Thursday, February 05, 2004

Mary as Mediatrix: Dialogues and Explanations

Compiled by Dave Armstrong from 1998 discussions.

The following series of dialogues occurred primarily on my own e-mail discussion list (a few portions are also from personal correspondence). My friendly opponents are both Protestant (words in red) and Orthodox (words in blue). I also offered clarification to fellow Catholics (green) who wrote and asked me about this.

    I. Introduction and Definitions
    II. Biblical Evidence: Mary, Paul, and "Spirits" as Distributors of Grace
    III. Biblical Evidence: John 19:26-27, Revelation 12, and the Daughter of Zion: Mary as Spiritual Mother
    IV. Biblical Evidence: Unilateral Atonement and Redemptive Suffering Among Christians as a Direct Analogy to Mary's Preeminent Role
    V. Answering Objections to Bestowing Further "Official" Titles on the Blessed Virgin Mary
    VI. Mediatrix as an Extension of the Incarnational Principle and Divinization
    VII. Development of Marian Doctrine and Replies to Charges of Alleged "Extra-Biblical Excess"
    VIII. The Interpretation of Explicit Papal Mariological Language
    IX. Spouse of the Holy Spirit and Orthodox Objections
    X. Mediatrix as an Infallible Doctrine of the Extraordinary Magisterium
    XI. "Praying Through Mary," the Newsweek Article, and Protestant Alarmism and Misunderstanding

I. Introduction and Definitions

As a side note, anyone doing a really serious study of Catholicism should be aware of the possible definition of the Virgin Mary being declared as CoRedemptrix.

Co-Redemptrix and Mediatrix are largely (but not totally) synonymous descriptions. I usually refrain from the former term (as have recent popes), in order to avoid the common and unfortunate misunderstandings (according to ecumenical directives of Vatican II and Pope Paul VI). The analogy I use to explain it, however, is the following:

When you have a "co-pay" on your health insurance policy, does that mean that you pay an amount identical to the insurer? "Co" simply means "alongside." It does not necessarily mean "equal," and certainly not "equal in essence," as anti-Catholics would have it. So in a nutshell, the Catholic doctrine (which is already well-established in Tradition and is nothing new) is that God chose to involve Mary in a very profound way in the redemption, especially in terms of intercession and as the Theotokos ("Mother of God"). This does not in any way, shape, or form, make her equal to God, or the author and source of either grace or redemption. All grace, all salvation comes from God. The same holds true for the Immaculate Conception, the Assumption, or any other Marian doctrine. Mary is nothing that God did not ultimately make her - just as with all of us.

Fr. Louis Bouyer (a convert from Lutheranism) made the clever comment that the Immaculate Conception was as "Calvinist" as the most stringent Reformed notion of predestined election: Mary was chosen by God and given "immunity" from original sin at the very moment of her conception, before she could possibly have had any choice in the matter - pure grace and only grace. She did cooperate with this grace and exalted "call" when she was able to do so, and that is her glory, and why we (very biblically) call her "blessed." But she is a creature like all of us.

God uses the Blessed Virgin Mary as a vessel of His grace - albeit extraordinarily, to be sure - just as He might use any one of us for His purposes. After all, He used Balaam's ass (Num 22:22-35), and potentially could have used inanimate rocks (Mt 3:9). God can do whatever He well pleases. Apart from the issues of whether or not the Mediatrix doctrine is explicitly indicated in Scripture (I think it is implicitly suggested), or whether or not one agrees with it, it is certainly conceivable that God could use any of His creatures for any purpose, even up to the point of interceding in every instance of repentance, etc., as we believe Mary is in fact involved. We must put the objection to that hypothetical concept (which I would place in the category of "unproven, hostile, and presumptuous presupposition") to rest.

I personally suspect that a lot of the fear and near-hysteria over the possible new definition (besides sheer misinformation) arises from this prior antipathy to an idea which is assumed to be impossible from the outset - somehow a usurpation of God's sole prerogatives, when in fact it is not at all. So what remains is the task of explaining our beliefs from Scripture, Tradition, and reason. There is much more biblical material about Mary than many Protestants would imagine, and it is all inter-related, like so much of Catholic doctrine.

Catholic theologian Ludwig Ott writes:
    Mary is designated mediatrix of all graces in a double sense: 1) Mary gave the Redeemer, the Source of all graces, to the world, and in this way she is the channel of all graces; 2) Since Mary's Assumption into Heaven no grace is conferred on man without her actual intercessory co-operation . . .

{Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, tr. Patrick Lynch, Rockford, IL: TAN Books & Publishers, 1974 (orig. 1952 in German), pp. 212-213}

The whole point of the Marian dogmas both in the past and now is to uphold and emphasize the divinity of Christ. The very early patristic parallelism of the Second Eve already holds within itself the essence of the notion of Mediatrix / Co-Redemptrix, as Cardinal Newman has argued so eloquently. This is the key to understanding the whole development of Mary as Mediatrix.

It's a long jump from saying that Christ took his flesh from Mary the Mother of God to saying that Mary was "crucified spiritually" and "united with the sacrifice of her Son."

This is where (much-misunderstood and maligned) doctrinal development comes in.

I find this kind of language to be a significant (and perhaps insurmountable) barrier in the way of ever considering joining the RCC.

I myself am an "inopportunist" with regard to the definition, not because the doctrine is not solidly established in Catholic Tradition, nor because it is contrary to biblical teaching or proper Christian reflection and reason, but because obviously we have much more educating to do for a definition not to cause scandal among our non-Catholic Christian brethren. Apparently the pope is also an inopportunist, at least for the time being.

I would remind everyone, however, that the doctrine of the Assumption was similarly feared, and it has been attacked on the grounds that there is no explicit biblical evidence for it (which is true), and not very strong early patristic support. Yet it happened in 1950, and we have seen ecumenism proceed despite all these fears, more than ever - in the wake of Vatican II. I agree with Cardinal Newman: what greater title could Mary have than what she already has: Theotokos (which is accepted by all the major branches of Christianity: Luther and Calvin - even Zwingli - used it without hesitation)?

