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  • Michael Westhead | The Daily Knight

Second Response to Pope Francis Regarding the Co-Redemptive Nature of Mary

Michael Westhead | The Daily Knight

Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Heaven (uCatholic)

The recent comments of Pope Francis regarding the co-redemptive nature of Mary has again sparked discussion around this topic. Perhaps one of the best resources on this matter is the monumental work of Dr. Ludwig Ott Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. Originally published in the 1950’s, it was brought back into circulation by Baronius Press and has the express praise of Bishop Athanasius Schneider.

One tremendous aspect of this work is the explanation and depth given to all topics of the Catholic faith, it’s sources, and the degree of certainty with which all of the truths are known. The truths surrounding Mary’s mediative role are classified as sententia certa and sententia pia et probabilis, meaning they are theologically certain, despite not having formal pronouncement, because of their intrinsic connection to the doctrine of revelation.

The whole section is so wonderful it has been excerpted here in full for the pious learning of the faithful that we may nourished on the truths of our faith. One important note, however, that may be a positive aspect of the Marian minimalist attitudes of some clerics is that her remote role in redemption means that she has never been the one offering the redemptive sacrifice, i.e. she is not and has never been a priest.

Today when the calls for women’s ordination abound, it is worth noting that the highest saint in Catholic history, the Immaculate and sublime Mother of God, first to offer God to God in union with Joseph in the temple, present in the upper room and along Christ’s entire passion was not a priest.

So with that, we present the Mediation of Mary from the Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma:

Although Christ is the Sole Mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5), since He alone by His death on the Cross, fully reconciled mankind with God, this does not exclude a secondary mediatorship, subordinated to Christ (cf. S. tho III 26, 1). "To unite men to God completely (perfective) appertains to Christ according to 2 Cor. 5:19. Therefore Christ alone is the perfect mediator between God and man, inasmuch as He reconciled mankind with God bv His death. ... But there is nothing to prevent others in a certain way (secundum quid) from being called mediators between God and man, insofar as they, by preparing or serving (dispositive vel ministeraliter), co-operate in uniting men to God."

The Fathers called Mary the mediatrix (μεσίτης). A prayer ascribed to St. Ephrem says of her: "After the Mediator thou art the mediatrix of the whole world" (post mediatorem mediatrix totius mundi: Oratio IVad Deiparam. 4th Lesson of the Office of the Feast). The title Mediatrix is attached to Mary in official Church documents also, for example, in the Bull Ineffabilis Deus of Pope Pius IX (1854); in the Rosary Encyclicals Adiutricem and Fidentem (DH 3274) of Pope Leo XIII. (1895 and 1896); in the Encyclical Ad diem illum of Pope Pius X (1904). It has also been received into the Liturgy of the Church through the introduction of the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mediatrix of all Graces (B. Mariae Virginis omnium gratiarum Mediatricis) in 1921. Mary is designated mediatrix of all graces in a double sense:

1. Mary gave the Redeemer, the Source of all graces, to the world, and in this way she is the channel of all graces. (Sent. certa.)

2. Since Marv's Assumption into Heaven no grace is conferred on man without her actual intercessory co-operation. (Sent. pia et probabilis).

1. Mary is the Mediatrix of all graces by her cooperation in the Incarnation. (Mediatio in universali.)

Mary freely and deliberately co-operated in giving the Redeemer to the world. Instructed by the angel as to the person and the task of Her Son she freely assented to be Mother of God. Luke I, 38: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it done unto me according to thy word." The Incarnation of the Son of God, and the Redemption of mankind by the vicarious atonement of Christ were dependent on her assent. In this significant moment in the history of Salvation Mary represented humanity. St. Thomas says: “At the Annunciation the concurrence of the maiden was awaited as a representative of all human nature (loco totins humanae naturae)" (S. tho III 30, I). In regard to these words, Pope Leo XIII remarks: "To a certain extent she (Mary) represented the whole human race” (quae ipsius generis humani personam quodammodo agebat). D 1940 a.

