Coredemptrix Mediatrix Advocate
A Response to 7 Common Objections
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To call Mary a co-redemptrix or to call Christians
in general "co-redeemers" is to have a human being
actively participate in redemption, which is a divine or,
more specifically, a "theandric" activity, accomplished
by Jesus Christ in his divine and human natures alone, and
thus forbidden by Christianity. Such would only encourage
paganism, since it places a human person, Mary, as part of
a divine redemptive action which only Jesus Christ can accomplish.
In many ways, the response to this
objection can be found in the same foundational evidence from
Christian Scripture that responds to the previous objection to
any subordinate or human participation in the one mediation of
Jesus Christ (a mediation which includes redemption). But let
us examine the specific objection regarding Mary's active participation
in the divine act of Redemption.
The full objection to Mary's active
participation as Coredemptrix in the redemption accomplished
by Jesus Christ has been set out as follows. Theandric activity
refers to an action by Jesus Christ that is accomplished through
both of his natures, divine and human. Since the act of redemption
by Jesus Christ was a theandric activity, and Mary was merely
human, her actions were not theandric and therefore she cannot
actively participate in redemption. Hence, Mary cannot be properly
called a "co-redemptrix," a term which means she "bought
back" humanity with the Redeemer. Nor should any Christians
be called "co-redeemers" since no creature can participate
in theandric activity.
To best address this objection, we
must return to the essential etymological meaning of the term
"co-redemptrix." The Latin prefix, cum, means "with"
(and not "equal to"). The Latin verb, re(d)emere
means "to buy back," and the suffix -trix, meaning "one
who does something" is feminine. In its complete form then,
the term co-redemptrix refers to the "woman with the redeemer,"
or more literally, "the woman who buys back with [the Redeemer]."
As used by the Catholic Church, the
term co-redemptrix expresses Mary's active and unique participation
in the divine and human activity of redemption accomplished by
Jesus Christ. Again, radically dependent and subordinate to the
theandric redemptive action of Jesus Christ, the very perfection
of this divine and human redemption provides for, rather than
prohibits, various levels of true and active human participation.
While it is legitimate to distinguish
theandric actions from human actions, it runs contrary to Christian
Scripture and Christian Tradition, both ancient and developed,
to reject active human participation in the theandric activity
of Jesus Christ.
To actively participate in a theandric
action does not require that the participator also have a divine
and human nature. Such is to misunderstand the distinction between
"being" (possessing the essence and specific attribute
as part of who you are) from "participation" (sharing
in the essence and specific attribute as possessed by another).
Thus, Mary as a human creature can actively share in the theandric
redemptive action of Jesus Christ without herself possessing the
essence of divinity as a specific attribute. In a similar way,
all Christians share in the divine nature of Jesus Christ (cf.
2 Pet. 1:4) without being gods; participate in the sonship of
Jesus Christ (cf. Gal. 4:4) without being divinely begotten; share
in the mediation of Christ (cf. Gal. 3:19, 1 Tim. 2:1) without
being the one divine and human Mediator (1 Tim. 2:5).
Once again, Christian Scripture attests
to Mary's singular active participation in the Redemption of Jesus
Christ. With Mary's free and active "fiat" to the invitation
of the angel Gabriel to become the mother of Jesus, "Be it
done unto me according to your word" (Lk. 1:38), she uniquely
cooperated with the work of redemption by giving the divine Redeemer
his body, which was the very instrument of human redemption. The
prophecy of Simeon reveals the unparalleled co-redemptive mission
of Mary in direct union with her Redeemer son in their one unified
work of redemption: "And a sword shall pierce your own soul,
too" (Lk. 2:34-5). And the climax of Mary's role as Co-redemptrix
with and under her divine Son takes place at the foot of the Cross,
where the total suffering of the mother's heart is obediently
united to the suffering of the Son's heart in fulfillment of God
the Father's plan of redemption: "Woman, behold your son!'
Then he said to the disciple, 'behold, your mother!" (Jn.