II. Biblical Evidence: Mary, Paul, and "Spirits" as Distributors of Grace

Co-Redemptrix (rightly understood) is no more shocking or unbelievable than Paul in effect calling himself a "savior" and a "steward" of God's grace:
    Ephesians 3:2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God's grace that was given to me for you...
Steve Kellmeyer (from whom I got this insightful material) wrote:
    Paul was a self-proclaimed steward of God's grace. A steward guards and distributes his master's belongings with equity and justice to the members of the master's household. Here, Paul claimed to be designated by God to distribute grace to everyone for God by the fact that he preached the Gospel. If Paul can claim to be a steward of God's grace through preaching the Word, then consider Mary, who preached the Word more completely, more effectively, than any Apostle or disciple who ever lived. She preached His Word in complete silence, in a stable. Through the stewardship given to her by the Holy Spirit, the grace of God came into the world for the salvation of men; wrapped in swaddling clothes, laid in a manger.
    1 Corinthians 9:22 I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.

    1 Timothy 4:16 Take heed to yourself and to your teaching: hold to that, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.
Steve again:
    If Paul could claim to be a saviour, and could instruct Timothy in how to be a saviour, then Mary has a claim at least as strong as either to the same title and honor. Paul and Timothy can only claim to have preached the Word while Mary's submission to God's will actually allows us to meet Him in the flesh.
It is also to be noted that the "seven spirits who are before his [God's] throne" seem to participate in distributing God's grace as well (Rev 1:4).

If Paul, Timothy, and "seven spirits" can be so used and honored, why not Mary, the Mother of God? What is the fundamental objection, other than prior antipathy to so-called "Catholic excess?" If one objectively examines the thing itself as at least a biblical possibility, I see no problem whatever with it.

Mary's secondary (to Christ) and wholly derivative function as the Mediatrix is no more a violation of Jesus' unique mediatorship than any number of functions He sanctions and allows among His Body, the Church. We pray for each other, thus acting as mediators. One could just as easily say, "Why ask your fellow Christians to pray for you when you can ask Jesus?" as "Why do you ask for Mary's prayers when you can go directly to Jesus?" Yet God commands us to pray for one another. God is Creator, but he gives us the privilege of procreation, in childbirth and parenthood. Jesus is the "chief" Shepherd of His flock (John 10:11-16, 1 Peter 5:4), yet He assigns lesser shepherds to watch over His own (John 21:15-17, Ephesians 4:11). And He is the supreme Judge, but He bids us to judge as well (Matthew 19:28, 1 Corinthians 6:2-3, Revelation 20:4). Many other similar examples can be found in the Bible.

Furthermore, the Bible explicitly states that Christians in general are God's "helpers" or "fellow workers" (Greek, synergos):
    2 Corinthians 6:1 Working together with him, then, we entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain. (cf. Mark 16:20)
    1 Corinthians 3:9 For we are God's fellow workers . . .
Why then, is it unthinkable for Mary to be a "fellow worker" with Jesus (albeit in a much more extraordinary fashion)? No one claims that the above verses teach our equality with God, simply because we work with Him, and are His fellow workers. Likewise, the Blessed Virgin is in no wise equal to God in function when she is a Mediatrix or Co-Redemptrix.

It is exactly because Paul was an apostle of Christ, one called and sent forth with the authority of Christ, that Paul could call himself a steward of grace.

What about the "seven spirits" of Rev 1:4 then? If they are angels, as many commentators believe, they haven't even been saved, let alone granted the status of Apostle. Yet they, too, apparently are channels of grace. In sacramental understanding, inanimate objects are channels of grace. This shouldn't be a controversial concept at all, as far as I'm concerned.

If Mary is not an apostle, then there is no analogy. Besides, if Mary is the mediator of all graces, in what sense is Paul then a "mini-mediator"?

Because he stands between God and man, as pertains the gift of salvation, and of the grace which leads to it. Is this just a quantitative argument? You only object that Mary is Mediatrix of all graces?

III. Biblical Evidence: John 19:26-27, Revelation 12, and the Daughter of Zion: Mary as Spiritual Mother
    John 19:26-27 . . . he said to his mother, "Woman, behold your son!" Then he said to the disciple, "Behold your mother!" . . .
It is quite reasonable to assume that in this utterance of Jesus on the Cross, more is involved than simply asking John to look after His mother. For Jesus addresses Mary first, which is odd if in fact no spiritual meaning is to be found here. John, like Nicodemus (John 3:1-15) is a representative figure in this instance: the disciple of Christ, in relationship to the Mother of the Church. As he would care for her physical needs, so she was to be to him (and all Christians) a Spiritual Mother. Neither Mary nor John are called by their proper names. Rather, they are the archetypes of "Mother Church" and the faithful follower of Christ. The double phraseology recalls the covenantal formula of the Old Testament: I will be his father, and he shall be my son . . . (2 Samuel 7:14; cf. 2 Corinthians 6:16,18, Hebrews 1:5, Revelation 21:7). The motherhood of the Church is seen in passages such as Galatians 4:26: But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.
    Revelation 12:1, 5, 17 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; . . . She brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne . . . Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus . . .
John Henry Cardinal Newman comments:
    What I would maintain is this, that the Holy Apostle would not have spoken of the Church under this particular image, unless there had existed a blessed Virgin Mary, who was exalted on high and the object of veneration to all the faithful. No one doubts that the "man-child" spoken of is an allusion to our Lord; why then is not "the Woman" an allusion to his mother?
This passage has traditionally had a double interpretation, which is not unusual in Scripture. The primary application is to the Church, or the people of God. But a secondary reference can legitimately be made to the Blessed Virgin Mary, according to the literal meaning of 12:5, in which she bears the Messiah, Jesus (see Psalm 2:9). As such, the passage echoes the Mary/Eve symbolism of John 19:26-27. Furthermore, the war with the dragon (identified as Satan in 12:9) recalls the Protoevangelion of Genesis 3:15 ("her seed" / "her offspring" battle the devil), and supports the notion of the spiritual motherhood of Mary. 

