The Term ‘Co-Redemptress’ for the
Blessed Virgin Mary Is Neither Heretical
Nor Scandalous to the Catholic Faith
Earlier this month a fellow Catholic discussed with me very amicably & peaceably the term of ‘Co-Redemptress’. This seems to contradict the infallible pronouncements of the Holy Catholic Church at the Chalcedonian & Tridentine Councils, said he, as well as, possibly, the Council of Florence. To wit, where Pope St. Leo the Great in AD 451 taught:
“…knowing that you have been redeemed from the empty way of life you inherited from your fathers, not with corruptible gold and silver but by the precious blood of Jesus Christ, as of a lamb without stain or spot.” [St. Leo I in Lectis dilectionis tuæ, quoting 1 Peter 1:18, and dogmatically upheld at the Council of Chalcedon.]
And where Pope Eugene IV in AD 1441 taught:
“…no one conceived of man and woman was ever freed of the domination of the Devil, except through the merit of the mediator between God and men, our Lord Jesus Christ; He who was conceived without sin, was born and died, through his death alone laid low the enemy of the human race by destroying our sins, and opened the entrance to the kingdom of heaven…” [Pope Eugene IV in Cantate domino, which is part of the documents of the Council of Florence.]
Too, where Pope Pius IV in AD 1563 taught:
“…the saints, who reign with Christ, offer up their
prayers to God for men; and that it is good and useful suppliantly to invoke
them, and to have recourse to their prayers, aid and help for obtaining
benefits from God, through His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, Who alone is our
Redeemer and Saviour…” [Pope
Pius IV in On the Invocation, Veneration,
and Relics of Saints and on Sacred Images from Session 25 of the Council of
Doesn’t this rule out, asked he, a Catholic calling anyone else by some variation of the word ‘redeemer’? Objectively speaking, isn’t doing so a heresy? And as Catholics, isn’t this clear because Christ is The Only One Who can rightly bear the title of ‘Our Redeemer’?
And the answers:
No, no, and no.
First, note that none of the three quotes above explicitly forbids the term ‘Co-Redemptress’. They were not even addressing the issue --- period. Therefore, those who imagine that Catholics ought not to call the Blessed Virgin Mary our Co-Redemptress, based on these quotes, go beyond what is actually said. Nor has the Roman Catholic Church anywhere, to my knowledge, ever solemnly & explicitly condemned the term ‘Co-Redemptress’. Consequently, the title is, at the very least, conceivably permissible.
Second, the word “alone” (as found in the Florentian & Tridentine quotes above) cannot logically exempt all other uses of the terms “Redeemer and Saviour” or the very real participation of others in defeating Satan in conjunction with Jesus. Because just as saints can very obviously sub-mediate between God & men without infringing on the fact that Jesus is the “one mediator of God and men,” as St. Paul says in 1 Timothy 2:15 (DRC), so, too, can other creatures ‘sub-redeem’ and even ‘sub-save’, as it were, without impinging on Jesus’ Singular Act of Redemption & Salvation whereby alone men can attain to the Kingdom of Heaven. Otherwise, what else is a mere man doing when he preaches Christ’s Gospel and causes his listeners to enter Jesus’ Body, the Catholic Church? And if by his sufferings & mortifications he obtains the graces of God whereby their hearts are softened, causing them to believe in the Catholic Faith, then what else is this if not a participation in Jesus Christ’s redemption & salvation of their precious, immortal souls?
We see, then, that mere creatures do necessarily partake in the fulfillment of Christ’s Mighty Redemption & Salvation which He accomplished on the Cross by His Death, defeating the Devil. They do this by operating in conjunction with Him at a lower level of responsibility. Which only makes sense, for are not all Catholics members of His Body --- having been “baptized in his death” and “buried together with him by baptism into death” as St. Paul also says in Romans 6:3-4 (DRC) --- and thus participants in His Crucifixion, who may hence declare with St. Paul, “…I… fill up those things that are wanting of [lacking in] the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the church…”? (Colossians 1:23d, 24b DRC, annotation & emphases added)
This is why, then, a mere man --- whether priest or lowly layperson --- can be said to defeat the Devil when he administers the Sacrament of Baptism to a human being. Because in doing this he participates in the Triumph of Christ upon the Cross, administering the graces won thereby to the one who receives the Sacrament of Baptism at his hands, thereby also snatching the soul from the certain clutches of the Evil One, who had claimed him as his own up until that very moment! It is, too, why Catholics have known since the beginning of the New Testament that Genesis 3:15, where it says “…she shall crush thy head…” (DRC), refers prophetically to the Blessed Ever-Virgin Mary defeating Satan decisively by Her Role in giving us Her Divine Son!
Yet how can this be when the Council of Florence says of Jesus that “…through his death alone [He] laid low the enemy of the human race by destroying our sins…”? How then can Mary be the One Who crushes the Serpent’s Head, as Sacred Scripture shows us both in Genesis 3 and the Apocalypse 12?
