Audio discussion why Our Lady is not Co-Redemptrix [37 min. audio] – This discussion answers objections on this point, including how the title could be contrary to Catholic teaching if it seems to have been used by a pope.
A long time back we posted the dogmatic definitions from the Councils of Florence and Trent which constitute the chief reasons why Mary should not be called “Co-Redemptrix.” These are infallible definitions.
Pope Pius IV, Council of Trent, Sess. 25, On Invocation, Veneration and Relics of Saints, and on Sacred Images, ex cathedra: “… the saints, who reign with Christ, offer up their prayers to God for men; and that it is good and useful to invoke them suppliantly and, in order to obtain favors from God through His Son JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD, WHO ALONE IS OUR REDEEMER and Savior… And they must also teach that images of Christ, the virgin mother of God and the other saints should be set up and kept… But if anyone should teach or maintain anything contrary to these decrees, let him be anathema.” (Denz. 984)
Here we see that Jesus Christ alone is our Redeemer. Notice that this definition even mentions Mary. So, in the very context of mentioning the Blessed Virgin and the saints, the Council of Trent declares that Christ alone is the Redeemer.
Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, “Cantate Domino” 1441, ex cathedra: “The Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes, and teaches that 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, which the first man by his own sin had lost with all succession…” (Denz. 711)
These should be sufficient for a believing Catholic to see that Mary should not be called Co-Redeemer or Co-Redemptrix.
It’s interesting that the Catechism of the Council of Trent also teaches that Christ “alone” redeemed us and that Christ “alone” is the Redeemer. While the catechism is not infallible, it reiterates the truth that was solemnly defined in the aforementioned councils.
Catechism of the Council of Trent, Part III: The Decalogue – First Commandment – Thou Shalt not Have Strange Gods, etc. – Objections Answered: “True, there is but one Mediator, Christ the Lord, who alone has reconciled us to the heavenly Father through His blood, and who, having obtained eternal redemption, and having entered once into the holies, ceases not to intercede for us.” (Tan Books, p. 372)
To maintain that Mary is “Co-Redemptrix” in light of the dogmatic definitions above, which infallibly declare that Jesus alone is our Redeemer, one would literally have to hold that there is no contradiction between these two statements:
Joshua walked into the desert alone
Joshua walked into the desert with Margaret
Is there a contradiction between these two statements? Of course there is a contradiction. They both cannot be true at the same time. Likewise, Jesus and Mary cannot be our Redeemers (Jesus in a greater way, Mary in a lesser way) if Jesus alone is our Redeemer. As a formal doctrinal title applied to Mary, “Co-Redemptrix” is clearly wrong. This is not in any way to diminish Mary’s unique role in our salvation and in the events leading up to the Redemption. It is simply to state the truth. Beware of phonies and false devotees of Our Lady who will agree with any statement which appears to praise her, even if it is not consistent with Catholic teaching. Jesus Christ alone is the Redeemer. Only God – and God alone – could ransom us back and “destroy our sins.” These dogmatic definitions are definitive. Hence, they should prove the point to any Catholic, despite a handful of statements which seem to suggest the contrary but which don’t hold infallible authority. However, we’ve been disappointed by the fact that some people just aren’t satisfied with the dogmatic definitions. They insist on calling Mary Co-Redemptrix or Co-Redeemer, even after seeing these dogmatic definitions. This is problematic. They are deviating from dogmatic truth.
THAT CHRIST ALONE IS THE REDEEMER, AND THAT MARY IS NOT CO-REDEMPTRIX, IS ALSO SHOWN BY THE ORIGINAL SIN AND BY THE TYPOLOGY OF ADAM AND EVE
Here’s another way of showing why it’s incorrect to call Mary “Co-Redemptrix.” Most people who engage in Catholic apologetics agree that Jesus Christ is the second Adam. That’s made clear in the New Testament (1 Cor. 15:45).
Romans 5:14- “Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure [type] of him that was to come [Jesus].”
Consistent with this typology of Jesus as the second Adam who reverses the curse of Adam, Mary is the new Eve. Jesus is the new Adam, and Mary is the new Eve. Just as Eve, the first woman, was intimately involved with the first man in the events which led up to the fall of mankind, there is a woman, Mary, who is intimately involved in the events leading up to the Redemption. Eve disobeyed God and sinned. Mary obeyed God and never sinned. Much more could obviously be said on this issue; but the point here is that while Eve’s role with Adam in the events leading up to the original sin was unique and crucial, it was nevertheless the sin of Adam alone which constituted the original sin and effectuated the downfall of mankind. That’s very clear in Catholic teaching.
