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Co-Redemptrix? Thinking Critically About Mary

I have great love for Mary of Nazareth, the God-bearer, whose womb housed Divine Wisdom. Given my tender feelings, I undertake this article with hesitation, lest I should appear hostile. Nothing would upset me more than to dishonor our Lady, whose submission allowed the Eternal Logos to assume man’s frail flesh.

Nevertheless, I feel compelled to voice my concern regarding the possibility of Mary being named “co-redemptrix.” There is within the Church a crowd that supports the dogmatization of this title. I do not doubt their sincere commitment to Christ. However, I do believe that in their Marian zeal they have charged into dangerous territory, shadowy territory well outside the realm of historic Christian orthodoxy.

Leading proponent Mark Miravalle, professor at Franciscan University of Steubenville, admits the appellation is controversial. Yet he consistently dismisses suspicions of impropriety, explaining that it simply describes Mary’s status as “co-worker” with God, a duty to which all disciples are called (cf. I Corinthians 3:9).

Perhaps I am over-sensitive, but to my eye there is a significant difference between “co-working” the redemption achieved by Christ and “co-redeeming” with Christ. Humans do not redeem with Christ. We merely tend the kingdom that He wins.

Although advocates assert the priority of Jesus, their words often ring hollow. Why insist upon this radical and divisive title for Mary if it could just as easily (or almost as easily) apply to any ordinary pew-sitter? After all, every Christian is privileged to belong to “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people” (I Peter 2:9). No, this is a case of haywire Marian enthusiasm, a phenomenon not uncommon in Church history.

I do not deny Mary’s extraordinary role in the economy of salvation. I do not deny that she is our spiritual mother, the model of Christian piety, and blessed among women.

I do deny is that she is entitled to a share of God’s glory, which is what “co-redemptrix” truly implies. Ultimately, the labors of men and women (including Mary) are fruitful only by the sovereign will of God. Consider what Saint Paul writes just before the above cited verse (cf. I Corinthians 3:9), so commonly tossed around by partisans of this bizarre appellation: “So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God makes things grow” (I Corinthians 3:7).

Only God makes things grow. Words are important. God is wholly responsible for redemption. This being so, is it not proper to recoil at anything that suggests otherwise . . . even vaguely? We must not fool ourselves into believing that God’s work hinged in any real way upon Mary. His plan was predestined and foreseen before the foundation of the earth. “He is in one mind, and who can turn Him? And what His soul desires, even that He does” (Job 23:23).

Furthermore, it is peculiar that while God chose Mary because of her utter humility, some devotees struggle ceaselessly to elevate her into the highest heights of heaven. Is not Mary precious because she is meek? Yet we continually see our poor little Lady represented as a Hellenistic goddess, complete with gleaming gown, lustrous hair, high cheekbones, and imperious countenance. The greatness of Mary is that she recognized that she is a creature and that God is the Creator and that the twain shall never meet: “My spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior, for He has regarded the low estate of His handmaiden” (Luke 1:47-48).

Ah, now that is more like it: handmaiden. Truly a title fit for the gentle teenage Jewess who bore the Word of God! Hail Mary, full of grace, handmaiden of the Lord.

*

This offers an opportunity to think critically about Marian devotion within the Church. Unlike most Protestants, we have safeguarded the ancient tradition of honoring the God-bearer. This righteous custom is not without its idolatrous dangers.

Some assign Mary an eschatological role that we may charitably call “out-sized.” This tendency is reinforced by private revelations, which have introduced a number of curious ideas into everyday Catholic devotion. Deeply troubling is the medieval belief, reinvigorated by Fatima, that Mary “restrains” the hand of her Son. No creature, however wonderful, decides the action of the One True God: “Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure” (Isaiah 46:9-10). Declaring the end from the beginning.

Indeed, Fatima is in many ways the prime example of righteous Marian enthusiasm gone awry. It has bred an errant strain of piety that affords Mary more influence upon the affairs of men than God Himself. The children at Fatima went so far as to claim that our Lady has “promised salvation” to those who faithfully venerate her cult. Our concern for Mary’s cult is not and never has been decisive in the matter of salvation! The Divine Word assures us: “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:28). Even the fervent devotees to Mary among the Orthodox find such oracles at best baffling.

Have we forgotten the dire caution that the Most High delivered unto His prophet Moses? “For you shall worship no other god: for the LORD, Whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Exodus 34:14). Whose name is Jealous.

*

Mary is the Handmaiden of the Lord. Scripture praises her highly and tradition offers many beautiful forms by which she may be venerated. But there are limits, boundaries. Neither Scripture nor the Creeds suggest that Mary reigns as “queen of heaven” in the literal sense of that phrase.

Against those who point to Revelation, let me assert that the Woman of the Apocalypse is first and foremost a type of the Church. Interestingly, one of the earliest commentaries on Revelation, penned by Archbishop Andrew of Caesarea in the late sixth century, roundly dismissed the Marian motif: “Some say she is the Theotokos, but the great Methodios took it to be the Holy Church.” Andrew refers (“some say…”) to a certain Oikoumenios, a Monophysite rhetorician deeply in debt to pagan ideas, as noted by Eugenia Constantinou.

This is not to fall into the old Protestant trap of seeing Marian veneration as a pagan hangover. Scripture calls her “blessed among women,” “full of grace,” and “handmaiden of the Lord.” The ancient fathers also may be mined for sweet praise of our Lady. But let us not, in our love for her, scorn the Eternal God. He made us all of the same clay! Mary is not remotely like Him. She is on our level, not His. He alone is the Lord. All sovereignty and glory belong to Him.

