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Co-Redemptrix is an almost entirely Roman Catholic title of Mary, the mother of Jesus and theological concept, which refers to Mary's role in the redemption of man. It has always been controversial and has never formed part of the dogma of the Church. The term "Co-redemptrix" refers to a subordinate but essential participation by the Blessed Virgin Mary in redemption, notably that she gave free consent to give life to the Redeemer, to share his life, to suffer with him under the cross, to offer his sacrifice to God the Father for the sake of the redemption of mankind. Related to this belief is the concept of Mediatrix which is a separate concept[1] but regularly included by faithful who use the title of co-redemptrix.

The concept was especially commonly held in the late Middle Ages, when it was especially promoted by many in the Franciscan Order, and often resisted by the Dominicans. By the early 16th century the hopes of the concept becoming Catholic doctrine had receded, and have never seriously revived. In more recent times, the title has received some support from the Catholic Magisterium[2] though it is not included in the concluding chapter of the dogmatic constitution Lumen gentium of the Second Vatican Council, which chapter many theologians hold to be a comprehensive summary of Roman Catholic Mariology. Some, in particular the adherents of the Amsterdam visions, have petitioned for a dogmatic definition, along with Mediatrix,[3] but recent high-level comments in the Church have not encouraged these hopes.


The concept of Co-redemption is not new. Even before the year 200, the Church Father Irenaeus referred to Mary as "causa salutis" [cause of our salvation] given her "fiat"[4] It is a concept which was the subject of considerable theological debate, reaching a peak in the 15th century,[5] but attempts to have it declared a dogma were not successful. In general it was supported and promoted by medieval Franciscans and opposed by Dominicans.

A number of theologians have discussed the concept over the years, from the 19th century Father Frederick William Faber,[6] to the 20th century Mariologist (and advisor to the Holy Office) Father Gabriel Roschini.[7] In his 1946 publication Compendium Mariologiae, Roschini explained that Mary did not only participate in the birth of the physical Jesus, but, with conception, she entered with him into a spiritual union. The divine salvation plan, being not only material, includes a permanent spiritual unity with Christ. Most Mariologists agree with this position.[8] Pope Leo XIII noted that in her Annunciation, “in a sense, she stood in place of all mankind.”[9] Mary suffered willingly under the cross[10] and, in a sense, offered His sacrifice to the Eternal Father.[11]

The concept of Mary offering Christ's sufferings is theologically complex. Christ offered Himself alone; “the Passion of Christ did not need any assistance.”[12] It is according to the spirit of the offertory within the Holy Mass, in which those assisting in the Sacrifice bring their particular offerings, personal hardships, etc., and offer them to the Lord to be included in His Sacrifice, inasmuch as they belong to His mystical body; just the same, they also offer the Lord's own Sacrifice, acknowledging the littleness of their own offerings and the fact that not even the greatest effort, of itself and apart from Christ, can be of God's use. A priest is, in a sense, able to participate in the Sacrifice in a sacramental manner. For laymen, see for example the prayers of the Divine Mercy Chaplet. The Holy Office has forbidden reference to Mary as a priestess.

The Blessed Virgin “merits for us de congruo”, that is, by way of a fitting reward without any self-binding on God's side, “what Jesus Christ merits for us de condigno”, that is, God binding himself to give the reward.[13] It is uncertain whether St. Pius means with “us” all mankind except Christ's human nature and Mary, or only those living after Mary's merits, since the former would without necessity (salvation does not need Mary's merit if God wants to distribute it without) break the general rule that the effect comes after the cause. (The effect does precede the meritary cause in the case of freeing men from the guilt of sin, and sometimes from some effects of sin, before Christ's Work of Redemption, and in the instance of the Last Supper and maybe, if St. Thomas Aquinas is followed, pre-Passion Christian Baptism; but then again Christ is the Son of God and Mary is not.) What concerns post-Assumption graces, it is a pious and probably opinion that the entirety of them is effected not without an intercession of Mary,[14] see Mediatrix.

The Roman Catholic view of Co-Redemptrix does not imply that Mary participates as equal part in the redemption of the human race, since Christ is the only redeemer.[15] Mary herself needed redemption and was redeemed by Jesus Christ. Being redeemed by Christ, implies that she cannot be his equal part in the redemption process.[16] Also if the Blessed Virgin intercedes for all graces that are given, this is not because God needed her intercession in any way to give them; rather, it “is to be so understood that it neither takes away from nor adds anything to the dignity and efficaciousness of Christ the one Mediator”;[17] of course also, only with her intercession does by no means say only with calling her for intercession.

