I’m going to offer a critique of Pope Francis’ impassioned rejection of Mary as Co-Redemptrix at Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe the other day, December 12, 2019. The video above is the entire homily.
And yes, I’m aware through second hand information – I know, “second-hand” – and from a private conversation with then Cardinal Ratzinger – I know, “private” – that the then Prefect’s opinion of the title co-redemptrix could be misleading, but not that it was wrong in itself. Analogously, that’s what Saint John Henry Newman said about Papal Infallibility, right? It’s entirely correct, but maybe that wasn’t the best time to be proclaiming that truth of the Gospels in Matthew 16, what with the sum of all heresies running rampant in both the Catholic Church and the Anglican get-togethers at that time (it’s no different today). I would counter that the best time to preach the truth is all the time: “Proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient [in season or out of season]; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2).
Anyway, that objection of “it’s correct but the wording could be misinterpreted” is all a far cry from Pope Francis’ putting the absolute worst spin on that title for Mary – Co-Redemptrix – that he could possibly ever dream up in some nightmare, having it that not only is it misleading, but wrong, he even saying that efforts with this are “stupidities.”
Lets see what he himself says at 2’17”:
- “Fiel a su Maestro, que es su Hijo, el único Redentor, jamás quiso para sí tomar algo de su Hijo. Jamás se presentó como co-redentora, no: discípula.”
- “Faithful to her Master, who is her Son, alone the Redeemer, she never desired to take something of her Son for herself. She never presented herself as co-redeemer, no: disciple.”
Well, that’s all true:
- She was faithful to her Master, who is her Son, He alone being the Redeemer.
- She never desire to take something of her Son for herself.
- She never presented herself as Co-Redeemer. [nor does she have to for this to be true.]
- She was, in fact, a disciple.
The problem is that Pope Francis contrasts all this with the title Co-Redemptrix, attacking the historical interpretation of that title by, say, the “Servant of God” (first step toward canonization) Sister Lucia of Fatima, and by, say, Pope Saint John Paul II, who used that title a half-dozen times (and also a few more times for all the rest of us, by the way, inasmuch as we are to be evangelizers of the redemption). The title was also used by Pope Pius IX, Pope Leo XIII, Pope Pius X, Pope Benedict XV, Pope Pius XI, Pope Pius XII. Anyway, let’s move on:
In the video, at 2’55”:
- “Nunca robó para sí nada de su Hijo. Lo sirvió porque Madre. “
- “She never robbed anything from her Son, but she served Him, because she is Mother.”
Fine. That’s all true as well:
- She never robbed [stealing by way of arrogant violence] anything from her Son.
- She served Him as Mother.
But that has nothing that contradicts her being Co-Redemptrix. With overwhelming irony, all that misses the point of her being the woman and mother that she is, as we will see. Let’s move along…
Then, at 6’07” (he’s mumbling a bit…):
- “Quando vengan con historias de que de declarala esto a ser trato como un dogma o esto – non la perdamos in tonteras.”
- “When they come with stories of having to declare this [Mary as Co-Redemptrix] to be a dogma or whatever – let’s not lose her in stupidities.”
“Stupidities.” This, of course, is not a named, but is nonetheless a direct attack on seven previous popes, as well as, it seems to me – and this is perhaps to the point – on Mark Miravale, who has made this title of Co-Redemptrix a life project. He’s done a lot of excellent work on this. What Pope Francis does is simply offensive. If he wants to pick a fight, he should name his adversaries who are alive today instead of hiding behind a bully pulpit. All stupidities about Mary? Really?
Let’s do some reasoning about this:
Pope Francis considers the title Co-Redemptrix to be falsely assigning Mary a function which she steals violently from her Son, as if being a woman and mother wasn’t enough for any woman, including Mary, to have dignity.
But this is missing the point altogether. It’s so dark, so dismal, so unable to see goodness and kindness in being a woman, a mother. Here’s the deal:
- It is because Mary is a faithful woman, mother and disciple that she is Co-Redemptrix. Only she could be so faithful, such a mother, and such a disciple.
Let’s unpack that a bit…
- Mary is free of original sin as we know from Genesis 3:15 and Luke 1:28 (see my thesis on Genesis and Ignace de la Potterie’s study on Luke 1:28).
- That means she has purity of heart and agility of soul and clarity of vision such that she sees the contrast between God’s goodness and our sin. In looking upon her Son on Calvary, she sees all the sin of all mankind wrecked upon her Son. As a woman, as a mother, as His mother, she is in solidarity with Him while He accomplishes our Redemption, He alone our Redeemer. In her immaculateness, with her clarity of vision, seeing what we need perfectly, she perfectly intercedes for us in that solidarity, heart to Heart, with her Son.
- Here’s the point: it is entirely fitting in justice that one of us mere human beings (only she is capable what with her being free from original sin) asks for all that we need in Redemption. Her request, in all justice, and her Son’s answer as a command to His Heavenly Father (Father! Forgive them), makes of them co-workers in our Redemption. She asks. He provides. That’s what the title Co-Redemptrix for Mary is all about. Nothing more. But nothing less.
- Being Co-Redemptrix is the flourishing of her being a woman, a mother, His Immaculate Virgin Mother, and ours. She’s not brutally, violently stealing anything from Son to make herself look good. No. How sick is that? Instead, she serves Him in unimaginable suffering as only a good mother could. How could anyone look into her eyes and insult her that her motherhood is not flourishing here under the Cross?
We are also to be co-redeemers of sorts, co-workers with the redemption, evangelizing the redemption. Is that so bad, so blasphemous? No. It isn’t.
I have much to say about this connection between the motherhood of Mary and her title of Co-Redemptrix, foundationally in my thesis, and then more precisely and especially in the conference on Mary, Mother of the Church Militant, which I gave back in 2013:
So, we pray for Pope Francis and for each other, doing this as, um… co-redeemers… and we ask Mary to show us all her motherhood, you know, as the Co-Redemptrix:
Monstra te esse matrem! Show yourself to be a mother!