Shoddy Assumptions

News: Commentary
by Rodney Pelletier  •  •  March 26, 2021   

Misunderstanding the Mother of God

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There are various teachings regarding faith and morals that Catholics must believe to be in full union with the Apostolic Tradition and, thus, the Catholic Church. These teachings are called "dogmas," and there are many.

Regarding the Blessed Virgin Mary, there are four:

  • That Mary is the Mother of God
  • That she was a virgin before, during and after the birth of Christ
  • That she was completely sinless from the very beginning of her existence
  • That she was assumed body and soul into Heaven

What's billed as the fifth Marian "dogma" and promoted by various theologians would define Mary as the Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix of all graces and Advocate of the people of God.

It's the title of Co-Redemptrix that Pope Francis downplayed on Wednesday, the evening of the solemnity of the Annunciation. For the second time since 2019, he claimed that some people, even saints, may say things about the Mother of God that "subtract" from Christ's role as redeemer.

He asserted, "Christ is the Mediator — Christ is the bridge that we cross to turn to the Father. He is the only redeemer: There are no co-redeemers with Christ. He is the only one. He is the mediator par excellence."

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Theologians have been debating on the title of Co-Redemptrix since at least the 15th century, but various saints, who have been closer to Christ than most people, support this Marian title.

Regarding the Blessed Mother's role in redemption, Pope Benedict XV declared:

"So did she suffer with her suffering and dying son, and almost die; so did she abdicate her maternal rights over her Son for the salvation of men, and to placate God's justice, insofar as was fitting for her, so did she sacrifice her Son, that it can properly be said that she with Christ redeemed the human race."

Pope Pius XI used the title directly in the early 1930s:

"Oh! Mother of love and mercy, who were close to your sweet Son when consummating the redemption of mankind on the altar of the Cross, suffering with Him as Co-Redemptrix. 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."

Neither these popes nor any of the saints who've advocated for this doctrine ever claimed that Mary does anything apart from her divine Son, especially redeem people.

Saint Paul, in Colossians 1:24, declares that all Christians must be about the work of redemption: "For now I rejoice in my passion on your behalf, and I complete in my flesh the things that are lacking in the Passion of Christ, for the sake of his body, which is the Church."

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.

This indicates that while Christ is resurrected and in Heaven, His business of redemption is not done. Rather, His spouse on earth — the mystical body of Christ composed of all baptized souls — is still suffering until the Last Day in union with His one sacrifice on Calvary.

As Christians, we are expected to "take up our cross and follow" the Lord. This means we must work out our salvation; it isn't simply handed to us.

This is the Catholic understanding, but Pope Francis, despite claims that Jesuit education is rigorous, seems to have only a Protestant notion of the proposed doctrine — most unfortunate for the vicar of Christ.

To learn more, watch today's episode of The Download — Shoddy Assumptions.

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