The title “Co-Redemptrix,” which originated in the 14th century, has been widely used by Catholic Bishops, theologians, and popular writers ever since. In more recent times it has been employed even in documents of the Holy See. Hence, no one should question its legitimacy.
But more important than the title itself is its doctrinal content. What does the word “Co-redemptrix” mean? For some theologians, it refers to Mary’s cooperation in the Redemption in the sense that she knowingly and willingly gave birth to the Redeemer (indirect, remote cooperation), and that she dispenses to us the fruits (graces) of the Redemption already accomplished by Christ alone (technically: cooperation in the subjective Redemption). The majority, however, believes that, besides the two types of cooperation just mentioned, Mary also contributed to the Redemption itself, i.e., to the redemptive action of Christ that wash consummated on Calvary (called objective Redemption). Specifically: Together with Christ (though in total subordination to Him and in virtue of His power), Mary atoned or satisfied for our sins, merited every grace necessary for salvation, and joined the Savior’s sacrifice on Calvary to appease the wrath of God. It was in view of this joint operation of Son and Mother that God was pleased to cancel our debt and take us back into His friendship broken by sin.
The aforementioned opinion of the majority is based on various pronouncements of the Magisterium. Thus, e.g., Benedict XV stated that on Calvary, Our Lady “to such extent…immolated Him [Christ], in so far as she could, in order to appease the justice of God, that we may rightly say that she redeemed the human race together with Christ” (Inter Sodalicia: AAS 10  182). And according to Pius XII, Mary cooperated in our Redemption “in such a way that our salvation flowed from the love of Jesus Christ and His sufferings intimately joined with the love and sorrows of His Mother…” (AAS 48  352). Substantially the same thing is taught by John Paul II in his 1980 encyclical On the Mercy of God (Dives in misericordia). The Second Vatican Council made repeated references to Mary’s cooperation in the Redemption, but they are not as explicit as those already mentioned (LG 56, 58, 61, 68).
But are not all the members of the Church supposed to contribute to the work of Redemption by “filling up what is wanting in the sufferings of Christ” (Col 1: 24)? Yes, but the Church contributes nothing to the objective Redemption (as Mary did); only to its subjective phase (cf. Pius XII’s encyclical On the Mystical Body, Mystici Corporis, in AAS 35  213).
When we, therefore, say that Christ alone redeemed us, we are referring to His primary, universal, infinite, and self-sufficient causality in the redemptive process. We do not mean it in a sense that would exclude Mary’s secondary, finite, and totally subordinated share, which drew all its efficacy from the merits of her Son. While Mary did not (could not) enhance the value of Christ’s redemptive merits and satisfactions, God was pleased to accept her share therein together with (but subordinated to) Christ’s sacrificial action and for the same purpose, namely, the redemption of the human race. Only in this restricted sense can we say that Mary “redeemed the human race together with Christ,” as Pope Benedict XV boldly stated.
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