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The Concept of Redemption and Co-redemptioin During the “Golden Age” of Spanish Mariology

I. Introduction

1.1 During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries strong controversy occurred over the nature and forms of redemption, and also over that of Marian co-redemption, principally in Spain where for many years lively disputes continued over the Immaculate Conception. The goal of these controversies was above all the definition and clarification of the concept of redemption, so as to explain adequately the meaning and content of the work of Jesus Christ, universal Redeemer.

Alongside this, there was an important secondary intention as well. On the one hand the theologians and mariologists sought to introduce into the clarification a concept and type of redemption which did not have sin in itself, either committed or contracted, as its proper object or matter, and thus to make that concept compatible with, and applicable to a person such as the Immaculate Virgin who had not been touched in any way by sin.

Further, these theologians aimed at perfecting a concept of redemption not absolutely exclusive to the Son of God, Savior and Redeemer of mankind, but which would admit a contribution, or collaboration on the part of the creature as well. The basis and the reason for so nuancing the concept of redemption was precisely to render it compatible with the teaching long since traditional in the Church since the time of St. Irenaeus, viz., with the efficacious collaboration of the Virgin Mary, the New Eve, in the redemption of men.

Under discussion here, is a characteristic feature of Catholic soteriology, about which there exist, in fact, considerable differences among theologians. Over and above this, Martin Luther had introduced into the problematic of redemption, his theories concerning justification and the application of the merits of Christ to sinners. What kinds of merit were to be applied? What was the value of such merit?

The disputes over redemption during these centuries were the origin of different theories and explanations, both of the nature of redemption and of the collaboration of the Immaculate Virgin in the redemption, in brief, of the co-redemption. These have continued to be explored down to the present day. So also today, differences of criteria and ways of reflecting continue in relation to the concept or significance of the redemptive work of Christ and, above all, in relation to the collaboration of the Coredemptress, the Virgin Mary, in the redemption. And today, as in past ages, clarification of concepts is sought in order to attain an objective and adequate understanding of the truth: the image of Mary, Mother of the Son of God, and as Immaculate Virgin and Spouse of St. Joseph, collaborator with Him in the work of redemption.

1.2 In past centuries and during the golden age of our [Spanish] theology and mariology, primary attention was devoted to the analysis of theological concepts from the aspect and in the speculative, intellectualist style, characteristic of the scholastic theological system, at times overdoing the subtleties of this kind of thought. Conversely, little place was given to positive theology just in its beginnings (initiated by Petavius…), an approach resting more on the value and significance of facts and testimonials.

This conceptualist methodology within the scholastic system tends to brake, in great part, any progress in making intelligible the underlying problems. It is no easy matter to clarify in simple, brief form what has been transmitted to us from the mariological controversies of the golden age, let alone do it with this kind of approach.

In view of this, I have chosen a different method which facilitates a greater clarification of the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, and a more objective knowledge of the reality of the redemption. In a time of easy access to information, of transatlantic flights, when an idea reaches the poles of the earth before a word is spoken-these are facts of the moment-the first requirement is the perfect understanding of experiences, and then the search for a solution to the problems, and the formulation of definitions for the concepts of reality via other possible methods.

In view of this observation, I intend to modify at certain points the theme or object of reflection in this conference or, better perhaps, its premise. In this regard I affirm that:

The priority of the redemption is not, properly speaking, a concept, and is not the equivalent of a definition, verification, or realization of a concept. The redemption is a fact, a phenomenon, a living experience, is Christ the Redeemer. Thus it is experienced. He is our Redemption.

St. Paul, speaking of peace as a union (or unity) of the spirit and heart, says of Jesus Christ: He is our peace who has made his people one (cf. Eph 2: 14), because this unity is in Him, and can be spiritually participated, so that Christ lives in us: it is Christ who lives in me (cf. Gal 2: 10); or who is born in us through faith (cf. Eph 3: 17). These expressions are not mere metaphor, nor are they reducible to symbolism. Christ is our life, is our peace, if not in the totality which He is, then by participation in that of which our soul is capable. If this is not so, or only so in an improper sense, what would these words of Jesus mean, or to what might they point: I am the way, the truth and the life (cf. Jn 14: 6)?

1.3 Christ is our Redemption: how is this text to be understood? What content and significance does this affirmation hold?

1.3.a Christ is the eternal Son of the Father, the Word who from eternity has been with God (cf. Jn 1: 1). He is the Word made flesh as expression and manifestation of the infinite, merciful love of God.

This is the reality of Christ. It is the merciful love of God in action, become flesh to conquer, destroy, and make sin disappear from the world. But it is still more: He made it disappear in the very moment of His Incarnation, because the very mystery of the Incarnation was redemption for the world. Because this is the work of infinite love, this first opening of the heart of Jesus, heart of love for the Father and for men, his brothers, it was condign and superabundant satisfaction for the sins of each one, and for all sinners. The Incarnation was a meritorious act of the Son of God made man, to pay the debt of original sin, and of all the sins of mankind.

I think that this is the profoundest meaning of the text of St. Paul to the Galatians (4: 4): “In the fullness of times God sent his own Son, born of the woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law…” The Incarnation of the Son of God, born of the woman, means the redemption of those under the law; for it grants the liberty of the sons of God, the liberty with which Christ frees us (cf. Gal 4: 31). {footnote}R. G. Bandas, La Redenzione, idea centrale in S. Paolo, Rome 1961, pp.135-137 [English original: The Master-idea of Saint Paul’s Epistles, or the Redemption. A Study of Biblical Theology, Bruges1925].{/footnote}

Christ is our peace, is our liberty, because He is our “Redemption.”

1.3.b From this point of view, I wish to orientate the study and analysis of the concept of redemption. My goal is to center it in Christ, and to reaffirm once more, as basic principle of my view of the “redemption,” that Christ is our Redemption.

In this principle, one saves the unicity and universality of the redemption. It is one and the same for all the redeemed, without exception. And in it, one encounters, as well, the explanation of the variety of forms, modes, offices of Christ in relation to the redeemed. Such variety depends not on the subjects to whom the redemption applies; rather it arises from the riches and superabundance of graces and gifts in the treasury of the Son of God.

Interestingly, because redemption and its specific nature are one, its forms and modes, however, are multiple and, as such, have come to be explicitly defined along the history of salvation.

1.3.c The forms of redemption: Prescinding from etymological questions and focusing only on the theological concept, redemption means liberation of the person, principally from sin and from the effects of sin, as well as other types of spiritual slavery, accomplished by Jesus Christ, the God-man, by way of the mysteries of His flesh. It is the liberation or deliverance of which St. Paul speaks, and to which the Letter to the Hebrews and Vatican II refer with this passage: the Son of God became man, and clothed Himself with a human nature “so as to free man from sin through the mysteries of His manhood.” {footnote}Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, 55. In general, theologians in referring to these mysteries, center their attention on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (cf. J. Solano, SJ, De Verbo Incarnato, in Sacrae Theologiae Summa, Madrid 1956, vol. III, pp. 304-308). It is clear, however, that all these mysteries in the life of the Son of God have redemptive value. Christ is our redemption, as I have just noted above.{/footnote} Thereby the entire life of Christ the Redeemer holds a redemptive value because, in its entirety, it is an unfolding and a manifestation of the mysteries of His flesh, or of His human nature, united hypostatically to the divine Person of the Word. In His redemptive actions, two elements are to be considered: the material element and the formal or moral element.

The material element depends on the nature of the act, considered from the point of view of human nature. The formal-moral element, without doubt, appears as the common factor in all these redemptive actions: it is the free and voluntary acceptance on Christ’s part, the love and obedience with which He accepts the various mysteries of His human nature.

