Mary Mediatrix (Doctrine): Explanation and Defense

Mary Mediatrix (Doctrine): Explanation and Defense April 6, 2016


A Catholic wrote on my discussion list:

Though one can argue that there are two ultra-high Mariologies, one embraced by orthodox Catholics and one twisted in the media to generate controversy (for example, Mary made the cover of Newsweek about a year ago; she was depicted provocatively with her arms stretched out like Christ on the Cross, looking suspiciously like a pagan priestess), there are those within the Church who agree with this Mariology as portrayed in the media. This is why, contrary to the wishes of approximately four million “Catholics,” the Pope will never define ex cathedra the terms “co-redemptrix” and “mediatrix,” certainly not in any way that will pave the way for Mary’s deification or role as high-priestess

“Deification” has nothing to do with it. As I will show below, the present pope is squarely in line with what [name] deems as heretical “ultra-high” Mariology. The concepts of Mediatrix and Co-Redemptrix and Advocate are all firmly entrenched in Catholic Tradition, as I will soon demonstrate below. For example, the following is from Pope John Paul II’s encyclical of 25 March 1987, Redemptoris Mater (Mother of the Redeemer):

18. This blessing reaches its full meaning when Mary stands beneath the Cross of her Son (cf. Jn. 19:25). The Council says that this happened “not without a divine plan”: by “suffering deeply with her only-begotten Son and joining herself with her maternal spirit to his sacrifice, lovingly consenting to the immolation of the victim to whom she had given birth,” in this way Mary “faithfully preserved her union with her Son even to the Cross.”[38] It is a union through faith–the same faith with which she had received the angel’s revelation at the Annunciation. At that moment she had also heard the words: “He will be great…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” (Lk. I :32-33)

And now, standing at the foot of the Cross, Mary is the witness, humanly speaking, of the complete negation of these words. 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 (cf. Is. 53:3-5). How great, how heroic then is the obedience of faith shown by Mary in the face of God’s “unsearchable judgments”! How completely she “abandons herself to God” without reserve, “offering the full assent of the intellect and the will”[39] to him whose “ways are inscrutable” (cf. Rom. 11:33)! And how powerful too is the action of grace in her soul, how all-pervading is the influence of the Holy Spirit and of his light and power!

Through this faith Mary is perfectly united with Christ in his self-emptying. For “Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men”: precisely on Golgotha “humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (cf. Phil. 2:5-8). At the foot of the Cross Mary shares through faith in the shocking mystery of this self-emptying. This is perhaps the deepest “kenosis” of faith in human history. Through faith the Mother shares in the death of her Son, in his redeeming death; but in contrast with the faith of the disciples who fled, hers was far more enlightened. On Golgotha, Jesus through the Cross definitively confirmed that he was the “sign of contradiction” foretold by Simeon. At the same time, there were also fulfilled on Golgotha the words which Simeon had addressed to Mary: “and a sword will pierce through your own soul also.”[40] . . .

38. The Church knows and teaches with Saint Paul that there is only one mediator: “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2:5-6). “The maternal role of Mary towards people in no way obscures or diminishes the unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power”:[94] it is mediation in Christ.

The Church knows and teaches that “all the saving influences of the Blessed Virgin on mankind originate…from the divine pleasure. They flow forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rest on his mediation, depend entirely on it, and draw all their power from it. In no way do they impede the immediate union of the faithful with Christ. Rather, they foster this union.”[95] This saving influence is sustained by the Holy Spirit, who, just as he overshadowed the Virgin Mary when he began in her the divine motherhood, in a similar way constantly sustains her solicitude for the brothers and sisters of her Son.

In effect, Mary’s mediation is intimately linked with her motherhood. It possesses a specifically maternal character, which distinguishes it from the mediation of the other creatures who in various and always subordinate ways share in the one mediation of Christ, although her own mediation is also a shared mediation.[96] In fact, while it is true that “no creature could ever be classed with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer,” at the same time “the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude but rather gives rise among creatures to a manifold cooperation which is but a sharing in this unique source.” And thus “the one goodness of God is in reality communicated diversely to his creatures.”[97]

The teaching of the Second Vatican Council presents the truth of Mary’s mediation as “a sharing in the one unique source that is the mediation of Christ himself.” Thus we read: “The Church does not hesitate to profess this subordinate role of Mary. She experiences it continuously and commends it to the hearts of the faithful, so that, encouraged by this maternal help, they may more closely adhere to the Mediator and Redeemer.”[98] This role is at the same time special and extraordinary. It flows from her divine motherhood and can be understood and lived in faith only on the basis of the full truth of this motherhood. Since by virtue of divine election Mary is the earthly Mother of the Father’s consubstantial Son and his “generous companion” in the work of redemption “she is a mother to us in the order of grace.”[99] This role constitutes a real dimension of her presence in the saving mystery of Christ and the Church.

