Pope: Mary is not Co-redemptrix

This is very good: Pope Francis has said once again that Mary is not Coredemptrix:

“It’s true that Christian piety always gives beautiful titles to her, like a son to the mother … how many beautiful things does a son say to the mother? But pay attention: the [beautiful] things that the Church, the saints, say to Mary, take nothing away from Christ’s uniqueness as a redeemer,” the pope added, always looking away from his prepared remarks.

“He [Christ] is the only redeemer. They [Marian titles] are expressions of love like a son to the mother, sometimes exaggerated, but we know love always makes us do exaggerated things. Lovesickness,” Francis said

This is exactly right.

I recall picking up a little booklet from our parish lending library (it probably had about 150 books), when I was in high school in the 1970s, when Vatican II was still pretty new and the parish priest wanted to put out good explanatory resources. The author – I’ve long since forgotten her name, if I ever knew it – said in effect what Pope Francis just said. She summarized the earliest Marian devotional prayers, the definition of Theotokos at Ephesus, and the like. She said that the Church fell in love with Mary early on, and when you’re in love, you say lots of things. I doubt that Pope Francis ever read that book in English from U.S. Catholicism, but it’s fascinating that his thoughts are nearly identical.

Can you possibly lay out an understanding of Mary as Co-redemptrix which makes it clear that Christ is the only redeemer and that everything Mary does is through the grace of Christ, even if by anticipation? Oh, I suppose so, if you enjoy perverse challenges. But why go there? It is nearly impossible for the term “Co-redemptrix” not to be misunderstood. It does so much ecumenical damage. We’re better off without it.

I write as one who carries a Rosary in his left pocket. I treasure prayers to Mary, and I end most every day with three Ave’s. I was heartened when my monastic community, at the urging of several including me, added the Latin Marian antiphons (Salve Regina, Regina Coeli, etc.) to the end of Evening Prayer on Saturdays. There are plenty of deeply traditional ways to honor Mary and call upon her intercession. This is not one of them.


Image: Mary, Throne of Wisdom (the Mabon Madonna), carved wood, 12th century France, Saint John’s Abbey Church.



  1. One of the reasons that, of the more famous “modern” Marian apparitions, Lourdes seemed to have distinct air of authenticity is the relative simplicity of the private revelations and of the recipient of them. There’s a profound calmness to those dimensions of them that struck me, from childhood, instinctively, as Mary’s way of doing her Son’s work.

  2. I’m going to have to reassess my complete theological understanding now. I’d better go check my Medjugorje Message Book.

  3. I agree that the title should not be used because of confusion. Though it is pretty accurate. Mary may be the co-redeemer par excellence, but all the Saints, Angels, righteous Christians on earth are also co-redeemers in that they themselves are ministers of Christ’s redeeming love. Mary is also in the celestial hierarchy the highest creature. Angelic powers also answer to her. So I would say most of the praise heaped upon her is well deserved.

  4. Many years ago, I attended Mass on August 15 at an Anglo-Catholic church in London. The title of the day was “The Dormition of the Blessed Virgin Mary.” The visiting preacher raised a few eyebrows when he proclaimed “There are plenty of reasons to honor the Virgin Mary without making them up.”

  5. “We entrust the Church’s mission to Mary our Mother. In union with her Son, from the moment of the Incarnation the Blessed Virgin set out on her pilgrim way. She was fully involved in the mission of Jesus, a mission that became her own at the foot of the Cross: the mission of cooperating, as Mother of the Church, in bringing new sons and daughters of God to birth in the Spirit and in faith.”

    FOR WORLD MISSION DAY 2019: http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/missions/documents/papa-francesco_20190609_giornata-missionaria2019.html

  6. Sarah Coakley has suggested that the veneration of Mary has come to replace, in a sense, veneration of the Holy Spirit. Or perhaps the two have become a bit fused–confused? It’s easier to picture Mary than than the Holy Spirit. Coakley laments that the Third Person has become marginalized in our theologies and worship. Meanwhile, Mary is thought to interact in our lives and with our concerns in ways that suggest the working of the Holy Spirit. Or maybe better put, people increasingly appeal to Mary rather than the Holy Spirit, but for the same reasons.

    this is theologically unsound, of course.

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