The symbolism of Mary as the Church and the New Eve was already prevalent in the early centuries of the Church. The "woman" here gives birth "in anguish" (12:2), which hearkens back to Genesis 3:16, and is perhaps an anticipation of Calvary.

Mary is the first Christian, and is the Mother of believers in the same way that Abraham is known as the Father of believers. Abraham brought about the Old Covenant (humanly speaking) by an act of faith, and Mary, as the New Eve, assents obediently at the Annunciation, thus undoing the disobedience of Eve, the mother of the human race. As the sterile and aged Sarah was to be a mother to Israel, so the Virgin Mary would become the Mother of God and of Christians. There is also a fascinating type in the Old Testament of which Mary, again, appears to be the fulfillment: the Daughter of Zion, who is the personification of Israel (the Church is the "new Israel").

The following verses are a representative sample of this typology: Lamentations 1:15*, 2:13, Isaiah 62:5*, 62:11, Jeremiah 4:31, Micah 4:10, Zechariah 2:10, 9:9, Zephaniah 3:14, cf. Revelation 21:2-3). {described as a "virgin" - * } In Zephaniah 3:14 and Zechariah 9:9, the Greek word chaire ("hail") appears in the Septuagint - the same word as that in Luke 1:28 (Hail, full of grace . . .). Chaire is used in prophecies regarding the messianic deliverance of the Jews. The parallelism is seen to be more profound by a verse-by-verse comparison of Zephaniah 3:14-17 with Luke 1:28-31.

When the Church uses the terms Mediatrix of All Graces and Co-Redemptrix it means "cooperation in God's plan of redemption, in a non-necessary, essentially subordinate fashion." In other words, God chose to include Mary in His saving Providence in this fashion. In no way does that make her divine. As I argued above, God also used Balaam's ass and spoke of possibly using rocks for his purposes. How much more the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Theotokos? She is a creature, and qualitatively infinitely lesser than God. The Catholic Church always presupposes this, and so it is irrelevant to the concerns over the Mediatrix doctrine.

IV. Biblical Evidence: Unilateral Atonement and Redemptive Suffering Among Christians as a Direct Analogy to Mary's Preeminent Role

We are all involved in redemption in some fashion. If we are all involved in this to some extent (as will be demonstrated below), why is it unthinkable that God would use Mary preeminently? There is more than enough biblical warrant to hold this view. We shall now examine the scriptural evidence for unilateral vicarious atonement and redemptive suffering among Christians. This is the parallel to Mary suffering with Jesus at Calvary, and "offering" Him in some fashion.
    Exodus 32:30 . . . Moses said to the people, "You have sinned a great sin. And now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin." {see also 32:31-32 and Numbers 16:46-48 }
Here we have an example of vicarious atonement, whereby one member of the chosen people (analogous, of course, to the Church), sought to atone for others. This concept is essentially no different than intercessory prayer. The Catholic Church simply takes it further by stating that various works of charity, as well as voluntary and involuntary suffering, are efficacious for the purpose of blessing others and atoning for their sins.

St. Paul explicitly expounds the Catholic doctrine of penance, suffering, and vicarious atonement in the following sixteen passages:
    Romans 8:13, 17 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live . . . and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. {see also 1 Corinthians 15:31, 2 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Peter 4:1,13}
    1 Corinthians 11:27, 30 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord . . . That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. {see also 11:31-32, 1 Corinthians 5:5}

    2 Corinthians 4:10 Always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. {see also 2 Corinthians 1:5-7}

    Philippians 2:17 Even if I am to be poured out as a libation upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. {see also 2 Corinthians 6:4-10}

    Philippians 3:10 That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death. {see also Galatians 2:20}

    2 Timothy 4:6 For I am already on the point of being sacrificed; the time of my departure has come. {see also Romans 12:1}
In this verse and in Philippians 2:17, the Greek word for libation and sacrifice is spendomai. In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament which was the Bible of the early Christians, this term is used for a variety of offerings and sacrifices commanded by the Mosaic Law (for example, Genesis 35:14, Exodus 29:12, 38 ff., Leviticus 4:7 ff., 23:37). Most intriguing is its occurrence with reference to the Messiah, Jesus, in Isaiah 53:12: . . . he poured out his soul to death . . . It appears, then, that St. Paul is stressing a mystical, profound identification with Jesus even in His death (as also in 2 Corinthians 4:10 and Philippians 3:10 above). This comparison leads inexorably to the Catholic doctrine of vicarious atonement among members of the Body of Christ.

In some mysterious, glorious way God chooses to involve us in the very Redemption (always in a secondary and derivative sense, but actual nonetheless), just as He voluntarily involves us in His Providence by means of prayer and evangelism, and in His Creation by our procreation and childbirth. Our sufferings become identified with those of Christ (instances of the stigmata, whereby saintly persons - such as St. Francis of Assisi - actually receive the wounds of Christ in their bodies, are an extremely graphic image of this scriptural teaching).

Since we are the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27, Ephesians 1:22-23, 5:30, Colossians 1:24 below), such a "radical" convergence is not to be unexpected. For instance, when St. Paul was converted to Christ, Jesus said to him, I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting (Acts 9:5). This couldn't literally refer to Jesus the Divine Person since He had already ascended to heaven (Acts 1:9-11). Rather, Jesus meant that Christ's Church really was His Body, whom Paul (Saul) was persecuting (Acts 8:1,3, 9:1-2). Jesus also identifies the Church with Himself in Matthew 25:34-45 (25:40 - brethren. Compare Matthew 12:50, 28:10, John 20:17). Thus, Jesus' sufferings are ours, and ours are His in a very real sense, as St. Paul unmistakably teaches, particularly and most strikingly in Colossians 1:24:
    Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. {see also 2 Corinthians 11:23-30, Galatians 6:17}
All of this lends plausibility to the notion that Mary can be involved in the Redemption.

V. Answering Objections to Bestowing Further "Official" Titles on the Blessed Virgin Mary

Even recognising that Mary has a special place, why do we need to consider titles that at least appear to give her exclusive rights in these actions?

