Skip to main content

All About Mary

Co-Redemptrix as Dogma?

– Answered by Father Johann Roten, S.M.

Q: Mary's Co-redemption: Will there be a new dogma soon?

A: Reactions to articles received at the Marian Library show that there are strong feelings in favor of and against the dogmatization of Mary Co-redemptrix. Some letters qualify as heretics those who are not favorably inclined toward a new Marian dogma. Others threaten to leave the Church if the definition should become reality. The following observations would like to further serenity and realism in this matter. We keep in mind that most of the people intervening in this matter share a common love for Our Lady. It should help us to listen and speak with Christian charity.

1) It is Scripture evidence and oldest Church tradition which tell us about Mary's involvement in Redemption: as mother of Jesus and Theotokos, as disciple of her Son and associate in his salvific work. Maria Assumpta is forever an active part in the ongoing history of salvation. This is the reason why we turn to her for encouragement (she is the mother of all) and help (she is our model in faith).
2) According to news from the Vatican, the dogma is not soon to be proclaimed. On August 18, 1996, a Vatican spokesman (J. Navarro-Valls) said that no such proclamation is planned.
3) A dogmatic proclamation is normally preceded by official in-depth study and consultation among theologians, bishops and the faithful. The Vatican spokesman said on this behalf: "This is not under study by the Holy Father nor by any Vatican congregation or commission."
4) We recognize and respect the deep sense of love that inspires many who support the initiative. Our viewpoint is that signatures alone are not sufficient. The issue needs serious study. It was rejected by the Vatican in the past because of serious theological difficulties. Some bishops had suggested the dogma during the Second Vatican Council. It did not happen. Since then the question was not raised. If it were now and officially, we would have to take up things where we left them in the '40s.
5) As an institution with pontifical character, we represent and explain the Church's position. At the same time we help to promote all good things Marian. In this sense, we support good and solid investigation into the pending questions and discernment of rightful motivation. In time we will organize a symposium to further explore and study this question with people interested in the theological aspects of Mary's place and role in redemption.
6) Our own Roman sources qualify the proximate announcement of a new Marian dogma as theological sensationalism. Under the circumstances we would like to draw the attention of our readers and correspondents to the declaration of the XII International Mariological Congress held in Czestochowa, Poland in August of 1996. This text, although not a binding statement, reflects the knowledge and wisdom of people who for decades have been involved in Marian studies and closely observed and pondered the magisterial pronouncements concerning Mary, the Mother of God, since Vatican II.

During the International Mariological Congress at Czestochowa, Poland, August 18-23, 1996, a meeting composed of representatives from the Marian theological faculties and the Mariological societies was held to consider the advisability of petitioning the Holy See for the dogmatic definition of the Virgin Mary as co-redemptrix, mediatrix, and advocate. This meeting at the International Mariological Congress was held at the request of the Holy See.

Among the twenty-two members present at the meeting were Rene Laurentin, Stefano de Fiores, S.M.M., Jesus Castellano Cervera, O.C.D., Ignatio M. Calabuig, O.S.M., Johann Roten, S.M. The moderator of the meeting was Candido Pozo, S.J., president of the Spanish Mariological Society. Representatives from the Orthodox, Reformed, and Anglican churches were also present.

There was unanimous agreement at the meeting that the Holy See not make such a declaration at this time. There were two reasons for this decision: the first dealt with the theological clarifications which must first be made, and the second dealt with the ecumenical dialogue. In accord with the precedent set at Vatican II, the participants agreed that a doctrinal declaration should not "settle questions which have not yet been fully clarified by the work of theologians" (Lumen Gentium 54). They noted that Vatican II had already stated that the "Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix" (LG 62). Although these titles are in common use, they are subject to ambiguous and different interpretations. The word "co-redemptrix" did not appear in the magisterium until the pontificate of Pius XII.

Earlier in the twentieth century, Pius XI had formed national commissions to study the possibility of a dogmatic definition of Mary as mediatrix. The pneumatological consequences of calling Mary "advocate" must also be carefully studied.

