Disclaimer: Folks I try to be as ecumenical as possible —as long as we can agree on the Historic Creeds—but sometimes you just gotta chime-in. I was once a Roman Catholic but became a Protestant during my teenaged years. In my experience, nothing divides otherwise orthodox Christians as much as the doctrines surrounding Mary. Truthfully, I think this divide concerning Mary is a bigger obstacle to reuniting the Western Church than the Papacy! Oh, I’ve been working on this post for several days, that fact that it’s going live on Good Friday is not by design.
In Roman theology, beliefs about Mary have continued to evolve over the years.
- Mary lived a sinless life,
- Mary was a perpetual virgin,
- She ascended into Heaven,
- She is Queen of Heaven,
- She and various saints are routinely prayed to,
- And now she is being further elevated to Co-Redemptrix.
Mary in the Roman Church
Here is more info on Mary from Roman Catholic sources.
The Catholic Church relies heavily on sacred tradition, as passed down from the apostles, and manifested in the teaching authority of the Church. The assumption of Mary is one doctrine of the Church that has emerged from apostolic tradition, rather than directly from scripture. It is not officially declared whether or not Mary underwent human death. However, what the Church does officially pronounce is that after the course of her earthly life, Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven by the power of God. The Church’s belief that Mary’s soul was perfectly sinless gives us confidence that she went directly to God. At the same time, her body was not subject to corruption, as our human bodies typically are.What the Catholic Church Teaches About Mary
The Immaculate Conception means that Mary, whose conception was brought about the normal way, was conceived without original sin or its stain—that’s what “immaculate” means: without stain. The essence of original sin consists in the deprivation of sanctifying grace, and its stain is a corrupt nature. Mary was preserved from these defects by God’s grace; from the first instant of her existence she was in the state of sanctifying grace and was free from the corrupt nature original sin brings.Immaculate Conception and Assumption
In fact, Catholics hold, it extended over the whole of her life, from conception onward. She was in a state of sanctifying grace from the first moment of her existence.
The doctrine of the Assumption says that at the end of her life on earth Mary was assumed, body and soul, into heaven, just as Enoch, Elijah, and perhaps others had been before her. Some people think Catholics believe Mary “ascended” into heaven. That’s not correct. Christ, by his own power, ascended into heaven. Mary was assumed or taken up into heaven by God. She didn’t do it under her own power.
The Church has never formally defined whether she died or not, and the integrity of the doctrine of the Assumption would not be impaired if she did not in fact die, but the almost universal consensus is that she did die.
Mary’s body has been glorified in heaven and she has been given an important role near her Son as Queen of Heaven and Earth. Mary is entitled “queen” because she is the Mother of Jesus, who is truly a King of kings. With the queenship Mary has been given by her Son, Mary offers abiding mercy and compassion, interceding for all of God’s children. In the book of Revelation 12:1, Mary’s status as queen is reflected, “and a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” The feast of Mary’s queenship is celebrated on August 22nd of each year.What the Catholic Church Teaches About Mary
Catholic Op-Ed Rebuking the Pope
The Op-Ed that I wish to comment on finds me somewhat on the same side as the Pope; a position that puts me at odds with the author of this article, published on Life Site News.
The quotations below are from Why I find Pope Francis’s contempt for the title of Co-Redemptrix so offensive.
It is a sad state of affairs in the Church when a simple child of God, devoted to Our Lady, hears words shocking to pious ears coming from the Vicar of Christ himself and feels the need to cry out in protest, from the depths of a heart consecrated to the Immaculate Heart, in order to defend Our Lady’s honor, against anyone — even the Holy Father — who would appear, through apparently casual and careless remarks, to very nearly deny Her the just veneration due to Her as Mother of God who participated, through her Compassion, in Her Son’s salvific mission from His Conception to Calvary. However, such is the sorry state of Holy Mother Church today.
…Pope Francis had qualified the idea of Mary being given the title of Co-Redemptrix as being mere “foolishness”.
[the Pope] has reiterated his hostility to this title: “The mother who covers everyone under her mantle as a mother, Jesus entrusted us to her as a mother, not as a goddess, not as a co-redemptrix, as a mother.”
Part of the rebuttal to the Pope put forward by the author reads as follows:
Indeed, this theologian [Father Frederick William Faber] explains beautifully in what sense Our Lady cooperated with our Lord in the redemption of the world by showing the necessary link between the Divine Maternity and Our Lady’s Coredemption, and so between Mary as Mother of God and as Co-Redemptrix:
“Her free consent was necessary to the Incarnation … She gave Him the pure blood, out of which the Holy Ghost fashioned His Flesh and bone and Blood. She bore Him in her womb for nine months, feeding Him with her own substance. Of her was He born, and to her He owed all those maternal offices which, according to common laws, were necessary for the preservation of His inestimable life. She exercised over Him the plenitude of parental jurisdiction. She consented to His Passion; and if she could not in reality have withheld her consent, because it was already involved in her original consent to the Incarnation, nevertheless she did not in fact withhold it, and so He went to Calvary as her free-will offering to the Father … the cooperation of the Divine Maternity was indispensable. Without it our Lord would not have been born when and as He was; He would not have had that Body to suffer in … It was through the free will and blissful consent of Mary that they flowed as God would have them flow. Bethlehem, and Nazareth, and Calvary, came out of her consent, a consent which God did in no wise constrain.”
A few paragraphs later, the author put forward this to buttress his thesis.
