two moments of redemption” Father Roschini further differentiates in terms of “preservative” and “liberative” redemption. Mary’s redemption was “preservative,” i.e., she was preserved from original sin and its effects from the first moment of her existence (115).

In his Marian catechesis of January 24, 1996, Pope John Paul II verified these insights and effectively responds to the arguments put forth by Heinrich Lennerz:

In the light of the New Testament and the Church’s tradition, we know that the new woman announced by the Protoevangelium is Mary, and in “her seed” we recognize her son Jesus who triumphed over Satan’s power in the Paschal Mystery.

We also observe that in Mary the enmity God put between the serpent and the woman is fulfilled in two ways. God’s perfect ally and the Devil’s enemy, she was completely removed from Satan’s domination in the Immaculate Conception, when she was fashioned in grace by the Holy Spirit and preserved from every stain of sin. In addition, associated with her Son’s saving work, Mary was fully involved in the fight against the spirit of evil.

Thus the titles “Immaculate Conception” and “Cooperator of the Redeemer” show the lasting antagonism between the serpent and the New Eve. The Church’s faith attributes these titles to Mary in order to proclaim her spiritual beauty and her intimate participation in the wonderful work of redemption (116).

In other words the enmity between the woman and the serpent point both to the mystery of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, a totally gratuitous gift from God, and to the mystery of Mary’s active collaboration in the work of the redemption. The gratuitous gift was necessary in order for Mary to play the role which God intended for her in our redemption. Here is the way the Pope draws this truth out for our benefit in his catechesis of May 29, 1996:

The same biblical text (Gen 3:15) also proclaims the enmity between the woman and her offspring on the one hand and the serpent and his offspring on the other. This is a hostility expressly established by God, which has a unique importance, if we consider the problem of the Virgin’s personal holiness. In order to be the irreconcilable enemy of the serpent and his offspring Mary had to be free from all power of sin, and to be so from the first moment of her existence.

In this regard, the Encyclical Fulgens Corona, published by Pope Pius XII in 1953 to commemorate the centenary of the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, reasons thus: “If at a given moment the Blessed Virgin Mary had been left without divine grace, because she was defiled at her conception by the hereditary stain of sin, between her and the serpent there would no longer have been—at least during this period of time, however brief—that eternal enmity spoken of in the earliest tradition up to the definition of the Immaculate Conception, but rather a certain enslavement” (AAS 45 (1953) 579) (117).

Hence it is clear according to the Papal Magisterium, that Mary was conceived without original sin and filled with grace precisely so that she could fulfill her role as Mother of God and Co-redemptrix. The enmity between the woman and the serpent, according to God’s plan, must have begun at the first moment of her existence so that she would have no “Achilles’ heel” whereby she could be attacked and so that she could be “God’s perfect ally” in the supreme battle fought on Calvary. In fact, the use of Genesis 3:15 in the modern Papal Magisterium almost always comprises these two points of reference: Mary’s Immaculate Conception and her role as Co-redemptrix. This is readily verifiable in Ineffabilis Deus (118), as it is in the entire tradition (119). Hence the response to Father Lennerz’ objection is even more clearly affirmed in the Magisterium now than it was when he raised it.

Hence while there had been vigorous disputation regarding Mary’s active collaboration in the work of our redemption during the reign of Pope Pius XII, by the time of the International Mariological Congress in Lourdes in 1958 at the end of his reign, there was a fairly unanimous consensus regarding Our Lady’s true cooperation in acquiring the universal grace of redemption (120).

Not surprisingly, then, a good number of bishops entered the Council with the desire to see a comprehensive treatment of these questions. Father Michael O’Carroll, C.S.Sp., notes that of the 54 bishops at the Council who wanted a conciliar pronouncement on Mary as Co-redemptrix, 36 sought a definition and 11 a dogma of faith on this matter (121). On the related question of Mary’s mediation, he tells us that 362 bishops desired a conciliar statement on Mary’s mediation while 266 of them asked for a dogmatic definition (122). Father Besutti, on the other hand, holds that over 500 bishops were asking for such a definition (123). A fundamental reason why no such definition emanated from the Council was the expressed will of Bl. Pope John XXIII that the Council was to be primarily pastoral in its orientation, specifically excluding any new dogmatic definitions (124).

Finally, at the very same time another current was entering into the mainstream of Catholic life, that of a newly emphasized ecumenical sensitivity. While Father Besutti confirms that the word “Co-redemptrix” did appear in the original schema of the Marian document prepared in advance for the Council (125), the Prænotanda to the first conciliar draft document or schema on Our Lady contained these words:

Certain expressions and words used by supreme pontiffs have been omitted, which, in themselves are absolutely true, but which may only be understood with difficulty by separated brethren (in this case Protestants). Among such words may be numbered the following: “Co-redemptrix of the human race” (Pius X, Pius XI) (126).

This original prohibition was rigorously respected and hence the term “Co-redemptrix” was not used in any of the official documents promulgated by the Council and, undeniably, ecumenical sensitivity was a prime factor in its avoidance (127), along with a hesitancy for the general language of mediation on the part of certain theologians (128). We remain free to debate about the wisdom and effectiveness of such a strategy (129).

The Second Vatican Council

The above discussion already gives some idea about the various currents that came to the fore at the time of the Second Vatican Council (which have been dealt with as well in other places) (130). Here I will limit our examination to the positive presentation on Our Lady’s active participation in the work of the redemption which emerged in the Council’s great Marian synthesis, chapter 8 of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium. Lumen Gentium 56 speaks forthrightly of Mary’s collaboration in the work of redemption:

Committing herself whole-heartedly to God’s saving will and impeded by no sin, she devoted herself totally, as a handmaid of the Lord, to the person and work of her Son, under and with him, serving the mystery of redemption, by the grace of Almighty God (131).

In the same paragraph there is further specification about the active nature of Mary’s service, which I have already cited in the discussion of Mary as the “New Eve.” Quite clearly, then, the Council Fathers speak of an active collaboration of Mary in the work of the redemption and they illustrate this with the Eve-Mary antithesis as found in St. Irenaeus.

Further, the Council Fathers did not content themselves with a general statement on Mary’s collaboration in the work of the redemption, but went on to underscore the personal nature of the “union of the Mother with the Son in the work of salvation” (Matris cum Filio in opere salutari coniunctio) throughout Jesus’ hidden life (57) and public life (58). Finally, in 58 they stress how she

faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the Cross, where she stood, in keeping with the divine plan, enduring with her only-begotten Son the intensity of his suffering, associated herself with his sacrifice in her mother’s heart, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this Victim which was born of her (132).

Not only, then, does the Council teach that Mary was generally associated with Jesus in the work of redemption throughout his life, but that she associated herself with his sacrifice and consented to it. Furthermore, the Council Fathers state in 61 that Mary

shared her Son’s sufferings as he died on the Cross. Thus, in a wholly singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope and burning charity in the work of the Savior in restoring supernatural life to souls (133).

Not only did Mary consent to the sacrifice, but she also united herself to it. In these final two statements we find a synthesis of the previous papal teaching on the Our Lady’s active collaboration in the work of the redemption, as well as a stable point of reference for the teaching of the post-conciliar popes.

While it may well be argued, as Pope John Paul II has done, that “the Council’s entire discussion of Mary remains vigorous and balanced, and the topics themselves, though not fully defined, received significant attention in the overall treatment” (134), it is also true that the battles on Our Lady’s mediatorial role which took place on the council floor and behind the scenes continue to have their effects (135).

The Contribution of John Paul II

I believe that the Marian magisterium of the late Pope John Paul II may well constitute his greatest single legacy to the Catholic Church. While certain prominent modern Mariologists have settled for presenting us with an interpretation of the Second Vatican Council’s Marian teaching in an almost exclusively ecclesiotypical key, Pope John Paul II managed to keep a remarkable balance in his presentation of Marian doctrine, emphasizing both the Christotypical and ecclesiotypical dimensions and clearly illustrating the continuity in the Church’s teaching on Our Lady. He quoted extensively from chapter 8 of Lumen Gentium both in his Marian Encyclical Redemptoris Mater as well as in the extensive corpus of his Marian teaching, opening the conciliar texts up to their maximum potentiality. In terms of the number and depth of his Marian discourses, homilies, Angelus addresses and references in major documents, there is no doubt that his output exceeds that of all of his predecessors combined. His Marian magisterium alone would fill several large volumes and in assessing it, one should not forget the clear indications given in Lumen Gentium 25 for recognizing the authentic Ordinary Magisterium of the Roman pontiff:

This loyal submission of the will and intellect must be given, in a special way, to the authentic teaching authority of the Roman pontiff, even when he does not speak ex cathedra in such wise, indeed, that his supreme teaching authority be acknowledged with respect, and sincere assent be given to decisions made by him, conformably with his manifest mind and intention, which is made known principally either by the character of the documents in question, or by the frequency with which a certain doctrine is proposed, or by the manner in which the doctrine is formulated.

What is true in general about his Marian magisterium is true in particular about his teaching on Our Lady’s active cooperation in the work of the redemption, or coredemption. His teaching in this area has been extraordinary (136).

Perhaps occupying pride of place among these is his treatment of Our Lady’s suffering in his Apostolic Letter Salvifici Doloris. In that letter he had already stated in 24 that “The sufferings of Christ created the good of the world’s redemption. This good in itself is inexhaustible and infinite. No man can add anything to it” (137). That is a premise from which no Christian can depart, but the mystery is even deeper, as he tells us in 25 of that same letter:

It is especially consoling to note—and also accurate in accordance with the Gospel and history—that at the side of Christ, in the first and most exalted place, there is always his Mother through the exemplary testimony that she bears by her whole life to this particular Gospel of suffering. In her, the many and intense sufferings were amassed in such an interconnected way that they were not only a proof of her unshakable faith but also a contribution to the redemption of all. In reality, from the time of her secret conversation with the angel, she began to see in her mission as a mother her “destiny” to share, in a singular and unrepeatable way, in the very mission of her Son. …

It was on Calvary that Mary’s suffering, beside the suffering of Jesus, reached an intensity which can hardly be imagined from a human point of view but which was mysteriously and supernaturally fruitful for the redemption of the world. Her ascent of Calvary and her standing at the foot of the Cross together with the beloved disciple were a special sort of sharing in the redeeming death of her Son. And the words which she heard from his lips were a kind of solemn handing-over of this Gospel of suffering so that it could be proclaimed to the whole community of believers.

As a witness to her Son’s Passion by her presence, and as a sharer in it by her compassion, Mary offered a unique contribution to the Gospel of suffering, by embodying in anticipation the expression of St. Paul which was quoted at the beginning. She truly has a special title to be able to claim that she “completes in her flesh”—as already in her heart—”what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.”

In the light of the unmatched example of Christ, reflected with singular clarity in the life of his Mother, the Gospel of suffering, through the experience and words of the apostles, becomes an inexhaustible source for the ever new generations that succeed one another in the history of the Church (138).

These two citations from Salvifici Doloris help us to hold in tension the dynamic truths which underlie Marian coredemption. On the one hand, “The sufferings of Christ created the good of the world’s redemption. This good in itself is inexhaustible and infinite. No man can add anything to it.” On the other hand, “Mary’s suffering (on Calvary), beside the suffering of Jesus, reached an intensity which can hardly be imagined from a human point of view but which was mysteriously and supernaturally fruitful for the redemption of the world.” Thus the Pope strikes that careful balance which is always a hallmark of Catholic truth: he upholds the principle that the sufferings of Christ were all-sufficient for the salvation of the world, while maintaining that Mary’s suffering “was mysteriously and supernaturally fruitful for the redemption of the world.” Is this a contradiction? No. It is a mystery. The sacrifice of Jesus is all-sufficient, but God wished the suffering of the “New Eve,” the only perfect human creature, to be united to the suffering of the “New Adam.” Does that mean that Mary could redeem us by herself? By no means. But it does mean that she could make her own unique contribution to the sacrifice of Jesus as the “New Eve,” the “Mother of the living.”

Let us see how skillfully the Holy Father states this in his truly extraordinary Angelus address on Corpus Christi, June 5, 1983:

“Ave, verum Corpus natum de Maria Virgine!”

Hail, true Body born of the Virgin Mary! …

That divine Body and Blood, which after the consecration is present on the altar, is offered to the Father, and becomes Communion of love for everyone, by consolidating us in the unity of the Spirit in order to found the Church, preserves its maternal origin from Mary. She prepared that Body and Blood before offering them to the Word as a gift from the whole human family that he might be clothed in them in becoming our Redeemer, High Priest and Victim.

At the root of the Eucharist, therefore, there is the virginal and maternal life of Mary, her overflowing experience of God, her journey of faith and love, which through the work of the Holy Spirit made her flesh a temple and her heart an altar: because she conceived not according to nature, but through faith, with a free and conscious act: an act of obedience. And if the Body that we eat and the Blood that we drink is the inestimable gift of the Risen Lord, to us travelers, it still has in itself, as fragrant Bread, the taste and aroma of the Virgin Mother.

“Vere passum, immolatum in Cruce pro homine.” That Body truly suffered and was immolated on the Cross for man.

Born of the Virgin to be a pure, holy and immaculate oblation, Christ offered on the Cross the one perfect sacrifice which every Mass, in an unbloody manner, renews and makes present. In that one sacrifice, Mary, the first redeemed, the Mother of the Church, had an active part. She stood near the Crucified, suffering deeply with her firstborn; with a motherly heart she associated herself with his sacrifice; with love she consented to his immolation (cf. Lumen Gentium, 58; Marialis Cultus, 20): she offered him and she offered herself to the Father. Every Eucharist is a memorial of that sacrifice and that Passover that restored life to the world; every Mass puts us in intimate communion with her, the Mother, whose sacrifice “becomes present” just as the sacrifice of her Son “becomes present” at the words of consecration of the bread and wine pronounced by the priest (cf. Discourse at the Celebration of the Word, June 2, 1983, n. 2 (ORE 788:1)) (139).

The Eucharist, according to the Holy Father, bears “the taste and aroma of the Virgin Mother” not only because Jesus was born of Mary, but also because in the Mass her sacrifice, her offering of Jesus and herself to the Father, becomes present along with his.

This final text is from a homily given at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Dawn in Guayaquil, Ecuador, on January 31, 1985:

Mary goes before us and accompanies us. The silent journey that begins with her Immaculate Conception and passes through the “yes” of Nazareth, which makes her the Mother of God, finds on Calvary a particularly important moment. There also, accepting and assisting at the sacrifice of her Son, Mary is the dawn of redemption; and there her Son entrusts her to us as our Mother: “The Mother looked with eyes of pity on the wounds of her Son, from whom she knew the redemption of the world had to come” (St. Ambrose, De Institutione Virginis, 49). Crucified spiritually with her crucified Son (cf. Gal 2:20), she contemplated with heroic love the death of her God, she “lovingly consented to the immolation of this Victim which she herself had brought forth” (Lumen Gentium, 58). She fulfills the will of the Father on our behalf and accepts all of us as her children, in virtue of the testament of Christ: “Woman, there is your son” (Jn 19:26). …

At Calvary she united herself with the sacrifice of her Son that led to the foundation of the Church; her maternal heart shared to the very depths the will of Christ “to gather into one all the dispersed children of God” (Jn 11:52). Having suffered for the Church, Mary deserved to become the Mother of all the disciples of her Son, the Mother of their unity. …

The gospels do not tell us of an appearance of the risen Christ to Mary. Nevertheless, as she was in a special way close to the Cross of her Son, she also had to have a privileged experience of his Resurrection. In fact, Mary’s role as Co-redemptrix did not cease with the glorification of her Son (140).

The late Holy Father used the adjectival form of Co-redemptrix in Spanish (corredentor), just as he used the Italian term Corredentrice in speaking of Mary on six other occasions (141). In effect, he used the word more than twice as much as his last predecessor to do so, Pius XI (142).

Where does all of the above discussion leave us? According to Monsignor Brunero Gherardini,

The conditions by which a doctrine is and must be considered Church doctrine are totally and amply verifiable in Marian Coredemption: its foundation is indirect and implicit, yet solid, in the Scriptures; extensive in the Fathers and theologians; unequivocal in the Magisterium. It follows, therefore, that the Coredemption belongs to the Church’s doctrinal patrimony.

The nature of this present relation, in virtue of a theological conclusion drawn from premises in the Old and New Testaments, is expressed by the note proxima fidei (143).

We can safely say that the teaching on Mary’s collaboration in the work of redemption is part of the Ordinary Magisterium, and our late Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, especially by the frequency with which he returned to this theme, brought it to a new peak of explicitness and prominence in the Church (144).


It has been noted that there are already four dogmas about Mary. They are that she is (a) the Mother of God (Theotókos) (145); (b) ever-Virgin (146); that she was (c) immaculately conceived (147) and (d) assumed body and soul into heaven (148). All of these truths of the faith pertain to the person of Mary, but thus far the Church has not yet proposed to the faithful in the most solemn manner the truth about Mary’s role in their lives. In his brilliant essay, “Mariæ Advocatæ Causæ: The Marian Issue in the Church Today,” Father Peter Damian Fehlner, F.I., has argued cogently that the theological question about Mary Co-redemptrix is the theological issue of our era and that until it is clarified the fruits hoped for from the Second Vatican Council will not be brought forth:

Nonetheless, there is a hesitation on what I maintain has been for nearly a century the theological issue of our time: the doctrine of coredemption, in view of which on the eve of Vatican II theologians were divided into maximalists (those in favor, a majority) and minimalists (those who insisted that the doctrine was inopportune). Vatican II left the question open, like Trent with the Immaculate Conception, teaching the mystery of coredemption, but not dotting the “i’s” and crossing the “t’s.” Is this why the crisis continues, and why the hoped-for fruits of the Council have not been realized, above all the resolution of the ecumenical question (division among the baptized) and the problem of a genuine, and radical renewal of theology (confusion, even in the Roman schools)? (149)

One really needs to follow his entire exposition in order to grasp the full force of his argumentation, but I remain convinced that his evaluation is absolutely correct. What, then, is to be done?

In his essay “Verso un Altro dogma Mariano?”, which was actually a kind of book review of the first book of essays edited by Dr. Mark Miravalle, Father Angelo Amato, S.D.B., indicated that to arrive at a dogmatic definition, one needs three elements: 1.) a widespread movement of favorable opinion on the part of the faithful, 2.) impetus on the part of the Papal Magisterium and 3.) the contribution of theologians (151). We can say that the conviction of the faithful continues to grow because the teaching about Marian coredemption is deeply implanted in the sensus fidelium. It will grow much stronger to the extent that it is preached, celebrated and taught. If this is not the case at present, it is because for almost two generations it has not been taught in seminaries. The doctrine is clearly taught by the Magisterium; about that there is no doubt and even Father Amato had to admit it. The biggest single problem is the theologians, but this, too, can and must change. More and more convincing studies are being published. The theological establishment cannot ignore solid theological research and block indefinitely. I believe that the more bishops, priests and deacons preach and teach the doctrine, the more the faithful will be fired up. The Holy Spirit will not tolerate indefinite obstacles.

The more that the Church consciously and deliberately recognizes Mary’s role in our salvation, proclaims it and celebrates it, the more Satan will be vanquished and the more Jesus will reign. The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council already gave voice to this intuition when they stated in Lumen Gentium 65 that

Having entered deeply into the history of salvation, Mary, in a way unites in her person and re-echoes the most important doctrines of the faith: and when she is the subject of preaching and worship she prompts the faithful to come to her Son, and to his sacrifice and to the love of the Father. Seeking after the glory of Christ, the Church becomes more like her lofty type, and continually progresses in faith, hope and charity, seeking and doing the will of God in all things.

* * *

Special Note

Status Quaestionis: And yet, it appears as if most of those who hold prominent positions in academic Mariology and other high places have taken little note of the clear papal teaching and all of the positive scholarship that has been produced in this regard during the past 15 years. The most positive statement to come from one of their representatives thus far was an admission in a footnote by the late Father Ignazio M. Calabuig, O.S.M., on behalf of his colleagues, that my study of the use of the term Co-redemptrix published in Maria Corredentrice: Storia e Teologia I was done with praiseworthy precision and clearly indicates that the title Co-redemptrix is not proscribed and is susceptible of a correct reading, even though they seem to maintain that the word only occurs in documents of a non-magisterial character (Ignazio Calabuig, O.S.M., e il Comitato di redazione della rivista Marianum, “Riflessione sulla richiesta della definizione dogmatica di «Maria corredentrice, mediatrice, avvocata»,” Marianum LXI, nn. 155-156 (1999) 157, n. 50).

In addition, an ad hoc committee was convened at the Mariological Congress held in Częstochowa, Poland, in August 1996, to deal with petitions which the Holy See had been receiving for a dogmatic definition of Mary’s role in the work of our redemption as Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate. Unfortunately, none of those who had done any studies in support of such a definition were consulted, and of the 23 theologians who rendered the negative decision against considering a definition, one was Anglican, one was Lutheran and three were Orthodox. The reasoning proffered was the following: “The titles, as proposed, are ambiguous, as they can be understood in very different ways. Furthermore, the theological direction taken by the Second Vatican Council, which did not wish to define any of these titles, should not be abandoned” (OR 4 giugno 1997, p. 10 (ORE 1494:12)).

What is difficult to understand about this statement is that the prologue to the Marian chapter of Lumen Gentium 54 explicitly states that

This sacred synod … does not, however, intend to give a complete doctrine on Mary, nor does it wish to decide those questions which the work of theologians has not yet fully clarified. Those opinions therefore may be lawfully retained which are propounded in Catholic schools concerning her, who occupies a place in the Church which is the highest after Christ and also closest to us.

The same edition of L’Osservatore Romano which carried their declaration also carried an unsigned article stating that:

With respect to the title of Co-redemptrix, the Declaration of Częstochowa notes that “from the time of Pope Pus XII, the term Co-redemptrix has not been used by the Papal Magisterium in its significant documents” and there is evidence that he himself intentionally avoided using it. An important qualification, because here and there, in papal writings which are marginal and therefore devoid of doctrinal weight, one can find such a title, be it very rarely (OR 4 giugno 1997, p. 10 (ORE 1497:10)).

It seems that the primary reason why Pius XII did not use the title, even though he clearly taught the doctrine as we have seen, was because of the discussion of theologians which had only reached a definite theological consensus at the Mariological Congress of Lourdes in 1958, a few months before his death (Cf. Calvario 7-8). The fact that Pope John Paul II used the term “Co-redemptrix” five times and “coredemptive” once in speaking about Our Lady is apparently set aside as “marginal and therefore devoid of doctrinal weight,” with no reference to Lumen Gentium 25. I would simply add that the Częstochowa Declaration itself is hardly above criticism for the way it attempts to deal with facts, and may be far more appropriately described as “marginal and therefore devoid of doctrinal weight.” Although it was published in L’Osservatore Romano, a semi-official organ of the Holy See, its various editorials and articles do not form part of the Church’s official Magisterium.

Subsequently, the Pontifical International Marian Academy issued a publication entitled La Madre del Signore on the occasion of the Great Jubilee of 2000 which stated that

In our opinion such study (of Our Lady’s role in the work of redemption) should not be conducted by re-proposing the presuppositions, the terminology and the metaphors used by many theologians before the Second Vatican Council, but rather according to the lines traced by the Constitution Lumen Gentium. Within this ambit John Paul II has amply considered the cooperation of the Virgin in the Trinitarian work of salvation under the categories of “mediation in Christ” and of “maternal mediation,” that is as a particular function of the universal motherhood of Mary in the order of grace; to many theologians this way of presenting the question of the mediation of Mary appears more rich, based on a good biblical foundation (cf. Jn 19:25-27), more in conformity with the sensus fidelium, less subject to controversy (La Madre del Signore. Memoria, Presenza, Speranza. Alcune questioni attuali sulla figura e la missione della b. Vergine Maria (Vatican City: Pontificia Accademia Mariana Internationalis, 2000) hereafter cited as La Madre del Signore 80 (my trans.).

Here it is necessary to comment. 1.) To the uninitiated, at first glance this statement might seem unexceptionable, but, in fact it suggests side-stepping the entire millennial Catholic tradition of understanding and elucidating Our Lady’s unique mediatorial role by saints, mystics and theologians, along with the Papal Magisterium of Bl. Pius IX, Leo XIII, St. Pius X, Benedict XV, Pius XI and Pius XII which has put this matter in ever-sharper relief, (Cf. Theotokos 238-242; Gabriele M. Roschini, O.S.M., Maria Santissima nella Storia della Salvezza, Vol. II (Isola del Liri: Tipografia Editrice M. Pisani, 1969) 198-235; Brunero Gherardini, La Madre: Maria in una sintesi sotrico-teologica (Frigento: Casa Mariana Editrice, 1989) 287-324; Arthur Burton Calkins, “Mary as Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate in the Contemporary Roman Liturgy,” in CMA I:68-82). 2.) This statement infers that the pre-conciliar methodology employed in exploring this topic is “less rich” than the conciliar treatment found in Lumen Gentium, and is based on less-solid biblical foundations. Such a vague statement, of course, implies and effectively promotes the thesis that the teaching of the Second Vatican Council represents a “break” or “rupture” with pre-conciliar teaching. 3.) Without any supporting evidence, the authors of this communication state that their approach is in greater conformity to the sensus fidelium (Cf. Lumen Gentium 12, 34; Dei Verbum 10; Catechism of the Catholic Church 889; Theotokos 322-323). 4.) They also state that their proposed methodology is less subject to controversy, but that is only because by prescribing the methodology to be used, they have effectively eliminated any opposition. 5.) Without stating it in so many words here, the authors appear to be concerned about avoiding controversy on the ecumenical level as they clearly indicate elsewhere (Cf. La Madre del Signore 112-116). Specifically, they state that students of Mariology:

– should abstain from the will to impose on brethren not in communion with the Catholic Church “other obligations beyond those which are indispensable (cf. Acts 15:28),” that is doctrinal questions about the Mother of the Lord which are quæstiones disputatæ among Catholic theologians;

– should proceed to a supervised and correct use of terms and formulae (purification of language); the use of formulae and terms which, on the one hand, are not ancient nor accepted by many Catholic theologians and on the other hand provoke grave discomfort in brothers and sisters who are not in full communion with the Catholic Church is certainly not useful for reciprocal understanding; rather it is wise to use a terminology which expresses doctrine with exactness and efficacy, but which does not provide grounds for false interpretations (La Madre del Signore 115, my trans.).

This kind of language is concerning. In the name of what could appear as less-than straightforward ecumenical correctness camouflaged as “purification of language,” the authors seem to seek to impose silence on Catholics about matters which were not fundamentally “quæstiones disputatæ among Catholic theologians” until after the Council. It could be interpreted that they are concerned about not “provoking grave discomfort in brothers and sisters who are not in full communion with the Catholic Church,” but not among their own Catholic brothers and sisters.

The dossier published in Marianum regarding the request for the dogmatic definition of Mary Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate takes the very same approach as what has just been quoted above, with even more specific indications about terminology which it says the Second Vatican Council wished to avoid. This is perhaps because the same persons were involved in the redaction of these documents. In that dossier, the late Father Ignazio Calabuig, O.S.M., the principal redactor, goes on to state that the Council consciously and deliberately renounced:

– using the title Co-redemptrix and the term coredemptio with reference to the Blessed Virgin; to the latter the Council preferred cooperatio and this because since it has an ecclesial point of reference with a biblical foundation (cf. 1 Cor 3:9), it could effectively designate the collaboration given by Mary, in faith, obedience and love, to the formation both of the body of Christ in the mystery of the incarnate Word and of his mystical body, the Church, which is indissolubly linked to Christ the Head and from whose life she herself lives;

– making use of a terminology of Western scholastic coinage: objective and subjective, mediate and immediate redemption, merit de congruo and de condigno, terms alien to the theological tradition of the East; such terminology could certainly have continued to be used in theological research, but it was unthinkable that an ecumenical council would make its own these terms which of themselves recall the disputes of the schools;

– defining in conceptual terms the association of Mary in the redemptive work of Christ, preferring to have recourse to the category of salvation history: thus describing the acts which, from the Incarnation all the way to the death on the Cross, show the Mother intimately united to the redemptive work of the Son (cf. LG 61);

– using the term mediatio with reference to the Virgin, employing in its place expressions like “maternal function” (munus maternum) and “saving influence” (salutaris influxus) or words like “cooperation” (cooperatio), in passages in which it was legitimate to expect the word “mediation” to be used with regard to the requirements of parallelism (cf. LG 61, 63).

