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Papers on Proposed 5th Marian Dogma

Mary as Coredemptrix and Mediatrix of all Graces - Philosophical and Personalist Foundations of a Marian Doctrine

by Josef Seifert

Prof Dr. Josef Seifert is Rector of the International Academy of Philosophy in Liechtenstein, and an internationally acclaimed philosopher. He is also a member of the Pontfical Academy for Life.

My Initial Doubts Concerning the Advisabilility of a Dogma of Mary as Coredemptrix and Mediatrix[1]

When Professor Mark Miravalle shared with me information concerning the efforts and prayers of many Catholics to obtain a new dogma that would declare that Mary—in cooperation with, and in radical creaturely subordination to, her divine Son—is Coredemptrix and Mediatrix of all graces,[2] I Was at first hesitant whether I should declare support for the declaration of such a double (or triple) Marian dogma. For to call Mary Mediatrix of all graces seems to be an exaggeration and almost contradictory: how could she be the Mediatrix of the graces Adam and Eve received, or Abraham, or her own ancestors, or of those graces which she herself received such her Immaculate Conception? On the other hand, to give Mary the title Coredemptrix seemed to me at first to touch a merely marginally Catholic belief and one that is open to many misunderstandings, given the fact that there is only one Saviour and one Redeemer, Jesus Christ.[3] I thought that a dogmatic declaration of this truth, though I firmly believed it, would b unnecessary and even undesirable for various reasons: It would bind all faithful to accept a truth which (1) neither appears inseparable from the deposit of faith nor (2) free of being prone to an enormous misunderstanding that would efface the difference between God and man and turn Mary into some kind of fourth divine person. (3) Besides, this doctrine did not seem to me central enough to justify a dogmatic formulation. For dogma does not only assert the objective and indubitable truth of a supernaturally revealed truth or a doctrine presuppose by the faith (such as the ability of man to know the existence~ and some attributes of God by means of his reason, a philosophical content defined by Vatican I). Rather, much more than that, a dogma binds all faithful to accept it, and it involves, and in some cases even creates, the moral obligation to the consent of all the faithful to the dogmatically declared truth of the Catholic faith as a condition of achieving eternal salvation. Thus a dogma is a very serious thing not to be demanded lightly.

Some dogmas, such as that of the divinity of Christ, formulate such clear contents of Scripture and of Christian faith that a faithflul acceptance of them was binding for Christians long before their dogmatic declaration.[4]

Other dogmas, however, could well be rejected by good and holy Christians before they were declared dogmatically, but from the time on when they have been declared, they bind all Catholics to accept them as part of the infallibly revealed depositum fidei. To this second category of dogmas one can reckon the Marian dogma on the Immaculate Conception which, while it was held, prior to its declaration, by many great theologians, Saints and Blessed, for example by Duns Scotus, was rejected by others, for example by Saint Thomas Aquinas who offered strong arguments against this teaching. Since the declaration of the Immaculate Conception as a dogma, however, no Catholic is free any longer to doubt or to reject it without contradicting the Catholic faith and betraying it. By binding, through a dogma, every faithful to give his consent to the doctrine of Mary as Coredemptrix and Mediatrix, the Church would seem to give to this marginally significant truth an exaggerated weight, making its acceptance necessary for salvation. It certainly appears difficult to demand the consent of all the faithful to such a particular and incomprehensible aspect of Mary’s role and activity, especially at a time when the most basic contents of the Creed are unknown and denied by many.

(4) Additionally, such a dogmatic declaration of which I was skeptical for a long time, appeared not especially timely to me (given the fact that the Church today is shaken to its foundations by other greater issues, rather than this one, and Catholic doctrines of much greater weight are in peril, such as the true divinity of Christ, the possibility of knowing God’s existence and some divine attributes, the existence of the soul, the immortal and eternal life, the bodily virginity of Mary, the existence of intrinsically evil acts,[5] etc.).[6]

(5)      Moreover, such a Marian dogma, because it would seemingly not possess any biblical roots, would appear to be based purely on the oral sacred Tradition and hence put new obstacles into the way of Jews or of exclusively Scripture-oriented Protestants to accept the Catholic Church, and possibly also divide the Catholic Church itself anew over a non-necessary issue (because a “dogma” on Mary as Coredemptrix would undoubtedly seem even to many well-intentioned and orthodox Catholics to be an exaggerated and problematic teaching) In fact, most Catholics and theologians today are rather ashamed by the very claim of the Catholic Church to have the authority from the Holy Spirit to formulate infallibly true propositions or to possess, prior to any dogmatic declarations, the general infallibility of the sensus fidelium with respect to all essential dogmatic and moral teachings of the Church.

First Resolution of My Initial Doubts Concerning the Advisability of a Dogma of Mary as Coredemptrix-Mediatrix

While these objections left for a long time some serious doubts in my mind as to whether the declaration of such a dogma would be justified, and while not any trace of these doubts has been removed until now, upon more serious reflection and prayer I reached the conclusion that none of these arguments are decisive ones against the Dogma Vox Populi Mariae Mediatrici seeks to obtain. More and more, the very contrary of what these objections state seemed to be true to me. Here I wish to mention only briefly the main stages of the way on which I reached this conclusion which the rest of this lecture aims at clarifying more deeply:

(Ad 1) It appeared to me more and more evident that this doctrine of Mary as Coredemptrix is not marginal but essentially connected with other Catholic dogmas, especially with that of the justification through grace but not without freely performed works, so much so that the dogma of Mary Coredemptrix might be regarded as a mere logical conclusion from the already existing dogmas. Moreover, the belief itself that Mary is Coredemptrix did not seem to be marginal to me any longer, no more than the preceding Marian dogmas. Of course, this is rather obvious for the first two Marian dogmas. There is no doubt in my mind that the dogmatic declaration of the Council of Ephesus, which pronounced Mary to be truly the Mother of God, and the dogmatic declaration of her Perpetual Virginity, especially before the birth of Jesus, are quite centrally connected with the divinity of Jesus and with the truth of his Incarnation, and thus with the center of our faith, in my opinion even much more so than the doctrine of Mary as Coredemptrix.Therefore the dogma of Mary’s motherhood of God was already defined in the early centuries of the Church and played a crucial role in the times of Ariansm and throughout the history of the Church. Also the teaching of her virginity when conceiving Christ was defined long before the other two Marian dogmas and is a strong confirmation of the true mystery of the Incarnation of God in Jesus which is at the core of our faith. The later two Marian dogmas cannot be put in the same level with respect to their essential connection with the Christian faith. Even within the dogmatic declaration of Mary’s Perpetual Virginity (before, during and after Christ’s birth) we find a gradation of the significance of these three truths, and while some parts of this dogma are of more central significance to the Catholic faith, others, could be perceived as less significant. The truth of Mary’s virginity before the birth of Jesus could be seen as more essential to our faith than the declaration of her sacred virginity after Jesus's birth—however beautiful and fitting this is. Even more clearly her virginity before and after birth in the sense of not having had sexual relations with Joseph or other men is
more important for our faith than the declaration of—the miracle of—her purely biological virginity
during birth which to include in a dogma even might seem odd to us, so much so that some have doubted its dogmatic character with serious arguments.

The teaching on Mary as Coredemptrix, however, is possibly much more central to the Catholic faith than the previously defined Marian dogma of Mary’s Immaculate Conception (a teaching which even the universal and angelic Doctor Saint Thomas had rejected before it had been defined). Before this dogma of her freedom from the stain of original sin prior to Christ’s death and of her freedom from all personal sins, which does not appear to be inseparably linked with any Christological dogmas, had been declared, it was not binding in the same manner for all Catholics to believe it. For it is not, in the perception of some, clearly connected with the center of the Catholic faith and appeared to Saint Thomas even to contradict the faith that all Redemption and all cleansing from Original Sin and personal sins comes to us only through Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. And still this teaching was declared as dogma, though being less central to our faith. The dogma of the bodily assumption of Mary into heaven appears still less essentially connected with the center of the Catholic faith than Mary’s Immaculate Conception or her role as Coredemptrix and yet this glorious truth about Mary, too, was declared as dogma by the Catholic Church, through Pope Pius XII. This dogma that is connected with the highest feast of Mary does in no way have a more direct bearing on our faith than Mary’s role as Coredemptrix. On the contrary, the doctrine of Mary as Coredemptrix is more essentially interwoven with the Catholic teaching of justification and thus more profoundly linked with the center of our faith than even the teaching about the bodily assumption of Mary into heaven. Therefore one cannot argue against the new dogma from the point of view that it is not essential to the core of our faith. In fact, from this point of view the proposed new dogma deserves fuller support even than some of those Marian dogmas which have already been defined before and which the believing Catholic firmly embraces as gifts of participating in the infallible truth about Mary’s special privileges, in whose light also the glory of Christ, the cause of all Marian privileges of grace, shines forth more fully.

(Ad 2) In view of the essential logical connection between the dogmas regarding justification and free cooperation with grace and the proposed dogma of Mary Coredemptrix a declaration of the latter truth would not impose new burdens of ‘having to believe’ on the faithful (what a sad way of seeing the gloriously liberating force of infallible revelation of truth!) but is already now (prior to its desired solemn declaration) to be accepted by every Catholic because it is a direct logical consequence of the need for free cooperation with grace and of Mary’s being the mother of God, as we shall see further.

(Ad 3) The mere possibility of misunderstandings cannot suffice to prevent the Church from the declaration of an important religious truth as dogma. The possibility of such misunderstandings only requires that the dogma be clearly and unambiguously defined so as to exclude any such misunderstanding.

(Ad 4) I came to conclude also that the pronouncement of this dogma was eminently timely in spite of the fact that Mary’s role of Coredemptrix is not a hotly debated theological issue now as the motherhood of God had been prior to its declaration. [7] For this proposed and most personalistic Marian dogma would address crucial positive concerns of the best of personalist philosophy and theology in our century. It would simultaneously help to overcome the greatest theoretical and practical crisis in the understanding of the dignity of persons which we likewise find in our century: in evolutionism and other theories, and in Nazism or in communism both in theory and praxis, as well as in the almost universal practical atrocities of abortion and euthanasia, just to mention a few of the most shocking forms of antipersonalism. Would we still kill a baby or an elderly person if we believed that they possess the abysmal dignity of persons seen in the light of the fact that on the free decision of Mary the greatest goods—even our salvation—has depended? From a religious, but especially from a philosophical standpoint, I found this proposed Marian dogma the greatest antidote against the haunting specter of antipersonalism: because it is the most personalistic Marian dogma that underlines the salvific dimension of the decision of a created person. No living being below the person would be capable of a coredemptive role. Precisely because of its personalistic dimension I found this potential dogma particularly timely—at a time of both great personalist philosophies in our century [8] which would find a certain ‘supernatural coronation’ through this dogma, and in the face of an absolute oppression of persons in our time which demands that the Church declares more and more fully the immense dignity of the person.The timeliness of such a dogma appears even clearer when thinking of feminism and of the opposition to the Vatican position against women’s admission to Holy Orders, a point to which I shall return.