The earliest Christian writers and
Fathers of the Church explained Marian participation with and
under Christ in "buying back" the human family from
the slavery of Satan and sin in the first theological model of
Mary as the "New Eve." These ancient writers attested
to the unity of Redemption by Christ and co-redemption by Mary
by articulating that as Eve, the first "mother of the living"
(Gen. 3:20) was an instrumental cause with Adam, the father of
the human race in the loss of grace for all humanity, so too Mary,
the "New Eve" was an instrumental cause with Jesus Christ,
the "New Adam" (cf. 1 Cor. 15: 45-48, 20-25), in the
restoration of grace to all humanity.
In the words of St. Irenaeus: "Just
as Eve, wife of Adam, yet still a virgin, became by her disobedience
the cause of death for herself and the whole human race, so Mary,
too, espoused yet a virgin ... became by her obedience the cause
of salvation for herself and the whole human race." 
Explicit teachings of Mary's active
participation with Jesus Christ in redeeming or "buying back"
humanity from the slavery of Satan and sin are present throughout
early and later Christian Tradition, for example:
Through Mary, we "are redeemed from the tyranny of the devil"
(Modestus of Jerusalem, 7th century); 
"Hail thou, through whom we are redeemed from the curse"
(St. John Damascene, 8th century); 
"Through her, man was redeemed" (St. Bernard of Clairvaux,
12th century); 
"That woman (namely Eve), drove us out of Paradise and sold
us; but this one [Mary] brought us back again and bought us"
(St. Bonaventure, 13th century); 
"Just as they [Adam and Eve] were the destroyers of the human
race, so these [Jesus Christ and Mary] were its repairers"
(St. Bonaventure); 
"She [Mary] also merited reconciliation for the entire human
race" (St. Bonaventure); 
"She paid the price [of redemption] as a woman brave and
loving - namely when Christ suffered on the cross to pay that
price in order to purge and wash and redeem us, the Blessed Virgin
was present, accepting and agreeing with the divine will"
(St. Bonaventure); 
"To her alone was given this privilege, namely a communication
in the Passion ... and in order to make her a sharer in the benefit
of Redemption, He willed that she be a sharer in the penalty of
the Passion, in so far as she might become the mother of all through
re-creation...." (St. Albert the Great [or Pseudo-Albert],
13th century); 
"God accepted her oblation as a pleasing sacrifice for the
utility and salvation of the whole human race.... He foretold
to thee [Mary] all thy passion whereby he would make thee a sharer
of all of his merits and afflictions, and thou would co-operate
with him in the restoration of men to salvation" (John Tauler,
14th century); 
". . . as one suffering with the
Redeemer, for the captive sinner, Co-redemptrix would you be"
(14th century). 
The Christian teaching on Co-redemptrix
continues consistently from the Middle Ages on into the modern
period,  as evidenced in this representative selection of
"Saints and doctors have united in calling our Blessed Lady
co-redemptrix of the world. There is no question of the lawfulness
of using such language, because there is overwhelming authority
for it... ." (Faber, 19th century); 
"We think of all the other extraordinary merits, by which
she shared with her Son Jesus in the redemption of mankind....
She was not only present at the mysteries of the Redemption, but
was also involved with them" (Pope Leo XIII, 19th century);
"To such extent did she suffer and almost die with her suffering
and dying Son; to such extent did she surrender her maternal rights
over her Son for man's salvation, and immolated Him - insofar
as she could - in order to appease the justice of God, that we
may rightly say she redeemed the human race together with Christ"
(Pope Benedict XV, 20th century); 
"From the nature of his work the Redeemer ought to have associated
his Mother with his work. For this reason, we invoke her under
the title of Co-redemptrix" (Pope Pius XI, 20th century);
"Thus the Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith,
and faithfully persevered in union with her Son unto the cross,
where she stood, in keeping with the divine plan, enduring with
her only begotten Son the intensity of his suffering, associated
herself with his sacrifice in her mother's heart, and lovingly
consenting to the immolation of this victim which was born of
her" (Second Vatican Council); 
"Crucified spiritually with her crucified Son (cf. Gal. 2:20),
she contemplated with heroic love the death of her God... her
role as Co-redemptrix did not cease with the glorification of
her Son" (Pope John Paul II, 1985); 
"The collaboration of Christians
in salvation takes place after the Calvary event, whose fruits
they endeavor to spread through prayer and sacrifice. Mary instead
co-operated during the event itself and in the role as mother;
thus her co-operation embraces the whole of Christ's saving work.
