WILL the Church define Our Lady's role as Coredemptrix, Mediatrix of all Graces, and Universal Advocate, making five Marian dogmas in all'? The other four are the Immaculate Conception, the Divine Motherhood, the Perpetual Virginity, and the Assumption.
There are two points on which, whether supporting 4or opposing the definitions in question, everyone is agreed. The first is that Our Lord is the one and only Redeemer and Mediator between God and men. He and He only paid the price for our sins. He needed no one to help Him, and because He was God as well as man, only He could do it. Theologians call this the "Objective Redemption" and everyone stands in need of it. Our Lady was no exception. She was objectively redeemed, as it is said, in anticipation of Our Lord's foreseen merits.
The second point is the one made by St. Paul in the passage where he speaks of the members of the Mystical Body in some way "making up for what is wanting in the sufferings of Christ," There is naturally no dispute about this either. Nothing, strictly speaking, was wanting in the sufferings of Christ. Nevertheless, God willed that, by associating our sufferings and intercessions with His, we should have a part in the distribution of the graces of Redemption. The application of the Redemption to souls is in some way dependent on our co-operation. This is called the "Subjective Redemption". The Subjective Redemption refers to the co-operative activity of the faithful in spreading the fruits of the Redemption after it has taken place. It is in this sense that we are sometimes called "co-redeemers." However, nothing that we do can contribute retroactively to the Objective Redemption.
With regard to Our Lady then, the questions to be asked are, first, whether her co-operation in the Subjective Redemption, distributing its fruits, differs from ours only in degree or also in kind. That it differs in kind is the basis for giving her the title Mediatrix of all Graces and Universal Advocate.
The second question is whether she co-operated in the Objective Redemption in some unique way that entitles her to be called Co-redemptrix with a capital C, not because it was necessary, but because it pleased God and He saw it as fitting.
Yes, say the supporters of a definition. Stabat Mater dolorosa. Our Lady did not just passively accept what was happening as she stood at the foot of the Cross. She did not just offer her Son, and herself along with Him, as a Victim for the sins of mankind in the way we do when we interiorly unite ourselves with His Sacrifice at Mass. She was offering what was hers in a way no one else could claimHe was bone of her bone, flesh of her fleshand in doing so underwent a spiritual crucifixion that was in some subordinate, ancillary fashion objectively redemptive.
To quote Pope John Paul II: "The collaboration of Christians in salvation takes place after the Calvary event, whose fruits they endeavour to spread by prayer and sacrifice. Mary instead co-operated during the event itself and in the role of mother; thus her cooperation embraces the whole of Christ's saving work. She alone was associated in this way with the redemptive sacrifice that merited the salvation of all mankind." (General Audience, 9th April, 1997). The Scriptural bases for the doctrine are, of course, well known. More than one of the authors of these papers draws attention to the fact that the Bible both begins (Gen. 3:15) and ends (Rev. 12: 1-6) with dramatic references to or images of the conflict between The Woman, her Seed or Son, and the serpent, a conflict which can be seen as the underlying theme of the whole Bible. Then, with the Fathers, the link between Son and Mother is spoken of more openly and frequently. It is not just a link of human affection, not even just of minds and hearts, but of purpose and vocation. Adam and Eve brought about the Fall. Christ and His Mother, the New Adam and Eve, put the Fall into reverse.
Of all the arguments advanced for attributing a special mediatory and redemptive role to Our Lady, this teaching of the Fathers seems the most compelling. God made man in His own image, an image which embraced both sexes. Why, then, if the whole image was responsible for the Fall, should the feminine half be left out of the events which repaired the damage? With this teaching of the Fathers about the New Adam and Eve, the doctrine of Marian Co-redemption is already there in germ.
With regard to the titles Mediatrix of all Graces and Universal Advocate, most Catholics take the implications more or less for granted. As her Son's chief co-operator in the Subjective Redemption, she distributes all graces, and all prayers pass through her, whether directly addressed to her or not. If Catholics have difficulties with the idea, the difficulties are mostly, I think, imaginative.
We shall not grasp God's will in the matter if we ignore the overall development of Marian devotion and doctrine, and the recognized apparitions of the last two centuries. When these are taken into account, Marian Mediation and Coredemption appear as the climax to which the other doctrines and dogmas have been pointing, the crown of them all, and the missing pieces that at last link them all together.
What practical purpose will the new definitions serve? We are a pragmatic age. We want concrete results. The answer here will depend on the way you regard the present state of the world.
Even taking the most optimistic view, the present state of the world contains escalating dangers and evils which are manifestly beyond the control of either political or religious leaders and cry out for the kind of supernatural assistance that a definition of Marian Coredemption and Mediation would unfailingly draw down. "The world" as such will not get the point, any more than it got the point of having been consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Our Lady five years before the collapse of the Soviet Unionbut it will reap the benefits. The fifth Marian dogma or cluster of dogmas will, when it comes, give Hell a thrashing which, though not worse, will he more humiliating than the defeat it suffered with the Redemption, and while it is licking its wounds, mankind could well enjoy a much needed breathing space.
Freely abridged text from the Introduction to the ACTS of the 1st Symposium on Marian Coredemption, 2000. ACTS available in audiotape, video and 400-page book form. Please apply to DWM for details.