The specific forms of redemption correspond to the various mysteries of His human nature, considered precisely as the material element of the redemptive act. One may say that the complete human nature, as the entire person, actuates and plays a part in the entire redemptive act of Christ. The differences, however, must be determined in accord with the material element in His human acts, and their constitutive differences.

In this sense, soteriology underscores the value of the meaning and of the redemptive content of the mysteries of the Redeemer’s humanity: the mystery of the Incarnation and of the Presentation of the Son of God in the temple; the mysteries of the Redeemer’s Passion and Death on the Cross; the mystery of His glorious Resurrection.

The different, but very important forms of redemption from the biblical and positive point of view, prescinding from other considerations, seem to me to be the following:

1) Redemption in the form of condign and superabundant “satisfaction-expiation” for sin

2) Redemption in the form of merit

3) Redemption in the form of “redemption-reconciliation”

4) Redemption in the form of sacrifice-oblation

5) Redemption in the form of liberation

6) Redemption in the form of ransom {footnote}These forms are common enough in soteriology. They have a clear basis in Sacred Scripture, particularly in St. Paul, and in the prophecies and symbolism of the Old Testament. There exists an extensive bibliography on the subject. Cf. Solano, De Verbo Incarnato, cit., pp. 245-313; Bandas, La Redenzione…, cit., pp. 207-292; B. M. Xiberta, O.Carm., Tractatus de Verbo Incarnato. II, Soteriologia, Madrid 1954, pp. 466-766.{/footnote}

Christ Himself, made man for us, who died and rose for our salvation, is the Redeemer and the perfect redemption, superabundant and embracing the whole of mankind, and all the sins of the world.

The problem of the application of the fruits of the redemption which is Christ, or the modes for making redemption efficacious for each of the necessities of grace and of divine salvation, is a diverse question.

1.4 It is not my intention here to present a systematic exposition of the concept of “redemption” and of “coredemption.” My objective is more historical than systematic. Within the ambit of history, it is limited to Spanish theologians of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Even less is it my aim to give a general vision of the thinking of the theologians and mariologists of this era, an attempt far exceeding the limits of this essay. The fact is, many great theologians never produced a systematic treatise on “redemption.” But they did expound very important soteriological themes in discussing other more general questions, e.g., on the motive and necessity of the Incarnation of the Son of God, on the grace of Jesus Christ, etc.{footnote}For example, the Salmanticenses treat the merit of Jesus Christ in question 19 of the treatise De Incarnatione (Disputation 28), where they also deal with what pertains to the will and to the virtue of Christ in the order of operation. In general they treat redemption, satisfaction, etc., for sin in Treatise XXI, De Incarnatione, Disputation 1.{/footnote}

Additionally, the objective of this study is limited in terms of its orientation. It is not so much an examination of the general thought of these theologians on the “redemption” as to follow them as they try, more or less in fidelity to the texts of St. Thomas Aquinas on the redemption, to apply his thought to the Virgin Mary, and at the same time, defend the privilege of the Immaculate Conception: i.e., the fact that the Virgin Mary did not contract either a minimal guilt of original sin or indebtedness to sin. Included in this aim is an analysis of the theories of those theologians who exclude the Virgin Mary from the decree concerning the transmission of original sin, and seemingly suppress any relation at all to the sin of Adam. In this case, how can one affirm that Mary was in any way “redeemed” by Christ?

Limiting, then, my study on the concept of redemption to a few, but important authors, defending the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary and Her preservation from all guilt and stain of original sin, I intend to explain in what sense or in terms of what concept She was truly redeemed, in view of the foreseen merits of Her Son. The solution to this problem will provide the key to a definition of the concept of Co-redemptrix, applied to the Virgin Mary.

II. Development of Our Theme

2.1 – The Concept of “redemption”

2.1. a) Methodology

“Redemption” in itself is not an absolute concept, but a relative and highly conditioned one. It depends on the fact and concept of sin and, in particular, of original sin. Hence, the more important authors-including St. Thomas Aquinas, Francisco Suarez, the Salmanticenses and, particularly, defenders of the Immaculate Virgin who treat of redemption-condition their explanation of its nature, and relate it with the existence of original sin or with preservation from said sin.

This conditioning refers or extends not only to the concepts of sin and redemption, but also to its very existence. Redemption, properly speaking, would not have existed, unless sin had pre-existed. Certain elements or aspects which are considered redemptive in the present economy of salvation, such as “satisfaction” or “sacrifice,” could have existed, even had there been no sin, since satisfaction can be given to God, without having any proper relation with the existence of sin.{footnote}The Salmanticenses, for example, are careful observers of the differences.They distinguish with precision the concept of redemption from that of mere satisfaction. Cf. Salmanticenses: Collegii Salmanticensis fr. Discalceatorum B. Mariae de Monte Carmeli… Cursus Theologicus…, Tractatus XXI, De Incarnatione, Disp. 1, Dub. XI, ns. 294-295.{/footnote}

It is not necessary to accumulate data in demonstration of the relation between “redemption” and sin, and its dependence on the concept of offense-injury to the Godhead-which supposes original sin. In treating of sin, the theologians of the epoch under consideration, set in relief certain properties and characteristics of original sin, which influence the definition of the concept of redemption. Here are the two proper notes of this sin: its transmission via natural generation and its universality.

If these theologians treated the application of redemption to the Immaculate Virgin in a particular, exceptional and unique form, that was to give an explanation for exigencies of these two properties: viz., the Virgin Mary is a daughter of Adam by way of natural generation, and that for this reason She is in some way included under the law of universality of sin.

Francisco Suárez, to cite one example, who supports theological conclusions in favor of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, amply treats questions relative to original sin in many of his works. {footnote}Thus he did it, for example, in commentaries on the first and third parts of the Summa; in the treatise on vices and sins, as the Salmanticenses also did it, in the light of the posthumous edition (1628); in the work on the Mysteries of the Life of Christ, published in 1592; and of other, less important writings.{/footnote}

This style is fairly common in many theologians and mariologists during these centuries. Other authors give special attention to questions about original sin in books and monographs, and in writings in defense of the Immaculate Conception. Various important authors can be cited in exemplification.{footnote}In this group of authors I cite only F. Quirino de Salazar, because of the importance this work holds, and in view of the influence it had on subsequent authors. See: Pro Immaculata Deiparae Virginis Conceptione Defensio, Compluti 1618.{/footnote}

In their treatment of these questions, the Salmanticenses follow a procedure similar to that of Francisco Suárez. Above all, they emphasize the core of the relation between original sin and redemption. This has various aspects. But in first place they consider that sin is “the matter” of spiritual redemption, and that there can exist no redemption in the true sense, if there exists no relation to sin, or to the “debitum peccati.”{footnote}Salmanticenses, Cursus Theologicus…, cit., Tractatus XIII, De Vitiis et peccatis, Disp. XV, Dub. III and IV, principally, ns. 70 ff. Here is the Latin text of the affirmation concerning the “debitum peccati” in the Immaculate Virgin: “Alia ratio sumitur… ex ipsa essentia et munere redemptionis, cuius conceptus cum veritate et proprietate salvari nequit sine respectu ad peccatum, vel ad peccati debitum illius qui redimitur.”{/footnote}

This indicates the methodology we must adopt in the development of our theme. For an interpretation of the texts of our authors, we must not lose sight of the dependence of the concept of redemption on questions concerning original sin and its properties. If we limit our angle of vision to the specific tracts and monographs on the Immaculate, we shall surely describe with greater uniformity and better harmonize the different authors, including authors from various schools of different inspiration:

Franciscan school, Jesuit-independent school, Carmelite school, Augustinian school, Dominican school, Mercedarian school, and independent writers. I have kept this in mind so as to provide a uniform development throughout the exposition.

