Hail Mary. The Assumption of Mary by Van Dyck, Madonna of the Holy Rosary by Lorenzo Lotto, and the Immaculate Conception of Murillo. These are some of the venerated images of the Lady, which picture the Marian dogmas of the Catholic Church.

IS THE Catholic Church ready for a fifth Marian Dogma?

Yes, said advocates of the proposed new dogma, Mary as Co-Redemptrix. The advocates include Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal.

No, said critics, who warned that the proposed dogma would virtually equate Mary with Jesus Christ.

Last January 1, five cardinals, including Cardinal Vidal, sent a letter to Pope Benedict XVI petitioning the declaration of a new dogma which would reportedly clarify the Virgin Mary’s unique cooperation in the work of Redemption.

According to Luis Aponte Cardinal Martinez of Puerto Rico, one of the sponsors of the votum (petition), the proposed Marian dogma would add nothing new, but it would provide the faithful a greater grasp of the existing truths about the Blessed Virgin.

The proposed dogma centers on the three roles of the Blessed Virgin-–“Co-redemptrix,” “Mediatrix,” “Advocate.”

“The distribution of these graces and intercession for the human family would explain Mary’s role in salvation,” the cardinals said in the votum.

The request for the establishment of a new Marian dogma was the result of the International Symposium on Marian Co-redemption, which was held at the Fatima Shrine of Portugal in May 2005. The event was attended by a number of bishops, cardinals and theologians from different countries.

Along with Vidal and Martinez, the original sponsors of the votum were Cardinals Telesphore Toppo (India), Varkey Vithayathil (India), Ernesto Corripio y Ahumada (Mexico), and Edouard Gagnon (Canada), former president of the Pontifical Council of the Family, who died last August.

At present, there are four dogmas explaining the role of the Blessed Virgin in the salvation of mankind.

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First is the Divine Motherhood of Mary, which explains how Mary is the Mother of Christ. The second dogma is the Perpetual Virginity of Mary, which states that Mary conceived Jesus Christ while still maintaining her virginity.

The third dogma is the Immaculate Conception, which holds that Mary was kept free from the stain of original sin. The Assumption is the fourth dogma, which teaches that Mary was brought to heaven body and soul by the power and grace of God.

Meanwhile Fr. Jose Antonio Aureada, dean of the UST Faculty of Sacred Theology, said that every dogma must be unique and specific.

“When proclaiming a dogma, it should have a distinction from the other dogmas,” Aureada told the Varsitarian.

A dogma is a doctrine that must be derived from the Sensus fidelium, a valid source of truths from beliefs, consciences, and experiences of good and honest Catholics. It is solemnly defined by the pope or an ecumenical council, a group of bishops of the Church, convening to discuss matters of Church doctrines and practices.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, dogmas can only be understood if Christians pay due respect to their faith.

“Dogmas propose truths contained in Divine Revelation or having a necessary connection with them, in a form obliging the Christian people to an irrevocable adherence to the faith,” the Catechism of the Catholic Church states.

Clarification

The petition received criticisms from both Catholic and non-Catholic sectors.

To answer these oppositions, a conference was held in Greenwood, Indianapolis in America, which was sponsored by the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate.

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One objection emphasized that giving Mary the title of “Co-redemptrix” will make her an equal to Jesus Christ.

According to Mark Miraville, a doctor of Sacred Theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, the Dominican university in Rome and a speaker in the Indianapolis conference, “Co-” does not mean “equal.”

“‘Co-‘ means ‘with,’” Miravalle said. “Mary uniquely cooperated and ¬participated with Jesus and entirely depended on Jesus in the work of Jesus.”

Another objection argues that Jesus Christ is the only “Mediator.” This was raised by Protestants, who cited a Biblical passage as support: “For there is one God, there is also one mediator between God and the human race, Christ Jesus, himself human (1 Timothy 2:5).”

The argument was answered by the essay Mary’s Immaculate Conception of Fr. William Host, a theology professor at Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College in Alexandria.

According to Host, although Mary was only human, it was appropriate that God chose her as “Mediatrix.”

“It was she who on behalf of the whole human race consented to God’s plan of salvation by proclaiming herself the handmaid of the Lord,” Host wrote.

Meanwhile, Miravalle gave an explanation on the meaning of the title “Advocate” in his book, Mary: Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate.

“Mary intercedes to God the Father through the Son and by the Holy Spirit on behalf of humanity as our Advocate, especially in times of danger and difficulties,” Miravalle said.

But, some experts still contend that a fifth dogma may not anymore be necessary.

According to Aureada, a new dogma may add needless burden because it just reiterates the current Marian dogmas. He added that a new dogma must enjoin belief from all Catholics, who might not be prepared yet.

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“An ordinary individual has not fully understood the four current Marian dogmas yet,” Aureada told the Varsitarian. “It will jeopardize your eternal salvation if you do not believe in the dogma.”

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