The First Marian Schema of Vatican II



It must be stated immediately and emphatically that this English publication of the first “schema” or draft intended for the Second Vatican Council’s treatment of the Blessed Virgin Mary is in no way intended to imply that this original draft should have been the final draft, that is, to speak against the Council’s final draft which became Chapter 8 of Lumen Gentium. An ecumenical council such as Vatican II which is confirmed by the Roman Pontiff is infallibly protected from error by the power of the Holy Spirit, and this key Catholic truth applies directly to the final and fruitful formulation of the Council’s Lumen Gentium Chapter 8 treatment on the Mother of God.


What then is the purpose of publishing a new English translation of the original Latin schema on Mary during this 50th year anniversary celebration of the Second Vatican Council? It is precisely to manifest the rich mariological understanding and acceptance of Our Lady’s roles in redemption and mediation which were standardly accepted, universally taught, and papally approved within the Church at the time of the Council.


This original Marian schema was prepared by theologians under the guidance of the Holy Office (now the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith) and was submitted to Bl. Pope John XXIII for his approval before it would then be circulated among the Fathers of Vatican II. Bl. John XXIII granted his direct papal approval of this Marian schema on November 10, 1962. The schema was then distributed to the Council Fathers on November 23, 1962.


Due to the historic conciliar vote of October 29, 1963, where it was decided by 17 votes to include the treatment on Mary into the document on the Church rather than an independent document on Mary, this Marian schema was then re-written from the form of an independent document into that of a chapter of another document, as well as receiving significant content changes in the process by a theological committee. After its eventual re-issuing to the Council Fathers, and receiving more revisions, both by theological committees and due to interventions by Council Fathers, the final draft of what became Chapter 8I of Lumen Gentium was approved on October 29, 1964.

Attached to the original distribution of the First Schema to the Council Fathers on November 23, 1962, was a “Praenotanda” notice, or notes of preliminary explanation that had been added to the first Marian schema by a subcommittee of theologians.

The Praenotanda stated unequivocally that there are no opinions contained in this first Marian schema which have not already been proposed by the Supreme Pontiffs in previous papal statements.II Everything, therefore, contained in the following schema is already a mariological truth proposed as doctrinally accurate by the papal magisterium. The generous number of footnotes from papal documents throughout the first schema further confirms its ordinary magisterial character.


The schema’s teaching on Mary’s participation in the Redemption, as well as her subsequent role in the distribution of graces as Mediatrix of all graces, is extremely rich. Apart from the profound teaching of Marian coredemption and mediation in the body of the schema itself, two footnotes are of particular interest to the titles of Mary as “Co-redemptrix” and “Mediatrix of all graces.”


Footnote 16, which offers extended explanation for the legitimate titles of Mary as used by the Church and by the Roman pontiffs, offers the following historical and theological defense of the Co-redemptrix title:


In Christian antiquity it was customary to refer to Mary as Eve, a title which seems to be taken from the principle of “re-circulation” or parallelism between Mary and Eve. Witness in this regard is found already in St. Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho: “And since we read that he is the Son of God… and made man from the Virgin, so that in the way that the disobedience spawned by the serpent took its beginning, it would receive its dissolution in the say way … .” Based on the same principle, St. Irenaeus (Against Heresies) explicitly calls Mary the cause of salvation for the entire human race. After the Council of Ephesus, the very title of Mediatrix, or as the Greeks say, Mesites or Mesetria, is attributed to Mary. In a work of a quite ancient author (some say of the 5th century but certainly before the 8th century) we read: “For she is the Mediatrix of heaven and earth, who naturally accomplishes their union.” This title became more common day by day, as can be seen in the writings of St. Andrew of Crete, St. Germanus of Constantinople, St. John Damascene, etc. Nor are there lacking Fathers who greet Mary as “Helper of the Redeemer” or “Mother of the living” in reference to Gn 3:15.


All these have been further developed by theologians and Supreme Pontiffs, and a nomenclature was created in which Mary is at different times called the Spiritual Mother of Men. the Queen of Heaven and Earth, and at other times the New Eve, the Mediatrix and Dispenser of All Graces, and even, in fact, the Co-redemptrix. With regard to the title “Queen”, cf. Note 14; with regard to the title Spiritual Mother, cf. Note 12. With regard to the title, Co-redemptrix”, and “Companion of Christ the Redeemer”, some explanations need to be added here:


The title Redemptrix occurs already in the 10th century: “Holy Redemptrix of the world, pray for us.” When this title came into use in the 15th and 16th centuries and the immediate co-operation of the Blessed Virgin in the work of our redemption was already perceived, “con” [cum] was added to “redemptrix,” so that the Mother of God was called “corredemptrix,” [Co-redemptrix] whereas Christ continued to be called “Redemptor” [Redeemer]. Accordingly, from the 17th century onward, the title of “Co-redemptrix” was in common use not only in works geared to piety and devotion, but also in very many theological treatises [cf. Carol J., The Co-redemption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Rome, 1950, p. 482]


With regard to the Roman Pontiffs, the word occurs