2.1. b) Concepts of Sin and Redemption

1) – The defense of the Immaculate Conception, together with the theological questions concerning original sin and its properties arising out of this during the golden age of Spanish theology and mariology, possesses the radical capacity of harmonizing two postulates seemingly opposed: the original holiness of Mary at Her conception, without stain of original sin, and the fundamental thesis of Catholic soteriology concerning the universality of the redemption wrought by Jesus Christ, without any possible exception. The entire theological tradition of the Church has been preoccupied with offering clarifications and solutions more or less convincing.

St. Augustine offered no solution. He centered attention on the sin of Adam, transmitted by natural generation, and on its universality according to the teaching of St. Paul. However, he considered the singular case of the Mother of the Redeemer as a possible exception to what seemed a general norm.

The problem developed as the centuries passed, principally after the Middle Ages. Hypotheses were proposed whose purpose was to reconcile the fact of the Immaculate Conception with the redemption: sanctification of Mary’s soul at the very moment of its infusion into Her flesh (St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Bonaventure). The most acceptable theory, which represented a genuine theological resolution to the problem, was that of Bl. John Duns Scotus, a theory quickly accepted by all immaculatists. This is the theory of “preservative redemption,” on which defenders of the Immaculate in the Spanish golden age commented.

It is also the formula adopted by Bl. Pope Pius IX in the Bull Ineffabilis Deus (8 Dec., 1854) to define the Immaculate Conception as a dogma of faith:

…auctoritate Domini Nostri Jesu Christi, beatorum Apostolorum Petri et Pauli, ac Nostra, declaramus, pronuntiamus et definimus doctrinam, quae tenet Beatissimam Virginem Mariam in primo instanti suae Conceptionis fuisset omnipotentis Dei gratia et privilegio, intuitu meritorum Christi Jesu Salvatoris humani generis, ab omni originalis culpae labe praeservatam immunem, esse a Deo revelatum…{footnote}Denziger, Enchiridion Symbolorum…, Barcelona 1963, n. 2808.{/footnote}

Spanish mariology during the golden age was tied to this conclusion. So convinced were these mariologists of the absolute truth of this proposition that they strove to persuade the Popes to define it solemnly. They explained and defended the Immaculate in commentaries on St. Thomas, in general works on the Virgin Mary, and in specialized treatises on the Immaculate, as did F. Quirino Salazar (1618) and Juan Antonio Velázquez in five books (1653), {footnote}See the works of F. Quirino de Salazar, SJ, Pro Immaculata…, cit., (in note 7); Juan Antonio Velázquez, Maria, Immaculate Concepta, Libri quinque…, Pinciae 1653.{/footnote} in biographies of the Virgin, and in a vast number of sermon collections.

2) – The majority of theologians of this era, and of authors of works specifically immaculatist, were favorable to “preservative redemption” as the most satisfactory form for explaining, from a theological point of view, the application to Mary of the redemption wrought by Her Son Jesus Christ. They were agreed, for the most part, that this mode of redemption was unique, and more perfect and excellent than redemption as liberation from slavery and purification from original sin once contracted.

However, precisely in relation to this form of redemption, a prolonged polemic arose, which contributed to a wider view of the Immaculate, and to an increase of interest in, and zeal for, the defense of this privilege. In this regard, piety and devotion were, to a point, so intertwined with theological science and wisdom, that some authors exceeded the limits of moderation and prudence in their approach. I refer here to the controversy over the debitum peccati, as applied to the Virgin Mary.

Not all the authors were in agreement as to the content and exact meaning of “preservative redemption.” Some were of the opinion that the term itself, without including or appending any other element, was sufficient to justify the concept of preservative redemption-so the most enthusiastic defenders of the Immaculate generally thought. Some authors of books or of specialized treatises on the Immaculate, and some defenders of immaculatist propositions of great interest to theologians, gained wide notice during public disputations because of their novelty.

Without doubt, commentators on the Summa of St. Thomas in general, such as Francisco Suárez, the Salmanticenses, etc., followers of St. Thomas on other points of his doctrine, and some independent authors or those of different theological currents, were not satisfied with the simple term “preservative redemption.” Their concern was that it included no true relation with original sin, and that it hardly justified a true and authentic redemption of the Immaculate Virgin in virtue of the merits of Her Son Jesus Christ.

Thus there arose two “tendencies” or two “groups” of defenders of the Immaculate after the sixteenth century in Spanish mariology: “debitists” and anti-debitists,” viz.:

a) The defenders of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, who held that Mary was under no obligation, debt, or debitum to contract original sin, because She was not included under the moral headship of Adam, or in the law of sin, having been preserved by the merits of Jesus Christ from contracting original sin.

b) The second group is that of the “debitists,” who affirmed that the “preservative redemption” of the Virgin Mary, in virtue of which She did not contract original sin, because She was Immaculate, supposes in Her, in view of the meaning of the term “preserve,” a debitum, or natural indebtedness, not moral debt, to contract it. For this a simple tendency or natural possibility of sinning is insufficient. Only thus can one explain satisfactorily how this concept of preservative redemption supposes a relation with sin and, at the same time, is not an exemption or total liberation from it. We will explain this in greater detail below.

Further refining their study of the concept of redemption and of its relation with the debitum of original sin, some authors claim the existence in Mary of a debitum in the proper sense, which they qualify as proximate (Salmanticenses), so as to affirm Her redemption in the fullest sense. Others are content with one merely remote.

Many authors not only are anti-debitists, but also maintain that the Virgin Mary did not sin in Adam, nor was She included in the general law concerning the contraction of original sin.{footnote}The history of this controversy has been extensively recounted in a number of general works and in numerous specialized studies, although not all aspects have been clarified. Main authors to be consulted are O. Casado Fuente, CMF, Mariología clásica Espanola. Tomo primero. La Inmaculada Concepción en su problemática teológica, Madrid 1958; J. B. Carol, OFM, A History of the Controversy over the “Debitum peccati,” St. Bonaventure, NY 1978. Many authors have published studies on themes and on writers who participated in this controversy, among which authors I am numbered: Enrique del Sagrado Corazón (Llamas), La Inmaculada en la tradición Espanola: la sentencia sobre el “debitum peccati”: 1595-1660, in La Ciencia Tomista 81 (1954) 247-272; Idem, Los Salmanticenses procesados por la Inquisición en la causa de la Inmaculada, in Salmanticensis 1 (1954 606-621; Idem, Los Salmanticenses y la Inmaculada: su tesis sobre la redención y el “debito” de la Virgen, in Salmanticensis 2 (1955) 265-298. In the two books cited an ample bibliography on the “debitist” controversy can be found.{/footnote}

3) – The debitist controversy occasioned the publication of numerous mariological works and tracts where ample discussion of the theme of redemption, as applied to the Virgin Mary, is to be found. On the other hand, this mariological literature introduces us to many factors which enable us to grasp the thinking of our theologians in regard to this very important problem. All this serves to clarify the concept, the modes and other particulars of this theme, which major theologians usually explain in their treatises on original sin and in commentaries on questions concerning the Incarnation.

The authors who explain their theory of redemption in relation to the Virgin Mary are very numerous. One may say that all the defenders of the privilege of the Immaculate Conception devote some section or question of their writings to an explanation which, at first blush, seems to be a contradiction: to be preserved and exempted from the sin of Adam, and to have been redeemed from sin in virtue of the redemptive merits of Her Son Jesus Christ.

In face of the impossibility of considering so vast a number of writers, I will comment on a few select theologians representative of each of these three types of hypotheses:

a) Defenders of the proximate debitum

b) Defenders of a remote debitum

c) Defenders of total exemption from sin and from the debitum of contracting it

2.1. c) Concept of “Redemption” According to “Debitist” Theologians

In general “debitist” theologians hold the same basic concept of redemption, whether they affirm the existence of a remote debitum only, or defend the existence of a proximate debitum. All admit some relation, more or less profound, on the part of the Virgin Mary with the sin of Adam. Their differences pertain only to the form and nuancing of the explanation of how redemption truly affects the person of the Virgin Mary.