(Ad 5) Moreover, the lack of biblical foundation is least true for this proposed dogma. I found a very striking and direct biblical foundation for this teaching to be explained below. Apart from the Sacred Tradition of the Church also the Bible itself guarantees, I came to conclude, the infallible truth of this doctrine. To the firm biblical foundation of this teaching already in the Old Testament and to its great ecumenical significance in relation to the Jews I will return.And most paradoxically, I discovered an extraordinary ecumenical significance of this teaching—not only in the dialogue with the modernist defenders of priesthood for women and feminists, but also, and on a much firmer foundation, with orthodox Jews and Protestants.[9] Hence I came to the conviction that a declaration of this dogma, far from creating obstacles to authentic ecumenism, would possess a deep ecumenical and timely significance.

To the extraordinarily timely significance of this most personalistic teaching on Mary as Coredemptrix and to the culmination of the unfolding of the Catholic faith regarding the universal priesthood of all baptized Christians through such a new dogma I will likewise return.

For these reasons, which I am going to explain more in detail, I came to endorse such a dogma fully. Nevertheless, I am unable to form a categorical judgment on all the diverse and complex pastoral aspects of such a new dogmatic declaration, and am sure that it would arouse much oppositition. Although I am convinced, however, that such a dogma could easily constitute a stumbling block for some potential converts and might give rise to new misunderstandings and criticisms of the Catholic Church by some Protestants, I have nevertheless come to share with many other members of the Vox Populi Mariae Mediatrici movement their deep estimation of the beauty and objective desirability of the “completion” of the four existing Marian dogmas of th Church through such a fifth Marian dogma which apart from its positive ecumenical aspects, would have a very unique and personalistic meaning which I shall seek to explain in the following.       

Besides explaining the mentioned points further and be:sides indicating some of the specifically religious and Scriptural reasons for such a dogma (which were much better explained than I am able or competent to do by a numbe of theologians), [10] I would like to add to the discussion of this dogma, both as philosopher and as Catholic, some reasons which seem to me to speak in favor of such a new Marian dogma and not all of which might have been pointed out by others.

1) Mary as Coredemptrix is a Logical and Necessary Consequence of the Biblical and Catholic Teaching on The Necessity of Free Cooperation with Grace

It is clear that few teachings distinguish Catholicism more from various Protestant confessions than the Catholic Church’s insistence on the letter of St. James and on many other biblical texts according to which not faith alone (sola fides) and not grace alone (sola gratia) but only a faith formed by love, a fidesi caritate formata and free works suffice for our justification. In a word, the need for our free cooperation with grace as a necessary condition of our salvation is a central content of the Catholic faith.[11] With Saint Augustine, the Church believes: “Qui creavit te sine te, non justificat te sine te” (He who created you without you, does not justify you without you).

In the light of this teaching, it follows as a necessary logical consequence that Mary, too, had to cooperate freely with grace, and hence also with the singular grace given to her of becoming the mother of God. Her answer to the Angel Gabriel was, according to the Bible and as logical consequence of the dogmas regarding justification, clearly free and requested by God in order to make her the mother of God. A dogma on Mary’s coredemptive role would thus flow necessarily from the preceding dogmas on the need for free cooperation with grace and at the same time confirm solemnly and anew the classical Catholic teaching on justification.

In the light of clear Catholic teaching, a dogma on Mary’s coredemptive role would only confirm the perennial Catholic teaching on justification according to which personal freedom is indispensable and according to which there is the necessity of man’s free cooperation with divine grace. Nevertheless, the role of Mary’s free cooperation with grace, which is not restricted to her first free fiat but encompasses her whole life, since her freedom from all personal sin (which is part of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception at least by extension) also encompasses her free cooperation throughout her life, differs in its sublimity and in its effect from that of all other creatures. [12] This free cooperation, which possesses a unique coredemptive significance, culminates in Mary’s co-passion and co-crucifixion on Calvary, where she lived through her Son’s passion by participating in it, as Simeon had prophesied.[13] For she had not only to cooperate with her own justification and with that of others but also with the Redemption of the whole world. And this unique free cooperation with Redemption (which follows from her unique role as Mother of God and from the universal need for free cooperation with grace) distinguishes Mary’s co-redemptive role from a more general free cooperative role demanded from all of us. Besides, Mary’s coredemptive role is also far more significant than a similar role of Christ’s ancestors and the patriarchs. Therefore, the dogma on Mary as Coredemptrix would also emphasize a uniquely active effect (although only possible through supernatural grace) and a truly creative aspect of Mary’s free action,[14] of her free fiat (in union with, and radical creaturely subordination to Christ’s redemptive act). The active and uniquely co-redemptive character of her free fiat goes far beyond the free acceptance of grace called for from all other Christians as well

2) God’s Infallible Declaration of the Dogma of Coredemption: The Firm Biblical Foundations of the Proposed Dogma of Mary as Coredemptrix, the Unique Role of the Jews and that of Mary (Women) for Our Salvation

We see now why the proposed new dogma follows logically from Catholic teaching on justification. But does it also correspond to the Bible?

