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Can you help me resolve my difficulties with Marian doctrines?

Full Question

I am having serious issues with Marian doctrines. I feel the titles the Church gives to her, such as co-redemptrix, mediatrix, and dispenser of all graces, really limit the power of Christ. I fear I am committing idolatry. Am I required to believe Mary is co-redeemer with Christ? Or can I simply not believe that doctrine at all because it isn’t dogma? I fear this issue will force me away from the Church for good.


It will help if you understand what the Church means by such doctrines and what it does not mean. First, the Church recognizes that Jesus in the ultimate sense is our only redeemer—plain and simple. Only God could make up for an offense against his divinity. When Jesus, the second Person of the Blessed Trinity, became man, he used the services of several human beings. he used prophets, the last of whom was his cousin, John the Baptist. He used St. Joseph as his foster father to protect him and to be a father to him in his formative years. Most of all, he used Mary as his mother who gave birth to him, nursed him, and nurtured him as a child. All of these people cooperated with him and his mission of salvation. He alone was the redeemer in the ultimate sense, but they cooperated with him in his work of redemption. In varying degrees they all could be called co-redeemers because of such cooperation. But because of her unique role and the degree of her cooperation, Mary is singled out. In all of humanity, God singled her out for a truly sublime role. Nursing Almighty God at her breast is beyond our ability to fully appreciate. Yet thousands of Christians since the Protestant reformation have completely ignored such sublimity.

What is said of co-redemptrix is also true of mediatrix. Because these terms can be highly misleading, the Church has not infallibly proclaimed them. (See Nevertheless, God is the one who singled Mary out for the unique role in salvation that she has. She did not seek out such distinction. It is important to remember the high praise Jesus lavished on St. John the Baptist. Yet his mission was not nearly as exalted as Mary’s. Jesus worked his first miracle at her request. All she needed to say was: “They have no wine.” He understood exactly what she wanted. He could have taken care of the matter on his own. But he chose to have his mother’s intercession be a part of the mix. The miracle wasn’t any less significant because of her part in it. On the contrary, she shows us how accessible he is to our needs. To truly appreciate Mary is to appreciate her Son all the more.

Answered by: Fr. Vincent Serpa O.P.



  1. Peter Spasic Reply

    Fr. Vincent Serpa O.P.
    You are extrapolating from scripture. Nowhere does the Bible even suggest she has a partial salvific role in our salvation.
    Please show clearly from scripture.
    Hebrews 4:16 makes it clear to whom we should pray. Millions of Catholic pray TO Mary for help.
    And where does scripture teach that the “saints” have extra merits that can be applied to souls in purgatory.
    And where is purgatory even taught – not 1 Corinthians 3:15 if you read carefully
    Besides invoking Mary and the “saints” intercession, and the idea of purgatory as a final cleansing, all diminish the effectiveness of Christ as a Saviour. Didn’t HE pay the full penalty for our sins?
    To the questioner …
    For the Catholic Church to quibble about words is to be dishonest about what it really believes.
    It still is official that without Mary, there is no salvation. It is wonderful to see you questioning. Note how much more prominence Mary gets than Jesus, in pictures, in statues, and on face book!
    “But he chose to have his mother’s intercession be a part of the mix” – Jesus already knew what was needed and what He would do. To use this as support for Mary’s HEAVENLY intercession is really stretching Bible interpretation and application. If Mary’s role was so important the writers of the New Testament would have told us.
    Ask any priest to show clearly from the Bible that these teachings are in line with scripture. Don’t accept answers that rely on “tradition” if they are not supported by God’s Word.
    Finally, “seek and you will find” Matthew 7:7
    Best wishes on you journey.. (or rather, praying for you…)

    1. ed lim Reply

      Luke: 1:46-55 (Douay-Rheims Bible Version)

      [46] And Mary said: My soul doth magnify the Lord. [47] And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. [48] Because he hath regarded the humility of his handmaid; for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. [49] Because he that is mighty, hath done great things to me; and holy is his name. [50] And his mercy is from generation unto generations, to them that fear him. [51] He hath shewed might in his arm: he hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. [52] He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble. [53] He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. [54] He hath received Israel his servant, being mindful of his mercy: [55] As he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed for ever.