Like the little Jewess, let us sing to the Boundless One, for He is good to us without reason. “For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). Nothing can definitely merit the grace of God, nor any person–including the Theotokos. “For He said to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy” (Romans 9:15-16).

It is time, perhaps, to put down the works of Saint Louis de Montfort and pick up those of Saint Augustine. The African knew a thing or two about the mysterious and overwhelming grace of God. He had a keen, almost painful, sense of God’s absolute sovereignty: “However strong the wills either of angels or of men, whether good or evil, whether they will what God wills or will something else, the will of the Omnipotent is always undefeated” (Enchiridion of Faith, Hope, and Love, 102). No man will be saved by the intercession of Mary, no matter how many Rosaries he prays, no matter if a scapular hands around his neck or not. If a man is damned, she is impotent; if he is saved, she can only smile, and wait to greet him with a holy and maternal kiss, one slave of God to another.

How many, misled by popular piety, have fingered their pretty beads all the way to hell? Let us trust in the Holy Trinity for salvation and offer worship worthy of royalty to Christ alone, “for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Hail Mary, full of grace! Yes, fine words. There is no honor in distorting them. And distortion it is to rob the Virgin of Nazareth of her perfect submission. She is our spiritual mother because she offers all things up to the Father. She is our queen because she knows that God alone is King. We do well to remember the real Mary, not the myth propagated by so many porcelain-faced statues.

In the words of Italian writer and politician Ruggero Bonghi, “I offend the Madonna? No! But those who offend make merchandise of her and pretend to spread her worship whilst only seeking gain for themselves and do not fear to clothe her in a pagan garment.”


Philip Primeau is an associate editor at Catholic Lane. He also blogs at a-heart-of-flesh.blogspot.com. He may be contacted by email at philipryan.primeau@gmail.com.
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  • noelfitz

    This is a brilliant article. Many thanks. In it Mary’s place is acknowledged and the points are well made.

    I have a concern, which I hesitate to mention, as it may seem I want to denigrate Our Lady, which is not my intention.

    In the Regina Caeli the version I learned was:
    V. Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia,
    R. For He whom you were worthy to bear, alleluia,
    V. Has risen, as he promised, alleluia.

    Was Our Lady, a creature, worthy to bear, Jesus, our creator and God?

    • Silkyslovan Bojkovsky

      She was made worthy by Christ, not of her own merit. That is a good example of how some Marian theologists take things way out of context and proportion. hope that helped

  • MusherMaggie

    How do you stand on the dogma of the Immaculate Conception? I believe this is what sets our Blessed Mother apart from the rest of us.

    • Silkyslovan Bojkovsky

      SHe was obviously different then us, but you believe this sets her apart from us, as what? being Divine with Jesus?? Listen to what your saying. St. John the Baptist was also a very special person quite different than us, Jesus said about him that no man has ever been as holy as him on Earth. Should he be called a co-redeemer because he played a role in Salvation?? NO!

  • Philip Primeau

    I am troubled that the Holy Fathers have felt it necessary to dogmatize, especially s so narrowly, our understanding of the life and afterlife and eschatological role of the Blessed Virgin. Most of the most controversial Catholic teachings on Mary were only made official doctrine in the last couple hundred years. I am not saying I necessarily disagree with them — way above my paygrade — just that I am concerned by their total lack of Scriptural support and scanty mention in Tradition.

  • http://www.schefter.org PrairieHawk

    The dogmas proclaimed by the Pope are just as true as every other aspect of the Catholic faith. Perhaps they entered into our knowledge in a different way, but Truth is Truth.

  • Philip Primeau

    I have a lot of sympathy with those who opposed papal infallibility. Acton spoke against it eloquently, rooting his arguments in tradition and the fathers in particular. Believing in Petrine supremacy does not translate necessarily into believing in Petrine perfection.

  • Philip Primeau

    Prairie,

    Non-Scriptural dogma is indeed acceptable, indeed necessary, but where Scripture is silent AND tradition is at best ambiguous/quiet, then I have serious skepticism. I am not coming at this from a modernist, but rather a patristic position.

  • fishman

    I don’t fully have the time and energy right now to bring this folly to a screeching halt, but this article is dead wrong on multiple points.

    I do thank you for highlighting what I believe are legitimate confusions must Catholics have about the basis of Marian theology and the terms used in it.

    If you want to gain a deeper understanding of the legitimate theology I would recommend the writings of St. Maximilian Kolbe whom I believe was the first one to coin the term co-redemptix.

    To take to task a few of the the basic error.

    We are all co-redeemers with Christ , because we are all able to ‘take up our cross’ and follow him.
    That is exactly the basis of catholic idea of ‘offering up’ things to Jesus. We ‘make up for the what is lacking’ in the cross of Christ as Paul taught in his letters. It is exactly this principle of the co-redeeming suffering of ‘the people of God’ as the visible body of Christ that is the underpinning principle of the doctrine which states ‘there is no salvation outside the church’.

    Mary deserves the title co-redemtrix more so then any other human being, because she was immaculately conceived and being sinless suffered more then any other human being could have while standing at the foot of the cross. She offered up a heart that was ‘pierced by a sword’ and joined her son’s pain
    on the day of his crucifixion. Also, unless it is forgotten she is called my ancient text ‘the new eve’
    she by her fait reversed the sin of our first mother.
    Indicated by Jesus himself on the cross when he gave her too the church as his mother. The ‘the power of the holy spirit overshadowed her’.