The martyr-saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe links the promise of a Co-Redemptrix at the dawn of time with Her essential role in the triumph of the end times: “From the moment of the Fall, God promised a Redeemer and a Co-Redemptrix, saying ‘I will place enmities between thee and the Woman, and thy seed and her Seed: She shall crush thy head.’” And, quoting Pope Leo XIII, Saint Maximilian calls for prayers to Our Mother to hasten the solemn dogmatic proclamation of Our Lady’s role as Co-Redemptrix and Mediatrix of All Graces: “We have recourse to the Immaculata and we are instruments in Her hands, because She distributes all the graces of conversion and sanctification to the inhabitants of this valley of tears … Every grace passes through Her hands from the Sweetest Heart of the pure Jesus to us … In his encyclical on the Rosary (September 22, 1891), Pope Leo XIII says: ‘It can be affirmed in all truth that according to the divine will nothing of the immense treasury of grace can be communicated to us except through Mary.’ Let us pray, therefore, that our Holy Mother may expedite the solemn proclamation of this Her privilege, so that all humanity may run to Her feet with complete trust, since today we are in great need of Her protection.”
Mary as Co-Redemptrix
For Protestants readers, the above is mind-blowingly heretical. This is a good example why some Protestants have no place in their theology for Church Tradition. I think Tradition in the Church has a place but when it becomes more important than the Scriptures then it’s out of balance.
I’d like to point-out a few problems with the arguments being advanced about Mary; however, my intent is not to scorch the earth as I do so. I think Protestants tend to totally discount the role of Mary while the Roman Catholics err in the opposite direction.
I’ve tried to get my head around this Co-redemptix idea, and it seems to hinge on a rather novel concept, Jesus died with Mary’s consent and permission. Thus, Mary was an active participate in the passion of her son.
The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council (1962-1965), in its Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) of November 21, 1964, painted this picture of Our Blessed Lady’s collaboration with the Almighty, which included her heroic surrender to Christ’s ignominious death.“
Thus the Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the cross, where she stood, in keeping with the divine plan, enduring with her only begotten Son the intensity of his suffering, associated herself with his sacrifice in her mother’s heart, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this victim which was born of her.”
Deacon Miravalle spells out precisely what Mary did next to her dying Son.
“Mary uniquely participated in the sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary and in the acquisition of the graces of Redemption for humanity (theologically referred to as “objective redemption”). Mary offered her Son and her maternal rights in relation to her Son to the Heavenly Father in perfect obedience to God’s will and in atonement for the sins of the world. Mary’s offering of her own Son on Calvary, along with her own motherly compassion, rights and suffering, offered in union with her Son for the salvation of the human family, merited more graces than any other created person. As Pope Pius XII confirmed in his encyclical On the Mystical Body, Mary “offered Him on Golgotha to the Eternal Father, together with the holocaust of her maternal rights and her motherly love, like a New Eve for all children of Adam.”How Can Catholics Understand Mary as Co-Redemprix, Mediatrix of All Graces and Advocate?
My Brief Rebuttal
Folks Mary observed the life of her son and pondered these things in her heart (Luke 2:19) but the claims above are nowhere found in the Bible.
The suffering of Jesus was twofold, the physical pain and the spiritual pain. The beating, torture, and humiliation of Jesus are better understood than the spiritual pain of bearing the cup of God’s wrath for the sins of the world; this was clearly the difficult part of his crucifixion. (Matthew 26:39) God the Father turned his back on the Son—sin separates—when Jesus became sin for us. This is why Jesus, while on the cross said, “My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)
All four Gospels are silent to the idea that Mary “collaborated” in the sacrifice of Christ or “lovingly consenting to the immolation of this victim which was born of her.” There is zero biblical evidence affirming the claim of “Mary’s offering of her own Son on Calvary”.
The gospels say that “…the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)
Jesus gave his life not Mary.
“Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.” (John 10:17)
“For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)
The idea that Jesus needed Mary’s consent, cooperation, or permission to be sacrificed is anathema to Holy Scripture.
Claims that “Mary ‘offered Him on Golgotha…’” are without any biblical foundation.
Roman Catholicism attributes to Mary things which are solely those titles belonging to Jesus.
Throughout the last two decades, there has been an increasing interest in three words used to honor Our Blessed Mother and describe her role in our regard: Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate.How Can Catholics Understand Mary as Co-Redemprix, Mediatrix of All Graces and Advocate?
Jesus is our redeemer not Mary.
A redeemer pays a ransom or atones for another.
Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:28)
For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)
Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. (I Timothy 2:6)
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. (John 3:16-17)
Jesus is our Mediator.
For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; (I Timothy 2:5)
But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. (Hebrews 8:6)
And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. (Hebrews 9:15)
And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. (Hebrews 12:24)
Jesus is our Advocate.
My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: (I John 2:1)
Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. (Romans 8:34)
Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:25)
Biblically there is no warrant to claim that Mary is Redeemer, Mediator, or Advocate. All three titles are clearly those of Christ Jesus. Thus, there is no biblical basis for us to pray that Mary intercedes on our behalf before God. Only Jesus can rightfully be prayed to. Only He makes intercession on our behalf with the Father. John reminded believers that “…if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:” (1 John 2:1)
And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. (John 14:13)
Brief as this blog post may be, I think I have pointed-out that the Roman Catholic beliefs about Mary are as much or more problematic to Protestants than maybe even the Papacy. That I’m agreeing with the Pope-especially this one—about anything is THE definition of “irony”. Heck, if you give this a few more centuries then Mary might be inducted as the fourth person of the Holy Trinity. From an orthodox Protestant viewpoint, that seems to be the trajectory of Marian theology.