At times, these authors abuse conceptual subtlety, as well as divisions and classifications of aspects and notions: relation to natural, physical, moral, formal, fundamental sin… All these details, at some point, can modify the hypothesis and mode of explanation of each of the authors. This entails a difficulty in arriving at an exact and objective interpretation of their meaning. In fact, I think a number of these authors have not yet been interpreted in a completely objective manner.

In my opinion this occurs because not all these theologians hold the same concept of debitum or debt. This is a term which may refer to physical debt, to moral debt, or be understood as debt in any generic sense. {footnote}Differences of interpretation on this point are treated by Carol, History…,cit., in relation to the conclusions of Toledo and Alcalá, and in relation to some particular authors, such as the Franciscan Juan Merinero López, pp. 81-82 ff.{/footnote}Also, on many occasions it is difficult to determine if redemption is intended in the proper sense, or in the broader sense. This is extremely important, to be kept always in mind, in order to avoid inexactitude and equivocations.

My intention here, is neither to examine nor to expound the teaching of these theologians on the debitum peccati, but to make known and assess their thought on “redemption.” This involves us with their hypotheses over the debitum of the Virgin. Nonetheless, my intention, let it be said once more, is to expound the concept of redemption, and also of co-redemption, in Spanish theology and mariology of the golden age.

1)-Theologians Defending the Proximate Debitum: the Salmanticenses

1 – a – Presentation

The Salmanticenses are among the leading theologians maintaining in the Immaculate the proximate debitum. The seriousness and strength of their argumentation, as well as their consistency in treating so complicated a question has been recognized by all commentators, even by those prescinding from the debitum in explaining the privilege of the Immaculate Conception. Agreement with their conclusions is quite another discussion. {footnote}Cf. Casado Fuente, Mariología…, cit., pp. 332, 346, 347, 363-364; Carol, History…, cit., pp. 102-105{/footnote}The Salmanticenses represent a very important theological school among the seventeenth century thomists. Their Cursus Theologicus has been considered by the historians of theology and by the best students of St. Thomas as “a monumental piece of theological literature, and at the same time one of the more notable compendiums of thomism.”{footnote}Th. Deman, Salamanque, Théologiens de…, in DTC, vol. 14, col. 1017.{/footnote}

The Salmanticenses expound the theme of “redemption” principally in two sections of their ample Cursus Theologicus (12 tomes). From a general point of view this theme is found in tract XXI: De Incarnatione, part 1, disputations 1 and 2 on the necessity and motive of the Incarnation. {footnote}Salmanticenses, Cursus Theologicus, cit., Tract. XXI, De Incarnatione, pars prima, Disp. I, De necessitate Incarnationis, and Disp. II, De motivo Incarnationis… On the history of the Cursus Theologicus see my work: Enrique del Sagrado Corazón (Llamas), Los Salmanticenses, su vida y su obra: Ensayo histórico y proceso inquisitorial de su doctrina sobre la inmaculada, Madrid 1955 (with notes on sources and bibliography); E. Llamas, El Colegio de San Elías y los Salmanticenses, in Rodríguez-San Pedro Bezares (Coord.), Historia de la Universidad de Salamanca, vol. I, Salamanca 2002, pp. [687]-704.{/footnote} From a more particular standpoint this is found in discussions of how redemption applies to the Immaculate Virgin in tract XIII on vices and sins, and still more properly in disputation XV dealing with the explanation of questions relative to original sin. {footnote}Salmanticenses, Cursus Theologicus, cit., Tract. XIII, De vitiis et peccatis: de extensione peccati originalis quantum ad debitum illud contrahendi.{/footnote}One should keep in mind that the most wide-ranging and important analysis of the Salmanticenses on “redemption” is found in this disputation XV in relation to the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Redeemer.{footnote}The authors of the “Cursus Salmanticensis” are principally four. The treatises which I cite here are by Fr. Juan de la Anunciación, and by Fr. Domingo de Santa Teresa. Chronologically, Tract XIII, work of Fr. Domingo is prior to the tract on the Incarnation, whose author is Juan de la Anunciación. On these questions see my work: Los Salmanticenses, Su Vida…, cit., pp. 49-52; 65-67. The tract of Fr. Domingo was composed after 1655, and includes some folios on original sin, which had been prepared by his predecessor, Fr. Antonio of the Mother of God. Juan de la Anunciación redacted tract XXI, De Incarnatione, probably around 1682-1686.{/footnote}

1 – b – Explanation: What is the “Redemption?”

a) The Salmanticenses are clear and convinced defenders of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, even though they defend Her submission to, or contraction, of the proximate debitum to sin. They affirm their belief clearly and expound it precisely, with an abundance of arguments at the very beginning of disputation XV.

It is not possible to believe that their objective in redacting this disputation had a hidden agenda, as their accusers before the Inquisition asserted: that of favoring, by recourse to the proximate debitum, the maculist opinion, so common in those days among thomist theologians. {footnote}On these accusations and suspicions harmful to these theologians, see my work: Los Salmanticenses, Su vida…, cit., pp. 150 ff.{/footnote} Quite to the contrary. Domingo de Santa Teresa (author of this section) sought to facilitate acceptance of the pia sententia [pious opinion as the Immaculate Conception was designated before its dogmatic definition] throughout the entire Church, above all, by the ecclesiastical hierarchy, and to prepare the way for a solemn definition of the Immaculate by the Supreme Pontiff.

b) Before formulating the core problematic concerning the “redemption” of the Virgin, the Salmanticenses resolve a number of questions constituting the preliminaries of their exposition. These include the concept of debitum peccati and of the permanence of this debitum (dubium I), and a second question: whether the Virgin Mother of God could have been exempted from original sin, and whether this exemption could be by the merits of Christ (dubium II). Their solution to this last question is an affirmative, because this is not a question of what is necessary to God himself, but one of something he can do by his absolute power.{footnote}Salmanticenses, Cursus Theologicus, Tract XIII, Disp. XV, Dub. II, title{/footnote}

On the basis of the reply to the last question: God can exempt the Most Holy Virgin from the debitum of original sin, they formulate the principal question in dubium III: whether the exemption or exception of the Mother of God from the debitum of original sin prejudices or is incompatible with Her redemption.{footnote}”Utrum exceptio Deiparae a debito culpae originalis praejudicet eius redemptioni? (Tract XIII, Disp. XV, Dub. III, Title.{/footnote}

Moving on from the proemium, our theologians forcefully argue the question where they explain how some things considered apart (seorsim) and in an absolute sense, are not impossible to the divine omnipotence, even if without doubt incompatible in themselves. Hence, “one may affirm that the exemption (exceptio) of the Mother of God, taken by itself, would be in every way incompatible with Her redemption. For the same reason, it is not possible to verify whether She was truly and properly redeemed by the death and blood of Christ, and at the same time claim that She was preserved from said debitum.{footnote}”Dicendum est exceptionem Deiparae a debito culpae originalis, si detur, omnino praejudicaturum eius redemptioni; adeoque verificari non posse, quod fuerit Christi morte et sanguine vere et proprie redempta, si semen ponatur a praedicto debito praeservata”: Tract XIII, Disp. XV, Dub. III, no. 60.{/footnote}

What is the foundation for or reason of this affirmation? Following a theological methodology, our theologians believe that this claim pertains to the faith of the Church, and seek, therefore, to demonstrate it with texts from Sacred Scripture and from the Magisterium and tradition of the Church.

