Our Lady’s Co-Redemption

From 15 to 18 September 2023, a theological conference took place in Dundee, Scotland, on the topic “Co-Redemptrix: the relevance of a Marian doctrine for our time”. Over three days, eminent scholars, clergy and religious from around the world presented a comprehensive review and analysis of the major topics, issues and challenges underpinning the much hoped for fifth Marian dogma of Mary as Co-redemptrix and Mediatrix of All Graces. 

The conference effectively highlighted the consistency of the Church’s doctrine of Mary’s Co-redemption, whose embryonic form was traced back to apostolic times, notably the writings of St Paul. Over the centuries, the understanding of Mary’s active participation in the sacrifice of our Redemption, and her role as the New Eve, was central to the defence of the faith against emerging heresies, especially those which attacked the Incarnation and divinity of Christ. 

At the present time, characterised by confusion within the Church, any reticence in formally defining Our Lady’s role as Co-redemptrix and Mediatrix of All Graces does not stem from any doctrinal reservations, as this doctrine has been clearly believed and taught by the Church throughout the ages. On the contrary, at least theologically and doctrinally, the ground appears ready for a fifth dogma. 

Whilst the Church, for pastoral reasons, does not appear willing to further define and formalise our Lady’s co-redemptive role at this time, a fifth dogma would be an effective antidote against the nihilistic relativism afflicting the world and the Church. It would also strengthen the Church in her mission and accelerate the triumph of the Immaculate Heart and the advent of Christ’s Kingdom. 

One of the speakers made the profound and beautiful suggestion that the fifth dogma is a necessary step for ushering in the triumph of the Immaculate Heart, because Christ would want His Mother to be fully and appropriately honoured, not just for the privileges He has granted her, but also for the role she has played and continues to play in our salvation. 

In the first talk, entitled “Mary as the New Eve in the thoughts of St Paul”, Fr Thomas Crean discussed the apostolic roots of the Christian belief in Mary as the Second or New Eve, which, as posited by Cardinal Newman, preceded its first formal expression by St Justin Martyr in his dialogue with Trypho in the year 160. Fr Crean suggested that St Paul clearly understood Mary’s co-redemptive role as the New Eve, in her redemptive association with her Divine Son, the New Adam. Fr Crean’s presentation thus vindicated Cardinal Newman’s assertion that the apostles themselves must have believed and preached that Our Lady is the New Eve. 

Matthew Hazell followed with an analysis of “Our Lady’s Co-redemption in the vota for Vatican II”. In over 2,100 vota, the bishops expressed the desire for discussion of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Second Vatican Council. Hazell’s analysis indicated that a significant number of them requested a deeper understanding of Our Lady: over 300 vota concerned Our Lady as Mediatrix of all Graces, 48 her spiritual Maternity and 93 her title as Co-redemptrix. Following multiple quotations representative of the different views expressed by the bishops, Mr Hazell concluded that, among these vota, there was an even split between bishops in favour and against a new definition of Mary’s role as Co-redemptrix. Importantly, however, even the bishops who were against a new definition for pastoral reasons considered the title of Co-redemptrix theologically sound and fully consistent with the Church’s understanding and doctrine. 

Next was Mgr Arthur Calkins, scholarly presentation on “The truth of Marian Co-redemption, the papal Magisterium and the current situation”. His presentation offered a comprehensive review of the Church’s understanding and teachings on Mary as Co-redemptrix, all the way since the early Church Fathers to the present time. Whilst the term “Co-redemption” has been used since the sixteenth century by many popes, the current pontificate is not favourable towards its use and even appears hostile to the proclamation of a fifth dogma. Mgr Calkins concluded by expressing his personal conviction that, until the Church recognises Mary’s mission as Co-redemptrix and Mediatrix of all Graces, the chaos in the Church and in the world will not cease, whereas the solemn recognition of her mission will help to usher the triumph of her Immaculate Heart. 

The final talk of the first day was Fr Alessandro Apollonio’s “Mary’s Co-redemption according to Bl John Duns Scotus”. From Scotus’ teachings Fr Apollonio derived the conclusion that Mary did in fact actively co-operate in objective Redemption of humanity, and continues to co-operate in the subjective Redemption of individual souls. Her sacrifice was constituted materially by the sufferings and tears of her compassion that pierced her soul like a sword, and formally by the charity with which she offered her material sacrifice to God, alongside the sacrifice of her Son. In so doing, she entered and formed part of the price of salvation. 