The second reason the theologians gave for recommending that the Holy See not define these Marian prerogatives dealt with the ecumenical dialogue. In the encyclical Ut unum sint, Pope John Paul II outlined a path for ecumenical dialogue among all the followers of Christ. He suggests that all Christians consider the Virgin Mary as "Mother of God, icon of the Church, spiritual mother who intercedes for all the disciples of Christ and for the whole of humanity" (n. 79). The theologians wished to follow the line of dialogue as outlined in the encyclical as the way to promote unity among all the churches.

Addend in Response to a Reader

Thank you for your work as apologist. We need good apologists! Purpose and objectives of the VPMM is not new. Similar attempts promoting a fifth marian dogma were undertaken in the 20s-40s of the twentieth century. They did not come to fruition due to Pius XII's veto. Lumen Gentium carefully avoided co-redemption terminology; so does the magisterial teaching since Vatican II. Mary's active participation in salvation has never been questioned: as mother of the redeemer, as his disciple, and as his associate. Mary was associated with her redeemer-son essentially through:

1) Inviting his disciples to do as he told them (Cana)
2) Following him to the cross accompanying him in active passivity (= letting it be, accepting the ordeal for and with him for our sake) to his death;
3) Accepting with the beloved disciple to form the original cell of the Church as continuation and implementation of Christ's redeeming act (John 19, 25-27);
4) Forming part, with the disciples, of the Pentecost gathering from which sprang the post-paschal Church.
5) Mary continues to be Christ's associate throughout salvation history mainly as our intercessor, mediator and advocate.
Dogmatization attempts do not respond to a real doctrinal necessity such as to defend severely questioned aspects of our faith. Its primary purpose is devotional; the fifth dogma would give Mary more privilege and honor. Although in favor of honoring and praising Mary, I believe this can be achieved by or through other means, such as a new title or feast.

Addend from a Reader

The implication of a possible papal declaration of a dogma of co-redemption seems to mean that together Christ and Mary redeemed the world. Thus, on Calvary there were two redeemers and together they were co-offering His sacrifice to the Father. As co-offering, co-sacrificing co-redeemers, Christ and Mary were mediating the grace of redemption through which they were co-mediators co-mediating man's salvation.

However, 1 Tim. 2:5 says, "there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." Furthermore, Lumen Gentium, in quoting the Council of Trent on the invocation of saints, says we can seek their assistance, humbly invoking them, and having recourse to their prayers, their aid and help in obtaining from God through His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, our only Redeemer and Savior, the benefits we need (LG, 50, Denz. 984; emphasis added).

Pope John Paul II in his encyclical Tertio Millennio Adveniente on Nov. 10, 1994 says that "Christ is the one mediator between God and man and the sole Redeemer of the world (TU 38; emphasis added). Lumen Gentium calls Mary "Mother of the Redeemer" (LG, 53, 55), one who is not called both mother and a co-redeemer, since "no creature could ever be counted along with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer" (LG, 62), and because in her divine motherhood "she is united with her Son, the Redeemer" (LG, 63). Therefore, one may ask: is Mary the co-chairman of redemption? Is she the co-author who along with the Word of God wrote the work of redemption? Is she an authoress and co-Word of God? As a co-redeemer, would she not be a co-priestess on Calvary, co-sacrificing with her Son the High Priest?

In light of Lumen Gentium, Mary's contribution to the work of redemption is not by way of being a co-redeeming power but is made through her "manifold intercession" and "maternal charity," which "neither takes away anything from nor adds anything to the dignity and efficacy of Christ the one Mediator (LG, 62). She does not immolate her Son in a co-expiating act, but in her heart is "lovingly consenting to the immolation of this victim which was born of her," (LG, 58), which is precisely the teaching of St. Louis de Montfort.