The Fathers contrast Mary's obedience at the Annunciation with Eve's disobedience. Mary by her obedience became the cause of the Salvation, while Eve by her disobedience became the cause of death. St. Irenaeus teaches: “As she (Eve) who had Adam as her husband, but was nevertheless a virgin was disobedient, and thereby became the cause of death to herself and to the whole of mankind, so also Mary, who had a pre-ordained husband, and was still a virgin, by her obedience became a cause of her own salvation and the salvation of the whole human race" (et sibi et universo generi humane causa facta est salutis: Adv. haer. III 22, 4-; cf. V 19, I). St. Jerome says: "By a woman the whole world was saved” (per mulierem totus mundus salvatus est). Tract. de Ps. 96. Cf. Tertullian, De came Christi 17.

Mary's co-operation in the Redemption.

The title Coredemptrix (Co-redeemer), which has been current since the fifteenth century, and which also appears in some official Church documents under Pius X (cf. D 1978 a), must not be conceived in the sense of an equation of the efficacy of Mary with the redemptive activity of Christ, the sole Redeemer of humanity (1 Tim. 2:5). As she herself required redemption and in fact was redeemed by Christ, she could not of herself merit the grace of the redemption of humanity in accordance with the principle: “The author of an act of merit cannot be a recipient of the same act of merit.” (Principium meriti non cadit sub eodqu merito.) Her cooperation in the objective redemption is an indirect, remote cooperation, and derives from the fact that she voluntarily devoted her whole life to the service of the Redeemer, and, under the Cross, suffered and sacrificed with Him. As Pope Pius XII says in the Encyclical Mystici Corporis (1943), she “offered Him on Golgotha to the Eternal Father together with the holocaust of her maternal rights and her motherly love like a new Eve for all children of Adam”. As "The New Eve” she is, as the same Pope declares, in the Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus (1950) "the sublime associate of our Redeemer” (generoso Divini Rcdemptoris socia).

Christ alone truly offered the sacrifice of atonement on the Cross; Mary merely gave Him moral support in this action. Thus Mary is not entitled to the title Priest (Sacerdos). Indeed this is expressly laid down by the Holy Office (1916, 1927). Christ, as the Church teaches, "conquered the enemy of the human race alone (solus)" (DH 1347); in the same way, He alone acquired the grace of the redemption for the whole human race, including Mary. The words of Luke 1:38 “Behold the handmaid of the Lord” imply Mary's mediate, remote cooperation in the Redemption. St. Ambrose expressly teaches: “Christ’s Passion did not require any support” (De inst. virgo 7). In the power of the grace of Redemption merited by Christ, Mary, by her spiritual entering into the sacrifice of her Divine Son for men, made atonement for the sins of men, and (de congruo) merited the application of the redemptive grace of Christ. In this manner she cooperates in the subjective redemption of mankind.

The statement of Pope Pius X in the Encyclical Ad diem illum (1904): (Beata Virgo) de congruo, ut aiunt, promeret nobis, quae Christus de condigno promeruit. (The Blessed Virgin “merits for us in a congruous manner what Christ merits f or us in a condign manner”) is, as the present tense promeret shows, not indeed to be taken as referring to the historical objective Redemption, which occurred once and for all, but to her ever-present, intercessory cooperation in the subjective redemption.

2. Mary is the Mediatrix of all graces by her intercession in Heaven. (Mediatio in speciali.)

Since her assumption into Heaven, Mary cooperates in the application of the grace of Redemption to man. She participates in the distribution of grace by her maternal intercession which is far inferior in efficacy to that of the intercessory prayer of Christ, the High Priest, but far surpasses the intercessory prayer of all the other saints.

According to the view of the older, and of many of the modern, theologians Mary's intercessory cooperation extends to all graces, which are conferred on mankind, so that no grace accrues to men, without the intercession of Mary. The implication of this is not that we are obliged to beg for all graces through Mary, nor that Mary's intercession is intrinsically necessary for the application of the grace, but that, according to God's positive ordinance, the redemptive grace of Christ is conferred on nobody without the actual intercessory cooperation of Mary.

Recent Popes have declared in favor of this doctrine. Leo XIII says in the Rosary Encyclical Octobri mense (1891): "Absolutely nothing from this immense treasury of all graces brought forth by the Lord... comes to us by the will of God. Thus, just as nobody can approach the Supreme Father except through the Son, similarly nobody can approach Christ except through the Mother".