– configuring the “mediatorial action” of Mary in geometric or spatial terms or in symbolic terms like ladder or neck, as if between Christ and the faithful there were a rampart which they could only surmount by means of the mediatorial intervention of the Virgin.

– the use of any expressions like that of “Mediatrix of all graces” which, although recurring in papal documents previous to the Council, were the object of dispute among theologians; and the use of expressions such as “Mediatrix with the Mediator,” “Christ and Mary” in contexts which could produce the impression that the grace of the redemption is attributable, almost at the same level, to Christ and to the Virgin of Nazareth (Ignazio M. Calabuig, O.S.M., “Riflessione sulla richiesta della definizione dogmatica di ‘Maria corredentrice, mediatrice, avvocata’” in Marianum LXI (1999) hereafter cited as Calabuig 154-155, my trans.).

The impression is given that underlying principle in all of this discussion about what is to be avoided is precisely the idea that a general council of the Church can simply renounce the Church’s patrimony and banish the use of any terminology which was not used in the council documents and thus come to be regarded as “ecumenically” incorrect. Indeed, it is the doctrine taught by the Council which is of ultimate importance. The study of the background from which the document emerged is also of value precisely insofar as it indicates how and why matters were treated in a particular way. Thus a study like Ermanno Toniolo’s (Ermanno M. Toniolo, O.S.M., La Beata Maria Vergine nel Concilio Vaticano II: Cronistoria del capitolo VIII della Constituzione Dogmatica “Lumen Gentium” e sinossi di tutte le redazioni (Rome: Centro di Cultura Mariana «Madre della Chiesa», 2004)), which furnishes a great deal of background information on how chapter 8 of Lumen Gentium arrived at its final form is of great value, but the methodology followed in establishing the final form of chapter 8 need not become ipso facto the methodology which must be followed by all who work in the field of Mariology. This will to impose a particular approach and methodology, and to effectively rule out the employment of terminology and systems of thought that have developed in the Church in the course of centuries and even millennia, is a fundamental component of what I refer to as “Vatican II triumphalism” (Cf. TTMM 15-22).

On the one hand it is not difficult to perceive that there has been a consistent development and clarification of doctrine on the active collaboration of the Mother of God in the work of our redemption in the course of two millennia of the Church’s history and that it clearly constitutes a non-negotiable element of the Church’s teaching (Cf. Brunero Gherardini, “The Coredemption of Mary: Doctrine of the Church” in Mary at the Foot of the Cross II (New Bedford, MA: Academy of the Immaculate, 2002) 37-48). On the other, there can be no doubt that in the present situation there is very formidable resistance to a solemn recognition of this truth of faith on the part of many who are considered major and authoritative proponents of post-conciliar Mariology. Often the reasons adduced for such resistance are “ecumenical.” The then Father Angelo Amato, S.D.B., stated that such a solemn proclamation “from the ecumenical perspective would constitute a wound that would be hard to heal,” (Angelo Amato, S.D.B., “Verso Un Altro Dogma Mariano?” in Marianum LVIII (1996) 232. Cf. my response, “‘Towards Another Marian Dogma?’: A Response to Father Angelo Amato” in Marianum LIX (1997) 159-167), but this begs the entire question of what the principles of Catholic ecumenism are (Cf. Brunero Gherardini, Una sola Fede – una sola Chiesa. La Chiesa Cattolica dinanzi all’ecumenismo (Castelpetroso: Casa Marian Editrice, 2000). Can the Catholic teaching on Mary’s active collaboration in the work of our salvation—which is a paradigm for the collaboration of all Christians in the work of salvation—be reconciled with the Lutheran dogma that there can be no human collaboration in the work of salvation? It would seem that that is only possible by contradicting the “principle of non-contradiction,” i.e., that a thing cannot be and not be at the same time in the same way (Cf. Brunero Gherardini, “Unity and Coredemption” in Mary at the Foot of the Cross III (New Bedford, MA: Academy of the Immaculate, 2003) 54-69; Ibid., “Ecumenismo e Corredenzione” in Maria “Unica Cooperatrice alla Redenzione.” Atti del Simposio sul Mistero della Corredenzione Mariana, Fatima, Portogallo 3-7 Maggio 2005 (New Bedford, MA: Academy of the Immaculate, 2005) 463-475). However, some present-day ecumenists, such as those Protestant and Catholic theologians known as “the Dombes Group,” (Cf. Alain Blaincy and Maurice Jourjon and the Dombes Group, Mary in the Plan of God and in the Communion of Saints trans. by Matthew J. O’Connell with Foreword by Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J. (NY: Paulist Press, 2002) (= Dombes) 2-5) believe that they have found a way through the impasse:

Since the term “cooperation” is there and is alive in the mentalities of both sides, we cannot act as if it did not exist. Our effort will therefore be to both purify and “convert” it, to “reconstruct” it, as it were. Some day, perhaps, a different term will emerge from our dialogue, one that is more satisfactory to all concerned, because it will be free of all equivocations. …

Mary was also present at the Cross. She did not cooperate in the unparalleled sacrifice which Christ alone offered. … She responded with all the freedom her faith gave her by accepting the loss of her son Jesus and welcoming the beloved disciple as son.

Mary is an example of the lot of all the saved. Salvation consists in a relationship: there is no salvation if this relationship is not accepted, if it does not meet with a response of thanksgiving. Passivity in the presence of grace, faith’s “letting itself be moved” by grace—there are the source of a new activity; receptivity turns into obedience. Docility to the Holy Spirit becomes an active force. The passivity is never total; in a second moment receptivity itself becomes active. But every response is at one and the same time the work of God’s grace and the work of human freedom stirred into action by grace. The only thing that belongs exclusively to human beings is the rejection of grace.…

But here a distinction is needed: acceptance is not a work. One who accepts a gift plays no part in the initiative that produces the gift. On the other hand, a gift is not fully a gift unless it is received (Dombes 89-91).

There appear to be few Catholic elements remaining in this statement. The Catholic participants had already professed that “The very term ‘coredemption’ is objectively flawed, because it suggests that Mary’s role is of the same order as that of Christ. Vatican II consciously abandoned the term; it has not reappeared since then in official texts and ought to be deliberately dropped” (Dombes 88). While the work of the Dombes Group has been hailed in many Catholic circles, and even Jean Galot sees it as “a great step forward in the direction of the doctrine held by Catholics,” (Galot, Marie, Mère et Coréremptrice 142), I confess to finding this statement lacking from a Catholic perspective.

Another objection to the doctrine of Marian coredemption from the Catholic side comes from Archbishop Angelo Amato, S.D.B., who stated in an interview:

The title of Co-redeemer is neither biblical nor patristic nor theological and has been used rarely by any pontiff and only in minor addresses. Vatican Council II avoided it deliberately. It’s well to remember that in theology the principle of analogy can be used, but not that of equivocality. And in this case, there is no analogy, but only equivocality. In reality Mary is the “redeemed in the most perfect way,” she is the first fruit of the redemption by her Son, the sole Redeemer of mankind. Wanting to go further seems hardly prudent to me (Gianni Cardinale, “A life as a halfback” in 30 Days Year 22 (2004:4) 59).

To Monsignor Gherardini goes the credit for a carefully balanced response (Cf. Brunero Gherardini, “A proposito di un intervista” in Immaculata Mediatrix IV:3 (2004) 437-443). The denial that there could be any analogy between Jesus and Mary is contradicted by the Church’s theological Tradition from the time of St. Irenaeus, and indeed from the doctrinal development stemming from the Protoevangelium which we have outlined above. Analogy does not mean equality, but rather that there is a likeness in difference (Cf. Totus Tuus 162-168). A recent publication by a Dutch student of theology rehearses a wide variety of attacks on the theology of Marian coredemption which are rather superficial (Hendro Munsterman, Marie corédemptrice? Débat sur un titre marial controversé, Paris: Cerf, 2006); it has been more than adequately answered by Father Peter Damian Fehlner (Peter M. Fehlner, F.I., “Marian Minimalism on Coredemption: Marie corédemptrice? Débat sur un titre marial controversé” in Immaculata Mediatrix VI:3 (2006) 397-420). While it is not possible to respond in detail here to all of the objections to the doctrine of Marian coredemption, the interested reader is referred to an excellent resumé which considers the principal ones (Cf. Mark Miravalle, “Mary Co-redemptrix: A Response to 7 Common Objections” in CMA IV: 93-138).

A rather unique and irenic position has been taken by Jean Galot, S.J., who is basically a supporter of the doctrine of Marian coredemption and its eventual definition (Jean Galot, S.J., “Maria: Mediatrice o Madre Universale?” in La Civilità Cattolica 1996 (quaderno 3495) I:236-237). In various publications, however, he takes the position that it would be easier and therefore more immediately possible to define Our Lady’s spiritual maternity as a dogma of faith, but even this will require time and further in-depth study (“Maria: Mediatrice o Madre Universale?” 241-244; “La Mediazione di Maria: Natura e Limiti” in La Civilità Cattolica 1997 (quaderno 3535) IV:25; Marie, Mère et Coréremptrice 140). According to scholars like Brunero Gherardini, however, the coredemption along with the divine maternity are the two doctrinal bases of the spiritual maternity (Brunero Gherardini, “The Coredemption and Mary’s Universal Maternity” in Mary at the Foot of the Cross IV (New Bedford, MA: Academy of the Immaculate, 2004) 28). This also seems quite clearly to be the position of the Papal Magisterium. I will limit myself to just a few citations. We have already noted above that the Servant of God Pope Pius XII, in his encyclical letter of June 29, 1943, declared that

She (Mary) it was who, immune from all sin, personal or inherited, and ever most closely united with her Son, offered him on Golgotha to the eternal Father together with the holocaust of her maternal rights and motherly love, like a New Eve, for all the children of Adam contaminated through this unhappy fall, and thus she, who was the Mother of our Head according to the flesh, became by a new title of sorrow and glory the spiritual Mother of all his members (AAS 35 (1943) 247-248 (OL 383)).

In his general audience of May 11, 1983, the Servant of God Pope John Paul II said:

This universal motherhood in the spiritual order was the final consequence of Mary’s cooperation in the work of her divine Son, a cooperation begun in the fearful joy of the Annunciation and carried through right to the boundless sorrow of Calvary. …

On Calvary she was indeed united with the sacrifice of her Son who was looking to the formation of the Church; her motherly heart shared completely Christ’s will “to gather into one all the dispersed children of God” (Jn 11:52). Having suffered for the Church, Mary deserved to become the Mother of all her Son’s disciples, the Mother of their unity. For this reason the Council states that “the Catholic Church, taught by the Holy Spirit, honors her with filial affection and piety as a most beloved Mother” (Lumen Gentium, 53). (Inseg VI/1 (1983) 1201, 1202 (ORE 784:1))

In his homily at the Marian Shrine of Guayaquil, Ecuador, on January 31, 1985, John Paul II preached this same message:

In fact, at Calvary she united herself with the sacrifice of her Son that led to the foundation of the Church; her maternal heart shared to the very depths the will of Christ “to gather into one all the dispersed children of God” (Jn 11:52). Having suffered for the Church, Mary deserved to become the Mother of all the disciples of her Son, the Mother of their unity. For this reason, the Council affirms that “Taught by the Holy Spirit, the Catholic Church honors her with filial affection and piety as a most beloved Mother” (Lumen Gentium, 53). Mother of the Church! Mother of us all! (Inseg VIII/1 (1985) 319 (ORE 876:7)).

Likewise, Pope Benedict XVI has reinforced this teaching. In his homily at the Marian Shrine of Altötting, Germany, on September 11, 2006, he offered this reflection:

We can understand, I think, very well the attitude and words of Mary (at Cana), yet we still find it very hard to understand Jesus’ answer. In the first place, we don’t like the way he addresses her: “Woman.” Why doesn’t he say: “Mother”? But this title really expresses Mary’s place in salvation history. It points to the future, to the hour of the Crucifixion, when Jesus will say to her: “Woman, behold your son—Son, behold your mother” (cf. Jn 19:26-27). It anticipates the hour when he will make the woman, his Mother, the Mother of all his disciples.

On the other hand, the title “woman” recalls the account of the creation of Eve: Adam, surrounded by creation in all its magnificence, experiences loneliness as a human being. Then Eve is created, and in her Adam finds the companion whom he longed for; and he gives her the name “woman.”

In the Gospel of John, then, Mary represents the new, the definitive woman, the companion of the Redeemer, our Mother: the name, which seemed so lacking in affection, actually expresses the grandeur of Mary’s enduring mission (OR 27 settembre 2006, p. VII; (ORE 1961:3)).

Again at the Marian Shrine of Meryem Ana Evì, Ephesus, Turkey, on November 29, 2006, he reiterated:

We have listened to a passage from St. John’s Gospel which invites us to contemplate the moment of the redemption when Mary, united to her Son in the offering of his sacrifice, extended her motherhood to all men and women, and in particular to the disciples of Jesus (OR 13 dicembre 2006, p. V (ORE 1972:5)).

Why is there such resistance to recognizing the development of doctrine which has taken place, especially in the course of the last pontificate, and in celebrating and proclaiming the role that the “New Eve” had in the working out of our redemption and the role which she continues to carry out in dispensing the graces of the redemption and interceding on our behalf? There are many partial answers, but ultimately, I believe the opposition can only be explained in terms of the eternal enmity between the serpent and the “woman” of the Protoevangelium.



(98) Cf. Michael O’Carroll, C.S.Sp., “Still Mediatress of All Graces?”, Miles Immaculatæ 24 (1988) 121-122; Theotokos 351-352.

(99) This apparition of Our Lady would be succeeded by a number of others in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries which would eventually be recognized by the Church as worthy of credence. Cf. Donal Foley, Marian Apparitions, the Bible, and the Modern World (Herefordshire: Gracewing, 2002) 113-346.

(100) Cf. Theotokos 179-180. Interestingly, Father O’Carroll acknowledges an impetus for the definition in the apparition of 1830, cf. Theotokos 182.

(101) Cf. Arthur Burton Calkins, Totus Tuus: John Paul II’s Program of Marian Consecration and Entrustment (New Bedford, MA: Academy of the Immaculate “Studies and Texts,” No. 1, 1992) (= Totus Tuus) 98-101.

(102) Cf. Theotokos 555-56.

(103) Cf. Totus Tuus 100.

(104) Cf. Totus Tuus 104-105.

(105) Cf. Manfred Hauke, “Mary, ‘Mediatress of Grace’: Mary’s Universal Mediation of Grace in the Theological and Pastoral Works of Cardinal Mercier.” Supplement to Mary at the Foot of the Cross – IV (Part B) (New Bedford, MA: Academy of the Immaculate, 2004).

(106) Juniper B. Carol, O.F.M., S.T.D., “Our Lady’s Coredemption” in Carol, Mariology Vol. 2 (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Company, 1957) 377-425, esp. 416-424.

(107) Cf. W. Goosens, De cooperatione immediata Matris Redemptoris ad redemptionem objectivam (Parisiis, 1939) 30-31; Carol, “Coredemption” 416.

(108) St. Thomas says “There is no reason why certain others should not be called in a certain way mediators between God and man, that is to say in so far as they cooperate by predisposing and ministering in the union of man with God” in Summa Theologica III, q. 26, a. 1.

(109) Acta Sanctae Sedis (= ASS) 29 (1896-1897) 206 (OL 194).

(110) Cf. Heinrich Lennerz, S.J., “Considerationes de doctrina B. Virginis Mediatricis” in Gregorianum 19 (1938) 424-425; George D. Smith, Mary’s Part in Our Redemption (P. J. Kenedy & Sons, 1954) 92-99.

(111) Cf. Carol, “Coredemption” 418-422.

(112) Lino Cignelli, O.F.M., Maria Nuova Eva nella Patristica greca (Assisi: Studio Teologico “Porziuncola” Collectio Assisiensis #3, 1966) 241 (my trans.). Emphasis in second paragraph my own.

(113) Cf. Theotokos 314-315; Pietro Parrotta, La Cooperazione di Maria alla Redenzione in Gabriele Maria Roschini (Pregassona, Switzerland: Europress, 2002).

(114) Gabriele M. Roschini, O.S.M., Maria Santissima nella Storia della Salvezza, II (Isola del Liri: Tipografia Editrice M. Pisani, 1969) 193-194 (my trans.) Last emphasis my own.

(115) This argument is also taken up in a less technical way by Galot in “Mary Co-redemptrix: Controversies and Doctrinal Questions” in CMA IV:14-17 and in Marie, Mère et Coréremptrice 177-178.

(116) Inseg XIX/1 (1996) 116-117 (MCat 62-63).

(117) Inseg XIX/1 (1996) 1389-11390 (MCat 93-94). Emphasis my own.

(118) Cf. my study “The Immaculate Coredemptrix in the Life and Teaching of Blessed Pius IX” in Mary at the Foot of the Cross – V: Redemption and Coredemption under the Sign of the Immaculate Conception (New Bedford, MA: Academy of the Immaculate, 2005) 508-541.

(119) Many other studies in Volume V of Mary at the Foot of the Cross also treat of the relationship between Mary’s Immaculate Conception and her role as Co-redemptrix, but the one which has the most direct bearing on responding to Lennerz’s objection is Msgr. Brunero Gherardini’s “The Immaculate Co-redemptress” 47-73.

(120) Cf. Alessandro M. Apollonio, F.I., Il “calvario teologico” della Coredenzione mariana (Castelpetroso, IS: Casa Mariana Editrice, 1999) (= Calvario) 7-8. This conclusion is summarily and categorically denied by Stefano De Fiores, S.M.M., in his Maria: Nuovissimo Dizionario I (Bologna: Edizioni Dehoniane, 2006) (=Nuovissimo) 325 who speaks of an “unhealable division between two currents.”

(121) Cf. Theotokos 308.

(122) Cf. Michael O’Carroll, C.S.Sp., “Mary’s Mediation: Vatican II and John Paul II” in Virgo Liber Verbi: Miscellanea di studi in onore di P. Giuseppe M. Besutti, O.S.M. (Rome: Edizioni «Marianum», 1991) 543; Theotokos 352. In the latter article Father O’Carroll gave the number of Fathers asking for a statement on Mary’s mediation as 382. Toniolo gives the number as 381, cf. Ermanno M. Toniolo, O.S.M., La Beata Vergine Maria nel Concilio Vaticano II (Rome: Centro di Cultura Mariana «Madre della Chiesa», 2004) (= Toniolo) 34.

(123) G. Besutti, O.S.M., Lo schema mariano al Concilio Vaticano II (Rome: Edizione Marianum-Desclée, 1966) (= Besutti) 17.

(124) Cf. Calvario 14.

(125) Besutti 28-29; cf. Toniolo 36.

(126) Acta Synodalia Sacrosancti Concilii Oecumenici Vaticani Secundi, Vol. I, Pt. VI (Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis, 1971) 99 (my trans.). Cf. Toniolo 98-99; Gabriele M. Roschini, O.S.M., Maria Santissima nella Storia della Salvezza II:111-112.

(127) Cf. Thomas Mary Sennott, O.S.B., “Mary Mediatrix of All Graces, Vatican II and Ecumenism,” Miles Immaculatæ 24 (1988) 151-167; Theotokos 242-245.

(128) Cf. Ralph M. Wiltgen, S.V.D., The Rhine Flows into the Tiber; A History of Vatican II (Rockford, IL: Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., 1985, c. 1967) 90-95, 153-159.

(129) Cf. my article “‘Towards Another Marian Dogma?’ A Response to Father Angelo Amato,” Marianum LIX (1997) 163-165.

(130) Cf. MMC 35-41.

(131) Flannery 416 (I have altered the word order of the translation).

(132) Flannery 417. Galot’s reflections on this text and its hesitation to speak more directly of Mary’s offering of her Son and herself to the Father for our salvation are illluminating. Cf. his article “Mary Co-redemptrix: Controversies and Doctrinal Questions” in CMA IV:17-19.

(133) Flannery 418.

(134) Inseg XVIII/2 (1995) 1369 (MCat 51).

(135) Cf. Theotokos 351-356. Effectively, the interpretation of the Second Vatican Council’s Marian treatise found most frequently in both learned and popular publications after the Council is well represented by this relatively recent statement by Cardinal Avery Dulles, S.J.:

The achievements of Vatican II have been called a watershed. The chapter on Mary in the Constitution on the Church seemed to mark the end of an isolated, maximizing Mariology, and the inclusion of Mary in the theology of the Church (Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., “Mary Since Vatican II: Decline and Recovery,” Marian Studies LIII (2002) 12. This position is delineated at much greater length in Stefano De Fiores’ article “Concilio Vaticano II” in Nuovissimo I:323-358).

This departs notably from all of the commentaries on the Mariology of Vatican II offered by Pope John Paul II in the course of his long pontificate and constitutes what I refer to as “Vatican II triumphalism.”

“Vatican II triumphalism” is virtually always a partial and one-sided interpretation of the council documents which favors a position espoused by one party at the time of the Council and studiously avoids mention of any conciliar statements which would counterbalance the “favored” position. In the case of chapter eight of Lumen Gentium on “The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, in the Mystery of Christ and of the Church,” the “favored” position heavily emphasizes Mary’s role as model of the Church. This reflects the rediscovered insights of ecclesiotypical Mariology (which sees an analogy between Mary and the Church) which were emerging again at the time of the Council, while very largely ignoring Christotypical Mariology (which sees an analogy between Christ and Mary) and dismissing it as deductive and “privilege-centered” (cf. the comments by Fathers George F. Kirwin, O.M.I., and Thomas Thompson, S.M., in Donald W. Buggert, O.Carm., Louis P. Rogge, O.Carm., Michael J. Wastag, O.Carm. (eds.), Mother, Behold Your Son: Essays in Honor of Eamon R. Carroll, O.Carm. (Washington, DC: The Carmelite Institute, 2001), 17 and 202.) In an essay significantly entitled “Revolution in Mariology 1949-1989,” Father Eamon R. Carroll, O.Carm., consistently presents the ecclesiotypical Mariology as the great triumph of the Council, even as he discloses his discomfort at the Christotypical elements which remained in the eighth chapter of Lumen Gentium:

The Council did indeed favor the notion that Mary is model to the Church, even archetype, without using that word, but its chapter on Our Lady is in fact a complicated compromise that sought to keep a balance between Mary’s association with her son’s mediation and the obedient faithful Virgin as ideal of the Church’s own response to the Lord (Eamon R. Carroll, O.Carm, “Revolution in Mariology 1949-1989,” in The Land of Carmel: Essays in Honor of Joachim Smet, O.Carm. (Rome: Institutum Carmelitanum, 1991) 457-458. On the former page one also finds his evaluation of Fathers Cyril Vollert, S.J., Juniper B. Carol, O.F.M., and Charles Balić, O.F.M., all of whom represent the Christotypical approach to Mariology).

There were obviously many theological insights which were coming to the fore at the time of the Council, largely due to the historical researches begun in the previous century in the areas of biblical, liturgical, patristic and ecclesiological studies. Many of these found expression in the council documents, and specifically in chapter eight of Lumen Gentium. All too often, however, an overemphasis on certain of these insights on the part of the majority of commentators to the exclusion of the other insights has, in fact, led to a “low Mariology” which focuses on Mary much more as “woman of faith,” “disciple” and “model” than as “spiritual mother” or “mediatrix,” and tends to depreciate the importance of the antecedent Papal Magisterium. All too often this virtually exclusive emphasis on ecclesiotypical Mariology is coupled with the whole-hearted embracing of the historical-critical method of biblical exegesis and “lowest common denominator” ecumenism (cf. Carroll, “Revolution in Mariology” 455). In a real sense the practitioners of this methodology can be identified as sustainers of the thesis that the teaching of the Second Vatican Council represents a “break” or “rupture” with the pre-conciliar Catholic tradition, (this thesis was clearly declared unacceptable by Pope Benedict XVI in his memorable speech to the Roman Curia on December 22, 2005. Cf. Insegnamenti di Benedetto XVI I (2005) 1023-1031 (ORE 1925:5-6)), and are almost always notably devoid of that awe before the mystery of Mary which comes instinctively to “little ones.”

(136) I have already published two lengthy essays on it, and some shorter ones, as well as treating it in the course of other studies of the Papal Magisterium on Marian coredemption, without in any way having analyzed it exhaustively. Cf. Arthur Burton Calkins, “Pope John Paul II’s Teaching on Marian Coredemption” in CMA II:113-147; also published in Miles Immaculatæ XXXII (Luglio/Dicembre 1996) 474-508 and “Pope John Paul II’s Ordinary Magisterium on Marian Coredemption: Consistent Teaching and More Recent Perspectives” in MFC II:1-36; also published in Divinitas XLV «Nova Series» (2002) 153-185. Cf. also “The Heart of Mary as Coredemptrix in the Magisterium of Pope John Paul II” in S. Tommaso Teologo: Ricerche in occasione dei due centenari accademici (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana “Studi Tomistici #59,” 1995) 320-335; “Il Cuore di Maria Corredentrice nel Magistero di papa Giovanni Paolo II” in Corredemptrix: Annali Mariani 1996 del Santuario dell’Addolorata (Castelpetroso, Isernia, 1997) 97-114; “Amorosamente consenziente al sacrificio del Figlio: Maria Corredentrice nei discorsi di Giovanni Paolo II,” Madre di Dio 67, N° 11 (Novembre 1999) 28-29. Cf. also “Il Mistero di Maria Corredentrice nel Magistero Pontificio” in Autori Vari, Maria Corredentrice: Storia e Teologia I (Frigento (AV): Casa Mariana Editrice «Bibliotheca Corredemptionis B. V. Mariae» Studi e Richerche 1, 1998) 141-220 and “The Mystery of Mary the Co-redemptrix in the Papal Magisterium,” in CMA IV:25-92.

To my knowledge, Monsignor Brunero Gherardini (Cf. Brunero Gherardini, La Corredentrice nel mistero di Cristo e della Chiesa (Rome: Edizioni Vivere In, 1998) 135-139) and I are the only students of Mariology to have done so in extenso; Inseg I (2005) 1023-1031; OR 23 dicembre 2005, pp. 5-6; ORE 1925:5-6. Besides the passages which I have already presented in the course of this paper, I can only hope to share a small sampling of what I consider to be the most outstanding texts.

(137) Inseg VII/1 (1984) 307 (St. Paul Editions 37).

(138) Inseg VII/1 (1984) 308-309 (St. Paul Editions 40-41).

(139) Inseg VI/1 (1983) 1446-1447 (ORE 788:2).

(140) Inseg VIII/1 (1985) 318-321 (ORE 876:7). I refer those interested to my commentary on this text elsewhere, cf. Arthur Burton Calkins, “Pope John Paul II’s Ordinary Magisterium on Marian Coredemption: Consistent Teaching and More Recent Perspectives” in MFC II:32-34.

(141) Inseg III/2 (1980) 1646; (ORE 662:20); Inseg V/3 (1982) 404; Inseg VII/2 (1984) 1151 (ORE 860:1); Inseg VIII/1 (1985) 889-890 (ORE 880:12); Inseg XIII/1 (1990) 743; Inseg XIV/2 (1991) 756 (ORE 1211:4). Cf. my presentation of all but the first of these texts in MMC 41-46. John Paul II’s first use of the title Co-redemptrix thus far documented, that of December 10, 1980, occurred in a greeting to the sick after the general audience and was identified by Fr. Paolo M. Siano, F.I., and is cited in his article, “Uno Studio su Maria Santissima «Mediatrice di Tutte le Grazie» nel Magistero pontificio fino al pontificato di Giovanni Paolo II” Immaculata Mediatrix VI:3 (2006) 348.

(142) Cf. MMC 32-34.

(143) Brunero Gherardini, “The Coredemption of Mary: Doctrine of the Church,” in MFC II:48.

(144) Unfortunately, despite the clarity of the Holy Father’s teaching many have not embraced this important truth. For a more in-depth exploration of this resistance, see the special note at the end of this chapter.

(145) Defined by the Council of Ephesus in 431. Cf. D-H 252.