There are quite a few texts from Scripture which can be cited in direct support of Mary’s role of Coredemptrix.[15] In fact, the Gospel clearly speaks of the respect for human freedom when the angel of God waits for her response to his announcements, answers her questions, and awaits her free fiat before leaving her.[16]

The Old Testament describes her coredemptive role possibly even more strongly by saying that God will put enmity between the devil (the serpent) and the woman, even before attributing to her seed (Christ) the “crushing the head of the serpent,” and possibly even by attributing to Mary herself this act of crushing Satan’s head, an assertion that would imply even a more direct biblical statement of her mediating an4~ coredemptive role.[17]

Thus there are clear biblical references to Mary’s coredemptive role, but I think that the clearest and most direct biblical proof of the truth of this proposed dogma comes from the Old Testament when it does not speak of Mary herself but allows us to extrapolate what is said about another person and to apply it to Mary to whom it must be addressed far more perfectly. If Coredemption is taken in a wider sense, it clearly can be attributed also to other persons besides Mary. And even in this weaker sense the proposed dogma (which in reference to Mary finds a much stronger justification) finds a splendid and extremely strong biblical confirmation. In fact, it is in his words to Abraham that God himself declares Abraham’s coredemptive role as a partial cause of Redemption, saying directly, and in the strongest possible words, that because Abraham did not spare his son, his only Son, also God will bless all nations in him, a promise God fulfilled when he sent his own only-begotten Son, whom he did not spare from death, as he had spared Isaac, in order that his own and only-begotten Son redeem the world. Consider these incredible words of God to Abraham after he had prevented the sacrifice of Isaac which he had first demanded:

"By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: [17] That in blessing I will bless thee, and ... in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.”[18]

By saying, and repeating, the immense thing that God's own redemptive act of blessing all nations through Abraham's offipring was done because of Abraham act, God himself clearly attributes a coredemptive role to Abraham to whose free sacrificial act God responds by redeeming us. [19] Thus God himself can be said to have declared and defined unambiguously in the Bible the coredemptive role of free human acts as causes of Redemption. The Church, in declaring solemnly Mary as Coredemptrix, would hence only confirm the divine declaration of this truth and apply to Mary in a singular what God himself has pronounced quite clearly of Abraham that because of Mary’s (co-redemptive) free fiat the whole world was redeemed. Because Mary spoke her “behold, I am the handmade of the Lord,” and did not withhold her will, or her womb, her whole being, nor her only son, from God and his loving plan, all of us have been redeemed. In this true and yet utterly mysterious dependence of God’s redemptive act on Mary's free human decision the whole unspeakable dignity and mission of the human person emerges clearly before our minds. [20]

The dogma of Mary as Coredemptrix, if declared, would also emphasize a universal role and mission of all human beings who cooperate with God’s grace and thereby with the completion of the redemptive work of Christ.

This dogma would also especially emphasize the co-redemptive role of the Jews which these share to some extent with Mary, as the chosen people of God.There is a specific Christian reason why the Jews are the nation among all other nations: God has sent his Son to all of mankind—but he did this not through the exclusive action of his own merciful and omnipotent will, but also in demanding and presupposing the free cooperation of certain human persons, a free cooperation to which he calls each human being but quite uniquely those without whose free cooperation the Incarnation and Redemption of the world would not have taken place. And this free cooperation can even be regarded as a mediation of salvation through human freedom. And precisely this mediation— though it concerns in a wider sense all human persons—must be primarily attributed to the Jews, mostly to the Jewish virgin mother of God, Mary, who mediated our salvation through her free fiat and thus became Coredemptrix.

Yet the unique mediating role of Mary, as mother of all graces, also applies in a wider sense to all those Jews from Noah and Abraham on to Mary, who played some mediating role for our Redemption, especially to Abraham, whose coredemptive role God himself asserts most directly and most touchingly. Thus the salvation of the entire mankind—while being the undeserved and free fruit of the redemptive will and graceful deed of God—depended not only on Mary’s free fiat but also on the free acceptance of God by many other great Jewish patriarchs and ancestors of Christ. In this sense, all of those Jews who participated in the mystery of the Incarnation of God could receive the title—though on a far more limited level—given by the Church to Mary: As she is co-redeemer (Coredemptrix), the Jews who, like Abraham, cooperated with God’s will, are co-redeemers as well. Thus the pronouncement of this dogma would also emphasize, in Mary, the unique role of the Jews and most properly of a Jewish woman, the virgin-mother of God, in bringing humanity salvation—not only as an object of divine love or as passive vessel of his grace, but also as free and cooperating agents.

3)   Mary as Coredemptrix would be the most Explicitly Personalistic Dogma about Mary and Therefore Very Timely

A dogma that declares Mary Coredemptrix would give a unique witness to the full freedom of the human person, as we have seen, and to God’s respect for human freedom. This dogma would recognize in an ultimate way that a free decision of the human person of Mary, who was not even to become the Mother of God without her free fiat—a decision which was not exclusively caused by divine grace but was also the fruit of her own personal choice—was necessary for our salvation, or played at least an indispensable part in the concrete way of our Redemption chosen by God.

In our age, in which a personalistic philosophy was developed more deeply than ever before in the history of mankind, and in which at the same time terrible anti—personalistic ideologies reign, such a dogma would rightfully be perceived as a supreme confirmation of the dignity of human freedom.

In all of this I would see a crucial value and significance of this dogma being proclaimed in our century in which both a new awareness of personal dignity arose and in which the person has also been more humiliated in action and denied in theory (also in many pseudo-personalistic and situation ethical theories) than ever before.

4)   Mary as Coredemptrix as a Marian Dogma Which Implies a Truth Universally True for All Christians

Yet at the same time, the dogma on Mary’s coredemptive role would not concern only a unique prerogative of Mary (such as her Immaculate Conception, i.e., her freedom from any stain of original sin through a singular anticipatory effect of Christ’s redemptive act), but a quality which analogously Christians and truly religious persons share with Mary to smaller extent: to take an active part in the redemptive event and in the dispensation of the grace of Redemption.This applies to the pope, the bishops, every priest and religious, and to all of us. And no creature took a more active and a more sublime part in this redemptive work of Christ than a woman and mother: Mary!

