Why Now Is the Time for a Dogma of Mary Co-Redemptrix

According to Mark Miravalle, President of Vox Populi

STEUBENVILLE, Ohio, OCT. 31, 2002 ( The Pope's new apostolic letter "Rosarium Virginis Mariae" (The Rosary of the Virgin Mary) has rekindled interest in Our Lady's role in the life of Christ and in salvation history.

Mark Miravalle, a leading proponent for having Mary declared Co-redemptrix, offered his views with ZENIT. Miravalle is professor of theology and Mariology at Franciscan University of Steubenville and president of Vox Populi Mariae Mediatrici.

ZENIT: Why do you think the title of Mary Co-redemptrix is a legitimate Marian title within the Church?

Miravalle: The Marian title "Co-redemptrix" refers to the unique participation of Mary in the work of our redemption accomplished by Jesus Christ. The prefix "co" comes from the Latin word "cum," which means "with" and "not equal to."

The term as used by the Church never places Mary on a level of equality with Jesus Christ, the divine redeemer. Yet the free and active human cooperation by the Mother of Jesus in redemption, particularly at the annunciation and at Calvary, is rightfully acknowledged by the papal magisterium and the teachings of the Second Vatican Council -- see "Lumen Gentium," Nos. 56, 57, 58 and 61 -- and becomes the pre-eminent example of how every Christian is called to become a "co-worker with God."

Papal theologian Father Cottier, O.P., recently defended the title of Mary Co-redemptrix in the teachings of the Second Vatican Council in an international address for the Congregation of Clergy. Cardinal Sch ƒ ¶nborn, former secretary of the universal Catechism, is also an eloquent defender of the title, and one of the 550 bishops endorsing the papal definition of Mary Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix of all graces, and Advocate.

Q: Has John Paul II ever called Mary the "Co-redemptrix"?

Miravalle: Pope John Paul II has used the title of Co-redemptrix on at least six occasions in papal addresses, as did Pope Pius XI several times before him.

For example, in his homily at Guayaquil, Ecuador, in January 1985, John Paul stated that Mary was "crucified spiritually with her crucified Son" and that "her role as Co-redemptrix did not cease after the glorification of her Son."

The repeated and consistent teachings of our Holy Father on Mary as Co-redemptrix in papal addresses and homilies is a manifestation of the mind and ordinary magisterium of the Pope that does call for our religious submission of will and intellect, according to Lumen Gentium, 25.

The Second Vatican Council makes reference to papal allocutions on numerous occasions as doctrinal support for its conciliar conclusions. As papal addresses were recognized by the council as legitimate doctrinal sources, so John Paul's Marian magisterium should be recognized in the same way in this post-conciliar period.

Sanctity bears strong witness to the title of Mary Co-redemptrix. St. Pio of Pietrelcina, St. Josemar ƒ ­a Escriv ƒ ¡, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross -- Edith Stein, St. Leopold Mandic, Blessed Bartolo Longo and numerous other recently canonized saints and blesseds have used the title, along with St. Maximilian Kolbe.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta was in a real sense one of the leaders in the cause for a dogmatic definition of Mary Co-redemptrix and Mediatrix of all graces. Sister Lucia, the Fatima visionary, has also underscored the role of Mary Co-redemptrix in her latest book, "Calls from the Message of Fatima," expounding upon Mary Co-redemptrix in six different sections.

Q: What about the objection that Co-redemptrix is not a legitimate term because it is not in the language of Scripture and the Church Fathers?

Miravalle: To object to the legitimacy of the title of Co-redemptrix is implicitly to criticize John Paul II, who, once again, has repeatedly used the title of Co-redemptrix. To use the language of Scripture and the Fathers as a criterion for legitimate Church terminology would be effectively to eliminate the Marian dogmatic titles of the Immaculate Conception and Assumption, as well as the term transubstantiation and even papal infallibility, as none of these dogmatic truths are described in the language of Scripture and the Fathers.

It would be important to avoid any type of semi-primitivism which would preclude a legitimate development of doctrine or title because of the lack of its explicit presence in Scripture and the Fathers.