Secondly, they adduce the very nature of the “redemption.” This is what the concept of redemption implies according to the common teaching of theology. One should ponder carefully their formulation on this point:

A very special second reason, no less apodictic than the former, in favor of the common opinion can be deduced from the very essence and function of redemption: its notion cannot be verified truly and in the proper sense, except with a relation to sin, or to the debitum from which one is to be redeemed.{footnote}”Alia ratio magis specialis, nec minus efficax, quam praecedens pro sententia communi sumitur ex ipsa essentia et munere redemptionis; cuius conceptus, cum veritate et proprietate salvari nequit sine respectu ad peccatum vel ad peccati debitum illius qui redimitur.” Ibid., no. 70.{/footnote}

This text, like many others in this disputation, enjoys doctrinal worth; but it is also a witness with important historical value. According to the Salamanca theologian, the teaching concerning the debitum peccati was a common opinion in his day. This should be kept in mind. This is more the case in the schools and lecture halls of scholastic theology; far less so in books which are chiefly the fruit of piety and devotion.

This Salamanca Carmelite continues his explanation in treating of a notional and descriptive definition of “redemption.” His first argument is based on philology: Let us examine and determine what the noun “redemption” implies, and how it is to be employed (no. 70).

Leaving the theological question aside, he first replies:

Redemption and redeem, if we attend to the sense of the word, and to the meaning given it by the ancients, and still in common usage, means to buy or free someone for a price who had once been free, but now is in captivity, or had been sold into slavery… Redeem means to buy again. Hence, it supposes that what is bought is under the dominion of another, to wit, the seller… Thus, what is redeemed must imply being under the power and for the service of someone else, from which what is purchased is removed (extrahitur) by the redeemer on paying price, which in Spanish is rightly called the ransom.{footnote}Ibid., no. 70.{/footnote}

The Salmanticenses posit two conditions or prerequisites as essential to verify a “redemption” in the proper sense: payment of the price of ransom to gain freedom; and that the person to be freed has fallen into slavery or servitude. These conditions appear much nuanced in many situations and circumstances.

Here is the nucleus of the question: Do all theologians accept this definition of “redemption”? Is this the genuine concept or meaning of “redemption”? Our theologian claims this “is” the proper and legitimate meaning of redemption (l.c., no. 71). And he adduces many proofs from Latin dictionaries and from texts of the Holy Fathers.{footnote}This is the meaning of “redemption” as this is commonly used by theologians in our day. Cf. Solano, De Verbo Incarnato, cit., nos. 725 ff.{/footnote}

Redemption, however, is not a juridical concept, but theological and spiritual, according to which “redemption” is a work of the love of God, which through the life, death and resurrection of his Son, bestows freedom on the human race.

This is the concept of “redemption” proposed by the Salmanticenses in their tract on the Incarnation. Hence, they do hold a clear notion, firmly based and authentic, of what redemption of the human race really means.{footnote}Salmanticenses, Cursus Theologicus, Tract XXI…, pars prima, Disp. I, Dub. XI, nos. 294-295.{/footnote}

I want to repeat that for the Salmanticenses “redemption” essentially and in virtue of its very concept, implies a true relation, more or less profound, to sin. They affirm this more than once in the development of their thought, and resolve a number of difficulties which can be urged against this basic assertion.

Those admitting only a remote debitum analyze the causes and bases of such a debitum. They admit as valid, only those which suppose in the person, a reason for contracting original sin. Reasons which a priori exclude Mary from the moral headship of Adam, or affirm a special privilege of not being included in the law of transmission of original sin, are quite insufficient. All this breaks and annuls a true relation with sin. They think that the matter of “redemption,” and its term a quo, to be sin, either committed or from which the subject is preserved.

In this disputation the Salmanticenses defend the thesis that the Virgin Mary was truly and really “redeemed” by virtue of the merits of Her Son. To explain this proposition, they expound, more than once, their notion of “redemption.” Actual personal contraction of sin is not necessary. Its representation, or the fact of “having sinned in another” as one’s moral head, is sufficient. This is the case of the Virgin Mother of God.

For a true and proper redemption, one may affirm that it is sufficient for the Virgin Mother of God to have been a sinner, dead and enslaved only in Adam, but in Herself only to have the debitum and to be prone to these defects… For the sin commited by Adam truly was our sin, insofar as we are represented in him… For quite adequately and in the proper sense, there is verified in Adam the diverse expressions of sin, of death, and of captivity, such that in him there existed true sin, the true death of the soul, and authentic captivity. So it was in reality.{footnote}”… sufficere ad veram et propriam redemptionem, quod Deipara fuisset peccatrix, mortua et captiva in Adamo, quamvis in se ipsa solum habuerit debitum et obnoxietatem horum defectum. Nam sicut peccatum commissum ad Adamo vere fuit nostrum… prout eramus in eo… Sufficienter namque, etiam in rigore proprietatis, verificantur praedictae loquutiones de peccato, morte et captivitate in Adamo, dummodo in illo fuerit verum peccatum, vera mors animae, et vera captivitas; sicut fuit de facto.” (Ibid., Disp. XV, Dub. III, no. 118).{/footnote}

Finally, so as not to prolong this excessively, the Salamanca author reaffirms his thinking on this theme, reviewing the arguments of other theologians, who deny the debitum peccati in the Virgin Mary, and who understand “preservative redemption” as a higher, more excellent redemption, with a form which undoes or breaks the relation with original sin.

Our author questions whether this “eminent redemption,” certainly distinct in form from the common redemption, salvages anything of the real and proper notion and essence of redemption. One cannot arrive at a definitive conclusion, because there exists no uniformity among theologians as to understanding and application of this terminology, and because some, in recurring to this terminology, understand the eminence and excellence of this “redemption” to consist in the fact that Mary was not a moral daughter of Adam, nor was She included in the law of transmission of original sin, or in some other way received a blessing similar or greater than the one received through the common redemption.

Without doubt, there may exist a certain equivalency in the effects or benefits received via common and preservative redemption so understood. But the concept of redemption does not depend on this. Rather, it is the equivalent of being freed from subjection to slavery, the price of ransom having been paid, a price that was the mystery of the human nature of Christ: His blood poured out for the redemption of mankind.{footnote}Cf. Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, 55. On the meaning of “preservative redemption,” cf. Salmanticenses, Tract XIII, Disp. XV, nos. 99-104: “inquirimus enim an in ista, quae vocatur redemptio eminens, salvetur cum proprietate et veritate conceptus et essentia redemptionis; sitque proinde redemptio eminenter formaliter, et illa eminentia sit de linea et munere redemptionis?… Redemptio vere et cum proprietate accepta essentialiter importat extractionem a captivitate, emptionemque eius qui redimitur… et etiam importat pretium seu rescate solum pro redempto; quorum nihil vere et cum proprietate posse reperiri sine peccato vel eius debito, ostensum est in nostra ratione.” (no. 99).{/footnote}

2) – Theologians Defending the Remote Debitum.{footnote}For a brief orientation on the question of “redemption and the debitum” during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, see J. B. Carol, Reflections on the Problem of Mary’s Preservative Redemption, in Marian Studies 30 (1979) 33-36. Likewise by the same author, in his History of the Controversy…, cit., where he provides a classification of theologians in relation to the debitum, including in more than one instance a reference to their concept of redemption: mainly pp. 57 ff.{/footnote}

a) As said above, the formulation of the problematic in this form, by the theologians defending the remote debitum of the Virgin Mary in relation to original sin, is simply a way of analyzing the concept of redemption, so as to be applied in this case as involving on Her part only a remote and wholly extrinsic relation to original sin. In this scenario, if Mary is immaculate in Her conception, preserved from original sin, how can we explain that She was redeemed, or what kind of redemption is to be ascribed to Her?