Fr Manfred Hauke opened the second day, asking,Can the doctrine of Co-redemption be found in Vatican II?” Following a description of the use of the term “Co-redemptrix” since the fifteenth Century, Fr Hauke reviewed the debate about Mary’s cooperation in Redemption in the years preceding Vatican II, before detailing how the Council actually taught co-redemption, without using the term “co-redemptrix” for ecumenical reasons.

In his learned presentation, “The historical importance of a new Marian dogma in light of the Fatima Message”, Prof Roberto de Mattei presented the thesis that the solemn proclamation by the pope of a fifth Marian dogma would be one of the most important and effective acts to resolve the crisis of our time. He first described the importance of dogma as an effective defence against the pervasive spread of a new form of nihilistic relativism. The Church’s dogmas are the expressions of perennial religious and moral truths revealed by God through His Church, with the guarantee of infallibility, in which all Catholics must believe. An efficacious response to relativism would be the pope’s clear and definitive confirmation of the truth of Mary’s co-redemption and universal mediation, which the Church’s ordinary Magisterium has always taught and considered to be part of the deposit of faith. Mary, said Prof de Mattei, is the focal point where the central truths of the faith can be seen, and a new Marian dogma would help to elevate the profound doctrinal content of the Fatima message, which called for the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary throughout the world.

In “Our Lady as the New Eve in the Church Fathers”, Fr Malcom Hutchinson highlighted how St Justin Martyr and St Irenaeus were the first to see in the Blessed Virgin Mary the key to understanding and defending the truths of the faith. They, and subsequent Church Fathers, followed the narrow path of orthodoxy amid diverse heresies. The Immaculate Conception (which would flower into a dogma much later) would be the immediate inference of calling Mary the New Eve. Cardinal Newman also identified a second Marian filo rosso — “golden thread” — whereby the title of Second Eve or New Eve also lies at the fundament of the title of Co-redemptrix. 

In his talk, entitled “The sacrifice of Our Lady”, Fr Serafino Lanzetta posed the question, “Was Our Lady’s Co-redemption a real and true sacrifice of salvation?” From the Annunciation, Mary clearly co-operated in a unique manner in our Redemption, and also had a special role in the sacrifice of Calvary. She is the only person whom Our Lord calls “Woman” (cf. Jn 19:26, Jn 2:4, Gen 3:15, Rev 3:15), that is, the New Eve alongside Christ, the New Adam. Fr Lanzetta concluded that Our Lady did indeed offer up her Son, first by consenting, then by immolating herself with Him as an oblation to God the Father on the altar of the Cross. The sacrifice of salvation is therefore one, offered by Jesus and Mary at Calvary. 

In the last presentation of the conference, “The Co-Redemptrix is thirsting for consolation”, Fr Philomeno James provided a profound and inspiring meditation on the role the faithful can play in consoling Our Blessed Mother at the foot of the Cross. Our Lord himself said on the Cross, “I thirst” — Sitio. What is He thirsting for? He is thirsting for love. Mary quenches His thirst by loving Him on our behalf. Christ also thirsts for her to be loved. He cannot console her because He is hanging on the Cross, and so He calls on us to console her. Fr Philomeno James exhorted all the faithful to live out the fifth dogma in our hearts, interiorly, each one of us embarking on our individual co-redemptive “little way”; to live out the Fatima message of reparation; by loving all souls in the Lord and consecrating them to the Co-redemptrix; to love our priests and the priesthood (which would not exist without her co-redemption); to avail ourselves of the sacraments with holy dispositions. If we do all this, he concluded, we will console Mary’s Immaculate Heart, and therefore Christ’s Heart, as the two Hearts are one. 

During the conference the Marian Franciscans launched a new quarterly magazine, Co-redemptrix, edited by Fr Lanzetta, with contributions from the friars and lay people. The magazine is the realisation of an idea very dear to Fr Manelli, the founder of the Marian Franciscans, and takes inspiration from The Knight of the Immaculate, first published 100 years ago by St Maximilan Kolbe, one of the community’s patron saints. The magazine aims to unravel the golden thread linking the spiritual maternity of the Immaculata with her presence and relevance in our own salvation. 

More information on the conference, including all the presentations, are available online at the Co-Redemptrix Symposium. The first issue of Co-Redemptrix can be downloaded here