In my first installment of this commentary on Father Peter Damian Fehlner’s brilliant analysis of why Marian coredemption is the theological question in the Church today, I quoted this text:

The dragon can only attack the Woman to the extent he can persuade her children, the “rest of the brethren of her First-born” (cf. Apoc 12:17), therefore His friends (cf. Jn 15:12-17), that she is not the Mater et Magistra Veritatis [Mother and Teacher of the Truth], and so her “cause” is either irrelevant or downright counterproductive: respectively the position of those indignantly indifferent to it or violently opposed to it.[1]

Those who have been following this argument with eyes to see and ears to hear (cf. Mk 4:11-12) are aware of how the attack continues today in very high places in the Church. Perhaps the antagonists, who have been doing their work since long before the Second Vatican Council,[2] are unaware of their being used by the enemy; but, aware or not, they do his bidding, thus slowing down the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which is to lead to the triumph of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. The antagonists can only retard the process of bringing about the triumph of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary; but they cannot stop it, because Jesus has already won the victory in union with Mary. A very important point, however, is this: the more they impede bringing about the progress of this triumph, the more souls are lost. Our Lady made this very clear on July 13, 1917, at Fatima, when she showed the children a vision of hell and stated that to save souls from hell God wished to establish devotion to her Immaculate Heart.[3] Despite this, many modernist theologians opine that hell may be empty.[4]

Father Peter comments very astutely on the enemy’s tactics:

If, to the contrary, her [Mary’s] children are convinced that she is just this: “Pre-eminent Member of the Church” because “super-eminent” as the original Latin of the Council indicates (Lumen Gentium, n. 53), the dragon’s anti-cause is finished. For, other than sensational “bluff,” the dragon has no other effective means of blocking her, but these, so long as she makes our cause hers. The last great miracle of the sun here at Fatima, 13 Oct., 1917, should be more than enough to prove beyond argument: (1) that real control of the “forces” of nature is in the hands of the heavenly Woman, the Immaculate Virgin, the Queen of the Angels, with Michael commanding the hosts of heaven in her service; and (2) that the actual powers of the common enemy of her and of us, do not extend beyond the theatrical, or perhaps not even the melodramatic, of producing a great deal of noise, of smoke, of unpleasantness, effective only as a means to “convince” us we ought to accept his “philosophy of life”, the one peddled to our first parents and in every seduction to sin, especially against chastity and humility. Mary is indeed the strong Woman foretold in Proverbs 31.  She is indeed the courageous Mother “joining a man’s heart to a woman’s thought” (cf. 2 Macc 7:21) sustaining her sons in their victorious martyrdom, as she once supported her first-born Son on Calvary.  On Oct. 17, 1917, St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe with six confreres founded the Militia of the Immaculate in Rome. About two weeks later, the arch-enemy of the Immaculate made his counter-move and set up an anti-Marian militia in the once Marian Cathedral of the Assumption in the Kremlin. In this flash, in this opening of the heavens, we are able to glimpse the true state of affairs in the Church and in the world: the Woman is always ahead of the dragon. All his plans and tactics are constrained within limits closely defined by the systematic intervention of this mysterious, but for us so wonderful personage.[5]

If Mary had a unique role, though always subordinate to that of Jesus, in bringing about our salvation, then she also has a mediatory role in bringing the graces of salvation to us. This has been taught by many popes. I cite here from Pope Saint Pius X’s great Marian Encyclical Letter, Ad Diem Illum, of February 2, 1904:

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 Savior purchased for us by his death and by his blood.

It cannot of course be denied that the dispensing of these treasures is the particular and supreme right of Jesus Christ, for they are the exclusive fruit of His death, who by His Nature is the Mediator between God and man. Nevertheless, by this union in sorrow and suffering, We have said, which existed between the Mother and the Son, it has been allowed to the August Virgin “to be the most powerful Mediatrix and advocate of the whole world, with her Divine Son.”

The source, then, is Jesus Christ, “and of his fullness we have all received” (Jn 1:16); “from him the whole body (being closely joined and knit together through every joint of the system according to the functioning in due measure of each single part) derives its increase to the building up of itself in love.” But Mary, as St. Bernard justly remarks, is the “aqueduct,” or if you will, the neck by which the body is joined to the head and the head transmits to the body its power and virtue: “For she is the neck of our Head, by which he communicated to his mystical Body all spiritual gifts.” We are thus, it will be seen, very far from declaring the Mother of God to be the authoress of supernatural grace. Grace comes from God alone. But since she surpassed all in holiness and union with Christ, and has been associated with Christ in the work of Redemption, she, as the expression is, merits de congruo what Christ merits de condigno, and is the principal minister in the distribution of grace. He sits at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Heb 1:3); but Mary sits as a Queen on his right hand, the securest refuge of those who are in peril, as well as the most faithful of helpers, so that we have naught to fear or despair of, as long as she is our guide and our patroness, she is our defender and our protector.[6]