39. . . . Mary’s motherhood, completely pervaded by her spousal attitude as the “handmaid of the Lord,” constitutes the first and fundamental dimension of that mediation which the Church confesses and proclaims in her regard[100] and continually “commends to the hearts of the faithful,” since the Church has great trust in her. For it must be recognized that before anyone else it was God himself, the Eternal Father, who entrusted himself to the Virgin of Nazareth, giving her his own Son in the mystery of the Incarnation. Her election to the supreme office and dignity of Mother of the Son of God refers, on the ontological level, to the very reality of the union of the two natures in the person of the Word (hypostatic union). This basic fact of being the Mother of the Son of God is from the very beginning a complete openness to the person of Christ, to his whole work, to his whole mission. The words “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord” testify to Mary’s openness of spirit: she perfectly unites in herself the love proper to virginity and the love characteristic of motherhood, which are joined and, as it were, fused together.

For this reason Mary became not only the “nursing mother” of the Son of Man but also the “associate of unique nobility”[101] of the Messiah and Redeemer. As I have already said, she advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and in this pilgrimage to the foot of the Cross there was simultaneously accomplished her maternal cooperation with the Savior’s whole mission through her actions and sufferings. Along the path of this collaboration with the work of her Son, the Redeemer, Mary’s motherhood itself underwent a singular transformation, becoming ever more imbued with “burning charity” towards all those to whom Christ’s mission was directed. Through this “burning charity,” which sought to achieve, in union with Christ, the restoration of “supernatural life to souls,”[102] Mary entered, in a way all her own, into the one mediation “between God and men” which is the mediation of the man Christ Jesus. If she was the first to experience within herself the supernatural consequences of this one mediation in the Annunciation she had been greeted as “full of grace” then we must say that through this fullness of grace and supernatural life she was especially predisposed to cooperation with Christ, the one Mediator of human salvation. And such cooperation is precisely this mediation subordinated to the mediation of Christ.

In Mary’s case we have a special and exceptional mediation, based upon her “fullness of grace,” which was expressed in the complete willingness of the “handmaid of the Lord.” In response to this interior willingness of his Mother, Jesus Christ prepared her ever more completely to become for all people their “mother in the order of grace.” This is indicated, at least indirectly, by certain details noted by the Synoptics (cf. Lk. 11 :28; 8:20-21 ; Mk. 3:32-35; Mt. 12:47-50) and still more so by the Gospel of John (cf. 2: 1-1 2; 1 9:25-27), which I have already mentioned. Particularly eloquent in this regard are the words spoken by Jesus on the Cross to Mary and John.

40. After the events of the Resurrection and Ascension, Mary entered the Upper Room together with the Apostles to await Pentecost, and was present there as the Mother of the glorified Lord. She was not only the one who “advanced in her pilgrimage of faith” and loyally persevered in her union with her Son “unto the Cross,” but she was also the “handmaid of the Lord,” left by her Son as Mother in the midst of the infant Church: “Behold your mother.” Thus there began to develop a special bond between this Mother and the Church. For the infant Church was the fruit of the Cross and Resurrection of her Son. Mary, who from the beginning had given herself without reserve to the person and work of her Son, could not but pour out upon the Church, from the very beginning, her maternal self-giving. After her Son’s departure, her motherhood remains in the Church as maternal mediation: interceding for all her children, the Mother cooperates in the saving work of her Son, the Redeemer of the world. In fact the Council teaches that the “motherhood of Mary in the order of grace…will last without interruption until the eternal fulfilment of all the elect.”[103] With the redeeming death of her Son, the maternal mediation of the handmaid of the Lord took on a universal dimension, for the work of redemption embraces the whole of humanity. Thus there is manifested in a singular way the efficacy of the one and universal mediation of Christ “between God and men.” Mary’s cooperation shares, in its subordinate character, in the universality of the mediation of the Redeemer, the one Mediator. This is clearly indicated by the Council in the words quoted above.