      The verses above show the graces that God gives out through Mary. Mary said: “My soul doth magnify the Lord”…….

      1. Patrick Gannon Reply

        “The purpose of creation of the humans is the worship of the Creator God.” So, an all-powerful being was bored and decided to create humans for the specific purpose of worshipping Him? That strikes me as a petty and silly reason to create sentient beings. Why would this all-powerful being need or want this worship in the first place? Surely Bible God is to me, at a minimum, as I am to ants; yet I do not require, want or need worship from the ants. I do not go to the store and buy an ant farm so the ants can worship me, but that’s apparently what your god does.
        “Obedience is an important requirement.” Why? If that’s what He wanted, why not create us to do whatever it is He wants us to do? Is this so He has some reason to punish us for his delight and pleasure if we fail to obey? If “even a miniscule of disobedience” repels us from this god, what does that say about His goodness? If my child disobeys me, I am to repel him or her? You say in order to “cure” us from these “sins” (an archery term that means to fall short of the mark in the original language), Bible God has to have his blood sacrifice, just like the Aztec gods and other pagan gods that demanded blood sacrifices. An all-powerful being can’t simply forgive, (cure), without a blood sacrifice? I don’t see the “all powerful” part of that. I see barbaric paganism and a significant limitation on the power of this being – unless it’s simply cruel..
        You missed my point above when you say, “knowing the litany of good and evil was not the rule but rather the obedience to the commandment of God.” How would these children with no knowledge of good and evil have the slightest idea that disobedience was wrong? I put myself in Eve’s shoes (or lack thereof) and this talking snake tells her God is misleading her. There is no mention of other talking animals until later in the OT when we get a talking donkey, so it’s pretty understandable that Eve would be impressed. I’ve always wondered, who taught them how to talk? What language did they speak? This is a campfire story for primitive people trying to explain to their children things that were unknown at the time.
        You insist on the reality of Adam and Eve, but all the scientific evidence we have today indicates that we came from a pool of parents – the DNA indicates about 1000. The RCC denies this, but that just puts them in the same boat as the organization that denied Galileo and burned Giordano Bruno at the stake, in part for suggesting that stars were suns and that they might have planets going around them. This is the same organization that told people to burn their neighbors at the stake as witches. How long can the Church fight facts that fly in the face of their beliefs? This is as bad as fundies that suggest Bible God planted the dinosaur fossils to internationally fool us, yet believers insist that it is Satan who is the prince of lies.
        You go on once again insisting that your God is not all-powerful; something I was taught as a Catholic kid. You say God had “no other way” to save us except through the rigamarole of the blood sacrifice. That means He’s not all-powerful. He’s limited – severely limited – to barbaric pagan practices, and apparently can’t simply forgive us. He’s NOT all-powerful. You’re making this very clear. There are limits to what He can do and to whether He gets what He wants or needs.
        Go to Isaiah, and look up the original Hebrew word used to refer to the supposed virgin birth prophecy. The word “alma” or “young woman” was translated to “virgin” when the OT was translated to Greek. Look it up yourself. The authors of Mark, and particularly John who must have had the other gospels in front of him at the time, clearly didn’t buy into that story. Matthew made it up, based on the incorrect translation of the word “alma,” and then Luke who must have also been working with a Greek translation, further embellished the story. In both cases, Mary was not given an option – she may have accepted her fate, but I suppose a lot of rape victims do that after the fact.
        You may be a mere creature longing for the mercy of God, but I need to see some real evidence that your God exists. If He does, I know, based on your response here, that He is not all-powerful if He is as you describe, and that means He is at best a minor god. If He turns out to be real, I have to assume that He will value those who stood up and did the best they could with what they had, rather than those who crawled about on their knees accepting without question, what they were told by an Iron Age institution that has benefited mightily from keeping the little people on their knees in subservience.
        I’d also like to comment on what you said to Peter above: ” Her saying “my Saviour” means she was protected from sin, conceive without sin and lived in the world free from sin.” You are aware, I assume, that Mary was not really considered to have been conceived without sin until 1854, right? The problem was that in the early days they thought that humans were fully formed in male sperm and “grew” in the woman’s womb. They didn’t realize that women contribute half the DNA. Once they figured that out, then they couldn’t have Mary born as a normal person because she would have passed this fanciful original sin to Jesus, and he had to be sinless according to the myths; so they decided centuries after the fact that she had been born sinless. People born sinless don’t die, so in 1950 they decided that she was raised bodily to heaven, instead of dying like a normal person. None of this is supported in the bible, of course. This is a man-made religion designed to keep us in fear, guilt and shame so that we can be controlled. Get off your knees, stand up and be a human being instead of a serf to a bunch of virgin men in robes.

