What Does It Mean to say the Mother of God is Co-Redemptrix?
This article, written by Mark Miravalle* and Robert Fastiggi**, appeared in La Stampa Vatican Insider English Edition Newspaper on January 8, 2020. -Assistant Editor
The homily of Pope Francis for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12, 2019 has generated renewed interest and controversy over the Marian title of Co-redemptrix. The Holy Father’s homily was given in Spanish in a spontaneous ex tempore manner. In the homily, he made one reference to the title of co-redemptrix: “Faithful to her Master, who is her Son, the unique Redeemer, she never wanted to take anything away from her Son. She never introduced herself as ‘co-redemptrix.’ No. “disciple” (Fiel a su Maestro, que es su Hijo, el único Redentor, jamás quiso para sí tomar algo de su Hijo. Jamás se presentó como co-redentora. No, discípula.).
Pope Francis is completely accurate in stating that Mary never “introduced herself” as “co-redemptrix,” neither in the context of the Annunciation nor in the historical events at Guadalupe, the subject of his homily. This, though, does not in itself deny the doctrinal legitimacy of the co-redemptrix title when it is used with its proper meaning in referring to the unique participation of Mary in the historical Redemption accomplished by Jesus Christ, the only divine Redeemer.
The Holy Father is likewise entirely accurate when he states that “she never wanted to take away anything from her Son.” Fortunately, when Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Pius XI before him repeatedly used the title, “co-redemptrix” for Our Lady, they did not seek to take anything from Jesus and give it to Mary, but rather to identify Mary’s unique cooperation in the redemptive work accomplished by Christ.
The co-redemptrix title seeks to represent, in one term, the Church’s official doctrine of Mary’s unrivaled participation in the redemption accomplished by Jesus Christ, the sole Divine Redeemer. The official and undeniable Marian doctrine of the Church is repeatedly taught at the Second Vatican Council (Lumen gentium, 56, 57, 58, 61) and by the papal magisterium of the last three centuries.
The doctrine of Marian coredemption
The doctrine of Marian coredemption teaches that the Blessed Virgin, by the will of God, cooperated in a unique and singular manner in the work of redemption with and under her divine Son. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, God, in his omnipotence, could have redeemed the human race in many ways, but He chose to become man by being conceived and born of a woman. He saw this as the most fitting or appropriate means for redeeming the human race (Summa theologiae [ST] III q. 1 a. 2). Because God chose to redeem the human race by becoming man, He needed a Mother in order to assume a human nature and become like us in all things but sin (cf. Heb 4:15). The Church teaches that “God ineffable … from the beginning and before the ages, chose and ordained a mother for his only begotten Son, from whom he would become incarnate and be born in the blessed fullness of time” (Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus, Dec. 8, 1854; Denz.-H, 2800). The Blessed Virgin Mary, therefore, was “predestined from eternity by that decree of divine providence which determined the incarnation of the Word to be the Mother of God” (Lumen gentium [LG] 61). The Blessed Virgin was in this way “above all others and in a singular way the generous associate and humble handmaid of the Lord” (LG, 61).
The early Christian Church faithfully handed on Mary’s unique role in Redemption contained in Scripture and Apostolic Tradition. The post- apostolic Church of the 2nd centur