Not "exclusive," just preeminent. That is why we honor her. These titles are lesser in glory than Theotokos. Why not throw out Theotokos, too, if they are so objectionable (as many Protestants, following Nestorianism - and ignorant of their own Founders' opinions - indeed do)? These things are always misunderstood, but so is Christianity in general, among the secularized populace. That doesn't stop Protestants from believing as they do, despite rampant misunderstanding. Likewise, we must develop without hindrance, though we be misinterpreted and slandered in so doing. It has always been that way, and always will be. But as I said, I am an "inopportunist" on ecumenical grounds, not biblical or Traditional ones (you see me vigorously defending the doctrines).

Wouldn't your argument suggest that all Christians can lay claim to these titles, albeit to varying degrees?

Yes, in a limited sense.

If so, why declare them to belong to Mary?

Because she is the preeminent Mediatrix among creatures, and is in a unique position with regard to the role of Co-Redemptrix, if indeed she cooperates with all graces which are distributed (and originated) by God. Only she bore God, and "cooperated" with the Crucifixion, offering her own true Son in an act of "redemptive suffering," just as all of us can do in lesser degrees. But the rest of us did not give birth to the Second Person of the Trinity as our son in the flesh - an unfathomable mystery.

The fact that those who are promoting these titles need to go to such lengths to explain and 'lessen the impact of the titles' suggests (to me) that the titles are ill-chosen.

Church history is filled with controversies about words, such as Theotokos or homoousion or filioque or justification. There were Ecumenical Councils called largely to settle some of these disputes (Ephesus and Chalcedon). There will always be hostile critics who don't make any effort to understand the Church's reasoning. On the other hand, maybe the somewhat provocative nature of these titles will cause others to actually study Catholic doctrine and so become persuaded of it.

These titles are, to my knowledge, not being promoted so as to combat a heresy. I therefore sincerely question the need for them.

If they are true, that is enough reason. Vatican II was also not in direct response to heresy, but was a "pastoral" Council. I would place these proposed definitions in that category, although all Marian doctrine is Christological in the final analysis. Marian doctrine also has much to do with the Church itself (the Blessed Virgin is a figure of the Church, and the first Christian), which is why the section on Mary in the Vatican II documents was placed within the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium).

I wonder if one of the biggest problems for non-Catholics is the enormous number of titles we have for Mary. Granted your explanation of her as preeminent among mediators, why do we still have to push for another tile Mediatrix of all Graces?

Because it is already firmly entrenched in Catholic Tradition.

It seems to me that Mary herself would be quite happy with being recognised as Mother of God.

But that's beside the point, I think. She (like Jesus Himself) is humble, but it doesn't follow from that that we should not honor her by true titles, anymore than we should refrain from honoring Jesus with all of His titles, just because He was meek and humble.

I puzzle over the seemingly endless need for more and more titles and more and more jobs for Mary to do.

But see, when you say "more and more" and the "need" for that, you are already presupposing that these are new things, when in fact, they have always been true about the Blessed Virgin Mary. The only question now is whether they should be defined. There is no doubt that they are already strongly embedded in Tradition. Further, Mother of God is just as scandalous to non-Catholics, perhaps more so than the new proposed titles to be defined. Why? Because too many Protestants ridiculously and quite stupidly misunderstand the meaning of Theotokos, even though all the Protestant founders accepted it. Thus, what we need is more education of what the titles do and do not mean, not shying away from them for fear of offense.

We do not have that same fervour for titles of Jesus, or the Holy Spirit, or the Father (nor as in your example) for Moses (I am not equating Moses with Mary).

I would deny that. I hear sermons and homilies about the titles of Jesus all the time. Every Christian readily acknowledges those, though. Maybe it is because there is disagreement on Mary that there is a call for definition, in order to clarify her role.

I don't think I have a problem with Mary's role in salvation, but I do battle with the constant push to recognise her by another title. Again, Co-Redemptrix and Mediatrix of all Graces, can also convey that while we don't think Mary is equal to God we actually wish she was.

Again, we are always misunderstood. What can you do with people who won't take 20 minutes to read, e.g., the relevant Marian portions of Vatican II? If someone wishes to remain in ignorance, not much can be done. I agree that Co-Redemptrix is especially prone to misinterpretation, because "co" is taken as "equal role," rather than (what it actually is), "cooperating with, in a qualitatively inferior way." I believe that the Church has actually avoided that title for some time, for this very reason. But even Co-Redemptrix could be properly understood by our separated brethren with a little effort. "Co" - linguistically speaking - clearly does not have to imply equality of function. And, again, anyone who has the slightest acquaintance with Catholic Mariology would know that anyway. And that gets back to the root of the problem: ignorance (and, too often: pure prejudice) . . .

In fact, I often hear Catholics attribute to Mary what I would expect us to be attributing to God (miracles for example).

Well, some are poor theologians; others may simply be attributing a miracle to her powerful intercession, which is altogether proper. In any event, we can only go by the "books."

I cannot see how the acknowledgement of these "new" Marian roles can increase worship of her divine Son, nor to the Father, nor to the Spirit.

I think they enhance an understanding of the Incarnation and human dignity, since they emphasize the extraordinary role of Mary, both with regard to the Incarnation, and Redemption. In other words, the fact that God would choose to utilize a creature to that extent, does lead to a greater appreciation of how much He loves us, and hence, of His goodness and majesty, and marvelous methods. All Mariology is intended to glorify the Son, going right back to Theotokos. It was Who she was the "mother" of which was the point, not that she was the center of attention. Theotokos was defined at the Council in Ephesus in 431 precisely in response to the Nestorian Christological heresy. Likewise, with these titles under consideration for definition, it is Redemption itself which is in focus, and how God accomplishes it by means of the Cross, not that Mary was inherently worthy of such an exalted state. It is all grace, and all God's doing and glory. This is Catholic Mariology and Christology. If Protestants lack understanding of that, we need to educate them and increase our apologetic efforts, not retreat out of fear of caricature and stereotype. That only makes matters worse.