“For,” the text goes on, “taken up to heaven, she did not lay aside this saving role, but by her manifold acts of intercession continues to win for us gifts of eternal salvation.”[104] With this character of “intercession,” first manifested at Cana in Galilee, Mary’s mediation continues in the history of the Church and the world. We read that Mary “by her maternal charity, cares for the brethren of her Son who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties, until they are led to their happy homeland.”[105] In this way Mary’s motherhood continues unceasingly in the Church as the mediation which intercedes, and the Church expresses her faith in this truth by invoking Mary “under the titles of Advocate, Auxiliatrix, Adjutrix and Mediatrix.”[106]

41. Through her mediation, subordinate to that of the Redeemer, Mary contributes in a special way to the union of the pilgrim Church on earth with the eschatological and heavenly reality of the Communion of Saints, since she has already been “assumed into heaven.”[107] The truth of the Assumption, defined by Pius XII, is reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council, which thus expresses the Church’s faith: “Preserved free from all guilt of original sin, the Immaculate Virgin was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory upon the completion of her earthly sojourn. She was exalted by the Lord as Queen of the Universe, in order that she might be the more thoroughly conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords (cf. Rev. 19:16) and the conqueror of sin and death.”[108] In this teaching Pius XII was in continuity with Tradition, which has found many different expressions in the history of the Church, both in the East and in the West.

Many other popes have spoken similarly:

For thereupon, in accord with the divine plan, she began so to watch over the Church … so that she who had been the helper (administra) in the accomplishment of the mystery of human redemption, should also be the helper (administra) in the distribution of the grace coming from it for all time. (Leo XIII, Adiutricem Populi – September 5, 1895)

Moreover, we must praise the most holy Mother of God not merely for the face that she presented “to God the only-Begotten who was to be born of human members the material of her own flesh” (St. Bede, L.IV, in Luc. XI) by which He was prepared as a Victim for the salvation of men; but also for her office of guarding and nourishing this same Victim, and even, at the appointed time, of presenting Him at the altar. Hence that never dissociated manner of life and labors of the Son and the Mother, so that the words of the Prophet apply equally to both: “For my life is wasted with grief and my years in sighs” (Ps. 30:11). And when the supreme hour of her Son came, “there stood by the cross of Jesus, his Mother” (John 19:25), not merely occupied in looking at the dreadful sight, but even rejoicing that “her only Son was being offered for the salvation of the human race; and so did she suffer, with Him, that, if it had been possible, she would have much more gladly suffered herself all the torments that her Son underwent” (St. Bonaventure, I Sent., d. 48, ad Litt. dub. 4). Now from this common sharing of will and suffering between Christ and Mary she “merited to become most worthily the Reparatrix of the lost world” (Eadmer, De Excellentia Virg. Mariae, c.9) and therefore Dispensatrix of all the gifts which Jesus gained for us by His Death and by His Blood….

But Mary, as St. Bernard fittingly remarks (De Aquaeductu, n.4), is the “channel” or, even, the neck, through which the body is joined to the head, and likewise through which the head exerts its power and strength on the body. “For she is the neck of our Head, by which all spiritual gifts are communicated to His Mystical Body” (St. Bernardine of Siena., Quadrag. de Evangelio aeterno, Serm. X, a.3, c.3). We are thus, it will be seen, very far from declaring the Mother of God to be the author of supernatural grace, which is the function of God alone: yet, since she surpassed all in holiness and union with Christ, and was associated by Christ with Himself in the work of human redemption, she merited for us congruously, as they say, what Christ merited condignly, and is the principal minister in the distribution of grace (princeps largiendarum gratiarum ministra). (Saint Pius X, Ad diem illum – February 2, 1904)

… nor would he incur eternal death whom the Most Blessed Virgin assists, especially at his last hour. This opinion of the Doctors of the Church, in harmony with the sentiments of the Christian people, and supported by the experience of all times, depends especially on this reason, the fact that the Sorrowful Virgin shared in the work of the redemption with Jesus Christ…. (Pope Pius XI, Explorata res – February 2, 1923)

I don’t see how anyone could conclude from Pope John Paul II’s words above that he would never define Mary as MediatrixCo-Redemptrix, and/or Advocate. He may not use the term Co-Redemptrix often (there are exceptions) because it is highly (and unfortunately) prone to misunderstanding, but he certainly teaches the concept it entails. The actual teachings are more important than the particular descriptive term chosen. One might, e.g., use the terms Holy Bible and Sacred Scripture interchangeably. Either one is sufficient and it isn’t necessary to use both or to never use one or the other. Likewise, John Paul II could conceivably define ex cathedra the doctrines in question, but not include the title Co-Redemptrix in his definition. I am an “inopportunist” with regard to the definition (like, apparently, the pope himself) — yet I hold to the beliefs, as I understand them (and so does he – undeniably so).

