Objection 7: While granting the legitimacy of Mary Co-redemptrix and its corresponding doctrine of co-redemption, there are no substantial reasons or fruits for its papal definition at this time, and in fact such a definition would cause serious division within the Church.
It must be stated from the outset that such a position regarding a potential papal definition of Mary Co-redemptrix is certainly an acceptable position by a faithful member of the Catholic Church. Notwithstanding, let us explore, in a brief summary format, some of the numerous contemporary reasons presently being offered in support of the appropriateness and consequent positive fruits of a formal papal definition of Mary Co-redemptrix.
1. Greater theological clarity to an area of present misunderstanding
When Bl. Pius IX raised the Church doctrine of the Immaculate Conception to the level of dogma in 1854, he stated that the fruits of such definition would be to "bring to perfection" the doctrine, adding greater clarity and light for the benefit of all:
The Church labors hard to polish the previous teachings, to bring to perfection their formulation in such a way that these older dogmas of the heavenly doctrine receive proof, light, distinction, while keeping their fullness, their integrity, their own character...
In light of the substantial contemporary confusion concerning precisely what the Catholic Church means to convey in the doctrine of Marian co-redemption (as evidenced by the recent The New York Times piece and its reaction), it would seem most beneficial to have a precise statement, scripturally formulated in light of Christian Tradition, from the highest authority of the Catholic Church, ensuring its doctrinal precision and authenticity.
2. Ecumenical benefits in an authentic Catholic expression of doctrinal dialogue
Rather than its perception as being against the imperative of working for Christian unity, a precise formulation of what Catholics believe regarding Mary Co-redemptrix, and at the same time what they do not believe (i.e., equality with Jesus Christ, divinity of Mary, etc.) will only serve authentic ecumenical dialogue based on integrity and truth as to what is already a Catholic doctrinal teaching.
The late Cardinal John O'Connor of New York referred to this potential ecumenical fruit in his letter of endorsement for the papal definition of Mary Co-redemptrix:
Clearly, a formal papal definition would be articulated in such precise terminology that other Christians would lose their anxiety that we do not distinguish adequately between Mary's unique association with Christ and the redemptive power exercised by Christ alone.
Such a definition would help avoid the dangerous tendency to present in ecumenical dialogue only those doctrinal elements Christians share together, rather than the difficult but necessary aspect of sharing those doctrinal elements Christians do not hold in common. Such integrity in ecumenical doctrinal exchange is critically necessary in eventually arriving at any true Christian unity.
3. Proper development of Marian doctrine
The existing four Marian Dogmas, the Motherhood of God (431), the Perpetual Virginity (649), the Immaculate Conception (1854), and the Assumption (1950), all deal with the attributes or qualities of Mary's earthly life, but none directly refer to the Mother of Jesus in relation to the human family.
It is interesting to note historically that only one month following the papal definition of Mary's Assumption in November 1950, the International Mariological Congress formally petitioned Pope Pius XII for the papal definition of Mary's universal mediation as a logical progression following the definition of the Assumption.
After the early life and attributes of Mary have received their respective "perfections of doctrine" in solemn dogmatic definitions, so too it would seem appropriate that Mary's heavenly prerogative as spiritual mother of all peoples in the order of grace, inclusive of and founded upon her unique co-redemption, would also receive its doctrinal perfecting in the form of a dogmatic definition.
4. Affirmation of the dignity of the human person and human freedom
One of the world's leading contemporary personalist philosophers (from the philosophical school focusing upon the dignity of the human person), Professor Dr. Josef Seifert, argues that a dogma of Mary Co-redemptrix would constitute a supreme confirmation of the dignity and freedom the human person:
A dogma that declares Mary Co-redemptrix would give unique witness to the full freedom of the human person and to God's respect for human freedom. This dogma would recognize in an ultimate way that a free decision of the human person of Mary, who was not even to become the Mother of God without her free fiat—a decision which was not exclusively caused by divine grace but was also the fruit of her own personal choice—was necessary for our salvation, or played an indispensable part in the concrete way of our redemption chosen by God.
In our age, in which a personalist philosophy was developed more deeply than ever before in the history of mankind, and in which at the same time terrible anti-personalist ideologies reign, such a dogma would rightfully be perceived as a supreme confirmation of the dignity of the human person.
In all of this I would see a crucial value and significance of this dogma being proclaimed in our time in which both a new awareness of personal dignity arose and in which the person has been more humiliated in action and denied in theory than ever before.
5. Re-affirmation of the dignity of woman
In the contemporary discussion of feminism and the nature of woman, the papal proclamation of Mary Co-redemptrix would underscore what could properly identified as God's radical love and respect for woman. According to Christian Scripture, the entire providential plan of God the Father to send his Son for the redemption of the world was contingent upon the free fiat of a woman (Cf. Lk 1:38; Gal 4:4). What "trust' God the Father has in woman in the person of Mary that He would make the coming of the Redeemer of the entire human family conditional upon this woman's free consent.