VI. Mediatrix as an Extension of the Incarnational Principle and Divinization

The exaltation of Mary is an illustration and example of how highly God sought to raise man (an extension of the Incarnation itself to creatures). This is part and parcel (as the foremost and most extraordinary example) of the notion of "divinization" or "deification" or theosis - a common motif in Orthodox thought. E.g., Orthodox Archbishop Kallistos Ware writes:
    Behind the doctrine of deification there lies the idea of man made according to the image and likeness of God the Holy Trinity. 'May they all be one,' Christ prayed at the Last Supper; 'as Thou, Father, art in me and I in Thee, so also may they be in us' (John 17:21). Just as the three persons of the Trinity 'dwell' in one another in an unceasing movement of love, so man, made in the image of the Trinity, is called to 'dwell' in the Trinitarian God. Christ prays that we may share in the life of the Trinity, in the movement of love which passes between the divine persons; He prays that we may be taken up into the Godhead . . . a constant theme in Saint John's Gospel; it is also a constant theme in the Epistles of Saint Paul, who sees the Christian life above all else as a life 'in Christ'. The same idea recurs in the famous text of 2 Peter: 'Through these promises you may become partakers of the divine nature' (1:4) . . . "The idea of deification must always be understood in the light of the distinction between God's essence and His energies. Union with God means union with the divine energies, not the divine essence . . .

{The Orthodox Church, NY: Penguin Books, revised ed., 1980, pp. 236-237}

VII. Development of Marian Doctrine and Replies to Charges of Alleged "Extra-Biblical Excess"

The real issue isn't what you are calling the "key aspect." Christ's flesh came from Mary (this is why she is called Theotokos) - Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant are all in agreement here. The issue is everything after the key aspect leading up to what you call the "full development," and if you want to make your case it seems to me you have to prove that the development of Mary as coredemptrix is along the same lines as the development of the doctrine of the trinity between the NT and the Council of Constantinople.

Here is Catholic Mariology in a nutshell (and quite inadequately expressed, no doubt): If indeed the Blessed Virgin Mary is the Second Eve, then there is a direct parallelism. Eve, along with Adam, caused the human race to fall. It was a real act of disobedience and rebellion, and a real Fall, with real consequences. Therefore, Mary as the Second Eve helps ("co-") Christ the Second Adam to redeem the human race, in a subordinate, dependent, non-essential fashion (by God's non-necessary providential choice and decree). The redemption is real and has real consequences, and Mary's "yes" at the Annunciation was a real event which had momentous consequences for the human race.

All of this flows from the Incarnation, and Mary's central and unfathomable role as the Theotokos, who gave the Second Person of the Trinity human flesh, and some of her own genes. Mary is involved in redemption because all of us are (or should be) involved in redemption, as I have shown with many biblical quotations. We are to strive after "divinization." The Blessed Virgin is the first fruits of that, and the "icon" or "image" or "ideal" of what the human race can be when it is exalted by God for His purposes. She is preeminent, for obvious reasons. She is the quintessential intercessor because she is the Theotokos and the holiest creature who ever lived, and James tells us that the prayer of a righteous man availeth much. She is the leading model of faithfulness and hope and obedience and love. Jesus couldn't have faith, because He was God. Mary was the first Christian, and the model for the Church. I think all this is a very straightforward development. There is enough biblical rationale to ultimately ground all of the speculation and Tradition in Revelation.

The Blessed Virgin Mary's sinless holiness which flowed from her Immaculate Conception (a sheer gift of God) enabled her to carry out her extraordinary role in salvation history, and her Assumption flows from the fact that she is the Theotokos and without sin (therefore not subject to decay, which is the consequence of the fall and sin and death). Our Lady is merely what all of us would have been (in terms of sinlessness), but for the Fall. Nothing in these doctrines contradicts the Bible - though it is true that some of the aspects are not explicitly outlined in Scripture. And they are firmly embedded in Church Tradition. It is Protestantism which has departed from apostolic Christianity on this point, not Catholicism. A development is not a corruption.

John Henry Cardinal Newman wrote:
    She had a place in the economy of Redemption; . . . It was fitting then in God's mercy that, as the woman began the destruction of the world, so woman should also begin its recovery, and that, as Eve opened the way for the fatal deed of the first Adam, so Mary should open the way for the great achievement of the second Adam, even our Lord Jesus Christ, who came to save the world by dying on the cross for it. Hence Mary is called by the holy Fathers a second and a better Eve, as having taken that first step in the salvation of mankind which Eve took in its ruin.
    How, and when, did Mary take part, and the initial part, in the world's restoration? It was when the angel Gabriel came to her to announce to her the great dignity which was to be her portion . . . And so, as regards the Blessed Virgin, it was God's will that she should undertake willingly and with full understanding to be the Mother of our Lord, and not to be a mere passive instrument whose maternity would have no merit and no reward. The higher our gifts, the heavier our duties. It was no light lot to be so intimately near to the Redeemer of men, as she experienced afterwards when she suffered with Him.

{"Mary is the Janua Coeli, The Gate of Heaven," in Meditations and Devotions, Harrison, NY: Roman Catholic Books, 1893, pp. 125-126}

This is becoming more tenuous to my mind, since the development is now no longer development from Scripture, but development from extra-biblical tradition.

So you say. We disagree. There is much evidence for the Immaculate Conception - some even direct (kecharitomene / "full of grace" in Luke 1:28). We have the striking parallelism between the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Ark of the Covenant. Once having established that, the Assumption follows (in terms of not being subject to decay), just as Adam and Eve would never have decayed and died physically if it weren't for the Fall and sin (in fact, there are many "incorruptible" dead saints which illustrate this same principle). Mary was instantly glorified. We shall all be glorified if we make it to heaven. There is nothing remotely unbiblical in principle or spirit, or unexpected in any of this. God merely contravened the Fall in Mary's - the Theotokos' - case. Newman said that it was far more difficult to believe that all men possess original sin, than to believe that God preserved one solitary creature from it. The Annunciation (explicitly biblical) gets us to the (common patristic) concept of the Second Eve, and that leads directly in a linear fashion to notions of Mediatrix, as do other passages such as Gen 3:15 and Jn 19:26-27 and Rev 12:1-6, when thoroughly pondered, especially in light of Church Tradition.