Opponents of these doctrines within and without the Church need to precisely define what they call “ultra-high Mariology.” What is the so-called “deification” of Mary, and who holds to this? Some absurdly maintain that the people who are calling for the new Marian dogmatic definitions (e.g., Prof. Mark Miravalle of Franciscan University of Steubenville, who heads the group Vox Populi Mariae Mediatrici) hold these views. But this cannot be documented, because it is untrue. He differs not at all from the Mariology of John Paul II (whom he cites copiously). In any event, no one should go by what Newsweek says: a magazine which wouldn’t know Christian theology (let alone complex Catholic theology) from a hole in the ground.

There are Marian “nuts” in (or unfortunately connected with) the Church, or even not in the Church, such as the Bayside people, followers of an alleged “apparition” which has been condemned by the Church. But we mustn’t make the mistake of thinking that mere non-definition means that a doctrine isn’t Catholic. The Assumption and Immaculate Conception and papal infallibility were believed for centuries and firmly entrenched in Catholic Tradition, yet they were all only defined in the last 150 years – the Assumption only 50 years ago! I don’t see much difference here. Who cares about the crazies who claim to be Catholic? I got literature once from some wackos who believed that St. Joseph was the 4th person of the Trinity!

This present pope has written more explicitly and deeply about the Blessed Virgin than perhaps any previous one. He may or may not define, but if the latter, that in no way implies in and of itself that he disagrees with the teaching. He may simply not believe it is time to dogmatically define it. He may be an “inopportunist” – as I am (along with many Catholic apologists), and as Newman was with regard to the definition of papal infallibility prior to 1870. Newman gladly defended the view — as he indeed believed it — after 1870.

I could cite many passages from Dr. Mark Miravalle to put the lie to the charges of “ultra-high (heretical) Mariology” against him and his movement, but two will suffice for now:

[J]ust as Eve had an active sharing with Adam in the loss of salvation for the human family (although a role secondary and subordinate to that of Adam), so Mary had an active sharing with Jesus Christ in the redemption of the human family (although a role completely [note the added emphasis] secondary and subordinate to that of Jesus Christ). (Mary: Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate, edited by Mark Miravalle, Santa Barbara, California: Queenship Pub., 1995, 253)

. . . her God-elected task with her redeeming Son as the Coredemptrix (‘co’ not meaning ‘equal to’, but rather ‘with’). (Ibid., 269)

Dr. Miravalle specifically denies an equality in the Redemption. Vox Populi Mariae Mediatrici is espousing completely orthodox and traditional Catholic Marian teaching. It is acting entirely properly and not “unCatholic” at all in desiring further Marian definition. This happened prior to the last two definitions as well — very much so. The distinction between long-held belief and dogmatic definition ought to be an elementary one for Catholics.

Any polemical implied equation of these doctrines with “goddess-worship” is impossible to rationally sustain. Do not many Protestants make the same claim about any developed Mariology? Therefore, the “goddess” charge is quite relative, in addition to being fallacious and empty-headed from the outset. It stems from a sort of half-baked pseudo-anthropology which has been a constant hallmark of theologically liberal skepticism for some 200 years now.

God chose to include the Blessed Virgin Mary in salvation history, and this in turn included her free cooperation, just as the salvation of any person includes their cooperation (we Catholics reject double predestination and the denial of free will and/or free agency). There is a sense in which Calvary wouldn’t have occurred without even Judas. One could argue that God’s redemptive plan hinged upon his treachery; else it wouldn’t have occurred (at least not how it in fact did). In that sense Mary’s participation at Calvary may have been necessary. I think these waters are very deep indeed, when it comes to Providence and free will. In any event, no one is saying that Mary is in any way equal to Christ, either in essence (God forbid the blasphemy!) or in her role as Mediatrix. Several popes (including the present one) are at least as explicit and so-called “ultra-high” in Mariology as Dr. Miravalle is. Vox Populi is no fringe group of questionable orthodoxy: the petition in circulation has been signed not only by Dr. Miravalle, but also by Edward Cardinal Gagnon and Mother Teresa.