5)   Mary as Coredemptrix - a Victory for Authentic Catholic Feminism and a Timely Response to Wrong Forms of Feminism

Such a dogma would also seem to be most opportune today as an expression of “Catholic feminism” or better as a Catholic response to feminist theology. For this dogma would not only, as previous Marian dogmas, show that our Lady—as a woman—was raised by God in dignity above all created men and angels and is second only to Christ who is “God-made-man” himself. For this fact is sufficiently shown through the four existing Marian dogmas. This new dogma of Mary’s role as Coredemptrix—even more than the declaration of Mary as Mother of God—would also express the truth of a uniquely active and effective participating role of Mary in the mystery of Redemption. It would counteract the idea that human beings in general, and particularly that women are mere passive vessels of divine grace and that the Virgin Mary was made Mother of God, freed from all sin, and extolled above all creatures, solely by the grace and election of God, without any great need for her own free choice. Now, the need for Mary’s own free choice for our salvation is only implied but not explicitly stated in any of the previous Marian dogmas. This new declaration of the traditional doctrine would therefore show anew a perpetual truth about Mary and about woman, a truth which was always held by the Church but never yet clearly and indubitably stated: the greatest deed of God’s gracious love—the Redemption of mankind and our salvation—is in some real sense also the consequence of a free act of a woman and thus also the gift of a woman to humanity. And while the fact of a co-redemptive role is in some general sense true for all of our free participation in the dispensation of the grace of God among the members of the Church, it is still true in a uniquely excellent sense only of Mary and thus only of a woman.

The grandeur of this teaching that a woman was not only mother of God and a vessel of God’s gracious choice but that through her own free and unforced fiat and her deeds (which involved also her freely accepted sacrifice of her only son, as in Abraham) she became—an admittedly purely humanco-cause of our salvation, would be the greatest possible witness to the dignity of woman and thus complement the Marian dogmas and the Apostolic Letter, On the Dignity of Woman. Indeed, the most radical feminist dreams about women’s dignity and their equality to men, or even the call to recognize a superior status for women in comparison to men (with the exception of Christ) in the Church, could not even approach the dignity of a woman expressed in this new dogma. This dogma would express a dignity of a woman’s action which exceeds in activeness, sublimity and effectiveness the deeds of all pure creatures and men: of all kings and politicians, thinkers, scientists, philosophers, artists and craftsmen from the beginning of the world to the end of doom, and in a certain manner even of all priests except Christ. For all other priestly actions render only present Christ’s redemptive grace and action but Mary’s act rendered our Redemption itse!f possible and thus mediated for mankind the most high gift of our divine Savior himself.

It follows undoubtedly from all of these evidences that Mary, more perfectly than Abraham, whose action God himself declared to be co-causes of Redemption, must be confessed to be Coredemptrix of all of us.

6) The Timeliness of a Dogma on Mary as Coredemptrix as a Formulation of the Dignity of Women and of the Unique Way in Which Mary as Woman Participated in the General Priesthood Bestowed Upon all Christians in Baptism

This dogma would then also complement in an important manner the irreversible verdict of the Catholic Church against ordained priestesses.This “No” of the Church to women priests has to be seen in light of the fact that the special representation of Christ through the priest, who offers the sacrifice of the Mass, thereby renewing in an unbloody manner Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, was reserved by the will of God to men alone. But the proposed dogma of Mary as Coredemptrix would give a magnificent defense both of the general priesthood of all Christians and of a uniquely sublime “feminine priesthood of Mary” (and of other mothers and women in a less perfect form).[21] We have to remind ourselves: Every Christian, all men and all women, receive in baptism the general priesthood, together with the kingly and prophetic dignity and vocation. The universal priestly vocation of every Christian alone explains the role of the spouses who dispense to each other the grace of the sacrament of matrimony, and above all their intimate sharing in the sacrifice of the Mass and in the offering of the body and blood of Christ to God, in union with the priest. The proposed dogma would underline the universal priesthood of all Christians, and at the same time a unique modification of the universal priesthood in the specifically feminine priesthood of Mary. Saying this, I do not even in the least throw doubt on the Church’s irreversible rule that women are, according to God’s will, excluded from holy orders. This fact, which may have, besides God’s free decree, a metaphysical reason in the nature of masculinity, as well as the only apparently conflicting fact of a unique dimension of the similitude of women with the most intimate attributes of God, his divine mercy and charity, can only be explained in terms of a metaphysics of femininity (and masculinity) which I cannot present here in depth.[22] But this teaching of the Church does not exclude a special feminine modification of the universal priesthood in Mary. The special priestly role of Mary even exceeds in a true sense all priestly roles of men, because no man besides the God-Man, and no priest besides Christ, can be called mediator of all graces. Only Mary can be called Mediatrix omnium gratiarum. [23] And no created man, only a woman and mother, namely Mary, was able to fulfill this most sublime and specfically feminine, though general priesthood of mediating all graces. In a certain way Mary mediates also all graces we receive through priests and the very existence and grace of priesthood itself. Hence the proposed new dogma would express a true character of Mary as a unique Mediatrix of grace and thus constitute an important complementary truth to the Church’s insistence on the impossibility of, women receiving the holy orders and that special ordained priesthood which Christ has reserved for men alone. At least if one of the essential elements of priesthood is a “mediation” between God and man and a “mediation of grace,” Mary would by this dogma also be declared to be the most sublime Mediatrix of God who draws upon us through her free act divine graces and the salvation itself of all mankind. Her action does not only render present Christ’s sacrifice and grace after his redemptive deed, as the priest's but in a certain way, through her antecedent fiat, rendered possible the redemptive deed of God himself [24] And something analogous is true for any mother who can mediate, in a certain sense, all graces for her children and can thus also become co-cause of all their temporal and eternal goods, including their Redemption.