Because her maternal cooperation comes from "the consent which she loyally gave at the annunciation and which she sustains without wavering beneath the cross " (LG , 62; emphasis added), she sustains what Christ efficaciously and sacramentally merits and accomplishes, She does not co-institute the sacraments. Mary is not a co-director, co-founder or co-producer of sacramental grace. Only God can create and re-create the human race in the state of grace. As the New Eve and Mother of eternal life, she nurtures and sustains the seed of eternal life that He generates and plants in "restoring supernatural life to souls" (LG, 61). According to St. Peter, "your rebirth has come, not from a destructible but from an indestructible seed, through the living and enduring word of God" (l Pet.1:23). She is not a redeemer or an efficacious or meritorious cause who ontologically adds to the efficacy of man' s divine redemption (cf; LG, 62)" but is the "Mother of Christ and mother of men" (LG, 54).

Quoting St. Augustine, Lumen Gentium states that "she is clearly the mother of the members of Christ, since she has by her charity joined in bringing about the birth of believers in the Church, who are members of its head" (LG, 53). She cooperates in this birth not with a co-redeemer's love, co-creating or co-generating a soul or the grace for a soul, but she cooperates with a mother's love and sustains the divine act of the generation and formation of the faithful (cf. La, 63). "The desire of Jesus as He dies," says Pope John Paul II, "is that the maternal love of Mary should embrace all those for whom He is giving His life, the whole of humanity" (Colosseum, April 21, 2000).

The union of Christ and Mary is not a hypostatic union, otherwise what is attributable to Christ would co-equally be attributable to Mary. Jesus is author of the divine act that re-creates and generates the divine redemption of man in grace, while Mary is mother of the human act that cooperates and sustains the divine redemption of man in grace. "On the way of the Cross, Mary shows herself to be the Mother of the Redeemer of the world" (Pope John Paul II, Colosseum, April 21, 2000).

Because she is "redeemed in a more excellent fashion" (LG, 53), she does not re-create mankind in a state of grace, but distributes, sustains and transmits only what "flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ" (LG, 60). As Mother of the faithful, she is not a co-efficient cause of redemption. Since God alone creates and re-creates, co-redemption is singularly a Trinitarian act not within the capacity of any created human being.

Rather than being designated as a redeemer in the order of grace, Mary "is a mother to us in the order of grace" (LG, 61), while Jesus is the Redeemer of man and the fountain of sacramental life in the Church. The Mystical Body of Christ as a communion of persons is redeemed by the co-redeeming Trinity and it is brought forth from the water and blood flowing from His side. According to Pope John Paul II, "by means of His own blood, He must enter the eternal dwelling places, having accomplished the world's redemption" (Colosseum, April 21, 2000).

In the Church, man is born again through water, the Holy Spirit and Mary's spiritual motherhood. As Mother of the Church, Mary "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" (LG, 56). To the extent that Christ takes His flesh from Mary, she makes a material and consensual, but not an efficacious or efficient, contribution to the divine work of redemption, in which "the Son of God has taken human nature from her that He might in the mystery of His flesh free man from sin" (LG, 55; emphasis added).

Her cooperation in the mystery of God's providential plan is based not so much on the redemption, sanctification or salvation of the faithful, but on the primacy of her own sanctification, which is the focus and locus of where the "divine mystery of salvation is revealed to us" (LG, 52), and where she is endowed not with the power of being a co-redeemer, but "endowed with the high office and dignity of the Mother of the Son of God, and therefore she is also the beloved daughter of the Father and the temple of the Holy Spirit" (LG, 53; emphasis added).

Additional Information [added in June 2004]

Millions of petitions from around the world have been presented to the Vatican for the dogmatic proclamation of the Blessed Virgin Mary as Co-Redemptrix. As a consequence, this topic has made national headlines and evoked widespread discussion, confusion and misunderstanding.

Below we post interviews from 2002 with two renowned Mariologists who explore the pros and cons of the theological debate.

Why It's Not the Right Time for a Dogma on Mary as Co-redemptrix
According to Member of International Pontifical Marian Academy

Will the Church proclaim Mary the Co-redemptrix and Mediatrix of all graces, as some groups urge? ZENIT asked Father Stefano de Fiores, professor of Mariology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome about the possibility.

Father de Fiores is a member of the International Pontifical Marian Academy, which advises the Pope on all theological questions relating to the person of Mary. He said that to define Mary as "Co-redemptrix" does not mean to place her at the same saving level as Jesus, but to emphasize her cooperative role in salvation.

