Should the Catholic Church Elevate Mary’s Status to Co-Redeemer, Mediator of All Graces, and Advocate of Mankind? – Program 5
By: The John Ankerberg Show
|By: Dr. John Ankerberg; ©1997|
|Does Mary cooperate with Jesus to secure our salvation?|
Mary’s Role in our Salvation
Newsweek magazine on August 25 reported that a growing movement in the Roman Catholic Church wants the pope to proclaim a new controversial dogma: that Mary is a Co-Redeemer, Mediatrix of All Graces, and Advocate for the people of God. Such a move would elevate Mary’s status dramatically beyond what most Christians profess.
- Dr. Walter Martin: What I’m objecting to, from a biblical perspective, is that the Mary of the Bible is not the Mary of Catholic theology. We have now developed what Bishop Strossmayer said in 1870, “We have made a goddess of the Virgin Mary.”
Still, Newsweek has reported that in the last four years the Pope has received more than four million signatures from 157 countries, an average of 100,000 letters a month asking him to speak ex cathedra, that is, “infallibly” declare these new ideas as official Church doctrine. Among the thousands of Catholics supporting this dramatic new doctrine are the late Mother Teresa, 500 bishops and 42 cardinals, including Cardinal John O’Connor of New York, Joseph Glemp of Poland, and half a dozen cardinals at the Vatican itself. Newsweek said, “Nothing like this organized petition drive has ever been seen in Rome.”
If this movement succeeds, Catholics would be obliged as a matter of faith to accept that Mary participates in the redemption achieved by Jesus Christ; that all graces that flow from the suffering and death of her Son are granted only through Mary’s intercession with Jesus; and third, that all prayers and petitions from the faithful on earth must flow through Mary, who will then bring them to the attention of Jesus.
The question is, “Will Pope John Paul use his papal infallibility to officially proclaim Mary as Co-Redeemer, Mediator of All Graces, and Advocate of mankind?” If he does, what will it mean? Where did such elevated ideas about the Virgin Mary come from? If the Catholic Church embraces these new ideas, will they be turning away from the very faith they are supposed to defend?
To help answer these questions, we’ll hear excerpts from our debate with Roman Catholic priest and Jesuit Professor Fr. Mitchell Pacwa and the late Dr. Walter Martin, Protestant scholar and authority on American religious institutions. We invite you to join us.
- Ankerberg: Welcome. Why is it that more than four million Roman Catholics in 157 countries have asked the Pope to declare that Mary is a Co-Redeemer with Jesus Christ? In this program we are going to ask, “Should the Pope declare that Mary be seen as a Co-Redeemer with Jesus Christ?” Is this part of the Christian faith taught by Jesus and the apostles in the Bible? To begin, let’s define terms.
- What does it mean to say Mary is a Co-Redeemer? Well, first, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Mary is said to be collaborating with the work of Jesus. We read: “By pronouncing her fiat at the annunciation and giving her consent to the Incarnation, Mary was already collaborating with the whole work her Son was to accomplish.”
- So here, Mary was collaborating with the whole work of Jesus. This view is based on what the Roman Catholic Church calls Mary’s “fiat.” What is this fiat? It is one of the most important concepts in Catholic theology for those who are promoting the notion that Mary is a Co-Redeemer with Jesus. It comes from Luke 1. See if you can pick out this concept from this passage:
- The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored. The Lord is with you.”
- Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary. You have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever and his kingdom will never end.”
- “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “Since I am a virgin?”
- The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth, your relative, is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible with God.”
- “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her. [Luke 1:28-38]
- Now, historically, down through the centuries Christians have interpreted this passage and Mary’s response in verse 38 as an indication of Mary’s willing submission to the announcement of God. She said, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” It was an act of supreme humility. In brief, she was saying, “If that’s what the Lord wants, I’m perfectly willing to do it.”
- But according to Catholic theologians, Mary’s response is more than just her giving permission. Her response is actually a command. This is where we get the phrase, “Mary’s fiat.” The word “fiat” used in the Catholic Catechism is simply the name of the imperative form of the verb “to be” in Latin: “Let it be, according to thy word.” Supposedly this is a command, and without Mary’s consent, there would have been no redemption. That is, the whole act of redemption for mankind in Jesus Christ hangs on Mary’s answer.
- Further, the implicit suggestion is that if Mary had said no to the angel’s request, there would have been no other way God could have brought Jesus and salvation into the world. Mary had to cooperate, or there would have been no birth of Jesus, no Savior, and Jesus wouldn’t have been able to die on the cross for our sins. There would have been no redemption. That’s why Catholicism says that Mary, in cooperating with God’s plan, must be seen as a Co-Redeemer with Jesus.
- Now, what do you think about this? All Christians admit that Mary had the freedom to choose. She could have said no to God. After all, no one believes God was going to force Mary into having the baby Jesus. But, what if Mary had said no to the angel’s announcement? Do you think that would really have kept God from bringing Jesus into the world? Would it have been impossible for God to send the angel Gabriel to the next village to ask another Jewish girl to accept this responsibility? Certainly that would have been a possibility for God.
- But according to Catholic thinking, that is not possible. Why? You must realize that down through the centuries, as the ideas about Mary evolved, a new milestone was reached when the Pope infallibly declared that Mary was now to be viewed as immaculately conceived, and later, that she lived a sinless life. It meant that from that time on, for Catholicism, Mary was really the only woman who ever lived who was sinless from conception. As such, if Mary hadn’t agreed to God’s plan, she was the only option God had in terms of a sinless woman. Therefore, Jesus could not have been born. Can you see how all of this ties together? Again, in Catholic thought, the angel Gabriel couldn’t have gone to another Jewish virgin and asked her to bear Jesus because the angel wouldn’t have been able to find another sinless woman.
- Let me touch on a side issue related to this. This kind of thinking also implies that the state of Mary’s life, whether she was a sinner or not, had a bearing on Jesus’ nature, whether He was contaminated with sin or not. But this kind of thinking is not true and distorts what the Bible clearly teaches.
- In Luke’s account, the angel Gabriel tells Mary the reason why Jesus will be born holy and without any sin. It has nothing to do with Mary’s own immaculate conception or her life. Gabriel said, “The Holy Ghost will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy One to be born will be called the Son of God.” [Luke 1:35] In other words, according to the Bible, Jesus came by a supernatural mode, the Holy Ghost. It was God the Holy Spirit who guaranteed Jesus’ sinlessness and yet preserved His genetic connection with humanity.
- But once again, those in the Catholic Church who take what is called the maximalist position concerning Mary’s cooperation in mankind’s redemption understand that her answer to the angel, her fiat, her command, is utterly necessary to Jesus’ Incarnation and to our being redeemed. That’s why the Catholic Catechism states, “She had to be willing to collaborate with the whole work of her Son.” And it is on the basis of Mary’s willingness and her obedience that Catholicism today sees Mary as a Co-Redeemer with Jesus Christ.
- Now, with this information as background, see if this statement made by the Second Vatican Council about Mary is more understandable. The Council stated:
- The Father of Mercies willed that the Incarnation should be preceded by assent on the part of the predestined Mother so that just as a woman had a share in bringing about death [talking about Eve], so also a woman [Mary] should contribute to life…. Rightly therefore the Fathers see Mary not merely as passively engaged by God, but as freely cooperating in the work of man’s salvation through faith and obedience.
- So, Mary not only collaborated in the work of Jesus, but here we are told that through her faith and obedience she also cooperated in the work of man’s salvation.
- But then, in this sense, would it not also be possible to declare that the apostle Paul, the apostle Peter, the apostle James by their faith and obedience also cooperated in the work of man’s salvation? The Church’s answer is “Yes,” but then goes on to admit that Mary’s cooperation is still a little more special, since she is the only one that actually gave birth to Jesus, the Son of God. But according to the Bible in Luke 11:27-28 and Matthew 12:46-50, Jesus Himself denies Mary has any special status with Him over other Christians as a result of her giving birth to Him.
- Let’s look at this passage. Luke writes, “As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, ‘Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you’ [talking about Mary].” Notice what Jesus said. “But He said, ‘On the contrary. Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and obey it.’” [Luke 11:27-28] Here Jesus did not unduly elevate Mary, but said that those who hear and obey the Word of God are more blessed than the woman who bore Him.
- Why is it that Jesus denied a special status to Mary over other believers? It’s also interesting Jesus emphasized that hearing and obeying the Word of God (the Bible), not tradition, was what made a person more blessed in God’s sight than giving birth to Jesus. These are important thoughts because Jesus, the Son of God, is the One who said them. Keep in mind that Mary is blessed among women, not blessed over all other women. All generations will count her blessed. She has found favor with God.
- Jesus said, “‘Who is my mother and who are my brothers?’ And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, ‘Behold, my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father who is in heaven, he is my brother and sister and mother’” (Matt. 12:48-49).
- But let’s return to the second assumption Catholicism makes about Mary being a Co-Redeemer with Jesus. According to the Church, Mary not only participated in the Incarnation of Jesus, the beginning of her role in salvation, but she also assisted Jesus while He was dying, nailed to the cross.
- For example, Pope Benedict XV stated: “It was God’s design that the Blessed Virgin Mary, apparently absent from the public life of Jesus, should assist Him when He was dying nailed to the cross.” Pope Pius XII further stated: “She it was, who immune from all sin personal or inherited, and ever more closely united with her Son, offered Him on Golgotha to the Eternal Father…. for all the children of Adam.”
- Now, Catholic theologians will tell you that this statement is capable of more than one interpretation. Did Mary simply offer Jesus to the Eternal Father in the sense that she was surrendering her Son to His work which she knew would take Him away from her in death? Or is this a priestly function, namely that Mary is offering the perfect sacrifice, Jesus, to the Father? Well, if the Pope meant that Mary was only surrendering her Son to His work of dying for mankind, and in the process making her sad, then the Pope was extremely ill-advised in the words and language he used.
- His exact statement is, “She offered Him on Golgotha to the Eternal Father.” The word “offer” is loaded with theological connotations that imply ideas from the Old Testament where the priest offered the sacrifice to God. Worse, the Pope used words, “She offered Him on Golgotha to the Eternal Father for all the children of Adam.”
- The literal meaning of these words is clearly contradictory to what the Bible teaches. The Bible specifically says Mary did not offer Jesus to the Eternal Father; rather, according to Hebrews 9:14, the Bible states Christ “offered Himself unblemished to God.”
- According to Catholic theologians: “Mary is not to be equated with the actual objective redemption of Christ who is our sole Redeemer; rather, she in a subordinate role to Christ had a part with Him in the redemption of the human race.” And because she had a part, even though just a subordinate role in the redemption of the human race, she is therefore called by the Church, “A Co-Redemptor.”
- But we must stop right here and ask if Jesus’ passion did not require any support at all and if Jesus alone acquired the grace of redemption for the whole human race, then why would anyone add that Mary collaborated in the work of Jesus, cooperated in the work of man’s salvation, and had a part with Jesus in the redemption of the human race? Isn’t this misleading? Wouldn’t it be contradictory, both to logic and the Bible? Either Jesus achieved our redemption 100% or He did not. Which is it?
- But moving on, number three, the Roman Catholic Church claims that Mary participated with Jesus Christ in the act of redemption through her suffering. Look at these words from Pope Benedict XV, who taught: “Mary suffered and, as it were, nearly died with her suffering Son; 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.”
- And fourth, the Church further teaches that Mary has also earned the privilege of being the one through whom God will dispense all grace to the world that Jesus Christ achieved on the cross. For example, Pope Pius X stated: “When the supreme hour of the Son came, beside the cross of Jesus there stood Mary His mother, not merely occupied in contemplating the cruel spectacle, but rejoicing that her only Son was offered for the salvation of mankind and so entirely participating in His passion that if it had been possible, she would have gladly borne all the torments that her Son bore and from this community of will and suffering between Christ and Mary she merited to become most worthily the reparatrix of the lost world and dispensatrix of all the gifts that our Saviour purchased for us by His death and by His blood.”
- According to the Pope, Mary is God’s unique channel of blessing and Christ “grants all graces to mankind through her.” In fact, “Nothing is imparted to us except through Mary. She is the seat of all divine graces, an almost infinite treasury to whom the Church exhorts the Faithful to flee in time of need.”
- Well, let’s examine this. Concerning Mary’s suffering, James McCarthy is correct when he writes in his book, The Gospel According to Rome, “The Bible never says that Mary suffered for our sins.” Undoubtedly, watching her son being murdered on a cross, Mary suffered pain. Any mother would suffer pain who was watching one of her children die. But the nature of this kind of suffering would be the suffering of compassion, the same kind of compassion that the apostle John, Mary Magdalene, Salome, Mary, the wife of Cleophas, all would have had standing at the foot of the cross and watching Jesus die. During Mary’s life she also probably endured the taunts and ridicule of evil men just as Jesus did.
- But in 1 Peter 3:14 the apostle Peter describes this kind of suffering as suffering for the sake of righteousness. These two kinds of suffering, the suffering of compassion and the suffering of persecution and righteousness, must be distinguished from what Christ experienced and suffered on the cross. The Bible says Christ suffered for our sin.
- Isaiah 53:4-12 says, “He was stricken by God, smitten by Him and afflicted. He was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. The punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed…. The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:4-6). Nowhere in the Bible does it say that Mary suffered for our sins or that God laid on her our iniquity. This is only said of Christ.
- Second, it should be pointed out that Mary’s suffering was not unto death; Jesus actually died for our sins. In spite of the fact of Christ’s physical suffering, the Scriptures link our redemption not to His pain but to His death. The Bible says, “He was delivered over to death for our sins” (Rom. 4:25). Also, “While we were still sinners Christ died for us.” [Rom. 5:8]
- The apostle Peter taught, “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” [1 Pet. 3:18] Jesus Himself said in Mark 10:45 that He had come to “give His life as a ransom for many.”
- The Catholic Church claims that Mary suffered and, as it were, nearly died with her suffering Son; that she in her heart died with Him stabbed by the sword of sorrow. But the fact of the matter is that Mary did not die at Calvary. The Bible says Christ alone died and in giving up His life paid for our redemption.
- And then, third, Mary was not qualified to redeem mankind. Psalm 49:7-8 states, “No man can by any means redeem his brother or give to God a ransom for him – the redemption of his soul is costly and he should cease trying forever.”
- That’s why God sent His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to redeem us. The biblical word “redeemed” means to free someone from something bad by paying whatever penalty is required. For example, in ancient Rome, slaves were sold in the marketplace. To redeem a slave, one had to pay whatever price was required for that slave. The moment the price was paid, the slave could go free. He was officially redeemed from slavery.