It is not my intention to provide a study of the intricate problem of the remote debitum in Mary as related to original sin. Historically and conceptually, we encounter here a maze of explanations, of concepts, of applications to the Virgin which, in this obscure area, can only with difficulty, be fully illustrated. We also encounter the difficulty of relating different hypotheses according to which historians and theologians interpret the content of the sources and, finally, the various assessments which generally reflect the authors and documents of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Where is the truth? Without doubt this is an important chapter in the history of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.

In the wide-ranging and variegated Spanish theological literature treating of the Immaculate in the golden epoch, the remote debitum does not denote a unified entity or distinctive characteristics. Some authors describe it as a capacity for sinning inherent in human nature, which is not subject of a special privilege. Thus, to cite one example, the Franciscan, Francisco Guerra, speaks of a remote debitum in the Virgin Mary.{footnote}F. Guerra, OFM, Majestas gratiarum ac virtutum omnium Deiparae Virginis Mariae, Seville 1659, pp. 415, 545.{/footnote}Other authors who speak of a physical or moral debitum, admit in Mary a physical debitum, the equivalent of a remote debitum. For Ovidio Casada, the funamental debitum of which the Salmanticenses speak is the equivalent of the remote debitum (or proximate), of which some authors, inspired by Francisco Suárez, speak.{footnote}Cf. Casado Fuente, Mariología…, cit., p. 84.{/footnote} For still others, the remote debitum finds its point of reference in the fact that the Virgin Mother of God was not included in the law governing the universality of original sin, etc. Even Quirino de Salazar, one of the most important authors on this problem, who denies any debitum in Mary, glimpses in Her the existence of a confused, nebulous debitum, which could indicate the debitum of being included under the physical or moral headship of Adam.

{footnote}Carol, History…, cit., has made a classification of authors of this time, to serve as sources for a study of this theme, indicating many equivalencies. Similarly Casada Fuente has done this repeatedly in the work cited.{/footnote}

b)What do these theologians contribute to the concept of redemption? In general they follow the thesis of Scotus on preservative redemption in virtue of the merits of Christ. However, they are not in full agreement in determining the basis of this redemption. Some rest their views on the predestination of the Mother of God, who was not included under the moral headship of Adam, in view of the transmission of sin. Other authors fix their attention more on the fact that Mary did not sin in Adam. On this supposition, Her debitum to contract sin is naturally remote, and can find its basis in various considerations.

3) – Anti-debitist Theologians, or Defenders of the Immaculate Conception Without a Debitum

Can we consider the Virgin Mary as “redeemed,” yet without a debitum to sin?

An adequate reply must take into consideration two main themes at the core of the question:

1) How do we understand redemption? To what type of redemption do we refer?

2) What is meant by, or what meaning does debitum peccati have?

a) The concept of redemption: We have treated this question earlier and have explained the concept of redemption as understood by the Salmanticenses. As we are treating a concrete redemption, not a simple concept nor a redemption in the abstract, but the redemption which Jesus Christ, the Redeemer, achieved for us, we may define it thus: the spiritual liberation whereby Christ has freed us from slavery and servitude through the mysteries of His humanity, or His blood.

As we are treating an historical deliverance, it is called “redemption,” from the Latin verb redimere–iterum emere, meaning to buy, to free again. Thus, we set in relief, the characteristic which this deliverance bestows on those who had once enjoyed freedom of spirit in Adam, and who had lost this by sin.{footnote}In Greek literature a similar terminology is employed, setting forcefully in relief the sense of deliverance via payment of a price: lytron-to redeem, to free from sin, or price of liberation (as St. Matthew uses the term). St. Peter and St. Paul use the verb form: lytrouszai; apolytrosis; lytrosis-work of redemption (as used by St. Paul and St. Luke); agoraso-with the sense of buying; sosso; soteria; Soter-meaning to save, salvation, Savior, from slavery, sin, etc. The meaning of these terms and their synonyms has been studied in considerable detail. (Cf. Bandas, La Redenzione…, cit., pp. 231- 284; Solano, De Verbo Incarnato, cit., nos. 725-735.{/footnote}

The Salmanticenses stress these characteristics. For this reason, they affirm that for a true and proper redemption as such, it is essential to include in some sense slavery-servitude, or a debt to contract this, and the true freedom which Christ bestows on us. In conclusion, it is necessary that liberation, to be redemptive or truly “soteriological,” must possess some relation with sin or a preceding enslavement.

Someone may object that this explanation is a theory of one particular theologian, and as such enjoys no more authority than the theories of theologians from other schools and of other theological orientations. Although we concede that this is so, we have no doubt that the explanation of the redemption set forth by the Salmanticenses is in accord with the common teaching in theology and with the living Magisterium of the Church.{footnote}Cf. the exposition of Fr. Jesus Solano, SJ, as cited above, in respect to the forms or modes of redemption, with ample documentation from the Magisterium of the Church.{/footnote}

All this did not appear so clearly or so definite during the golden age. Some authors understood “redemption” in a broader sense: as grace of the Redeemer. In terms of application to the Virgin Mary, redemption is a more eminent grace, because it is given to Her by reason of Her divine Maternity or in consideration of the divine Maternity as its basis. This is the hypothesis and explanation of Cristóbal de Vega, SJ, an author rarely consulted on this point, yet of immense importance from the chronological and doctrinal point of view, whose views we will analyse below.{footnote}Cf. C. de Vega, Theologia Mariana, sive Certamina litteraria de B. V. Dei Genitrice Maria, Naples 1866, Tome I, nos. 583-587.{/footnote}

b) On the notion of the debitum: In sixteenth and seventeenth century authors, there exists no full uniformity in the way of understanding, classifying, and explaining the debitum. Not all employ the same criteria to determine the meaning of this term, much less when they apply it and refer to original sin. There exist numerous meanings and classifications for the debitum. We come across a debitum naturae and a debitum personae; a debitum physicum and a debitum morale; {footnote}To reaffirm the force of this debitum, some authors add as well a certain physical element, imprecisely defined, deriving from Adam. The Salmanticenses do just this: Tract XIII, Disp. XV, no. 12.{/footnote} a debitum proximum and a debitum remotum. According to Gil de la Presentación, there exists a debitum secundum quid, a debitum formale, and a debitum fundamentale (Salmanticenses).{footnote}Salmanticenses, Tract XIII, Disp. XV, no. 14. This is an important distinction in the debitist theology of the Salmanticenses. The “formal debitum,” which can refer both to guilt and to punishment, is a moral necessity inherited by the descendants of Adam, in which consists original sin at the instant of receiving natural being. The “fundamental debitum” “adaequate acceptum, importat omnia illa quae a parte rei” [adequately defined implies all those factors which objectively] are required for the necessity or obligation to contract original sin. (Ibid., no. 14){/footnote}

To add to the confusion of the problem, some authors say that the debitum, according to its class or qualification, presupposes bases which may be intrinsic or extrinsic. Are these in relation to the debitum itself or to the person in debt, the descendent of Adam? Authors do use this terminology, but it is not easy to discover its significance or how it is to be applied.

All these distinctions do not bear the same sense, with full or perfect equivalence, in those many theologians who deal with this question. The very definitions or descriptions of the debitum do not involve the same elements, nor do those employed have the same force of expression in the great theologians. Generally, all declare that the debitum does not correspond to a precept of God, nor to a law entailing obligation. All admit, more or less, that it is a determination or moral necessity to contract original sin. The Salmanticenses translate it as reatus, obligatio, obnoxietas (guilt, obligation, inclination).{footnote}Ibid., no. 11.{/footnote}

F. Suárez declares that the debitum is not physical, nor anything involving personal guilt of the debtor. But he does understand it as an obligation, or moral necessity to contract the sin of Adam. Without doubt, G. Vázquez defines it as an aspect or passive element: it is a certain passive relation which obliges a descendant of Adam to receive the fruit of the merit of the first man, Adam: original sin, which he merited for all his descendants.