Pope Pius X calls Mary “the dispensatrix of all gifts, which Jesus has acquired for us by His death and His blood". Pope Benedict XV declared "All gifts which the Author of all good has deigned to communicate to the unhappy posterity of Adam, are, according to the loving resolve of His Divine Providence, dispensed by the hands of the Most Holy Virgin". The same Pope calls Mary: “the mediatrix with God of all graces" (gratiarum omnium apud Deum sequestra). Pope Pius XI in the Encyclical Ingravescentibus malis (1937) quotes with approval the words of Saint Bernard: “Thus it is His (God's) will that we should have everything through Mary". Similarly Pope Pius XII in the Encyclical Mediator Dei (1947).

Express scriptural proofs are lacking. Theologians seek a biblical foundation in the words of Christ, John 19:26.: "Woman behold thy son, son behold thy mother." According to the literal sense these words refer only to the persons addressed, Mary and John. The mystical interpretation, which became dominant in the West in the late Middle Ages (Dionysius the Carthusian), sees in John the representative of the whole human race. In him Mary was given as a mother to all the redeemed. Moreover, it corresponds to the position of Mary as the spiritual mother of the whole of redeemed humanity that she, by her powerful intercession, should procure for her children in need of help all graces by which they can attain eternal salvation.

The idea of the spiritual Motherhood of Mary is part of the Ancient Christian tradition, independently of the interpretation of John 19:26. According to Origen the perfect Christ had Mary as mother: "Every perfect person no longer lives (of himself) but Christ lives in him; and because Christ lives in him, it is said of him to Mary: Behold thy son Christ" (Com. in loan. I 4, 23). St. Epiphanius derives Mary's spiritual Motherhood from the Eve-Mary parallel: "She (Mary) is she of whom Eve is the prototype, who, as such received the appellation 'mother of the living' . . . as to externals the whole human race on earth stemmed from that Eve. Thus in truth, through Mary, the very life of the world was borne, so that she bore the Living One, and became the Mother of the Living. Thus in prototype Mary was called ' Mother of the living'" (Haer. 78, 18). St. Augustine bases Mary's spiritual Motherhood on the mystical unity of the faithful with Christ. As the bodily Mother of God, she is, in a spiritual fashion, also the mother of those who are incorportaed into Christ. Cf. De s. virginitate 6,6.

Express testimonies, though few in number, to Mary's position as mediatrix of grace are found since the eighth century. They became more numerous during the peak period of the Middle Ages. St. Germanus of Constantinople († 733) says: "Nobody can achieve salvation except through thee... O Most Holy One... nobody can receive a gift of grace except through thee... O Most Chaste One” (Or. 9, 5 Lesson of the Office of the Feast). St. Bernard of Clairvaux (†1153) says of Mary: "God wished that we have nothing, except by the hands of Mary" (In Vig. Nativit. Domini serm. 3, 10). Pseudo-Albert the Great calls Mary: "The universal dispenser of all riches" (omnium bonitatum universaliter distributiva; Super Missus est q. 29). In modem times the doctrine that Mary is the Universal Mediatrix of Grace was advocated by St. Peter Canisius, Suarez, St. Alphonsus Liguori, Scheeben, and it is supported by the opinion of numerous theologians at the present day.

Speculatively the doctrine of Mary's Universal Mediation is based on her cooperation in the Incarnation and the Redemption, as well as on her relationship to the Church:

a) Since Mary gave the source of all grace to men, it is to be expected that she would also co-operate in the distribution of all grace.

b) As Mary became the spiritual Mother of all the redeemed, it is fitting that she, by her constant motherly intercession should care for the supernatural life of all her children.

c) As Mary is "the prototype of the Church (St. Ambrose, Expos. ev. sec. Luc. II 7), and as all grace of redemption is obtained by the Church, it is to be assumed that Mary, by her heavenly intercession, is the universal mediatrix of grace.


The doctrine of Mary's Universal Mediation of Grace based on her co-operation in the Incarnation is so definitely manifest in the sources of the Faith, that nothing stands in the way of a dogmatic definition. Her position as Mediatrix of Grace in virtue of her intercession in Heaven is less definitely attested. Since, however, it is organically associated with Mary's Spiritual Motherhood which in turn is based on Scripture and with her intimate participation in the work of her Divine Son, its definition does not seem impossible.


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