Six cardinals and bishops from the five continents have authored a respectful open letter to Pope Francis (see www.openletterformary.com) which requests the Holy Father to consider solemnly defining the unique human role of Mary in the Redemption accomplished by Jesus Christ.
The cardinals and bishops state that they are making this public appeal to Peter’s Successor in light of "so much suffering" in the world, coupled with their grave concern that there is "more to come." The prelates maintain that the papal proclamation of a "dogma" regarding Mary's Spiritual Motherhood will lead her to "fully exercise her maternal mediation on our behalf." The episcopal signatories believe a new Marian dogma will bring forth a new historical outpouring of grace: “We are convinced that the Father awaits his church to specifically and dogmatically honor [Mary’s] co-redemptive role with Jesus, for which he will respond with a historic new outpouring of his Holy Spirit."
The cardinals and bishops conclude: "Our Lord gave Peter the keys of the kingdom. We ask you, dear Holy Father, to use them now, in these dramatic times, and with your powerful word, in the fullness of your office as Successor of Peter, to proclaim the great role that the Virgin Mary played in God’s plan of Redemption. Surely, it will release great graces for today!"
The unparalleled role of the Mother of Jesus in the saving work of Jesus Christ 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.
If Mary’s unique role in the Redemption is already an official doctrine of the Church, what then would be the benefit of the Holy Father declaring it as a new dogma?
Here are 7 foundational reasons why the contemporary Church and world would profoundly benefit from a solemn definition of Mary as the Spiritual Mother of all peoples (inclusive of her three maternal roles as Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate).
1. Releasing historic graces for the Church and the world: Fully Activating Mary’s Motherly Intercession
During the horrors of World War I, the renowned Belgian Cardinal Desìre Mercier initiated a petition drive to Pope Benedict XV for the dogmatic definition of Mary’s universal mediation. What was Mercier’s rationale for a new Marian dogma? He argued that a solemn declaration of Mary’s roles of intercession would lead to “great graces for the world,” especially the grace of world peace. By 1918, hundreds of cardinals and bishops and hundreds of thousands of clergy and faithful sent petitions to the Holy Father in support of the Marian proclamation.
By the early 1920’s, St. Maximilian Kolbe joined his strong support to his international Army of the Immaculate. Theological support for the Marian doctrines of Co-redemptrix and Mediatrix of all graces the dominated the Mariology of the 1940’s and 1950’s. Although Pope St. John XXIII made it clear from the offset of the Second Vatican Council that it would not be a council defining new dogmas but rather a pastoral council, the doctrines of Marian coredemption, mediation, and advocacy are, once again, explicitly and repeatedly taught (Lumen Gentium, 56, 57, 58, 61, 62).
Since 1993, over 8 million petitions from the People of God spanning some 180 countries have been sent to the Holy See in support of a fifth Marian dogma. Over 600 bishops and 70 cardinals have joined the People of God in their petition to the Holy See. These millions of faithful and hundreds of prelates generally share the same belief as the movement’s founder over a century ago: this papal proclamation of Mary’s universal spiritual motherhood will lead to a historic release of grace for the Church and for the world. The recent cardinal and bishop signatories in their open letter to Pope Francis voice precisely the same conviction.
The theological justification behind the expectation of historic graces though this new Marian dogma would be as follows: God the Father so respects human freedom that grace cannot be forced upon humanity. The free consent of humanity is required for Our Lady to most fully intercede on our behalf. The Holy Father, therefore, as Vicar of Christ on earth and supreme authority of the Church, must freely and solemnly acknowledge Mary’s unique human role in the Redemption and her consequent role as the world’s spiritual Mother in order for Our Lady to fully and most powerfully exercise her motherly roles of intercession for the world.
We see the same theological principle revealed in the biblical institution of the papacy. In Mt. 16:15-20, Jesus asks the apostles the question, “Who do they say that I am?” Jesus, of course, knew who He was, yet Jesus wanted to hear the truth freely proclaimed by Peter. Then and only then, upon the condition of free human consent, does Jesus institute the papacy, which as a result leads to all the historic graces that will flow to the Church and world through the papacy.
The millions of faithful presently petitioning Pope Francis believe that a similar phenomenon of a historic grace will flow upon the world once the Holy Father freely and solemnly proclaims Our Lady as the Spiritual Mother of all peoples: an act of free human consent by the Vicar of Christ which will lead to a new and monumental release of grace through Our Lady’s newly proclaimed roles of intercession.
2. The Completion of Marian Dogma: Declaring Mary’s Relationship with Humanity
Up to this point in history, the Catholic Church has proclaimed 4 “dogmas” or solemnly pronounced doctrines about the Mother of Jesus: the Motherhood of God, that is, that Mary is mother of God the Son made man in Jesus Christ (Council of Ephesus, 431); her Perpetual Virginity, which proclaims that Mary was virginal before, during, and after the birth of Jesus Christ (Lateran Council, 649); her Immaculate Conception, that Mary was conceived without original sin, (solemnly defined by Blessed Pope Pius IX in 1854); and her Assumption, which proclaims that Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven at the end of her earthly life (solemnly defined by Pope Pius XII in 1950).
These four dogmas, sublime in their articulation of Our Lady’s unique prerogatives, nonetheless say nothing explicitly about her relation to humanity. The solemn definition of this, Our Lady’s role as the Spiritual Mother of all Peoples, would solemnly proclaim her role as Spiritual Mother of the human family, and thereby effectively bring to dogmatic completion the “whole truth about Mary” (St. John Paul II).
How appropriate that during what many contemporaries believe to be the “climax” of the Age of Mary—an age which boasts of more Marian dogmas declared, more Marian apparitions approved, and more Marian popes than in any other single period of the Church’s history—that her role as our Spiritual Mother would likewise, be solemnly defined.
Authentic love of Mary must be based on authentic truth about Mary. The Rosary, Marian consecration, and the Scapular devotion are all theologically grounded upon the doctrine of Our Lady’s Spiritual Maternity. It is, therefore, appropriate to have a solemn definition of the Marian doctrine upon which the greatest contemporary manifestations of Marian devotion depend.
3. Declaring the Redemptive Value of Human Suffering: Mary Co-redemptrix and our Roles as “Co-redeemers”
A papal definition of Mary Co-redemptrix would manifest to the world the fundamental Christian truth that “suffering is redemptive.” This dogma would inherently highlight the redemptive value of human suffering, which, in an age faced with ubiquitous suffering both spiritual and physical in nature, could provide a quintessential pastoral message to the contemporary Church and world.
While Our Lady’s suffering with her Crucified Son was unparalleled in its depth and in its merit, all Christians are called by St. Paul to “make up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of his body, which is the Church (Col.1:24). Each of us within the Body of Christ has the privilege and responsibility to join the redemptive mission of Jesus and Mary, and by the patient enduring of our sufferings and spiritually uniting them to the sufferings of our Redeemer, can contribute to the mysterious release of graces for human salvation.