  2. Patrick Gannon Reply

    “Only God could make up for an offense against his divinity.”

    How can an all-powerful being be offended or hurt in any way?

    What was the offense? The myth says that they didn’t even know good and evil until after they ate of the tree of temptation. How divine (godly) is it to punish someone, and all their progeny, for something they couldn’t even know was wrong, given that they were supposedly created without this knowledge?

    And why couldn’t an all-powerful being, if such existed, simply forgive without all the rigamarole of impregnating a young woman (the original Hebrew word was not “virgin”) with Himself in order to sacrifice Himself to Himself to relieve us of a condition He placed on us in the first place because two mythical people did something they couldn’t know was wrong until after they did it?

    The important thing to note is Gen 3:22 which says mankind has come to know good and evil, like the gods themselves. Indeed, we need only read the pages of the OT to see evil from Bible God spilled all over its pages.

  3. Ed Lim Reply

    @Peter Spasic: Here is the Bible verse that shows the graces that God gives out through Mary. You have to deeply analyze the messages to understand; Luke 1:46-55 (from the Douay-Rheims Version).

    The Magnificat

    46 And Mary said: My soul doth magnify the Lord,
    47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
    48 Because He hath regarded the humility of His handmaid;
    for behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
    49 Because he that is Mighty, hath done great things to me; and holy is his name.
    50 And His mercy is from generation unto generations, to them that fear him.
    51 He hath shewed might in his arm: he hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.
    52 He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble .
    53 He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.
    54 He hath received Israel his servant, being mindful of his mercy:
    55 As He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed for ever.

    You see from the beginning of the verse, “My (Mary) soul doth magnify the Lord” …… and the graces that flows from God through Mary.

    1. Peter Spasic Reply

      Ed Lim
      “And Mary said: My soul doth magnify the Lord”
      To magnify the Lord means to extol, praise, make Him known, tell of His glory, etc…
      There are many references to individuals and groups of people magnifying/extolling/etc the Lord
      Mary is not the only one who “magnified” Him
      Zacharias Luke 1:67ff
      Mary magnified Him by recounting the many works God had performed for His people.
      Also verse 47 “And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour” seems to negate the belief that Mary was born sinless…
      What do mean by “deeply analyse”?

      Psalm 96:1-9
      Psalm 29:1-2
      Psalm 118:28
      Psalm 86:12
      Psalm 99:9
      Isaiah 25:1
      Revelation 14:7

      1. ed lim Reply

        @Peter Spasic: You see, Mary makes God known to many and lead them to her Son Jesus Christ for their salvation. When we receive Jesus in baptism, she becomes our spiritual Mother. Her saying “my Saviour” means she was protected from sin, conceive without sin and lived in the world free from sin. It is the Will of God. As for the “graces”, read on the entirety of her pronouncement and see the power of God that flows through her. If you could not see it, the Holy Spirit is not in you. The sad part though on Verse 51; he hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.”

