Saint Augustine Was Wrong
Saint Augustine said Mary is a member of the Church. […] But the Virgin is the Queen Mother, the Queen of Heaven and earth. Hence, Mary is the Queen of the Church. But a queen is not a subject, for no one is subject to themselves, only to someone greater. Hence, Mary is not a member of the Church, for She is its Queen. Therefore, Saint Augustine was wrong.
The full piece below is quite long: about a dozen pages. A shorter version with only the central theology can be found here.
Membership Doesn’t Have Its Privileges
On the surface, the syllogism is a play on words. Specifically, a subject is always a member, but a member isn’t necessary a subject. So while Mary is indeed a member, it doesn’t follow that She is a subject in the given context, which would eliminate the contradiction. However, it isn’t that simple…
Saint Augustine began his argument by stating “The Virgin Mary is both holy and blessed, and yet the Church is greater than she. Mary is a part of the Church, a member of the Church, a holy, an eminent – the most eminent - member, but still only member…” This translation of a sermon is taken from the Office of Readings for the Presentation of Mary.
Augustine goes on to say “The body undoubtedly is greater than she, one of its members.” A member is not greater than the whole. This is a basic metaphysical precept and is reflected in mathematics by the equation
x < x + y.
This equation represents x is less than x added to y, and for this context, x and y are positive values
So asserting that Mary is a member, it follows that the Church is greater than She. This can be expressed by the following formula:
G(Mary) < G(Mary) + G(Others) = G(Church)
where G() is some measure of “greatness”
For those not accustom to equations, the above equation basically states Mary’s greatness is less than the sum of everyone’s greatness, including Her own.
This is all good and fine, except for one thing: Jesus is also a member. In fact, Jesus is the most eminent member, not Mary. This in turn has a very interesting implication. Appling the part/whole principle yields a fascinating conclusion: the whole Church is greater than Jesus! But…, but…, but it is His Church!!!
Inclusion, Possession, and Dominion: Oh My
Saint Augustine, however, immediately adds “This body [the Church] has the Lord for its head, and head and body together make up the whole Christ.” It would take a bit of “wizardry” to unravel all of the logical relationships in play here. The end result would be the proper viewing of the various accepts of the Church from different angles. So let us head in that direction by first considering membership and dominion.
Membership is very generic. In its most basic form, it only denotes inclusion in a set. It is relationship that answers a single question: does it belong or not? Jesus indeed is a member of the Church even though He is its Head. Theologians will occasionally speak in terms of His membership, but only rarely because it is of little value.
On the other hand, dominion is a much richer concept. It builds on membership by adding a relational component dealing with superiors, peers and inferiors, with arbitrary complex hierarchies. The context here is Christ the King, who has dominion over all, including the Queen Mother, whose is, of course, subject to Him.
But let us take a closer look at membership. In particular, let the “greatness” function be the measure of physical weight. Here, the membership equation returns a valid result. The Church is greater than Jesus because the total weight of all members (including Jesus) is greater than Jesus’ weight. The same correct result will follow for several other such quantities.
Though one could raise the objection: so what? Now, replace Jesus and Kingship in the above syllogism to the appropriate parts. It still falls apart because, strictly speaking, Jesus is a member. But again, so what? The point is if membership is such a weak relationship that is application is only valid for such mundane things such as physical weight, why bother calling Him a member? Strictly speaking, that is accurate, but strictly speaking, that is the extent of it.
Now, consider other measures of greatness such as power and authority. For these, the formula G(Jesus) < G(Church) blows up. The reason is that the Lord God is the source of all power and authority. The self-inclusion renders invalid what the equation represents. The bottom line is, for anything of substance, Jesus really isn’t a member in the sense that anything else will overshadow membership to the extent of making it is a trifling consideration.
In fine, membership appears to be an accidental property resulting from the Incarnation, but nothing seems to rely upon that logical fact. What flows through Christ per the Incarnation is of immense significance. But there is nothing to suggest it flows directly through the logical relationship of membership per se. For otherwise, a parish named “Christ, Member of the Whole Christ” would be appropriate, something that seems highly unlikely to appear any time soon.
From the above, it follows that the concept of dominion is of a much greater importance than membership. This can be readily verified. For if membership was truly ever in play, there could be interactions with creatures and Jesus on the peer to peer level. While Jesus isn’t an overbearing tyrant in terms of His Kingship, humility/reality demand that His Supreme Dominion never be forgotten. In other words, ontology demands a superior to inferior relation at all times.