Q: There is a proposal to invoke Mary as Co-redemptrix. Would it be necessary to proclaim a new dogma?

A: Father de Fiores: From the conciliar and ecumenical point of view, it is certainly not opportune to proclaim this dogma at this time. The separated brethren, Protestants and Orthodox, reproach us for not consulting them in regard to the last dogmas on Mary. This is why I think that a dogma of this type would have to include their participation.

Let us first move toward union or toward a certain convergence among Christians; we will then examine if it is pertinent to proclaim Mary Co-redemptrix.

In fact, the title of Co-redemptrix has not been used since Pius XII, and the Pontiffs do not mention it precisely so as not to cause a misunderstanding with the Protestants. Indeed, co-redemption is not something new. Already, Irenaeus, the Church Father, referred to Mary as "causa salutis" [cause of our salvation] given her "fiat."

Q: Isn't it heretical to raise Mary to this category, placing her almost at the same saving level of Jesus?

A: Father de Fiores: It is necessary to clarify that it is not a question of placing her on the same plane as Jesus. The central character of the Redeemer's salvation is a given. The Virgin is seen as a collaborator in this redemption. Jesus Christ is not debated. It is not about a juxtaposition to the redemption work of Jesus Christ, but a participation, a dependency in salvation. This point must be very clear.

Q: Today, Catholicism is emphasizing Mary's salvific role. Why?

A: Father de Fiores: We must keep in mind that every year over one thousand theological articles are published on Mary. The great concern of Mariologists is to avoid an isolated discourse on Mary. For this reason, Mariology is studied with an interdisciplinary approach, and articles and books are published that combine Mariology with other fields of theology, including soteriology.

Mary's role in salvation was already addressed by Vatican Council II. The historic-salvific-conciliar change of direction has spoken of Mary in the mystery of Christ and of the Church. Mary is not a separate chapter.

The Church Fathers themselves accentuated the aspect of Mary in salvation. Today, in addition to being centered in salvation, there is a tendency to see Christianity's involvement in history.

In this connection, Mary is the free and responsible woman who sings a hymn of freedom, the Magnificat, and the woman who keeps the poor in mind. She proclaims the freedom that Christ will bring in time and in history. Thus, Mary is the model and paradigm of man saved by Christ.

In a world like ours, fragmented in blocks, Mary is the one who accepts the other while maintaining her identity. Mary is in favor of man. Beyond affirming that she is the one who receives salvation, she is the one who brings it about.

Q: What are the consequences in the ecumenical way?

A: Father de Fiores: The Protestants--I am thinking, for example, of Henrick Ott, Karl Barth's successor in Basle--admit that they feel uncomfortable with the presentation of Mary as Mediatrix, formulated by Leo XIII.

However, they understand our affirmation that one goes to Jesus through Mary. They think that at times we present Mary as if she were outside Christ's mediation. The Vatican gives the solution: Mary's mediation is in Christ, not next to Christ. It is shown that not only does she save but that she makes salvation possible. This way she is acceptable to all.

Q: In his new letter on the rosary, the Pope has proposed a Marian spiritual revolution. What is the Pope's intention?

A: Father de Fiores: It is not a revolution but a rediscovery and an improvement in the form. With a few variations, the rosary had remained almost the same since 1569.

The Pope proposes some novelties with these five mysteries. He makes the prayer of the rosary more centered on Christ and more meditative, less mechanical and more reflective.

The new mysteries respond to a need that scholars, especially in Italy and France, had pointed out on several occasions. Between the last joyful mystery and the first sorrowful there was too great a leap. Significant episodes in the public life of Jesus were forgotten. In any case, it is obvious that the rosary is a synthesis and cannot contain everything.

Q: Is the rosary now more Christological and less Mariological in character?

A: Father de Fiores: John Paul II insists on putting Jesus Christ at the center. The Hail Mary is a Marian prayer but also Christological.