        1. Peter Spasic Reply

          Ed Lim
          Jude 25 “… to God our saviour …” Jude was not declaring that God has “protected US from sin, conceive without sin and lived in the world free from sin.”
          The writers of scripture often refer to “God our saviour” – but never suggest this meant being born without a sin nature.” So why only for Mary? Just because she prayed “my”…?
          Romans 5:12 “death spread to all men (mankind) because ALL sinned…”
          Romans 3:23 “ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…”
          So where does God’s Word tell us that Mary was “protected from sin, conceive without sin and lived in the world free from sin. It is the Will of God.”?
          And where does scripture teach that “Mary makes God known to many and lead them to her Son Jesus Christ for their salvation.”
          John 6:44 “No one can come to Me (Jesus) unless THE FATHER (God) … draws him…” No mention of Mary drawing anyone.
          Can you provide scriptural support for “she becomes our spiritual Mother”? If John 19:27 is your proof then it should also have been taught by the apostles, if it is so important.
          Can you please explain how the Magnificat teaches that God’s power and “graces” flow through her? I have read through and still don’t “see it”.
          You still have not shown any clear Biblical support from the teaching letters of Paul, Peter, John, James and Jude for these beliefs about Mary’s role in our salvation.
          With all due respect, if you believe the Holy Spirit is not in me, then please address my questions – even if you consider me to be “proud in the conceit of my heart.”

  4. ed lim Reply

    @ Patrick Gannon: The purpose of creation of the humans is the worship of the Creator God. Obedience is an important requirement. For even a miniscule of disobedience against the commandments of God will be repelled from the union with God. The sin(s) from disobedience must be cured so that the devil could not claim the injured and repelled soul. The cure for the sin(s) is the blood of Jesus Christ and his crucified flesh resurrects the injured soul. If the sin(s) were “deadly”, the devil has legitimate claim to the soul. If the sin(s) were “not deadly” and repented/forgiven, the soul would be saved. Even the “deadly” sin(s) if repented and forgiven would be saved. Save from where? Save from the domain (hell) of the devil. At the time of the transgression of Adam and Eve, knowing the litany of good and evil was not the rule but rather the obedience to the commandment of God.
    Because of the disobedience of Adam and Eve, they then could not exist in paradise. The forbidden fruit that they ate corrupted their whole being, and the malignity (sin nature) passed on to the entire humanity. God has to make a divine sacrifice (no other way) for the salvation of mankind. The sacrifice redeems the human transgressions so that the soul could reconcile with God. God is holy and therefore must be born (incarnate) through the holy Virgin Mary (holy womb of a virgin) conceived without sin and protected from committing sin and protected from the influence of sin. The incarnation of God, the holy and Blessed Virgin Mary, God’s Crucifixion and the salvation of humanity, are all the Will of God, and there’s nothing we (humans) can do or complain to change His Will; because God is the Supreme Creator. You and I are just mere creatures longing for the mercy of God.

  5. Mark Ruiz Reply

    I just don’t get it……why do Baptists….Protestants …..and so on have these major hang ups about Mary?…..all this Sola scrip?….when all they have to do is study about The Catholic Church… open…and see.
    Come and See.

    1. Peter Spasic Reply

      Mark, with all due respect, so far no one has offered a clear explanation as to why the vitally important issues of Mary and the ‘saints’ as intercessors, purgatory and praying for the deceased, etc, are not CLEARLY taught and EXPLAINED by the apostles in their letters? The Cana wedding on its own is pretty flimsy as an argument – Hebrews 4:16 could have included a mention of Mary. Romans 3:23 seems to rule out Mary’s sinlessness – surely Paul should have mentioned her as the exception? 1 Corinthians 3:12, 15 – “the day” in verse 12 seems to rule out a purgatorial halfway state between death and heaven. Strange that the Maccabees teaching is not included in the apostles’ letters – maybe Maccabees is not inspired, or were they like those who baptized on behalf of the dead in 1 Corinthians 15:29?
      Telling us that all we have to do is “study about The Catholic Church… open…and see” is not much help. Would you care to share how you would answer the question, or refer us to Magisterial documents that address these issues – and the scriptural (catholic or protestant) basis for them. We all know some of these doctrines evolved over time – but at least all church teachings should be based on, and supported by, the writings/teachings of the apostles, Luke and Mark.

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