The sacrifice of Christ was solely efficacious; of course. But that doesn’t rule out Mary’s co-participation in the Redemption as a fundamentally lesser creature, by God’s design. This is no novelty. All of us participate in our own salvation. Paul said “work out your own salvation, “etc. We can help others get saved by prayer and acts of mercy, etc. Mary acted at Calvary precisely as all Catholics do (or should) at Mass. We offer up Christ in the one act of sacrifice at Calvary, re-presented. It is the offering of the people, which stands alongside the priestly sacrifice. All of the aspects of the proposed definition from have a long, respectable history in catholic Tradition, and were taught and believed by saints and doctors of the Church (e.g., St. Bernard, St. Alphonsus Liguori, St. Louis de Montfort) hundreds of years ago. Saints and Doctors of the Church are monstrously heterodox in their Marian beliefs? And again – not defining is one thing; whether these beliefs are orthodox quite another.

Mary’s suffering on Calvary was objectively redemptive. Fr. William Most comments:

If we wish to prove that Mary did co-operate immediately in the objective redemption, we must show that her merits and sufferings were . . . those of a person appointed by God the Father to co-operate officially with the work of the Son. She would then share in a joint work, just as the Old Eve had shared in the joint work of original sin.

Of course, we would not thereby imply that the price paid by Christ Himself was in any way insufficient. We would merely mean that one and the same thing – redemption – would be earned on two different titles: the one a perfect and, in itself, completely adequate title; the other, a title of a lower order, quite insufficient of itself. Then the Redemption would really be parallel to the fall: in both we would have a head of the race, whose work alone was sufficient and necessary, joined by an inferior sharer, whose work alone would be definitely insufficient. (Mary in Our Life, William G. Most, Garden City, New York: Doubleday Image, 1963, 36-37)

Note that Fr. Most takes the greatest pains to show that while Mary indeed participates in the objective redemption, it is in a fundamentally lesser, non-necessary capacity. So Mary participates, but is not, therefore “equal” to Christ in Redemption. Likewise taught popes:

With her suffering and dying Son, Mary endured suffering and almost death. She gave up her Mother’s rights over her Son to procure the salvation of mankind, and to appease the divine justice, she, as much as she could, immolated her Son, so that one can truly affirm that together with Christ she has redeemed the human race. (Benedict XV, Inter Sodalicia, March 22, 1918; in Most, ibid., 38)

Fr. Most states a few pages later:

Many were scandalized at the Passion of Christ. St. Paul says it was foolishness to the Gentiles, and a scandal to the Jews. Similarly, some, when they are first brought face to face with the fact of the co-redemptive role of Mary, are shocked at the thought that a mere creature, however pure, could share in redeeming us. But the same love of God that spared not His Only Son is also the reason for the co-redemption: of herself, Mary could do nothing to save us. it is only the incomprehensible love and generosity of God that contrived such a method as this. (Most, ibid., 46-47)

Fr. Most is no different from Miravalle, who is no different from popes and medieval doctors of the Church. Struggles to understand these doctrines are fine. But Catholics are not supposed to disagree with stated papal teaching – let alone publicly. This is part and parcel of what it means to be a faithful, obedient Catholic. If I am incorrect about the nature of Catholic authority and the magisterium, I am more than willing to be corrected from those sources myself, as I plainly state on my home page.

There is also misunderstanding about the terminology of Mary as the Bride or Spouse of God. But this belief has medieval pedigree as well. St. Anselm [c. 1033-1109] asserts that ‘the divine Spirit, the love itself of the Father and the Son, came corporally into Mary, and enriching her with graces above all creatures, reposed in her and made her his Spouse, the Queen of heaven and earth.’ [De Excell. Virg. c.4]. (The Glories of Mary, Brooklyn: Redemptorist Fathers, 1931 edition, 304-305)

Fr. Louis Bouyer summarizes:

The idea that Mary is the Spouse of the Holy Ghost is found, at least adumbrated, in certain writers, e.g., St. Peter Damian [1007-1072] . . . They tell us that Mary can be looked upon as the Spouse of the Holy Ghost in so far as his intervention took the place of the normal process of conception; and they hasten to add that the comparison stops at that point . . . (The Seat of Wisdom, translated by A. V. Littledale, Chicago: Henry Regnery Co., 1960, 177)