The Salmanticenses offer us a description of the debitum, as such, true but also very rigid or strict in its bearing on original sin. It may, however, be immediate or mediate in view of the headship of Adam or other explanations.

All this renders it advisable not to enter into more detailed and structured analyses of this problem, and to explain it, taking account of the criteria found in the different schools of theology, as well as the various theories of many independent authors.

How is redemption to be understood, or how is the concept of redemption adopted by the theologians and mariologists of the golden era, who defended the Immaculate Conception of Mary in being preserved from original sin and without the debitum to contract it, to be understood? We may also ask: if it is affirmed that the Immaculate Virgin had no debt at all to contract original sin, is this synonymous with saying that She was not redeemed, or that the merits of the redemption were not applied to Her, since Her redemption, according to many authors, does not include the debitum of sin?

c)The interpretation of some historians: We must take account of a number of presuppositions in order to find a unified criterion for the development of this question. When I make reference here to “redemption,” as when I say: if Mary could have been “redeemed” without a debitum, etc., I intend redemption in a proper sense, the sense which the Salmanticenses call proper and legitimate. {footnote}Ibid., Tract XIII, Disp. XV, nos. 70-71.{/footnote} Similarly, in referring to the debitum peccati, I refer in general to a debitum in the proper sense of the term, or according to the definition common in contemporary mariology: “a certain (moral) necessity, more or less proximate, to contract original sin.”{footnote}”Necessitas quaedam, magis vel minus proxima, contrahendi peccatum originale”: J. A. de Aldama, Mariologia, seu de Matre Redemptoris, in Sacrae Theologiae Summa, Madrid 1956, vol. III, p. 352.{/footnote}

Juniper B. Carol published a brief, well-documented essay on the theory of six Jesuit theologians. According to their theory, the Virgin Mary did not need a debitum to be redeemed. How then explain Her redemption, or what the concept of being redeemed means?{footnote}Carol, Reflections on the problem…, cit., pp. 34-36, explains the thought of Francisco de la Torre (Turriano), Fernando Quirino de Salazar, Juan Perlín, Ambrosio de Penalosa, Juan Antonio Velázquez, and Juan Eusebio Nieremberg. In the preceding pages he had dealt with the same question: the explanation of Mary’s redemption in authors favoring the debitum, proximate or remote.{/footnote}

The six authors of the Society of Jesus take a like position on this problem. All maintain that Mary had no debitum peccati. They differentiate diverse aspects of redemption: integral and disjunctive, salvation and redemption. Mary received redemption in the proper sense, because She received from Christ a grace which elevated Her to a higher order (Turriano). Salazar defends Mary’s redemption in the true and proper sense. For this it is not necessary to contract the debitum. He adduces as basis for this, the defectibility or possibility of sinning. I detect a slip in this affirmation. At times this author does not evidence much sureness in his exposition. He affirms that, to Mary, grace was given not per modum redemptionis, but rather per modum elevationis. {footnote}Salazar in offering this explanation here has in mind the theory of other Jesuits of his time, who affirm that this grace of Mary depends on the grace of Her divine Maternity, which is a grace elevating Her entire being. For this reason She is not included in the pact with Adam, nor in the law of transmission of sin. This is also the position of Cristóbal de Vega, SJ, to be analyzed below.{/footnote}

Juan Perlin, very close to Salazar, introduces some new points, which touch all aspects of the question. To explain the redemption of Mary, he bases himself on the scotistic theory of preservative redemption, and the explanation given it by G. Sánchez Lucero in terms of the scientia media. {footnote}Gonzalo Sánchez Lucero is an author important for the doctrine of Marian coredemption. See my study: E. Llamas, OCD, El siglo XVII, “Siglo de Oro” de la Corredención mariana, in Maria, Unica Cooperatrice alla Redenzione, New Bedford, MA 2005, pp. 245-252.{/footnote} Ambrosio de Peñalosa follows the explanations of Perlin on the relation of Mary to the headship of Adam, and the theory of Salazar on Her redemption in the proper sense. So also Juan Antonio Velázquez who lacks originality in his solution of questions bearing on the Immaculate Conception. {footnote}Juan Antonio Velásquez, in addition to his work: Dissertationes et adnotationes de Maria Immaculate Concepta (1653), is author of one of the most important books on the Immaculate Conception in the middle of the seventeenth century: Maria Immaculate Concepta, libri quinque, Pinciae 1653.{/footnote}

Finally, rather eclecticly, Eusebius Nieremberg, following Salazar, attempts to harmonize denial of the debitum in Mary with Her redemption in the true and proper sense. The grace which sanctified Mary in the first moment of Her conception was a redemptive grace, because it was due, according to this author, to the shedding of the blood of Christ.

Here we raise a question: up to this point we have engaged in the work of research. It is quite clear that some authors deny precisely any proximate debitum in Mary. But is Her redemption in the proper and true sense explained with the same clarity? Does Cristóbal de Vega clarify this point?

d) The position of Cristóbal de Vega in this problem: Cristóbal de Vega, SJ (1595-1672) represents the doctrinal synthesis on this problem, and is one of the most distinguished mariologists of the Society of Jesus in this era. {footnote}Cristóbal de Vega, SJ, (1595-1672), Theologia Mariana, sive Certamina litteraria de B. V. Dei Genitrice Maria, Lyon, 1653-54, 2nd edition in two tomes, Naples 1866. This author is little known by mariologists and research students. Cf. my study, El siglo XVII, Siglo de Oro…, cit., pp. 271-276.{/footnote} Among the more important Jesuit theologians and mariologists in this epoch, the theory of the exemption of the Mother of God from all debt to contract original sin was commonly held, in opposition to the teaching of Francisco Suárez. At the same time, they defended in general, Mary’s redemption, by a redemption more eminent that that of the rest of the redeemed. Are these expositions correct from the point of view of theology and mariology, and can they harmonize this exemption from the debitum with redemption of the Mother of God in the proper and true sense?

I will expound schematically the teaching of Cristóbal de Vega.

i) Cristóbal de Vega, well-informed on all aspects of Spanish theology and of classic mariology, whose exponents he cites, assesses, and interprets, was quite opposed to any kind of debitum in the Mother of God. He devotes all of “Palaestra quinta” to this theme. {footnote}Ibid., Palaestra quinta: Utrum Virgo Deipara debitum peccati originalis incurrerit, pp. 202-225. This comprises nos. 564-614.{/footnote} However, it is not so much his opinions on the debitum, which is for us a presupposition, as his teaching on redemption.

The title of his second “certamen” (disputation) acquaints us with his position on this: “The Virgin Mother neither sinned in Adam nor contracted a proximate and proper debt to sin (p. 205)… I hold as most true that the Blessed Virgin in no way sinned in Adam, nor indeed was She contained in our first parent in view of contraction of the stain of sin in his descendants…” (no. 573, p. 205).