I'm not denying that there is much speculation in Catholic Marian thought (who could or would?), nor that it involves much complex interplay of ideas, deduction, etc. But what I do vehemently deny is that this endeavor and reflection is completely disconnected from Scripture, and/or arbitrary. To find a doctrine like that, one must go to sola Scriptura, or the Canon of Scripture. Those are notions which have absolutely no warrant in Scripture itself (yet both are pillars of the Protestant position, ironically enough). On the other hand, there is much Marian material to draw from.

VIII. The Interpretation of Explicit Papal Mariological Language

But it seems to me you need to continue the process of development, since you have not yet accounted for some of the statements which I find troubling. For example:
    For the salvation of mankind she renounced her mother's rights and, as far as it depended on her, offered her Son to placate divine justice; so we may well say that she with Christ redeemed mankind. {Pope Benedict XV, Inter Sodalicia}
This is the exercise of a subordinate, essentially lesser position, as we have repeatedly stated. Note the super-important qualifier, "as far as it depended on her."
    In her, the many and intense sufferings were amassed in such an interconnected way that they were not only a proof of her unshakable faith but also a contribution to the Redemption of all. {Pope John Paul II, Salvifici Doloris, no. 25}
Just as we all can and should contribute to the Redemption. Colossians 1:24 comes immediately to mind. What do you make of Phil 2:17 or 2 Tim 4:6, for heaven's sake (all cited above)? These are a few of the many Scriptures in favor of our views which are largely ignored by non-Catholics. We are chided for being "unbiblical," yet the texts we bring to the table are almost always ignored.

If Mary's contribution to redemption is non-essential, how can it be said to have contributed to the "Redemption of all"?

Because we believe that is how the Father chose to apply the Redemption that He ultimately causes by means of Calvary. God could theoretically have said that "I will use the light of the moon as an agent of My grace, so that all grace which I grant will be transmitted by the lunar rays to mankind." Silly example, but I use it to illustrate that God can do whatever He pleases. If that silly scenario were true, it wouldn't prove that the moon was "essential" for the transmission of grace any more than the notion of Mediatrix necessarily makes God's use of the Blessed Virgin "essential." I don't see how this is particularly difficult to grasp - as a matter of logic - , regardless of whether one agrees or not.

Further, how can the work of any mortal (even if we grant everything about Mary's sinlessness) contribute to the salvation of the entire world?

Again, if God so desired it, isn't that reason enough? Obviously the disagreement is contingent upon the "if," but it seems to me - as in so many Catholic doctrines - that there is a prior antipathy based on an implicit idea that God "couldn't" or "wouldn't" do things a certain way. In other words, there is a hostility based on false (or axiomatic, unproven) premises, before one even gets to the discussion at hand, and the establishment of a doctrine as true or false, biblical or not. At least this is what I have often observed. I have to account for the lapses in simple logic somehow, and that is one way.

This flies in the face of Anselm's Cur Deus Homo, which argues (in line with all who have come before it) that redemption must be accomplished by one who is both God and man. If the redemption Christ secured is sufficient, what can be added to it?

Nothing! We agree. But it is applied in various fashions. The Atonement and Redemption of Christ was totally sufficient, yet God uses us as agents to apply that Redemption. He involves us in the process, just as in prayer and evangelism and works of mercy. Christ is sufficient, yet we see a seemingly paradoxical statement such as Colossians 1:24:
    I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.
This is application of the Redemption, not a competing, idolatrous false redemption, just as the Mass is the "re-presentation" and application of the One Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross.

How does saying that Mary was obedient, intimately near the Redeemer, and suffering when she saw her son suffering, prove anything about Mary as co-redemptrix (or co-mediatrix, for that matter)?

Because she freely and willingly assented to the sacrifice of her Son for the sake of the human race, and in so doing, was intimately involved in the Redemption accomplished at Calvary as no other human being was. This is what we mean by the doctrine (as well as Mary being a channel of grace from God to man). She didn't cause it in a direct sense (as God does), yet she was directly involved in the event itself and "offered up" her Son just as the entire congregation at a Mass offers up the "re-presentation" of the One Sacrifice of Christ. God allows us that great privilege. Paul tells all Christians to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship (Rom 12:1). It does not detract from His Divine prerogatives or Glory in the least; on the contrary, it magnifies them and enhances them. The artist is glorified by His masterpiece. The Blessed Virgin Mary is God's greatest created masterpiece.

Even if I were to grant all of your arguments and claims for the propriety of Mary as co-redemptrix, I think I would still oppose this kind of language. It's a bit like the old word "inflammable" used to mark combustible material. Technically this is correct, since the word means "able to be inflammed." But too many people assumed the prefix was like the prefix in the word "incompatible," and took inflammable to mean non-combustible, the opposite of its intended meaning.

Yes, I largely agree; recent popes have also been reluctant to use the term, due to its great capacity for misunderstanding. I, too, have generally refrained from using it. I only use it now because it is already out on the table in our discussion, and in order to distinguish between it and "Mediatrix."

Fortunately, I seriously doubt any declaration will be made in favor of Mary as co-redemptrix.

We shall see. Perhaps the language will be used in an attempt to clear up all possible misunderstanding - if only non-Catholics would read the proclamation (the biggest hurdle). It will be proclaimed eventually, judging from analogous doctrines. It may be one year or a hundred years, but I think it is inevitable. In any event, it is already binding on Catholics on the basis of the extraordinary magisterium of Vatican II, it has been repeatedly taught by popes, and is reiterated in the new Universal Catechism, which is also binding on the faithful. That being the case, Catholics ought to learn what it means and give their religious assent.

IX. Spouse of the Holy Spirit and Orthodox Objections

In considering the notion of Mary being the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, I have not seen a title in Scripture that actually proclaims her as such.

So what? Theotokos doesn't appear in Scripture either, nor does Mary Ever-Virgin, nor Holy Trinity. I don't see you refraining from using those terms on these sola Scriptura grounds. But we do have Scripture which says that Mary was with child due to the Holy Spirit (Lk 1:35).