(146) By the time of the Council of Ephesus belief in Mary’s virginity before, during and after the birth of Christ was in possession and was explicitly defined at the Lateran Council of 649, convoked by Pope St. Martin I. Cf. D-H 503.

(147) Defined by Bl. Pope Pius IX on December 8, 1854. Cf. D-H 2303.

(148) Defined by the Servant of God Pope Pius XII on November 1, 1950. Cf. D-H 3903.

(149) Peter Damian M. Fehlner, F.I., “Mariæ Advocatæ Causæ: The Marian Issue in the Church Today” in Maria “Unica Cooperatrice alla Redenzione.” Atti del Simposio sul Mistero della Corredenzione Mariana, Fatima, Portogallo 3-7 Maggio 2005 (New Bedford, MA: Academy of the Immaculate, 2005) 559.

(150) Angelo Amato, S.D.B., “Verso Un Altro Dogma Mariano?” in Marianum LVIII (1996) 231.

Mary Co-redemptrix Triumphs over Minimalism, Theological, Factual Errors: A Response to Munsterman

The back-cover blurb promoting this book makes the following claim: “The essay of Hendro Munsterman is documented and solid. And clear as well: a first class contribution to contemporary Marian theology.”

The author and publishers of this book evidently think very highly of it and make great claims for it. Reality in this case is something considerably different from promise. The thesis of the essay is indeed very clearly stated, and it is very clearly wrong. It is neither documented nor solid and it is certainly not a first class contribution to contemporary Mariological discussion. One can hardly say its author has set forth “the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”

The Thesis and Its Format

This very slim work, with a disproportionately prestigious price, purports to recount objectively a current theological debate on the question: Can the title of Coredemptrix really describe the eminent role of Mary in the history of salvation? Defending the affirmative is Msgr. Arthur B. Calkins of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, and speaking for the nays is Montfort Father Stefano De Fiores, professor of Mariology in a number of Roman theological faculties (pp. 7-8).

Umpire of the debate is the author of this book, a young Dutch layman who has earned a licentiate in theology at the University of Strasburg. He begins by noting how the once popular Marian title, Coredemptrix, deliberately discarded by Vatican II, has been recently resurrected by an American movement, Vox Populi Mariae Mediatrici, founded and led by Dr. Mark Miravalle. This movement seeks to promote a fifth Marian dogma: Mary Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate, and enjoys wide support among laity and religious (including Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta), and in some sectors of the clergy and hierarchy (especially during the consistory of 2001 on the evangelization of all peoples). The title of the Synod, as Munsterman notes, resembles that of “Mother of all peoples“, and reveals the often not explicit link between this movement and the revelations to the Dutch visionary Ida Peerdeman of Amsterdam, approved in 2002 by Bishop Punt of Amsterdam. According to Munsterman, among post-conciliar theologians and Mariologists support for Vox Populi and for the movement to reintroduce the title Coredemptrix, discarded by Vatican II, is practically zero. This “theological” position is reflected in the declaration of Czestochowa, August 18-22, 1996 (not June 1995, as Munsterman writes, p. 10), but only published June 4, 1997.

Munsterman makes clear that he has no intention of assessing directly the merits of the request for a new Marian dogma nor has he any intention of questioning the importance of the issue raised, but only the theological validity of one of the titles to be incorporated into this definition as proposed by the movement of Dr. Miravalle, viz., the most dubious of the three titles, the lynchpin of the entire movement underpinning its spirituality, viz., Coredemptrix (pp. 11-12).

The Argument in Three Steps

According to Munsterman (pp. 11-12) the validity of the proposal to “reverse” a deliberate decision of Vatican II, the abandonment of the title Coredemptrix, depends 1.) on a prior consideration of the appropriate manner of speaking of Mary since the Council, 2.) the potential meaning or lack of meaning of the title Coredemptrix, and finally 3.) ten ways in which the title so contextualized poses insurmountable difficulties to theological acceptance and hence to dogmatization, indeed is misleading and frankly false, although possibly in some cases a vehicle for the transmission on the part of certain non-academic types valid, biblically based insights into the mystery of Mary and her role in the history of salvation (p. 81). Munsterman consistently describes such non-academic types on matters Marian as those in whom Mediterranean piety (or even worse Irish) predominates over genuine critical or scientific analysis, such as that represented in his essay debunking the title Coredemptrix. Anyone so naïve as think the pre-conciliar Mariology theologically defensible may be suspected of not having yet fully accepted Vatican II.

Munsterman’s exposition (pp. 13-81) of the argument leading to this adjudication of the debate may be summarized thus. On the first point: Mariology after the Council, Munsterman insists that the deliberate abandonment of the title Coredemptrix represents a radical break or discontinuity with the Mariology in favor during the centuries immediately preceding Vatican II, in particular during the Marian era or century between the two Marian dogmas of 1854 and 1950, viz., Immaculate Conception and Assumption. The break includes a rejection of the maximalist Mariology, a self-standing Mariology of privileges, bound up with an overemphasis on scholastic terminology and method, employed without critical control to postulate new titles and potential Marian dogmas all out of proportion to their importance in theology as a whole, to the detriment of biblically based theological reflection, a method and terminology now to be considered strictly dépassé. In the case of the coredemption the out-of-date and counterproductive method is one based on a now abandoned theory of fundamental principle in Mariology, a method situating Mary christo-typically rather than ecclesio-typically. It is a method postulating the distinction between objective and subjective redemption. According to Munsterman this distinction was first introduced by Scheeben during the 19th century, but is not a distinction expressly affirmed by Revelation, indeed is consequent upon the truth of Marian coredemption, hence a distinction which begs the question.

On the second point Munsterman maintains that the title Coredemptrix is relatively new, being first encountered only in the late middle ages in a devotional text (hymn) where it is a synonym for Mother of the Redeemer. Subsequently, on the basis of a scholastic axiom: Causa causae est causa causati, the title came to be employed during the Counterreformation as a synonym for Mother of the redemption. According to Munsterman this is not only a dubious illation; it is also downright misleading, since volumes in explanation are necessary to avoid a false conclusion: Mary and Jesus are equal partners in the work of redemption, that Mary in fact is not redeemed, but for all practical purposes a goddess capable of redeeming others, just like her Son.

This quite naturally sets the scene for the final call ending the debate in favor of Prof. De Fiores. Set in the context of the new Mariology now mandated by Vatican II the one-time popular title, still such among the generality of Catholics devoted to Mary, sins on ten counts when assessed in the light of Vatican II, and precisely because popular strongly contributes to the emergence of a parallel church alongside the official Church represented by the Magisterium and the theologians who advise the Magisterium. These ten counts against the title Coredemptrix are: 1.) it undermines the unity of the redemptive work of Christ; 2.) it is ambiguous; 3.) it obscures the role of the Holy Spirit; 4.) the title and its content reflect an outdated theological system; 5.) use of the title signals a return to a maximalist Mariology; 6.) the title appears more important than its content; 7.) the argumentation is based primarily on a hermeneutic of pontifical doctrine and private revelations rather than on biblical and patristic foundations; 8.) the title would render null and void the recent agreed declaration on justification by grace; 9.) the title appears to function as a new fundamental principle; 10.) the title poses massive ecumenical problems.

Evidently Munsterman shares the presuppositions of De Fiores and friends: viz., that Vatican II deliberately restructured Mariology in principle. Hence, terms such as Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, etc., are no longer relevant. On this supposition Munsterman finds the position of Msgr. Calkins and of the representatives Vox Populi movement on the validity of the title Coredemptrix minus habens. The premise for this severe judgment, viz., rejection of the title by Vatican II as incompatible with the “new Mariology” is not merely questionable; it is downright false and has been and is rejected by reputable theologians without any connection with Dr. Miravalle, the Vox Populi movement and the Amsterdam revelations of the Blessed Mother.

This already is a very suspicious sign. Anyone who seeks an objective evaluation of a questionable product does not consult a friend of the producer, but someone who can assess correctly the criteria by which claims promoting the product are justified. So, too the umpire of an academic discussion is not considered capable of “fair play” if his criteria of judgment are biased in favor of one or the other side. Caveat emptor!

Nor may one claim in any sense that since Vatican II there is only one legitimate theological side in this debate over the opportuneness of a “fifth dogma”. Far from rejecting the presuppositions favoring the doctrine of Marian coredemption, Vatican II expressly professed (Lumen Gentium, n. 54) having no intention of favoring one side or the other in legitimate Mariological debates in progress before the Council. Before the Council the Mariological debate over coredemption concerned not whether such a mystery existed, or whether the title was legitimate, but how to understand it (1). A recently published 583-page volume of the acts of the May 2005 symposium in Fatima, Portugal: Maria “unica cooperatrice alla Redenzione (New Bedford MA 2005) contains this interesting affirmation (p. ix) of the committee of Cardinals sponsoring the symposium:

Il Concilio Vaticano II fu concepito come un Concilio senza-intenti-definitori, ma il Vaticano II in nessun modo desiderava impedire lo sviluppo della dottrina mariologica postconciliare, che poteva includere una potenziale definizione solenne dello stesso certo insegnamento conciliare sulla maternità spirituale della Beata Vergine e delle sua triplice manifestazione. Tale verità può essere innegabilmente attestata da coloro fra noi che erano Padri Conciliari.

The “fra noi” refers to the six Cardinals who signed the introduction to acts of the Fatima Symposium. That their witness is true and significant is fully confirmed by scholarly analysis of what actually happened at the Council (2).

On the eve of the Council almost all theologians, even the ecclesio-typologists accepted the Marian title Coredemptrix as true in itself and as connoting an important point of doctrine and not merely a corollary of a theological system. Disagreement was not over the fact, but over certain points (not all) touching its nature, in particular the relation of Mary both to Christ and to the Church, and questions concerning the character of Mary’s coredemptive merit. Theologians were left free to discuss the later points concerning the nature, not to question the former concerning the fact of coredemption. The decision not to use the title in the documents of Vatican II concerned not the general use of the title by and in the Church thereafter, but merely its use within the Council for practical ends. Whether or not that choice was practically wise in terms of results can be seriously questioned, as Msgr. Calkins, Fr. M. O’Carroll (3), and many other very orthodox theologians have pointed out. To deny this as does Munsterman is not reassurance either of ability or ease in exercising critical discernment.

Munsterman claims apodictic character for his arguments against the title of Coredemptrix. That character is hardly evident in the arguments themselves, unless it be true that Vatican II in fact outlawed scholastic Mariology and the use of the title, or that the majority consensus of “the theologians” supports such claims. The first is not true: indeed, St. Thomas as the scholastic personification of sound theological method is still presented by the Council as the model theologian. And the second alone, even it true, is meaningless as far as definitiveness is concerned. We need only remember that a seeming theological consensus against the Immaculate Conception in 13th century Parisian circles should have left Bl. Duns Scotus’ defense of the Immaculate Conception D.O.A. Instead, his classic defense turned out to be the essence of a dogmatic definition binding on all, including the theologians who claimed and still try to claim there is no biblical foundation for this exercise in “Marian maximalism”.

Well Documented?

Now let us see how well Munsterman has documented his very apodictic conclusion, or better how wanting it is in this regard. The documentation suffers on three counts: errors of fact, errors of omission and errors of evaluation.

Errors of fact

These are many, but in some ways the most surprising is Munsterman’s dating for the declaration of Czestochowa: June 1995 (p. 10). In fact the correct dating is: composition and submission during the Mariological-Marian Congress of Aug. 18-22, 1996, in Czestochowa and official publication June 4, 1997, in L’Osservatore Romano. For one who claims superior competence in Marian theology this is a strange “typo.”

Another “typo,” strange in a “brilliant” Mariologist, is the identification of Fr. Charles Balic as a “Spanish Mariologist” (p. 23, and repeated on p. 58). There is no question that Fr. Balic was one of the greatest of 20th century Mariologists, certainly the best known and most influential of those whose Mariology was inspired by Bl. John Duns Scotus, that he was one of the major architects of chapter 8 of Lumen Gentium, whose influence on the final results, despite apparent setbacks, was perhaps even more extensive than that of Msgr. G. Philips (4). Not to know that Fr. Balic was a son of Croatia rather than of Spain is unpardonable in a major interpreter of the Council. Or perhaps Munsterman cannot imagine one of the greatest conciliar Mariologists, perfectly critical and objective in his Mariological assessments, as coming from a Slavic-Mediterranean people.

Still more serious is Munsterman’s manner of citing from the works of those he criticizes. Dr. Miravalle is often cited verbally, but the citations are interpreted out of context, i.e., in the context of Mariology as defined by those who consider Miravalle to be out of step with the Council. This is particularly true of citations from one of Miravalle’s best essays: With Jesus (5). When placed in a different mariological setting, these citations hardly bear the meaning Munsterman places on them, nor do they merit his censures.

Perhaps the most incredible example of a manipulation of texts to fit the tint of a thesis adopted on a priori grounds is found on page 41 in note 5. There Munsterman informs us that Mark Miravalle, in an interview given 31 Oct., 2002, to Zenit, an organ of the Vatican press office, for all practical purposes presented the Dombes Group as support for the proclamation of the dogma of the Coredemptrix. This, Munsterman remarks, is simply not the case, since in n. 210 of the document cited the members of the Dombes group clearly reject any valid use of the title. A mistake of this kind is not flattering to the reputation of a Mariologist, especially one leading a movement to promote such a definition.

Now it is true that the Dombes Group is quite contrary to any promotion of the title Coredemptrix. But it is simply false that Dr. Miravalle either said or implied that they were not. Here is the actual text of what he said about this group in the interview cited:

More recently, the Dombes ecumenical treatment on Mary noted that the omission of the titles of Co-redemptrix and Mediatrix of all graces at Vatican II for reasons of not offending Protestant Christians was not effective, since the doctrine of coredemption and mediation remained a fundamental teaching of the Council.

In this part of the interview Miravalle’s point is simply that not only before the Council, but after it as well Protestants recognize that Marian mediation and coredemption is not a theological opinion, but a teaching of the Church, including Vatican II, despite the abstention in use of the title Coredemptrix, and that in view of the fact that this teaching will not and cannot change a solemn definition would be more honest ecumenically that a pretense that the Church does not teach what in fact she believes Christ wants taught. This text of Miravalle certainly does not say what Munsterman claims it says, and without some convincing demonstration (which Munsterman does not offer), it can hardly be said to imply that the Dombes Group is all for coredemption. Miravalle’s comment obviously assumes that that Group is quite contrary to the dogma, and needs to be relieved of the notion that the Church can abandon or has abandoned this doctrine. Naturally this tells against the entire thesis of Munsterman’s essay, viz., that no dogmatization is thinkable because Vatican II has already junked the doctrine and the title. Even non-Catholic and ecumenical groups recognize that the major premise of Munsterman’s debunking of coredemption is baseless. This kind of manipulation of an honest and accurate comment by one’s opposition, such as that found in note 5, p. 41 of Munsterman’s essay, in such wise as to disguise how it tells against one’s own thesis, is outrageous in a theologian claiming near infallibility.

Another example of this kind of falsification of the true views of one’s opponent in debate is the single reference in Munsterman’s book (p. 78, n. 2) to only one of the many Mariological studies on coredemption by this reviewer. Munsterman claims that I have proposed the Coredemption as a new, fundamental principle of Mariology, and that this represents the position, at least implicit, of supporters of the title. No text of mine is given, only a single page reference from a 75-page work published nearly 10 years ago. Neither on that page, nor in that final section of the study, nor anywhere at all in the essay cited or in its enlarged Italian edition, do I take up the question of fundamental principle of Mariology expressly or implicitly.

Now, with many Mariologists far better than myself, I think the question of a first principle of Mariology is not a waste of time, that those who reject it in fact substitute a concept of Mariology not compatible with Revelation and the teaching of the Magisterium. Being like Fr. Balic a Scotist, were I to have taken up the theme, I would hardly have proposed coredemption as first principle. Munsterman either never read my essay, or if he read it, did not understand it. Either way this example of his scholarship and/or intellectual honesty hardly supports the claimed “documented” character of this study or the competence of the scholar.

Only one other reference (ibid.) is given to exemplify this odd position, a page number without quotation from a work by Mr. Robert Payesko, a well-known writer of popular apologetical works, but without any special credentials for dealing with complex questions of speculative theology. If indeed this is the position of Payesko on a very complex issue, Munsterman should have given a brief citation where Payesko clearly affirms this, or a convincing demonstration that this is indeed what he means. Given the overall tenor of Payesko’s book, the sense of first or fundamental principle in it is a very generic one, viz., that of a central issue, which because central involves a question of fundamental principle, even if the central issue is not that fundamental principle in the strict sense.

In view of the two instances of text manipulation by Munsterman just discussed, there is every reason to suspect the same here. In any case Munsterman has absolutely no documentation for his claim that support of Marian coredemption introduces a new version of fundamental principle into Mariology at odds with what the Council teaches (6). One can hardly claim a debate conducted in this fashion exemplifies fair play.

Errors of Omission

Allusion has already been made to a certain selectivity in authors cited by Munsterman in support of his opinions. He downplays (pp. 10, n. 2; 54) the significance of the host of saints and popes and “pre-conciliar” theologians who enthusiastically supported coredemption, and then exalts (pp. 37 ff.; cf. also pp. 19, 25, 29) the testimony of a rather assorted bag of feminists (R. Ruether; M. Daly; E. Goessmann, E. Johnson; C. Halkes; M. Dirks), noted dissenters past and present (Widenfeld, Kueng, Schillebeeckx; K. Rahner; L. Boff, V. Elizondo) and some very questionable national catechisms: Dutch (1966), German (1985) and French (1991), all reflecting more or less the dubious and harmful theological novelties which Munsterman claims the Council prefers, this notwithstanding the fact some Vatican authorities severely criticized the Dutch catechism, a criticism of which Munsterman is aware (p. 35, note 1), but an awareness not preventing him from claiming doctrinal authority for such an opus. To ascribe doctrinal authority to this kind of catechism either reveals ignorance of what constitutes genuine theology or indicates the writer’s theology seriously fails in orthodoxy.

No mention is made of witnesses asserting exactly the contrary, as M. Hauke in the text just cited in n. 4 above. Why would any sane Christian aware of the true facts prefer the views of flakey commentators over those of a chorus of saints, popes and great theologians, not only past, but contemporary, like Padre Pio and Mother Teresa? Munsterman’s dismissal of this host of witnesses to coredemption is anything but objective discernment. He leaves the unsuspecting reader with the impression that, aside from pious enthusiasts who accept the revelations to Ida Peerdeman as gospel truth or relics of a pre-conciliar theology, Msgr. Calkins represents a minority of one among practicing theologians who support Marian coredemption and defend to the limit the validity of the title Coredemptrix.

The impression is achieved simply by omitting any mention of the many theologians unconnected with the Amsterdam private revelation or with Vox Populi, who have intelligently explained and defended both title and doctrine. Here are just a few names and titles not mentioned even once by Munsterman Mary at the Foot of the Cross (New Bedford, MA 2000: to date seven volumes, comprising nearly 3,000 pages of scholarly writing, with a seventh in preparation); Maria Corredentrice. Storia e Teologia (Frigento 1998 ff.: to date seven volumes with nearly 3,000 pages of scholarly writing); the publications of the theological faculty of Lugano on Marian, coredemptive themes by Hauke, Perillo, Parrotta, only a very few mentioned; the studies (books and essays) of Msgr. Gherardini (retired professor of dogmatic theology at the Lateran, editor of Divinitas, hardly a minor figure on the Roman theological scene) defending coredemption (7); or Msgr. Antonio Livi, well known professor at the Lateran University; or the recent Mariological manual of Fr. Paul Haffner (8) (Regina Apostolorum faculty) in which this professor explains and defends coredemption at considerable length. No mention is found of those Franciscans who continue to defend the positions of Fr. Balic; nor is there a single reference to the Spanish Mariological Society which since its foundation in 1940 has often dedicated entire volumes of its annual Estudios Marianos, not only before, but also after the Council, to the study and defense of Marian coredemption, and in particular to coredemption during the golden age of Spanish Mariology (17th century) and to the positive contribution of a great Franciscan mystic the Ven. Maria of Agreda, whose contemplative Mariology has been shown to be perfectly consistent with, indeed anticipating by many centuries many of the most characteristic insights thought to be original with Vatican II or with the post-conciliar papal Magisterium. Nor has Munsterman taken any note of the May 2005 Fatima symposium sponsored by a commission of cardinals to promote both the doctrine and the eventual definition. One can hardly dismiss the contributors to this volume (cited above) as Mariological charlatans hoodwinked by a Dutch mystic.

Whatever the personal views of Dr. Miravalle in regard to the Amsterdam revelations, he has always grounded his support for Marian coredemption on arguments drawn from public revelation. Munsterman affirms the contrary, but fails to cite even one text of Miravalle which in any way supports the charge. A number of essays on private revelations in one volume of Vox Populi hardly proves the charge (cf. p. 74). It merely establishes the fact that such studies had some bearing on the theme of that volume: contemporary insights into the mystery of coredemption.

And the majority of other theologians defending the legitimacy of the title Coredemptrix, those cited by Munsterman, such as Msgr. Calkins and the many more not cited, cannot be linked with the Amsterdam revelations even in the inconclusive way Munsterman attempts to establish such a link as in the case of Vox Populi. Nor does he note that the triple title: Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate, does not appear for the first time on the theological stage with the private revelations to Ida Peerdeman. Two years previous to the first of these it was used in a 1943 pastoral of the Dutch Bishops, almost as though it were a commonplace of Catholic theology, and an aspect of a general belief in Marian mediation.

Why this omission? Munsterman is pushing a hypothesis common to all the theologians he favors, viz., that the Council in mandating a radical change in approach to Mariology rejected the scholastic-metaphysical approach in favor of a biblical-historical, the maximalist approach of christo-typology to a more nuanced ecclesio-typical. He presents this as fact and on this basis relegates Marian coredemption to the status of an out-dated theological opinion and depicts its defenders as misguided and perhaps unable to accept Vatican II. The witness of the theologians overlooked is inconvenient in such circumstances, because it illustrates the falsity of the claims.

A number of more particularized omissions confirm this assessment. In striving to present the strong pre-conciliar theological tide in favor of coredemption as something less that compelling, Munsterman notes that throughout this period a number of major figures never supported this doctrine in any form. Thus, Munsterman tells us (p. 54) that H. Diekamp and B. Bartmann, two major pre-conciliar theologians, never accepted coredemption, neither the doctrine nor the term, even if nearly all their theological contemporaries had acclaimed it in some form. He neglects to note that while Bartmann in 1909 took a negative view of the position of Lepicier, in 1925 Bartmann retracted and affirmed both the doctrine and the title. Similarly, another well known Mariologist, B. Merkelbach, who had first opposed the doctrine and title, subsequently reversed his position and became a major exponent of the views of Cardinal Mercier. Munsterman cites him (p. 54, note 6) as opposing coredemption, but fails to mention that he subsequently reversed his stand and became a major supporter of the movement initiated by Cardinal Mercier. Curiously, in this note Munsterman, citing Laurentin, associates Merkelbach on coredemption with the 17th century Marian minimalist and theologically unimportant Adam Widenfeld (misspelled as Widenfels), hardly fair to Merkelbach and certainly not a sign of competence as a historian of Mariology. Had Munsterman consulted Mary at the Foot of the Cross IV, in the study of M. Hauke: Mary Mediatrix of Grace (p. 63, note 279), he could easily have avoided these blunders.

Munsterman insists (pp. 61-62) that the theological validity of the coredemptive position rests on the permanent validity of the distinction between objective and subjective redemption. Munsterman claims the terminology is not biblical or patristic, but relatively recent in origin, a product of the now abandoned neo-scholastic approach to Mariology. Munsterman ascribes the introduction of this distinction to M.J. Scheeben, the famous 19th century German theologian. Munsterman is apparently unaware that this terminology, important for an understanding of the meaning of the title Coredemptrix in past ages, is not of recent origin, but was first employed by a well-known 17th century Franciscan Neapolitan Scotist, Angelo Vulpes, in his treatise on Mariology (Sacrae Theologiae Summa, Tome III, part 4) where he deals with coredemption, and is but an adaptation of an earlier terminology common among Franciscan theologians: redemptio ad sufficientiam-redemptio ad efficaciam, employed for instance by St. Bonaventure (cf. Breviloquium, p. IV, ch. 8-10). Vulpes is not a minor Mariologist, but a leading figure of the golden age of Spanish Mariology (17th century) when the kingdom of Naples was a part of the Spanish realm, and important as the first theologian to compose a Mariology in the modern sense ad mentem Scoti. This is not a recondite point of Mariological or soteriological history. Munsterman might have found it mentioned in the second volume of the Summula Mariologiae of Fr. Roschini (Romae 1947: vol. 2, part 1, p. 338), or in the standard history of coredemption by Fr. Juniper Carol: De Corredemptione Beatae Virginis Mariae (Civitatis Vaticanae 1950: pp. 205-206). Neither work is cited in the bibliography. The lapsus or uncritical use of secondary works is inexcusable in a study claiming no roots in the depositum fidei for what has generally been regarded as a distinction fundamental to the revealed concept of redemption.

All this, and more, hardly indicates the superior competence claimed for the author of this severe critique of Marian coredemption in the blurb on the back cover of the book: Munsterman’s study “represents a first class contribution to contemporary Marian theology.”

Solid Analysis?

So much for documentation. Let us now review the solidity of the positions sustained by Munsterman at each of the three steps in the argumentation leading to his final assessment of the “debate” over the title Coredemptrix.

The Mariological Choices of Vatican II (pp. 13-42)

Vatican II repudiated the pre-conciliar Mariology and substituted for this one based directly on a biblical-historical approach. This is the first of two pillars supporting the hypothesis of Munsterman (and of his friends) concerning the false and possibly heretical character of the title Coredemptrix, without which their views implode.

By pre-conciliar Munsterman means not merely chronologically, but thematically: called pre-conciliar precisely because the vast majority of Mariologists during the century immediately preceding Vatican II supported this (cf. p. 17). By the same token some “post-conciliar” Mariology existed chronologically before Vatican II (cf. p. 19) and according to Munsterman the Mariological preference of Vatican II, by implication making people like Dr. Miravalle, Msgr. Calkins, Dr. Hauke, and quite a number of other well-known theologians not mentioned by Munsterman dissenters from Vatican II. Is this even a minimally plausible thesis?

According to Munsterman (p. 18) these are the main features of pre-conciliar Mariology abandoned by Vatican II:

1.) a pronounced focus on the cooperation (immediate) of Mary in the work of salvation with frequent commentary by popes, bishops and theologians on the titles of Coredemptrix and Mediatrix;

2.) the autonomy of Mariology within theology, viz., the separation of Mariology from all other areas of theology;

3.) the absence of any direct biblical basis for Marian discourse; and a use of patristic methods to discover Marian prophecy in the Old Testament;

4.) the christo-typical and not ecclesio-typical of Mariology; Mary’s place was outside and above the Church;

5.) its maximalist character, viz., the intention of honoring Mary as much as possible objectively, rather than limiting that honor in view of a principle of exaggeration.

A brief reflection is more than sufficient to realize that point one was and still is a very valid and central consideration of Mariology and theology, since the fiat of Mary, passé Barth, is crucial to the entire economy of salvation, both in relation to the Head of the Church and to the Church as body of Christ. Apart from Christ himself, what other consideration could be more central and fundamental to the theme of cooperation in the work of salvation by all? It is evident that the cooperation of Mary is immediate (she pertains intrinsically to the order of the hypostatic union), and that her cooperation is the indispensable condition for that of the Church and of all others. Or does the criticism of Munsterman reflect the Protestant solus?

Point two is a pure figment of Munsterman’s imagination. What credible pre-conciliar Mariologist ever conceived the distinction of Mariology from other parts of theology as a separation? Chapter and verse, please! That Mariology should enjoy a more prominent place is perfectly in accord with the dignity of the Mother of God and the service she renders both Christ and the Church.

The first clause in point three is simply false; and the second is a total misrepresentation of the patristic exegesis, and therefore of genuine Catholic exegesis. It confuses what is but an instrument of study, viz., philological and historical criticism, with the essential principles of exegesis which are theological and tributary to the methods of theological reflection. The rejection of patristic method in principle is a rejection of this very crucial distinction.

