Mary: Mediatrix and Co-Redemptrix?

By James M. Rochford

For more resources on this subject, see our earlier article “Catholicism.”

Prayers to Mary are permitted and even encouraged by the Catholic Catechism which states:

Mary is the perfect Orans (pray–er), a figure of the Church. When we pray to her, we are adhering with her to the plan of the Father, who sends his Son to save all men. Like the beloved disciple we welcome Jesus’ mother into our homes, for she has become the mother of all the living. We can pray with and to her. The prayer of the Church is sustained by the prayer of Mary and united with it in hope.[1]

Holy Mary, Mother of God: With Elizabeth we marvel, “And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Because she gives us Jesus, her son, Mary is Mother of God and our mother; we can entrust all our cares and petitions to her: she prays for us as she prayed for herself: “Let it be to me according to your word.” By entrusting ourselves to her prayer, we abandon ourselves to the will of God together with her: “Thy will be done.”[2]

“All generations will call me blessed”: “The Church’s devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship.” The Church rightly honors “the Blessed Virgin with special devotion. From the most ancient times the Blessed Virgin has been honored with the title of ‘Mother of God,’ to whose protection the faithful fly in all their dangers and needs…. This very special devotion… differs essentially from the adoration which is given to the incarnate Word and equally to the Father and the Holy Spirit, and greatly fosters this adoration.” The liturgical feasts dedicated to the Mother of God and Marian prayer, such as the rosary, an “epitome of the whole Gospel,” express this devotion to the Virgin Mary.[3]

This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfilment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation… Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix.[4]

Catholic apologists usually argue that Catholic love of Mary is really there to point us back to Jesus.[5] They reason that we ask one another to pray for us (Jas. 5:16), so asking Mary is really the same thing. Catholic apologist Dave Hunt argues, “We pray for each other, thus acting as mediators. One could just as easily say, ‘Why ask your fellow Christians to pray for you when you can ask Jesus?’”[6]

Debated Passages for Mary as Mediatrix and Redemptrix

(Gen. 3:15) Does this passage support the Roman Catholic view of Mary as co-redemptrix with Christ?

(Lk. 2:34-35) Does this passage support the Roman Catholic doctrine of the co-redemptrix nature of Mary?

A Critique of Mary as Mediatrix and Redemptrix

We disagree with praying to Mary or any other dead saint for a number of reasons:

First, Scripture doesn’t support this doctrine directly anywhere in the OT or NT. Even Catholic apologist Karl Keating writes, “Scriptural proofs for this are lacking.”[7]

Second, the Bible says that there is one mediator and one redeemer. Jesus alone is the Redeemer (Isa. 49:26; Col. 1:13-14; Rom. 3:24). Moreover, Paul writes, “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5).

Third, when we include another mediator in prayer, it has the tendency to tacitly garner our attention away from God. For instance, there is a 10:1 ratio of Hail Mary’s to Our Father’s on the Catholic rosary. This means that Catholics are praying ten times more to Mary than they are to God the Father, when praying the Rosary. This shows how quickly this can get out of hand, when we erect another mediator.[8] We admire Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong for his straightforward honesty in this regard. He writes, “Excesses in language and practice have indeed regrettably occurred too often among individual Catholics.”[9]

Fourth, in order to hear all of our prayers, Mary (or any other dead saint) would need to be omniscient. While Roman Catholicism denies that Mary is divine, this ability to hear the prayers of all Catholics is highly questionable.

Fifth, the argument that praying to Mary is like asking a friend for prayer is questionable. When we ask a Christian friend to pray for us, we are doing something the Bible commands (Jas. 5:16). However, the Bible never commands us to pray to a dead saint. Moreover, why would all of us pray to a dead person whom we’ve never met? Why not ask a person that we know? In addition, we would never ask a friend to pray for us the way that Roman Catholics pray to Mary. Consider this common prayer to Mary that is recorded on numerous Catholic websites:

O Mother of Perpetual Help, thou art the dispenser of all the gifts which God grants to us miserable sinners; and for this end He has made thee so powerful, so rich, and so bountiful, in order that thou mayest help us in our misery. Thou art the advocate of the most wretched and abandoned sinners who have recourse to thee: come to my aid, for I recommend myself to thee. In thy hands I place my eternal salvation, and to thee I entrust my soul. Count me among thy most devoted servants; take me under thy protection, and it is enough for me. For, if thou protect me, I fear nothing; not from my sins, because thou wilt obtain for me the pardon of them; nor from the devils, because thou art more powerful than all hell together; nor even from Jesus, my judge, because by one prayer from thee He will be appeased. But one thing I fear: that in the hour of temptation I may through negligence fail to call on thee and thus perish miserably. Obtain for me, therefore, the pardon of my sins, love for Jesus, final perseverance, and the grace ever to have recourse to thee, O Mother of Perpetual Help.

Would we ever make requests like this to fellow believers at a prayer meeting?

Sixth, little is written of Mary in the NT. We agree with Catholic expert James McCarthy, when he writes, “Many Catholics upon reading the Bible for the first time are surprised by how little is said about Mary.”[10] Therefore, we feel that it is tremendously unwarranted to place such a focus on Mary, when Scripture places no such emphasis. For more on this subject, see our earlier article “Praying to Dead Saints.”

[1] Catechism of the Catholic Church. Section 2679.

[2] Catechism of the Catholic Church. Section 2677.

[3] Catechism of the Catholic Church. Section 971.

[4] Catechism of the Catholic Church. Section 969.

[5] Kreeft, Peter, and Ronald K. Tacelli. Handbook of Catholic Apologetics: Reasoned Answers to Questions of Faith. San Francisco: Ignatius, 2009. 438-439.

[6] Armstrong, Dave. A Biblical Defense of Catholicism. Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute, 2003. 203.

[7] Keating, Karl. Catholicism and Fundamentalism. San Francisco: Ignatius, 1988. 279.

[8] Catholics are offered an indulgence for praying the rosary. Catechism of the Catholic Church. Section 1471-79, 1498.

[9] Armstrong, Dave. A Biblical Defense of Catholicism. Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute, 2003. 170.

[10] McCarthy, James G. The Gospel According to Rome. Eugene, Or.: Harvest House, 1995. 190.