As Dr. Seifert again points out:
This new declaration of the Traditional doctrine would therefore show anew a perpetual truth about Mary and about woman, a truth which was always held by the Church but never clearly and indubitably stated: the greatest deed of God's gracious love—the Redemption of mankind and our salvation—is in some real sense also the consequence of a free act of a woman and thus also the gift of a woman to humanity.
This dogma would express the dignity of a woman's action which exceeds in activeness, sublimity and effectiveness the deeds of all pure creatures and men: of all kings and politicians, thinkers, scientists, philosophers, artists and craftsmen from the beginning of the world to the end....
The fully defined revelation and role of Mary Co-redemptrix could thereby be offered as an exemplary foundation for better understanding the unique contribution of feminism to humanity and, as such, constitute a foundational anthropological basis for authentic Christian feminism.
6. Re-emphasis of the Christian need to cooperate with God's grace for salvation
Anglican Oxford scholar, Dr. John Macquarrie, states that the role of Mary Co-redemptrix provides a concrete expression of the human necessity to freely and actively cooperate with God's grace for salvation. He moreover sees the Christian truth of Mary Co-redemptrix as a corrective for theologies that remove such dignity to the person, and in consequence, put forth an undesirable image of Christianity itself. As synthesized by Dr. Macquarrie in this extended citation:
In some forms of teaching, it is even believed that human beings can be saved without even knowing that salvation is taking place. It has all taken place already through the once-for-all redeeming work of Christ. It is a fact, whether anyone recognizes it or not...For Barth, the (subjective) Redemption is a purely objective act, already finished 'outside of us, without us, even against us...Redemption is not, in his view, to be considered as an ongoing process in which we have some part, but as the once-for-all act of God long before we were born...
Now if one conceded Barth's point, then I think one would have to say that he is indeed treating human beings like sheep or cattle or even marionettes, not as unique beings that they are, spiritual beings made in the image of God and entrusted with a measure of freedom and responsibility...It is understandable that that Feuerbach, Marx, Nietzsche and a whole galaxy of modern thinkers came to believe that Christianity alienates them from a genuine humanity...
Let us now come back to the consideration of Mary as Co-redemptrix. Perhaps we do have to acknowledge that Barth and others have been correct in believing that the place given to Mary in catholic theology is a threat to the doctrine of sola gratia (grace alone), but I think this is the case only when the doctrine of sola gratia is interpreted in its extreme form, when this doctrine itself becomes a threat to a genuinely personal and biblical view of the human being...a being still capable of responding to God in the work of building up creation. This hopeful view of the human race is personified and enshrined in Mary.
In the glimpses of Mary that we have in the gospels, her standing at the cross beside her Son, and her prayers and intercessions with the apostles, are particularly striking ways in which Mary shared and supported the work of Christ...it is Mary who has come to symbolize the perfect harmony between the divine will and the human response, so that it is she who gives meaning to the expression Co-redemptrix.
Mary Co-redemptrix and its new proclamation would serve to protect human freedom, dignity, and the human imperative to freely cooperate with grace for salvation.
7. "Suffering is Redemptive" and the "Culture of Death"
A solemn definition of Mary Co-redemptrix would be a Christian proclamation to the world that "suffering is redemptive." The Christian example of the Co-redemptrix manifests to the world that to accept the providentially permitted crosses of our human existence is not a valueless waste to be avoided at all costs, including intrinsic evils such as euthanasia and abortion. But rather that the patient endurance of all human hardships are of supernatural value when united with the sufferings of Jesus Christ, a participation in the distribution of the redemptive graces of Calvary, both for ourselves and for others (Cf. Col. 1:24).
Even the example of Mary's "yes" to unborn life, in circumstances which could foster undue judgment and ridicule from people surrounding her, is an example of a co-redemptive "yes" that all people should say in response to the event of unborn life, regardless the circumstance.
John Paul II describes the present "Culture of Death" as a "cultural climate which fails to perceive any meaning or value in suffering, but rather considers suffering to be the epitome of evil, to be eliminated at all cost. This is especially the case in the absence of a religious outlook which could help provide a positive understanding of the mystery of suffering."
The concrete example of Mary Co-redemptrix offers to the Church and the world the positive Christian message that "suffering is redemptive" in all possible circumstances, from Christian persecution, to terminal cancer, to "unwanted" pregnancy, to the ordinary crosses of daily life.
8. Unity through papal charism within the Catholic Church
From a Catholic perspective, the charism (or gift of the Holy Spirit) that is given to St. Peter and his successors, the subsequent popes (cf. Mt: 16:15-20), is a source of unity in doctrine and in life for the members of the Church. When the specific papal charism of infallibility is used in a preservation from error by the Holy Spirit on matters of faith and morals, such exercise of this papal charism safeguards and properly reinforces a Catholic unity in life based on a unity in faith, truth and doctrine. The same benefit of unity which comes with the exercise of the papal charism would also be given in the case of a solemn papal definition of Mary Co-redemptrix.
It is sometimes objected that such a definition on Marian co-redemption would "cause division" within the Church. It is imperative to be clear on this point: Christian truth by its nature unites; it is only the rejection of Christian truth that divides. The same would hold true for a potential definition of Mary Co-redemptrix.