Fr. Peter Damian verifies this papal teaching in his own unique way:

How the Church on this Marian basis is constituted so as to operate efficaciously and fruitfully to the parousia, is definitively portrayed in the Cenacle on Pentecost: the Mother of Jesus in the midst of the Apostles and the faithful awaiting the promised Spirit of holiness and truth. There is a clear parallel here with the scene in the holy House of Nazareth on the day of the Annunciation, where the Virgin full of grace and of the Spirit is shown to be the key conduit whereby that Spirit will anoint the flesh to be assumed hypostatically by the Son of God. So, too, throughout that historical process whereby the Church, the People of God and Body of Christ is anointed in preparation for her final glorification on the day of Christ’s final coming, the same Mediatrix of all graces: because Theotokos and victorious Coredemptrix, occupies center stage. Any deviation from this structural arrangement necessarily tends to paralyse the Church. Or any “decentralizing” of the Spouse of the Holy Spirit in the Church, any minimizing of her role as Immaculate Mediatrix because Mother Coredemptrix must necessarily initiate a process of deconstruction and crisis within the Church and world. She is so effective an Advocate, because like the Holy Spirit she not only intercedes with her Son, but intervenes directly in the economy of salvation to realize that holiness made possible to the Church by the redemptive sacrifice of her Son.

The reason why the Immaculate Spouse of the Holy Spirit can exercise such a mediatory role in the Church and so make possible the multiple forms of ecclesial mediation (institutional-sacramental and charismatic) of the Church as a kind of extension of the Virgin-Mother in the order of grace is to be found in that sanctificatory mediation exercised by her in the Incarnation: she made (in the words of St. Francis) the Lord of majesty our brother (St. Bonaventure, Legenda Maior, 3; 7; 9). In giving birth to the Son of God, viz., in bearing a divine person, the Immaculate Virgin made the Word, eternally consubstantial with the Father consubstantial with us (cf. Leo the Great, Letter 31), and so that nature was sanctified in Him and in each of His members sanctified by a rebirth similar to His Birth of the Virgin. This dual mediation of the Virgin (respectively in the objective and subjective redemption) makes possible both (1) the victimhood of that Son (in actu primo et secundo) and (2) our rebirth as adoptive, but truly sons of the Father. That is why her maternal presence at the heart of the Church, as the recently deceased successor of St. Peter, Pope John Paul II, said, is more crucial than that of the Pope himself. That presence is nothing else but her maternal mediation. She can thus mediate because as Virgin-Mother and Coredemptrix actively sharing her Redeemer Son’s victory of the Cross she has been assumed body and soul into heaven and there gloriously crowned Queen. All this, because she is the Immaculate Conception.[7] 

Mary’s “dual mediation” is analogous to that of Jesus: not the same, but similar. Jesus mediates with the Father as the God-man, Mary as a creature, even the most perfect creature, mediates with Jesus. Fr. Peter Damian puts it precisely:

St. Bonaventure formulates this order thus: the Virgin Mother is our Mediatrix with Christ as Christ is our Mediator with the Father (cf. III Sent., d. 3, p. 1, a. 1, q. 2). This is because our only way to the Savior is through her by whom He first came and continues to come to us (cf. Commentarius in Evangelium Lucae I, 70). For the Savior-God she is “gate to earth”; for us sinners, singly and assembled, she is “gate to heaven.”[8]

Mary’s mediation, then, is not on the same level as that of Jesus, but shares in his mediation (Lumen Gentium 60). Her mediation at the moment of her “yes” at the Annunciation (Lk 1:38) brought about the Incarnation in union with the prior “yes” of the Son to the Eternal Father (Ps 40:7; Heb 10:7). For the Word to become flesh, two “yeses” were required: first, that of the Son; then, that of the Mother.

Here is another way in which Pope Saint John Paul II taught about Mary’s collaboration in the work of Redemption in actu primo and ours in actu secondo in his general audience address of April 9, 1997:

When the Apostle Paul says: “For we are God’s fellow workers” (1 Cor 3:9), he maintains the real possibility for man to cooperate with God. The collaboration of believers, which obviously excludes any equality with him, is expressed in the proclamation of the Gospel and in their personal contribution to its taking root in human hearts.