She alone was associated in this way with the redemptive sacrifice
that merited the salvation of mankind" (Pope John Paul II,
The teaching of Christian Tradition upon Mary's unique coredemptive
role continues into the third millennium with this recent papal
teaching of John Paul II, where Mary's intimate participation
in the death of her Son at Calvary is compared with the Old Testament
sacrificial offering made by Abraham (likewise of his own son,
offered in an obedience of faith to God):
The summit of this earthly pilgrimage of faith is Golgotha where
Mary intimately lives the paschal mystery of her Son: moved in
a certain sense as a mother in the death of her Son, and opens
herself to the "resurrection" with a new maternity in
relation to the Church (cf. Jn. 19:25-27). There, on Calvary,
Mary experiences the night of faith, similar to that of Abraham
on Mount Moriah.... (March 21, 200l). 
Again, without question of the total and radical dependency of
Mary's participation in redemption upon the divine work and merits
of Jesus Christ, Church Fathers and doctors, along with later
and contemporary Christian Tradition, do not hesitate to teach
the active participation of the woman, Mary, with Jesus Christ
in the theandric "buying back" or redeeming of humanity
from the slavery of Satan and sin. This Marian sharing in redemption
reflects the ancient Christian teaching that as humanity was lost
or "sold" by a man and a woman, so it was God's will
that humanity would be redeemed or "bought back" by
a Man and a woman.
In what way then does Mary's participation
as Co-redemptrix in human redemption differ from the general call
of Christians to participate in the redemption of Jesus Christ?
Indeed Christian Scripture calls all
Christians to "make up what is lacking in the sufferings
of Christ for the sake of his body, which is the Church"
(Col. 1:24). This teaching of St. Paul is not speaking of a participation
of all Christians in the historical and universal redemption on
Calvary where Jesus Christ acquired the graces of Redemption by
his passion and death (sometimes theologically referred to as
"objective redemption"). If so, this would incorrectly
infer that something was "lacking" in the historic redemptive
sufferings and concurring saving merits of Jesus Christ, which
were in itself infinite and inexhaustible.
Rather, St. Paul's teaching refers
to the Christian imperative through free co-operation, prayer,
and sacrifice to participate in the release and distribution of
the infinite graces acquired by Jesus Christ on Calvary to the
human family (theologically referred to as "subjective redemption").
Just as every human heart must actively respond in freedom to
the saving grace of Jesus Christ for his own personal, subjective
redemption, so too the Christian is called to actively participate
in the release and distribution of the graces of redemption for
others as well, and, in this way, to "make up" what
St. Paul calls "lacking" in the sufferings of Christ
for the sake of Christ's body. In this regard, all Christians
truly participate in subjective redemption, this saving distribution
of grace as "God's coworkers" (1 Cor. 3:9) or "co-redeemers"
to use the expression of 20th century popes. 
Mary's redemptive participation differs
from this general Christian call to participate in the distribution
of saving graces in individual and personal subjective redemption
in so far as she alone also participated, once again subordinately
and entirely dependent upon the Redeemer, in the objective, historical
and universal redemption as well, as the New Eve with and under
the New Adam. This is why the title Co-redemptrix in the first
place refers exclusively to Mary. As once again articulated by
John Paul II in a 1997 address:
The collaboration of Christians in salvation takes place after
the Calvary event, whose fruits they endeavor to spread through
prayer and sacrifice. Mary instead co-operated during the event
itself and in the role as mother; thus her co-operation embraces
the whole of Christ's saving work. She alone was associated in
this way with the redemptive sacrifice that merited the salvation
of mankind (John Paul II, 1997). 
