Catholic Culture Resources
Catholic Culture Resources

The Father William Most Collection

Ordinary Magisterium on Mary's Immediate Cooperation in the Objective Redemption

[Published electronically for use in classes taught by Fr. Most and for private theological study.]

PRELIMINARY NOTE: 1. We need to distinguish carefully between two things: (a) The fact that she cooperated immediately on Calvary, (b) The manner in which that cooperation worked

2. Any doctrine proposed repeatedly by the Ordinary Magisterium is rated as infallible. In fact, Pius XII added (Humani generis, Dec. 28, 1950. DS 3885):"Nor should one think that the things proposed in Encyclical Letters do not of themselves call for assent on the plea that in them the Popes do not exercise the supreme power of their Magisterium. For these things are taught by the Ordinary Magisterium, to which this also applies: He who "hears you hears me."... But if the Popes in their acta deliberately pass judgment on a matter controverted up to then, it is clear to all that according to the mind and will of the same Pontiffs, the question can no longer be considered open to free discussion among theologians." But: If a doctrine comes under the promise of Christ "He who hears you hears me" that doctrine cannot be in error.

1. Leo XIII, Encyclical, Iucunda Semper, Sept 8, 1884. ASS 27. 178: For when she presented herself to God as a handmaid for the role of Mother, or when she totally dedicated herself with her Son in the temple, from each of these she was already then a sharer in the laborious expiation for the human race. Hence we cannot doubt that she greatly grieved in soul in the most harsh anguishes and torments of her Son. Further, that divine sacrifice had to be completed with her present and looking on, for which she had generously nourished the victim from herself. Finally this is more tearfully observed in the same mysteries: There stood by the Cross of Jesus, Mary His Mother... of her own accord she offered her Son to the divine justice, dying with Him in her heart, transfixed with the sword of sorrow.

2. Leo XIII, Encyclical, Adiutricem populi, Sept. 5, 1895. ASS 28. 130-31: For thereafter, by the divine plan, she so began to watch over the Church, so to be present to us and to favor us as Mother, that she who had been the minister of accomplishing the mystery of human redemption, would be likewise the minister of the dispensation of that grace, practically limitless power being given to her.

3. St. Pius X, Encyclical, Ad diem illum, Feb. 2, 1904, ASS 36. 453-55: Hence that never disassociated manner of life and labors... . But when the final hour of her Son came, His Mother stood by the cross of Jesus, not just occupied in seeing the dread spectacle, but actually rejoicing that her Only-Begotten was being offered for the salvation of the human race... . from this common sharing of sufferings and will, she merited to become most worthily the reparatrix of the lost world, and so the dispensatrix of all the gifts which were gained for us by the death and blood of Jesus... . . She... since she was ahead of all in holiness and union with Christ, and was taken up by Christ into the work of human salvation, she merited congruously, as they say, what Christ merited condignly, and is the chief minister of the dispensation of graces.

4. Benedict XV, Epistle, Admodum probatur, June 20, 1917. AAS 10. 182 : With her suffering and dying Son she suffered and almost died, so did she surrender her mother's rights over her Son for the salvation of human beings, and to appease the justice of God, so far as pertained to her, she immolated her Son, so that it can be rightly said, that she together with Christ has redeemed the human race.

5. Pius XI, Apostolic Letter, Explorata res est. Feb. 2, 1923. AAS 15. 104: ... the sorrowful Virgin shared in the work of redemption with Jesus Christ... . COMMENT: The word "sorrowful" shows this was a cooperation on Calvary, not just in the annunciation.

6. Pius XI, Encyclical, Miserentissimus Redemptor, May 8, 1928. AAS 20. 178: May the kindly Virgin Mother of God be present and smile on these our prayers and undertakings, who, since she brought forth Jesus the Redeemer, fed Him, offered Him as a victim at the cross, by her hidden union with Christ, and an altogether singular grace from Him, was likewise the Reparatrix, and is devoutly called that.

7. Pius XI, Radiomessage to Lourdes, April 28, 1935. L'Osservatore Romano, April 29, 1935: O Mother of piety and mercy, who as Coredemptrix stood by your most sweet Son suffering with Him when He consummated the redemption of the human race on the altar of the cross... preserve in us, we beg, day by day, the precious fruits of the Redemption and of your compassion.

8. Pius XII, Encyclical, On the Mystical Body, June 29, 1943. AAS 35. 247: She it was who, as the New Eve, free from every stain of original or personal sin, always most closely joined with her Son, offered Him to the Eternal Father together with the holocaust of her motherly rights and motherly love, for all the sons of Adam, defiled by his miserable fall.