The argumentation of Cristóbal de Vega, on his premises, is conclusive. If Mary is not included in the moral headship of Adam, She neither contracted sin, nor the debt to contract it. What are not so effective are his arguments. I believe that De Vega exaggerates and maximalizes the sense of guilt, of personal fault, of offense, of what it means to sin in Adam. He himself acknowledges this: “I will still further stress the turpitude of this debt… (n. 578). The debt neither supposes nor includes any personal, moral turpitude… If this is lacking, the basis of all his argumentation collapses. This is what seems to me to occur in De Vega’s exposition. For the Salmanticenses use the same arguments and come to opposite conclusions. Mary, they say, was included in the headship of Adam, and so incurred the proximate debt to contract sin. But to be included in Adam does not mean in the least to incur a personal stain of sin, nor moral filth, nor any other defect, contrary to what C. de Vega affirms.

ii) On the supposition that Mary was not included under Adam’s headship, and hence had neither original sin nor stain of that sin, Cristóbal de Vega claims to have “reconciled” in the Virgin Mary immunity from the debitum, maximal sinlessness, with redemption by Christ. {footnote}Certamen IV has this title: “Componitur immunitas a debito peccati originalis in B. Virgine cum redemptione per Christum… pp. 210-213, nos. 589-596.{/footnote} Is it possible to integrate these two extremes? This is the question formulated by his opponents. He himself contextualizes his thought along these lines and acknowledges a basis for doubt:

At this point there arises a doubt on the part of those defending the contrary position:

if the All Holy Virgin contracted neither guilt nor debitum, as we have affirmed, in no way could She have been redeemed by Christ. {footnote}De Vega, Ibid., Certamen IV, no. 590: “Hinc ergo emergit ratio dubitandi apud propugnatores adversariae sententiae: si enim B. Virgo neque culpam, neque debitum contraxit, ut docuimus, ergo nullo pacto dici potest redempta per Christum” (no. 211).{/footnote}

De Vega thinks that this proposition pertains to the faith of the Church or is certain de fide: “The Blessed Virgin was redeemed by Christ.” Indeed it certainly can be so considered. But how can one in such a case and along these lines of thought maintain a redemption in the true and proper sense in the case of the Virgin Mary, without the debitum peccati and without any clear, personal relation to original sin?

He offers multiple arguments from different standpoints. They do not all enjoy the same probative force, and some of them lack any clear foundation for demonstrating that the application he makes of them, to the Mother of God, constitutes a true redemption in virtue of the merits of Christ.

– He relies on the authority of the Tridentine decree, declaring the Council had no intention of including the Immaculate Virgin in the definition of the universality of original sin, and claims this extends even to the debitum. This is a very weak argument, not to say inefficacious, to prove that the Mother of God did not contract any kind of debt (no. 574). So, too, is the argument he builds on the testimony of some Fathers of the Church and of ecclesiastical writers (no. 575).

– Nor is his argumentation convincing when he claims that the Virgin Mary was dispensed from, or not included under the law or contract with Adam, concerning the universality and transmission of original sin. Nor is there any validity to the deduction going as follows: if God preserved Her from guilt, he preserved Her also from the debitum; because to sin in Adam is a filthy and a dirty obligation and necessity to sin (no. 277). The error is perfectly plain, because to sin in Adam is not a personal sin, is not true sin. It is only a sin of nature.

– The argumention in no. 578 is extremely ineffective. It is based on an exaggeration of the concept of debitum proprium, which he considers as moral vileness, as spiritual suicide, the shadow of sin. All this being in error, he is forced to exaggerate to maintain any strength in the reasoning. His argument boomerangs on him. {footnote}On the basis of this equivocal consideration in no. 577, he continues his exposition in no. 578: “Amplius exaggerabo huius debiti turpitudinem: si enim illud incurrisset, vel, quod magis est, peccati umbra insectata fuisse, vel alicui peccati vestigio inhaesisset Virgo Deipara, a Deo nesciri videretur…” This is absurd, totally wanting in theological value. It is surprising that so great a theologian, as is C. de Vega, would have fallen for this kind of argumentation. In the next number, 579, he claims to deduce the extent of the debitum from the text of Apocalypse 12: 1: et luna sub pedibus eius [and the moon under her feet].{/footnote}

– He offers other types of arguments to ground and guarantee his hypothesis on the total exemption of the debitum in the Virgin Mary. The greater number of these reflections suffer from the defects already noted.

iii) Cristóbal de Vega affirms, quite radically, and as doctrine of faith that: The Immaculate Virgin was truly and properly redeemed in virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer. How can this affirmation be reconciled with his hypothesis on exemption from the debitum?

As noted above, he devotes Certamen IV to the resolution of this problem: Immunity from a debt to contract original sin in the Blessed Virgin is reconciled with redemption through Christ and with the order of decrees. This is a satisfactory formulation of the problematic, incorporating the sense of the question as I have formulated it, and which was the formulation adopted by supporters of the opposite thesis in his time (no. 590).

– It prescinds from the exclusion or inclusion of Mary under the headship of Adam, because without this inclusion She cannot be considered as redeemed. He considers another fact as basis for Her redemption, one similar and of the same kind and theological certitude: the fact of Mary’s predestination. He reasons thus: in the first sign, Christ was predestined as Redeemer, and Mary as His Mother. The redemption may be considered actively and passively. To be redeemed, it was necessary for Mary to be included in this sign, to have the debt of sinning in Adam (no. 590). But what need or debt is there or obligation to fall, to be included in Adam’s predestination?

– Another argument is based on “preservative redemption” as a common teaching of the Fathers. An act of redemption is that by which a fallen person is freed. Or it may be one whereby one is preserved from falling (no. 590). The latter is a more perfect and noble redemption. However, how could there be preservation, when there is neither debt nor inclusion under the headship of Adam, nor any necessity nor any probability of falling into sin?

– Cristóbal de Vega shows himself quite broadminded, but hardly precise, in his theological discernment, when he proposes as adequate, for demonstrating Mary’s redemption, a defect of nature or its inclination to sin. {footnote}”Censeo primo, ad veram et propriam redemptionem sat esse obnoxietatem ad peccatum ortam vel ex conditione naturae, vel ex modo generationis” (no. 591). Indeed, this is a more noble and more worthy redemption, but it is not true redemption. See no. 594, where he comments on Gil de la Presentación.{/footnote} This is clearly not redemption in the proper sense of the term. It is a personal privilege, which does not redeem from a state of prostration, into which one was obliged to fall. To avoid a simple possibility is not a redemption, according to the proper meaning of the terms. {footnote}Most unconvincing to me seem the subsequent arguments adduced to prove the redemption of the Immaculate Virgin without any kind of debitum: viz., the comparison to the redemption of those who have committed personal sin without any need of a debitum, and the pardon of original sin (no. 591). Still less felicitous, indeed fantastic, seems to me the use he makes of the baptism of the Virgin, whereby Mary was cleansed by Christ (no. 592), when it is not known if Mary really was baptized.{/footnote}

Cristóbal de Vega himself appears to have been not entirely convinced of his hypothesis if he had to resort to a natural inclination to sin (obnoxietas), or similar phenomena which cannot be considered redemptive works in the true and proper sense. The example of the Angels, who indeed had an inclination and capacity to sin, is a case in point. It is evident that they were not redeemed. One may say that Christ died for them, to confer on them the blessings of grace. De Vega dares to state, as a kind of concession lacking in theological rigor, that Christ redeemed them.

{footnote}”… Et quidem, verum autumno Christum Dominum pro illis [Angelis] mortuum, eosdemque redimisse praeservando, ne caderent” (no. 295).{/footnote}From what? They committed no sin.


This last section reveals the weakness of the argumentation employed by anti-debitist theologians who deny any kind of debitum peccati in the Immaculate Virgin, in order to explain Her redemption by Christ. I believe that in view of the arguments proposed by Cristóbal de Vega, it is necessary to reaffirm a genuine relation to original sin, in order to speak of a proper, authentic redemption by Christ, one which frees the human race from its sins through the mysteries of His flesh.

There remain many questions to clarify in this matter and many authors still to be studied. The contribution of the theologians and mariologists of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries is extremely valuable. The debitum peccati and its relation to the redemption of the Immaculate Virgin, are questions of highest importance. They merit further study, more wide-ranging and more in depth, so as to reveal the brilliance and splendor of the Immaculate Conception in the history of classical mariology, without shadow of error or equivocation.

[Note: The second part of the theme, the concept of coredemption during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in Spain, must be the subject of presentation on another occasion.]

Fr. Enrique Llamas Martinez

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