Implicit in many comments about these doctrines (even from Catholics) is a Protestant-like “dichotomous understanding” that speaking in this way about Mary somehow detracts from Christ’s sacrificial offering and intrinsically sufficient Redemption — as if it were a zero-sum game. Mary’s role in Redemption — it cannot be stressed enough — is fundamentally lesser and not intrinsically meritorious for redemption. Thus, these sorts of fears are unfounded, and based on fallacious “either/or” reasoning. Mary’s “fiat” of Co-Redeemership is not distinct from, or contradictory to the “Lucan fiat.” No one is saying that Mary sufficiently caused Redemption. She participates in it . . . See Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Redemptoris Mater, section 18 (cited above).

Fr. William Most — an eminent Mariologist, denies the dichotomy of “two ‘fiats’ ” which some opponents of these doctrines have presented. He believes in the participation of Mary in the objective redemption and makes the following point:

Only Christ and Mary merited in the objective redemption . . . Furthermore, Mary’s co-operation in the objective redemption may be called both remote (mediate) and proximate (immediate). Her remote co-operation is the divine motherhood. Her proximate co-operation is her service as the New Eve on Calvary. In chapter III we have shown that Mary co-operated immediately in the objective redemption. (Most, ibid., 282)

The very fact that Most distinguishes Mary’s divine motherhood (there is your “Lucan fiat”) from her immediate cooperation in redemption at Calvary strongly mitigates against the skeptical thesis.

Pope St. Pius X speaks of Mary “presenting Him at the altar” (Ad diem illum, Feb. 2, 1904; from Most, p. 284) Is this a wholly “passive” act? Pope Pius XI states that Mary “offered Him as a Victim at the cross” (Miserentissimus Redemptor, May 8, 1928; Most, ibid., 286).

Fr. Most notes that “the majority of Catholic theologians accept the definition we have given of Mary’s immediate co-operation in the objective redemption” (p. 287), but acknowledges that “there is some dissent.” He says one group defines it in a different way. The other one tries to “limit herco-operation to the Divine Motherhood and her role in the dispensation of graces . . . We notice at the outset that the procedure of this group is theologically unsound.” He later concludes after examining the deficient methodology of the dissenters:

The truth is, every Pope since St. Pius X has given further texts to support the majority view. The texts of Pope Pius XII seem completely inescapable. If this were error, the Holy See itself would be open to an extremely grave charge not only of not hindering error, but of giving it repeated support. (Most, ibid., 292)

Fr. Most says that before Vatican II, there were “two positions about Mary’s cooperation on Calvary” — “active receptivity” and “shared meriting.” He stated that Vatican II solved the controversy in favor of the latter:

[S]he was called upon not to just passively acquiesce, but to actively will what the Father willed! She did that, heroically . . . (Mary: Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate, edited by Mark I. Miravalle, Santa Barbra: Queenship Publishing, 1995, 163)

This echoes Vatican II (in Lumen Gentium, 55-56): “Mary was not merely passively employed by God, but was cooperating through free faith and obedience in human salvation.” Likewise, Fr. Louis Bouyer writes:

Like our Lady, all the saints have to fill up in their own bodies what is wanting to the sufferings of Christ for his body (Col. 1:24); but Mary, by sharing in Christ’s own sufferings, suffered for the fulfillment of her own motherhood. In this way, we can look on Mary’s faith on Calvary as the final ‘fiat’ needed for the full accomplishment of God’s plan . . . The faith by which all of us are saved is always merely a communication of what Mary’s faith was on Calvary. (The Seat of Wisdom, translated by A. V. Littledale, Chicago: Regnery, 1960, 169)

Archbishop Fulton Sheen concurs:

If it be granted with Leo XIII that, ‘God willed that the grace and truth which Christ won for us should be bestowed on us in no other way than through Mary,” then she, too, had to will cooperation in Redemption, as Christ willed it as the Redeemer Himself. Christ willed that she should suffer with Him, some theologians say, ‘per modum unius.’ If He willed His death, He willed her Dolors . . . But it was no imposed will; she accepted it all in her original ‘Fiat’ in the Annunciation. (The World’s First Love, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1952, 214)