    Is the instrument used in accomplishing an action not part of that action? St. Thomas Aquinas thought it was right to give the adoration of God to the cross itself because it was soaked in the blood of Christ.

    So how is it possible that Mary, the new tabernacle , by which his body come into being should be venerated any less then the cross? creature as she is.

    There are natural and organic developments solidly grounded in scripture and ancient in their roots.

    On a more minor note. Can Mary ‘hold back the hand of God’. First of this is a metaphor form a vision.
    Secondly did Peter’s shadow heal people ? After all Jesus is the only true cause of miracles or source of power. Yet scripture clearly says people were healed by peters shadow. It doesn’t bother to explain the obvious , that such a thing is only possible by the merits of the Jesus flowing through peter.

    In as much as Mary appeases and eases the Just anger
    of the Lord , by offering prayers, strengthened by the prayers of the faithful , she certainly does ‘hold back the hand of God’. It should not need saying that NO creature has the grace to pray , either Mary or those who ask her intercession without
    that grace coming from the holy spirit , by the merits of Jesus.

    The best reason for opposing the use of the title ‘co-redemptix’ is proven out well by your article however. I do not believe most Catholics have sufficiently good understanding of theology or the divine economy , such that the approval of this title would benefit them. Most would only be confused and some might lose their faith entirely over it. As such i think it unwise if such a declaration was made at this time.

    • Silkyslovan Bojkovsky

      if we are all Co-redeemers with Christ then why give Mary a unique Title co-redemptrix that sets her apart from us?? You contradict your self. Listen to what you are saying. You are putting her up their with Jesus. THE CHURCH DOES NOT TAKE REVELATION FROM MODERN SAINTS. Maximillian Kolbe and other saints were good intentioned but WRONG. Pope Benedict the 16 said this, so you should listen to it!!

  • Philip Primeau

    “We are all co-redeemers with Christ, because we are all able to ‘take up our cross’ and follow him.”

    That does not make us “co-redeemers.” We merely till the soil of the kingdom He has won by His own merits. We are disciples who imitate Christ, yes, but only because that Christ has already paid the full ransom for our transgressions.

    “That is exactly the basis of catholic idea of ‘offering up’ things to Jesus. We ‘make up for the what is lacking’ in the cross of Christ as Paul taught in his letters. It is exactly this principle of the co-redeeming suffering of ‘the people of God’ as the visible body of Christ that is the underpinning principle of the doctrine which states ‘there is no salvation outside the church’.”

    Again, I don’t disagree that we are “co-workers” of the kingdom. However, our life in Christ — from conversion and rebirth to good works and self-sacrifice — is not our own, “lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:9). Saint Augustine was insistent on this point. I fear that many Catholics are basically Pelagians now.

    “Mary deserves the title co-redemtrix more so then any other human being, because she was immaculately conceived and being sinless suffered more then any other human being could have while standing at the foot of the cross.”

    I do not deny that she was free of the stain, immune to the corruption of soul brought about by sin, that that is because God’s grace worked within her to achieve such spiritual perfection. She never claims anything of her own, but always recognizes that the One True God works in all His bondservants.

    “She offered up a heart that was ‘pierced by a sword’ and joined her son’s pain
    on the day of his crucifixion. Also, unless it is forgotten she is called my ancient text ‘the new eve.” she by her fait reversed the sin of our first mother.”

    I can understand the idea of Mary as the “New Eve,” and I don’t entirely disagree with that. However, I think it is more appropriate to call the Church the New Eve, as she is the Bride of the Heavenly Groom, our Lord Jesus Christ.

    “Indicated by Jesus himself on the cross when he gave her too the church as his mother. The ‘the power of the holy spirit overshadowed her.”

    Right on, she is our spiritual mother and the paragon of Christian piety. Her encounters with the Divine are unparalleled. She held the very Eternal Logos in her womb! Please do not attempt to paint me as some kind of Southern fundamental Mary hater.

    “Is the instrument used in accomplishing an action not part of that action? St. Thomas Aquinas thought it was right to give the adoration of God to the cross itself because it was soaked in the blood of Christ.”

    Adoration? That is idolatry. Relics, the few which aren’t scams, should be given tender respect, but . . . adoration? No, not at least as I understand that word.

    “So how is it possible that Mary, the new tabernacle, by which his body come into being should be venerated any less then the cross? creature as she is.”

    “In as much as Mary appeases and eases the just anger of the Lord, by offering prayers, strengthened by the prayers of the faithful, she certainly does ‘hold back the hand of God’.”

    I suppose this might be a matter of semantics. I just am deeply uncomfortable with any language that suggests that Mary can shape the eschaton.

    The Mary of Scripture and early tradition can be so different from the Mary of popular piety . . . It is worth, as the title suggests, thinking critically, especially if we are to take serious our job of Christian unity. And as the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, this is a burden we must gladly shoulder, even if it means rethinking questionable dogmas, especially those formulated in the last two hundred years.

  • noelfitz

    MM,
    I do not know if you were asking me or Philip. I believe in the Immaculate Conception, but I disagree with you.

    What sets Mary apart is that her son was true God and true man – Mother of God (God Bearer – Theotokos).

  • noelfitz

    PP, I do not want to wander from the focus of your article.