Because She participates in the Triumph of Christ’s Sacrifice upon the Cross. And She does so in a way that so far surpasses all other human creatures --- it being Her assent to God’s Message through St. Gabriel that made the Incarnation of Jesus possible (“Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word…”), as told to us in Luke 1:38 (DRC), and it being Her Flesh & Blood which She gave to the Son of God and clothed Him in our humanity and which in turn won for us on the Cross such a Great & Mighty Redemption --- that She truly does rightly & sensibly merit the title of ‘Co-Redemptress’. For though Jesus died on the Cross, redeeming penitent men from their sins, it was Her Flesh & Blood which He gained from Her that fulfilled this Sacrifice, and, consequently, God Himself in Church’s Sacred Writ rightly & sensibly says of Her in relation to the Devil that it is “she” Who shall crush his head.
Not ‘he’, as Protestants love to insist.
Rather, She. We repeat:
This is proof positive, logically speaking, of the rightfulness of the title, ‘Co-Redemptress’. Not just that it is, at a bare minimum, conceivably permissible to use it, but that it is indeed logically right to do so. And the fathers of these councils, as well as the popes who approved them, knew this. They were not stupid or uninformed. Therefore, their statements about Christ’s Death, Redemption & Salvation are not only not explicit condemnations of the term ‘Co-Redemptress’, but not even an implicit disapproval of the same. Indeed, they are the opposite. For they do logically and thus implicitly demand that the Blessed Ever-Virgin Mary be recognized for Her very unique role in the Triumph of Christ’s Death, Redemption & Salvation, a role so utterly unique compared to all other human beings that the term ‘Co-Redemptress’ is practically the sole term that does Her accomplishment justice!
So why can’t many who go by the name of Catholic see this?
Because they are blinded by a kind of
Catholic ‘fundamentalism’. And
just as Protestant fundamentalists pretend to interpret their bibles
‘literally’ and ‘correctly’ while massacring the real
meaning of Sacred Scripture left-and-right, so,
as well, do Catholic fundamentalists pretend to interpret the words of
Most of them may not mean to do this, their subjective intent being quite honorable. Notwithstanding, it is what tangibly results from their objectively bad attitudes & objectively bad actions in this matter.
Which leads us to the final point in
this forward. For, third, realize that the term
‘Co-Redemptress’ is no recent innovation.
To the contrary, a famous theological textbook of the 20th century
states that it “…has been current since the fifteenth century, and… also appears in some
official Church documents under Pius X…” [Dr. Ludwig Ott’s Fundamentals
of Catholic Dogma, page 212, as published by TAN Books & Publishers,
Inc., at Rockford IL in 1974, and as earlier published by The Mercier Press,
Limited, in 1955 in Cork, Ireland. All emphasis added. The original German
version was published by Verlag Herder in 1952 in
As a result, ‘Co-Redemptress’
has a long & illustrious history amongst Roman Catholics, a usage of at least 500 years.
And never --- I repeat, never! --- has the Magisterium
seen fit to explicitly condemn its
use by Catholics during that time. Contrarily, the Holy See itself
sanctioned its use by employing the term in documents issuing from the
Faced by these facts, my fellow Catholic relented somewhat. Alright (he as much said), rightly understood the term can’t be heretical. Nevertheless, the crime of scandal is committed by using the word since the term is not understood rightly by so many in the Church, not to mention people outside of the Church.
And why do they not rightly understand it, why is scandal given?
Because, said he, the prefix ‘co-‘ in the term, ‘Co-Redemptress’, smacks of equality. That is to say, by calling Queen Mary a Co-Redemptress, a Catholic is recklessly equating Her with Her Son & His Accomplishments, however much this Catholic may not intend to do so. This scandalizes other Catholics, and brings Catholicism into disrepute amongst those who are not Catholic, such as amongst those who are Protestant heretics.
Consequently, the term should be avoided like the plague.
No. The short letter I composed for him goes into the reasons why this concern is unfounded. And if you are racked by similar fears, my dear reader, whether Catholic or not, then it is your moral duty to read what I have posted below on this webpage. Because if not Catholic, then this fear is impeding you from converting to your only hope of Eternal Salvation. Whereas if Catholic, then this fear is putting you in peril of maligning your Celestial Mother & Heavenly Queen, not to mention angering Her Royal Son, Jesus Christ, against your slander… and however unintentional that slander may have been hitherto perusing this letter.
The text below is just as I sent it, with the sole exception of a mention of one of the popes being changed to a less precise reference to the Apostolic See, in general, in order to avoid a possible error. The original letter had photocopies of pages from a Webster’s Dictionary appended to it; readers of the version posted here can satisfy themselves of the accuracy & relevance of my quotes by noting their citations and doing a little sleuthing at a decent public library, or by looking closely in their own copy of a Webster’s.
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11 December 2009
I pray that the
Triune God of the Catholic Church blesses you according to His Mind in your
effort with Y…. and that the Blessed Ever-Virgin Mary watches over you
with Her prayers & powerful intercession. May Heaven’s Will be done. If you end up staying there while I’m
still here in
Listen, here is another point that I’ve studied since our debate about the title, Co-Redemptress, being used for Queen Mary. I’ve written it down because you’re leaving early this morning --- with no time remaining to sit down and discuss it --- and because you’ll have the leisure to mull it over carefully as you travel.
