Our Lady Co-Redemptrix: an ancient belief

+ St. John Bosco, 2017 +

Dear Readers,
Some may be wearying of this thread, but it is important for those who might yet believe the falsehoods of others to fully understand just how twisted their theology is and how far it is from the beliefs of true Catholics throughout the ages.

Remember that a group calling themselves catacomb Catholics separated themselves from other true Catholics last month by condemning as a heresy this statement, taken from an imprimatured work written in the 1950s: “The cult of the Blessed Virgin is necessary for salvation and therefore seriously required. Whoever refuses to have a minimum of Marian devotion would be put in serious danger of compromising their eternal destiny…” Why anyone would question this statement when every right-minded Catholic I know is devoted to the Blessed Virgin? This work does not teach that one loses his/her soul if such devotion is not practiced; only that Catholics would be in danger of doing so. The reason for this minimum of devotion should be recognized as necessary precisely because Our Lady was co-redemptrix. As such she could scarcely be dispensed with, being the very one whose fiat made it possible for Christ to be born, to establish His Church on earth and to suffer and die for our sins so we could reach Heaven. Had Mary not obeyed the will of God and “conceived of the Holy Ghost,” there would be no Jesus, no Church, and no redemption.

There have been those who question whether the belief in this title of Our Lady’s was actually a permitted opinion in the 1940s-50s. A friend and site patron was kind enough to bring our attention to the fact that proof of this exists in an article written for The American Ecclesiastical Review by Rev. J. B. Carol. O.F.M. (July, 1949 issue; “The Problem of Our Lady’s Co-Redemption”). Happily this issue is one I have access to in my own library. In his article, Rev. Carol begins by referencing “the lively discussions on the nature and extent of Mary’s share in the Savior’s redemptive work” noting that such “theological discussions, if conducted with calmness and sobriety, should have a healthy effect upon the human mind, helping to elucidate obscure issues and thus enrich the treasury of our knowledge.” He goes on to explain that the word co-redemptrix was known to Franciscan theologians writing in the 1300s, and one of these theologians observes that other writers referred to this term prior to his own writings.

So the term is ancient, and scarcely a novelty, which is one of the things Rev. Carol sets out to demonstrate in his article. He rightly upbraids those who call this term “ambiguous and an equivocation,” reminding them: “It is not the task of any private theologian to check up on the terminology used in Papal documents. These are always meticulously worded and deserve our utmost respect.” He then goes on to cite several instances of the use of this word by the popes themselves, as we did in our last post on this subject. He also notes that Henry Cardinal Manning was an avid promoter of the use of this title. “These titles…co-redemptrix, co-operatrix, reparatrix and mediatrix…are not metaphors, but truths,” he quotes from Manning’s letter recommending a book on the co-redemption.
To illustrate the fact that the popes understand our Lady’s co-redemption as we today understand it, Rev. Carol quotes Pope Pius XII, who as a cardinal wrote in 1937: “The application of the merits of Christ constitutes, together with their acquisition, a single complete work: that of salvation. It was fitting that Mary should cooperate equally in the two phases of the same work; the unity of the divine plan demands it.” And from Pope Benedict XV’s Inter Sodalicia, March 22, 1918: “The Blessed Virgin…suffered and almost died together with her suffering and dying Son, she abdicated her maternal rights over her Son for the salvation of men and, in so far as was within her power, she immolated her Son in order to appease the justice of God, in such a manner that we may rightly say she redeemed the human race together with Christ.”

In concluding his article, Rev. Carol notes that while there are eminent theologians who oppose the use of the title, there also were eminent theologians, “the Giants of Scholasticism,” who opposed the definition of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. He points out that the term co-redemptrix is accepted and endorsed by the majority of the theologians and this gives them better footing in the argument. Given the term’s endorsement by the popes, it seems it could hardly be any other way. While perhaps no formal decision has been made in this argument, the minds of the Roman Pontiffs have certainly been made known. We can hope and pray that further clarification on this topic at some point in time will help Catholics better understand its application and avoid any dangers that may accompany a wrong understanding of its intended meaning. In the meantime, we can only continue to offer prayers for those who refuse to obey the decrees of the popes and, not content with dragging themselves off to hell by disobeying Christ’s Vicars, attempt to drag with them any who remain willfully ignorant of papal teaching.

Blessings,
T. Benns

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