There are various appelations for Mary but I have not seen any Scripture which calls Mary the Spouse of the Holy Spirit.

Again, this is irrelevant for anyone who denies sola Scriptura. Even the Protestant Founders (Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Cranmer et al) used Mother of God, because of the Council of Ephesus in 431, not so much Scripture Alone (although the doctrine can easily be proven from Scripture). They also all accepted Mary's perpetual virginity, despite prevalent arguments today about the use of "brothers" in Scripture.

Thank you for showing that the vast majority of the actual doctrinal development was actually accomplished during the 19th and 20th centuries. In my view this is very recent and should reasonably be considered a recent innovation or development.

All the explicit elements of the current belief were in place by the 13th century at the latest. But you continue to lightly dismiss all that. One must face the facts of Church Tradition . . . This particular area was firmly entrenched in both East and West (with the East often more advanced). Rapid development can occur at certain times, but that is not equivalent to "innovation" or "corruption." We say this whole notion was included in kernel form in the concept of the New Eve. E.g., one might say that Eastern iconography developed rapidly in the 8th and 9th centuries, in response to the iconoclasts. Ecumenism has certainly developed rapidly in the last 50 years in both our communions, and you favor that, so I think you should note the commonality here.

I do believe that the strongest support for these new dogmas would be the assertion of Papal Infallibility which was defined relatively recently in 1870...which of course the Orthodox do not believe.

The popes merely strengthened and confirmed definitively what was already firmly entrenched in Tradition. You may continue to use this line of defense if you wish, but in my opinion it is exceedingly weak. For the evidence from Tradition, including use of the title Spouse of the Holy Spirit, see Mary as Mediatrix: The Patristic, Medieval, and Early Orthodox Evidence.

X. Mediatrix as an Infallible Doctrine of the Extraordinary Magisterium

I thought that a doctrine was not binding necessarily on all Catholics until it became a dogma. Most of the Eastern Catholics I have met and spoken to do not believe in these teachings because they do not believe that they are consistent with the Eastern Tradition.

They are binding in terms of required submission of all Catholics, by virtue of their clear and repeated proclamation by the "ordinary magisterium" (repeated papal statements, in encyclicals) A lot of Catholics (and non-Catholic observers) seem to think that one can disagree simply because a doctrine hasn't been proclaimed ex cathedra. This is liberal theology and ecclesiology (and was used notably in the wanton and organized dissent with regard to Humanae Vitae in 1968). Ex cathedra proclamations (such as the Immaculate Conception in 1854 and the Assumption in 1950) constitute the highest level of the extraordinary magisterium, and represent the greatest degree of required obedience, yet the ordinary magisterium is also binding on all the faithful, as a matter of obedience. And that includes Eastern Catholics, of course. This is not a matter of custom and discipline, but of doctrine and dogma.

Furthermore, the teaching on Mediatrix and Co-Redemptrix (albeit somewhat less explicit) is part of Vatican II, which is also the extraordinary magisterium, and hence, infallible and de fide, because it is an Ecumenical Council, with bishops definitively proclaiming together Catholic teaching, in union with the pope. So Catholics may not disagree with whatever is taught by such a Council.

Catholic teaching on various levels of authority is plainly laid out in Lumen Gentium 25, from Vatican II, and can be read in my paper Conciliar Infallibility: Church Documents. Lumen Gentium speaks of papal teaching on the level of ordinary magisterium, as indicated by "the character of certain documents in question, or by the frequency with which a certain doctrine is proposed, or by the manner in which the doctrine is formulated" (25). These "controversial" Marian doctrines have been clearly proclaimed in no less than 16 papal encyclicals (most since 1854).
Pope Pius XII stated in his 1950 encyclical Humani Generis,
    When the Supreme Pontiffs in their acts intentionally pronounce a judgment on a hitherto disputed point, then it is clear to all that, according to the intention and will of these Popes, the matter can no longer be held to be a question for free discussion among theologians.
Are these Eastern Catholics wrong or heretical within the Catholic Tradition for not believing these doctrines?

I would say they are disobedient to both the ordinary / universal magisterium and the extraordinary magisterium, and as such, are at least material heretics. This refusal of assent is gravely sinful and formally heretical if they are fully knowledgeable of the teaching and truly obstinate. In many cases, they may be unaware (say, e.g., if Newsweek is their primary source for understanding Catholicism :-) that these teachings are firmly entrenched, or taught in Vatican II (as many Western Catholics are also). Once they learn otherwise, they are bound to obey and submit, and it is sinful for a professed Catholic not to do so.

If all Catholics are already bound by these doctrines...and must believe them...why should the Catholic Church even consider creating a dogma which will destroy any hope of ecumenical resolution?

To make it even stronger, because (obviously) we believe these things to be true. It won't destroy ecumenism any more than the proclamation of the Assumption did in 1950. What makes you so sure? It might even provide a window of opportunity for some people to finally really probe into Catholic thought, instead of inventing self-serving, never-ending caricatures of it. Yet the pope is an inopportunist (as am I), or he would have proclaimed the doctrine by now. The Church always moves very slowly and deliberately in these matters. This is part of her ineffable wisdom, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

XI. "Praying Through Mary," the Newsweek Article, and Protestant Alarmism and Misunderstanding

What my basic, bottom line question relates to the article's position that if the Holy Father proclaims this to be a dogma to be believed by all of the Faithful, one would have to pray to Mary first before our prayers would go on to and through Jesus and then to God.

No, this would not be the case at all. The doctrine of Mediatrix of all graces holds that God so chose to involve Mary in a non-necessary fashion (not because of her intrinsic, ontological status) , in the distribution of graces - basically as an intercessor for all mankind. The other aspect of mediatrix is Mary's role in the Incarnation, Virgin Birth, wholly secondary cooperation (as Theotokos / Mother of God) with Jesus for the purpose of the redemption of mankind, etc. This is more solidly entrenched in Catholic Tradition. But assuming Mary is profoundly involved in the process of God's giving graces to His children, it does not therefore follow that we must consciously "go through her" every time we pray. Likewise, a particularly holy person may pray for us constantly, but we wouldn't assume that whenever we wanted to pray to God that we had to contact this person and ask them to "put in a word" for us. The two processes are entirely distinct. Mary is an intercessor like all of us, albeit an extraordinarily holy one, and our prayers are never to be directed ultimately to her as an end and final goal.