However, applied to Mary, the term “cooperator” acquires a specific meaning. The collaboration of Christians in salvation takes place after the Calvary event, whose fruits they endeavor to spread by prayer and sacrifice. Mary, instead, cooperated during the event itself and in the role of Mother; thus, her cooperation embraces the whole of Christ’s saving work. She alone was associated in this way with the redemptive sacrifice that merited the salvation of all mankind. In union with Christ and in submission to Him, she collaborated in obtaining the grace of salvation for all humanity.

The Blessed Virgin’s role as cooperator has its source in her divine motherhood. By giving birth to the One who was destined to achieve man’s redemption, by nourishing Him, presenting Him in the temple and suffering with Him as He died on the Cross, “in a wholly singular way she cooperated… in the work of the Savior” (Lumen Gentium, n. 61). Although God’s call to cooperate in the work of salvation concerns every human being, the participation of the Savior’s Mother in humanity’s Redemption is a unique and unrepeatable fact.[9]

This is a powerful and very important statement. We cooperate in the work of redemption in actu secondo, i.e. we spread the fruits of redemption by our prayer and sacrifice whereas Mary cooperated in the work of redemption in actu primo, i.e. “during the event itself and in the role of mother.” The Pope’s conclusion, then, is highly significant: “the participation of the Savior’s Mother in humanity’s Redemption is a unique and unrepeatable fact.” This is a very clear statement of the doctrine of coredemption without using the word.

Now let us return to Father Peter Damian’s bold declaration about the “Mediatrix of all graces, because Theotokos and victorious Coredemptrix, occupies center stage” cited above. He then went on to state:

Any deviation from this structural arrangement necessarily tends to paralyze the Church. Or any “decentralizing” of the Spouse of the Holy Spirit in the Church, any minimizing of her role as Immaculate Mediatrix because Mother Coredemptrix must necessarily initiate a process of deconstruction and crisis within the Church and world.[10]

First, we must squarely recognize that our Protestant brethren would be appalled that the Pope and Fr. Peter Damian would speak of our cooperating in the work of the redemption. This is because of the Lutheran “dogma” that no one can cooperate in his own salvation, but this has never been Catholic teaching: man must cooperate with God’s grace or he will not be saved. This is a necessary act of the will.

Secondly, when Fr. Peter says that Mary must “occupy center stage,” this will also immediately incite Protestants to object that this is pure “Mariolatry,” i.e., putting Mary in God’s place. We respond that Jesus does “occupy center stage,” but that Mary is indissolubly linked with Him. She is not at the absolute center, but right next to the center. As the psalm has it, “The queen stands at your right hand arrayed in gold” (Ps 45:10).[11] That
Jesus is indissolubly linked with Mary in the designs of God is a tenet of the “Franciscan thesis,” which has been fully embraced by the Church’s Magisterium since the declaration of Blessed Pius IX that God “by one and the same decree, had established the origin of Mary and the Incarnation of Divine Wisdom.”[12] Thus, while Fr. Peter Damian’s statement may seem initially shocking, it is absolutely true: “Any deviation from this structural arrangement [of Mary being center stage] necessarily tends to paralyze the Church.”

Father Fehlner continues his thesis:

Now, this is why we should quite consciously and deliberately make her cause our cause. It is what Our Lord expects, as he made so clear to the seers of Fatima. The triumph of the Immaculate Heart must be a primary goal of the Church. That triumph is the only way the victory over the serpent can be made total and final: in the immaculatizing[13] of the Church: sine macula et sine ruga[14] as that is clearly formulated by St. Paul (Eph 5:27). At the request of His Father and His Mother Christ died that the Church might share, not just any level of holiness, but the most perfect level, that of the superabundance of grace (cf. Rom 5:15) in that Virgin whose name is “Full of grace” (cf. Lk 1:28; Eph 1:4). But it is also true that when Catholics fail to believe this enthusiastically and Church policy fails to be articulated about this absolute Marian priority, the devil is well on his way to sowing the bad seed successfully and harvesting a bumper crop.

This is also the point where we note how the cause of Mary, instead of being the Savior’s primary, active instrument of our salvation, has been made an object of acrimonious debate, the moment when instead of the axiom: de Maria numquam satis,[15] the life of the Church is conducted as though the axiom read: de Maria numquam,[16] the moment when, with the wisdom of the Cross (cf. 1 Cor 1-2) and the prudence of the little ones who have made themselves children of Mary (cf. Mt 11:25 ff.), the “little hiss that only comes from hell” can plainly be discerned. This is how the efficacy of the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus in souls and in the Church is negated. This is also why the cause of “Our Advocate” must in theory and in practice enjoy absolute priority for the entire Church, for all the baptized, for all who yearn for salvation, because only thus is the primacy of Jesus rendered absolute in our hearts and works. Instead, her cause seems presently, in theory and in practice, to be on trial, the object of doubt, and the subject of censure by theologians and of silencing by ecumenists, precisely under her title of Immaculate Coredemptrix and Mediatrix of all grace.

