The following article by Dr. Mark Miravalle was originally published on the blog of David Armstrong, Catholic apologist, on January 15, 2020. -Assistant Editor.
In light of Pope Francis’ December 12, 2019 non-scripted, spontaneous comments concerning the traditional Marian title “co-redemptrix,” coupled later with a more vague inference to its proposed dogmatic definition (see National Catholic Register, Dec 23, 2019; La Stampa Vatican Insider, Jan. 8, 2020), a high-spirited worldwide discussion has ensued regarding the legitimacy of this Marian title, and the doctrine which it seeks to identify: namely, the unique human cooperation of the Mother of Jesus with and under Jesus Christ, humanity’s sole divine Redeemer, in the historic work of Redemption.
Most of the global discussion has focused upon the question of the authenticity of the classic Co-redemptrix title, which expresses in a single term the unique human role of Mary in the historic salvation of humanity accomplished by her divine son. What has not been discussed is the proposed rationale for a possible solemn definition or “dogma” of Mary’s role in the Redemption, along with her consequent motherly role as Spiritual Mother of humanity.
The unparalleled role of the Mother of Jesus in the saving work of Jesus Christ indeed already constitutes the authoritative doctrinal teaching of the Church’s Magisterium. The Second Vatican Council repeatedly teaches this unique coredemptive role of Mary with and under Jesus, and her consequent intercessory roles as Mediatrix and Advocate for humanity:
…the Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the cross, where she stood, in keeping with the divine plan, enduring with her only begotten Son the intensity of his suffering, associated herself with his sacrifice in her mother’s heart, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this Victim which she herself had brought forth (Lumen Gentium 58).
She conceived, brought forth and nourished Christ. She presented Him to the Father in the temple, and was united with Him by compassion as He died on the Cross. In this singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope and burning charity in the work of the Savior in giving back supernatural life to souls. Therefore, she is a mother to us in the order of grace (Lumen Gentium, 61).
St. John Paul II referred to Mary as the human “Co-redemptrix” with Jesus, the only divine Redeemer, on at least seven occasions. The great John Paul would further teach and preach the greatest quality and quantity of the theology regarding Marian coredemption in the history of the Church.
The prefix “co” comes from the Latin word, cum, which in its first denotation means “with” and not “equal.” The title “co-redemptrix” applied to the Mother of Jesus never places Mary on a level of equality with Jesus Christ, the world’s sole divine Redeemer. To place Mary on a divine level of equality with Jesus constitutes both Christian heresy and blasphemy!
The biblical and the liturgical sources also confirm that the prefix “co” does not predominantly mean equal. St. Paul refers to all Christians as “co-workers with God” (1 Cor. 3:9) but is not teaching that we are “equal workers” with God. The Liturgy refers to Christians as “co-heirs” with Jesus, but is certainly not signifying that we are “equal heirs” with Jesus. Pope St. John Paul II repeatedly called the Catholic faithful to be “co-redeemers in Christ” (e.g., May 8, 1988). Again, “co” signifies “with” and not equal, as it appropriately used biblically, liturgy, papally, and in the Marian title, “Co-redemptrix.”