I do believe in praying to Mary, but not all my prayers are directed through her. Some are in the Name of the Lord Jesus to the Father. Some are a request for her to pray for me or for someone else.
Yes; this is perfectly acceptable (Roman) Catholic practice as well.

A couple of weeks ago, I was horrified to pick up Newsweek and read the cover story, about the place of Mary in Catholic theology.

And I'm horrified to see my evangelical brothers in Christ getting the alleged "inside scoop" on my Church from a notoriously anti-Christian secular rag. The least you guys could do is read something from our perspective, instead of gullibly swallowing regurgitated pablum from a hostile media (reputable surveys have shown some 90% of them don't attend church, are pro-abortion, etc.). You are ready to read me and my Catholic brothers and sisters out of the Christian faith, based on a hostile anti-Christian (let alone anti-Catholic) third-hand report. Amazing! You could start with the Catechism of the Catholic Church, #963-975, if you are serious about an objective pursuit of the facts of the matter.

Heretofore, as I understood it, however much the Protestants might object, the Catholic Church has been able to maintain that no matter how much it venerated the Virgin, the Church still recognized the validity of the Scripture, "there is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus." If Protestants objected that the veneration was excessive, the Church could still reply that it was, after all, veneration, and not worship.

And of course nothing has changed in that regard. Protestants must go back and understand the rationale for the communion of saints in general, in order to have any hope of understanding Marian veneration. There's plenty in my website about both of those topics, and there can be little excuse for ignorance for anyone who desires to learn Catholic theology and the rationale behind it.

Now, it seems, the Church is prepared to go a step further. Catholic laity and clergy the world over are sending boxloads of signed petitions to the Pope asking him to proclaim infallibly, as a dogma necessary for salvation, that Mary is co-redemptrix and co-mediatrix with her Son.

I would hope you have some basis for your opinions other than Newsweek and the standard evangelical anti-Catholic mythology and rumor-mongering.

According to the article, two theological issues would be implied by such a dogma:
    1. That any graces that flow to us from the Son must flow through Mary.
In a nutshell, God can do whatever He wants with His creatures; involve them in any way He pleases, without there being the slightest necessity of them being raised to divine status. That necessity resides only in the false presuppositions of Protestants. God could say right now, "from this point on I am going to involve Charles Spurgeon and his intercession whenever I send grace to one of my children." God could do that. It is not inconceivable. Who's to say what God can or can't do? And it would not make Spurgeon part of the Godhead anymore than it would make Mary God.
    2. That prayers to the Son must go through Mary.
Catholics are - and have always been - perfectly free to pray directly to God. All the prayers in the Mass are directed towards God alone (there are prayers with other saints, but they are towards God).

For any Church, I don't care who it is, to take any created being, no matter how worthy, and place that created being on a level with the Son in His redemptive and mediatorial work, is to claim that the created being is equally worthy of worship, not merely veneration, no matter how they might try to disguise it. It is blasphemy, pure and simple. Or, as Newsweek so perceptively put it, "it turns the Blessed Trinity into the Holy Quartet."

If in fact this is what was intended, it would indeed be blasphemy, but of course this is a gross distortion of our Marian teaching. None of these doctrines imply in the slightest any equality with God whatsoever, in essence or nature. This is made crystal clear in the Catechism, #970, which itself draws from Lumen Gentium from Vatican II. None of these teachings are new. They are already part of Catholic theology. What was being considered was a dogmatic definition, such as what happened with the Assumption of Mary in 1950.

I am very sorry. I am sure what I am saying must offend you, and I have no wish to offend.

Not personally, but in the sense that your words are blatant falsehoods, yes. It disturbs me that my evangelical friends (of whom I was one, and for whom I have much affection) are so gullible, and so quick to judge us out of hand. You should be ashamed of yourself. I don't care if you have questions and doubts, etc. That's normal. But to go by a secular magazine, of all things, before coming to your conclusions, is ethically and intellectually ludicrous, in my humble opinion. And I'm sorry if I offend you, but I'm the one who is being considered possibly out of the Christian Church over this.

But I do know this: Scripture says "He will give His angels charge over thee..." It says "He," not "she." And I think this is an important distinction that is in danger of being lost.

So angels can pray (?) for us and watch over us, even in Protestant theology, but Mary the Mother of God the Son, impregnated by the Holy Spirit, who carried God Incarnate in her own body for nine months, cannot, even though men are higher than angels in many respects? Strange . . . Do you think people who die just float on clouds and play harps for eternity? That is kindergarten eschatology, if you ask me. We hold that the saints in heaven are active and aware of what is going on on the earth. In Revelation 6:9-10, we see a clear example of saints in heaven prying for those on earth (an "imprecatory prayer"). And Mary or any other saint need not be omniscient to hear our requests for intercession. God can allow them to be outside of time (as seems likely), and that is all that is required.

Again, I am very sorry to offend, but honesty is best. If the Catholic Church takes this step, in my opinion, it will have lost any right to be considered any part of the Body of Christ whatsoever and will have reverted to what some Protestants have always suspected it of being anyway: a neo-pagan cult. I feel that I must be very cautious about associating too closely with Catholic friends, pending the outcome. St. Paul says, "a heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject."

You believe whatever you want to believe, but I have given you the opportunity to learn the truth of this matter. If you reject that and read us out of the Body of Christ on such hearsay and distortion, then you will have no one but yourself to blame, and will be held accountable for your judgmental attitude. And it is my duty as a Catholic apologist to tell you so, and give warning, just as you think it is your duty to distance yourself from Catholics. But the difference is that I know my own theology pretty well, whereas it is clear - with all due respect - that you have a long way to go in understanding it.

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