This hardly corresponds to the normative vision of the Church presented to us at Pentecost and in the first assemblies of the believers to celebrate the Eucharist, “one heart and soul” (Acts 4:32) about the Mother of God, Super-eminent Member of the Church (Lumen Gentium, n. 53), because Immaculate, preservatively Redeemed and so Mother Coredemptrix.

Hence, to the degree that the serpent can successfully persuade us to continue to debate the issue: whether the Church and all her members should publicly acknowledge the universal mediation of Mary, rather than resolve it in her favour, to that degree he has staved off final defeat. Only this, absence of a positive conclusion in the form of a dogma, not a negative judgment, is all he needs.

Conversely, once such a public acknowledgment has been made, the entire tide of battle will be reversed from what looks like an advancing crisis in the Church with no end in sight, to what not only looks like, but is what St. Paul describes as “being snatched from the jaws of hell and transported into the kingdom of light” (cf. Mt 16:17; Col 1:13). Roma locuta, causa finita. The cause “finished” will be that of Mary as total victory of the Church; but the cause finished will also be that of the devil in total defeat.[17]


[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) 531. Henceforth referred to as Mariæ Advocatæ Causæ. This book is available from the Academy of the Immaculate.


[2]     Cf. my book, Totus Tuus: Pope Saint John Paul II’s Program of Marian Consecration and Entrustment, Second edition, revised and brought up to the end of the Pontificate of Pope Saint John Paul II (New Bedford, MA: Academy of the Immaculate, 2017) 339-357.


[3]     Louis Kondor, S.V.D.  (ed.), Fatima in Lucia’s Own Words (Fatima: Postulation Centre, 1976) 162.


[4]     Cf. Ralph Martin, Will Many be Saved? What Vatican II Actually Teaches and Its Implications for the New Evangelization (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2012).


[5]     Mariæ Advocatæ Causæ 531-532. This discourse was originally given in Fatima. (Italics my own.)


[6]     Our Lady: Papal Teachings trans. Daughters of St. Paul (Boston: St. Paul Editions 1961) #233-234. (Italics my own.) That Jesus merits de condigno indicates that he merits redemption for us as God-man, as the New Adam, whereas Mary merits de congruo, that is in an analogous way because she is the new Eve.


[7]     Mariæ Advocatæ Causæ 533-535 (Italics my own). The expression in actu primo refers to the actual victimhood of Jesus on Calvary, whereas his victimhood in actu secondo refers to his mediation before the Father, his victimhood in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the application of the graces of Calvary to souls.


[8]     Mariæ Advocatæ Causæ 538. (Italics my own.)


[9]     Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II XX/1 (1997) 621-622 [Pope John Paul II, Theotókos – Woman, Mother, Disciple: A Catechesis on Mary, Mother of God (Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 2000) 185-186]. (Italics my own.)


[10]    Mariæ Advocatæ Causæ 533-534.


[11]    This is a Catholic and Marian understanding of the psalm and was used as the title of a brilliant study on Mary’s Queenship by the late Monsignor Brunero Gherardini, Sta la Regina alla tua Destra: Saggio storico-teologico sulla Regalità di Maria (Rome: Vivere In, 2002).


[12]    Pii IX Pontificis Maximi Acta I: (Graz, Austria: Akademische Druck – n. Verlagsanstalt, 1971) 5992) [Our Lady: Papal Teachings trans. Daughters of St. Paul (Boston: St. Paul Editions1961)]; Cf. Maximilian Mary Dean, FI, A Primer on the Absolute Primacy of Christ: Blessed John Duns Scotus and the Franciscan Thesis (New Bedford, MA: Academy of the Immaculate, 2006) 105-119; Arthur B. Calkins, “The Franciscan Thesis as Presented by Father Peter Damian Fehlner and the Magisterium” in The Spirit and the Church: Peter Damian Fehlner’s Development of Vatican II on the Themes of the Holy Spirit, Mary, and the Church – Festschrift (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2018) 1-16.


[13]    An expression of St. Maximilian Kolbe.


[14]    “Without stain or wrinkle.”


[15]    Literally, “about Mary never enough.” The idea is that one can never exhaust the reality and splendor of Mary; one will never reach the end.


[16]    Literally, “about Mary never.” In other words, never say anything about Mary at all.


[17]    Mariæ Advocatæ Causæ 535-537.