Dominion has a higher precedence over membership, as will anything of significance. This has the effect of raising a simple member to be a subject. Hence, for all practical purposes, the syllogism is true for Jesus/Kingship. Namely, for any viewpoint of significance, Jesus must be treated as King and not as a member/subject. This is not to deny that Jesus is a member of the “whole” Church. But in terms of the hierarchy of truths, His membership seems to fall in about the same category as “the sky is blue.”
This regards the strict concept of membership. The usual context for Church membership, the one Saint Augustine was using, has the broader relational meaning of an interconnected community. But the Church is not a social club. The relationships that bind the members together and to Christ are of the supernatural order, not mere material relations. However, all of these relationships are nothing else but another name for some form of grace.
This may seem as a mincing words regarding the syllogism. But the distinction is important to the thesis’s development, which is just beginning. So back to dominion.
But what is true for Jesus, is generally true for Mary, though typically in a subordinate manner. The question thus becomes: does membership also effectively disappear when dealing with Mary? To attempt an answer, let us first briefly explore Mary’s Queenship.
The Church has declared Mary to be the Queen of Heaven and earth. Its scope is understood to be the entire created order, both visible and invisible. Mary is the Queen of the Angels just as She is the Queen of every other possible (non-contradictory) noun. As the Church is Christ’s creation, it immediately follows that Mary is the Queen of the Church.
Clearly, Mary is part of the created order, but so is Jesus in terms of His Sacred humanity. These two facts, though, give rise the very difficult problem of pre-generative self-inclusion. Fortunately, Saint Paul would solve that in a heartbeat by stating the obvious, “of course Jesus and Mary are excepted” to paraphrase Corinthians 15:27. This has significance because it is self-inclusion that causes the membership equation to fail.
Now, if Mary is truly the Queen of the Church, She isn’t a subject, per definition. But the definitional logic gives rise to the deeper theological question of Mary’s relation to Christ and His Church. To begin, what is the extent of the Queen Mother’s dominion? As the Church has said, it is entire created order, excepting Herself as logic demands. But it does actually include Christ in a certain sense.
Surely, Christ’s dominion is absolute and Mary is completely subject to Him. Yet by Divine Decree, Christ subjected Himself to His Mother, not by necessity, but with unsurpassed humility. This cannot be said about any other creature except for Saint Joseph, though more limited, and who is increasingly being recognized as the second greatest saint.
Mary’s dominion is not separate from Christ’s. There is only one dominion and of necessity because it is absolute. Hence, Mary’s dominion is a participation in Christ’s dominion, totally subordinate to be sure, yet a sharing that is as deep and profound as is the union between Their Two Hearts. The depth of this union is exemplified by Christ’s own submission to His Mother, properly understood.
The queen mother is a divinely revealed image as recorded in various passages of the Davidic Kings. But it could be allegoric to some measure so its full forces doesn’t immediately follow.
As such, outside of the strictest sense, the Church could maintain that Mary is a member of the Church while still being its Queen. Though this would be a convoluted definition unless justifiable by some theological reason that limits Mary from being truly the Queen of the Church. To explore that, a basic exposition of the Church’s nature is required.
The Church has traditionally been viewed in three categories. Mary was never part of the Church Suffering (Purgatory). But the Virgin was part of the Church Militant (on earth), and indeed was its “most eminent member” as Saint Augustine elegantly stated (not considering Jesus for the moment).
This was the premise of his proof, which is surely true because Mary was subject to the Church’s rules and regulations while She lived here, and furthermore, membership is necessary for salvation. However, after entering Heaven, Her militant membership card expired, leaving two options. Saint Augustine apparently never considered these but tacitly presumed Her fate was the same as the rest of the elect, namely, to be part of the Church Triumphant.
But this is not a necessity. The other possibility is being raised to the Queen and thus reigning over the Church (and yes, still being a part thereof). The only necessity is that Mary, being created, remained a creature and remained subject to God. But that only precludes the Creator from establishing a Queenship that is co-equal to the Kingship, not one that is subordinate.
Another change in membership upon death is worth noting. Namely, those who are judged unworthy and thus are cast into Hell. However, the damned still must bow before Christ and also His Queen. Also, the holy souls in Purgatory should not be forgotten who only after their painful purification will enter Heaven.
The members of all three categories of the Church share one thing in common. They are all children of Mary. Strangely, the damned are also included whom Mary doesn’t strictly disown but can no longer help, and are forever separated. But that horrendous reality aside, let us take a quick look at the Virgin’s spiritual motherhood.