Jesus and his name are at the center. For this reason, the clause of the name of Jesus is repeated, which gives this prayer a more Christological and, hence, a more ecumenical character. As early as 1300, a community of Cistercian women religious of Treveri had added more than fifty clauses to Jesus' name.

Also significant is the emphasis the Pope gives to moments of silence. The rosary must not be prayed mechanically. In addition to emphasizing silence, the biblical enunciation of the mystery, and other novelties, the Pope has added a final ejaculation: a prayer for the grace of the mystery to be granted to the person reciting the rosary. It is a passing from prayer to life.

The rosary is the only prayer that brings the mystery celebrated liturgically to personal life. Moreover, it is extremely important for peace. The rosary, for example, had a decisive role in the life of the Church from the time of the Battle of Lepanto [Oct. 7, 1571], which marked the defeat of the Ottomans. Indeed, it was there that the title Virgin of the Rosary was born.

However, be careful: We must not regard the rosary as a weapon. It is not. It is a peaceful means to obtain peace. Given the violence and insufficiency of public means, only God can give peace. Only he can infuse in men's and women's hearts the serenity not to pursue violence.

Why it's the right time for a dogma on Mary as Co-redemptrix
KATH.NET-Interview with Msgr. Arthur B. Calkins (Member of the Pontifical International Marian Academy of the Pontifical Roman Theological Academy)

KATH.NET: In a recent interview Father Stefano De Fiores spoke against the opportuneness of a definition about Mary as Co-redemptrix, stating that our separated brethren should be consulted about such a definition and implying that some kind of consensus would have to be reached with them before a definition would be possible. What do you think?
Msgr. Arthur B. Calkins: My first comment is that genuine Catholic ecumenism should never be seen as a simple matter of consensus or compromise even though that impression often seems to be given today. While we Catholics should have genuine Christian love for our separated brethren and respect for their positions, we must have no less love and respect for “the Catholic faith that comes to us from the Apostles". Hence I do not believe that we must allow either our separated brethren or "political correctness" to dictate Catholic doctrine or a time when it is opportune to proclaim it.

KATH.NET: But doesn't it seem unnecessary and even counter-productive to promote a definition of Mary as Co-redemptrix when the question raises objections inside and outside of the Church and when so many other issues seem so much more important?

Msgr. Calkins: If Mary's co-redemptive role raises objections inside the Church, I believe it is because that there has often been an unconscious tendency on the part of Catholics in recent times to accept the fundamental Lutheran dogma of Christus solus without recognizing that Catholic doctrine has always maintained the absolute centrality and primacy of Christ but without denying the necessity of man's collaborating with him in the work of salvation. Further, Catholic teaching from the time of the post-Apostolic Fathers has clearly upheld that no one has collaborated as fully as Mary, the “New Eve,” in the work of our salvation. This is a “saving truth” that says a great deal about Mary’s role in the economy of salvation and in our lives, about us, about the nature of salvation and the value of salvific suffering. If other questions seem more important than these, I’m afraid it is because we have lost our philosophical and theological bases and become “political” pragmatists.

KATH.NET: Father De Fiores says that “the title Co-redemptrix has not been used since Pius XII and the Pontiffs do not mention it precisely so as not to cause a misunderstanding with the Protestants.” How do you respond to that?

Msgr. Calkins: The first draft of the document that would eventually become chapter 8 of Lumen Gentium explicitly acknowledged the legitimacy of the term Co-redemptrix as applied to Our Lady, but refrained from using it so as not to cause undue problems with our Protestant brothers and sisters. I believe that we are free to debate the wisdom of such an approach. The fact is that chapter 8 of Lumen Gentium (especially 57-58 and 60-62) gave more attention to Mary’s altogether unique collaboration in the work of our redemption than all of the other ecumenical councils combined, even though the word Co-redemptrix was not used!