Pope Ven. Pius XII has thus in Munificentissimus Deus, the bull defining the Assumption dogma, used the alternative expression “the revered Mother of God, [...] joined [...] with Jesus Christ in one and the same decree of predestination [...] as the noble associate of the divine Redeemer.[18]

Quotes from Scripture[edit]

The Sacred Scriptures are commonly cited in favour of this teaching:[19]

  • Luke 1:38 : "And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her". It is interpreted that she is His handmaid even in His work of Redemption.
  • John 19:25-27 : "Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home." The medieval notion that St. John stands virtually for every believer has become quite general; thus, Mary is the mother of all the faithful. Furthermore, these verses indicate that she stood in fact under the Cross, where she suffered alongside her Son, fulfilling the prophecy of Simon, Luke 2:35: "And a sword will pierce through your own soul also."
  • John 2:3: "The mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine." If the title of Mediatrix be distinguished, it is rather a verse for this title than for Co-Redemptrix.
  • Colossians 1:24: "I [St. Paul] now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church.” And if St. Paul could fill up what was behind, a fortiori could the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Proposed dogmatic definition[edit]

There have been efforts to propose a formal dogmatisation, which has had both popular and ecclesiastical support with millions of signatures gathered. It was brought up at Vatican II by Italian, Spanish and Polish bishops but not dealt with on the council floor.[20] Subsequently, Popes, while sympathetic to requests from the faithful and bishops, did not include such language in their encyclicals.

The proposal is the first-ever case that an alleged apparition, that in Amsterdam to wit, has supposedly proposed, or rather, demanded a dogma from the Church. Up to then, apparitions confirmed existing dogmas[21] rather than demanding new ones. The Amsterdam apparitions do now, i. e. since 2002, have an approval of the diocesan bishop, Monsignor Jos Punt. However, given the fact that a non-approving decision on Roman level in the 1970s seems to have had some degree of finality, some go even so far as to put the validity of Msgr Punt's canonical action into question. Comprehensive information on the subject is hard to come by.

Other arguments opposing are that such a dogma might limit, in popular understanding, the redemptive role of Jesus Christ. It is, if no specific heresies are to be reproached, among the senses of new dogmas to foster religion and devotion; however, to foster the devotion for Mary as a Co-Redemptrix might lead devotion away from the Redeemer instead, as the Assumption dogma did for example, underline the glorious actions of the Redeemer. There is no need to dogmatise everything that happens to be true, even if the arguments for truth even happen to be sufficient for such an attempt. Another argument, though by no means the only one, is that it would also complicate ecumenical efforts for a better understanding of the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the salvation mystery of Jesus Christ.[22]

In the early 1990s Professor Mark Miravalle of the Franciscan University of Steubenville and author of the book Mary: Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate launched a popular petition to urge Pope John Paul II to use Papal infallibility to declare Mary as Co-Redemptrix. More than six million signatures were gathered from 148 countries, including those of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Cardinal John O'Connor of New York, and 41 other cardinals and 550 bishops.

In August 1996, a Mariological Congress was held in Czestochowa, Poland, where a commission was established in response to a request of the Holy See. The congress sought the opinion of scholars present there regarding the possibility of proposing a fifth Marian dogma on Mary as Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate. The commission unanimously declared that it was not opportune, voting 23-0 against the proposed dogma.[23][24]

By 1998 it was doubtful the Vatican was going to consider new Marian dogmas. The papal spokesman stated "This is not under study by the Holy Father nor by any Vatican congregation or commission".[24] A leading Mariologist stated the petition was "theologically inadequate, historically a mistake, pastorally imprudent and ecumenically unacceptable".[25] Pope John Paul II cautioned against "all false exaggeration",[26] his teaching and devotion to Mary has strictly been "exalting Mary as the first among believers but concentrating all faith on the Triune God and giving primacy to Christ."[25] When asked in an interview in 2000 whether the Church would go along with the desire to solemnly define Mary as Co-redemptrix, (the then) Cardinal Ratzinger responded that,

the formula “Co-redemptrix” departs to too great an extent from the language of Scripture and of the Fathers and therefore gives rise to misunderstandings...Everything comes from Him [Christ], as the Letter to the Ephesians and the Letter to the Colossians, in particular, tell us; Mary, too, is everything she is through Him. The word “Co-redemptrix” would obscure this origin. A correct intention being expressed in the wrong way. [27]

Pope Benedict XVI further explained his notable opposition of a dogmatisation, concluding that the title is sufficiently included in other better expressions of Catholic Marian teaching. For example, the Scriptural account is unsatisfactory, and above all, we are talking most of the time of a merit de congruo which would seem, by the very definition of de congruo, not fit into the exact clearness needed for dogmatic definitions.

