The proposal that the Holy Father may declare Mary Coredemptrix with Jesus has evoked many voices expressing concern. This is especially noticeable among those on both sides of the Tiber who are interested in furthering the Ecumenical impulse released by the Second Vatican Council.
The mildest, and most common, reaction is that such a declaration of Marian dogma would be “inopportune,” suggesting that damage would be done to the fragile ties that have been knitted with great effort during the last thirty years.
Far from being “inopportune,” such a declaration is precisely what the ecumenical movement needs at this time to bring it to completion.
To mute the voice of the Church on this issue is to buy into the idea, unconsciously, that the Church makesreality. This is a common error in the secular media who eagerly report petitions to declare such-and-such a “saint”; as if the status of sainthood is something that one achieves by a declaration of the Sovereign Pontiff in much the same way as one becomes a Knight of St. Gregory. It is also the error that feminists make in attacking the Pope for not allowing female priests, suggesting that another Pope may do so; this in spite of the fact that the Pope has declared that the Church does not have the power to ordain a woman.
This error is understandable since our culture believes that reality is subjective; that if I can wish hard enough I can make anything come true. Note how easily our leaders can pretend that there is no child in the womb of a pregnant women.
However the Church does not create reality, it is only the proclaimer of reality. The Church can only declare a person a “saint” if he is indeed among the blessed in heaven. Similarly, the proclamation of the Marian dogma of the Coredemptrix would not make Mary Coredemptrix but only express a reality that already exists. Thus the question really is: is Mary of Nazareth indeed Coredemptrix with Jesus in the work of salvation?
To mute or equivocate on this point, if indeed she really has that status, would not only be wrong, but also be a disaster for the ecumenical movement since it would lead to an irenecism based on false premises.
Of course although it is up to the Holy Father to interpret the Divine Realities for us, I would hold that she is indeed Coredemptrix with Christ, and that the theological reasons are so compelling that they would dispel the miasma that surrounds and impedes our efforts at union.
Mary’s sufferings at Calvary certainly were of a degree and level unmatched by any human. She has always been without sin and thus has none of the devices that we have developed to protect ourselves from serious pain. She was completely open in her love for Jesus and so she felt the pain of watching helplessly while her Son died a terrible death with an intensity we cannot equal. However, the intensity of her sufferings is not the fundamental reason why she can be called Coredemptrix.
The reason why is deeply imbedded in the reality of what the Church is. This foundational point is critical because a confusion of ecclesiologies is the major intellectual impediment to the reunion of the fragments of Christianity. The definition of this dogma would give the Holy Father the occasion to explain to the world the Church’s understanding of itself. This would remove the uncertainty in the hearts of our separated Brethren who are not sure exactly with what they are being asked to reunite!