    But you mention Acton and I agree with you about him. I am surprised that so many articles from the Acton Institute appear here.

    Acton did not want big government of state or Church. So he was critical of the Vatican, but Rome wisely did not pick a fight with him.

  • noelfitz

    Fishman,
    with respect I disagree with you.

    You imply Mary is due honor principally because of her immaculate conception. I disagree she is due honor principally because she is the mother of God.

    Thomas Aquinas, Bernard of Clairvaux and Albert the Great did not agree with the immaculate conception declared a dogma of the Church in 1854.

  • Philip Primeau

    I do not wish to speak boldly. I am a simple man with no theological training. These are simply the musings of a loyal Catholic struggling to understand and comprehend the fullness of his faith.

    Yes, I will speak honestly: I am uneasy with many of the more, shall we say, “spectacular” Marian dogmas particular to the Catholic Church.

    Paul wrote, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

    If Mary was indeed sinless, then Paul, and therefore Scripture, is wrong. All humans have no sinned if Mary did not sin. All means all.

    Thankfully, Scripture is not in error. It is now widely recognized that “full of grace” is an incorrect translation of the original Greek. It stems from a mistake in the Vulgate. Most Bibles translate it “highly favored one” (still quite the compliment, coming from the Creator of heaven and earth!).

    Also, if Mary was without sin, even original sin, then why did she age? Is not corruption the fruit of sin? I have always wrestled with that problem.

    The fathers were divided concerning Mary’s sinlessness and the circumstances of her conception. Basil and Chrysostom, Origen and Irenaeus questioned or denied that she was totally free from stain. Augustine, Bernard, Bonaventure, and Thomas Aquinas scrutinized the claim of Mary’s immaculate conception. Indeed, I would say Augustine outright rejected it. As late as the 16th century, there was still serious debate, with Pope Pius V sanctioning the feast of Mary’s conception while forbidding it be pronounced immaculate.

    I think there are legitimate cases for and against Mary’s immaculate conception and sinless life. That is why I am disappointed over the dogmatization of such speculations. I hope the Holy Father resists the pressure from certain enthusiasts and declines to render as official doctrine Mary’s status as co-redemptrix.

    Where Scripture and tradition are silent or even ambiguous, it seems best to err on the side of restraint.

    Of course, what this all really comes down to is the matter of papal infallibility, which is of course a novel dogma, barely one hundred years old. I have never understood how the pope is infallible when Peter, the first Holy Father, was clearly wrong on important points of dogma, and required correction from Paul. Also, he did not preside over the very first council of the Church in Jerusalem!

    I do believe strongly in the visible church built around the Holy Father, but the Church has a poor habit of dogmatizing issues of secondary importance, issues which are poorly defined and illuminated by Scripture and tradition.

    • http://www.schefter.org PrairieHawk

      The Truth is cut from a whole cloth. Ask yourself why you can accept some teachings of the Church while you struggle with others. At some point, it is healthy to decide that an authority is trustworthy and you can accept everything it teaches, even the parts you do not understand.

      Are some teachings less aesthetically appealing? That’s a problem I had when I first started learning Catholic truth. Hell is kind of the ultimate in non-aesthetically appealing doctrine, and I struggled with it for a long time. I talked to priests and read books, and prayed, and eventually came to a point where I believed in it. I don’t like it and wish it weren’t there, but I believe.

      If you can’t accept something the Church teaches, allow God to speak to you in private. Jesus is the Head of the Church and He believes everything the Church teaches! He will help you.

      • Philip Primeau

        I absolutely believe the Church is trustworthy. I believe my mother is trustworthy, too. Trustworthiness and infallibility are two very different things.

        My problem is not with hell, which Scripture and the fathers (generally) affirm loud and clear.

        And it is not a matter of “aesthetics,” as you say. It is a matter of imputing to Mary titles, honors, duties, and privileges which are reserved for the One True God, Father and Son and Holy Spirit.

        Recall that Pope Leo III rejected the filioque’s addition to the Nicaean Creed. How is this possible, then, if other popes went on to affirm it? The very nature of God is hardly a trivial subject.

        Let me say again: I root my critique not in modernist but patristic principles. I am concerned about these Marian dogmas not because I find them an affront to my “enlightened reason,” or some such nonsense, but because our ancient forefathers could not agree on their veracity.

        • Silkyslovan Bojkovsky

          Great explanation! Keep defending true Catholic teaching Phillip Primeau

        • Silkyslovan Bojkovsky

          after reading more of your comments I just want to say I agree with you on a lot of things, but I don’t agree with you where you come in to contradiction with the church. There is nothing wrong with Mary being called the Imacculate Conception and the Church declared her this so I respect it and it makes sense to me

  • goral

    The article is laced with Protestant overtones. These same concerns have been faced before and the Church did not pull back. If anything, She went forward.

    I do agree that the title co-Redemptrix is not necessary. The spell checker and I don’t even like the word. The author is correct that it would spawn a borderline pagan devotion to Mary.

    We do adore Mary and that is not idolatry. Worshiping Mary would be idolatry. God could have devised a plan of Salvation without Mary. He chose this way for a reason, for He is a reasonable God. He is also a loving God and so the fairer half of the human race is represented in His plan of Salvation so that “the hearts of men could be revealed”.

    A reference was made to Fr. Kolbe. I believe it was he who left the statement that is circulated among Polish priests – If you keep Mary out of your priesthood, it will be a dry priesthood.