Mary giving a “fiat” at Calvary does not contradict her “fiat” at the Annunciation — they are of a piece, just like Bible and Tradition, or Faith and Works. The crux of the issue is the active “willing” of Mary to concur with Christ on the Cross. Mary doesn’t cause anything in and of herself — it was all God’s Plan from all eternity. He knew she would consent to both giving birth to Jesus, and to His sacrifice on the Cross. At the same time she acted freely, without compulsion. This is the mystery and paradox of predestination, foreknowledge, and free will. Mary didn’t cause these events — over against God — yet she made them possible in a very real sense, by her cooperation. If she hadn’t wanted to cooperate, God would have simply foreseen that and chosen someone else, in His foreknowledge and Providence.

The objection of Co-Redemptrix involving “two ‘fiats’ ” is a distinction without a difference. One could say that a so-called “second ‘fiat’ ” (as Fr. Bouyer mentioned in 1960 before Vatican II) was simply a reiteration or re-statement of the first, just as the sacrifice of the Mass is not an additional sacrificing of Christ, but rather, a re-presentation of the one Calvary.

No one is saying that Mary initiates Co-Redemption at Calvary. In fact, Dr. Mark Miravalle himself specifically denies this by asserting that Mary’s co-redemptive role began at the Annunciation:

When the Father elected Mary from among all women (cf. Lk 1:41) to be the Mother of the Redeemer, it was by virtue of this choice by God and the consent of the Handmaid that Mary began her coredemptive role of cooperation with the Redeemer. (Mary: Coredemptrix Mediatrix Advocate, Santa Barbara, California: Queenship Pub., 1995, 250; emphasis in original)

At the Annunciation, Mary begins her role as the Coredemptrix with the Redeemer. (Ibid., 251; emphasis in original)

The Co-Redemptrix function is also seen by Miravalle and other Mariologists as more or less explicitly prefigured in Simeon’s words, recorded in Lk 2:35: “and a sword shall pierce your heart.” Miravalle writes:

This sorrowful annunciation to the Mother of the Saviour confirms that her intimate sharing in the redemptive work of her Son will be at the price of profound suffering. (Ibid., 255)

Pope John Paul II stated in Redemptoris Mater, n.16 that “Simeon’s words seem like a second Annunciation to Mary . . . ” This is no different from a possible “second ‘fiat.'” These are reinforements of the Annunciation; reiterations. There is no contradiction or frightful heresy here – usurping Christ’s uniqueness, etc. Dr. Miravalle — like Fr. Most, often takes pains to emphasize Mary’s role in Redemption as essentially lesser, insufficient in and of itself, and intrinsically unnecessary, but for God’s willing of it.

Furthermore, Miravalle acknowledges that Mary knew from the time of the Annunciation that there would be a (co-redemptive) suffering, with which she would be intimately involved:

From the time of her joyful and sorrowful announcements (cf. Lk 1:28, Lk 2:35), Mary anticipated her Son’s redemptive suffering at Calvary in her motherly heart . . . Certainly Mary’s knowledge of the Suffering Servant of Is. 53, coupled with the words of the angel and Simeon regarding her messiah-son and his mission, made the Mother of Jesus keenly aware of her joint call with her Son in salvific effort that would be immersed in profound suffering. (Ibid., 256; including part of footnote #33 — the second portion of the citation above)

Elsewhere Miravalle ties in Mary’s co-redemptive function with the patristic understanding of the New Eve, which leads back to the parallelism of Eve and Adam / Mary (New Eve) and the second Adam (Christ). The New Eve typology is related directly to the Immaculate Conception, biblically and developmentally, so that indirectly grounds Co-Redemptrix again in biblical and patristic thinking. Likewise, the Assumption flows logically from the Immaculate Conception. All of the Marian doctrines — as with all of Catholic theology — are interrelated. They intersect with each other at certain points, and cannot be separated from one another. And there is connectedness with the notions of penance and redemptive suffering in general, as well as prayer.

My Catholic friend on the public discussion list wrote:

I have voiced my concerns regarding the agenda of Vox Populi Mariae Mediatrici, its petition for the declaration of a new Papal dogma on the Virgin Mary. This unprecedented call of a lay group for Papal decree . . .