To echo the Church, Mary is the New Eve, the Mother of all of the living in the spiritual order. We are truly Her children. As the Church is the Mystical body of Christ, its members are Her children. So to that degree, it is Her Church.
Is there anything of the Church that Mary doesn’t have a claim on? Equating the Church to its members, the answer is a resounding no. Including material objects, such as churches doesn’t change the answer for the Queen of the Universe. Pope Pius XII said “her kingdom is as vast as that of her Son and God, since nothing is excluded from her dominion." The theological proof that Mary has a universal Queenship in the proper sense is considered conclusive. Theologians note that the royal judicial power to inflict punishment is apparently the only thing that Jesus has reserved exclusively to Himself.
It seems clear that Mary is the Queen of the Church. But a queen isn’t a subject. But if member “folds into” subject, for any viewpoint of significance, Mary isn’t a member either. The nature of Her reign indicates that this is the case.
Specifically, if the Virgin was the President or Prime Minister of the Church (actually vice-president is the proper analogy), then it would be more proper for Mary to be considered a member. But we are dealing with the Kingdom of God. Jesus Christ isn’t the President, the nature of His reign is entirely different. But Mary shares in His reign and its nature. King and vice-president simply don’t mix. This leaves true Queen and non-membership (in the non-trivial sense being used here).
Let us apply the membership equation again, this time for Mary and where grace is the basis for the greatness function. In particular, let G() denote the total grace that a creature will obtain before their entrance into Heaven. Theologians speak in these terms and this “quantity” lends itself for comparison.
To begin, consider Mary’s initial grace. In defining the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, Pius IX said that from the first moment of Her existence, Mary “was loved by God more than all creatures” and was ladened with God’s grace “more than all the angels and saints.”
It is considered certain that Mary’s initial grace was greater than the final grace of any other creature. Various theologians have maintained this for centuries before its reiteration by Pius IX. Another comparison is Mary’s initial grace with all other creatures final grace combined. The great Dominican theologian, Father Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, demonstrated that Pius IX favored that position in Ineffabilis Deus.
Ineffabilis Deus goes on to say that the Fathers maintained Mary is greater than the whole heavenly host united. But the context is the glory of Heaven, not the final grace before entering Heaven. Yet, this is another indication of its truth because one’s final grace is proportionate to one’s grace in glory. But in terms of Heavenly glory, there seems to be no question that Mary is greater than all of the Angels and Saints combined.
It is interesting to consider “greater than” in terms of the mathematical concept of infinity. In terms of cardinality, there is a hierarchy of infinities, starting with the counting numbers (integers), followed by the real numbers, and on and on. There is no greatest infinity.
While grace is a character of the soul verses a quantity, the range for the G() function might possibly extended into the hierarchies of infinities as it measures the closeness of a soul to God as it will relate to the beatific vision for all eternity.
If Mary is greater in terms of higher infinity hierarchy, the membership math changes. Assuming Mary is a member, the resulting expression is not less than but equals, per
Cardinality addition works as follows:
Let C1 denote the cardinality of the integers, and C2 denote the cardinality of the real numbers. Then C1 + C2 = C2.
The smaller infinity is gobbled up by the larger to the degree that it doesn’t count for anything in terms of cardinality.
G(Mary) = G(Church)
Considering the reason for Mary’s superior grace, Her Divine Motherhood, it is quite probable that She is much, much greater, if not infinitely greater than the rest of us combined, as indicated by Saint John Damascene: "Limitless is the difference between God's servants and His Mother."
Altogether, from a mathematical perspective at this juncture, Augustine’s result of the Church being greater becomes 1) certainly not very important, 2) probably not worth mentioning, or 3) possibly even wrong.
Theology cannot be reduced to mathematics, but the cardinality of real numbers is staggering, the next infinity is mind-numbing, and that is only the beginning. It shows at least allegorically the potential for Our Queen’s ranking. So what does G(Mary) evaluate to? Pius IX may have provided the final word. In Ineffabilis Deus, he wrote regarding Mary’s greatness that “outside of God, no mind can succeed in comprehending [it] fully.”
From Saint Augustine’s sermon, Mary is member of the body, specifically, the mystical body of Christ where “the Lord” is its head. “Head and body together make up the whole Christ.” This is from Saint Paul’s image of the Church (Colossians 1:18) that depicts the unity of all believers as a one body.