    Because our Protestant brothers and sisters in Christ keep Mary and the priesthood out of their faith, their faith is as dry as a bunch of guys sitting at a bar talking sports.

  • Mary Kochan

    When the cat’s away the mice will play, or so they say.

    Editor-in-Chief has been tied up with family stuff for a few days and Associate Editor is marching site off a theological cliff — just joking!

    Philip — you in error here, but I think the discussion is just great and I think wrestling with doctrine about Mary is an integral part of conversion and always leads to good things in the docile soul. I will address you further in the next comment.

    Meantime, Goral, while your instincts are right on you have a couple of specific points wrong. First the faith of our separated brethren is often very lively; you paint with too broad a brush in talking about them. Second, no, adoration is absolutely the wrong word to apply to the reverence we give to the Blessed Virgin. Adoration is for God alone. Wikipedia gives a handy little explanation:

    Latria vs. Dulia and Hyperdulia
    Latria is sacrificial in character, and may be offered only to God. Catholics offer other degrees of reverence to the Blessed Virgin Mary and to the Saints; these non-sacrificial types of reverence are called hyperdulia and dulia, respectively. In English, dulia is also called veneration. (Mark Miravalle, S.T.D, What is Devotion to Mary?) Hyperdulia is essentially a heightened degree of dulia provided only to the Blessed Virgin.

    This distinction, written about as early as Augustine of Hippo and St Jerome, was detailed more explicitly by Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologiae, A.D. 1270, II II, 84, 1: “Reverence is due to God on account of His Excellence, which is communicated to certain creatures not in equal measure, but according to a measure of proportion; and so the reverence which we pay to God, and which belongs to latria, differs from the reverence which we pay to certain excellent creatures; this belongs to dulia, and we shall speak of it further on (II II 103 3)”; in this next article St. Thomas Aquinas writes: “Wherefore dulia, which pays due service to a human lord, is a distinct virtue from latria, which pays due service to the Lordship of God. It is, moreover, a species of observance, because by observance we honor all those who excel in dignity, while dulia properly speaking is the reverence of servants for their master, dulia being the Greek for servitude.”

    Linguistic distinctions in English
    Generally, in English, the word adoration is reserved for God alone and therefore it aptly translates latria. The word worship is derived from the W. Saxon noun weorðscipe ‘condition of being worthy’, which is from weorð ‘worthy’ + -scipe ‘-ship’. The word worship is used in a strong sense in relation to God (latria), but also in a weak sense in relation to man: for instance, “His Worship the Mayor”, or “Your Worship” (when addressing a magistrate in Court), or the worship of the saints (dulia) as distinct to the adoration of God (latria). Adoration provides a clear and unequivocal, and therefore better, translation of latria and expression of the absolute sacrificial reverence due to God alone.

    “This worship called forth by God, and given exclusively to Him as God, is designated by the Greek name latreia (Latinized, latria), for which the best translation that our language affords is the word Adoration. Adoration is different from other acts of worship, such as supplication, confession of sin, etc., inasmuch as it formally consists in self-abasement before the Infinite, and in devout recognition of His transcendent excellence.”(Catholic beliefs and traditions by John F. O’Grady 2002 page 145)

    Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christians especially adore with latria during their religious service, the Mass or Divine Liturgy.

    • Philip Primeau

      Mary,

      I didn’t mean to cause a ruckus. I am familiar with the latria/dulia/hyperdulia argument. But I don’t think it is really that relevant to my central thesis, which is that the title of co-redemptrix is divisive, peculiar, unfounded by Scripture and scantily supported by tradition, borderline unorthodox, and ultimately totally unnecessary.

      Our Church has a problem with Mariolatry. The Protestants aren’t all wrong about this. The superstitious and heretical belief that a brown scapular is a ticket into heaven — this sort of assertion flourishes in popular piety, and the teaching arm of the Church does little to squash it.

      Take the case of JPII. A saintly man and an incomparable Holy Father. And yet, for all his wisdom and holiness, he dedicated himself to Mary: “Totus tuus — All yours.” That always disturbed me. A human may only properly give himself body and mind, heart and soul, to the Triune God.

      • fishman

        “. A human may only properly give himself body and mind, heart and soul, to the Triune God.”

        You are correct. but the character of Marian devotion is the underlying assumption ( and a sure one at that). That anything offered to Mary, is offered with the condition and intention that She will offer that thing directly to her son. ( but because she offers it the offering is purified by the merits of Christ acting through her immaculate conception.)

        So any Marian consecration is to be understood in the same strain as Jews understood , consecrating something to the temple, because setting something aside for the use of Mary is setting it aside for Jesus to used that thing through Mary and Mary to offer that thing ( as she does all things) with pure intent, to him.

        • Silkyslovan Bojkovsky

          No fishman, you still have to make a distinction. I don’t think the pope was wrong in saying he was totally Mary’s, but you cant go over board. The Titles of Co-redemptrix raise mary from being a saint to a REDEEMER, which she was not, because it has always been affirmed by the Church that Jesus Alone is the Redeemer

      • Silkyslovan Bojkovsky

        Yes everyone is Human and in good intention and sincere veneration some of the Popes and Saints went overboard in Marian Theology

  • Philip Primeau

    “The article is laced with Protestant overtones. These same concerns have been faced before and the Church did not pull back. If anything, She went forward.”

    I object to that insinuation. A Protestant is one who protests first the primacy of Peter’s seat and secondly the reality of the sacrifice of the Mass — both of which I vigorously defend.