In regard to point four, it is not possible to drop the christo-typical and still believe in the divine maternity. And while this places Mary as member of the Church above the Church, it does not take her out of it. What serious Catholic Mariologist ever held this? Chapter and verse, please! It is another thing to explain this mysterious paradox adequately. Vatican II did not abandon the christo-typical, but its decisions do stimulate profounder study along these lines. Far from being out of line with Vatican II the title Mater Ecclesiae affirms just this point and reveals not the abandonment of pre-conciliar Mariology, but its continuation.

Later (p. 71) Munsterman nuances this point in distinguishing between two forms of ecclesio-typology: one founding a high ecclesiology, the other a low ecclesiology. The first rests on a christo-typology in Mariology; the second rejects christo-typical Mariology, viz., the maternal mediation of Mary as a principle of the Church. He admits that the Catechism of the Catholic Church (pp. 32-33), as well as the teaching of John Paul II and the title Mater Ecclesiae (p. 36) do seem to follow a high ecclesio-typological orientation. A “high” ecclesiology regards Mary as preeminent member of the Church: not out of the Church, but in some fundamental way above all others in the Church and in some way identical with the Church. Mary’s position in a high ecclesiology is simply that of maternal Mediatrix, on whose activity depends the fruitfulness of all other ministers and members of the Church. A “low” ecclesiology regards Mary as just another member, just another woman. It is evident from the epilogue of Munsterman’s essay (pp. 87-96) that this is his personal position and that this position calls into question both the infallibility and sanctity of the Church. Whence his misplaced criticism of Fr. B. de Margerie (p. 62) and of Cardinal Journet (p. 71) in the use of the term coredemptive in reference both to the objective and subjective redemption.

Vatican II employed the terms maximalism-minimalism primarily in reference to devotional forms rather than doctrine, as Munsterman seems to say in point five. Doctrinally we are all maximalists, for the simple reason that we can never say too much in honor of the divine maternity. What we say may not always be objectively based and hence in need or critiquing. But that is not at all the same as stating a priori what are the objective limits on praise of Mary, as can be done with other members of the Church. I can certainly admit and should admit that St. Joseph as the husband of Mary deserves more honor than myself. But except for our Lord, whose honor should be greater than that of Mary, hence a measure of the limits on that of Mary? One might say abstractly that the honor of our Lord, latria, limits that of Mary, hyperdulia. Unlike the ranking of the saints this does not tell us concretely what is too much for our Lady except in a negative way when we confuse the honors distinctive of her with those distinctive of her Son.

In many ways this caricature of “pre-conciliar” Mariology reflects certain assumptions of those who in one way or another favor a “nouvelle theologie” radically different from what characterized theology in earlier ages.

Against this gross oversimplification of several complex questions the following points may be made:

• this description of pre-conciliar Mariology and the position of Vatican II is a good example of what the present Holy Father means by a hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture, where the discontinuity occurs twice: between scholastic theology and what preceded it in Scripture and the Fathers; and between scholastic theology and post-conciliar theology. Some might say that this one point is enough to sink Munsterman’s entire project as theologically wrongheaded. In any case it makes abundantly clear that Munsterman’s conclusions are anything but apodictic.

• The christo-typical maximalism said to have been repudiated by the Council can only point to a repudiation of the dogma of Ephesus, something Vatican II evidently reaffirmed;

• Far from repudiating Marian mediation Vatican II itself appears to say just the opposite, and certainly John Paul II reaffirms maternal mediation of Mary, indeed deepening its articulation, a stand which Munsterman admits (pp. 33-34) is not easy to reconcile with his brand of conciliar exegesis; the same is true of Pope Paul VI’s declaration of Mary as Mother of the Church (p. 32-33). This is not a repudiation, but a deepening of the christo-typical in view of the ecclesio-typical, making therefore a “high” ecclesiology the preferred “option” of the Council vis-à-vis the preceding Mariology, exactly what Pope Benedict XVI means by a hermeneutic of continuity in doctrine, leading precisely by way of deepened understanding to genuine reform and renewal.

Apart from Munsterman’s errors and omissions the validity of his conclusions ultimately hinges on the correctness of his conciliar hermeneutic. That hermeneutic leads to a denial or misinterpretation of fact as we have seen, a denial which signals a radically skewed concept of theology. Munsterman conceives the work of theology as a kind of systematization of faith experience, one which can never be definitively given “dogmatic” form. An earlier age may have preferred a static-ontological system, one stressing fixity of formulation congenial to a christo-typical, maximalist approach to Mariology. Such an approach, however, may not deal adequately with the biblical-historical data of Revelation, nor with the needs of an era for which a more historical-dynamic approach to the ecclesial experience is more congenial. Thus, according to Munsterman (cf. p. 69 ff.), the thesis of Marian mediation, or more narrowly coredemption, rests on the static-ontological concept of cause, whereas cause in Revelation is used not scholastically, but symbolically to signal some other reality as the true cause. Hence, the Council in prioritizing biblical-historical dynamic in fact has repudiated a Mariology resting on the ontological static.

By way of critical commentary: systematization is a secondary and subordinate aspect both of dogmatic theology and metaphysics. Systematization in theology may always be improved, but whatever form it takes, the dogmatic and metaphysical principles are the same: in biblical, patristic, scholastic theology. These are rooted in the mystery of predestination, viz., in the saving counsels of God, a subject Munsterman never mentions once in his entire essay. Study of the history of salvation is not an alternative to the ontological, but necessarily rests on this revealed metaphysic without which there is no history of salvation to talk about. Munsterman’s notion of system reflects not Catholic tradition, but German idealism of the 18th and 19th centuries. Biblical or patristic based theological study must include a metaphysic, or it is not authentic theology. Scholastic theology is but an elaboration of this latter aspect of all genuine theology. Vatican II did not repudiate such a theology in stressing the biblical-historical, but in the words of Dr. Hauke in developing the traditional effectively marginalized the kind of theologizing recommended by Munsterman.

When we see that “systematizing” in theology in any age is a very subordinate, secondary aspect of theology and is not the equivalent of dogmatic-metaphysical as opposed to biblical-historical, then Munsterman’s interpretation of Newman’s Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine (cf. p. 45, note 4) appears a gross misreading. The multiplication of Marian titles, so abhorrent to Munsterman and to the late Card. Congar (on whom Munsterman depends for many of his premises), does not lead to a wider and wider gap between the biblical texts and current understanding (necessitating a constant de-mythologization and re-mythologization in terms of systematic organization), but simply to a deeper and more practical grasp of the revealed mystery.

The only reason we cannot say enough of Mary or be too devoted to her (St. Bonaventure) is the greatness of the divine maternity. The pre-conciliar Mariology is based on this point. St. Bonaventure put it nicely when he remarked that whether we are talking about the Incarnation or the divine maternity, we are talking about a single mystery which simply surpasses the greatest natural power to understand of any created intellect. If true, no other basis is needed to justify the pre-conciliar Mariology. If it is not true, then Mary is no different from any other woman in the Church, and no basis for Mariology exists (and by extension Christology), exactly the personal position of Munsterman outlined in his epilogue (even if the logic for Christology is not recognized), where Mary is depicted as full of incomprehension and afflicted by psychological tension in her relations with Jesus. Consequently, so is the Church. Such an approach in ecclesiology speaks volumes about the degree to which a low Mariology leads inevitably to a low ecclesiology so characteristic of Protestantism in general. Munsterman claims (pp. 90 ff.), falsely, that this interpretation is more than justified by five gospel texts recording appearances of Mary during the public ministry of Jesus, and that these texts (Mk 3:31-35; 6:1-6; Lk 2:41-50; 11:27-28; Jn 2:1-12) were never correctly understood in Catholic Mariology except under the influence of Protestant biblical scholarship. Such claims demonstrate only one thing, the degree to which Munsterman’s thinking about Mary is Protestant in origin, not Catholic. That recognized, it is not difficult to identify the sources of his conciliar hermeneutics in an apologia for the Protestant Reformation and why Catholic Mariological tradition is such a cross for that brand of ecumenism based on such hermeneutics.

The Problem of a Name (pp. 43-63)

This is the second pillar of Munsterman’s thesis concerning the dubious character of the title Coredemptrix. Not only does Munsterman claim that its formal or conceptual content is repudiated by the Council, but that the title itself is radically meaningless, except when placed in its systematic context. The Council has forbidden this, whence the conclusion.

In the course of this much shorter section many dubious affirmations are encountered such as those concerning the origin and meaning of Marian titles in general (pp. 43-50), assertions which suggest biased selection and an interpretation of titles based on the unproven assumptions of comparative religion. That this kind of argumentation may be made to appear plausible is not a very difficult task, provided one’s audience is sufficiently docile and credulous. It is quite another thing to describe such argumentation as solid. Plausibility or clever hypothesizing in need of proof becomes the basis of critiquing all else. Circular argumentation appears more than once in Munsterman’s essay, nowhere more so than in this section.

Here we need attend only to the key point, the use of a “scholastic” axiom: causa causae est causa causati, to explain why the title coredemptrix originally meant only Mother of the Redeemer and cannot signify active and personal involvement in the work of redemption as carried out by Christ. Thus, causa causae in this case does not mean also cause of the effect of the cause. Munsterman claims this is the major error of Miravalle in his study With Jesus: if Mary is Mother of the Redeemer, or Co-redemptrix, therefore she is actively Co-redemptrix on Calvary. Munsterman claims that the name Coredemptrix came first and meant merely Mother of the Redeemer without any direct relation to the final soteriological effect. This concept came several centuries later, an invention of Counterreformation scholasticism (cf. pp. 53-54; 72-72).

This hypothesis is essentially that of Marian minimalists of mid-20th century constructed to show how the then current favor shown Marian coredemption by a majority of theologians had no immediate biblical or patristic base. As used by Munsterman it is the premise to demonstrate that contemporary theologians like Miravalle are merely forcing history to fit their preconceived theories. Unfortunately, Munsterman has not attended to facts. The theology of the coredemption as we know it was already clearly formulated by the middle of the 15th century in Spain, and claimed to be no more than a restatement of an ancient tradition stretching back to the earliest days of the Church. The fact of Marian coredemption formed a principal argument in favor of the Immaculate Conception. From the perfection of the redemption qua Marian in mode (coredemption) one argued to the fittingness of the Immaculate Conception, not vice-versa (9). This is exactly the mode of argumentation of Duns Scotus and presupposes the coredemptive teaching of St. Bonaventure. This is the point of an essay by myself which Munsterman egregiously misrepresents (p. 78).

In fact, the reverse is true: Mother of Redeemer or Redemptrix originally meant just this: not only Mother of the Cause, but also of the effect (redemption) of this Cause (the Redeemer). It is true, not because the position of Miravalle is more plausible than that of Munsterman, but because the historical record supports Miravalle and proves Munsterman in error. The concept now associated with the title of Coredemptrix originally was indicated by the title Mother of the Redeemer. The title itself: Coredemptrix, makes this point clear in differentiating correctly the roles of Son and Mother in the work of redemption. And it is this point which the Protestant reformers rejected in order to radically redefine ecclesial mediation in the sacramental-hierarchical order.

Introduction of the title Coredemptrix, then, appears as an attempt, not to invent a new doctrinal concept or theological tradition, but to clarify the difference between the two actors in a single oblation as this is found in a received doctrine. The problem of Munsterman is first of all an inability to distinguish between predicamental and transcendental predication involved in the revealed notion of covenant. Behind this stands the mystery of the joint predestination of Jesus and Mary as the divine definition of the order of the hypostatic union. Munsterman seems totally unaware of these points. Hence his misunderstanding of Fr. de Margerie on the Coredemptrix and on coredeeming in the Church, and his failure to perceive the total difference between the position of Fr. de Margerie and that of E. Schillebeeckx.

Is it true that there are no solid grounds (as Munsterman clearly implies, p. 59) other than personal taste for holding that pontifical use of the title Coredemptrix has even minimal doctrinal worth as in the position of Msgr. Calkins? Munsterman quotes only one or two essays of Msgr. Calkins. Had he examined merely those in the series Mary at the Foot of the Cross, and those mentioned in note 3 above (and Msgr. Calkins has written and published much more on the subject), Munsterman would have discovered that the position of those whom he considers unenlightened is solidly based on something more than a mere statistic.

The 10 “Irrefutable” Objections (pp. 65-81)

The ten objections, or what Munsterman calls the systematic exposition of all the telling objections to the title Coredemptrix can only be considered apodictic or irrefutable on condition 1) that the Council did in fact repudiate scholastic Mariology, and 2) that in fact the title is objectively and hopelessly ambiguous. Since Munsterman is simply wrong on both points, the objections do not constitute ten counts on which the title fails to pass muster. Indeed, they become ten counts revealing the sophistry inherent in the underlying modernism of Munsterman and his friends.

The first argument does not prove that coredemption compromises the unity of the Redeemer or redemption, anymore than being Mother of God compromises the divinity and hypostatic unity of her Son, or being a created cause compromises the unicity of the Creator. Current use or abuse of the prefix “co” in modern languages hardly constitutes an insuperable objection; and the synonymous character of the two terms: Savior-Redeemer, would be strongly contested by the school of Scotus as well as many others. The argumentation of Munsterman bears the odor of the Protestant solus, an argument which to be fully logical must also reject the divine maternity.

The second count: hopeless ambiguity calculated to produce tragic misunderstanding, is false. According to the official records of Vatican II, the misunderstanding of this and other titles, “true in themselves” and unequivocal, arises not from objective ambiguity, but from historical circumstances and the unjustifiable prejudices of those who misunderstand and object to the title. The “authorities cited” by Munsterman have no authority to define in the strict sense; and the absence of a solemn definition of coredemption is not the equivalent of ambiguous definition. With all due respect neither Rahner, Semmelroth nor the Dombes Group are correct.

The third count: the title obscures the unique role of the Holy Spirit, like the first logically leads to a denial of the divine maternity. A Catholic should rather be inclined to say: the title Coredemptrix, like that of Theotókos, reveals rather than obscures the role of the Holy Spirit. Once again, the classic Protestant solus evidently governs the analysis, an analysis for this reason wrong-headed. Cooperation in the work of salvation by the saved is the will of God, a cooperation hinging on that of the Virgin Mother, impossible naturally, but not supernaturally by the power of the Holy Spirit. What that power is and how it functions is made plain in the maternal mediation of the Immaculate, and in no other way.

The fourth count: the title and doctrine of coredemption are conditioned by a theological system now outdated and rejected by the Church, because the biblical-patristic foundations of Mariology are historical-symbolic-dynamic, not ontological-objective-static, and because in the sources it is not the maternal mediation of Mary, but the sole action of the Holy Spirit which accounts for our sanctification. We may simply reply: gratis asseritur, gratis negatur. The contra-positioning of symbolic-ontological, dynamic-static is false; the scholastic concept of grace does not neglect the place of the Holy Spirit, and what is connoted by the distinction objective-subjective redemption, rightly perceived by Munsterman as basic to the theological recognition of the unique role of the Virgin-Mother in the consummation of the work of redemption, is part of the deposit of faith.

The fifth count: use of the title signals a return to a maximalist Mariology, is obligatory on Catholics, unless they wish to deny the title Mother of God. Munsterman, in suggesting that some recent studies questioning the solemn definition of this title at Ephesus enjoy credibility, might be suspected of this. Let us pray this is not the case. The fact is that Vatican II did not reject the objective maximalism of the past. One may restrict the meaning of the latter term to a subjective maximalizing, but this hardly invalidates the point of our rebuttal.

Evidently Munsterman is conscious of this point, for he goes on to insist that it is not christo-typology, but a false ecclesio-typology which is at fault, in so far as the titles Coredemptrix and Mediatrix make the Church not only beneficiary of the redemption, but source as well. Once again the Protestant bias is evident: no mediatory role of the Church at all, because none in Mary. Through Mary under Christ and her dynamic presence in the Church, the Church in the order of subjective redemption does indeed cooperate in the distribution of the graces won in the objective redemption, that is, the Church is a source of grace in a subordinate, but true sense of the term “source.”

The sixth count: the title is more important than its content, is silly. No doctrine can be clearly and unambiguously proclaimed without a simple, clear title. Coredemptrix, maternal Mediatrix, Advocate, etc., do just this. Hence the concern of genuine theologians over a title, not just in Mariology, but in every part of theology.

The seventh count: the title rests on a hermeneutic of papal teaching and private revelation rather than biblical-patristic exegesis, is a model of equivocation. That this objection happens to be the position of Congar (formulated with some rather nasty comments on Mediterranean and Irish theological types who shaped pre-conciliar Mariology) does not make it correct; it rather proves that Congar was in more than a few ways wrong on basics. Among the basics here is the correct notion of exegetical method: either subordinate or independent of dogmatic authority. The title Coredemptrix, dogmatic like any other magisterial term, is not thereby rendered unbiblical, but rather is the clear explication of biblical metaphysics. That this title should appear in private revelations approved by the Church does not mean the doctrine connoted by this title is not found in public revelation, or even less that public revelation is not its primary basis, or that the title is inept to connote the teaching of public revelation. That some persons abuse private revelations or that some claimed revelations are not authentic does not invalidate their existence or their service to the Church. One of the most ancient titles of Our Lady is Mater et Magistra Apostolorum; why therefore can she not ask (without prior permission of the academic theologians) that someone work for a dogmatic definition of some mystery? In a traditional context of a “high” ecclesiology the maternal ministry of Mary in the Church enjoys a priority both in relation to the hierarchy and especially in relation to the “academic” theologians, and hardly is a cause for the rise (p. 39) of a “parallel” Church alongside the “official” one run by the theologians and prelates. That this should seem to be the case where a “new” theology is imposed (as in Vatican II triumphalism), is already an indication of some radical flaw in such a concept of theology, viz., that it is determined by theologians rather than by Christ and the Apostles.

As to the “restricted” list of biblical texts employed by Vox Populi, it is only restricted because Munsterman is not aware of the many other studies by supporters of coredemption which should have been consulted before leveling this charge. To cite Barth on the Marian fiat in support of this analysis simply confirms the influence of a Protestant bias throughout the entire book.

Finally, there is not a single reference or even allusion to the mystery of the joint predestination of Jesus and Mary “before the foundation of the world.” The force of the traditional exegesis in favor of Marian mediation and coredemption increases immensely when set in the context of this mystery, one affirmed by Pius IX: Ineffabilis Deus, Pius XII: Munificentissimus Deus, and Vatican II in Lumen Gentium. It is this mystery, as St. Bonaventure and Scotus saw so clearly, which establishes the metaphysical character of the Bible, and not any arbitrary selection of a “systematic” philosophy foreign to the Bible as basis of theological reflection on the sources of Revelation.

The eighth count: the reaffirmation of the title would negate the agreed statement between Lutherans and Catholics on grace and justification, from a Catholic point of view simply means the agreed statement should be repudiated, or reformulated so as to be based on Marian mediation. The Immaculate Mediatrix is germane, indeed essential to any such discussion, because the Virgin-Mother is Mother of grace and the source of all grace, viz., the Incarnate Word. That the agreed statement does not even allude to this reveals just how minimalistic the Catholic representatives in the discussions leading to it actually were. Finally, the agreed statement is not magisterial teaching, and as a theological statement represents mere opinion in no way infallibly guaranteed.

The ninth count: that the use of the title entails a new fundamental principle of Mariology, is a gross misrepresentation of the views of every theologian defending the title. Whereas in dealing with the other counts attempts were made to illustrate them with texts drawn from the works of the theologians criticized, here not even the semblance of a text or summary of an argument is given. Only page numbers, which when consulted reveal nothing faintly related to this charge.

The tenth and final count: the title poses enormous and insuperable problems for ecumenism, is false objectively. No truth of faith, however contested, poses such problems, least of all the Immaculate Mediatrix. The problem here is not the title Coredemptrix, but a false concept of ecumenism and how to cultivate it. Many studies have shown that a solemn definition of Marian mediation would immensely contribute to a happy, objectively valid resolution of the ecumenical question for those of good faith.


The erroneous assertions affecting the basis and validity of Munsterman’s “apodictic” conclusions, the omissions of key facts, the weak and/or faulty argumentation hardly support the claim to be a well documented, solid contribution to contemporary theological thought on Mary. The gross misrepresentation of reputable theologians and the almost total neglect of others on the subject of Marian coredemption suggest not only incompetence, but lack of intellectual honesty in surveying and adjudicating the debate surrounding proposals for a “fifth” Marian dogma.

Before writing another book, perhaps Munsterman should ponder the advice of Alexander Pope in his Essay on Man: A little learning is a dangerous thing; drink deep or taste not the Perean spring.


(1) Cf. G. Barauna, De natura corredemptionis marianae in theologia hodierna (1921-1958). Disquisitio expositivo-positiva (Rome 1960). This standard history is not cited by Munsterman

(2) A. Apollonio, F.I., Mary Coredemptress: Mother of Unity. A Probing Glance at the Hidden Face of Vatican II, in Mary at the Foot of the Cross III (New Bedford MA 2003) pp. 316-358.

(3) On p. 31, note 1, Munsterman cites Fr. O’Carroll as typical of “neo-maximalists” who criticize the Council for having made too many concessions to Protestants. What is in question here is not the doctrine itself, but the prudence of abstaining from the use of such titles as Mediatrix, Coredemptrix, etc., although effectively teaching the doctrine commonly denoted by such titles. If Munsterman’s interpretation of that choice along the lines of Protestant premises concerning the solus, e.g., on pp. 30-31 and 42, is any indication, the reserves and preoccupations of such critics is are well founded. Cf. A.B. Calkins, Marian Co-redemption and the Contemporary Papal Magisterium, in Maria, “unica cooperatrice alla Redenzione” (New Bedford MA 2005) pp. 113-169: here 144-147; Idem, Mary’s Presence in the Mass according to John Paul II, in Mary at the Foot of the Cross VI (New Bedford MA 2006: in course of publication); Idem, Introduction to Totus Tuus (Siena 2005), an anthology of Marian texts of John Paul II.

(4) Cf. M. Hauke, La cooperazione attiva di Maria alla Redenzione. Prospettiva storica, in Maria, unica Cooperatrice alla Redenzione (New Bedford MA 2005) 171-219, here 212-216. Hauke points out that the claim of Fr. Balic, viz., all the essentials of a definition of coredemption as proposed by his professor Msgr. Lebon, are present in chapter 8 of Lumen Gentium, is sustained by Msgr. Philips as well, at one time considered a pre-conciliar minimalist. Such, too, is the view of Fr. Roschini, and according to Hauke, such effectively is the position of Pope John Paul II. Hauke writes thus: “E vero che il Concilio non ha voluto risolvere le controversie teologiche. Ma la dottrina esposta supera anche certe posizioni difese prima.” The theological positions left behind, however, are not those caricatured by Munsterman as “pre-conciliar”, but precisely those Munsterman claims were adopted by the Council and with which the title Mater Ecclesiae and the third part of Redemptoris Mater ill accord. Precisely, because the latter accord with the teaching of Christ, whereas the position of Munsterman is simply an aspect of a false notion of theology applied to the study of our Lady.

(5) M. Miravalle, With Jesus. The Story of Mary Co-Redemptrix (Goleta CA 2003).

(6) In fact, during the decades immediately preceding the Council some reputable theologians (S. Alameda; L. P. Everett) did propose the coredemption as one version of a first principle in Mariology articulated about the mystery of salvation rather than the divine maternity. Cf. C. Vollert, A Theology of Mary (New York 1965) pp. 64-69. The hypothesis, however, did not gain a large following.

(7) In particular Gherardini’s La Corredentrice nel mistero di Cristo e della Chiesa (Rome 1998), and his many contributions to Mary at the Foot of the Cross, in particular The Coredemption of Mary: Doctrine of the Church, in vol. II, pp. 37-48. Munsterman may not agree with Msgr. Gherardini, but that is not an excuse in his kind of study for ignoring such theologians, or branding them along the lines of a Congar as representatives of a pietistic mind-set unworthy of consideration by “genuine” theologians.

(8) The Mystery of Mary (Glouster, England, 2004).

(9) Cf. E. Llamas, I. El Siglo XVII, “Siglo de oro”de la “Corredencion Mariana. II. Testimonios de la teologia contemporanea favorables a la “corredencion mariana”, in Maria. “Unica cooperatrice alla Redenzione” (NewBedford 2005) pp. 221-322; Idem, Mary Coredemptrix in the Spanish Mariology of the 17th Century: Francisco Hurtado, OFM, in Mary at the Foot of the Cross VII (New Bedford MA 2007) in preparation. Munsterman’s total indifference to Spanish mariological history, especially where the latter plainly debunks his premises, reveals the arbitrary methodology by which Munsterman arrives at his conclusions.

Mary’s Cooperation in Redemption in 19th and 20th Century Marian Apparitions

The unique cooperation of the Blessed Virgin Mary with and entirely subordinate to her divine Son, Jesus Christ, in the historic work of redemption is a doctrine consistently taught by the papal magisterium over the past two centuries (1). This Marian doctrine is also found in several ecclesiastically approved Marian apparitions from the same historical period.

Marian coredemption classically refers to the unparalleled participation of the Mother of Jesus in the historic accomplishment of the redemption by Jesus Christ, the divine and human redeemer of all humanity (2). Pope Benedict XVI’s instruction for incorporating a “hermeneutics of continuity” (3) rather than any “hermeneutics of rupture” must also be applied to contemporary Mariology, in seeking a proper respect and appreciation for the Mariology that came before the Council, while at the same time including the new inspirations brought to Mariology by the Council and the postconciliar magisterium. Clearly, the Church’s Tradition which directly articulates the doctrinal truth of Mary’s unique share in the redemption accomplished by Jesus Christ has indeed been continued by the Council and the postconcilar magisterium (4).

Servant of God, Pope John Paul II, refers to Mary’s unique sharing in the passion of her Son, which, mysteriously, was an authentic and objective contribution to the redemption of all humanity, in his 1984 document, Salvifici Doloris:

After the events of her Son’s hidden and public life, events which she must have shared with acute sensitivity, it was on Calvary that Mary’s suffering, beside the suffering of Jesus, reached an intensity which can hardly be imagined from a human point of view but which was mysterious and supernaturally fruitful for the redemption of the world. Her ascent of Calvary and her standing at the foot of the Cross together with the Beloved Disciple were a special sort of sharing in the redeeming death of her Son (5).

Another dimension of the Mother of Jesus’ saving function in the order of grace is her coredemptive role with the Redeemer in mediating to humanity the saving graces of Jesus Christ obtained at Calvary. The Second Vatican Council instructs us that taken up into heaven, the Mother of God did not lay aside her “saving office” but rather continues to “intercede for the gifts of eternal life” (Lumen Gentium, 62). This ongoing aspect of Marian coredemption is referred to in John Paul II’s 1985 homily at Guayaquil, Ecuador, where he refers both to Mary’s “spiritual crucifixion” with Jesus in the historic accomplishment of the world’s redemption ( in his commentary of Lumen Gentium 58), and her continuing role as Co-redemptrix even after the “glorification” of her Son at Calvary:

Mary goes before us and accompanies us. The silent journey that begins with her Immaculate Conception and passes through the “yes” of Nazareth, which makes her the Mother of God, finds on Calvary a particularly important moment.

There also, accepting and assisting at the sacrifice of her son, Mary is the dawn of redemption; … Crucified spiritually with her crucified son (cf. Gal. 2:20), she contemplated with heroic love the death of her God, she “lovingly consented to the immolation of this Victim which she herself had brought forth” (Lumen Gentium, 58) …

In fact, at Calvary she united herself with the sacrifice of her Son that led to the foundation of the Church; her maternal heart shared to the very depths the will of Christ “to gather into one all the dispersed children of God” (Jn. 11:52). Having suffered for the Church, Mary deserved to become the Mother of all the disciples of her Son, the Mother of their unity. …

The Gospels do not tell us of an appearance of the risen Christ to Mary. Nevertheless, as she was in a special way close to the Cross of her Son, she also had to have a privileged experience of his Resurrection. In fact, Mary’s role as Coredemptrix did not cease with the glorification of her Son (6).

