by Raymond de Souza, KHS, KM
March 29, 2021
Catholic sources vs. pope's recent comment
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When Pope Francis referred to Our Blessed Mother Mary's putative title of Co-Redemptrix as "foolishness" ("tonterias" in Spanish), it caused surprise — and even outright scandal — among many of the faithful. It was seen as yet another rejection of the traditional teaching of the Church.
"Let us not get lost in foolishness," Francis said of those wishing for a papal definition of Mary the Co-Redemptress.
Because Mary was never, ever, just "a normal girl," i.e., a human born in original sin and prone to actual sin as normal girls are; but by virtue of being preserved from sin by the merits of her Son, she was preserved before the time of her conception.
The Dogma of the Immaculate Conception does not talk about Mary as being simply "redeemed" like every person in the world, but "preserved." By the definition of the Immaculate Conception, the Church says definitively that Mary was always completely free from sin from the moment of her conception.
Redemption is buying back from slavery. I am reminded of the Mercedarians of St. Peter Nolasco who redeemed those Christians enslaved by the pagan Muslims.
But Mary's case is altogether different. Mary, because of her preservation, was never, ever, at any instant of her life, a slave to sin. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches in paragraph 491, Mary was "redeemed from the moment of her conception." And from that moment, by a singular grace and privilege of God, Mary was "preserved immune from all stain of original sin."
Because of this preservation, she could be part of the redemptive work of her Son — and, in fact, she was. She helped Jesus set us free, hence the term Co-Redemptrix.
It is simple for anyone to understand: God was offended by men. Mary is not of either party in this. She alone was never under the power of Satan. The dogma of Co-Redemptrix is founded on and made possible by the dogma of the Immaculate Conception and the Divine Maternity.
Now, Jesus is the sole redeemer who redeemed men from their sins. However, the redemption did not happen without a woman who was worthy enough to conceive God in her womb so that the redemption could take place. This woman is the Immaculate Virgin Mary.
Christ died for our sins, yes, but in God's plan, without Mary there would be no Christ to die for our sins. Christ's death redeems men, but without Mary, there would be no Christ to redeem men. Therefore, without Mary, there would be no redemption. Hence Mary is truly and properly the Co-Redeemer!
Christ redeemed men, but in God's plan, He would not redeem men without the help of Mary, whose flesh and blood He took, and who offered Her Son to God as Abraham offered Isaac. It is in this sense that Mary is truly the Co-Redemptrix. Indeed, popes, saints and other Catholic writers have taught that Mary is Co-Redemptrix or Co-Redeemer.
Christ's death redeems men, but without Mary, there would be no Christ to redeem men. Therefore, without Mary, there would be no redemption. Hence Mary is truly and properly the Co-Redeemer!
The main argument against the title Co-Redemptrix is that Mary could not effect Her own redemption. But this is false, because there are two meanings to redemption. Mary was not merely "redeemed from sin" but "preserved" from sin by the merits of her Son. Mary was not "bought back" from the slavery to sin like us, which is the normal meaning of redeemed. We are all — except for Adam and Eve before the Fall and Jesus and Mary — in the thrall of Satan from the first moment of conception because of Original Sin.
So, as the dogmatic definition says that Mary was never in sin, and so never in need of redemption in the usual sense, she was free to collaborate with Jesus in our redemption. And she did.
Let us see what, contrary to Pope Francis' accusations of tonterias, the Fathers of the early Church and Doctors over the ages have to say:
Modestus of Jerusalem accurately defines that through Mary we, "are redeemed from the tyranny of the Devil" (Migne PG 86: 3287).
Saint Irenaeus: "by yielding obedience, [Mary] became cause of salvation, both to herself and the whole human race" (Adversus Haereses, III, 22, 4).
Saint John of Damascus greets her: "Hail thou, through whom we are redeemed from the curse" (PG 86: 658).
Saint Bernard: "Through her, man was redeemed" (Sermon 3 super Salve).
St. Alphonsus Liguori: "Saint Bernard says, 'that as a man and a woman cooperated in our ruin, so it was proper that another man and another woman should cooperate in our redemption; and these two were Jesus and his Mother Mary.' ... 'There is no doubt,' says the saint, 'that Jesus Christ alone was more than sufficient to redeem us; but it was more becoming that both sexes should cooperate in the reparation of an evil in causing which both had shared' (The Glories of Mary, Chapter IV, Section II).
Saint Bonaventure: "The woman (Eve) drove us out of Paradise and sold us, but this one brought us back again and bought us (redeemed us)" (de don. Sp. S. 6: 14).
Saint Bridget: "as Adam and Eve sold the world for an apple, so did she with her Son redeem it as it were with one heart." (St. Alphonsus Liguori, The Glories of Mary, Op. cit.)
Saint Anselm: "That although God could create the world out of nothing, yet, when it was lost by sin, He would not repair the evil without the cooperation of Mary." (St. Alphonsus Liguori, The Glories of Mary, Op. cit.)
Saint Albert the Great: "She was the only one to whom this privilege was given, i.e. of sharing in his Passion. To be able to reward her for it, her Son wished her to share also in the merits of the Passion; And to make her a sharer in the benefit of the Redemption, He wished her to be His partner in the suffering of the Passion, in order that, as she was a helpmate in the Redemption, might also be mother of all by reparation. And as the whole world is indebted to God for his Passion, so all would be to their Queen for her compassion" (Mariale,150).
St. Anthony of Padua (1195–1231): "In his writings are to be found the doctrines of her Immaculate Conception and glorious Assumption; and he never tired of speaking of her as the Mediatrix of All Graces, nor of dwelling upon her part in the redemption" (Saints to Know and Love, by The Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, St. Anthony of Padua).
Suarez, 17th century Jesuit Mariologist: "Just as Christ, because He redeemed us, is by a special title our King and our Lord, so too is Blessed Mary (our Queen and our Mistress) because of the unique way in which she cooperated in our redemption" (1954 encyclical Ad Caeli Reginam).
Suarez: "Mary cooperated in our salvation in three ways: First, by having merited by a merit of congruity the Incarnation of the Word; secondly, by having continually prayed for us whilst she was living in this world; thirdly, by having willingly sacrificed the life of her Son to God. For this reason, our Lord has justly decreed, that as Mary cooperated in the salvation of man with so much love, and at the same time gave such glory to God, so all men through her intercession are to obtain their salvation" (St. Alphonsus Liguori, The Glories of Mary, Op. cit.).
Coming in Part II: More saints, popes and scholars affirm Mary is the Co-Redemptrix.
Raymond de Souza, KHS, KM, is a knight of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, a knight of the Sovereign and Military Order of Malta and a fourth-degree Knight of Columbus. A speaker on pro-life and apologetics issues, he is the delegate for international missions of Human Life International. He has visited 38 countries of the six continents as part of conferences held in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese and has speaking ability in Italian and Afrikaans. He is available to address Catholic audiences anywhere in the free world to defend the Gospel of life and the purity of Catholic doctrine, counting on the recommendation of bishops and priests in New Zealand, Australia and the United States. He has been a radio broadcaster in New Zealand and Australia and, today, writes a syndicated column for the weekly national Catholic paper, The Wanderer.