    I know more than a few traditional Orthodox who view our Marian eschatology and various Marian dogmas with puzzlement and even suspicion.

    “I do agree that the title co-Redemptrix is not necessary. The spell checker and I don’t even like the word. The author is correct that it would spawn a borderline pagan devotion to Mary.”

    Great. Then we agree on my main and most important point. Thank you.

  • Mary Kochan

    Philip, I think that Goral in a sense proved your main point in his argument when he mistakenly applied “adoration” to Mary.

    Like many converts, I spent some time examining the Orthodox position before deciding to become Catholc, but I do think that having made that decision, one should then give the assent of faith to all the things that the Church asks us to give the assent of faith to. Otherwise, we may as well be Orthodox instead of Catholic. So what I would suggest is akin to Prairiehawk’s advice — and knowing from all your writing that you are a prayerful and deep thinker: Give the assent of faith to the ALL the dogma’s of the Church and trust God that he will bring your understanding along.

    I just updated an article of mine on this topic. http://catholiclane.com/perfection-joins-our-pilgrimage-in-mary/ Love to have your thoughts.

    • Silkyslovan Bojkovsky

      Yes but you need to consider that the Church has never taught officially that Mary is the Co redeemer. Actually Pope Benedict the sixteenth in 2000 condemned it.

  • Mary Kochan

    I think that we should fight the wrong of Mariolatry from a position that is thoughly Catholic. We cannot address wrongs in the Church by taking positions that are outside. Instead let’s use right Catholic teaching.

  • Mary Kochan

    Another thing, I would say — coming at this from the other direction, Philip, is that you are perhaps fortifying Dr. Mark Miravalle’s case. He could point to what you write and say: “See there, those who object to the ‘co-redemptrix’ title are those who do not accept already dogmatic teachings.” It bolsters his case that he is merely making a logical progression from already dogmatic teachings!

    • Silkyslovan Bojkovsky

      Give me an example of one Dogmatic teaching that Mary is the Coredeemer and Mediatrix? I can give you the Council of Trent which states “Only Jesus is our redeemer” it said that in light of Mary and the other Saints

  • fishman

    I’ll be back when I have more time.
    I’m not whole hearty in disagreement but begin with this.

    http://www.newadvent.org/summa/4025.htm#article4

    St. Thomas on the Cross and Marian adoration.

  • Philip Primeau

    Is it better that I deceive my brothers and sister in Christ or that I honestly air my reservations regarding the Marian enthusiasm which has made Catholicism synonymous with Mary rather than Jesus Christ?

    I know all the finely tuned, cleverly worded theological jargon that gives God priority over Mary. But I also know that, when it comes to ordinary piety, things aren’t always so clearly distinguished.

    Of course, nobody is so rash as to believe Mary is godly or even semigodly. But do you think the Israelites really believed the golden calf was a god? No. Idolaters are not braindead. They don’t seek a God in their totems and statues and angels and various celestial beings, but rather ‘links’ to the numinous Divine, telephones to heaven. The golden calf was a channel through which God could be reached and manipulated. I fear Mary has assumed a similar function for many Catholics. And the Church has done little to stop it.

    John Calvin’s commentary on Galatians makes the interesting point that the Galatians beheld angels as “Romish papists” behold Mary. Of course, he was writing at the highpoint of Mariolatry, but the point stands.

    When I read Saint Paul, I see a man who is committed to “Christ crucified” and nothing else. We should all strain for such single-mindedness.

  • fishman

    “Again, I don’t disagree that we are “co-workers” of the kingdom. However, our life in Christ — from conversion and rebirth to good works and self-sacrifice — is not our own, “lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:9). Saint Augustine was insistent on this point. I fear that many Catholics are basically Pelagians now.”

    You have no disagreement here, or would you from any Marianist. Mary accomplishes nothing on her own, it is her absolute and unadulterated humility and receptiveness as a creature that brings her to perfection in the eyes of God.

    However, what is the work of Christ if it is NOT the redemption of the world and the salvation of souls.
    How can you say that in ‘becoming like him’ we do not participate in his work? Isn’t his work exactly that of redemption and no other?

    He is the vine we are the branches, we accomplish NOTHING of our own accord, but unless there be some mistake in it, HE accomplished great things THROUGH us because we are humble and willing make ourselves useful to him. We would be unable to be humble or willing without his grace so again , not even in being humble or willing can we boast , but that does not change the reality that He is and does use the church and it’s members (his body) to carry out His work.

    Saying we do not carry out his work ( of redemption which is the whole purpose of his work ) is to a a denial of the humanity of Christ.

    But this is where human language fails. Because in the end we find ourselves in the center of Chistocentric mystery. How can God be man and invite man to participate in his being.

    The Eastern church describes the Christian Journey to holiness in a very insightful way in this respect. They describe the process of conversion as being the ‘divinization’ of man.

    • Silkyslovan Bojkovsky

      You need to realize that the Church teaches that we and all the saints and apostles play very important roles in DISTRIBUTING THE BENEFITS OF THE SALVATION OF CHRIST, we do not play any role in the actual salvation of the World. Only Jesus did by dying on the Cross!

  • Philip Primeau

    I think you all know that I am not so much referring to official Church policy as I am to popular piety, the sort which perpetuates those tawdry prayer cards that show Mary in goddess-like grandeur and nobility. There is a whole aesthetic element to this that should be done away with.

