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Ask A Catholic: Is Mary Co-Redemptive?

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What questions do you have about Catholicism? Submit them online, or fill out the form below. 

By Mitch Finley

Honestly, what does it mean [that] Mary is the Co-Redemptrix with Christ?  From whence did this teaching come . . .?  And is it something that is taught in the Catholic faith?

As with many other Catholic theological topics, Wikipedia does a perfectly adequate job of explaining what this is all about:

Co-Redemptrix’ . . . is a title used by some Roman Catholics for the Blessed Virgin Mary, as well as a Catholic theological concept referring to Mary’s role in the redemption of all peoples. It has always been controversial and has never formed part of the dogma of the Church. [Emphasis added.]

According to those who use the term, ‘Co-Redemptrix’ refers to a subordinate but essential participation by the Blessed Virgin Mary in redemption, notably that she gave free consent to give life to the Redeemer, which meant sharing his life, suffering, and death, which were redemptive for the world

The origins of this idea go back to as early as the second century A.D., and down through history various popes and theologians have encouraged adoption of the belief that Mary is “Co-Redemptrix.”  This has never happened, however, and it is extremely unlikely that it ever will happen.

When it comes to various aspects of Catholic doctrine and theology, it seems that there are always segments of the community that are inclined to overemphasize.  Thus, there are Catholics who lay inordinate emphasis on the role and authority of the pope, and there are Catholics who believe that Mary, the mother of Jesus, is more important than Catholicism has ever taught that she is.  Such inflation of the role of Mary adds fuel to Protestant and fundamentalist evangelical accusations that Catholics “worship” Mary, which is completely untrue.

The Catholic bottom line, when it comes to Mary—and any and all other saints—is that we may petition her to pray for us.  Catholicism teaches that just as we can and should pray for one another in this earthly life, those who have passed through natural death and now dwell in “heaven,” (whatever this may mean) can pray for us, too.

Here is a good summary from the “Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church”

“Because of her singular cooperation with the action of the Holy Spirit, the Church loves to pray to Mary and with Mary, the perfect pray-er, and to magnify and invoke the Lord with her. Mary in effect shows us the Way who is her Son, the one and only Mediator” (no. 562).

Rest assured, then, that while Catholic doctrine supports honoring Mary and, if one is so inclined, requesting her prayers on our behalf, there is no support from official Catholic teaching that Mary is “Co-Redemptrix.”

Mitch Finley

About Mitch Finley

Mitch Finley is the author of 30+ books on Roman Catholic theological topics and spirituality, all written to appeal to both non-academic and academic readers. Mitch holds a B.A. in Religious Studies from Santa Clara University and an M.A. in Theology from Marquette University. He and Kathy Finley have been married since 1974 and are the parents of three grown sons. To learn more visit mitchandkathyfinley.com.

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