See also[edit]


  • Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Mercier Press Ltd., Cork, Ireland, 1955.
  • Acta Apostolicae Sedis, referenced as AAS by year.


  1. ^ Mark Miravalle, 1993 "With Jesus": the story of Mary Co-redemptrix ISBN 1-57918-241-0 page 11
  2. ^ “Therefore, one can say, she [that is, the Blessed Virgin] redeemed with Christ the human race.” Pope Benedict XV, Apostolic Letter Inter soldalica, AAS 1918, 181. There has not been a retraction so far, but nor any equivalent statements since.
  3. ^ News Report on the Mediatrix Petition to the Pope
  4. ^ ."
  5. ^ Ott 256
  6. ^ Fredrick Faber The Sorrows of Mary
  7. ^ Gabriel Roschini, Compendium Mariologiae, Roma 1946.
  8. ^ Schmaus, Mariologie, München, 1955, 328
  9. ^ In commenting on St. Thomas Aquinas, S. th. III 30, 1. See Ott, Dogmatics, § 7 on Mariology.
  10. ^ “As the Blessed Virgin Mary does not seem to participate in the public life of Jesus Christ, and then, suddenly appears at the stations of his cross, she is not there without divine intention. She suffers with her suffering and dying son, almost as if she would have died herself. For the salvation of mankind, she gave up her rights as the mother of her son.” Pope Benedict XV, Apostolic Letter Inter soldalica.
  11. ^ “and sacrificed him for the reconciliation of divine justice, as far as she was permitted to do.” Benedict XV, ibidem. – “It was she, the second Eve, who, free from all sin, original or personal, and always more intimately united with her Son, offered Him on Golgotha to the Eternal Father for all the children of Adam, sin-stained by his unhappy fall.” Pope Ven. Pius XII, encyclical Mystici Corporis.
  12. ^ St. Ambrose, De inst. virg. 7, cited from Ott, Dogmatics.
  13. ^ Pope St. Pius X, encyclical Ad diem illum 14
  14. ^ “Mary is the intermediary through whom is distributed unto us this immense treasure of mercies gathered by God, for mercy and truth were created by Jesus Christ. Thus as no man goeth to the Father but by the Son, so no man goeth to Christ but by His Mother.” Leo XIII, encyclical Octobri Mense 4. Ott, Dogmatics, Mariology § 7 even thinks that, in spite of uncertain evidence in the Sources of Faith, a dogmatic definition does not seem impossible.
  15. ^ 1Tim 2,5
  16. ^ Ott Dogmatics 256
  17. ^ Second Vatican Council, dogmatic constitution Lumen gentium 62, citing St. Ambrose, Epist. 63: PL 16, 1218.
  18. ^ Munificentissimus Deus 40
  19. ^ something may be found at a dogmatisation-supporting website:Do we find support for the proposed Dogma of Mary Coredemptrix, Mediatrix of all Graces and Advocate in Scripture?
  20. ^ Otto Hermann Pesch Das Zweite Vatikanische Konzil, Echter, 1993, 194.
  21. ^ Most clearly seen in the Lourdes apparitions
  22. ^ "from the conciliar and ecumenical point of view, it is certainly not opportune to proclaim this dogma at this time. The separated brethren, Protestants and Orthodox, reproach us for not consulting them in regard to the last dogmas on Mary. This is why I think that a dogma of this type would have to include their participation". (Therefore) "Pontiffs do not mention it precisely so as not to cause a misunderstanding with the Protestants". Father Stefano de Fiores, member of the International Pontifical Marian Academy Marianum. ZENIT - Why It's Not the Right Time for a Dogma on Mary as Co-redemptrix
  23. ^ L'Osservatore Romano, Weekly Edition in English 25 June 1997, page 10
  24. ^ a b Joaquin Navarro-Valls, Catholic Herald, 1997-08-22, p.7.
  25. ^ a b Father Salvatore Perrella, The Message, 1997-09-05, p.5.
  26. ^ L'Osservatore Romano, January 1996
  27. ^ Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, God and the World: A Conversion with Peter Seewald. Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2002, p. 306

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