    • Mary Kochan

      Well, maybe so within the text of the article, Philip, but within your comments you have taken on three dogmas: one about the pope and two about Mary; so I think you have gone beyond criticizing popular piety.

      • Philip Primeau

        I don’t think I have “taken them on.” I have simply raised a number of criticisms that have never been fully resolved, at least in my humble and rather worthless opinion.

        Seems to me, Petrine primacy does not necessarily assure Petrine infallibility. I know, I know, it’s not the Pope, it’s the Holy Spirit working through him. I went to ten years of Catholic school, I know all the pat responses, the sort suitable for pamphlets that counter Chic tracts, but too flimsy for serious historical debate.

        I do not deny any of these dogmas. I just struggle with them and wonder if it was necessary or wise to make them dogma.

        I love Mary the God-bearer. I just shy away from ordinary Marian piety, because I think it tends to go overboard. At very least, it obscures the real reason why she is wonderful: her humility, simplicity, docility, charity, faithfulness, and obedience. She was utterly God-focused. Any Marian veneration which spotlights our Lady more than our Lord is questionable, even dangerous.

        • Silkyslovan Bojkovsky

          Ok I agree with you on Marian Dogma, but I don’t agree with you on Papal infallibilty. Jesus in all his wisdom knew that in order to have unity you can only have one head to be the final authority on divisive issues. If you look at the Orthodox church today, you would see that it is stagnant, it cant agree on anything and that’s why it ends up allowing things such as Divorce and contraception. Protestants are also a good example of this, that there has to be ultimately one interpreter of scripture or else you end up with 20000 denominations

  • fishman

    I can understand your point about ascetics, but that isn’t what the article was about. ( however aesthetics are subjective and have wide variance,not to mention are condition greatly by our specific culture).
    Also, I complete understand your point about the unnecessary of the title co-redeptrix. I just think some of your specific argument doesn’t hold up very well.

    The best and easiest argument is that it adds little of value , and runs the risk of being confusing.

    • Silkyslovan Bojkovsky

      not only confusing but heretical

  • noelfitz

    This is a great discussions, thanks to all who contribute.

    Philip’s main point is “that the title of co-redemptrix is divisive”. I fully agree with this.

    Goral I disagree with you, and agree with Mary K. We do not adore the Virgin Mary.

    Mary I have a slight quibble with you. I do not like to see Catholic belief being referred to as Orthodox (orthodox OK) as it seems to imply the beliefs of Orthodox Churches not in communion with Rome.

    Is there confusion here with ascetics and aesthetics?

  • jrpascucci

    I appreciate the sentiments expressed in this article, but I think it’s a bit muddled. We can give Mary that appellation which might apply to any of us (like we do with ‘Mother’), in a unique way because to her, of all creation, is owed hyperdulia (which is not latria). I think the point of that is probably the author’s weakness.

    Of course, that’s not the only reason, but I think it adequately explains why what appear to be excesses are not just tolerated, but praiseworthy: as long as they don’t kick over into latria, you can’t say enough about Mary.

    I’m, personally, not yet certain about the affirmation of the title, but it’s definitely something I would like to hold about our Mother. Consider this:

    Because of her obedient act of will (Fiat) at the call of God, all grace passed through her body in the incarnation. The very body we receive in the Eucharist was first hers as a proximal principal. With the Pierced One, she too was pierced through the heart, because of her will. And, after the sacrifice, also on account of her will, the body of Christ, still warm, passed through her hands before being laid in the tomb.

    All the goodness given to the world by the good God passed through Mary’s womb and was swaddled in her arms. All the merits of Christ to His Church – the separated, broken body of the innocent – passed through Mary’s hands after the Cross on the way to the tomb.

    This is not a small deal.

    Outside of God, I can’t think of anyone who more co-operated in the redemption of mankind, than our Holy Mother. Can you? In that sense, then, the title seems to have merit.

    • Silkyslovan Bojkovsky

      You are greatly wrong in your postion. Again you contradict the original argument of Mary as Co-redeemer. If that title can be given to any of us, it is not unique to Mary,and shouldn’t be given to her as a unique title. Mary was FULL OF GRACE when she became pregnant with our Lord. This makes her exactly what she already is. The Mother of God, and the New Arc of the covenant. You are stretching it by saying that she is the Mediator of all graces. That is your own assumption and is not from scripture of the church fathers. Jesus is the one true bridge and Mediator between God and mankind. You are stating that Mary is a lesser Bridge to Jesus, and then to the Father. Mary can point the way to Jesus, but you do not need to go through her to get to Jesus or the Father. Mary was pierced through the heart because she had to watch her Son be crucified. The main point is that Mary was not crucified and was not offered up as a holocaust for our salvation. She wasn’t even ever martyred. I can think of a lot of people who cooperated in the EVENTS THAT LEAD to the redemption, but I can only think of ONE MAN who Redeemed us and that is Jesus Christ. St. John the Baptist played an extremely important role in Gods plan of Salvation. Jesus said that no man on Earth was ever as holy as John the Baptist, and there are even early Church writings that describe him as being the only other Person along with Jesus and Mary to be totally sinless. He was even Martyred in carrying out Gods plan of Salvation. is he our Redeemer or Co-redeemer. He had a miraculous birth as well? No he is not, he is in the same position as Mary and the other Apostles.

  • fishman

    I would agree the title is divisive.

    I do not agree that the title , if properly understood, is inaccurate or undeserved.