Pope Benedict XVI, in his February 11, 2008, letter for the World Day of the Sick on the celebrated Lourdes anniversary, continues the consistent papal teaching on Marian coredemption by discussing Mary’s special sharing in the Redeemer’s passion at Calvary, and even goes on to identify some form of the Mother’s sharing in the suffering on her earthly children in the midst of their own trials and difficulties:

For this reason, Mary is a model of total self-abandonment to God’s will: she received in her heart the eternal Word and she conceived it in her virginal womb; she trusted in God and, with her soul pierced by a sword (cf. Lk. 2:35), she did not hesitate to share the Passion of her Son, renewing on Calvary at the foot of the Cross her “yes” of the Annunciation. … Associated with the Sacrifice of Christ, Mary, Mater Dolorosa, who at the foot of the Cross suffers with her divine Son, is felt to be especially near to the Christian community, which gathers around its suffering members who bear the signs of the Passion of the Lord. Mary suffers with those who are in affliction, with them she hopes, and she is their comfort, supporting them with her maternal help. And is it not perhaps true that the spiritual experience of very many sick people leads us to understand increasingly that “the Divine Redeemer wishes to penetrate the soul of every sufferer through the heart of his holy Mother, the first and the most exalted of all the redeemed” (7)?

At the February 11, 2008, liturgical celebration for the World Day for the Sick in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, His Eminence, Javier Cardinal Lozano Barragán, President of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care, preached on the united sufferings of the Mother and the Son at Calvary and referred to Our Lady as on Calvary as the “Co-redemptrix (corredentrice) of the Savior. … Christ on the cross suffered all the pains that his Most Holy Mother suffered. And she in Christ suffers all our pains, she assumes them and knows how to commiserate with us. Our suffering is also her suffering” (8).

Our present Holy Father again accentuated the doctrine of Marian coredemption and its two most foundational scriptural bases, the “fiat” of the Annunciation (Lk. 1:38) and her co-suffering at Calvary (Jn. 19:25-27), in his May 24, 2008, prayer to Our Lady of Sheshan, dedicated to the Church and the peoples of China:

Virgin Most Holy, Mother of the Incarnate Word and our Mother …

When you obediently said “yes” in the house of Nazareth,
you allowed God’s eternal Son to take flesh in your virginal womb
and thus to begin in history the work of our redemption.
You willingly and generously cooperated in that work,
allowing the sword of pain to pierce your soul,
until the supreme hour of the Cross, when you kept watch on Calvary,
standing beside your Son, Who died that we might live.

From that moment, you became, in a new way,
the Mother of all those who receive your Son, Jesus in faith
and choose to follow in His footsteps by taking up His Cross.
Mother of hope, in the darkness of Holy Saturday you journeyed
with unfailing trust towards the dawn of Easter.
Grant that your children may discern at all times,
even those that are darkest, the signs of God’s loving presence (9).

Yet another invaluable dimension of Marian coredemption is its rich ecclesio-typical call to all disciples of Christ to cooperate in the salvation of others through intercessory prayer, penance, and the patient endurance of sufferings united to the sufferings of the divine Redeemer, all offered in Christian response to the call of St. Paul to “make up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of his body, which is the Church” (Col 1:24). John Paul II, as did his predecessor Pius XI, identified all Christians as “co-redeemers” in Christ (10), in which each member of Christ’s body, through prayer, penance, and their patient offering of suffering and trials in union with Christ, truly cooperate in the mysterious release of the graces obtained by the one divine Redeemer for the salvation of the world (11).

The present Roman Pontiff recently confirmed this ecclesio-typical dimension of coredemption and its vital relevance to contemporary society in his August 6, 2008, comments concerning the later life and sufferings of John Paul II. Pope Benedict speaks of the powerful “redeeming force” of love released through the “passion” of his Totus Tuus predecessor through the spiritual uniting of the Servant of God’s sufferings with the Passion of Christ:

(With his growing weakness), John Paul II …who had been a master of words, thus showed us visibly – it seems to me – the profound truth that the Lord redeemed us with his cross, with the passion, as an extreme act of his love…He showed us that suffering is not only a “no,” something negative, the lack of something, but a positive reality. ..He showed us that suffering accepted for love of Christ, for love of God and of others is a redeeming force, a force of love and no less powerful than the great deeds he accomplished in the first part of his pontificate.

…In a world that thrives on activism, on youth, on being young, strong and beautiful, on succeeding in doing great things, (we) must learn the truth of love which becomes a “passion” and thereby redeems man and unites him with God who is love (12).

In light of the consistent and repeated teachings by the magisterium, as found in both papal and conciliar documents (cf. LG, 57, 58, 61), it should be no surprise that the doctrinal role of Our Lady as Co-redemptrix with Jesus, along with her example as the perfect type and model for the People of God in the Church’s mission to “co-redeem” for the salvation of humanity, would likewise be consistently revealed through the domain of authentic private revelation. These dimensions of Mary’s unique cooperation in redemption and its rich christo-typical and ecclesio-typical fruits, i.e., her unique roles with Jesus in the obtaining and dispensing of the graces of redemption, as well as her perfect model of Christian or “ecclesial coredemption” through intercessory prayer, penance and redemptive suffering, constitute a central foundation of the message of authentic Marian private revelation throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

We will only briefly examine here some principal references to Marian coredemption contained within several Marian apparitions which have at least received ecclesiastical approbation from their local ordinaries, which constitutes the first appropriate jurisdiction for Church discernment and approval of reported private revelation (13).

Rue du Bac, 1830 – Our Lady of Grace and the “Miraculous Medal”

In 1836, Msgr. de Quélen, Archbishop of Paris, gave ecclesiastical approbation to the visions received by St. Catherine Labouré at the motherhouse of the Daughters of Charity in Rue du Bac (14). Our Lady of Grace revealed to St. Catherine a vision with two distinct sides to it, the images from which would be struck the Medal of the Immaculate Conception, or more popularly referred to as the “Miraculous Medal.”

On the vision revealing what would become the front of the medal, Mary is depicted with her foot crushing the head of the serpent in a visual rendition of Genesis 3:15. Regardless of the issue of the gender of the pronoun (15) in this prophetic protoevangelium passage, what remains clearly revealed is: 1) the seed of victory over Satan and his seed of evil can only be Jesus Christ; 2) the Woman-mother of that seed must ultimately be Mary; and 3) the Woman-mother has a true participation with the seed of victory over the serpent and his seed (16).

The front vision for the eventual medal further reveals the image for Mary as the Mediatrix of graces with her arms outstretched and graces flowing from her opened hands (17). The prayer which encircles the front image refers to Our Lady’s role as intercessory Advocate as the prayer beseeches, “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee” (18).

The vision given to St. Catherine showed its reverse side which contained a large “M” connected to a cross, in another visual representing Mary’s unique association with the passion of Jesus and her presence before the cross of redemption. The reversed side of the vision also conveyed the united Hearts of Jesus and Mary, with a sword piercing through Mary’s heart in reference to the scriptural prophecy of Simeon (Lk. 2:35) in his prediction of the Mother’s climactic phase of coredemption with her crucified Son at Calvary.

In this first apparition of what has often been designated as the contemporary “Age of Mary,” the foundational theme of Mary’s unique cooperation in the redemption is clearly revealed.

Lourdes, France, 1858 – The Immaculate Conception

The message of Lourdes conveys the sustained plea by the “Immaculate Conception” for prayer and penance for the dual intentions of reparation to God and for the conversion of sinners, as well as her coredemptive mediation of grace and healing (19) Clearly, the call for prayer and sacrifice for the conversion of sinners enters into the ecclesial mystery of coredemption as the Mother of Jesus beckons cooperation by the members of Christ’s faithful for the salvation of others.

For example, in the sixth apparition on Feb. 21, 1858, the Lady directs 14-year-old Bernadette to, “pray for the sinners” (20). During the eighth apparition, Bernadette reports the woman in the vision repeating, “You are to pray to God for the sinners.” During the same apparition, the Lady conveyed to Bernadette an imperative, which she in turn repeated and was heard by the onlookers, “Penitence, penitence, penitence” (21).

This mysterious release of grace through the coredemptive prayers and penance by the People of God is explained by John Paul II in his commentary on the Pauline call of Col. 1:24:

Those who share in the sufferings of Christ preserve in their own sufferings a very special particle of the infinite treasure of the world’s redemption and can share this treasure with others…” (22).

For, whoever suffers in union with Christ—just as the Apostle Paul bears his “tribulations” in union with Christ—not only receives from Christ that strength already referred to but also “completes” by his suffering “what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.” This evangelical outlook especially highlights the truth concerning the creative character of suffering. The sufferings of Christ created the good of the world’s redemption. This good in itself is inexhaustible and infinite. No man can add anything to it. But at the same time, in the mystery of the Church as his Body, Christ has in a sense opened his own redemptive suffering to all human suffering. In so far as man becomes a sharer in Christ’s sufferings—in any part of the world and at any time in history—to that extent he in his own way completes the suffering through which Christ accomplished the redemption of the world.

Does this mean that the redemption achieved by Christ is not complete? No. It only means that the redemption, accomplished through satisfactory love, remains always open to all love expressed in human suffering (23).

The message of Lourdes, with its overall call for prayer and penance in reparation to God and for the conversion of sinners, constitutes the identical invitation to Christian coredemption.

The Immaculate Conception at Lourdes reveals her coredemptive mediation of grace and healing through the institution of the “miraculous spring,” from which 67 documented miracles which are naturally and scientifically inexplicable have been effected to date (24); as well as through her providential mediation of the entire Lourdes experience which has led to international spiritual conversions, healings, and fruits.

Fatima, Portugal, 1917 – The Lady of the Rosary

All fundamental aspects of Marian coredemption are revealed in the monumental Fatima apparitions. In the angelic apparitions of 1916-1917 which precede the Marian apparitions of May-October 1917, the guardian angel of Portugal summons the young Fatima visionaries to offer prayer, penance, and a form of Eucharistic reparation in coredemptive cooperation for the salvation of souls. We see this, for example, in the prayer taught to the children during the first 1916 “Angel of Peace” apparition as recorded in Sr. Lucia’s memoirs, which seeks pardon for the sins of others:

“Do not be afraid. I am the Angel of Peace. Pray with me!”

Kneeling on the ground, he bowed down until his forehead touched the ground, and made us repeat these words three times:

“My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love you. And I ask pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope, and do not love you”

Then rising, he said: “Pray thus. The Hearts of Jesus and Mary are attentive to the voice of your supplications” (25).

The directive for increased prayer and sacrifice by the Angel in the later 1916 anticipatory apparition to Our Lady’s visitation boldly calls for coredemptive offerings by the children in supplication to God and for the conversion of sinners::

“What are you doing?” he asked. Pray, pray very much! The Most Holy Hearts of Jesus and Mary have designs of mercy on you. Offer prayers and sacrifices constantly to the Most High.”

“How are we to make sacrifices,” I asked.

“Make of everything you can a sacrifice, and offer it to God as an act of reparation for the sins by which he is offended, and in supplication for the conversion of sinners. You will thus draw down peace upon your country. … Above all, accept and bear with submission the suffering which the Lord will send you” (26).

The 1917 angelic apparition reveals the same directives for the salvific conversion of sinners, but adds a profound dimension of Eucharistic reparation and coredemption through the revelation of a prayer that calls for the spiritual offering of consecrated hosts by the laity in reparation to God and for the conversion of sinners (in a manner reminiscent of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and its prayer of offering the Eucharistic Jesus in the tabernacles throughout the world in atonement for the world’s sins):

“Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, I adore you profoundly, and I offer you the most precious Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges, and indifference with which he himself is offended. And through the infinite merits of his Most Sacred Heart, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of you conversion of poor sinners.”

Then, rising, he took the chalice and the host in his hands. He gave the Host to me, and shared the Blood from the chalice between Jacinta and Francisco, saying as he did so: “Take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, horribly outraged by ungrateful men! Make reparation for their crimes and console your God” (27).

Not only is the heavenly request for prayer and sacrifice to save souls an obvious dimension of Christian coredemption, but the call for reparation to God in atonement for humanity’s offenses is likewise coredemptive, insofar as it effects a mitigation of God’s justice as applied to mankind, which advances the greater salvation of human family.

During the Marian apparitions in 1917, Our Lady of the Rosary refers to her own universal and preeminent role in coredemption, as well as continuing the call for ecclesial coredemption with yet greater specificity. For example, in the May 13 apparitions, Our Lady asks the children:

Are you willing to offer yourselves to God and bear all the suffering he wills to send you, as an act of reparation for the sins by which he is offended, and in supplication for the conversion of sinners?

“Yes, we are willing.”

“Then you are going to have much to suffer, but the grace of God will be your comfort” (28).

In the June13, 1917, Our Lady makes a “promise of salvation” for those who embrace devotion to Her Immaculate Heart, which certainly identifies her unique role with Jesus in human redemption:

(Jesus) wants to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. I promise salvation to those who embrace it, and those souls will be loved by God like flowers placed by me to adorn his throne (29).

At the end of the apparition, she opened her hands as Our Lady had done in the previous apparition and in a manner at least symbolic of her role as mediatrix of graces, she “communicated to us the rays of that same immanent light” in which the children saw themselves immersed in God and then saw a heart encircled with thorns in Our Lady’s right hand which they understood to represent “the Immaculate Heart of Mary, outraged by the sins of humanity and seeking reparation” (30).

On July 13, 1917, in arguably the single most historically significant Marian message to the modern world, Our Lady of Fatima calls for salvific human cooperation manifested through active devotion and consecration to her Immaculate Heart in order to save sinners from the fires of eternal damnation, to avoid a conditional second world war, various persecutions of the Church and specific sufferings for the Holy Father, the errors of atheistic communism from spreading throughout the world, and even in avoidance or mitigation of the potential annihilation of nations (31).Within this historic message, Our Lady of the Rosary refers to her own unparalleled role with and under Jesus for human salvation and for peace in the world, when she reveals to the children her unique coredemptive role that “only she can help you”:

“… Continue to pray the Rosary every day in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary, in order to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war, because only she can help you” (32).

The October 13, 1917, apparition and its series of images include the depiction of Mary as the Lady of Sorrows, her traditional image as Co-redemptrix (33). Again, Our Lady of the Rosary calls humanity to assist in the salvation of others through the daily praying of the Rosary and through the cessation of divine offenses, because “he is already so much offended” (34).

On December 10, 1925, Our Lady appeared to Sr. Lucia at the convent of Pontevedra in Spain with the specific request for the Five First Saturdays of Reparation (35). Within this request, we see the call for reparation directed specifically to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in light of the offenses that her Heart receives mystically through the offenses, blasphemies, and ingratitudes by her earthly children.

Heaven’s call for humanity to offer the reception of the sacraments of Holy Communion and Reconciliation, as well as the Rosary and meditation on the Rosary mysteries, in an effort to atone for the mysterious mystical suffering experienced by the Heart of Mary profoundly attests to her unique sharing with Jesus in the ongoing work of redemption in virtue of her unparalleled role as ” a mother to us in the order of grace” (cf. Lumen Gentium, 61). The Five First Saturday “promise” of the graces of eternal salvation for those who cooperate with these conditions of prayer and sacramental life (36) offered in reparation to her Immaculate Heart present us with a concrete expression of her motherly role as the coredemptive “mediatrix,” who intercedes to brings us the “gifts of eternal life (LG 62).”

On June 26, 2000, the third part or the “secret” of the July 13, 1917, Fatima message was released. Within this third part of the Fatima message was the exhortation from the angel with a flaming sword for, “Penance, penance, penance!” (as an echo to the words of Bernadette during the Feb. 24, 1858, Lourdes message) (37). The Lord’s Mother was also seen in this part of the vision with the angel, where the “splendor” from her right hand put out the flames from the angel’s sword. Amidst a variety of potential interpretations, what appears certain is the consistent theme of Our Lady’s privileged role in human salvation (for example, in the July 13, 1917, message that “only she can help you” ) and her sublime intercessory and protective role as universal Advocate. God continues to reveal and beckon humanity’s acknowledgement of Mary’s providential role as the universal Advocate in bringing peace to the world and mitigation from punishment, all of which would advance towards the fulfillment of the Fatima prophecy that “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph … and a period of peace will be granted to the world” (38).

Akita, Japan, 1973 – Our Lady of Akita

On April 22, 1984, Bishop John Shojiro Ito of the Diocese of Niigata, Japan, issued a pastoral letter, where, after direct consultation with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (39), the Bishop of Niigata declared: “After long prayer and mature reflection …(and) after the investigation conducted up to the present day, I recognize the supernatural character of a series of mysterious events concerning the statue of Holy Mother Mary which is found in the convent of the Institute of the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist at Yuzawadai, Soegawa, Akita” (40). After a later meeting of Cardinal Ratzinger in his dicastery office with former Philippines ambassador to the Vatican, Howard Dee, the Ambassador stated that Cardinal Ratzinger directly confirmed to him that the message of Fatima and the message of Akita “are essentially the same” (41).

Bishop Ito issued his 1984 pastoral letter, after ten years of theological, scientific, and medical research, which declared the supernatural character of the messages and concurring phenomena associated with a statue of the Lady of All Nations as experienced by Sr. Agnes Sasagawa at the convent of the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist in Akita, Japan (42). The messages of Our Lady at Akita as well as the 101 occurrences of lachrymations, or tears, issued from a wooden statue carved after the image of the “Lady of All Nations,” at that time the reported series of apparitions from Amsterdam from 1945 to 1959 which likewise emphasize Mary’s role as Co-redemptrix (43).

In his 1982 report to Cardinal Ratzinger regarding the lachrymations of the statue of the Lady of All Nations in the chapel convent of Sr. Agnes, Bishop Ito made the following conclusions:

1. I, who am Bishop, witnessed the weepings of the statue four times. I observed tears well up and overflow from the eyes of the statue and stream down just as a human being sheds tears. I watched the tears stream down the statue’s cheek, accumulate on the chin, then flowing down the statue’s garment, reaching the feet and then flowing along the globe on which the statue stands. Then the tears reached the pedestal that supports the globe and statue.

I can never forget the profound emotion I experienced when I first watched the tears from the statue. I was so strongly touched at the sight that I felt like wiping away the tears by bringing cotton. In actuality, I wiped away the tears from the statue of the Holy Mother. Twice, I tasted the tears, which tasted salty just like human tears.

2. The statue shed tears 101 times from 1975 until 1981 and more than 400 persons witnessed these weepings. If these weepings had been performed by someone as trickery, it would have been discovered and uncovered as such during this long period.

3. The Faculty of Medicine at the University of Gifu officially analyzed and examined the tears which were collected with absorbent cotton. The university identified the tears as human fluid and proved that the blood type of the tears is type O. Therefore, it is an impossibility to arrange for the statue to shed tears of a human being in such a large quantity (44).

In his 1984 pastoral letter, Bishop Ito again commented on the mysterious phenomena of the Lady of All Nations statue shedding tears and his conclusion of authenticity:

The most remarkable fact, in our opinion, and the most evident, is the overflowing of an aqueous liquid, similar to human tears, from the eyes of the statue of Our Holy Mother.

This began on the 4th of January, 1975 (Holy Year), and some tears flowed 101 times, until the 15th of September, 1981, Feast of Our Lady of the Seven Dolors. I was able myself to witness four lachrymations. About 500 persons have also been eyewitnesses. I twice tasted this liquid. It was salty and seemed to me truly human tears. The scientific examination of Professor Sagisaka, specialist in legal medicine in the faculty of medicine at the University of Akita, has proved that this liquid is indeed identical to human tears.

It is beyond human powers to produce water where there is none, and I believe that to do this the intervention of a non-human force is necessary. Moreover, it is not the question of pure water, but of a liquid identical to liquid secreted by a human body, and that more than 100 times over a period of several years and before many numerous witnesses. It has been established that it could not have been by trickery or human maneuvers (45).

The Akita call for Christian coredemption is evident in the experience of Sr. Agnes who received a stigmatization in the palm of her left hand in the form of a cross. Bishop Ito in his report to Cardinal Ratzinger reported his own witnessing of the cross-shaped wound, which was approximately two centimeters by three centimeters in length (46). Sr. Agnes reported the wound first formed in the palm of her left hand on June 28, 1973, the eve of the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and that the wound caused an “almost unbearable pain” (47). The wound in her palm would renew itself each week, appearing in the form of a cross and beginning to shed blood on Thursdays; bleed profusely on Friday’s; and then return to a cross-shaped pink blister on Saturdays (48). This mystical coredemptive offering by Sr. Agnes continued to and through the time period leading up to the first message of Our Lady on July 6, 1973, and is recorded in Bishop Ito’s pastoral letter (49). Later observations also record instances where blood issued from the left palm of the statue of the Lady of All Nations as well, which can be understood in continuity with the Amsterdam apparitions, as the original image of the Lady of All Nations in Amsterdam depicts healed wounds in the palms of Our Lady’s hands, which make refer to her union of suffering with her Son at Calvary (50).

On July 6, 1973, Our Lady revealed to Sr. Agnes the first Akita message. After being awakened and led to the chapel at 3:00 a.m. by her guardian angel (in a manner similar to an angelic escort received by St. Catherine Labouré before her first visitation from Our Lady at Rue du Bac (51)), the Mother of Jesus revealed the following to Sr. Agnes, “…Does the wound in your hand give you pain? Pray in reparation for the sins of humanity” (52). Our Lady goes on to pray the prayer of the Handmaids of the Eucharist with Sr. Agnes, which includes a consecration and offering to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, truly present in the Eucharist, which is “being sacrificed at every instant on all the altars of the world” (53), and a self-offering of the religious to be used “for the glory of the Father and the salvation of souls” (54). The Lady of Akita ends this first message with the instruction: “Pray very much for the pope, bishops, and priests. … Continue to pray very much … very much” (55).

In a published letter of February 28, 1989, from Bishop Ito of Niigata to Bishop Hendrik Bomers, Bishop of Haarlem, the diocese in which the apparitions of the Lady of All Nations occurred, Bishop Ito highlights several links between the approved Akita apparitions and the apparitions of the Lady of All Nations. Bishop Ito reports as one link the mystical occurrence that on the occasion of the first Marian message at Akita on July 6, 1973, an angel appeared and prayed with Sr. Agnes the Prayer of the Lady of All Nations, which had been previously revealed to the Amsterdam visionary, Ida Peerdeman on February 11, 1951 (56). Bishop Ito also pilgrimaged to the Lady of All Nations Chapel in Amsterdam after the Akita approval and offered Mass at the apparition chapel (57).

The second Marian message occurs on August 3, 1973. Sr. Agnes was physically deaf at the beginning of these mystical phenomena surrounding the statue of the Lady of all Nations, but was promised a miraculous healing during the July 6, 1973, message (a healing which took place on the Fatima anniversary of October 13, 1973, and then after a relapse some time later, a permanent and complete healing on the feast of Pentecost, May 30, 1982) (58). As Sr. Agnes was deaf during the revelation of the messages, she described hearing a beautiful voice of a woman with her “spiritual ears,” a voice which was coming from the Lady of All Nations statue (59).

In this August 3 messages, Our Lady repeats key imperatives for Christian reparation and the coredemptive offering of suffering and sacrifices for the salvation of souls, in expressions most parallel to the Fatima message:

“Many men in this world grieve the Lord. I seek souls to console Him. In order to appease the anger of the Heavenly Father, I wish, with my Son, for souls who will make reparation for sinners and the ungrateful by offering up their sufferings and poverty to God on their behalf” (60).


“Prayer, penance, honest poverty, and courageous acts of sacrifices can soften the anger of the Heavenly Father … please make much of poverty, deepen repentance, and pray amid your poverty in reparation for the ingratitude and insults toward the Lord by so many men…offer your lives to God in reparation for sins …” (61).

The third Marian message was delivered on October 13, 1973, the 60th anniversary of the Fatima solar miracle. The message conveys a strong call for coredemptive prayer, especially the Rosary, and sacrifice, in the face of a significant conditional chastisement for the increasing sins of humanity (62). In a near identical reference to Our Lady’s unique coredemptive role in human salvation as revealed in the Fatima words, “only she can help you” (63), Our Lady of Akita reveals in the midst of this warning of possible world purification that, “I alone am able to save you from the calamities which approach. Those who place their total confidence in me will be given the necessary help” (64). Once again we see that the “Mediatrix of mercy” (65) has been given the task by God to intercede for the graces of world peace and mitigation from the full claim of divine justice.

The final weeping of the statue of the Lady of All Nations at Akita took place on September 15, 1981, the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. On September 28, 1981, the fourth supernaturally revealed message was given to Sr. Agnes. This message was conveyed by the guardian angel of Sr. Agnes, which took place in the context of a vision of a “majestic Bible” with a particular verse emphasized. The following is the account and commentary of the fourth Akita message by the spiritual director of Sr. Agnes, Fr. Thomas Yasuda:

“The most important message among the various Divine messages in Akita is the one imparted by the angel to Sr. Agnes on the 28th of September of 1981. Even the three previous Marian messages were precursor to this last manifestation which occurred 13 days after the final weeping of the statue.”

…Sr. Agnes suddenly felt the presence of her guardian angel at her side during adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament. She saw the vision of a large, majestic Bible appear before her eyes, and then the guardian angel instructed her to read a passage.

She recognized the reference—verse 15 of chapter 3 of Genesis.

Then, the guardian angel explained the meaning of the number 101 of the one hundred and one episodes of the weepings of the Blessed Mother of Akita. The angel said:

“There is a meaning to the figure one hundred and one. This signifies that sin came into the world by a woman and it is also by a woman that salvation came into the world. The zero between the two signifies the eternal God who is from all eternity until eternity. The first one represents Eve, and the last, the Virgin Mary” (66).

…The miracles of the bleeding and weeping of the statue of the Blessed Mother of Akita were brought about by God in order to illustrate the truth of Mary’s role as ‘Co-redemptrix’”… “For Roman Catholics, the Bible is the most powerful authority by which the truthfulness of a certain teaching or dogma is proved, and so God arranged for Sr. Agnes to see it in a vision in Akita to prove that Mary is the Co-redemptrix” (67).

Fr. Thomas Yasuda goes on to describe the overall Akita apparitions as an identification of Mary as the “Co-redemptrix of humanity,” whose lachrymations testify to her sorrows for the present condition of humanity:

Amidst this mystical and real process of the joint distribution of all graces, Jesus and Our Holy Mother are jointly struggling against Satan to help believers courageously join in the subjective redemption, or the application of the effects of Christ’s sacrifice. Because of this mystical struggle with Satan—where the eternal lives of souls are at stake—one can affirm that our heavenly Mother is still offering up her mystical pains of childbearing for us, all believers, while acting as an instrument of graces to sanctify us. …

Because this struggle continues until our Mother completes the process of giving birth to all members of the Mystical Body of Christ, and in this sense, her mystical pains of childbearing will continue until the end of the world. This is the profoundest meaning of her coredemption. The tears shed by the wooden statue of Our Lady in Akita is the hard evidence God has manifested in history, in order to prove the lasting enmity between Satan and our Heavenly Mother (68).

Former Philippines Ambassador Howard Dee makes the observation that 28 years spanned the time between the 1917 Fatima apparitions and the 1945 Amsterdam apparitions, and another 28 years span the time between the Amsterdam apparitions and the 1973 Akita apparitions (69). More substantial to the indissoluble link between Fatima, Amsterdam, and Akita is the organic continuity of message, phenomena, and fruits.

What should be taken as definitive is the fact that God in his perfect providence would never take the image from a false apparition and then utilize it for a miraculous purpose, i.e., the Lady of All Nations image which has led to documented supernatural events of lachrymations, messages, bleedings, and healings. These constitute supernatural phenomena and fruits, sustained by documentable empirical and scientific evidence directly associated with the Amsterdam image which have received official approval as consisting of supernatural origin by the local ordinary after repeated consultation and approval by the Holy See.

The essential links noted by Bishop Ito between the 1973 Akita apparitions from the Lady of All Nations statue image (coupled with its strong message of Marian and ecclesial coredemption), and the 1945 Amsterdam apparitions with its quintessential call for the solemn definition of Mary as Co-redemptrix, surface connaturally from a study of both apparitions. Akita and Amsterdam organically and logically stand together.