Therefore, the title and truth of Mary Co-redemptrix as seen in
Christian Scripture and Christian Tradition underscores the legitimacy
and spiritual fruitfulness for active human participation in the
theandric redemptive action of Jesus Christ. For Mary Coredemptrix,
this participation in redemption constitutes a participation in
both acquisition and distribution of redemptive graces; and for
all other Christians a participation in the distribution of redemptive
graces as co-redeemers in Christ. As summarized by Vatican theologian
(Fr. Jean Galot, S.J.) in the official Vatican publication, L'Osservatore
The title [Co-redemptrix] is criticized because it would suggest
an equality between Mary and Christ. The criticism has no foundation....
Co-redemption implies a subordination to the redemptive work of
Christ, because it is only a cooperation and not an independent
or parallel work. Hence any equality with Christ is excluded....
The word "co-redemption," which means "cooperation
in redemption," can be applied to every Christian and to
the whole Church. St. Paul writes: "We are God's co-workers
(1 Cor. 3:9). 
The idea of Mary as Co-redemptrix and the teaching of
Marian co-redemption is a pious belief held by some devotional
Catholics, but is not a doctrinal teaching of the Catholic
Church. It is found only in minor papal texts and is neither
officially taught by the Magisterium, nor is doctrinally present
in the teachings of the Second Vatican Council.
For a member of the Catholic faith, the question of whether a
given theological position constitutes an authentic doctrinal
teaching of the Church or not is essentially manifested by its
presence (or lack thereof) in the teachings from recognized Church
authority. The official teaching authority of the Catholic Church,
or "Magisterium," consists of the official teaching
of the pope and bishops in union with the pope under the general
guidance of the Holy Spirit. 
Although there exists a certain hierarchy amidst the expressions
of official Catholic teaching authority, from the defined dogma
of an ecumenical council or papal ex cathedra infallible statement,
to general ecumenical council doctrinal teaching, to encyclical
letters, to more general papal teachings contained in papal addresses,
there at the same time remains the general directive for the Catholic
faithful that is stated by the Second Vatican Council of the need
for a religious assent of mind and heart to the manifest mind
of the pope, even when he is not speaking infallibly.  And
certainly all doctrinal teachings from ecumenical councils, papal
encyclicals, or consistently repeated papal teachings would constitute
authentic doctrinal teachings of the Catholic Church.
Let us now apply this criteria for
official Catholic doctrine to the question of the doctrinal status
of Marian co-redemption.
From the basis of the doctrinal teachings
of the Second Vatican Council alone, the certainty of the doctrinal
status of Marian coredemption is unquestionable. Vatican
II repeatedly teaches Mary's unique participation in the redemption
of Jesus Christ:
....She devoted herself totally, as handmaid of the Lord, to the
person and work of her Son, under and with him, serving the mystery
of redemption, by the grace of Almighty God. Rightly, therefore,
the Fathers see Mary not merely as passively engaged by God, but
as freely cooperating in the work of man's salvation through faith
and obedience; 
Thus the Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and
faithfully persevered in union with her Son unto the cross, where
she stood, in keeping with the divine plan, enduring with her
only begotten Son the intensity of his suffering, associated herself
with his sacrifice in her mother's heart, and lovingly consenting
to the immolation of this victim which was born of her. 
And further by the Council:
She conceived, brought forth, and nourished
Christ, she presented Him to the Father in the temple, shared
her Son's suffering as He died on the cross. Thus, in a wholly
singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope, and
burning charity in the work of the Savior in restoring supernatural
life to souls. For this reason she is a mother to us in the order
of grace. 
Vatican theologian, Jean Galot, confirms
the official doctrinal status of Marian co-redemption in light
of Vatican II teaching:
Without using the term "co-redemptrix," the Council
clearly enunciated the doctrine: a cooperation of a unique kind,
a maternal cooperation in the life and work of the Savior, which
reaches its apex in the participation in the sacrifice of Calvary,
and which is oriented towards the supernatural life of souls
And as articulated by Galot in the
official Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano: "The Second
Vatican Council, which avoided employing this debated title [Co-redemptrix],
nevertheless affirmed with vigor the doctrine it implies. . .