Venerable Cardinal Newman answered Pusey regarding a similar objection by saying, "Why do you protest against Our Lady being called Co-redemptrix when you are ready to accept the immeasurably more glorious titles ascribed to her by the Fathers: Mother of God, Second Eve, Mother of All the Living, Mother of Life, Morning Star, Mystical New Heaven, Center of Orthodoxy, the all-undefiled Mother of Holiness, and the like?"

Q: But would the papal definition of Mary Co-redemptrix hinder the important ecumenical mission of the Church?

Miravalle: In the 1950s, Protestant theologians Miegge and Maury identified Marian co-redemption as the fundamental issue of 20th-century Mariology. More recently, the Dombes ecumenical treatment on Mary noted that the omission of the titles of Co-redemptrix and Mediatrix of all graces at Vatican II for reasons of not offending Protestant Christians was not effective, since the doctrine of co-redemption and mediation remained a fundamental teaching of the council.

It is time to be more straightforward with other Christian ecclesial bodies about Catholic doctrine on Marian co-redemption and mediation, and to articulate this truth with the greatest possible theological integrity and precision, while at the same time manifesting great sensitivity to those who do not share our Catholic vision. This would be the significant ecumenical benefit of a definition of Mary Co-redemptrix.

The late Cardinal O'Connor of New York stated that a definition would greatly assist ecumenism because its precise articulation would assure other Christians that we do distinguish adequately between Mary's unique association with Christ and the redemptive power exercised by Christ alone.

In "Ut Unum Sint," the Holy Father states that the Christian unity willed by God can only be attained by an acceptance of the full content of revealed truth, and prohibits any compromise of truth or doctrinal development for the sake of "facile agreement."

This is why the person of John Paul II offers a particular rationale for the present opportuneness of a papal definition of Mary Co-redemptrix. This Pope possesses the true gift of being at the same time "fully ecumenical" and "fully Marian." Who better than John Paul II to strike the delicate balance between full dogmatic integrity and genuine ecumenical sensitivity regarding the formulation of a new Marian dogma? Does he not brilliantly portray this careful balance in "Rosarium Virginis Mariae"?

At the beginning of the 1987 Marian Year, the Holy Father encouraged the preparatory commission to have more "trust in Mary for the mission of ecumenism." The same wisdom applies regarding a possible Marian dogma. The spiritual Mother of all peoples remains the Mother of Christian unity, not its obstacle.

In regards to the Orthodox, our sister Churches, their generous liturgical celebration of the role of the Mother of God in our salvation is something for the Western Church to emulate and rediscover. Their common liturgical entreaty, "O Mother of God, save us," captures the heart of Mary's unique role in the salvific mission of her Son. In fact, Patriarch Bartholomew issued a 1998 Lenten encyclical on the role of the Mother of God in salvation, which went almost completely unnoticed in the West.

The fact remains that the Orthodox Churches, as do Protestant ecclesial bodies, do not accept the office of papacy, and thereby could never logically be in favor of the exercise of a papal charism of infallibility from an office that they a priori reject. This is why to hold that until we receive the endorsement of Orthodox and Protestant authorities for a dogma, Marian or otherwise, the Pope should not declare a dogma, is philosophically and practically to eliminate entirely the charism of papal infallibility.

Q: How many Catholic faithful have petitioned for this dogma, and do you see any relevance for the proclamation of this Marian dogma with the present world situation?

Miravalle: In the last 10 years, about 7 million petitions from over 150 countries have been sent to the Holy See, along with the endorsements of 550 bishops and over 40 cardinals. This constitutes the largest petition drive per annum in the history of the Church.

In light of the present world climate of war and rumors of war, I believe the proclamation of the dogma of Mary Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix of all graces and Advocate would be the means to release the full exercise of Our Lady's motherly intercessory role in bringing peace to a troubled world, in fulfillment of her Fatima promise that "in the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph ... and a period of peace will be granted to the world." God respects human freedom, and the papal proclamation would "free her" to exercise fully her saving roles for contemporary humanity.

The recent promulgation of "Rosarium Virginis Mariae" and the gift of five new luminous mysteries reminds us that the Holy Father has a mind of his own regarding the Mother of God. I believe we should remain open-minded and obedient to the final discernment of this "Totus Tuus" Pope regarding the opportuneness of the papal definition of Mary Co-redemptrix.