Amsterdam, Netherlands, 1945 – The Lady of All Nations

In 1996, Bishop Hendrik Bomers of the Diocese of Haarlem, Netherlands, after consultation with Cardinal Ratzinger as presiding prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, approved the title of “The Lady of All Nations,” and gave permission for the public devotion according to individual conscience associated with the Lady of All Nations apparitions to the visionary, Ida Peerdeman from 1945 to 1959 (70). On May 31, 2002, Bishop Jozef Maria Punt of the Diocese of Haarlem, Netherlands issued at pastoral statement in which he concluded, after extended study, that the Lady of All Nations apparitions consisted essentially of a supernatural origin (71). Since 2002, the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith and the Diocese of Haarlem have had continued consultation regarding the Amsterdam apparitions (72).

The Amsterdam messages continue the perennial revelation of Marian coredemption throughout the past two centuries of Marian messages, with 23 references to Our Lady as “Co-redemptrix;” 21 references to the “dogma” of Mary Co-redemptrix (as well as her consequential roles as Mediatrix and Advocate) and at least 11 requests for prayer and petitioning for the solemn papal definition of Mary as the “Co-redemptrix, along as well as her consequential mediatorial roles as Mediatrix and Advocate (73). The Lady of All Nations apparitions also provide several explanatory messages of her role as Co-redemptrix, some specific to the theological community. For example, the Amsterdam message of October 5, 1952:

“And I am not reproaching theologians now as I say: why can you not come to an agreement about this dogma? I will explain it yet again and make it even clearer.

“The Father sent the Lord Jesus Christ as Redeemer for all peoples. The Lord Jesus Christ was this from the beginning. He became this at the Sacrifice and at his departure to the Father.

“Miriam, or Mary, became the Handmaid of the Lord, chosen by the Father and the Holy Spirit. At the beginning she was—by this election—the Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate of all nations. Only at the departure of the God-Man, the Lord Jesus Christ, did she become the Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate.

At the departure of the Lord Jesus Christ, He gave Miriam, or Mary, to the nations in one act, giving her as ‘The Lady of All Nations.’ For He spoke the words, ‘Woman, behold your son; son, behold your mother.’ One act, and by this Miriam, or Mary, received this new title.

“How is it that this is entering the world only now: ‘The Lady of All Nations’? Because the Lord has awaited this time. The other dogmas had to precede, just as her life first had to precede the Lady of All Nations. All the dogmas that preceded comprise the life and the departure of the Lady. For the theologians, this simple explanation will be sufficient” (74).

Further mariological explanation of her role as Co-redemptrix is offered to the theological community in this April 4, 1954, message:

“Here I am again. Listen carefully. From the beginning, the Handmaid of the Lord was chosen to be the Co-redemptrix. Tell your theologians that they can find everything in their books…I am not bringing a new doctrine. I am now bringing old thoughts.”

She pauses again and then says,

“Because Mary is Co-redemptrix, she is also Mediatrix, she is also Advocate. Not only because she is the Mother of the Lord Jesus Christ, but—and mark this well—because she is the Immaculate Conception. Theologians, I ask you: do you still have objections to this dogma? You will be able to find these words and thoughts. I ask you to work for this dogma… Fight for and ask for this dogma. It is the crowning of your Lady!”

… “The Lady, the Handmaid of the Lord, was chosen and made fruitful by the Holy Spirit.”

Now the Lady pauses and I see a haze, a radiant veil coming about her. Then she says, very slowly,

“The Lady was chosen. She was also to be present when the Holy Spirit was received. The Holy Spirit had to come over the Apostles,” and raising her finger, the Lady says with emphasis, “the first theologians! For this reason, the Lord wanted His Mother to be present there. His Mother, the Lady of All Nations, at the departure of Her Son became the Lady of All Nations, the Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate in the presence of one Apostle, one theologian as witness. For he had to care for ‘thy Mother.’ She had to care for ‘her Apostles’” (75).

Our Lady’s reference to the presence of the doctrine of Marian coredemption, mediation, and advocacy being rather ubiquitously present in theological books and writings from the 1940s and 1950s is certainly documentable. Most every introductory mariological text or manual had at least a chapter on Coredemption and mediation (76). Not only had major works on these three dimensions of Mary’s universal mediation been offered. but also theological and Mariological journals of the time in a diversity of languages contained treatments and discussions of Marian coredemption (77).

In her May 31, 1954, message, the Lady again calls theologians to work for this dogma of the Co-redemptrix, and gives a type of visual explanation of how the three roles of Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate are actually simply three aspects of her singular role as spiritual mother, which is instituted in one act of Calvary (and that the first title of Co-redemptrix, in spite of difficulty, will eventually be recognized):

Here I am again. The Coredemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate is now standing before you. I have chosen this day—on this day the Lady will be crowned. Theologians and apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ, listen carefully. I have given you the explanation of the dogma. Work for and ask for this dogma. You are to petition the Holy Father for this dogma…On this date the Coredemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate will receive her official title as ‘The Lady of All Nations.’ Mark well, these three thoughts in one act. These three.”

Now the Lady shows me three fingers and moves her other hand around herself, and then it is as if a haze, a radiant veil, is coming about her.

“And now I let your theologians see these three thoughts, these three thoughts in one act. I say this twice because there are some who want only one thought. The Holy Father will agree to the former. You, however, shall help him to get there. Understand all of this well” (78).

It was in fact on May 31, 1996, that Bishop Hendrik Bomers, after consultation with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and the Congregation, gave official approval to the title, “Lady of all Nations” and approved the devotion for acceptance according to the conscience of the individual believer. On the same date of May 31, 2002, Bishop Punt released his declaration that the Our Lady of All Nations apparitions “consist of a supernatural origin” (79).

A positive pneumatology in relation to Marian coredemption and mediation is also presented in the message of May 31, 1954, where in relaying a prophecy and vision concerning the eventual dogmatic proclamation by the Roman pontiff, the Lady explains her advocacy to the Holy Spirit in interceding for a “descent of the Holy Spirit” in our age (80):

Now, all of a sudden, it is as if I were standing with the Lady above the dome of a big church. As we enter, I hear the Lady say, “I am taking you there. Relate what I let you see and hear.”

We are now in a very big church, in St. Peter’s. I see lots of cardinals and bishops gathered there. Then the Pope enters. It is a Pope I do not know. He is being carried in a kind of chair, but later he continues on foot. People cheer; the choir begins to sing. Now the Holy Father is announcing something in a language I do not understand, while holding up two fingers.

All at once the Lady stands on the globe again. She smiles and says,

“Child, thus have I let you see what is the will of the Lord Jesus Christ. This day will become the coronation of His Mother, the Lady of All Nations, who once was Mary.”

Now the Lady remains standing without saying anything, as she gazes far into the distance. This lasts a while and then she says, “And the Lady stayed with her Apostles until the Spirit came…””So also may the Lady come to her apostles and nations throughout the whole world, in order to bring them the Holy Spirit again and anew. For before great decisions, the true Holy Spirit must always be invoked.”

Now the Lady pauses again for a moment, and then she says very strikingly, in a low voice, “And Mary stayed with her Apostles.”

… Then the Lady looks in front of herself, as if into the distance, and says very clearly and slowly, “My prophecy, ‘From now onwards all nations will call me blessed,’ will be fulfilled more than ever before, when the dogma is proclaimed …” (81).

The promise of world peace as the direct fruit of the proclamation of this Marian dogma is conveyed by the Lady towards the end of this May 31, 1954, message:

“… The Lady of All Nations wishes for unity in the true Holy Spirit. The world is covered by a false spirit, by Satan. Once the dogma, the final dogma in Marian history, has been proclaimed, the Lady of All Nations will grant peace, true peace, to the world. The nations, however, must pray my prayer, together with the Church. They shall know that the Lady of All Nations has come as Coredemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate. So be it” (82).

It is not only in virtue of bringing to completion the organic development of doctrine regarding Marian Coredemption which has been consistently taking place over the course of the last two centuries, but also in light of important contemporary global issues such as war, terrorism, natural disaster, and moral decline that has motivated a significant number of cardinals and bishops to petition our present Pope Benedict for a solemn definition of Mary Co-redemptrix. On January 1, 2008, five cardinals wrote to every other cardinal and bishop throughout the world, inviting them to join their and other cardinals’ and bishops’ votum (petition) To the present Holy Father for the dogma of Mary as spiritual mother of all peoples under its three essential aspects as Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate, precisely as the necessary Marian “remedy” for some of the most serious issues facing the Church and the world today, including the critical and urgent issue of world peace (83).


On February 18, 1959, Bl. Pope John XXIII at the close of a Lourdes event, called all humanity to “listen with simplicity of mind and honesty of heart to the salutary warnings of the Mother of God,” in order to “guide us in our conduct” (84). While Marian private revelation could never provide a foundation for a Catholic doctrinal teaching nor authentic doctrinal development, both of which must rest firmly upon the public revelation contained in Scripture and Tradition as authoritatively interpreted by the magisterium (85), nonetheless authentic private revelation has served the purpose historically of providing a “spark” to the Church’s doctrinal development, a supernatural and external encouragement for a particular direction of doctrinal development for the greatest possible benefit for the Church at a particular point of human history.

Evidence of this positive influence of authentic private revelation for a particular direction in doctrinal development for the Church in a given age can be seen in the anticipatory Miraculous Medal apparitions and the consequential Lourdes apparitions which effected a greater appreciation of the Immaculate Conception. In the case of the former Rue du Bac apparitions and its prayer, “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee” (86), we see its favorable influence towards the solemn definition to the Immaculate Conception in 1854 (87); and in the case of the latter Lourdes apparitions, we perceive the benefit of a greater appreciation of the Marian truth among the common faithful of the time (88).

The consistent and climaxing revelation of the truth and importance of Marian coredemption from the domain of authentic private revelation from the last two centuries can have the same positive effect on the doctrinal development regarding the Mother of the Redeemer: our greater understanding of her, our proper response to her call for ecclesial coredemption, and her proper solemn recognition as unique Co-redemptrix.

Is not Christian coredemption also essentially linked to the imperative for the New Evangelization? Is not Christian coredemption an antidote for the erroneous perception of suffering as “valueless,” especially in an age where tragic suffering appears ubiquitous, from human-rights violations and family crises, to euthanasia and suicide, to unprecedented external global terrorism and internal terrorism in the womb through abortion, to natural disasters and world hunger on an ever-rising scale?

Our Lady’s unique role with Jesus in the redemption of humanity is obviously a theme that heaven desires to be intensely renewed in our contemporary minds and hearts – to utilize for our personal Christian sanctification, and as well as the advocating remedy for some of the greatest concerns of our society, including the growing daily imperative for world peace.

May the Church follow the guidance of our heavenly Mother towards the doctrinal development of Our Lady’s role as Co-redemptrix in the nature and to the degree most beneficial for the People of God and for the world in these significant times for humanity.



(1) Cf. Msgr. Arthur Burton Calkins, “The Mystery of Mary Coredemptrix in the Papal Magisterium” in Mary Co-redemptrix: Doctrinal Issues Today, Mark Miravalle, ed. (Goleta, CA: Queenship, 2002), pp. 25-92. Cf. also J.B. Carol, O.F.M., “Our Lady’s Coredemption,” in Mariology vol. 2 (Milwaukee: Bruce, 1957), pp. 377-425; Mark Miravalle, With Jesus: The Story of Mary Co-redemptrix (Queenship, 2003), pp. 189-212.

(2) Cf. J. Galot, S.J., “Maria: Mediatrice o Madre Universale?,” Civilta Cattolica, 1996, I, pp. 232-244. Galot, “Maria Corredentrice: Controversie e problemi dottrinali,” Civilta Cattolica, 1994, III, pp. pp.213-225; Galot, S.J., “Maria Corredentrice” in L’Osservatore Romano, September 15, 1997, Daily Italian Ed.; Carol, De Corredemptione Beatae Virginis Mariae, Romae, 1950; R. Garrigou-Lagrange, The Mother of Our Savior and Our Interior Life (Rockford, IL: Tan Publishers, 1993), pp 156-196.

(3) Insegnamenti di Benedetto XVI (2005) 1023-1031.

(4) Cf. Msgr. Arthur Burton Calkins, “Pope John Paul II’s Ordinary Magisterium on Marian Coredemption: Consistent Teaching and More Recent Perspectives,” in Mary at the Foot of the Cross II: Acts of the Second International Symposium on Marian Coredemption (Academy of the Immaculate, 2002), pp. 1-36.

(5) Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Letter, Salvifici Doloris, February 11, 1984, n. 25.

(6) Pope John Paul II, Homily at Guayaquil, Ecuador, January 31, 1985, Inseg VIII/1 (1985) 318-319, ORE 876:7.

(7) Benedict XVI, Message of His Holiness Benedict XVI for the Sixteenth World Day of the Sick, February 11, 2008, Libreria Editrice Vaticana; cf. John Paul II, Salvifici Doloris, n. 26.

(8) Javier Cardinal Lozano Barragán, Homily on Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and World Day of the Sick, February 11, 2008; cf. Vatican Information Service, “Our Sufferings are also Christ’s Sufferings,” February 12, 2008.

(9) Prayer of the Pope to Our Lady of Sheshan, Vatican Information Services, May 16, 2008.

(10) Cf. John Paul II, Address to the sick at the Hospital of the Brothers of St. John of God, April 5, 1981, L’Osservatore Romano, English edition, April 13, 1981, p. 6; General Audience, Jan. 13, 1982, Inseg. V/1, 1982, 91; Address to candidates for the Priesthood, Montevideo, May 8, 1988, L’Osservatore Romano, English edition, May 30, 1988, p. 4; cf. Pius XI, Papal Allocution at Vicenza, Nov. 30, 1933.

(11) Cf. Pope Pius XII, Encyclical, Mystici Corporis, nn. 106, 110; John Paul II, Salvific Doloris, nn. 24, 25, 27.

(12) Zenit News Services, Pope Benedict XVI, Aug. 6 question-and-answer session with priests of Bressanone, Part II, August 19, 2008,

(13) Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Norms for the Evaluation of Reported Apparitions, February 24, 1978. Cf. Miravalle, “Marian Private Revelation: Nature, Evaluation, Message” in Mariology: A Guide for Priests, Deacons, Seminarians, and Consecrated Persons (Queenship, 2008), p. 831.

(14) J.M. Aladel, “Quentin” Canonical Inquiry, p. 2, p. 8 (Archives of the Priests of the Congregation of the Mission, Paris, France); cf. Dirvin, Saint Catherine Labouré, p. 114; cf. also R. Laurentin, The Life of Catherine Labouré, p. 88. Cf. “Marian Private Revelation” in Mariology, p. 848.

(15) Cf. Bro. Thomas Sennott, M.I.C.M., “Mary Co-redemptrix,” Mary at the Foot of the Cross II: Acts of the Second International Symposium on Marian Coredemption (Academy of the Immaculate, 2002), pp. 49-63. Cf. “Marian Private Revelation” in Mariology, note 131, pp. 846-847.

(16) Cf. Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus, 1854. For an extended treatment, cf. Miravalle, With Jesus, pp. 17-30.

(17) Cf. St. Catherine, Autograph, August 15, 1841, Archives of the Daughters of Charity, Paris, France; Joseph Dirvin, C.M., Saint Catherine Labouré of the Miraculous Medal (1958, reprinted 1984 by Tan), p. 93; “Marian Private Revelation” in Mariology, p. 845.

(18) Emphasis mine, cf. St. Catherine, Autograph, August 15, 1841; cf. Dirvin, Saint Catherine Labouré, p. 94.

(19) Cf. “Marian Private Revelation” in Mariology, pp. 850-861.

(20) J.B. Estrade, J.H. Girolestone, tr., The Appearance of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Grotto of Lourdes (Westminster, Art and Book Co., Ltd., 1912), pp. 61-62.

(21) Cf. R. Laurentin, Lourdes: Histoire Authentique, Vol. 4, pp. 229-277, 278-315; Alan Neame, The Happening at Lourdes (London, Catholic Book Club, 1968), p. 84; “Marian Private Revelation” in Mariology, pp. 852-853.

(22) SD, n. 27.

(23) SD, n. 24.

(24) Medical Reports of the Miracles at Lourdes. For recent reference, cf. for ex. Ficocelli, St. Bernadette and Lourdes, Zenit interview, Sept. 8, 2008.

(25) Louis Kondor, S.V.D., ed., Fatima in Lucia’s Own Words: Sister Lucia’s Memoirs (Postulation Center, Fatima, Portugal, 9th edition, 1995), Second Memoir, pp. 61-62.

(26) Memoirs, Second Memoir, p. 62.

(27) Ibid.

(28) Memoirs, Fourth Memoir, pp. 156-158.

(29) Memoirs, Fourth Memoir, pp. 158-160.

(30) Memoirs, Fourth Memoir, pp. 160-161.

(31) Ibid.

(32) Memoirs, Fourth Memoir, pp. 161-162.

(33) Cf. “Marian Private Revelation” in Mariology, p. 877.

(34) Memoirs, Fourth Memoir, pp. 168-170.

(35) Memoirs, Appendix I, p. 231; cf. “Marian Private Revelation” in Mariology, pp. 877-878.

(36) On five consecutive First Saturdays, to confess, receive holy communion, recite five decades of the Rosary, and to keep Our Lady “company” by meditating on the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary, all with the intention making reparation to her Immaculate Heart for the ingratitudes and offenses of humanity, cf. Memoirs, Fourth Memoir, pp. 166-167.

(37) L’Osservatore Romano, English edition, June 28, 2000, Special Insert, p. IV; cf. Estrade, Appearances, p. 90.

(38) Memoirs, Fourth Memoir, pp. 161-166.

(39) Note: Francis Mutsuo Fukushima, Secretary to Bishop Ito was himself present for the meeting of Cardinal Ratzinger and Bishop Ito at the Vatican; March, 13, 1982, Report of Bishop Ito to Cardinal Ratzinger, cf. Francis Mutsuo Fukushima, Akita: Mother of God as CoRedemptrix: Modern Miracles of the Holy Eucharist (Queenship, 1994), pp. 23-24.

(40) Pastoral letter of Bishop Ito, April 22, 1984, in Fukushima, Akita: Mother of God as CoRedemptrix, p. 219.

(41) Cf. interview with Ambassador Howard Dee, “‘Our Lady’s Ambassador,’” Inside the Vatican, November 1998, pp. 30-33.

(42) Cf. Pastoral letter of Bishop Ito in Akita: Mother of God as CoRedemptrix, Appendix C, pp. 209-220. Cf. Ibid., pp. 23-24.

(43) Cf. The Messages of the Lady of All Nations (Amsterdam: The Lady of All Nations Foundation, New ed., 1999).

(44) Fukushima, Akita: Mother of God as CoRedemptrix, pp. 23-24. For the scientific study of the tears and the blood that flowed from the statue, cf. ibid. appendices A and B, pp. 199-208.

(45) Fukushima, Akita: Mother of God as CoRedemptrix, p. 211.

(46) Cf. report of Bishop Ito to Cardinal Ratzinger, March 13, 1982; Fukushima, Akita: Mother of God as CoRedemptrix, p. 24.

(47) Ibid.

(48) Ibid.

(49) Cf. Pastoral letter of Bishop Ito in Akita: Mother of God as CoRedemptrix, Appendix C, pp. 214-215.

(50) Messages of the Lady of All Nations, May 31, 1951, message. Note: This can also refer to the minor mystical tradition that Our Lady experienced the invisible though truly physical stigmata in union with her crucified Son at Calvary. If saints such as St. Francis and St. Pio have experienced the physical wounds of Christ, all the more appropriate by the Queen of Martyrs and unique Co-redemptrix.

(51) Cf. “Marian Private Revelation” in Mariology, pp. 842-844; Fukushima, Akita: Mother of God as CoRedemptrix, p. 11.

(52) Fukushima, Akita: Mother of God as CoRedemptrix, p. 12.

(53) Ibid, p. 214.

(54) Ibid.

(55) Ibid.

(56) Letter from John Shojiro Ito, Bishop Emeritus of Niigata, to Hendrik Bomers, Bishop of Haarlem, February 28, 1989,

(57) Ibid.

(58) Fukushima, Akita: Mother of God as CoRedemptrix, pp. 45-54.

(59) Cf. ibid., p. 12.

(60) Ibid., p. 13.

(61) Ibid.

(62) Ibid.

(63) July 13, 1917, Fatima message, Memoirs, Fourth Memoir, pp. 161-162.

(64) October 13, 1973, message to Sr. Agnes. Fukushima, Akita: Mother of God as CoRedemptrix, p. 15.

(65) John Paul II, Encyclical, Redemptoris Mater, n. 41.

(66) Fukushima, Akita: Mother of God as CoRedemptrix, pp. 149-150.

(67) Ibid., p. 152.

(68) Fr. Thomas Teiji Yasuda, S.V.D., “The Message of Mary Coredemptrix at Akita and its Complementarity with the Dogma Movement,” Miravalle, Ed., Contemporary Insights on a Fifth Marian Dogma: Mary Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate: Theological Foundations III (Queenship, 2000), pp. 246-247.

(69) Howard Dee, Inside the Vatican, November 1998, p. 33. Cf. Contemporary Insights, “Our Lady’s Ambassador: John Paul II, Fatima, and the Fifth Marian Dogma” in Contemporary Insights on a Fifth Marian Dogma, p. 10.

(70) Cf. pastoral statement of Bishops Bomers and Jozef Maria Punt, May 31, 1996, the Lady of All Nations official Web site, the_Title262.htm#top.

(71) Cf. pastoral statement of Bishop Punt on May 31, 2002, the Lady of All Nations official Web site, 258.htm#top.

(72) For example, the 2007 pastoral adjustment of a phrase of the prayer of the Lady of All Nations through consultation between the Bishop of Haarlem and the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. Cf. Letter of Bishop Punt designating change of the prayer of the Lady of all Nations, August 8, 2005,

(73) Cf. The Messages of the Lady of All Nations (Amsterdam: The Lady of All Nations Foundation, New ed., 1999) Co-redemptrix references: April 15, 1951; April 29, 1951;April 29, 1951;May 31, 1951; July 2, 1951; August 15, 1951; September 20, 1951; November 15, 1951; December 31, 1951; February 17, 1951; April 6, 1952; June 15, 1952 (coredemption); October 5, 1952; December 8, 1952; March 20; 1952; May 10, 1952; October 11, 1953; April 4, 1954; May 31, 1954; May 31, 1955; May 31, 1956; May 31, 1957; February 12-17, 1958. Dogma references: April 1, 1951; April 15, 1951; April 29, 1951;April 29, 1951;May 31, 1951; July 2, 1951; August 15, 1951; September 20, 1951; November 15, 1951; December 31, 1951; February 17, 1951; April 6, 1952; June 15, 1952 (coredemption); October 5, 1952; December 8, 1952; March 20; 1952; May 10, 1952; October 11, 1953; April 4, 1954; May 31, 1954; May 31, 1955; May 31, 1956; May 31, 1957; February 19, 1958. Requests for Dogma: August 15, 1951 (impliciter); December 31, 1951 (impliciter); April 6, 1952; December 8, 1952; May 10, 1953; October 11 1953; April 4, 1954; May 31, 1954; May 31, 1956; May 31, 1957.

(74) The Messages of the Lady of All Nations, 43rd message, October 5, 1952, p. 125.

(75) Ibid., 49th message, April 4, 1954, pp. 142-143.

(76) For example of a small sampling of the numerous works in many languages, cf. Carol, De Corredemptione; R. Laurentin, Le Titre de Corédemtrice; G Roschini, Maria Santissima Nella Storia della Salvezza, vol. 2, pp. 171-232; L Riley, “Historical Conspectus of the Doctrine of Mary’s Co-redemption”; Gregory Alastruey, The Blessed Virgin Mary, English translation of the original by Sr. M.J. La Giglia, O.P., Herder, 1964, ch. 2; Friethoff, O.P., A Complete Mariology, Blackfriars, 1958, English translation of Dutch original, Part III, ch. I-V; Carol, “Our Lady’s Coredemption,” in Mariology vol. 2, pp. 377-425.

(77) Cf. for example, the numerous articles and conferences dealing with coredemption and mediation from the 1940s up to and including the early 1960s as found in the Italian Marianum, the Spanish Ephemerides Mariologicae, the French Etudes Mariales, Bulletin de la Société francaise d’Etudes Mariales, the U.S. Marian Studies. For international episcopal approval of the “Co-redemptrix” title, cf. Carol, De Corredemptione Beatae Virginis Mariae, Civitas Vaticana, 1950, p. 608; as well as conference presentations on the subject; concerning “Mediatrix of all graces,” cf. Sacred Congregation of Rites under Pius XII, Miracles for the Canonization of Louis M. Grignion de Montfort, AAS 34, 1942, p. 44: “Gathering together the tradition of the Fathers, the Doctor Mellifluus (St. Bernard) teaches that God wants us to have everything through Mary. This pious and salutary doctrine all theologians at the present time hold in common accord” (my emphasis).

(78) The Messages of the Lady of All Nations, 50th message, May 31, 1954, pp. 145-146.

(79) Cf. pastoral statement of Bishop Punt on May 31, 2002, the Lady of All Nations official Web site, 258.htm#top.

(80) A call reminiscent of the prayer of Bl. John XXIII at the opening session of the Second Vatican Council (Pope John XXIII, address at opening of Second Vatican Council, Oct. 11, 1962); Pope Benedict’s recent call for a “New Pentecost” in the United States (cf. Homily of Pope Benedict XVI at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, April 19, 2008); and his call for a “new age” of the Holy Spirit at the 2008 World Youth Day Closing Liturgy in Sydney (cf. Homily of Pope Benedict XVI on World Youth Day at Randwick Racecourse, Sydney, Australia, July 20, 2008).

(81) The Messages of the Lady of All Nations, 50th message, May 31, 1954, pp. 146-147.

(82) Ibid., p. 148.

(83) For example, Cardinal Aponte Martínez, one of the five cardinal promoters of the 2008 petition offered the following comment in support of the present timeliness of this potential dogma by Benedict XVI: “I believe the time is now for the papal definition of the relationship of the Mother of Jesus to the each one of us, her earthly children, in her roles as Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix of all graces, and Advocate. To solemnly proclaim Mary as the spiritual mother of all peoples is to fully and officially recognize her titles, and consequently to activate, to bring to new life the spiritual, intercessory functions they offer the Church for the New Evangelization, and for humanity in our serious present world situation.” Cardinals Initiate Petition for a Fifth Marian Dogma, January 1, 2008, cf.

(84) Bl. John XXIII, Lourdes Closing Address, February 18, 1959, L’Osservatore Romano, Feb. 20-25, 1959.

(85) Cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum, nn. 9, 10.

(86) Cf. St. Catherine, Autograph, August 15, 1841; cf. Dirvin, Saint Catherine Labouré, p. 94.

(87) Cf. Dirvin, Saint Catherine Labouré, p. 178.

(88) Cf. “Marian Private Revelation” in Mariology, p. 808. Note: A similar Christological parallel to this phenomenon of private revelation on doctrinal development is the impact of the Divine Mercy messages to St. Faustina and its public effect for the Church in the new accentuation on God’s infinite mercy for our troubled world in the specific expressions of the 1980 encyclical, Dives in Misericordia; the public liturgical celebration of the Feast of Divine Mercy on the Sunday following Easter Sunday, and the new conference on Divine Mercy initiated by the Holy See and its renewed and enthusiastic promulgation of the scriptural and traditional truth of God’s mercy throughout the world.

Mary Co-redemptrix: The Cross Accepted

In order to understand more fully the mystery of the Cross, it is essential that one comes to understand Mary’s role of Coredemption with Jesus. This work will set out by exploring the Scriptural and Magisterial foundations of Marian coredemption. The writings of the Church Fathers will add depth and perspective as to how Mary’s role as Co-redemptrix has developed in the Church through the centuries. Special attention will be given to the suffering experienced by Mary in her role as Co-redemptrix. Mary’s participation in redemptive suffering will be shown as an example for all of humanity to follow. In this way, Marian coredemption comes to be understood as the Cross accepted.