Romans 5:12- “Wherefore as by one man sin entered into this world, and by sin death…”.
THE COUNCIL OF TRENT AND ST. THOMAS CONFIRM THAT IT WAS ADAM’S SIN ALONE WHICH PLUNGED THE WORLD INTO DEATH; LIKEWISE, IT WAS CHRIST ALONE WHO REDEEMED THE WORLD
The idea that Mary is formally “Co-Redemptrix” would be consistent with the idea that the original sin was the sin of Adam and Eve. But that’s not Catholic teaching. In fact, in the following passage, St. Thomas dismisses such a notion. He says that it was not the sin of two that constituted the original sin and the downfall of mankind.
St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, Pt. I-II, Q. 81, A. 5: “…On the contrary, The Apostle says (Rom. 5:12): By one man sin entered into this world. Now if the woman would have transmitted original sin to her children, he should have said that it entered by two, since both of them sinned, or rather that it entered by a woman, since she sinned first… I answer that,therefore original sin, is contracted, not from the mother, but from the father: so that, accordingly, if Eve, and not Adam, had sinned, their children would not contract original sin: whereas, if Adam, and not Eve, had sinned, they would contract it.”
Notice that St. Thomas rejects the idea that it was the sin of two which constituted the original sin. Moreover, the Council of Trent is quite clear that the original sin is the sin of Adam alone, not the sin of Adam and Eve. Eve certainly sinned; but Adam’s sin alone effectuated the downfall of mankind and brought death into the world.
Council of Trent, Sess. 5 on Original Sin, Can. 1: “If any one does not confess that the first man, Adam, when he had transgressed the commandment of God in Paradise, immediately lost the holiness and justice wherein he had been constituted…”
Council of Trent, Sess. 5 on Original Sin, Can. 2: “If any one asserts, that the prevarication of Adam injured himself alone…”
Council of Trent, Sess. 5 on Original Sin, Can. 3: “If any one asserts, that this sin of Adam — which in its origin is one, and being transfused into all by propagation, not by imitation, is in each one as his own — is taken away either by the powers of human nature, or by any other remedy than the merit of the one mediator, our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath reconciled us to God in his own blood, made unto us justice, sanctification, and redemption… let him be anathema.”
The Council of Trent says over and over that it was “the sin of Adam,” never once asserting that it was the sin of “Adam and Eve.” It even says that this sin was that of one man and “one in origin.” Therefore, even though Mary’s role was unique and integral to the events which led up to the Redemption, the Redemption itself was effectuated by Christ alone. That’s why Jesus Christ alone is the Redeemer and only He should be called such.
THE FALL OF MANKIND
Adam and Eve intimately involved in the events leading up to it
Adam’s sin alone constituted the original sin and effectuated the fall
“…this sin of Adam — which in its origin is one…” (Trent, Sess. 5 on Original Sin)
Jesus and Mary intimately involved in the events leading up to the Redemption
Jesus Christ alone effectuated the Redemption
“JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD, WHO ALONE IS OUR REDEEMERand Savior” (Trent, Sess. 25)
REFUTING A COMMONLY MADE FALSE ARGUMENT ON THIS POINT – THE IDEA THAT MARY IS A SUB-REDEEMER UNDER THE ONE REDEEMER
Now I must refute a common response that is made by defenders of Mary as “Co-Redemptrix.” In trying to demonstrate that Mary is Co-Redemptrix, people will often argue that Mary is a lesser redeemer under the one redeemer, just as St. Paul and other saints are said to help carry out the work of Redemption. For instance, one Michael C. wrote to us and said:
“By calling our Lady Co-redemptrix, we don’t mean to imply that Jesus is not the sole redeemer of mankind but there are mediators with the mediator himself and those who participate in Christ’s saving redemption as his mystical body as we read in Colossians 1:24… there are lesser redeemers & this title can rightly be applied to our Lady as a participation in our Lords work, not separate to or on equal footing.”
They argue that Mary is called Co-Redemptrix in the sense that holy figures and saints can be called redeemers who help carry out the work of Christ’s redemption, such as St. Paul says of himself.