It would seem, assuming I understand you correctly, that everything hinges on the prefix ‘co’ in ‘co-redemptress’ or ‘co-mediatrix’. In your thinking this automatically means ‘equal’. However, and as I explained in some detail in the Was Benedict XV an Antipope? book on The Epistemologic Works website, words are not limited to just one meaning. Rather, due to the usage & history of a particular word by millions of people across the generations, a single word can often develop naturally two or more meanings, or shades of meaning. This is an incontrovertible fact of our human existence.
Such is the case with the term ‘co-’. And to prove this, I cite the dictionary to which I constantly refer in my work: Webster’s New World Dictionary, 2nd College Edition, as published by The World Publishing Company in New York NY & Cleveland OH in 1972. Webster’s is, of course, a standard reference work for the English language, something any English-speaking person who is educated recognizes. It’s authority in matters of definition & meaning of English words cannot be easily doubted. You will find the relevant pages copied & attached to this brief letter.
To begin, please look at the first photocopy from the dictionary. It is page 271. Near the upper lefthand corner you’ll find the entry for ‘co-’. It is highlighted in yellow and circled by orange. Two broad definitions are given, the first definition being subdivided into three finer shades of meaning. I quote the first definition and its three meanings: “1. a prefix shortened from COM-, meaning a) together with [cooperation] b) joint [co-owner] c) equally [coextensive]…”
As you can see, only definition 1c has the meaning of ‘equal’. The first two merely connote ‘togetherness’ or ‘jointness’. It is these two that apply to ‘co-redemptress’ and ‘co-mediatrix’ when properly understood. Note as well where the term ‘co-’ comes from. The start of the entry tells us that it derives from ‘com-’. Please look at the second photocopy from the dictionary near the lower lefthand corner. It is page 282 in Webster’s Dictionary. Again, the entry is highlighted in yellow and circled by orange. I quote: “…a prefix meaning with or together [combine]…” Hence, the origin of the term ‘co-’ does not even include the meaning of ‘equality’ --- only ‘togetherness’ and ‘withness’.
This is important because the dictionary lists the definitions in order of development from the word’s original meaning. The sense of ‘equality’ only came recently, therefore, and is not the sole or primary definition of the prefix ‘co-’. Furthermore, this suggests very strongly that the Holy See’s use of the word ‘co-redemptress’ (leastwise, as it has been translated into the English), since it had to have been in the Church’s language of Latin, employed the Latin prefix ‘com-’ and would not have any sense at all of the idea of ‘equality’ being implied between the Blessed Virgin Mary and Her Divine Son, Jesus, Who is the Sole Redeemer of the world in the biggest picture of things.
The terms ‘co-redemptress’ and ‘co-mediatrix’ simply mean a spiritual work accomplished together and jointly, not a thing that is done equally. That is to say, just because Jesus & Mary accomplished the Redemption together and jointly mediate His Graces does not mean, then, that Mary is equal to Him in this work or that She is superior to Him in the process.
Proof of this is easy to see. Consider the third photocopy, which is page 315 in my Webster’s Dictionary. The entry for ‘coreligionist’ is near the bottom. It states for the definition: “…a person of the same religion or religious denomination…” Now consider the Roman Catholic Religion. Both lowliest layman and highest of the high, a pope, are coreligionists in the Catholic Faith, being both of them joint members together with one another in the Catholic Church. Nevertheless, a pope is obviously not ‘equal’ to a layman because of this and is, in fact, far above the layman in the duties & functions of his office, which is the visible head of the Body of Christ.
Likewise Queen Mary. As a mere creature, She is far below Christ, Who is God. She cannot be ‘equal’ to Him in this sense. She is, nevertheless, His ‘coreligionist’ in the Catholic Faith, being together with Him in its practice, and She is, like no other human being to exist --- due to Her Motherhood and giving to Him of His Human Flesh & Blood --- His joint accomplice in fulfilling the Redemption of Mankind, of those individuals in the Human Race who are baptized in water and, if able to because of an adequate mind, who profess the One True Faith of Jesus Christ whole & undefiled.
Or consider the fourth photocopy. It is page 320 in the dictionary. You’ll see the entries for ‘cosign’ and ‘cosignatory’ in the lower righthand corner. I quote the latter: “…signing jointly… one of two or more joint signers…” Now consider a parent cosigning a loan for his child, who is of age, but who hasn’t established a credit history to make a bank want to loan him money and trust for sure that he’ll pay it back. Is the child equal to the parent?
Clearly not. The child is, normally, subject to his father & mother. He must respect them and honor them. Nonetheless, in such a situation, they sign jointly. No equality is necessarily implied. Merely that the two sides are doing something together, in union with each other. So it is with Jesus & Mary. The term ‘Co-Redemptress’ does not demand that She be viewed as ‘equal’ in Her work with Jesus… simply that She accomplishes it together with Him, unequalled by anyone else in humanity.
Feast of St. Damasus, 2009
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