Before exploring the foundations of Marian coredemption, it is of the utmost importance to make a few clarifications in order to prevent any misunderstandings. First, it is important to keep in mind the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church that, “What the Catholic faith believes about Mary is based on what it believes about Christ, and what it teaches about Mary illumines in turn its faith in Christ” (CCC 487). Second, the universal and maternal Mediation of Mary, “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. It does not hinder in any way the immediate union of the faithful with Christ but on the contrary fosters it” (LG 60). Third, the Church teaches that, “Sacred tradition and sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the word of God, committed to the Church … the task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ” (DV 10). Sacred Scripture, sacred Tradition, and the Magisterium must all be incorporated to receive the full revelation of God to humanity. With these clarifications in mind, the definition of a key term that occurs in this work will prove helpful.

It is important to realize that the title Co-redemptrix in no way places Mary on an equal level with Jesus. Mary is given the title Co-redemptrix for her role in uniquely sharing with and under Jesus in the acquisition of graces, as shown in Sacred Scripture. The “co” in Co-redemptrix does not mean “equal to,” but comes from the Latin “cum” which means “with.” The word redeem comes from the Latin “redimere” which means “to buy back from.” The ending “trix” is used to denote the feminine. “The term ‘co-redemptrix’ is properly translated ‘the woman with the redeemer’ or more literally ‘she who buys back with (the redeemer)’” (1). It must be clear that this “buying back with the Redeemer” on the part of Mary, is a secondary and subordinate role, which is completely dependent on the redeeming work of Christ. With this key term defined, it is time to move on to the Scriptural foundations of Marian coredemption.

Marian coredemption can be found in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Mary’s coredemptive role can be found implicitly in the Old Testament. The Second Vatican Council states, “The books of the Old Testament describe the history of salvation, by which the coming of Christ into the world was slowly prepared. The earliest documents, as they are read in the Church and understood in the light of a further and full revelation, bring the figure of a woman, Mother of the Redeemer, into a gradually clearer light” (LG 55). What is concealed about Mary in the Old Testament becomes revealed by the New Testament accounts of her Son’s redeeming work. The New Testament tells more explicitly the story of Mary’s cooperation in God’s divine plan of salvation which helps to bring about the redeeming work of her Son. Reading the Old Testament in light of the New Testament will help shed light on the fullness of the saving truth that is divinely revealed in the text.

The account of the fall in Genesis reveals the protoevangelium (First Gospel) which is the key Old Testament text supporting Mary’s role as Co-redemptrix. After the fall of Adam and Eve, God said to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Gen 3:15). This prophetic verse is good news because it contains the promise of the Redeemer who will suffer in order to victoriously buy back mankind from the bondage of sin. The woman will be united with the Redeemer in his struggles and sufferings that will gain victory over the serpent and sin.

The Redeemer who is the “seed” of the “woman” can be no one but Jesus Christ whose death and resurrection redeemed humanity. The “woman” can only refer to Mary because she is the woman who gave physical birth to the Jesus Christ the Redeemer. Lumen Gentium states that Mary is, “prophetically foreshadowed in the promise of victory over the serpent which was given to our first parents after their fall into sin” (LG 55). The woman (Mary) in union with her seed (Jesus), are placed in complete opposition to the serpent (Satan) and his seed (sin) by a God-given perpetual enmity. In this way, Mary is shown to be in union with Jesus in his redeeming victory over Satan and sin from the beginning. The complete enmity between Mary and sin was also essential to Pope Pius IX’s solemn definition of Mary’s Immaculate Conception in 1854 and Pope Pius XII’s solemn definition of the Assumption in 1950. Christian tradition sees a connection between Eve’s role in the fall with Adam, and Mary’s role in the redeeming work of Jesus Christ.

God’s plan for the redemption of humanity has been seen by the Church as a new creation. “In Jesus Christ the visible world which God created for man – the world that, when sin entered, ‘was subjected to futility’ – recovers again its original link with the divine source of Wisdom and Love” (RH 8). Just as St. Paul sees Jesus as the “New Adam” (Rom 5:14) in this new creation, many of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church have declared Mary the “new Eve.”

The Fathers saw God’s plan for a new creation accomplished through Christ’s redemptive act according to the principles of Recapitulation and Recirculation. Recapitulation is the act of the Redeemer bringing everything from the first creation into himself so that it can be reconciled with the Father. Recirculation teaches that Christ would accomplish salvation by retracing the missteps of Adam and correcting them step by step. These principles would also necessitate a correction of the role that Eve played in the fall (2). This correction would be accomplished in Mary, who reversed the disobedience of Eve at the fall by her obedience to God’s word beginning at the Annunciation. These principles led the Fathers to declare Mary as the “new Eve.”

St. Justin Martyr is the first of the Church Fathers to make the comparison between Mary and Eve. In his Dialogue with Trypho written in 155, he speaks of Jesus and Mary according to the principle of Recirculation:

He became Man by the Virgin so that the course which was taken by disobedience in the beginning through the agency of the serpent, might be also the very course by which it would be put down. For Eve, a virgin and undefiled, conceived the word of the serpent, and bore disobedience and death. But the Virgin Mary received faith and joy when the angel Gabriel announced to her the glad tidings that the Spirit of the Lord would come upon her and the power of the Most High would overshadow her, for which reason the Holy One being born of her is the Son of God. And she replied: ‘Be it done to me according to thy word’ (3).

St. Irenaeus of Lyons completes Mary’s role in the cycle of recirculation by showing how Mary’s reversal of the missteps of Eve became the “cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race.” In his work Against Heresies, written 180-199, he says:

Consequently, then, Mary the Virgin is found obedient, saying: “Behold, O Lord, your handmaid; be it done to me according to your word.” Eve, however, was disobedient; and when yet a virgin she did not obey … Just as she … having become disobedient, was made the cause of death for herself and for the whole human race; so also Mary … being obedient, was made the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race … Thus, the knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. What the virgin Eve had bound in unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosed through faith (4).

In his work, The Flesh of Christ, written 208-212, Tertullian speaks of Christ as the “New Adam.” He shows how the divine plan of Recapitulation takes place with the help of Mary’s reversal of the actions of Eve:

God recovered His image and likeness in a procedure similar to that in which He had been robbed of it by the devil. For it was while Eve was still a virgin that the word of the devil crept in to erect an edifice of death.

Likewise, through a Virgin, the Word of God was introduced to set up a structure of life. Thus, what had been laid to waste in ruin by this sex, was by the same sex re-established in salvation. Eve had believed the serpent; Mary believed Gabriel. That which the one destroyed by believing, the other, by believing, set straight (5).

St. Augustine also sees God’s plan of recapitulation being completed with the help of Mary correcting the errors of Eve. In his work Christian Combat written in 397, he writes:

Our Lord Jesus Christ … who came to liberate mankind, in which both males and females are destined to salvation, was not averse to males, for He took the form of a male, nor to females, for of a female he was born. Besides, there is a great mystery here: that just as death comes to us through a woman, Life is born to us through a woman; that the devil, defeated, would be tormented by each nature, feminine and masculine, since he had taken delight in the defection of both (6).

The above quotes from the Fathers of the Church show that Mary is granted the status of the “New Eve” because of her unique role in cooperating with Jesus to redeem humanity. It was said of Mary that she was “the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race,” that her obedience “re-established” God’s plan for salvation, and that “Life is born to us” through her. This is an impressive list of patristic examples that support Mary’s role as Co-redemptrix. It is interesting to note that, in most cases, these Fathers were defending orthodox Christology through Mariology. These are just a few of the many examples of Mary crushing Christological errors. The truth about Mary comes from the truth about Christ, and the truth about Mary in turn protects the truth about Christ. The light of Jesus as the Redeemer also reveals more fully other key prophetic Old Testament verses about Mary.

In the Books of Micah and Isaiah the Lord reveals that salvation will come about through a Virgin birth. The prophecy of Isaiah to Ahaz says, “the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Is 7:14). Matthew and Luke both tell of this prophecy being fulfilled when the Virgin Mary, after being overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, conceived and gave birth to Jesus (see Mt 1:23, Lk 1:35). The prophecy of Micah tells of this birth coming from Bethlehem by saying, “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are little among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in travail has brought forth” (Mic 5:2-3). All three Old Testament verses from above (Gen 3:15, Is 7:14, Mic 5:2-3) make no mention of a father. This is unusual in Jewish genealogies and signifies the virginal implication present in the texts. This implication points the reader to Mary’s virginal birth to Jesus Christ in Bethlehem.

Mary connects the Old and New Testaments in a unique way. “She stands out among the poor and humble of the Lord, who confidently hope for and receive salvation from him. After a long period of waiting the times are fulfilled in her, the exalted Daughter of Zion and the new plan of salvation is established, when the Son of God has taken human nature from her, that he might in the mysteries of his flesh free man from sin” (LG 55). The Marian texts of the New Testament will reveal how she helped to fulfill the time when this new plan of salvation would be accomplished in her Son.

God’s new plan of salvation is summarized in two verses of St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. St. Paul says, “But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal 4:4-5). The phrase “born of a woman” shows that Mary is an essential part of God’s eternal plan for salvation. God predestined Mary from all eternity to play this essential role. Pope John Paul II explains that, “In the mystery of Christ she is present even ‘before the creation of the world,’ as the one whom the Father ‘has chosen’ as Mother of his Son in the Incarnation” (RM 8). It was Mary’s Immaculate Conception that prepared her to cooperate in God’s eternal plan of salvation in a unique and singular way. God revealed to Mary at the Annunciation that she was chosen to be the Mother of his Son.

Luke’s Gospel recounts the story of the angel Gabriel’s Annunciation to the Virgin Mary. This announcement is what initiates Mary’s role as Co-redemptrix:

“Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no husband?” And the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her (Lk 1:28-38).

The angel Gabriel does not greet Mary with her earthly name, but instead gives her the new name, “full of grace.” This new name shows that Mary has a “fullness of grace” because she was chosen and destined to be the Mother of Christ as part of God’s eternal plan for the salvation of humanity. Mary’s election as the Mother of Christ is “wholly exceptional and unique” (RM 8-9). The same can be said of her role to play in the mystery of Christ.

The Incarnation of Jesus Christ made salvation possible. St. Paul says, “we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all” (Heb 10:10). God willed that Mary’s fiat (let it be done to me according to your word) would bring the instrument of salvation into the world. The Fathers of the Church see Mary, “as used by God not merely in a passive way, but as freely cooperating in the work of human salvation through faith and obedience” (LG 56). The free and active “Yes” of Mary must be seen as a lifetime “Yes.” By consenting to become the Mother of the Redeemer, Mary accepts all the responsibilities that come with her unique role in God’s plan of redemption, including the Cross. Above all, this “Yes” of Mary is an act of faith in which Mary abandons herself to God’s will. This act of faith on the part of Mary is present in each step she takes with her Son on the road to Calvary. Mary’s “Yes” was given for the entire human race and brought about a “spiritual marriage between the Son of God and human nature” which was necessary for the redemption (MC 110). This “Yes” of Mary to become the Mother of the Son of God is the beginning of her role as Co-redemptrix with the Redeemer.

Luke’s Gospel gives account of the presentation of Jesus in the temple. Mary and Joseph bring their newborn baby Jesus to the Temple of Jerusalem to present him to the Lord according to the Law of Moses. Luke continues by telling of the words spoken by the righteous and devout Simeon:

And inspired by the Spirit he came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, “Lord, now lettest though thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory to thy people Israel.” And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed” (Lk 2:25-35).

While the inspired words of Simeon confirm the good news that Mary received from the angel Gabriel, the presentation can also be seen as a type of sorrowful Annunciation. Pope John Paul II says that, “Simeon’s words seem like a second Annunciation to Mary, for they tell her of the actual historical situation in which the Son is to accomplish his mission, namely, misunderstanding and sorrow. While this understanding on the one hand confirms her faith in the accomplishment of the divine promises of salvation, on the other hand it also reveals to her that she will have to live her obedience of faith in suffering, at the side of the suffering Saviour, and that her motherhood will be mysterious and sorrowful” (RM 16). Mary is aware from this moment on that her child will be a “sign of contradiction.” She must ponder the meaning of this in her maternal heart which will bring her much sorrow and suffering (7). It must be remembered that Mary’s fiat was a free and active “yes” to a lifetime in union with the Redeemer, wherever it took her. Many popes have seen Mary’s fiat combined with her offering of Jesus in the temple as a foreshadowing of the offering of her Son that would be made on Calvary.

Pope Leo XIII saw Mary’s fiat as a lifetime “Yes” that would lead from the Annunciation and the Presentation to Calvary. In his Encyclical Jucunda Semper, from 1894, he states:

When she professed herself the handmaid of the Lord for the mother’s office, and when, at the foot of the altar, she offered up her whole self with her child Jesus – then and thereafter she took her part in the painful expiation offered by her son for the sins of the world. It is certain, therefore, that she suffered in the very depths of her soul with His most bitter suffering and with his torments. Finally, it was before the eyes of Mary that the divine Sacrifice for which she had borne and nurtured the Victim was to be finished. As we contemplate him in the last and most piteous of these mysteries, we see that “there stood by the Cross of Jesus Mary His Mother” (Jn 19:25), who, in a miracle of love, so that she might receive us as her sons, offered generously to Divine Justice her own Son, and in her Heart died with Him, stabbed by the sword of sorrow (8).

Pope St. Pius X shows the connection between Mary’s role in the Incarnation and her offering of her Son. In his Encyclical Ad Diem Illum from 1904 he states:

The most holy Mother of God, accordingly, supplied the “matter for flesh of the only-begotten Son of God to be born of human members” so that a Victim for man’s salvation might be available. But this is not her only title to our praise. In addition, she was entrusted with the duty of watching over the same Victim, of nourishing Him, and even offering Him upon the altar at the appointed time (9).

Pope Paul VI in his work Marialis Cultus from 1974 makes a similar connection between the presentation in the Temple and the Cross by reflecting on a prayer from St. Bernard. Paul VI states:

The Church herself, in particular, from the Middle Ages onwards, has detected in the heart of the Virgin taking her Son to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord a desire to make an offering, a desire that exceeds the ordinary meaning of the rite. A witness to this intuition is found in the loving prayer of St. Bernard: “Offer your Son, holy Virgin, and present to the Lord the blessed fruit of your womb. Offer for the reconciliation of us all the holy Victim which is pleasing to God.”

This union of the Mother and the Son in the work of redemption reaches its climax at Calvary, where Christ “offered himself as the perfect sacrifice to God” (Heb 9:14) and where Mary stood by the Cross, “suffering grievously with her only-begotten Son. There she united herself with a maternal heart to his sacrifice, and lovingly consented to the immolation of this Victim which she herself had brought forth” and also was offering to the eternal Father (10).

Pope John Paul II in his Encyclical Evangelium Vitae from 1995 shows Mary’s role from the Annunciation to the Cross and beyond. John Paul II states:

“Standing by the Cross of Jesus” (Jn 19:25), Mary shares in the gift which the Son makes of himself: she offers Jesus, gives him over, and begets him to the end for our sake. The “yes” spoken on the day of the Annunciation reaches full maturity on the day of the Cross, when the time comes for Mary to receive and beget as her children all those who become disciples, pouring out upon them the saving love of her Son: “When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’” (Jn 19:26) (11).

It is becoming clear that Mary’s free and active fiat was a lifetime “yes” to her role as Co-redemptrix. This can be seen in Mary’s offering of herself and her Son to God at the Temple. Simeon’s prophecy to Mary that “a sword will pierce through your own soul also” would find its fulfillment at the foot of the Cross. In God’s eternal plan for salvation, the free and faithful “yes” of Mary was destined to lead to the Cross.

John’s gospel brings us to the story of Jesus’ death on the Cross with Mary standing at the foot of the Cross. The account reads:

“Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdelane. When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the scripture), “I thirst.” A bowl full of vinegar stood there; so they put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, “It is finished”; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit (Jn 19:25-30).

Jesus’ death on the Cross is the pivotal moment in human history. At the Cross, Jesus reconciled all of humanity with the Father by buying them back from the bondage of sin. In doing so, he restored dignity to humanity. Standing under the Cross was his Mother Mary who was the first fruit of his redemptive work. It is in union with her Son at Calvary that Mary fulfills her role as Co-redemptrix.

Mary united herself in faith with her Son’s mission from the time of the Annunciation to Calvary. She persevered in faith to the foot of the Cross where Simeon’s prophecy that her Son would become a sign of contradiction was fulfilled. “On that wood of the Cross her Son hangs in agony as one condemned. ‘He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows … he was despised, and we esteemed him not’: as one destroyed (Is 53:3-5)” (RM 18). The intensity of pain and suffering this must have caused His Mother is beyond comprehension. Only the heroic faith of Mary could bring her through the most tragic event in human history. At Calvary, Simeon’s prophecy to Mary that “a sword will pierce through your own soul also” would also be fulfilled. That Mary actively participated and suffered at the foot of the Cross has been attested to by the Magisterium and many popes through the years.

Pope Pius VII (1800-1823), from the Summa Aurea, makes it clear that at the foot of the Cross Mary offered up her sorrows to the Father. He states:

Certainly, it is the duty of Christians toward the Blessed Virgin Mary, as children of so good a Mother, to honor unceasingly and with affectionate zeal the memory of the bitter sorrows which she underwent with admirable courage and invincible constancy especially when she stood at the foot of the Cross and offered those sorrows to the Eternal Father for our salvation (12).

Pope St. Pius X speaks of Mary as “entirely participating” with Christ in His Passion. In his Encyclical Ad Diem Illum from 1904 he states:

Hence the ever united life and labors of the Son and the Mother which permit the application to both of the words of the Psalmist: “My life is wasted with grief and my years in sighs.” When the supreme hour of the Son came, beside the Cross of Jesus there stood Mary, His Mother, not merely occupied in contemplating the cruel spectacle, but rejoicing that her only Son was offered for the salvation of mankind; and so entirely participating in His Passion that, if it had been possible “she would have gladly borne all the torments that her Son underwent.”

From this community of will and suffering between Christ and Mary “she merited to become most worthily the reparatrix of the lost world” and dispensatrix of all the gifts that our Savior purchased for us by his death and by his blood (13).

Pope Benedict XV in his letter Inter Sodalicia from 1918 speaks of Mary’s active role and suffering under the Cross. He teaches:

According to the common teaching of the Doctors it was God’s design that the Blessed Virgin Mary…should assist Him when He was dying nailed to the Cross. Mary suffered and, as it were, nearly died with her suffering Son; for the salvation of mankind she renounced her mother’s rights and, as far as it depended on her, offered her Son to placate divine justice; so we may well say that she with Christ redeemed mankind (14).

Pope Pius XI was the first pope to officially attribute the title Co-redemptrix to Mary. In Vicenza, Italy, in 1933, he spoke these words to a crowd of pilgrims:

From the nature of His work the Redeemer ought to have associated His Mother with His work. For this reason we invoke her under the title of Coredemptrix. She gave us the Savior, she accompanied Him in the work of redemption as far as the Cross itself, sharing with him the sorrows of the agony and of the death in which Jesus consummated the redemption of mankind (15).

Pope Pius XII in his Encyclical Mystici Corporis from 1943 speaks of Mary offering her Son with her maternal rights to the Father. He says of Mary:

She it was who, immune from all sin, personal or inherited, and ever most closely united with her Son, offered Him on Golgatha to the Eternal Father together with the holocaust of her maternal rights and motherly love, like a new Eve, for all the children of Adam contaminated through this unhappy fall, and thus she, who was the mother of our Head according to the flesh, became by a new title of sorrow and glory the spiritual mother of all His members (16).

The Second Vatican Council, drawing from previous popes, gives a thorough summary of Mary’s coredemptive role at the foot of the Cross. Lumen Gentium states:

The Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the Cross, where she stood, in keeping with the divine plan, enduring with her only begotten Son the intensity of his suffering, associated herself with his sacrifice in her mother’s heart, and lovingly consented to the immolation of this victim which was born of her. Finally, she was given by the same Christ Jesus dying on the cross as a mother to his disciple, with these words: “Woman, behold thy Son” (Jn 19:26-27) (LG 58).

Pope John Paul II used the title Co-redemptrix at least six times during his papacy. One beautiful example of usage comes from a homily he gave in Guayaquil, Ecuador. John Paul II adds perspective to the totality of Mary’s continuous role in union with Jesus. He says:

Mary goes before us and accompanies us. The silent journey that begins with her Immaculate Conception and passes through the “yes” of Nazareth, which makes her the Mother of God, finds on Calvary a particularly important moment. There also, accepting and assisting at the sacrifice of her Son, Mary is the dawn of redemption … Crucified spiritually with her crucified Son (Gal 2:20), she contemplated with heroic love the death of her God, she “lovingly consented to the immolation of this Victim which she herself had brought forth” (LG 58) … In fact, at Calvary she united herself with the sacrifice of her Son that led to the foundation of the Church; her maternal heart shared to the very depths the will of Christ “to gather into one all the dispersed children of God” (Jn 11:52). Having suffered for the Church, Mary deserved to become the Mother of all the disciples of her Son, the Mother of their unity …. The Gospels do not tell us of an appearance of the risen Christ to Mary. Nevertheless, as she was in a special way close to the Cross of her Son, she also had to have a privileged experience of His Resurrection. In fact, Mary’s role as Coredemptrix did not cease with the glorification of her Son (17).

Mary’s faith united her with the complete self-emptying of her Son on the Cross. At the foot of the Cross, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, Mary made a complete gift of herself to the Father in imitation of her dying Son. She united her sorrows and sufferings to the Cross of her Son, and offered them together with Him, as a sacrifice to the Father. Through Mary’s “unique and unrepeatable” contribution as Co-redemptrix with Jesus at the Cross, she was given the additional role of spiritual Mother to all of humanity by her Son.

At the Cross Jesus gave Mary the new role of spiritual Mother to all of humanity (or Mother in the order of grace). Jesus’ words to Mary, “Woman, behold, your son!” (Jn 19:26) confirm this new role. According to Pope John Paul II, “this new motherhood of Mary, generated by faith, is the fruit of the ‘new’ love which came to definitive maturity in her at the foot of the Cross, through her sharing in the redemptive love of her Son” (RM 24). Jesus addresses Mary once again as “woman,” pointing to her as the “woman” from Genesis 3:15 and the “woman” of Revelation 12:1. In each case, the “woman” is a mother who battles Satan in order to protect her children. Many of the teachings from the popes above reference the spiritual motherhood of Mary. Perhaps none put it as well as St. Augustine.

In his work Holy Virginity, written in 401, St. Augustine speaks of Mary’s cooperation with Christ which gains her the role of spiritual Mother of the Church. He says:

That one woman is both Mother and Virgin, not in spirit only but even in body. In spirit she is Mother, not of our Head, who is our Savior Himself – of whom, rather, it was she who was born spiritually, since all who believe in Him, including even herself, are rightly called children of the bridegroom – but plainly she is (in spirit) Mother of us who are His members, because by love she has cooperated so that the faithful, who are the members of that Head, might be born in the Church. In body, indeed, she is Mother of that very Head” (18).

Mary is shown to be spiritual Mother to all of humanity by her role in the beginning (Gen 3:15), at the climax (Jn 19:26), and at the end (Rev 12:1) of salvation history. Mary’s active spiritual Motherhood to all of humanity is confirmed in Revelation 12. Mary is the “woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Rev 12:1). At the foot of the Cross she was “with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery” (Rev 12:2). The “pangs of birth” are the sufferings Mary endured at the Cross by giving spiritual birth to all of humanity through the death of her Son. It was Mary who “brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron.” By his Cross and Resurrection “her child was caught up to God and to his throne” (Rev 12:5). Jesus left Mary as spiritual Mother to “the rest of her offspring…those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus” (Rev 12:17). It is Mary’s role as spiritual mother to protect her children from the attacks of the dragon (Satan) who wants to “make war” with them. It is indeed true that “Mary’s role as Coredemptrix did not cease with the glorification of her Son.”

Mary’s role as Co-redemptrix begins at the Annunciation, is confirmed at the presentation, and continues down the road to Calvary where it reaches its fulfillment. It is Mary’s divine motherhood that is the source of her role as Co-redemptrix. According to Pope John Paul II, “By giving birth to the One who was destined to achieve man’s redemption, by nourishing him, presenting him in the temple and suffering with him as he died on the Cross, ‘in a wholly singular way she cooperated … in the work of the Savior.’ Although God’s call to cooperate in the work of salvation concerns every human being, the participation of the Savior’s Mother in humanity’s redemption is a unique and unrepeatable fact” (19). For this reason, Mary’s cooperation in the work of salvation was greater than that of any other human person. This does not, however, mean that others are not called to cooperate in God’s saving work.

There is a distinction to be made between objective and subjective redemption. Jesus is the source of all redemption. Mary was called to uniquely participate in a way that contributed to the obtaining of graces at Calvary. This is a participation in the objective redemption of Jesus Christ at Calvary. Subjective redemption is the release of graces gained through the historical objective redemption. All are called to participate in subjective redemption through prayers, supplications, the offering up of suffering, and other forms of mediation willed by God.

God calls all of humanity to actively participate in his work of redemption. In his Encyclical Salvifici Doloris Pope John Paul II teaches that, “In the cross of Christ not only is the redemption accomplished through suffering, but also human suffering itself has been redeemed … Every man has his own share in the redemption. Each one is also called to share in that suffering through which the redemption was accomplished … each man, in his suffering, can also become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ” (SD 19). Christ showed us that redemptive suffering leads to the victory of the Resurrection. In a very real way, all people are called to be coredeemers with Christ.

St. Paul teaches how this can be accomplished. In his Letter to the Colossians Paul says, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church” (Col 1:24). Mary’s presence at the foot of the Cross allowed her to participate in Christ’s sufferings for the sake of the Church. “She truly has a special title to be able to claim that she ‘completes in her flesh’ – as already in her heart – ‘what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions’” (SD 25). Mary’s example shows that the sufferings that one endures can be offered up for the sake of others.

Mary’s faithful participation in humanity’s redemption should act as a guide for all human beings in their efforts to answer God’s call to cooperate in the work of salvation. “Bearing with courage and confidence the tremendous burden of her sorrows and desolation, she, truly the Queen of Martyrs, more than all the faithful ‘filled up those things that are wanting in the sufferings of Christ … for His Body, which is the Church;’ and she continues to have for the Mystical Body of Christ, born of the pierced Heart of the Savior, the same motherly care and ardent love with which she cherished and fed the Infant Jesus in the crib” (MC 110). The faithful must look to Mary for guidance in offering their sufferings to the Father. In this way, they too may “complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Col 1:24). Mary as the spiritual Mother of all humanity will surely guide the faithful in their struggles and show them how to unite them to the Cross of her Son.

Mary’s participation in redemptive suffering is an example for all of humanity to follow, particularly mothers. Mothers in this world suffer when their children suffer. This no one can doubt. Mary suffered with her Son, and together with her Son, offered these sufferings to the Father for the redemption of humanity. In a very real way, a mother in this world can unite the sufferings of her maternal heart to the heart of Mary. In this way these sufferings will become redemptive as they are united to the Cross of her Son and offered to the heavenly Father.

Contemplating the sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary will show how Mary’s suffering is united to the maternal heart that suffers in this world. Mary suffered as Jesus went through his agony in the garden, as his body was torn apart by the scourging at the pillar, as holes pierced his skin when he was crowned with thorns, as he fell when carrying his Cross, and ultimately suffered death by crucifixion. The military mother in this world suffers with her child who is going through the agony of being sent into battle. The mother who watches her child’s body as it is torn apart by cancer and chemotherapy certainly suffers. The mother who watches her child undergo a surgical operation suffers immensely with her child. The mother whose child breaks her leg in a fall suffers with her child. The mother who bears witness to the sudden and unexplainable death of her child suffers pain that is unimaginable to any outsider. Mary’s coredemptive suffering with Jesus is the only answer to maternal sufferings such as these.

The sorrows that a mother endures by suffering with her child can be offered up for the redemption of her child and others. Mothers in this world suffer with their children through a number of trials, including: sicknesses, loss of faith, mental illness, addictions, marital struggles, injuries, and even death. It is by Mary’s example that mothers in this world can learn how to offer up the sufferings they encounter in order to cooperate in God’s saving work.