The freely chosen dependence of the divine redemptive action on Mary’s fiat is just the most sublime manifestation of a more universal phenomenon which elucidates the essence and dignity of persons. God often binds, for example in human procreation, in the priestly acts of celebrating the Mass, and even in the Redemption itself, his divine activity to human freedom.

7)   On the Ethical and Bioethical Significance of the Proposed New Marian Dogma: Mary as Coredemptrix and Church Teaching on the Transmission of Human Life

A new dogma of Mary as Coredemptrix would also throw new light on the role of the family in the Church and on the metaphysical and theological sides of procreation. For, analogously to Mary’s coredemptive deed, human procreation is primarily a service to, and a cooperation with, an essentially divine act of creation through which alone a human soul and the person of the embryo can be created from nothingness. And yet, in the order of nature and of creation (in spite of the fact that “God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham,” as Saint John the Baptist says) [25] the divine creation of human persons is mediated by free human action and co­operation. This constitutes one of the chief reasons for the immorality of contraception. [26] In this respect, the pronouncing of the new dogma of Mary as Coredemptrix through our Pope would constitute a beautiful continuation of the present Pope’s special mission of expounding the inner reasons and metaphysical foundations of the Church teaching on the transmission of human life, which is in a sense a co-creation——a ministry to, and co-cause of, divine creation. In a supernatural but truly analogous way, Mary’s fiat and whole life and spiritual passion under the Cross is a service to, and a co-cause of, our Redemption.

In fact, the New Covenant theology could elucidate the connection which exists here between Mary’s union with God and the human couple and the family’s union with God. For, also in the creation of each new human person God respects human freedom and allows free human acts of parents to become co-cause of the creation from nothing of their children. In a similar way, the free act of Mary became the co-cause of our Redemption. At the same time, as the parents can in no way themselves create a new human soul but only God, so Mary cannot redeem the world, but only Christ. And therefore the new proposed dogma would in no way efface the abyss of distinction between God and the created person of Mary nor would Mary’s part in Redemption resemble, let alone equal, God’s redemptive act.

8)    Mary as Coredemptrix and the Completion of the Four Marian Dogmas

This dogma would also throw new light on the other Marian dogmas and in particular better explain the dogma of the Immaculate Conception and the reason why the Coredemptrix was, due to a unique privilege of God, preserved from all stain of original and personal sin. For this appears most fitting for her role of mediating salvation as second Eve. The same is true of her bodily assumption into heaven which befits the dignity of her, who was not only a vessel of God’s grace, but through her free cooperation Coredemptrix. Even the first and foremost Marian dogma, that she is truly the Mother of God, receives a new meaning when one contemplates this active cooperative role she played for our salvation and Redemption and which was required for her becoming the mother of God. The new dogma, as culmination of the preceding Marian dogmas, would complement and complete them by explaining why we do not only adore and worship God who has created and used Mary as singular vessel of his grace, but why we also venerate (and of course never adore) Mary herself as the Mother of God which she did become through the grace of God, but not without herself, not without her free and heroic participation from the belief in the angel’s word and from the conception of Jesus and the acceptance of Simeon’s prophecies on until Calvary.

9)    Cautions to be Strictly Observed in Any Dogmatic Formulation of Mary as Coredemptrix

It is clear that any dogma on Mary as Coredemptrix would have to exclude absolutely any blurring of the distinction between Christ’s redemptive deed and Mary’s purely human way of participating in Redemption and of becomin Coredemptrix. Mary on her own is no more able to redeem the world as parents are to create their child’s soul from nothing. In this sense, Mary is not Coredemptrix and can never be our redeemer. Nevertheless and at the same time, such a dogrna also should emphasize the unique character of the link betweer the God-man’s redemptive act and Marys freedom in becoming a co-cause of Redemption—in union with, and through the force of, Christ’s Redemption. Certainly, as mentioned above, also the free acts of the ancestors of Christ, especially the faith and sacrifice of Abraham, became in a more remote way “co-redemptive” acts, foreshadowing the unique mode of direct participation in the divine cause of Redemption entrusted to Mary.

It would seem to me particularly fitting that our dearly beloved and so deeply Marian present Holy Father, who, like no other pope, has unfolded a vision of the dignity of each human person and has entrusted the entire human race so often to Mary, could, in the act of declaring this dogma, complete his action of dedicating the entire humanity to the intercession of Mary, to our Mother and to the great Advocate of the whole Church before God, to Mary, who is also the Mediatrix of all the graces of which our fallen world, our famine - and war-ridden and sinful human race today is in such desperate need and which alone could pull mankind out of the abysses of our sins and sufferings, which again cannot happen without our free cooperation.

Wishing the Holy Father God’s holy strength and light to see whether or not it is God’s will to announce solemnly to the world those great truths about Mary, and through announcing them about her, announcing also more fully the truth about the human person as such, I conclude my remarks by entrusting this great cause to the incomprehensible and infinite wisdom and love of Christ and to the wisdom and love of Mary, the Mother of God, our heavenly Coredemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate.


1. Paper delivered on June 1. 1996. held at the Domus Mariae in Rome. Italy at the Vox Populi Mariae Mediatrici Leaders Conference.

2. As well as Advocate for the People of God in the domain of Marian Mediation..

3. See on this the Pauline text on the one mediator 1 Tim 2:5-6: (5) For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; (6) Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.(7) See also 1 Cor 1:30; Eph 1:7; 1, 17; Col 1:14, and many other texts.

4. Though ot course the true divinity of Christ was and still is often denied by heresies (such as the Arian heresy), by a considerable number of contemporary theologians and by other religions such as Jehovah’s Witnesses.

5. Which are denied by many moral theologians today who reject many central parts of the moral teachings of the Church. See the encyclical of Pope John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, ch. 2.