9. Pius XII, Radiomessage to Fatima, May 13, 1946, AAS 38. 266: Jesus is King of the Eternal Ages by nature and by right of conquest; through Him, with Him, and subordinate to Him, Mary is Queen by grace, by divine relationship, by right of conquest, and by singular choice [of the Father]. COMMENT: The same title by right of conquest, is given for both Jesus and Mary. A triple subordination is carefully expressed, therefore there should be no other reservation thought to be understood. Hence, with subordination, the title applies in the same way to each.

10. Pius XII, Apostolic Constitution, Munificentissimus Deus, Nov. 1, 1950. AAS 42. 768: We must especially remember this, that starting in the second century, the Virgin Mary is presented by the holy Fathers as the New Eve, who, although subject to the New Adam, was most closely joined with Him in that struggle against the infernal enemy , which, as was foretold in the Protoevangelium, was to come to the most full victory over sin and death, which are always joined together in the writings of the Apostle of the Gentiles. Hence, just as the glorious resurrection of Christ was an essential part and final sign of this victory, so that struggle of the Blessed Virgin in common with her Son, had to be closed by the glorification of her virginal body."

COMMENT: In spite of the fears of some scholars, such as Altaner, the Pope found the Assumption in the sources of revelation in the New Eve theme, and more precisely, in her cooperation on Calvary, which was most close, to such an extent that the Pope even could speak of a struggle that was "common to the Blessed Virgin and her Son".

11. Pius XII, Encyclical, Fulgens corona, Sept. 8, 1953. AAS 45. 583: "... she was joined with her Only-begotten Son in the struggle against the most wicked infernal serpent."

12. Pius XII, Encyclical, Ad Caeli Reginam, Oct. 11, 1954. AAS 46. 634-35: "In accomplishing this work of the redemption, the Most Blessed Virgin Mary was certainly closely joined with Christ... was associated with Jesus Christ, the very principle of salvation, by divine plan, and indeed in a way similar to that in which Eve was associated with Adam, the principle of death, so that we can say that the work of our salvation was accomplished according to a certain recapitulation... and if she was joined with her Son, even on Golgotha, [and] she offered Him, together with the holocaust of her Mother's rights and love, like a New Eve, for all the sons of Adam, defiled by his wretched fall, as a result, beyond doubt, it is right to conclude that just as Christ, the New Adam should be called King not only because He is the Son of God, but also because He is our Redeemer, so by a certain analogy, the most Blessed Virgin is Queen, not only because she is the Mother of God, but also because as the New Eve she was associated with the New Adam"

COMMENT: Mary acted in a way parallel to that of Eve, who did not receive a sin from Adam [as the German Mariology would imply] but in an effective and active way generated sin. Therefore Mary's work was not active receptivity , as the Germans assert, but an effective and active cooperation in generating the title for the Redemption.

13. John XXIII, Radiomessage to Eucharistic Congress of Italy at Catana, Sept. 13, 1959. AAS 51. 714: "We trust that they will imitate in her the most perfect model of union with Jesus, our Head; we trust that they will join Mary in the offering of the divine Victim... ."

14. John XXIII, Homily for the Canonization of St. Peter Julian Eymard. Dec. 9, 1962. AAS 65. 10: "Intimately associated in the Redemption in the eternal plans of the Most High, Our Lady, as Severianus of Gabala sung, is the mother of salvation, the fountain of light made visible".

15. Vatican II, Constitution on the Church, §58: "So also the Blessed Virgin advance in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully bore with her union with her Son even to the cross, where, in accord with the divine plan, she stood, vehemently grieved with her Only-Begotten, and joined herself to His Sacrifice with a motherly heart, lovingly consenting to the immolation of the victim born of her."

§61: "In conceiving Christ, in giving birth to Him, in feeding Him, in presenting Him to the Father in the Temple, in suffering with Him, as He died on the cross, she cooperated in the work of the Savior in an altogether singular way, by obedience, faith, hope and burning love, to restore supernatural life to souls."

COMMENT: Her cooperation was by way of obedience, which was the covenant condition, the very thing that gave the sacrifice its value, for without obedience, it would have been only a tragedy, not a redemption. Hence in §3 of the same constitution: "By His obedience, He brought about redemption." Cf. also Romans 5. 19. She cooperated officially "in accord with the divine plan: as the New Eve. She was made interiorly apt for this by the Immaculate Conception. Such a cooperation is clearly active, in generating the title for redemption. So Vatican II taught more than it realized it was teaching. LG 55 shows that such a thing can happen in Scripture: "These primeval documents [Gen 3. 15 and Is 7. 14] as they are read in the Church and understood in the light of later and full revelation, gradually bring before us the Mother of the Redeemer. She in this light is already prophetically foreshadowed in the promise given our first parents, who had fallen into sin, of a redeemer (cf. Gen 3. 15... Cf. Is 7. 14)." History of the Council shows they wanted to be sure they were not teaching flatly that the human authors of these two passages saw all that the Church now sees.

