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Why it's the right time for a dogma on Mary as Coredemptrix

KATH.NET-Interview with Msgr. Arthur B. Calkins (Member of the Pontifical International Marian Academy of the Pontifical Roman Theological Academy)

KATH.NET: In a recent interview Father Stefano De Fiores spoke against the opportuneness of a definition about Mary as Coredemptrix, stating that our separated brethren should be consulted about such a definition and implying that some kind of consensus would have to be reached with them before a definition would be possible. What do you think?

Msgr. Calkins: My first comment is that genuine Catholic ecumenism should never be seen as a simple matter of consensus or compromise even though that impression often seems to be given today. While we Catholics should have genuine Christian love for our separated brethren and respect for their positions, we must have no less love and respect for "the Catholic faith that comes to us from the Apostles". Hence I do not believe that we must allow either our separated brethren or "political correctness" to dictate Catholic doctrine or when it is opportune to proclaim it.

KATH.NET: But doesn't it seem unnecessary and even counter-productive to promote a definition of Mary as Coredemptrix when the question raises objections inside and outside of the Church and when so many other issues seem so much more important?

Msgr. Calkins: If Mary's coredemptive role raises objections inside the Church, I believe it is because that there has often been an unconscious tendency on the part of Catholics in recent times to accept the fundamental Lutheran dogma of Christus solus without recognizing that Catholic doctrine has always maintained the absolute centrality and primacy of Christ but without denying the necessity of man's collaborating with him in the work of salvation. Further, Catholic teaching from the time of the post-Apostolic Fathers has clearly upheld that no one has collaborated as fully as Mary, the "New Eve", in the work of our salvation. This is a "saving truth" that says a great deal about Mary's role in the economy of salvation and in our lives, about us, about the nature of salvation and the value of salvific suffering. If other questions seem more important than these, I'm afraid it is because we have lost our philosophical and theological bases and become "political" pragmatists.

KATH.NET: Father De Fiores says that "the title Coredemptrix has not been used since Pius XII and the Pontiffs do not mention it precisely so as not to cause a misunderstanding with the Protestants". How do you respond to that?

Msgr. Calkins: The first draft of the document that would eventually become chapter 8 of Lumen Gentium explicitly acknowledged the legitimacy of the term Coredemptrix as applied to Our Lady, but refrained from using it so as not to cause undue problems with our Protestant brothers and sisters. I believe that we are free to debate the wisdom of such an approach. The fact is that chapter 8 of Lumen Gentium (especially #57-58 and #60-62) gave more attention to Mary's altogether unique collaboration in the work of our redemption than all of the other ecumenical councils combined, even though the word Coredemptrix was not used!

But a further clarification is also in order: Pope John Paul II has spoken of Our Lady as Coredemptrix or of her coredemptive role at least six times. I have most recently documented these in my article,
"The Mystery of Mary Coredemptrix in the Papal Magisterium" in Mark Miravalle (ed.), Mary Co-redemptrix: Doctrinal Issues Today (Goleta, CA: Queenship Publishing, 2002) and have analyzed the weightiest of these texts, the Pope's homily in Guayaquil, Ecuador of 31 January 1985, in my article "Pope John Paul II's Ordinary Magisterium on Marian Coredemption: Consistent Teaching and More Recent Perspectives" in Mary at the Foot of the Cross - II: Acts of the International Symposium on Marian Coredemption (New Bedford, MA: Academy of the Immaculate, 2002) 1-36; also published in Divinitas XLV "Nova Series" (2002) 153-185. Although there are some mariologists who want to label all of these usages as "marginal [and] therefore devoid of doctrinal weight", I beg to differ with them and find their judgment strangely out of harmony with the declaration of Lumen Gentium 25 on the Pope's ordinary magisterium.

KATH.NET: Why do you favor a definition of Mary as Coredemptrix?
Msgr. Calkins: I favor such a definition because I believe that this is a "
saving truth" which the Church of our time especially needs to hear and assimilate. It is not a "new" truth, but it is one which the Holy Spirit has brought to the fore with ever more precision in the course of the past millennium (cf. the Pope's general audience addresses of 25 October 1995 and of 9 April 1997). It was obviously a topic of interest at the Second Vatican Council and, as in the case of so many other conciliar themes, we are only now beginning to grasp the richness of what was said, especially with the help of Pope John Paul II's teaching. Of course the ground needs to be prepared for such a definition and in recent years there have been excellent studies which have been devoted to this topic, especially in English and Italian. Dr. Mark Miravalle has already published four volumes of studies (cf. www.queenship.org) as have the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate in Frigento along with numerous monographs, while the American Friars of the Immaculate have published two volumes of scholarly studies with a third on the way (cf. www.marymediatrix.com). Studies of Mary's collaboration in the work of redemption have also begun to appear in other places such as in the theological faculty of Lugano, Switzerland.

KATH.NET: What do you think would be the benefits of such a definition?

Msgr. Calkins: If it is true that God has given Mary a unique role in the work of our redemption, we need to recognize it, to celebrate it and to benefit from it. The first four Marian dogmas (divine maternity, perpetual virginity, Immaculate Conception, Assumption) have to do with her person and have unfolded in a providential way. Now, I believe, is the time to underscore her role as the principal human collaborator in the work of our redemption, her role as the Mediatrix whose unique mediation derives totally from his (cf. Lumen Gentium #60), her role as Advocate (after Christ and the Holy Spirit) who never ceases to intercede for her children until the last of them are led into their heavenly home (cf. Lumen Gentium 62). The more we avert to her role, the more we can be enriched by it. I believe that the benefits with regard to clarification of Catholic doctrine alone would be incalculable.

Curriculum Vitæ of Monsignor Arthur B. Calkins:

Monsignor Arthur B. Calkins is a native of Erie, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. and was ordained a priest on 7 May 1970 for the Archdiocese of New Orleans where he served in various parishes as parochial vicar and was involved in other pastoral activities. He has a master's degree in theology from the Catholic University of America, a licentiate in sacred theology with specialization in Mariology from the International Marian Research Institute in Dayton and a doctorate which he earned summa cum laude in the same field from the Pontifical Theological Faculty of St. Bonaventure (the Seraphicum) in Rome. His doctoral study, Totus Tuus: John Paul II's Program of Marian Consecration and Entrustment (New Bedford, MA: Academy of the Immaculate "Studies and Texts," No. 1), has gone into three printings. His articles on Mariology and spirituality have appeared in both popular and scholarly publications as well as in the acts of congresses and symposia. The list of his publications may be found at http://www.christendom-awake.org/pages/calkins/calkinsbib.html

He was named a corresponding member of the Pontifical International Marian Academy in 1985 and a corresponding member of the Pontifical Roman Theological Academy in 1995. He has been an official of the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei" since 1991 and was named a Chaplain of His Holiness with the title of Monsignor in 1997.

26th October 2002

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The above interview was reproduced from the International Section (English) of the Kath.net website


Copyright ©; Msgr Arthur Calkins 2002

Version: 11th January 2003


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