Beyond its certain doctrinal presence
in Vatican II, Marian coredemption, along with the explicit use
of the title co-redemptrix, is a repeated papal teaching spanning
the 19th to the 21St century, which again assures its authentic
doctrinal status within the Church. Marian co-redemption is repeatedly
taught in numerous papal encyclicals and general teachings, as
reflected in the following representative citations of official
papal teachings: 
Leo XIII: "When Mary offered herself
completely to God together with her Son in the temple, she was
already sharing with Him the painful atonement on behalf of the
human race. It is certain, therefore, that she suffered in the
very depths of her soul with His most bitter sufferings and with
His torments. Finally, it was before the eyes of Mary that the
Divine sacrifice for which she had born and nurtured the victim,
was to be finished.., we see that there stood by the Cross of
Jesus His Mother, who in a miracle of charity, so that He might
receive us as her sons, willingly offered Him up to divine justice,
dying with Him in her heart, pierced with the sword of sorrow."
St. Pius X: "Owing to the union
of suffering and purpose existing between Christ and Mary, she
merited to become most worthily the Reparatrix of the lost world,
and for this reason, the dispenser of all the favors which Jesus
acquired for us by His death and His blood.., and because she
was chosen by Christ to be His partner in the work of salvation,
she merits for us de congruo as they say, that which Christ merits
for us de condigno...." 
Benedict XV: "The fact that she
was with her Son, crucified and dying, was in accord with the
divine plan. To such extent did she surrender her maternal rights
over her Son for man's salvation, and immolated Him - in so far
as she could - in order to appease the justice of God, that we
may rightly say she redeemed the human race together with Christ."
Pius XI: "O Mother of love and
mercy who, when thy sweetest Son was consummating the Redemption
of the human race on the altar of the cross, did stand next to
Him, suffering with Him as a Co-redemptrix... preserve in us,
we beseech thee, and increase day by day the precious fruit of
His Redemption and the compassion of His Mother." 
Pius XII: "It was she who, always
most intimately united with her Son, like a New Eve, offered Him
on Golgotha to the Eternal Father, together with the sacrifice
of her maternal rights and love, on behalf of all the children
of Adam, shamed by the latter's shameful fall." 
John Paul II: "In her, the many
and intense sufferings were amassed in such an interconnected
way that they were not only a proof of her unshakable faith, but
also a contribution to the redemption of all.... It was on Calvary
that Mary's suffering, beside the suffering of Jesus, reached
an intensity which can hardly be imagined from a human point of
view, but which were mysteriously and supernaturally fruitful
for the Redemption of the world. Her ascent of Calvary and her
standing at the foot of the cross together with the beloved disciple
were a special sort of sharing in the redeeming death of her Son."
John Paul II: "Crucified spiritually
with her crucified son (cf. Gal. 2:20), she contemplated with
heroic love the death of her God, she 'lovingly consented to the
immolation of this victim which she herself had brought forth'
(Lumen Gentium, 58) .... In fact at Calvary she united herself
with the sacrifice of her Son which led to the foundation of the
Church.... In fact, Mary's role as Coredemptrix did not cease
with the glorification of her Son." 
We see then both from the criteria
of ecumenical council teaching and from repeated papal teaching
through encyclical and general instruction, the teaching of Marian
co-redemption without question constitutes an authentic doctrine
within the authoritative teachings of the Magisterium.
It is sometimes objected that the specific
title Co-redemptrix only appears in papal teachings of lesser
importance, and therefore does not represent Catholic doctrinal
teachings. This would be to artificially separate the title Co-redemptrix,
from the theological doctrine of co-redemption, with which the
title is essentially linked and derived from. The title refers
to the spiritual function which Mary performs in her unique cooperation
in Redemption, and therefore to separate the title from the doctrine
is to inappropriately and dangerously disconnect the title from
its revealed and authoritatively taught doctrinal foundation.
In sum, the doctrinal certainty of Marian co-redemption guarantees
the doctrinal certainty of Mary Co-redemptrix.