In this context, the head is a member of the “whole Christ.” But a member is not greater than the whole, so it follows that the “whole Christ” is greater than the head, who is Christ. This is sheer nonsense, of course, wherein Augustine was careful to point out “our head is divine – our head is God” thus precluding any reasonable person from drawing that conclusion.
But it is important to examine why that principle falls apart here. The reason is: it is a form of self-inclusion. Specifically, keeping with the greatness function based on grace, the Lord is the source of all grace wherein all members of the body depend on that source for their grace/greatness.
Including the source of what is being measured with that being measured itself is self-inclusion. Obviously, adding up what comes from the source doesn’t make the source bigger. Further, besides grace, there are other examples of the Lord being the source, including the extreme example that He is the source of our very existence.
The upshot is the whole/part principle is quite solid. It requires something very substantial to break it. So regarding Mary, does grace break it? Pius IX’s statement on Mary’s greatness is a powerful witness that it does. From Pius XII’s encyclical Ad Caeli Reginam comes the St. John Damascene quote: "Limitless is the difference between God's servants and His Mother."
In theology, limitless and infinite are generally synonyms. (Mathematical infinity theory is a discovery from the 19th century.) Though even without appeal to cardinality, the membership equation reduces to G(Mary) = G(Church) when “limitless” is applied in its proper sense (and the same mathematically in terms of the limit per calculus). But this is the same breakage when the membership equation is applied to Jesus.
Furthermore, the same self-inclusion is in play. As Mediatrix of All Grace, Mary is the source of all grace for the members of the body. She is not ultimate source, but Mary is the immediate source from the relative perspective of the body.
Logical sanity precludes self-inclusion, and the whole/part principle breaks. Both of these imply, and rather strongly, that it is wrong to consider Mary to be a member of the body. Special treatment is warranted that parallels Jesus’ relationship. The underlying analogy is body parts. The best analogy is that Mary is the neck, separate from the head and body, but connected to both, subordinate to the head but above the body. In other words, She is the Queen, not a member of the body as presented by Saint Augustine.
Finally, note that being the “source” is not the principle on which Mary’s measure of grace is based, as if grace flowing through Her somehow adds to Her grace. Her role as Mediatrix began after entering Heaven, after the opportunity to merit ceased. Also, it wasn’t necessary for Mary’s grace to be greater than the total grace to be distributed. Rather, it was appropriate to be such, arguably for being Mediatrix alone, but ultimately everything is based on Her being chosen to be the Mother of God.
Enclosed Embedded Encirclement
So, is the neck part of the body (the Church) or part of head (the King)? The syllogism’s language uses terms from two different models: body parts and regal authority. Mixing terms from different domains generally doesn’t fly. But both models are only analogies. They only represent the actual reality to a limited degree. Christ and His Church are great mysteries that cannot be fully expressed or understood.
Furthermore, there is conceptual overlap: the relationships are not exclusive. Mary is part of the Church but She is also united to the Sacred Heart. Each analogy highlights a particular characteristic. The mystical body highlights unity. The King/Queen model can be seen as the eschatological version of the Church as the People of God, where the subjects are the little children, the only ones who can enter the kingdom of God. This model highlights simplicity, humility and trust.
Another powerful image is the Church being the Bride of Christ. But regarding the Virgin, as the consanguinity impediment is without dispensation and ecclesiastical form is necessary, does that require Mary to be the Witness? Yes, indeed, an analogy gone mad, pressed beyond its limits.
This is evidently what is going on with classifying the Virgin Mother as being a member of the body. Considering Mary’s role in terms of Mediatrix brings it to the breaking point, where it becomes more appropriate to view Her in terms of Queenship.
This is consistent with Mary being infinitely greater than us, which doesn’t contradict that Jesus being infinitely greater than Mary. Jesus’ infinitely is the full theological sense of without limit per His Divinity. But nothing prevents theology from admitting something analogous to the infinity hierarchies from mathematics.
One could say it already has per Saint Thomas noting that the Angels are more “real” in the ontological sense as they are closer to God. However, eternity is a much higher plane of existence, which human understanding cannot penetrate in any detail as it goes beyond our normal capacities in this mortal life.
In conclusion, regarding the question if membership also effectively disappears when considering Mary, the answer is yes. “Substantive” membership implies grace. As such, dominion also takes precedence for Mary. For example, consider the rank of veneration that is due to Mary, hyperdulia.