Now, a Council is an instrument in the hand of Providence, and so could be used to teach more than it saw. To say three times (LG 56 and 61) that she cooperated by obedience means she shared in the New Covenant condition which was obedience, and in the interior of the sacrifice, which was obedience, and in rebalancing the objective order, to make up for disobedience. (On this cf the text from Redemptoris Mater below).

16. John Paul II. Encyclical, Redemptoris Mater, March 25, 1987. AAS 79. 382. 83. Vatican Press Translation. "How great, how heroic then is the obedience of faith shown by Mary in the face of God's 'unsearchable judgments'! How completely she 'abandons herself to God without reserve, 'offering the full assent of the intellect and the will' to him whose 'ways are inscrutable... . Through this faith Mary is perfectly united with Christ in his self-emptying... . At the foot of the Cross Mary shares through faith in the shocking mystery of this self-emptying. This is perhaps the deepest 'kenosis' of faith in human history. Through faith the Mother shares in the death of her Son, in his redeeming death... . as a sharing in the sacrifice of Christ -- the new Adam --it becomes in a certain sense the counterpoise to the disobedience and disbelief embodied in the sin of our first parents. Thus teach the Fathers of the Church and especially St. Irenaeus, quoted by the Constitution Lumen gentium: 'The knot of Eve's disobedience was untied by Mary's obedience; what the virgin Eve bound through her unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosened by her faith.'"

COMMENT: In his Apostolic Exhortation, Redemptoris Custos, The same Pope said that in Redemptoris Mater. he intended to deepen the teaching of Vatican II on Mary's faith. Now since faith involves total adherence of a person to God, requiring intellectual assent, confidence in promises, and obedience, and since all spiritual perfection lies in the alignment of one's will with the will of God, it is clear that on Calvary her conformity to the will of the Father required that she positively will the terrible death of her Son. To do that was indeed the deepest kenosis of faith in all history, for she had to will His death in spite of her love, which was so great that Pius IX, in Ineffabilis Deus, 1854, taught that at the very start of her life, her holiness (= love of God) was so great that "none greater under God can be thought of, and only God can comprehend it."--The very value of His death depended on His obedience to the will of the Father (cfr. Lumen gentium §3 and Rom 5. 19) for that obedience was the condition of the New Covenant. But then, her cooperation consisted in the obedience of faith, and so was a share in the covenant condition, hence her obedience became "the counterpoise to the disobedience and disbelief embodied in the sin of our first parents."--She did this as the one appointed by the Father to cooperate, as the New Eve, who was there, as Lumen gentium §§ 58 & 61 said, "by plan of divine Providence."

17. John Paul II, Allocution at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Guayaquil, given on Jan 31, 1985, reported in Osservatore Romano Supplement of Feb. 2, 1985 and in English Osservatore Romano, March 11, 1985, p. 7: "Crucified spiritually with her crucified Son (cf. Gal 2:20), she contemplated with heroic love the death of her God, she 'lovingly consented to the immolation of this Victim which she herself had brought forth' (Lumen gentium §58)... as she was in a special way close to the Cross of her Son, she also had to have a privileged experience of his Resurrection. In fact, Mary's role as co-redemptrix did not cease with the glorification of her Son."

COMMENT: Same sense as previous text. We note the Pope even uses the word Co-redemptrix.


There are 17 official documents, given above, teaching Our Lady's immediate cooperation in the objective redemption. Repetition on the ordinary level makes a teaching infallible. Seventeen repetitions is far more than enough. The fact of her immediate cooperation in the objective redemption had been vigorously fought against by many theologians, most prominent were Lennerz and Goosens. Ludwig Ott, whose summary of dogma first appeared in German in 1952 is another example, remarkable for his tenacity in fighting the clear meaning of the papal texts. For he tried to interpret all of them as referring only to the fact that she furnished the humanity in which He could die, a remote cooperation. He took the extremely minimist position, on p. 213, of saying her cooperation in the objective redemption is "an indirect, remote cooperation." He glides easily over even the texts of Mystici Corporis, and Munificentissimus Deus.

By the eve of Vatican II, however, at least nearly all theologians had come to see - some very reluctantly - that could no longer hold out against the fact that the Church had taught an immediate and direct cooperation in the objective redemption. The question remained, however of just how that cooperation operated. There were two positions on hand at the start of the Council.

1) That of the Germans, chiefly Koester, Semmelroth, and Mueller. They said her role was only what they called "active receptivity". They used the comparison of putting out a hand (active) to receive what one had no part in producing. Thus Otto Semmelroth wrote (Urbild der Kirche, Wurzburg, 1950, p. 54): "Finally, Mary since she is substantially type of the Church, could not do anything other than the Church herself." Of course, the Church was not on Calvary. So the Church merely receives. On p. 56 Semmelroth added: "So that it [Christ's offering] might be the offering of mankind, there was need of the subjective appropriation by this mankind." This reminds us of the Lutheran theology of "taking Christ as one's personal Savior." Or as merely "appropriating" what He did.