Colossians 1:24- “[I] Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the church:”
Acts 7:35- “This Moses, whom they refused, saying: Who hath appointed thee prince and judge? Him God sent to be prince and redeemer by the hand of the angel who appeared to him in the bush.”
They also point out that Moses was, in a sense, called a redeemer because he delivered the people in the Old Testament. But all of these are specious arguments which are not consistent with their position. Allow me to illustrate how, in employing this argument, they have actually abandoned their position that Mary is formally Co-Redemptrix uniquely with Christ. Their argument has now turned into this:
SPECIOUS ARGUMENT THEY TRY TO EMPLOY TO PROVE THE POINT, WHICH IS ILLOGICAL AND ABANDONS THEIR ACTUAL POSITION
LESSER REDEEMERS WITH/UNDER THE ONE REDEEMER
Mary – “Co-Redemptrix”
St. Paul (Col. 1:24)
Moses in a sense
In attempting to defend Mary as “Co-Redemptrix,” they employ an argument which is represented by the box above. They say Mary is the “Co-Redemptrix,” just as others (e.g. St. Paul) help carry out the work of Redemption. The big problem for them is that this is not their position.
As I pointed out in response to Michael C.: This argument fails miserably. It contains a false analogy which isn’t logically consistent with your position. Your position is that Mary is formally Co-Redemptrix with Christ. That is, your position is that she is in a unique category with Christ as Co-Redeemer. According to the argument above, Mary would then just be in the same category with the other saints (such as St. Paul, Col. 1:24) who participate in the work of Redemption under the one Redeemer. In that case, she would just be one of many co-redeemers. But that’s not the position of Co-Redemptrix.
The position of Co-Redemptrix is not that Mary is in a category with the saints under the one Redeemer, and can be called co-redeemer in a sense just like St. Paul is said to help fill up the work of Redemption. No, the position of Co-Redemptrix is that Mary is in a unique category with Jesus as the Redeemer – a category which does not include St. Paul or any other saint. Therefore, one cannot try to substantiate the “Co-Redemptrix” position by appealing to how other saints participate in the work of Redemption under the one Redeemer. That’s illogical and fallacious.
So while the box above represents the way that they argue, the following box illustrates their actual position on Mary as “Co-Redemptrix.”
THE ACTUAL POSITION OF MARY AS “CO-REDEMPTRIX,” WHICH IS ABANDONED AND CONTRADICTED WHEN THEY MAKE THE ABOVE ARGUMENT
Mary as Co-Redemptrix
LESSER REDEEMERS UNDER THE TWO REDEEMERS
St. Paul (Col. 1:24)
The other saints
Moses in a sense
This box is a true representation of their position. They hold that Mary (in terms of the Redemption) is in a category with Jesus that does not belong to the other saints. It is different not just in degree, but in kind from St. Paul, etc. Thus, all the arguments they bring forward that St. Paul, the other saints, etc. can be loosely called “redeemers” do not support their position. When they argue in that fashion, they are contradicting their position and asserting that Mary is just one of many co-redeemers. But their actual position is that Mary has a position as Co-Redeemer, in the actual work of Redemption, which is not shared by those others.
Hence, if they were to legitimately attempt to defend their position, they could only advance arguments which favored the position that she belongs on the left side of the box uniquely with Jesus. They cannot make arguments from people or examples on the right side of the box. When they make arguments from examples on the right side of the box ,they are contradicting their position and admitting that she is just one of many people who can loosely and in certain non-literal senses be called “co-redeemers.” Their arguments contradict their position because their position is false.
The bottom-line is that there is no way of getting around the dogmatic definitions which declare that Jesus Christ alone is the Redeemer.
Pope Pius IV, Council of Trent, Sess. 25, On Invocation, Veneration and Relics of Saints, and on Sacred Images, ex cathedra: “…the saints, who reign with Christ, offer up their prayers to God for men; and that it is good and useful to invoke them suppliantly and, in order to obtain favors from God through His Son JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD, WHO ALONE IS OUR REDEEMER and Savior….And they must also teach that images of Christ, the virgin mother of God and the other saints should be set up and kept… But if anyone should teach or maintain anything contrary to these decrees, let him be anathema.” (Denz. 984)
More is covered on this issue in the audio file: Audio discussion why Our Lady is not Co-Redemptrix [37 min. audio].