6. Some have suggested that the negation of the “bodily” or “biological virginity” of Mary widespread among contemporary theologians (analogous to the way in which some theologians affirm the “spiritual event of the resurrection” while denying the “bodily resurrection” of Christ) constitutes today an issue of extremely relevant significance. They believe that the actual theological debate with enormously negative pastoral effects would make it even more desirable to reiterate at this time the perpetual bodily (physical) and spiritual virginity of Mary a dogma. Those who believe this hold that to react to this powerful heresy (a heresy which attacks the foundations of our faith) by declaring a definition of the “bodily virginity” of Mary more important today than defining her role as Coredemptrix. I fully endorse the suggestion that this doctrine should be solemnly reiterated. Yet, given the already existing firm doctrinal teaching of the Church on Marys perpetual virginity, it might be sufficient to include in a new dogmatic declaration on Mary as Coredemptrix an explicit reference to her “perpetual physical and spiritual virginity.”

7. lncidentally, not all dogmas were declared for this important reason. For example, Mary’s bodily assumption into heaven does not seem to have been necessary for putting an end to a hot theological debate or disagreement among the faiththl but was inspired simply by the wish to hold out to the faithful a beautiful truth that inspired their spiritual lives.

8. Great personalist philosophies were developed by Max Scheler, Gabriel Marcel, Karol Wojtyìa, Tadeusz Styczei, Dietrich von Hilebrand, and many others. See for example Max Scheler, Formalism in Ethics and Non-Formal Ethics of Values, transl. Manfred S. Frings and Roger L. Funk (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1973); Karol Wojtyìa, The Acting Person (Boston: Reidel, 1979); *cf. also the corrected text, authorized by the author (unpublished), Library of the International Academy of Philosophy in the Principality Liechtenstein, Schaan; see also Dietrich von Hildebrand, Ethics, 2nd edn (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1978); the same author, Metaphysik der Gemeinschaft. Untersuchungen über Wesen und Wert der Gemsinschaft, 3., vom Verf. durchgesehene Aufl., Dietrich von Hildebrand, Gesammelte Werke IV (Regensburg: J. Habbel, 1975): or my Essere e person. Verso una fondazione fenomenologica di una metaflsica classica e personalistica. (Milano: Vita e Pensiero, 1989).

9. On the ecumenical significance of this teaching in the dialogue with the Eastern Church see also Michael O’Carroll, “Mary Coredernptress,Mediatress, Advocate: Instrument of Catholic-Orthodox Unity," in Mark I Miravalle (Ed.), Mary: Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate. Theological Foundations towards a Papal Definition? (Santa Barbara: Queenship Publishing, 1995), pp. 119 ff.

10. Among them such renowned scholars and thinkers as Bertrand de Margerie and Ignace de la Potterie. See Mark I. Miravalle, (Ed.), Mary: Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate. Theological Foundations towards a Papal Definition? (Santa Barbara: Queenship Publishing, 1995).

11. The central significance of this teaching for the entire harmonious edifice of Catholic teaching was emphasized J.A. Möhler in his classical work Symbolik oder Darstellung der dogmatiscen Gegensätze der Katholiken und Protestanten nach ihren öffentlichen Bekenntnisschriften (1835), herausgegeben, eingeleitet und J R, Geiselmann (Köln und Olten: I. Hegner. 1960); recently by Scott and Kimberly Hahn in their conversion story, Rome, Sweet Home (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993).

12. This beautiful thought I owe to my wife Mary Katherine who pointed out me that the dogma of Mary as Immaculate Conception, at least by extension, also includes the fact that she was free from all personal sin, not only from the stain of original sin.And since she was undoubtedly tempted, and her freedom from personal sin consequently also was a result not only of God’s grace but also of her own free acts, her free cooperation enveloped her whole life of free commitment to God, and if God became man only in a sinless mother, all of Mary’s free acts became part of Mary’s cooperative and coredemptive role.

13. See the extraordinarily beautiful texts on this aspect of Mary’s coredemptive role in Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, St. Bonaventure, Saint Albert the Great, John Tauler, as well as in a beautiful Marian hymn from an old liturgical book found in St. Peter’s in Salzburg, and in some Vatican II texts in Mark I. Miravalle, Mary: Comedemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate, Queenship Publishing, Santa Barbara, CA, 1993, pp. 13ff. On Papal documents, see ibid., pp. 12-24. See also the exposition of the magnificent discussion of the theme of the Coredemptrix by the Fathers in Bertrand de Margerie, “Mary Comedemptrix in the Light of Patristics,” in: Mark I. Miravalle, (Ed.), Mary: Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate.Theological Foundations towards a Papal Definition? (Santa Barbara: Queenship Publishing, 1995), pp. 3-44.

14. For a philosophy of the creative and self-creative dimension of freedom see Karol Wojtyìa, The Acting Person (Boston: Reidel, 1979). cf. also the corrected text, authorized by the author (unpublished), Library of the International Academy of Philosophy in the Principality Liechtenstein, Schaan.

15.  The most important ones are: Gen. 3:15: (14) And Jehovah God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, cursed art thou above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: (15) and I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. Isaiah 7:14: (14) Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: behold,a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Luke 1:38; Luke 2: 25-37: (34) and Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the falling and the rising of many in Israel; and for a sign which is spoken against; (35) yea and a sword shall pierce through thine own soul; that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed. John 19:25-28; 30: (25) Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. (26) When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! (27) Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home. (28) After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. (29) Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth. (30) When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost. Apoc. 12. See also William G. Most, “Mary Coredemptrix in Scripture: Cooperation in Redemption,” in: Mark I. Miravalle, (Ed.), Mary: Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate. Theological Foundations: Towards a Papal Definition? (Santa Barbara: Queenship Publishing, 1995), pp. 147-171, and other contributions, ibid., pp. 147 ff., especially Ignace de la Potterie, "The Mediation of the Mother of Jesus at the Incarnation: An Exegetical Study,” pp. 173-190; cf. Stephano Manelli, “Mary Coredemptrix In Sacred Scripture,” as found in this anthology.