But a further clarification is also in order: Pope John Paul II has spoken of Our Lady as Co-redemptrix or of her co-redemptive role at least six times. I have most recently documented these in my article, “The Mystery of Mary Co-redemptrix in the Papal Magisterium” in Mark Miravalle (ed.), Mary Co-redemptrix: Doctrinal Issues Today (Goleta, CA: Queenship Publishing, 2002) and have analyzed the weightiest of these texts, the Pope’s homily in Guayaquil, Ecuador of January 31, 1985, in my article “Pope John Paul II’s Ordinary Magisterium on Marian Co-redemption: Consistent Teaching and More Recent Perspectives” in Mary at the Foot of the Cross – II (New Bedford, MA: Academy of the Immaculate, 2002). Although there are some Mariologists who want to label all of these usages as “marginal [and] therefore devoid of doctrinal weight,” I beg to differ with them and find their judgment strangely out of harmony with the declaration of Lumen Gentium 25 on the Pope’s ordinary magisterium.

KATH.NET: Why do you favor a definition of Mary as Co-redemptrix?

Msgr. Calkins: I favor such a definition because I believe that this is a “saving truth” which the Church of our time especially needs to hear and assimilate. It is not a “new” truth, but it is one which the Holy Spirit has brought to the fore with ever more precision in the course of the past millennium (cf. the Pope’s general audience addresses of October 25, 1995 and of April 9, 1997). It was obviously a topic of interest at the Second Vatican Council and, as in the case of so many other conciliar themes, we are only now beginning to grasp the richness of what was said, especially with the help of Pope John Paul II’s teaching. Of course the ground needs to be prepared for such a definition and in recent years there have been excellent studies which have been devoted to this topic, especially in English and Italian. Dr. Mark Miravalle has already published four volumes of studies (cf. as have the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate in Frigento along with numerous monographs, while the American Friars of the Immaculate have published two volumes of scholarly studies with a third on the way (cf. Studies of Mary’s collaboration in the work of redemption have also begun to appear in other places such as in the theological faculty of Lugano, Switzerland.

KATH.NET: What do you think would be the benefits of such a definition?

Msgr. Calkins: If it is true that God has given Mary a unique role in the work of our redemption, we need to recognize it, to celebrate it and to benefit from it. The first four Marian dogmas (divine maternity, perpetual virginity, Immaculate Conception, Assumption) have to do with her person and have unfolded in a providential way. Now, I believe, is the time to underscore her role as the principal human collaborator in the work of our redemption, her role as the Mediatrix whose unique mediation derives totally from his (cf. Lumen Gentium #60), her role as Advocate (after Christ and the Holy Spirit) who never ceases to intercede for her children until the last of them are led into their heavenly home (cf. Lumen Gentium 62). The more we avert to her role, the more we can be enriched by it. I believe that the benefits with regard to clarification of Catholic doctrine alone would be incalculable.

Curriculum Vitæ of Monsignor Arthur B. Calkins:

Monsignor Arthur B. Calkins is a native of Erie, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. and was ordained a priest on May 7, 1970 for the Archdiocese of New Orleans where he served in various parishes as parochial vicar and was involved in other pastoral activities. He has a master's degree in theology from the Catholic University of America, a licentiate in sacred theology with specialization in Mariology from the International Marian Research Institute in Dayton and a doctorate which he earned summa cum laude in the same field from the Pontifical Theological Faculty of St. Bonaventure (the Seraphicum) in Rome. His doctoral study, Totus Tuus: John Paul II's Program of Marian Consecration and Entrustment (New Bedford, MA: Academy of the Immaculate "Studies and Texts," No. 1), has gone into three printings. His articles on Mariology and spirituality have appeared in both popular and scholarly publications as well as in the acts of congresses and symposia. He was named a corresponding member of the Pontifical International Marian Academy in 1985 and a corresponding member of the Pontifical Roman Theological Academy in 1995. He has been an official of the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei" since 1991 and was named a Chaplain of His Holiness with the title of Monsignor in 1997.

All About Mary includes a variety of content, much of which reflects the expertise, interpretations and opinions of the individual authors and not necessarily of the Marian Library or the University of Dayton. Please share feedback or suggestions with


Marian Library

Roesch Library
300 College Park
Dayton, Ohio 45469 - 1390

Study Mary

Study the theology and history of Mary at the University of Dayton.

Learn More

Keyword Search

Would you like to begin a new keyword search?

Get Started