The Vatican II Connection
As a preliminary, it is useful to examine Humanae Vitae. It is a bit surprising that the encyclical’s logic could possibly be flawed, and even seriously so. But it wouldn’t matter. The Church has rendered a judgment on the morality of the act itself. Its validity rests on the Church’s authority, not on the expounded rationale.
This is not to suggest that Humanae Vitae is a flawed exposition. On the contrary, it is quite concise and precise. However, it is one of the hardest Church teachings to grasp. While the profound insights of Saint John Paul II’s Theology of the Body help, it still takes some cerebral muscle to keep everything straight (though most everyone could understand it). But considering the issue on one’s own, without study, is a sure formula for failure, at which countless have succeeded. (Or maybe this is empirical evidence that the Church is indeed greater than Jesus. On the other hand, instead, maybe many will surprised by a sudden membership status change at their particular judgment.)
A more interesting question is whether Humanae Vitae is infallible. Father Ermenegildo Lio’s substantial work, Humanae Vitae and Infallibity, makes a solid case that it is. Other theologians, such as Father Brian Harrison, have also presented strong favorable arguments. But most theologians disagree. One major objection is that only dogmatic definitions (i.e. dealing with the deposit of faith) can be infallible.
This is very curious since “According to Catholic doctrine, the infallibility of the Church’s Magisterium extends not only to the deposit of faith but also to those matters without which that deposit cannot be rightly preserved and expounded.” The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said that in the “Declaration in Defense of the Catholic Doctrine on the Church Against Certain Errors of the Present Day,” complete with a footnote to the Vatican II passage being misinterpreted. The era of the “Present Day” was 1973, one marked by a dissent that sinisterly remains today in various quarters.
But the point here regarding Humanae Vitae is that a valid exposition must exist regardless how subtle or complex, albeit potentially incomplete (for these are mysteries). Yet, faith and reason must be in harmony. In other words, Rome cannot make a judgment that contradicts its own theology.
As an ominous introduction, it is possible that Vatican II contains an error(s), simply because not all Church teachings are infallible. The topic of interest is Chapter 8 of Lumen Gentium, the section on the Blessed Mother.
Here, the Council fathers were divided, almost exactly down the middle. In brief, half wanted a separate document that included the theology that had been further developed over the past century such as Mary’s role as Mediatrix. The other half wanted a more “Mary is one of us” approach treated within the context of the Church. In the closest vote of Vatican II, 1074 to 1114, the “one of us” crowd won the day.
To dispel any fear and trembling, Chapter 8 itself is basically a reiteration of prior Marian teachings: it contains nothing intrinsically new. This was the intent, and thus leaves little room for error, outside of copy and paste. But Saint Augustine is already featured in the second paragraph in the context of “membership.” Also, the statement that Mary is “a pre-eminent…member of the Church” immediately follows.
There are two writings from Augustine in play. Lumen Gentium quoted a passage from De Sancta Virginitate, one of Augustine’s many brilliant theological works. The “pre-eminent” phrase didn’t receive a footnote, but it closely matches the sermon from the Liturgy of the Hours, the edition released several years after Vatican II.
So, did Vatican II error with regards to the membership issue? There actually isn’t much on the table. The quote only placed Mary as "the mother of the members of Christ,” not explicitly as a member. However, the “she is hailed as a pre-eminent” statement indicates present tense, even though the membership tense isn’t explicit.
But even if they are not off the hook, the correction would be the minor change to past tense. Furthermore, the Holy Synod stated that it didn’t “wish to decide those questions.” Hence, the existing doctrine remained in force with the traditional language used in Lumen Gentium thus being fully consistent and proper.
The great irony, though, is while not wanting to tackle the issues, they managed to stumble into the heart of the matter through the seemingly innocuous concept of membership, straight from one of the greatest Doctors of the Church.
A closer examination of Augustine’s sermon is in order at this juncture. Now, citing early theology at times requires a blind eye. The theological insights and doctrinal developments that occurred over subsequent centuries could not have been anticipated by the Fathers of the Church. They had to work with what was known at the time. As such, there are instances when their writings have been superseded.
This sermon seems to be a case in point. Augustine gave thousands of sermons (about five hundred remain). He preached without prepared notes with his words recorded by scribes. Hence, his sermons probably didn’t receive the same degree of forethought as did his writings.
