Monthly Archives: January 2014

If Mary is Co-Redemptrix, Does Christ Lose? (Part II)

We must now consider the question whether it is possible that Mary cooperates in the Redemption. There is a difficulty to face, an important one.

Here is the reason for the difficulty: Nothing can be the cause of itself. Why? Well, only an existing thing can cause. But if something is supposed to be caused, it exists only after it is caused. Thus, a thing that causes itself must exist (so as to cause) and not exist (so as to be something that can be caused). Thus we have the principle of our difficulty: Nothing can be the cause of itself.

We must now apply this principle to Mary: She clearly cannot be the cause of her own redemption. Why not? Because she herself is redeemed. But if she is redeemed, how can she cause redemption? She would have to be cause of herself, but that is absurd.

Theologians have struggled with this difficulty for some time. In fact, even some Catholic theologians gave up the notion that Mary cooperates in the redemption in order to solve the difficulty. But that was to give up on a Church teaching. Proper theological method does not give up truth to make consistency easier. Rather, proper method faces the difficulty with prayer and study. So, other theologians meditated on the topic more fruitfully. They dug into the treasury of the Church’s wisdom. They realized, in accordance with our principle stated earlier this section, that whenever Mary is rightly honored, Christ is magnified. Thus, if we are right in honoring Mary as Co-Redemptrix, we will all the more magnify Christ. Mary’s co-redeeming activity must help the work of Christ shine forth more magnificently.

How can this be? We can discern that Christ suffering on the Cross must have had two distinct goals in mind. First, he wished to procure salvation for Mary and second, he wished to procure salvation for the rest of the world. By offering up his life towards the accomplishment of the first goal, he redeemed Mary. In this act, Christ alone acts while Mary is only a recipient. By offering up his life towards the accomplishment of the second goal, he procures the rest of the world’s salvation. However, Mary is able to cooperate with this second intention of his. She is pure fruit of grace with respect to the first intention; she cooperates with grace with respect to the second intention.

Thus, there is no contradiction. Mary is not cause of her own redemption. Rather, already considered as redeemed by Christ’s first intention, she is able to cooperate with him in his second intention. Finally, this insight allows us to come back to the Cross of Christ once again with renewed awe. Our Lord hanging on the Cross was accomplishing a twofold act. His redeeming love was so great that he first procures his mother’s salvation and glory and second procures that of the rest of the world.

If Mary is Co-Redemptrix, does Christ Lose? (Part I)

In short, absolutely not.

But the question raises the issue of “What is co-redemption?” The title “Co-Redemptrix” indicates the Catholic belief that Our Lord Jesus Christ enabled Mary to co-operate with him as a secondary agent, dependent entirely on him as primary agent, in procuring the Price of Human Salvation. The claim raises many deep concerns among Protestants. The theological objection that many Protestants use is, “Whatever you attribute to Mary, you take away from Christ.” The objection sounds reasonable. But in fact, it is erroneous. We do not detract from Christ by extolling the legitimate glory of Mary — Rather, we magnify it! A brief argument shows how this is the case.

Here’s a key principle: A cause which can bring about a greater effect is greater than one that can’t.

Another point: A thing is greater if it can cause an effect than it would be if it could not.

Conclusion: A cause which can bring about an effect that itself can cause an effect is greater than a cause that can only bring about inert effects (effects that don’t cause).

Application to Christ and Mary: If Christ is able to bring it about that Mary herself can co-operate with him in procuring the world’s salvation, he is a greater cause than if he is not able to do this. With this simple observation, we see that the Protestant objection is null and void. In fact, we turn the objection on its head: Precisely because Christ can enable another to co-operate with him, he is all the more glorious a redeemer!

Of course, this raises the next logical question: Wait! Your response would work if it is possible for Christ to do this. Maybe it is not possible! Maybe it is a contradiction in terms!!! And what is not possible cannot factor into your basic premise (“A cause which can bring about a greater effect is greater than one that can’t.) What’s the contradiction in terms? Someone will readily object: Mary is herself redeemed by Jesus Christ. But if she is redeemed by Christ, she cannot co-operate in the redemption of the world. Just like all other human beings, she is the fruit of redemption and not its active cause. A thoughtful objection, to which the next post shall respond.