It’s not unprecedented at all! Many apologists and catechists have noted the mass petition drives by clergy and laity alike prior to the definitions of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption. The principle of indefectibility of the Church means not only that the hierarchy and magisterium will never err, but also the Church in all its parts, including pious, committed laity. There is such a thing as the sensus fidelium (“sense of the faithful”), which Cardinal Newman stressed, and which was mentioned in Vatican II. The right and duty of the laity to participate in such things is mentioned in the Catechism: #907,910-911.

If current Marian thinking were adequate, as indeed it is and has been for all the Mariologists up to and including Vatican II, another Marian Dogma would not be necessary; but it is necessary for Miravalle.

Again, one could say the same about the ex cathedra decrees concerning the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption. Indeed, the same sort of thing was said about the decree on papal infallibility from Vatican I. Cardinal Newman was an inopportunist. After it was promulgated, he saw that the Holy Spirit had prevailed against the two extremes (conciliarism and ultramontanism) and enthusiastically supported the decree (as indeed all orthodox Catholics must). I see no essential difference here, and strong similarities. Miravalle also says that he and his group will be fully obedient to the pope’s opinions regarding timing.

Despite the recommendations of the Holy See’s own Commission against the promulgation of a new dogma, Dr. Miravalle remains undeterred.

Just as Pope Paul VI remained undeterred and went ahead and wrote Humanae Vitae in 1968 over against his advisors’ opinion. Theologians are not the magisterium!

In accord with the precedent set at Vatican II, the participants agreed that a doctrinal declaration should not “settle questions which have not yet been fully clarified by the work of theologians” (Lumen Gentium 54).

Exactly; I agree with this. We see even on our list what confusion exists with regard to these doctrines. They are not nearly as understood by Catholics — let alone Protestants — as the Immaculate Conception and Assumption were for centuries before their definition. Co-Redemptrix and Mediatrix theology has developed more rapidly in the 20th century, just as ecumenism has, so it is not at all unexpected that ex cathedra definition would not be considered wise and prudent as of yet. Miravalle disagrees. Well, I disagree with him on the timing, but I agree that what he is calling for is indeed Catholic doctrine already — just not at the highest levels of magisterial authority. I would say it is already infallible in the ordinary magisterium.

The word “coredemptrix” did not appear in the magisterium until the pontificate of Pius XII.

This is an excellent point (assuming you are correct on the history). The concepts had been there, but the word was new at the highest levels, thus causing one to question that the word should be declared as binding and unalterable — on the level of, say, Theotokos or Mary Ever-Virgin.

The second reason the theologians gave for recommending that the Holy See not define these Marian prerogatives dealt with the ecumenical dialogue.

This is my primary reason for being an inopportunist.

Dave’s heroic (but myopic?) defense of Vox Populi and Dr. Miravalle continues to avoid their purpose and need for a new Marian dogma.

No; it was irrelevant to the discussion as I saw it — this would come under the category of the thoughts which are included in the concept of inopportunism. Their motives obviously stem from Marian devotion. But such devotion does not have a necessary connection to dogmatic definition. Catholics are not required to say the Rosary or believe in Fatima and Lourdes — yet we know that all are firmly entrenched in Catholic Tradition and endorsed by the Church as pious practices and beliefs.

Instead he sees Miravalle’s second fiat as “of a piece” with the fiat of the Annunciation (this disposition is quite orthodox), this despite Miravalle’s intimation of a second, creative “fiat” that, in my opinion, has the effect of elevating Mary’s suffering to Christ’s, her suffering joining His in co-redemptive reality.

What is truly “creative” here is your insinuation of Miravalle’s so-called 2nd ‘fiat’ being “creative” at the Cross in some perverse, usurping, idolatrous (?) sense. That is your own fiction, unique to you as far as I can tell. You have produced no one thus far to back up your specific contentions. As we saw, this report urging against the definition utilized entirely different  grounds (as I strongly suspected would be the case). I agreed with the report! That is not at issue between us.

The call for a new dogma by a “grass-roots” organization remains problematic. I believe the laity should never assume such initiative.

Then you are out of step with a long, honorable, completely orthodox tradition in the Church. The laity have long rebuked popes, e.g., and directly influenced their decisions (St. Catherine of Siena being a notable example). The masses soundly rebuked Pope John XXII when he questioned aspects of the beatific vision. Newman emphasized this, giving the example of the laity during the time of the Arian heresy, when the majority of the bishops became heretics.


(originally from 2000)

Photo credit: The Coronation of the Virgin (c. 1625), by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]



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