2) The other position was typified by Cardinal Santos at the Council who said on the floor of the Council: "She stood, suffering with Him as He died for us, meriting Redemption with Him... . The saving function of Mary who, as a result of the grace of the Redeemer, was associated with Him in the objective redemption itself, is essentially different from the function of other members [of Christ. ]"

As we noted above, Vatican II taught she cooperated on Calvary by obedience. It said this three times. Now obedience was that which gave all the value to the sacrifice. Without it His death would have been a tragedy, not a sacrifice. It was the covenant condition, it was the needed rebalance for the sins of all times. She of course depended entirely on Him for her whole ability. Yet she did have that role. it was so strong that Pius XII in the solemn Constitution defining the Assumption said: "Just as the glorious resurrection of Christ was an essential part and final sign of that victory [over sin and death] , so that struggle, which was common to the Blessed Virgin and her Son, had to be closed by the glorification of her virginal body." One should not skate over this as Ott does, a s only indirect and remote. Pius XII just before the words of definition itself - seemingly his chief support for it - said the struggle was a work in common. John Paul II filled in on this brilliantly in Redemptoris Mater, as we saw above.

So it is legitimate to claim that Vatican II, as an agent in the hands of Divine Providence, could and really did teach more than it realized, by saying her cooperation was by way of obedience -- essential in all three aspects of the redemption, as we just indicated. That is far from merely picking up, "appropriating" in a Lutheran sense, what she had no share in winning. Further, Semmelroth said there was need of appropriation on the part of humanity. What did he think Christ was doing? Christ the new Head of our Race, the New Adam?

The CCC did not deny this, but neither did it very clearly bring it all out. That happened by the fact that it omitted certain vital words of LG 61,"... in suffering with Him as He died on the Cross." Those words show the cooperation was on Calvary. By omitting them, it did indeed speak of her cooperation, but did not make clear at what point it was centered.

Really this doctrine of her immediate cooperation can be shown by Scripture alone, even without the help of the Magisterium. We begin with the well known fact that the center of holiness is conformity with the will of God. T here is only one free thing in us, our free will, so if we could make it entirely in accord with the will of the Father, that is all there is to do.

Further, when a soul knows what the Father positively wills, it is not enough to say: I will let it go and not protest. No, the soul is obliged to positively will what the Father wills.

She knew all too well too many things. At the annunciation as soon as the Archangel told her her Son would reign over the house of Jacob forever, she knew - any Jew would know - that this was the Messiah. Only He would reign forever. Then all the prophecies of the Old Testament would begin to come into her mind, including those of His passion in Isaiah 53. Yes, the Jews did distort that chapter in the Targum. But she who was full of grace, knew all too well it applied to Him. She would recognize in Psalm 22. 17 that He was the one who could say: "They have pierced my hands and my feet."

She always accepted the will of the Father, and expressed it specially in her fiat at the annunciation. When the dark day of Calvary came, she still held to her fiat, to her alignment with the will of the Father. She knew the Father willed that He die, die then, die so horribly. So she was required to will that He die, die then, die so horribly. And this would be in a dreadful clash with her love, and so her suffering was beyond our ability to grasp.

We know that His death was a sacrifice. And from Isaiah 29. 13 we know that sacrifice required interior acceptance of the will of the Father. She did that on Calvary, as she had always been doing. She knew there was to be a new covenant, from Jeremiah 31. 31. She knew it had been inaugurated at His Last Supper, and was being carried out on the cross. Her obedience joined with His. She knew from all over Scripture that sin is a debt, which the holiness of God wants paid. He was paying it. She, by her acceptance of the Father's will was joining in paying it, depending of course on Him, but yet really joining.

Now that we have seen, from Scripture alone, that she did cooperate immediately in the objective redemption, and did it by way of obedience may we borrow just one line from the Magisterium. Pius IX, in defining the Immaculate Conception, said that even at the start of her life, her holiness - which in practice is interchangeable with love - was so great that "none greater under God can be thought of, and no one but God can comprehend it." Of course God could create a creature capable of grasping it. But He has not done that. So her love, which clashed with her obedience to the Father's will in willing His death - was suffering literally beyond the ability of anyone but God to comprehend.

The Magisterium has taught this over and over, 17 times in all. We should not keep it under wraps, we should teach our people, so they may be grateful and join in the dispositions of her Immaculate Heart, and so come to a deeper appreciation of His Heart, in learning how the redemption operated.



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