The section from Divine Office begins with “Here are my mother and my brothers…” (Mathew 12:49) and then flows into “Happy is the womb that bore you…” (Luke 11:27). Both deal with the human relation of Jesus’ Mother, though the larger context includes the hereditary Jewish priesthood. Christ addresses the situations by speaking in terms of discipleship, which arguably had nothing to do with His Mother directly.
To cut to the chase, Augustine concluded “and so it was for her a greater thing to have been Christ’s disciple than to have been his mother, and she was more blessed in her discipleship than in her motherhood.” His proof resides in the following: “He was carried in her womb insofar as he is man, but what is kept in the mind is of a higher order than what is carried in the womb.”
This sounds reasonable, but it is a form of Nestorianism, which was condemned at the Council of Ephesus, just one year after Augustine’s death. The missing concept is the hypostatic union: the inseparably union of Christ’s human nature and His Divine nature. Theologically, Mary’s Divine Maternity cannot be separated from Her natural maternity because the hypostatic union is inseparable: Jesus Christ is one Divine Person, the one Mary carried in Her womb. Hence, the “insofar as he is man” constraint is not so great a reduction of import as he thought.
In fine, the two orders are not the intellectual and the physical as Augustine tried to separate, but rather the intellectual and the divine via the hypostatic union. The hypostatic union is of a greater category altogether. While Mary’s Fiat and Her discipleship in general was associated to the hypostatic union, it was Her Divine Motherhood proper that everything stemmed from.
Perfect discipleship alone in no way compares with the greatness of the hypostatic union. The obvious example is the myriad of Angels who followed God perfectly when tested, but are much lower than their Queen.
Furthermore, the comparison can also be seen as between Mary’s mind and the Intellect of God, in which the humanity of Jesus was ultimately “carried in” and the Divine Intellect being identical to Our Lord’s Divine Nature, as God is infinitely simple. Since all of Mary’s prerogatives are intrinsically related to Her Divine Motherhood, everything else depends on that.
The greatness of Mary’s discipleship (primarily due to being Immaculate) cannot exceed the greatness of which it depends on, for the former disappears without the later. This actually is an instance (in a slightly different modality) of “a part cannot be greater than the whole” precept, of all things. (Note: even if Mary merited more grace than was granted initially per relation to the hypostatic union, which may well be true, it would still be a specious argument to place anything greater than the essential basis on which everything else depends. Furthermore, the idea of the Incarnation/Divine Motherhood isn’t greater than the actual objective reality in its objective physical/historical form via the hypostatic union which thus extends into the divine.)
Therefore, the correct conclusion is that Her Divine Maternity was greater than Her discipleship, if not infinitely greater. The concept of the hypostatic union was around in Augustine’s day, though maybe largely implicit. But it took the solemn definition to reveal its brilliant light, which is the usual effect of raising a doctrine to dogma. This is the light that Augustine didn’t have, and hence the wrong turn.
It is after this strike-out that his sermon turned its focus to the membership and greater than question. It seems that lightning struck twice.
Lumen Gentium itself is a wonderful document. The Council used the membership language as a common-denominator starting point: Mary is one of us. In contrast to Saint Augustine, they used the phrase “a pre-eminent… member,” carefully replacing “the” with “a” as their meaning was the second pre-eminent member. This is theologically precise and neatly eliminated explicitly calling Jesus a member. This traditional usage is all good and fine. Yet, strict membership is semantically rather vacuous, reading as:
Mary is an inhabitant of Heaven. She occupies space. The Virgin also has mass. As Heaven’s gravitational constant is not definitively taught, wherein this Holy Synod wishes not to decide the matter, the question of Mary’s weight remains open to theological discussion. Yet, of all inhabitant of Heaven, that occupy space and have mass, including those who do not, Mary is a most pre-eminent inhabitant, etc.
Of course, the Church would never be that silly. Yet, they were wrong regarding Mary’s membership…
Let us revisit the Mystical Body, but from a different perspective. Specifically, instead of placing Christ outside of the body, He will be placed within the body as an actual member of the Church. But here, a new type of membership is needed, which will be called self-including membership. A self-including member is member that all of the other members depend upon for their membership. With this definition, Jesus is a self-including member of the Church.
But self-including membership isn’t just a wild concoction. It is the logical description of the Incarnation. For with this great mystery, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity enters creation itself, Who is the source of creation. In other words, Jesus is a member of creation where all other parts of creation absolutely depend upon Him for their own membership, that is, for their own existence.
As the Incarnation is intrinsically connected to Christ and His Church, it follows that they share the same logical foundation. Hence, