We continue to follow the brilliant insights of Father Peter Damian Fehlner in one of his most masterly treatments in favor of the truth and necessity of recognizing Mary as Coredemptrix, which he delivered on 7 May 2005 in Fatima.[1] It was a presentation that was incredibly rich and from which I continue to mine some of its riches. The last installment concluded with Saint John Henry Cardinal Newman’s comments on the secularization of England in the nineteenth century:

The Woman has made this clear, here in Fatima, how the confrontation would end with or without her, and what both she and her Son expected of the Church and of all believers: not a faith conditioned by academic fashion, by greed, by lust, by political security, by personal preference, but a faith matching the Fiat of the Virgin: at Nazareth, on Calvary, in the Church. Such a faith is a faith lived in the spirit of prayer and penance-reparation, that is, in a coredemptive spirit. Satan’s success rested neither on superior power, nor on clever conspiracy, but on convincing key players at the right moment so to govern as to make in theory and then in practice the rejection of such a coredemptive spirit, rooted in the rejection of the mystery of the Immaculate Coredemptrix, the operative factor for advancement in the cultural, social-political and even religious dimensions of human existence.

The immediate consequences of this diabolical success, the radical repudiation of the mystery of the Immaculate Conception in the western land most responsible for the cultivation of this mystery in the rest of western Europe, especially France, were not long in appearing in England: stripping of the altars and icons, or violent repudiation of the Mass and Real Presence by transubstantiation and profound hatred of the Vicar of Christ as the harlot and beast of the Apocalypse, the three mysteries most defended by Scotus. Newman in his Apologia pro Vita Sua tells us that without subscription to these three points, no one can be a complete Protestant, and if one retains from youth a profound devotion to the Immaculate, as he did, he must end within the Catholic Church. Let no one be so foolish as to imagine history cannot repeat itself, if Mary is not acknowledged for what she truly is in God’s sight: the Immaculate Coredemptrix. She is the only one who can salvage the situation, and make all the other useful programs fruitful. And it should not require many degrees in theology to realize that if the Church does not want her to help her way, she may not help.[2]

On the one hand it might seem that recognizing Mary’s explicit role in the work of our salvation is a minor matter, which can be easily ignored in terms of the life of the Catholic Church and the world. On the other, I am profoundly convinced that God desires this at this very time in the history of the Church and the world and the chaos in the Church and in the world cry out for it. “The Woman has made this clear … in Fatima: how the confrontation would end with or without her, and what both she and her Son expected of the Church and of all believers.”[3] I remain convinced that until Mary’s role as Coredemptrix and Mediatrix of all graces is taught, preached, proclaimed, and solemnly proclaimed as a dogma of the Catholic faith the ever-increasing chaos in the Church and in the world will not cease.

Peter Damian continues:

Here are some of the pointers to this jockeying for position. The loss of England, Mary’s dowry, to the Church: from being one of the most Marian of lands, England became not only one of the most anti-Marian, but perhaps the most effective agent rendering the Calvinist organized Protestantism a permanent feature of large segments of the West, often considered in the past as the immediate preparation of radical socialism. On the other hand, the revival of the Church in Spain and France, in particular the Marian mysticism and theology throughout Spain and the Spanish-speaking world (Latin America and the Philippines) and in the French school of spirituality culminating in the Marian apostolate of St. Louis Grignion de Montfort, in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries served the cause of the Immaculate qua Immaculate in the same way as England in the 12th and 13th and 14th centuries served that very same cause.[4]

As Cardinal Newman put it so well already in 1845 in his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine:

And if we take a survey at least of Europe, we shall find that it is not those religious communions which are characterized by devotion towards the Blessed Virgin that have ceased to adore her Eternal Son, but those very bodies (when allowed by the law) which have renounced devotion to her. The regard for His glory, which was professed in that keen jealousy of her exaltation has not been supported by the event. They who were accused of worshipping a creature in His stead, still worship Him; their accusers, who hoped to worship Him so purely, they, wherever obstacles to the development of their principles have been removed, have ceased to worship Him altogether.[5]

Father Peter continues:

Paradoxically, however, the Roman inquisition during the first half of the 17th century imprisoned Franciscans for preaching the Immaculate Conception. Later in that century the anti-Marianism of Adam von Widenfeld[6], an older German Catholic contemporary of St. Louis, taken up by L. A. Muratori[7], effectively rebutted by St. Alphonsus and his Glories of Mary, and not to be taken up again publicly within the Church until after Vatican II, revealed a subtle, but no less active presence of these currents of Marian minimalism within the Church after Trent. Nonetheless, notwithstanding the success of St. Alphonsus among the masses of Catholics throughout the world and reflected in the 20th century movement of Cardinal Mercier to promote a solemn definition of the universal mediation of Mary Immaculate (including the coredemption)[8], within Church governing circles there remained a hidden presence of Marian minimalism. Witness the recently revealed proscription of the term “Coredemptress” by the Holy Office in 1747, analogous to the 17th century proscription of the Immaculate Conception. That continued presence contributed not a little to the impotence of the Church in preventing or recouping losses consequent on the Protestant reform, and more significantly effectively countering new secular ideologies taking the place and exercising the influence of Christian metaphysics in the minds and hearts of the faithful, indeed of large numbers of the Catholic clergy. All this severely weakened the Church on the eve of the French Revolution and favored the complete secularization of European (and North American) culture. Newman is an excellent witness to all this. In the wake of the relative success of the neo-scholastic revival after the dogmatic definition of the Immaculate Conception, memory of this situation has faded almost to the point of oblivion. This is a reminder that the Immaculate is not merely one of many objects of theological reflection, she is after Her Son the teacher of our theology, without whose active involvement enthusiastically seconded by her students, Catholic theology literally dies.[9]

First, let us note what Father Peter Damian says about the Calvinism that overtook England after the rupture created by Henry VIII: from being “Mary’s dowry,” it became anti-Marian at an incredible rate of speed, whereas in France and in the Spanish-speaking world as Marian piety was promoted the faith grew stronger. His allusion to the opinion that the Calvinistic work ethic prepared the way for socialism also makes one ponder today.

Secondly, let us note the harm done by Widenfeld and Muratori; both of them undermined the role of Our Lady in the life of the Church, the first by Jansenism, a Catholic mutation of Calvinism, the second by deliberate Marian minimalism which is still present in Catholic Academia and at high levels in the Church. All this, as Peter Damian says, “severely weakened the Church on the eve of the French Revolution and favored the complete secularization of European (and North American) culture.”

Now let us return to Peter Damian’s argument:

The serpent, however, did not disappear entirely. In the rise of modernism, then the opposition to the Marian titles of Mediatrix of all grace and Coredemptrix, especially the latter, the “little hiss” could still be heard. This brings us to the importance of the theme discussed in so many conferences during this symposium: the mystery of the Coredemption. On the eve of Vatican II and since, willy-nilly, it was and has remained the issue of theology. It remains only to suggest why of all the aspects of Marian mediation, this one should during this particular crisis become the central one.

In all this, the principle shaping the course of history, from Adam to the final blast of Gabriel’s trumpet, laid down by the Seraphic Doctor,[10] viz., the conflict between Christ and the anti-Christ, between the Church and the anti-Church or synagogue (in the patristic, allegorical sense of brood of the viper — St. John the Baptist: Mt 3:14) is shown to have, as the Seraphic Doctor teaches throughout his writings, a Marian or anti-Marian mode. Newman saw this most clearly [cf. “The Glories of Mary for the Sake of Her Son”, in Discourses to Mixed Congregations, London 1899, pp. 342-359, here 348]. The Arian-Nestorian denial of the divinity of the Son of Man, viz., the Son of Mary and Son of Adam, “consubstantial” with us in time, as in eternity “consubstantial” with the Father (cf. Leo the Great, Letter 31), could only be resolved by confessing the Theotokos, which is exactly what happened at the Council of Ephesus in 431.[11] Failure to do this could only lead to a victory of the Prince of this world. The same thing is true at the time of the Reformation and in its immediate aftermath: denial of the title Immaculate Mediatrix ensured defeat of the Church.

Conversely, its enthusiastic and practical affirmation led to the victory and prosperity of the Church. Let us not be ashamed to say: victory. For in this struggle, success is very much a sharing in the victory of Christ over Satan on Calvary. That participation is via the mediation of Mary, or it is NOT! What we must further observe here is this: at Trent the Immaculate Conception was not denied and its possibility expressly allowed. But it was not affirmed solemnly. Only when this was done three centuries later did some of the finest fruits of the Catholic reformation mature. In a word, Trent’s conciliar teaching without its ultimate completion in a solemn definition, was not sufficient to realize the full blessings of genuine reform so accurately sketched by this Council.

The same thing happened at Vatican II: Marian mediation, including the coredemption, logical doctrinal corollary of the Immaculate Conception, was not only not denied, but positively allowed, indeed set forth in a kind of paraphrase. Thus, in one of the introductory paragraphs of chapter 8 of Lumen Gentium, n. 53, Mary is described as intuitu meritorum Filii sui sublimiori modo redempta [Redeemed in a more exalted fashion by reason of the merits of her Son]. The reference here to the Immaculate Conception is perfectly obvious. There immediately follows a reference to the joint predestination of Christ and Mary Immaculate: arcta et indissolubili vinculo unita [united to him by a close and indissoluble bond], in view of her being Genitrix Dei Filii, ideoque praedilecta filia Patris necnon sacrarium Spiritus Sancti [Mother of the Son of God, and therefore the beloved daughter of the Father and temple of the Holy Spirit], by which grace she is set incomparably above all other creatures, heavenly as well as earthly. And then there follows a veiled, but clear reference to the coredemption: notwithstanding her exalted, incomparable state, she is nonetheless conjoined to the race of Adam, in the words of Augustine cited by the Council, plane mater membrorum (Christi)… quia cooperata est caritate ut fideles in Ecclesia nasceretur, quia illius Capitis membra sunt [clearly the mother of the members (of Christ) … since she has by her charity joined in bringing about the birth of believers in the Church who are members of its Head]. Therefore, because she cooperated in the “objective” redemption on Calvary, Mary is rightly regarded as supereminens prorsusque singulare membrum Ecclesiae [preeminent and wholly unique member of the Church], viz., Maternal Mediatress of all graces. That this is not a merely personal interpretation is clear from the repeated reference to the joint predestination of Jesus and Mary in n. 61: Beata Virgo ab aeterno una cum Verbi divini incarnatione tamquam Mater Dei praedestinata [Predestined from eternity by that decree of divine providence which determined the incarnation of the Word to be the Mother of God], followed by a brief, but concrete description of her active part in the consummation of the sacrifice of the Cross, or the “objective redemption”: Filioque suo in cruce morienti compatiens, operi Salvatoris singulari prorsus modo cooperata est [suffering with her Son as he died on the cross, she cooperated in a wholly singular way {in the work of the Savior in restoring supernatural life to souls}] … Nonetheless, there is a hesitation on what I maintain has been for nearly a century the theological issue of our time: the doctrine of coredemption, in view of which, on the eve of Vatican II, theologians were divided into maximalists (those in favor, a majority) and minimalists (those who insisted the doctrine was inopportune). Vatican II left the question open, like Trent with the Immaculate Conception, teaching the mystery of coredemption, but not dotting the “i’s” and crossing the “t’s”. Is this why the crisis continues, and why the hoped-for fruits of the Council have not been realized, above all the resolution of the ecumenical question (division among the baptized) and the problem of a genuine, and radical renewal of theology (confusion, even in the Roman schools)?[12]

I believe that Father Peter’s comparison of the Marian issues at Trent and Vatican II is very insightful and have found it nowhere else. Trent effectively cleared away the objections to defining the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, but the Fathers of the council could not agree about defining it.[13] The history of the Second Vatican Council is even more complicated on the matter of Marian Coredemption and Mediation. Many Bishops going into the council favored a definition of Mary as Coredemptrix and/or Mediatrix of all graces[14] since ontologically Mary’s mediation of all graces flows from her active collaboration in the redemption.[15] The development of the council’s document on Mary, which eventually became chapter 8 of Lumen Gentium[16], the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church and the council’s most important and fundamental document, was complicated by the Prænotanda, first issued on 13 July 1961 and finally at the beginning of November 1962 specifically stating that:

Certain expressions and words used by Supreme Pontiffs have been omitted, which, in themselves are absolutely true, but which may only be understood with difficulty by separated brethren (in this case Protestants). Among such words may be numbered the following: “Coredemptrix of the human race” [Pius X, Pius XI]; “Reparatrix [or Repairer] of the whole world” [Leo XIII]; “she renounced her motherly rights over her Son for the salvation of mankind” [Benedict XV].[17]

In terms of the use of the word Coredemptrix, this prohibition was strictly respected, but the theological explanation that Mary in a way that was secondary, subordinate and fully dependent on Christ (cf. LG 60 and 62) collaborated in the great work of the redemption was nonetheless clearly stated in LG 56:

The daughter of Adam, Mary, consenting to the word of God, became the Mother of Jesus. Committing herself wholeheartedly and impeded by no sin to God’s saving will, she devoted herself totally, as a handmaid of the Lord, to the person and work of her Son, under and with him, serving the mystery of redemption, by the grace of Almighty God. 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.[18]

Again, in LG 57 we read that
“[t]his union of the Mother with the Son in the work of salvation is made manifest from the time of Christ’s virginal conception up to his death,” which the text then goes on to illustrate. Further, in LG 58 it is stated that:

[T]he Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the cross, where she stood, in keeping with the divine plan, enduring with her only begotten Son the intensity of his suffering, associating herself with his sacrifice in her mother’s heart, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this Victim which she herself had brought forth.[19]

Finally, we find this statement in LG 61:

Predestined from eternity by that decree of divine providence which determined the incarnation of the Word to be the Mother of God, the Blessed Virgin was on this earth the virgin Mother of the Redeemer, and above all others and in a singular way the generous associate and humble handmaid of the Lord. She conceived, brought forth and nourished Christ. She presented him to the Father in the temple and was united with him by compassion as he died on the Cross. Thus, in a wholly singular way she by her obedience, faith, hope and burning charity in the work of the Savior in restoring supernatural life to souls. Wherefore she is our mother in the order of grace.[20]

There is no serious doubt that the council taught the reality of Mary’s active collaboration in the work of the redemption, which is commonly called coredemption. However, almost all the commentators on Lumen Gentium to this day have chosen to take their cue not from the conciliar text itself, but from the Prænotanda, a move in favor of political ecumenism rather than the truth.



[1]     Peter Damian Fehlner, “Mariæ Advocatæ Causæ: The Marian Issue in the Church Today” and published in Maria “Unica Cooperatrice alla Redenzione”. Atti del Simposio sul Mistero della Corredenzione Mariana, Fatima, Portogallo 3-7 Maggio 2005 (New Bedford, MA: Academy of the Immaculate, 2005) 529-577. Henceforth referred to as Mariæ Advocatæ Causæ. This book is still available from the Academy of the Immaculate, New Bedford, MA and it is also scheduled to be published in the second volume of The Collected Essays of Fr. Peter Damian Fehlner.


[2]     Mariæ Advocatæ Causæ 553-554. Bold script my own.


[3]     Mariæ Advocatæ Causæ 553. Bold script my own.


[4]   Mariæ Advocatæ Causæ 554. Bold script my own.


[5]     Mary: The Virgin Mary in the Life and Writings of John Henry Newman Edited with an Introduction and Notes by Philip Boyce, O.C.D., (Leominster, Herefordshire: Gracewing; Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2001) [henceforth referred to as Boyce] 289. Bold script my own.


[6]     He lived from 1617 to c.1677. Cf. Encyclopedic Dictionary of Religion (The Sisters of St. Joseph of Philadelphia, 1979) 3740.


[7]     He lived from 1672 to 1750. Cf. Michael O’Carroll, C.S.Sp., Theotokos: A Theological Encyclopedia of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Wilmington, DE: Michael Glazier, Inc., 1982) 260-261. Henceforth referred to as Theotokos.


[8]     Cf. Gloria Falcão Dodd, The Virgin Mary, Mediatrix of All Grace: History and Theology of the Movement for a Dogmatic Definition (New Bedford, MA: Academy of the Immaculate, 2021).


[9]     Mariæ Advocatæ Causæ 555-556. Bold script my own. Father Peter Damian also wrote a brilliant essay entitled “Mater et Magistra Apostolorum” [Mother and Teacher of the Apostles] in Immaculata Mediatrix, Rivista Internazionale di Teologia Mariana, Anno I, N. 1 (2001) 15-54.


[10]    Saint Bonaventure (1221-1274).


[11]    Cf. Theotokos 342-343; Dr. Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma (Baronius Press, translated by Patrick Lynch, edited in English by James Canon Bastible, fully revised and updated by Robert Fastiggi, 2018) 212-213.


[12]    Mariæ Advocatæ Causæ 556-559. Bold script my own along with translations of the Latin in brackets.


[13]    Heinrich Denzinger, Compendium of Creeds, Definitions, and Declarations on Matters of Faith and Morals, 43rd Edition edited by Peter Hünermann for the bilingual edition and for the English edition by Robert Fastiggi and Anne Englund Nash. (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2012) #1516, 1573; Cf. Theotokos 345-346.


[14]    Cf. Theotokos 242-245, 354-356; Salvatore M. Perrella, OSM, I «Vota» e I «Consilia» dei Vescovi Italiani sulla Mariologia e sulla Corredenzione nella Fase Antipreparatoria del Concilio Vaticano II (Rome: Edizioni «Marianum», 1994).


[15]    Cf. Peter Damian Fehlner, “Opening Address”, Mary at the Foot of the Cross — VII: Coredemptrix, Therefore Mediatrix of All Graces. Acts of the Seventh International Symposium on Marian Coredemption (New Bedford, MA:  Academy of the Immaculate, 2008) 1-9.


[16]    Henceforth referred to as LG.


[17]    Acta Synodalia Sacrosancti Concilii Œcumenici Vaticani Secundi, Vol. I, Periodus Prima, Pars. IV (Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis, 1971) 99; Ermanno M. Toniolo, O.S.M., La Beata Maria Vergine nel Concilio Vaticano II (Rome: Centro di Cultura Mariana «Madre della Chiesa», 2004) 98-99 (my trans). My emphasis. In the text of 13 July1962 the term “omnium gratiarum dispensatrix” [Dispenser of all graces] attributed to Pius XII and Leo XIII was also indicated for omission and this was strictly respected.


[18]    Emphasis my own.


[19]    Emphasis my own.


[20]    Emphasis my own.