Mary was given the role of spiritual mother of all humanity in order to show the world how to embrace the Cross of her Son. “The divine Redeemer wishes to penetrate the soul of every sufferer through the heart of His holy Mother, the first and the most exalted of all the redeemed.” At the Cross, Jesus gave Mary to humanity as spiritual mother, “so that every individual, during the pilgrimage of faith, might remain, together with her, closely united to Him unto the Cross, and so that every form of suffering, given fresh life by the power of this Cross, should become no longer the weakness of man but the power of God” (SD 26). Mary’s perseverance in faith kept her united to her Son’s mission and ultimately united to His Cross. To be united with the heart of Mary is to be united to the Cross of Christ.

Mary’s whole life witnesses to the power of redemptive suffering. John Paul II gives witness to her life of suffering with the Redeemer as Co-redemptrix. John Paul II states:

In her the many and intense sufferings were amassed in such an interconnected way that they were not only a proof of her unshakable faith but also a contribution to the redemption of all. In reality, from the time of her secret conversation with the angel, she began to see in her mission as a mother her “destiny” to share, in a singular and unrepeatable way, in the very mission of her Son. And she very soon received a confirmation of this in the events that accompanied the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, and in the solemn words of the aged Simeon, when he spoke of a sharp sword that would pierce her heart. Yet a further confirmation was in the anxieties and privations of the hurried flight into Egypt, caused by the cruel decision of Herod.

And again, after the events of her Son’s hidden and public life, events which she must have shared with acute sensitivity, it was on Calvary that Mary’s suffering, beside the suffering Jesus, reached an intensity which can hardly be imagined from a human point of view but which was mysteriously and supernaturally fruitful for the redemption of the world. Her ascent of Calvary and her standing at the foot of the Cross together with the beloved disciple were a special sort of sharing in the redeeming death of her Son. And the words which she heard from His lips were a kind of solemn handing-over of this Gospel of suffering so that it could be proclaimed to the whole community of believers (SD 26).

Mary’s role as Co-redemptrix was predestined by God from all eternity. It was made possible by the Immaculate Conception and began in time at the Annunciation. It was foretold by Simeon at the presentation and fulfilled at Calvary. Throughout her entire earthly life, Mary was united to Jesus’ saving mission by her faith. Mary continues to fulfill her role as Co-redemptrix with Jesus watching over their spiritual children from heaven.

An understanding of Mary’s role as Co-redemptrix with Jesus helps one come to a fuller understanding of the mystery of Christ’s Cross. Mary united herself and her sufferings, along with her Son’s sacrifice, to the Cross of her Son as an offering to the Father for the redemption of humanity. Her example of redemptive suffering through faith is the pinnacle of Christian discipleship. Mary’s role as Co-redemptrix was guided by her faith which led her to accept the Cross.


John McCullough is a graduate student at Franciscan University of Steubenville.


(1) Mark Miravalle, “Mary Co-redemptrix: A Response to 7 Common Objections,” Mark Miravalle, ed. Mary Co-redemptrix: Doctrinal Issues Today, Goleta, CA: Queenship Publishing, 2002, p. 95.

(2) Miravalle, “With Jesus”: The Story of Mary Co-Redemptrix, Queenship Publishing, 2003, p. 64-65.

(3) William A. Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers Vol. 1, Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1970, p. 62.

(4) Ibid., p. 93.

(5) Ibid., p. 147.

(6) Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers Vol. 3, Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1970, p. 50.

(7) Miravalle, “With Jesus”, p. 41-42.

(8) Arthur B. Calkins, “The Mystery of Mary Co-redemptrix in the Papal Magisterium,” Doctrinal Issues Today, p. 65-66.

(9) Ibid., p. 66.

(10) Ibid., p. 70.

(11) Ibid., p. 72-73.

(12) Ibid., p. 73.

(13) Ibid., p. 74.

(14) Ibid., p. 67.

(15) Ibid., p. 32-33.

(16) Ibid., p. 69.

(17) Ibid., p. 43.

(18) Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers Vol. 3, p. 71.

(19) Calkins, p. 45-46.

Mary, Co-redemptrix? The Perspective of a Theologian in Rome

Recent posts on Mary, Mother of God and Marian devotions have prompted questions about the proposed Marian dogma called “Mary, Co-Redemptrix.” Supporters of the proposed dogma frequently refer to this teaching as “the fifth Marian dogma.”

There is a lay led group that promotes the dogma rather vigorously, Vox Populi.

Definition of the Proposed Dogma

Mary is given many titles by the Church: Queen of Heaven, Mother of God, Mediatrix of All Graces. Supporters of the fifth Marian dogma are petitioning the Holy Father to add one more: Co-redemptrix. What does this title mean? Simply put, the Holy Father is being asked to declare solemnly and infallibly that the Blessed Virgin Mary is a co-worker in the redemption of mankind through her initial assent to be the Mother of God and through her suffering with Christ as he dies on the cross. Essentially, the title would specify Mary’s role as a human co-operator with Christ’s redeeming sacrifice for us.

The controversy around the dogma is rooted in the easy misunderstanding that the Holy Father is being asked to declare that Mary is our Redeemer on level equal to that of Christ. This is false. In Latin, the prefix “co” means “with” not “equal to.” In English, we use the prefix “co” to mean “with” but it has the connotation of “equal to.” This is not the case in Latin. Think of how we use the terms “co-chair” and “co-pilot.” We tend to think of the co-chair and the co-pilot was functionally equivalent to the chair and the pilot. Again, not the case in Latin.

Essentially, the fifth Marian dogma, if declared, would do nothing more than make explicit what Catholics already believe to be the case regarding Mary’s role in our salvation history. She cooperated with the Holy Spirit by assenting to be the Mother of God, “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). With this assent, Mary became the spiritual mother of the Church by giving birth to the Word Made Flesh, Jesus (1). In the same way, any person who assents to the teachings of Christ, is baptized, and lives a life directed to growing in holiness is said to be a cooperator with Christ in his/her own redemption. Since God will not force His grace on us, we are free to “work with” or “work against” His gifts to us. When we “work with” God’s plan for our redemption, we are properly called “co-redeemers” in our salvation.

How is Mary a co-redeemer in my salvation? Assuming Mary’s freedom to accept or reject Gabriel’s call to become the Mother of God, we can see that Mary’s assent made it possible for the second Person of the Blessed Trinity to become man—a step necessary in for the universal efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Without her consent, the Son would have not been incarnated. You might object here and say that Gabriel could have accepted her no and moved on to another woman with the same invitation. This is purely speculative, of course, but had he done so, any woman who said yes would be our spiritual mother and worthy of the title “Co-redemptrix.”

In all of her titles, Mary is understood to be the perfected form of a human response to God’s invitation to live in union with Him in eternity (2). So, in every sense, we all participate in an imperfect way in all of Mary’s titles. We all mediate God’s grace to others—what are the corporeal works of mercy but our human use of divine gifts for the benefit of others? We all give birth to the Word made flesh—what is Eucharistic communion but the taking in of Christ so that we might become more and more the Word given flesh? We are all “co-operators” (operators with) God’s will for us when we assent to and make good use of His gifts for others (3).


There are basically two objections (4) to the fifth Marian dogma. First, a declaration of the proposed dogma is unnecessary since Catholic theology already recognizes Mary’s unique role in God’s plan for human salvation. Second, the dogma is ecumenically dangerous in that it threatens good relations with other Christian ecclesial communities by seeming to elevate Mary to a level equal to that of Christ as sole Redeemer.

In my judgment, neither objection is substantial. The first objection is easily an argument for declaring the dogma and making explicit what is already implicit. By declaring the dogma, the Holy Father will open up an area of theological and philosophical research that is underdeveloped in Catholic theology, namely soteriology (theology of salvation). The Eastern Churches have a much more developed theology in this area in their focus on theosis (deification) as the explanatory process of our salvation; that is, the theology that explores how the Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection bring the human person into a relationship with the Divine and make that person a sharer in the divine nature. Aquinas calls this process “deiformity,” how the person is formed in the divine (5).

The second objection rests on the assumption that other ecclesial communities, mostly Protestant, will misunderstand the dogma. Two responses are appropriate here. First, the Church has never hesitated in teaching and preaching the truth of the faith out of a fear that the truth might be misunderstood by those not in communion with the Church. That we would flinch from speaking the truth because some might misunderstand simply means that we fear a negative response from our ecumenical partners. If the dogma is clearly defined to place Mary alongside Christ as a cooperator in our redemption, there is no reason for anyone to find this objectionable.

Second, this objection might have more weight if our ecumenical partners hesitated themselves when tempted to act unilaterally in redefining the historical catholic faith. Our Anglican brothers and sisters have ordained women, sexually active homosexuals, blessed same-sex marriages, approved the use of artificial contraception and abortion, and generally made a mess of the faith out of a misguided sense of “reading the signs of the times.” In other words, they have never hesitated in adding to or subtracting from the historical faith when they felt doing so was necessary for their members. The objection that the proposed fifth Marian dogma will damage ecumenical relations seems somewhat dubious in the harsh light of the ecclesial reality dropped into our Catholic laps without our consultation. Why this sudden need for Protestant approval of Catholic teaching?

My guess is that this objection is really more about a certain sort of generational embarrassment with Marian dogma and devotion in general and rests on the need of some in the Church to please those they feel are more theologically sophisticated. How am I supposed to show my Catholic face at the next meeting of the American Academy of Religion when all of my more enlightened Protestant colleagues from Harvard and Yale know we silly Catholics have infallibly declared that Mary is Co-redemptrix? How embarrassing! Such individuals are left with the choice of defending what appears to be another exercise of raw papal power and earning the pity of their more progressive betters or rejecting the dogma and winning the accolades of their more enlightened colleagues. Guess which one they choose over and over again.

Anglican Oxford scholar the Rev. Dr. John Macquarrie gets it exactly right when he writes:

The matter (of Marian mediation) cannot be settled by pointing to the danger of exaggeration and abuse, or by appealing to isolated texts of scripture as the verse quoted above from 1 Timothy 2:5 or by the desire not to say anything that might offend one’s partners in ecumenical dialogue. Unthinking enthusiasts may have elevated Mary’s position to a virtual equality with Christ, but this aberration is not a necessary consequence of recognizing that there may be a truth striving for expression in words like Mediatrix and Co-redemptrix. All responsible theologians would agree that Mary’s co-redemptive role is subordinate and auxiliary to the central role of Christ. But if she does have such a role, the more clearly we understand it, the better. And like other doctrines concerning Mary, it is not only saying something about her, but something more general about the Church as a whole, and even humanity as a whole (6).

To sum up, the proposed dogma, as written, does nothing more than make explicit what the Church already teaches about Mary’s role in human salvation history; that is, that by assenting to become the Mother of God, Mary cooperated with God’s invitation to live with Him in eternity by giving birth to His Word, Jesus, and suffering with Jesus while he died on the cross. Nothing more than all of us are called to do in virtue of our baptism (7).


Fr. Philip Neri Powell, O.P., Ph.D., is a member of the faculty of philosophy at the Angelicum in Rome. The preceding article was first published on his blog, Domine, Da Mihi Hanc Aquam!



(1) CCC 964.

(2) CCC 967-970.

(3) CCC 1996-2000.

(4) Cf. Dr. Mark Miravalle, A Response to 7 Common Objections, Queenship Publishing Company, 2001.

(5) St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theol. I. 12. 5.

(6) J. Macquarrie, “Mary Co-redemptrix and Disputes over Justification and Grace” in Mary Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate, Theological Foundations II, p.246.

(7) CCC 628.

Mary the Co-Sufferer

Close to his death, he made his last will and testament and bequeathed his mother to be our mother also, our spiritual mother. “Woman, behold your son … Behold your mother,” he said first to his mother and then to John (John 19:26-27). “Woman, behold your son,” he said to her. He was obviously referring to her as the “woman” first spoken of in Genesis 3:15: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; she will crush your head ” Indeed, it was on this hill called Calvary that this verse in Genesis was fulfilled. The word Calvary is from the Latin word Calvaria, meaning skull. The hill was also called Golgatha, the Hebrew word from the Greek Kranion, a skull. The Cross of the Redeemer was firmly crushed into the ground. And so, the “skull” was “crushed” by the man on the Cross, the Redeemer (“her seed”), and beneath that rugged Cross was the Co-redemptrix (not co-equal); one suffering woman, suffering with God who in turn was suffering for mankind and from them. Redemption begun at the Annunciation was completed on Calvary. It was 3:00 p.m. on a Friday.

But do we really understand and appreciate what it means to be “at the foot of the Cross” for three hours? Hers was the most spiritual, the most intense and incomparable suffering ever known; one solitary creature suffering with God, who in turn was suffering for all mankind and from them. She was a martyr whom God preserved from dying! That was the meaning of being the second Eve. That was the price of being Co-redemptrix, for from the very beginning of Creation she was thus chosen. But it was as though God had predetermined that one had to be a “Mary” to have the privilege of standing beneath the Cross. John speaks of that congregation: “Standing by the cross were his mother (Mary), and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene” (Jn 19:25).

Redemption had to come from suffering, and so, he needed a body to suffer. His mother gave him that body. No human father was involved in that conception. “You who wanted no sacrifice or oblation, prepared a body for me” (Heb 10:5). On that joyous day when he was born she wrapped his tiny body in swaddling clothes and placed him in his crib (Lk 2:12). But on that Friday at the foot of the Cross, 33 years later, she received a body, tattered and torn and swaddled with blood as he took upon himself the sins of the world. It was not a pretty sight but neither is sin in the eyes of God! It was the blood of the new and everlasting covenant which was shed for all so that sins may be forgiven.

Her suffering too was minimized. Words cannot fully describe and adequately measure Mary’s anguish on that day. Perhaps it can be appreciated somewhat better if every mother were to contemplate her own son on the cross in place of the son of Mary. Yet, if there were a thousand such mothers standing at the feet of a thousand crosses bearing their thousand crucified sons, the sum total of their anguish could not in any way equate the pain and suffering of that Mother of Sorrows on that hill on that Friday that some men call “Good.” She too was being crucified!

So said, in 1373, Lady Julian of Norwich, in her book Revelations of Divine Love, which records her privileged visions from God, says of Mary: “I saw part of the love and suffering of Our Lady Saint Mary, for she and Christ were so joined in love that the greatness of their love caused the greatness of her grief … for the higher, the greater, and the sweeter the love is, so the greater the grief it is for those who love, to see their loved one suffer.”

What is also not appreciated by many is that spiritual and mental suffering can also be as agonizing as physical pain, and at times even more so. For example, the emotional pain of a patient suffering from depression and the spiritual dryness of the “desert”, the so-called “dark night of the soul,” which a few prayerful people experience, can parallel or exceed physical pain, albeit measured on different scales and parameters of human suffering. There are also many cases, for example, of elderly spouses of happy and longstanding marriages, dying within hours or days of each other from the sheer anguish of the death of their loved one and from the unbearable and emotional pain of the separation. So it would have been with the Mother of Love on that Friday had she not been preserved from death by God. Indeed, the Church recognizes her as a martyr, the Queen of the martyrs, but one who was not allowed to die!

Neither did Matthew, Mark, Luke or John record the great anguish of the mother during the Friday evening, Saturday and early Sunday morning following the Crucifixion. In her book the Poem of the Man-God Maria Valtorta, the great mystic, relates what she was shown when Jesus was taken down from the Cross:

When on the ground, they would like to lay him on a sheet that they had spread for him, but Mary wants him. She opened her mantle, letting it hang on one side, and she sits with her knees rather apart to form a cradle for her Jesus. He is now in his mother’s lap. With a trembling hand she parts his ruffled hair. She tidies it and weeps. Speaking in a low voice, her tears drop on the cold body covered with blood. She begins to clean and dry his body on which endless tears are dropping. And while doing so her hand touches the huge gash in his chest and enters almost completely into the large hole of the wound. She utters a loud cry. A sword seems to pierce and split her heart. She shouts and throws herself on her son and she seems also dead.

Valtorta then describes the vision she saw of what happened on early Sunday morning. Joseph had already died and now that Jesus, her son, was murdered, she was the only one left of the Holy Family. For her it must have been the desolation of desolations. Valtorta described Mary’s longing for the company of St. Joseph to console her during those long three days when all around her, even the disciples, did not believe that he would resurrect. “Let me lean on a Joseph! … O, happy Joseph, who has not seen this day,” she moaned. Valtorta then recorded her visions of the first meeting of Jesus and his mother after the Resurrection:

Mary is prostrated with her face on the floor. She looks like a poor wretch. Suddenly the closed window is opened with a violent banging of the heavy shutters and with the first ray of the sun, Jesus enters. Mary, who has been shaken by the noise and has raised her head to see which wind has opened the shutters, sees her radiant son, handsome, infinitely more handsome than he was before suffering, smiling, dressed in a white garment … He calls her, stretching out his hands: “Mother!” And he bends over his mother and places his hands under her bent elbows and lifts her up. He presses her to his heart and kisses her … With a cry, she flings her arms around his neck and she embraces and kisses him, laughing in her weeping. She kisses his forehead, where there are no longer any wounds; his head no longer unkempt and bloody; his shining eyes, his healed cheeks, his mouth no longer swollen. She then takes his hands and kisses their backs and palms, their radiant wounds, and she suddenly bends down to his feet and uncovers them from under his bright garment and kisses them. She kisses and kisses him and Jesus caresses her.

Valtorta continued:

Jesus speaks now: “It is all over, mother. You no longer have to weep over your son. The trial is over. Redemption has taken place. Mother, thanks for conceiving me. Thanks for looking after me, for helping me in life and in death … I heard your prayers come to me. They have been my strength in my grief. They came to me on the Cross … They have been seen and heard by the Father and by the Spirit who smiled at them as if they were the most beautiful flowers and the sweetest song born in Paradise … These past days you have been alone, but that sorrow of yours was required for the Redemption … I will come to fetch you to make Paradise more beautiful … Mother, your kisses are a blessing, and my peace to you as a companion. Goodbye.” And Jesus disappeared in the sunshine that streams down from the early morning clear sky.

Now, in an apparition to the saintly Berthe Petit, a visionary who was highly respected in ecclesiastic and lay societies in Belgium in the 1920s, Jesus is said to have exalted the merits of the sorrow of his mother, saying:

The title “Immaculate” belongs to the whole being of my mother and not specifically to her heart. This title flows from my gratuitous gift to the Virgin who has given me birth. However, my mother has acquired for her heart the title “Sorrowful” by sharing generously in all the sufferings of my heart and my body from the crib to the Cross. There is not one of these sorrows which did not pierce the heart of my mother. Living image of my crucified body, her virginal flesh bore the invisible marks of my wounds as her heart felt the sorrows of my own. Nothing could ever tarnish the incorruptibility of her Immaculate Heart. The title of “Sorrowful” belongs, therefore, to the heart of my mother, and, more than any other, this title is dear to her because it springs from the union of her heart with mine in the redemption of humanity. This title has been acquired by her through her full participation in my Calvary, and it should precede the gratuitous title “Immaculate” which my love bestowed upon her by a singular privilege.

It was a man and a woman, who sinned in the Garden of Eden and so, it had to be a man and a woman to atone and make amendment for that transgression. God made that quite clear in Genesis 3:15 when he said to Satan: “I will put enmity between you and the woman; between your seed and her seed. She will crush your head …” And so, it was to be the woman and her seed, and anyone who leaves the woman out of that equation is only preaching half the Scriptures, half of Genesis 3:15, half the truth and a half-truth is no truth at all!

This ends a much-abbreviated tale of the greatest love story ever told. Today it is said that the mother of Jesus is appearing all over the world beseeching us to return to God and not to let him die in vain. She comes, not to promote herself, but to lead us to him, especially in these perilous times in which so many of us seem to have lost our way. But as Jesus himself said: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me” (Jn 14:6). He also said: “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall not die forever” (Jn 11:25-26).


Dr. Courtenay Bartholomew, M.D., is a scientist from Trinidad who is considered a leading international AIDS researcher. He has authored a series of mariological studies from a scientific perspective entitled: A Scientist Researches Mary. The above article is an excerpt from his book The Passion of the Christ and His Mother, Queenship, 2004.

Mary in the Redemption

The Son wants to redeem the world for the Father. This redemption is obtained through his suffering, in which he bears all sins as his own and the Father recognizes all sinners in him. The moment will therefore come when the Father sees in the Son the sum of all the disgrace he has endured. This is an event of love devised by the Son out of love for the Father and for the world. Now it is fitting that, from the outset, the Father and the Holy Spirit show to the Son the efficacy of the Cross. In this regard, Mary is from the beginning a gift made by the Father and the Holy Spirit to the Son, almost as if the Mother, in her instrumentality, signified a form of pre-gift or deposit. In pre-redeeming the Mother toward the Cross (which ultimately means from the Cross), the Father and the Holy Spirit show to the Son the suitableness of the path upon which he has struck. It is an act of redemption by the Son from the Cross that he has yet to suffer, but in such a way that, from the outset, he re-ceives for this act the Mother, who without sin will con-ceive him. In thus showing to the Son the suitableness of the Cross, the Father simultaneously shows him the way in which he will realize the Incarnation.

With the mystery of her Immaculate Conception, Mary therefore stands at a point of intersection in the Trinity, because she is a gift both from the Son to the Father and from the Father to the Son; the Father is preeminent in this since it is he who gives her to the Son in order to be able to get his work underway in the first place. Mary is planned and created both from and for the Cross. The Spirit, who bears the seed of the Father into the womb of the Mother, accompanies this pre-redeemed Mother throughout her entire life. He receives her, as it were, from the Father’s hands so as to give her back into these hands. He participates as her advocate and comforter by keeping her away from all sin; he also participates, however, as the advocate and comforter of the Son by showing to him the feasibility of the plan; and as advocate and comforter of the Father by demonstrating to him how, by virtue of the Mother’s pre-redemption by the Father, the Son can have no doubt about carrying out his work. From the start, Mary makes the redemption clear and graphic for the Son, the redemption that is meant for all and that will be sufficient for all.

Mary’s Pre-redemption from the Beginning of Creation (Mary as the First Eve)

Mary, the pre-redeemed, is already active as the one planned by God. In this respect, she forms a unique encounter between creation and (pre)-redemption. A human father can say, “I want my son to be a doctor. From the day he was born I’ve done everything I can to make sure it happens.” But the son is of course always free to do something else. When, however, God the Father begins with Mary and her pre-redemption, the realization of his plan already exists, so to speak. It is absolutely certain that she will henceforth belong to heaven and that her place there was secured from its creation. She is not pre-redeemed in a mere image or idea, but in fact and reality. It is a fact with real consequences. In eternal life such concrete certainties do exist. Accordingly, something of her already existed at the creation of the world. Her characteristics do not float around unpossessed, but rather she possesses them from the beginning. She has her place in the course of the world’s creation precisely because of her function as “Co-Redemptrix.” The idea of “co-redemption” is “older” than that of pre-redemption: the latter is a consequence of the former, a means to an end.

In Mary resides the idea of the perfect human being, an idea that God had when he created the first human being. Thus Mary is in fact not the second but the first Eve; she is the one who did not fall and who sees how the second Eve does fall.

Assume that a sculptor has a block of marble. Because the block has a certain form, he decides to shape the statue in a certain way. He will get to work on the statue, however, only once he has made a model out of ordinary clay of what he has in mind. Although the shape of the stone played a part in determining the idea, which is now exact in his mind, he will get to work on the marble only once he has made the clay model. In relation to Eve, Mary is the piece of marble that was there from the start.

On the Pre-redemption

It must be remembered that not only the Lord’s Cross but also his life before the Cross, looking toward his approaching suffering, is meritorious in the Father’s sight as a pre-Passion. During his life, the Lord forgave the sins of Mary Magdalene. This is most certainly not at the exclusion of his suffering on the Cross but, nonetheless, shows that even now he has the power and the opportunity to forgive. This “part” of the merit that resides in the life of Jesus is not forgotten or annulled on the Cross; it is somehow “withdrawn” from the Cross. This is important for the pre-redemption of the Mother. It cannot simply be said that the Son suffers on the Cross for the Mother. She is redeemed in a pre-light of the Cross. This demonstrates the magnanimity of the Father, a gift in advance from the Father to the Son.

Mary’s Co-redemption

There is God, the God-Man, man. Alongside this tripartite division, there is also a five-part division: God, God with man in himself, the God-Man, man with God in himself, and man as man. There is just one single human being who in a physical sense has God within herself: Mary. In heaven she has her beginning after the Son and on earth before the Son.

There is God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Then there is God with man in himself, which means with the Son before he becomes man on earth, because the Son, beginning and conceived in time, gives his humanity a share in the attributes of his eternal divinity. In God, the Son has within himself the pre-redeemed Mother, just as the Mother will bear within herself the one who has redeemed her. And because the Son resolves in heaven to redeem the world, this resolution contains within it another specific resolution: to come into the world as man. Furthermore, this resolution contains within it the fact that he will be become a human being through a human being whom he has pre-redeemed. He therefore establishes the beginning of his Mother in eternity, just as the Mother establishes the beginning of the Son through her Yes on earth. The first is an absolute heavenly relationship, but one that includes within it the earthly relationship. The second is an earthly relationship, but one that has come into being through grace and, in the Son, encloses heaven within it by virtue of the grace granted by heaven. The Mother already possesses this grace when the Son, in making his plans about his Mother, has the assurance of her Yes before she has given it on earth. In this assurance resides the grace he will give her. The Mother therefore possessed this grace long before she became a human being. It was a pre-gift that rested, not just on her bearing the Son, but also on the fact that she received her place at the core of his resolution to redeem the world, a place for that cooperation of hers without which this specific plan could not be executed. Until she existed, this cooperation was accomplished by the Son, who of course began his work of redemption long before she appeared, yet on the presumption of her Yes. The Yes she later gave possessed the strength of having already worked together with the Son in his acceptance of the Mother. It is also this strength that allows her to give her complete Yes and to implement it. Her Yes was a Yes and was a word: a Yes as the determination of her free will and a word as a given word, which was both the Word of God in her (as faith) and the Word of God in the highest sense: the Son. This is contained in her answer: “Let it be to me according to thy word.” These are the premises.

There then follows the course of her earthly life: the pregnancy, the birth, the hidden life, the life during the Son’s active years. Finally, there follows the Mount of Olives: “Not my will, but thine, be done.” The will of the Son is his resolve, which encloses the will of the Mother and, furthermore, his human will. Yet he hands over his entire will to the Father. Enclosed within this will resides the Mother’s will to express her Yes and to remain true to the Son in all things; her will to participate in the Son’s work, through his grace, in the manner allotted to her; her will, therefore, with this kind of effect from eternity, which has lost nothing of its strength, in the Son, to whom she has willingly confessed by virtue of her freely given Yes, without, however, seeing the full scope of everything he will demand of her.

The Son, however, will demand what he has given her from eternity. At a certain point, this will become clear in her co-redemption at the Cross; a co-redemption that can be efficacious because of her having lived in him forever since his resolve strengthened within him, because of her being interwoven in his work and inseparable from him (as Mary remains true to him in all things); a co-redemption that is now actually borne by the Son as he bears the Cross, just as he has always borne her Yes in his. The Son on the Cross therefore bears the co-redemption through the Mother, while the Mother beneath the Cross participates in the Son’s suffering as he gives it to her, but in such a way that her share in it cannot be separated out or divided from the total sum of suffering. The sum total belongs to the Son: he has gathered it and bears it; and the Mother suffers with him without dissociating her suffering from his. The Son no doubt endures sin, but seen from the other side, he endures the redemption of the world through his sacrifice and the sacrifice of the Mother enclosed within it. In the Mother’s suffering dwells what the Son has given her to suffer. There might dwell within this something that belongs especially to her and is reserved for her; but this can be neither fathomed nor separated out from the whole. Whenever a sinner converts, for example Saul, and then gains a share in the Lord’s suffering, it cannot be ascertained precisely what he is suffering for his own guilt and what, over and above this, participates in the Lord’s suffering. He simply cooperates in atoning for sinners to whose number he belongs. All the less can it be ascertained how much Mary suffers for her Son’s work of redemption and how much she suffers for her own co-redemption.

But she is Co-Redemptrix. However, she was Co-Redemptrix before she spoke her personal Yes. This is because the Son has chosen her; with her Yes she pierces the dam and, to a certain degree, does so without knowing what she is doing. She only knows that she is preparing the way for the Redeemer and is willing to do everything he demands without preempting anything in her own thoughts.