In the first case, it is already a doctrinal teaching of the Church and thereby should already be accepted by the Catholic faithful with a religious assent of mind and will. (80) Secondly as was just stated, an exercise of the papal charism of infallibility in the service of Christian truth and as guided by the Holy Spirit in itself brings with it the grace of unity of hearts based on unity of truth and faith. But as was true for Jesus Christ, the "sign of contradiction" (cf. Lk 2:35), so would be true of the rejection of the truth concerning the Mother of the "Sign of Contradiction."
Therefore any division within the Church in response to a papal infallible definition of the Co-redemptrix doctrine would not constitute, nor accurately be perceived as, a true and valid component of the papal definition itself, but only its unfortunate rejection.
9. Modern saints and Co-redemptrix
One possible indication of the maturity of the Co-redemptrix doctrine and its potential definability is the modern testimony and teaching of this Marian truth by a great number of contemporary canonized saints and blesseds. The generous appreciation by recent saints and blesseds of Marian co-redemption indicates its spiritual ripeness in the hearts of heroic sanctity within the Body of Christ today.
Those particularly vocal in their appreciation of Marian co-redemption, both as a Marian doctrine and as a model of Christian spiritual life, include St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Pope Pius X, St. Francis Xavier Cabrini, St. Gemma Galgani, St. Leopold Mandic, St. Edith Stein, St. Jose Maria Escriva, St. Padre Pio, Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity, and numerous others.
It also seems appropriate to quote Bl. Mother Teresa's endorsement for the papal definition of Mary Co-redemptrix: "The papal definition of Mary Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix of all graces, and Advocate will bring great graces to the Church. All for Jesus through Mary."
10. Initiation of the Fatima prophesied Triumph of the Immaculate Heart
A significant number of contemporary Marian authors and thinkers worldwide also see in the papal proclamation of Mary Co-redemptrix, along with her subsequent spiritual roles as Mediatrix of all graces, and Advocate, what has been referred to as the definitive "initiation" or beginning of the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, as prophesied in the 1917 Apparition of Mary at Fatima, Portugal.
The particular notion of the "Triumph of the Immaculate Heart" comes from the words of the Church approved apparitions of Mary at Fatima to the young Portuguese children seers, who after prophesying such upcoming events such as the rise of atheistic communism, persecutions for the Church and the Holy Father, a potential second world war, and the annihilation of various nations, then stated, "In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph...."
The Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is hence foreseen as a dramatic influx of supernatural grace upon the world, mediated to the world by the Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate, and leading to a period of spiritual peace for humanity.
The role of the papal proclamation of Mary Co-redemptrix in the prophesied Triumph of the Immaculate Heart would be seen by some Marian contemporaries as the official recognition by the pope, as the highest Church authority, exercising the required freedom on the part of humanity to allow the full mediational and intercessory power of Mary Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate to be released in the distribution of the redemptive graces of Calvary to the contemporary world.
God does not force his grace upon us, but awaits the free consent of humanity. With the official papal definition of Mary Co-redemptrix by the highest human authority's exercise of free will on behalf of humanity, this free act would "release" the Co-redemptrix to most fully distribute the graces of Calvary in a new outpouring of graces of the Holy Spirit for the world. As explained by former Vatican Ambassador Howard Dee of the Philippines:
Two thousand years ago, during the First Advent, the Holy Spirit came upon Mary, and when the power of the Most High overshadowed her, she conceived Jesus, Son of God. Now, during this New Advent, it is the Mother of All Peoples, Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix of all graces, and Advocate, who will accompany her Spouse to descend into our hearts and our souls and recreate in each of us—if we give our fiat—into the likeness of Jesus...The proclamation of the Fifth Dogma is no longer our prerogative; it is our duty.
As such, the papal proclamation of Mary Co-redemptrix would effect a historic release of spiritual grace upon the world by the full exercise of the spiritual mother of all peoples in her most generous exercise of her roles as Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix of all grace and Advocate.
It is to be hoped that some light has been shed upon the principal questions concerning the present discussion of the issue of Mary Co-redemptrix in itself and, at least by way of introduction, in discussing the specific aspect of a potential papal definition of the Co-redemptrix doctrine.
In regards to any future potential definition of Co-redemptrix from a Catholic perspective, peace and trust in the guidance of the Church by the pontiff in matters of faith and morals should ultimately reign supreme in the Catholic faithful's mind and heart, regardless of present legitimate personal opinions of diversity on the issue.
From the general Christian perspective regarding the doctrine of Mary Co-redemptrix and other doctrines which presently divide us, let us keep faith in the eventual fulfillment of the prayer of Jesus Christ for Christian unity at the Last Supper that, "... they may all be one, even as thou, Father art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou has sent me" (Jn. 17:21). Apart from temporary historical advances or setbacks, Christians must have faith in an ultimate Christian unity of heart, which will blossom into a unity of mind, truth, and faith based on the one Jesus Christ, who is "the Way, the Truth, the Life" (Jn. 14:6).