Cardinals Initiate Petition for Proclamation of Marian Dogma

Mark Alessio

(Posted March 19, 2008 Five cardinals have invited every cardinal and bishop in the world to “join them in petitioning Pope Benedict XVI to solemnly proclaim the Mother of Jesus as the ‘Spiritual Mother of humanity’ as an ecumenical service of clarification to other religious traditions and to proclaim the full Christian truth about Mary,” reports Catholic PR Wire (Feb. 8, 2008):

This initiative also intends to start an in-depth worldwide dialogue on Mary’s role in salvation for our time and builds upon the endorsement of over 500 Catholic cardinals and bishops for the petition for the definition of this potential fifth Marian dogma over the course of the past 15 years. Renowned contemporary Catholic leaders have also voiced their support, such as Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Mother Angelica, foundress of the worldwide Eternal Word Television Network, along with approximately 7 million petitions from Catholics worldwide.

Should this effort prove successful, a proclamation would constitute a historical event for the Church as only the fifth Marian dogma defined in its 2,000-year history.

The five cardinals who have initiated the petition are Telesphore Cardinal Toppo, Archbishop of Ranchi, India and President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India; Luis Cardinal Aponte Martínez, Archbishop Emeritus of San Juan, Puerto Rico; Varkey Cardinal Vithayathil, Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly, India; Riccardo Cardinal Vidal, Archbishop Emeritus of Cebu, Philippines; and Ernesto Cardinal Corrippio Ahumada, Cardinal Primate Emeritus of Mexico City. They have invited, by letter, all of the world’s bishops and cardinals to sign their petition, which has already been presented formally to Pope Benedict  by Cardinal Toppo during a private audience on June 7, 2006.

At the conclusion of a May, 2005 symposium on the role of the Virgin Mary as the "Unique Cooperator in the Redemption," held at the Marian Shrine in Fatima, Portugal, it was decided to draw-up a votum (petition) to be sent to the Holy Father requesting that he solemnly declare the doctrine of Mary’s Spiritual Motherhood a dogma – i.e., “the highest level of recognition of a particular Christian doctrine as a Catholic truth” – of the Church. This solemn definition would also encompass Mary’s roles as “Co-redemptrix,” “Mediatrix” and “Advocate.”

In their letter to the world’s Cardinals and Bishops, dated January 1, 2008 (the Feast of the Circumcision of Our Lord, changed by Pope Paul VI to the Solemnity of the Mother of God), the drafters of the votum express their desire that “peoples of other religious traditions receive the clarification on the highest level of authentic doctrinal certainty that we can provide, that the Catholic Church essentially distinguishes between the sole role of Jesus Christ, divine and human Redeemer of the world, and the unique though secondary and dependent human participation of the Mother of Christ in the great work of Redemption.” They also provide one possible formulation for this solemn definition:

Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of man, gave to humanity from the Cross His Mother Mary to be the spiritual Mother of all peoples, the Co-redemptrix, who under and with her Son cooperated in the Redemption of all people; the Mediatrix of all graces, who as Mother brings us the gifts of eternal life; and the Advocate, who presents our prayers to her Son.

Comment: If the drafters of the votus think they will receive anything resembling thanks from schismatics and heretics should the Pope ever solemnly define a new Marian dogma, they haven’t been paying attention.

On June 29, 2007, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released the document, Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine of the Church. The stated intention of this document, approved by Pope Benedict, was the clarification of  “the authentic meaning of some ecclesiological expressions used by the magisterium which are open to misunderstanding in the theological debate.”

This document raised some heavy-duty Protestant ire by stating that Protestant denominations “suffer from defects.” The ironic thing about it is that  Protestants get off pretty easy in this document, which repeats the ecumenical mantras that not only do Protestant denominations hold important positions in “the mystery of salvation,” but are employed by Jesus Christ “as instruments of salvation,” somehow deriving “value” from “that fullness of grace and of truth which has been entrusted to the Catholic Church” [even though they reject the Church and the doctrines imparted by her Divine Founder]. One can only imagine, then, the smiles of gratitude on Protestant faces on the day the Dogma of “Mary Co-redemptrix” is papally defined!

One can appreciate the intention of the drafters of the votus – i.e., a clarification of Marian doctrine for all the world to see. While it is a fact that doctrinal errors have, in the past, been catalysts for the clarification of doctrine (i.e., The Council of Ephesus vs. the Nestorian heresy, The Council of Trent vs. the Protestant heresy), there is a more immediate purpose for papal definitions of Marian dogma. When Pope Pius XII solemnly defined the Dogma of the Assumption, he gave as the reasons for doing so: (1) the glory of Almighty God, (2) the honor of Jesus Christ, (3) the increase of the glory of the Blessed Virgin, and (4) the joy and exultation of the entire Church.

Unfortunately, in the Church of today, everything must have an ecumenical reason behind it, as though such a reason were the ultimate yardstick for the measure of doctrinal value. It seems as though the Church can do nothing purely for her own spiritual edification anymore without incurring the wrath of outsiders. Just recall the hysteria surrounding the canonization of Edith Stein, or the publication of the Motu Proprio, “Summorum Pontificum.”

It is the Church which benefits from the proclamation of Marian dogma. Whenever we give glory to Jesus Christ by honoring his Mother and Masterpiece, it is we who reap the benefits. In effect, a Church which honors Mary properly is a healthier and stronger Church. In his treatise on “The Moral and Social Influence of Devotion to Mary,” Dr. Orestes Brownson wrote:

According to my reading of history, the epochs in which faith is the  strongest, piety the most robust, and the church wins her grandest  victories, whether in individuals or in nations, are precisely those in which devotion to our Lady, or the worship of her virtue, is the most diffused, the most vigorous and flourishing; and the epochs in which faith seems to be obscured, and to grow weak and sickly, and the church is the most harassed and suffers her greatest losses, are precisely the epochs in  which this devotion is the most languid and feeble. All the great saints  have been no less remarkable for their tender and assiduous devotion to  Mary than for their manly virtues and heroic sanctity, and I suspect that  most of us could bear witness, if we would, that the least unsatisfactory  portions of our own lives have been precisely those in which we were the  most diligent and fervent in our devotion to the mother of God. I claim,  then, for devotion to our Lady a full share of influence in rendering  Christian society so much superior in all the virtues to the polished but  corrupt society of pagan Greece and Rome. As with the pagans the worship of the impure gods of their mythologies could not fail to corrupt the worshippers, so with Christians the worship of the purity and sanctity of  the mother of God has not failed to purify and render holy those who in sincerity, earnestness, and simplicity of heart were careful to practice  it.

A stronger Church – a Church focused on her mission and purified from the rot that assails her from within – can only be a blessing and boon to the world at large. Thus, it is by genuinely Catholic actions – the honoring of Mary, the preservation and teaching of sound doctrine, and the celebration of the Sacraments in their traditional formulations – and not by well-intentioned, but futile ecumenical overtures (which are too often treated as pearls cast before swine) that actual, observable, positive results, both for the Church and world, are obtained.

The doctrines of Our Lady’s Spiritual Motherhood, Co-redemption, Mediation and Advocacy are ancient and rock-solid doctrines. They have been fire-tried in the crucible of theological inquiry, and have not been found wanting in any degree. Whether the world and the Church merit the inestimable gift of another Marian dogma remains to be seen.


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