    On the other hand , I would agree others may not fully appreciate or understand Marian theology should not have the burden of something unnecessary for salvation thrust on them if it is an impediment to their faith.

    • Silkyslovan Bojkovsky

      no its not only divisive its inacurrate as it makes Mary a lesser redeemer and mediator between God and Man, when there is only one!

  • fishman

    I also, have the sneaking suspicion that my opinion is shared by many of the Church Hierarchy. They seem to consider it neither an error in need of redressing nor a doctrine necessarily of espousing, but better left as a help to those it helps and as something abandoned to those it does not.

    St. Max and St. Louis both claimed that Marian consecration was a spirituality that one had to be specifically called too.

    • Silkyslovan Bojkovsky

      No, from Pope Benedict xvi he clearly says the title goes to far and is wrong. All I get from the Church Hiearchy is that they don’t want to condemn any one

  • goral

    Mea culpa, in my haste I used the wrong word. It, indeed, should be veneration and not adoration.
    I attend First Friday Eucharistic Adoration so I should not have made that mistake. Thanks for the correction, “cat”.

    Another correction while I’m feeling mousy.
    It’s not your article, Philip, that is laced with Protestant overtones, it’s your further comment, time stamped 10:10. I erroneously put them together. However, there is the exposure in that post of petty thinking that sweats the small stuff.
    “If Mary was indeed sinless, then Paul, and therefore Scripture, is wrong. All humans have no sinned if Mary did not sin. All means all.”

    Objections such as this one have been convincingly refuted by Catholic theologians.
    I still agree with the main point of the article which, as Mary noted, I mistakenly proved. Yay!

    Can I apply for the job of Associate Editor?

    Time to go squeeze the Rosary beads.
    Holy Mary, Mother of God pray for us sinners…..

    • noelfitz

      I think Philip will agree Jesus was sinless.

      We are here for mutual support and to build each other up.

      CL is succeeding, because I feel I am here with friends who are trying to remain faithful to the Church in these difficult times.

  • Philosoraptor

    Read this: http://www.fifthmariandogma.com/articles/are-you-afraid-of-mary-co-redemptrix/

    And this:http://www.fifthmariandogma.com/co-redemptrix-fifth-marian-dogma/mary-mediatrix-of-all-graces-part-ii/

    And to make it crystal clear, from St. Germanus of Constantinople, 8th Century: “You, oh pure, excellent and most merciful Lady, comfort of Christians, …
    protect us with the wings of your kindness; guard us with your
    intercession, giving us eternal life; you who are the hope of Christians
    that does not deceive. … Your gifts are innumerable. For no one, unless
    through you, oh holy one, obtains salvation. No one, unless through
    you, is delivered from evil. Who like you, in agreement with your only
    Son, looks after mankind?”

    The Co-Redemptrix/Mediatrix of All Graces is the authoritative, infallible teaching of Holy Mother Church. I pray you reconcile yourself to Her teachings soon.

    • Silkyslovan Bojkovsky

      What??? this is ridiculous and a Heresy. The church NEVER EVER infallibally says Mary is Co-redemptrix. “ONLY THROUGH JESUS DOES ONE OBTAIN SALVATION” do you deny this because if you do you are not a Christian?? THis is agreat example of how some Saints went over board, and the church cautions against this!

    • ELC

      I am unable to find any evidence at all that Mary Co-Redemptrix has ever been proposed by the Magisterium as doctrine. The manner in which the title has been used, no matter by whom, indicates to me that it is no more than a pious opinion to which any faithful Catholic is free to subscribe or to eschew.

  • Silkyslovan Bojkovsky

    Great article. The Fifth Marian Dogma is Heresy, not matter what way you look at it. They claim Mary is not equal to Jesus, but that she played a lesser role in salvation??? What Jesus alone is our Redeemer, Mary is not equal or in a lesser way our redeemer. That’s heresy, and Im sick of this group going around and spreading these Lies about her. Its like they are trying to turn the church into what the protestants originally feared. Its ridiculous. and I pray that Mary will pray for our church to only support the correct view of her, and not this over exaggerated worship of her.

  • GuitarGramma

    In a discussion like this, it is always important to understand what is meant by particular words. It is also important to note what is not said.

    No one is suggesting that Jesus and Mary be called “co-redeemers.” Instead, people are suggesting that Mary be called a co-redemptrix while Jesus continues to be called the redeemer of the world. In other words, no one is trying to elevate Mary in the economy of salvation. They are striving to find language that recognizes the important role Mary played in Jesus’ redemption of the world.

    This difference reminds me of the differentiation that used to be made in movies and on TV shows. Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore were the stars, two other people were the co-stars. The co-stars helped to make the show, but they’d never be able to carry it alone; the stars were necessary.

    To carry on that analogy, Jesus is the redeemer of the world. But Mary can be looked at as the co-redeemer because of her fiat; had she declined, Jesus would not have been born. A Protestant friend of mine is sure that God would have called upon another woman; fair enough, if that had occurred, then this other woman would have become the co-redeemer. Some woman (we Catholics believe it could only have been Mary) had to say yes to God’s request. Mary’s “yes” (or some subsequent woman’s) was necessary so that Jesus the God-man could redeem the world. Mary’s “yes” was less important than Jesus’ sacrifice, but it played a necessary role in the redemption of the world.

    All these are my personal musings. I am open to criticism and correction on any and all points.

    GuitarGramma (who can’t sign in to Disqus since buying a Windows 8 computer)

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