On the Ecumenically Fruitful Re-Framing of the Mediatrix of All Graces Doctrine as a Special Function of the Roles Shared by All Christians as Part of the Body of Christ the Church
I have been led to understand that Pope Benedict XVI, who is a careful and brilliant scholar and theologian, has indicated, when asked about the Mary Mediatrix of All Graces doctrine, that he is not opposed to it, but is uncomfortable with the way the doctrine and the questions it answers are usually framed. I would suggest that the problem has been in Catholic theologians focusing on it as another title for Mary when it would be better framed in the larger context of the mediation of all the members of Christ’s Body the Church, of which Mary is First Member and Model, who exercises the mediating function of all Christians in a unique way only due to her unique position as Mother of Jesus and thus as the only member of His Body the Church to yet be glorified both body and soul in Heaven.
I posit that any future dogmatic statement relating to Mary’s position as “Mediatrix,” if there is ever to be one, would be best framed as a function of the Mystical Body of Christ the Church, which would emphasize not Mary but all Christians while still specifying Mary’s unique exercise of the mediating role of all Christians, as indeed our Lord Jesus Himself included the rest of His followers of whom His mother was first when people emphasized His mother (Luke 11:27-28). The Church in Vatican II (LG 67) has stated that Catholic theologians and preachers, when speaking of the true “special dignity of the Mother of God” must refrain from “false exaggeration” and must
“rightly illustrate the duties and privileges of the Blessed Virgin which always refer to Christ, the source of all truth, sanctity, and devotion. Let them carefully refrain from whatever might by word or deed lead the separated brethren [Protestant Christians] or any others whatsoever into error about the true doctrine of the Church.”
I would suggest that any reference to Mary’s roles as “co-redemptrix, mediatrix, advocate” which does not show a clear understanding that these are roles shared by all Christians (in a different manner) as part of their own great dignity as members of the Body of Christ Himself (of which Mary is first member and model) already tends towards the “false exaggeration” of the “special dignity of the Mother of God” which the Council declares is to be avoided. Thus I offer this volume to aid the re-framing of the “mediatrix of all graces” doctrine into a form more useful to the growth of the Church and to the accomplishment of its stated goals.
“The restoration of unity among all Christians is one of the principal concerns of the Second Vatican Council” (Vatican II, UR 1), all Catholic Christians are called by the Council to take part in this “divine call” (UR 5, 1), and thus it is especially important for Catholic theologians and preachers (as well as Catholic Christians in general) to be sensitive to the over-sensitivity of Protestant/Evangelical Christians to Catholic references to Mary. Catholics can do this by being careful to specify how all the Catholic Marian doctrines are related to the common fundamentals of Christianity and how all of Mary’s “special dignities” are special functions of the great dignity of every Christian as a member of the Body of Christ the Church of which Mary is first member and model.
While the dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and Assumption of Mary flow very directly from the Incarnation of God the Eternal Son in Jesus Christ through Mary’s Virgin Birth, something no other Christian was directly involved in, and thus it was appropriate that those ancient doctrines were more recently dogmatized in direct reference to Mary, still the fact that Catholic theologians and preachers tended not to emphasize the fact that these dogmas simply made Mary the first Christian saved, purified, and glorified body and soul in Heaven by Jesus (showing a lack of sensitivity to Protestant concerns about Catholic Mariology) made these relatively recent dogmas an increased source of Christian division when they did not have to be. This same mistake should not be made if there ever is to be another, final Marian dogma, one which specifies Mary’s ongoing roles as Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix of All Graces, and Advocate (note that no other new Marian dogma is even possible, since no other Marian belief is evidenced in tradition since the early centuries of the Church).
Moreover, since, unlike the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, these roles are not unique to Mary but are true of every Christian according to the general rule that All That Is True of Christ Is True (By Participation) of His Body the Church, and Uniquely True of Mary the First Member of the Church Because of Her Unique Relationship with Christ as His Mother, I suggest that any future dogmatization of the Church’s ancient instincts about these roles would best not be framed in direct reference to Mary at all, but would best be detailed within a dogmatic clarification of the roles of every Christian as part of the Body of Christ the Church, including the special case of Mary the first Christian who was also the mother of Jesus and the source of His human nature, which gives her a unique participation in these roles shared by Christ with every member of His Body.
Such a definition would follow Vatican II’s significant placement of Marian doctrine as a chapter within the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church. Such a formal definition would refrain from both “false exaggeration” and “too summary an attitude” in “considering the special dignity of the Mother of God,” according to the Second Vatican Council’s directives (in LG 67), and it would be much more ecumenically sensitive, refraining from “whatever might by word or deed lead the separated brethren [Protestant Christians] or any others whatsoever into error about the true doctrine of the Church,” errors which feed Christian disunity. With such a definition informing and guiding the newer devotional practices which are developing as the Mediatrix of all Graces doctrine develops and becomes more popular, these practices will all the better lead Christians (even Protestants who are seeking a more appropriate response to Mary) “to recognize the excellence of the Mother of God” and be “moved to a filial love towards our mother and to the imitation of her virtues” (LG 67) as the first Christian who “pondered in her heart” the mysteries of Christ (Luke 2:19) and best modeled “hearing the word of God and obeying it” (Luke 11:28).
© 2005, 2008 Peter William John Baptiste SFO
Go To the next section, Volume II Appendix I: Deciphering the “Language Barrier” Which Causes Unnecessary Misunderstandings Between Protestant and Catholic Christians Concerning the Marian Doctrines and “The Communion of Saints” (And Purgatory, Which Evangelicals Believe in but Call by Another Name)