16. Luke 1: 26 ff (26) Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, (27) to a virgin betrothed to man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. (28) And he came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee. (29) But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this might be. (30) And th angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God. (31) And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shall call his name Jesus. (32) He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: (33) and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. (34) And Mary said unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? (35) And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee: wherefore also the holy thing which is begotten shall be called the Son of God. (36) And behold, Elisabeth thy kinswoman, she also hath conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her that was called barren. (37) For no word from God shall be void of power. (38) And Mary said, Behold, the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

17. Gen. 3:15. In the King James Version the much disputed pronoun reads as ‘it' (referring to seed): (15) And I will put enmity between thee and the woman and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. In the American Standard Translation of 1901, and in most modern German translations, it is translated as ‘he’ (Christ). Saint Jerome translates it instead as ‘she’ referring it to the woman (Mary). According to the Scripture scholar Stefano Manelli, who defends this translation, Saint Jerome might have known other sources which made this translation more plausible.

18. Emphasis mine. Compare the full text: (11) And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. (12) And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. (13) And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. l4AndAbraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen. (15) And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, (16) And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: (17) That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; (18) And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.

19. Therefore also, considered in terms of their dependence on the Jews, the Christians are only the younger brothers and heirs of the Jews, as the documents on ecumenism and the Jews of Vatican Council II and later papal documents emphasized. Dietrich von Hildebrand calls Israel for the explained reasons already in 1937 the Menschheitsvolk, the nation of and for all humanity. See Dietrich von Hildebrand, Die Juden und dos christliche Abendland, in: Die Erfüllung.Wien. 3. Jg. 1937. Nr. 1/2. S. 9-32; see also Dietrich von Hildebrand, Memoiren und Aufsätze gegen den Nationalsozialismus 1933-1938. Veröffentlichungen der Kommission für Zeitgeschichte, mit Alice von Hildebrand und Rudolf Ebneth hrsg. v. Ernst Wenisch (Mainz: Matthias Gründewald Verlag, 1994).

20. On an expansion of the idea of Coredemptrix to other Christians according to Saint Ambrose, Saint Augustine, and other Fathers see B. de Margerie, ibid., I pp.5 ff., pp.37 ff.

21. This special motherly cooperation was brought out beautifully in
Redemptoris Mater of Pope John Paul II. See on this also Michael O’Carroll, cit., pp. 129 ff. Cardinal Mindszenty has said in his Memoirs that in a sense the priesthood and role of mothers, from whom Christ and all priests come, exceeds that of all other human persons. And a Swiss priest in a sermon held in Rankweil, Austria, recently said the same thing in even stronger terms, reporting on the heroic life of faith of his great great grand mother.

22. For a short exposition of some elements of such a metaphysics of genders, Josef Seifert, “Zur Verteidigung der Würde der Frau. Femimsmus und die Stellung der Frau in Kirche und Gesellschaft: Philosophische und christliche Aspekte” in Wissenschaft und Glaube. Vierteljahresschrift der Wiener Katholischen Akademie, 2-3; “Defender ala mujer” El Mercurio 9. May 1993. Artes y Letras, pp. E 1, 10, y E 11 ;“Defender a la mujer del feminismo. Reflexiones sobre su dignidad y su perversión,” Atlántida, Enero/Marzo (1993), 17-27.

23.This term must be understood of all graces received through Christ.

24. In another respect it remains true that even Mary does not possess the dignity of the ordained priest and the dignity of holy orders which permit the priest to represent Christ on the altar.

25. See Matt 3:9 and Luke 3:8: (9 )and think not to say within yourselves,We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. (10) (8 )Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves,We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.

26. See my articles in different languages: Josef Seifert, “The Problem of the Moral Significance of Human Fertility and Birth Control Methods. Philosophical Arguments against Contraception?” in Humanae Vitae: 20 Anni Dopo, Acts of Second International Congress of Moral Theology Rome, 1988,, pp. 661-672 “The Moral Distinction between Natural and Artificial Birth Control” in The Torch of Truth, The Contemporary Catholic Renaissance (1985); “Der sittliche Unterschied zwischen Empfängnisregelung und Kontrazeption”, in Menschenwürd4 und Elternschaft (Hg. Ernst Wenisch), (Valendar: Veritas-Verlag, 1983); “Il Dono dell’ Amore e Il Dono di Una Nuova Vita. Verso una visione più personalisti dell’ Matrimonio. Humanae Vitae - Familiaris Consortio. 1968-1988”, in: Per una transmissione responsabile della vita umana, a cura di Anna Cappelia. IVo Congresso internazionale per la famiglia d’Africa e d’Europa (Rom: Università, dell Sacro Cuore, 1989); “Problem moralnego zcaczenia ludzkiej plodnosci i metod kontroli pocze’c”, transl. J. Merecki SDS and P. Mikuiska, in: Bp Majda’nski/T.Styczen, Dar ludzkiego Zycia Humanae Vitae Donum. W swudziesta rocznice ogloszenia encykliki Humanae Vitae (Lublin: KUL-Verlag, 1991), 247-259.

The above paper first appeared in Mark I. Miravalle, S.T.D., (ed.), Mary Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate, Theological Foundations II: Papal, Pneumatological, Ecumenical (Goleta, CA: Queenship Publishing Company, 1997)

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