Moreover, the repeated papal use of
the Co-redemptrix title by the present pope on five separate occasions
 should in itself, for the faithful Catholic, immediately
remove any question of the doctrinal legitimacy of the title Co-redemptrix
(whether personally or prudentially preferable to the individual
Catholic or not). On the other hand, the Catholic may conclude
contrarily that Pope John Paul II has repeatedly used a Marian
title which is in itself doctrinally erroneous, theologically
unsound, or intrinsically without Christian doctrinal foundation;
however, this appears foreign to the fullest sense of the religious
assent of mind and will given to the manifest mind of the pope
in non-infallible papal teachings. 
In sum, in light of both conciliar
and repeated papal teachings, Marian co-redemption and its corresponding
title, Mary Coredemptrix, constitutes an official doctrinal
teaching of the Church.
25. St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Adversus
haeresus, III, 22, emphasis author's.
26. Modestus of Jerusalem, Migne PG
27. St. John Damascene, PG 86; 658.
28. St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Ser.
III, super Salve.
29. St. Bonaventure, de don. Sp. 6;
14., emphasis author's.
30. St. Bonaventure, Sermo III de Assumptione,
Opera Omnia, v.9.
31. St. Bonaventure, Sent. III.
32. St. Bonaventure, Collatio de donis
Spiritus Sancti 6, n.16
33. St. Albert the Great (or Pseudo-Albert)
Mariale, Q. 150.
34. John Tauler, Sermo pro festo Purificationis
Beate Mariae Virginis.
35. Oratione, St. Peter's in Salzburg,
in Analecta hymnica medii aevi, v. 46, p. 126.
36. For a more comprehensive treatment
of Co-redemptrix throughout Christian
Tradition, cf. J.B. Carol, De Corredemptione Beatae Virginis Mariae,
Polyglottis Vaticanis, 1950, p. 125.; G. Roschini, O.S.M., Maria
Nella Storia Della Salvezza, 1969, v. II, p.171.
37. Fr. Fredrick Faber, At the Foot
of the Cross (Sorrows of Mary), Reilly Co, 370.
38. Pope Leo XIII, Parta huinano generi.
39. Pope Benedict XV, Inter Sodalicia,
40. Pope Pius XI, Allocution to Pilgrims
of Vicenza, Nov. 30, 1933.
41. Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium,
42. John Paul II. Papal Address at
Guayaquil, January 31, 1985. (ORE, 876).
43. John Paul II, General Audience,
April 9, 1997.
44. John Paul II, General Audience,
March 21, 2001.
45. For example, cf. Pius XI, Papal
Allocution at Vicenza, Nov. 30, 1933.
46. John Paul II, General Audience,
47. Galot, S.J., "Maria Corredentrice"
in L'Osservatore Romano, September 15, 1997, Daily Italian Ed.
48. Cf. Second Vatican Council, Dei
Verbum, II, nn. 9-10.
49. Cf. Second Vatican Council, Lumen
Gentium, n. 25.
50. Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium,
51. Lumen Gentium, n. 58.
52. Lumen Gentium, n. 61.
53. Jean Galot, S.J., "Maria Corredentrice.
Controversie e problemi dottrinali", Civilta Cattolica, 1994,
54. "Maria Corredentrice",
L'Osservatore Romano, September 15, 1995, p. 4, author's emphasis.
55. For a more comprehensive treatment,
cf. Schug and Miravalle, "Mary Coredemptrix in the Documents
of the Papal Magisterium" in Mary Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix,
Advocate, Theological Foundations I, Queenship Pub. 1995; Calkins,
"Pope John Paul's Teaching on Marian Co-redemption"
in Mary Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate, Theological Foundations
56. Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical Jucunda
57. Pope St. Pius X, Encyclical Ad
diem ilium, 1904..
58. Pope Benedict XV, Apostolic Letter,
Inter Sodalicia, 1918.
59. Pope Pius XI, Prayer of the Solemn
Closing of the Redemption Jubilee, April 28, 1933.
60. Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Mystici
61. Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Letter,
Salvifici Doloris, n.25.
62. John Paul II, Papal Address at
Guayaquil, Ecuador, Jan. 31, 1985.
63. Cf. For five citations and commentary,
cf. Calkins, "Pope John Paul II's Teaching on Marian Co-redemption",
Mary Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate, Theological Foundations
II, Queenship, 1997.
64. Again, cf. Lumen Gentium, n. 25.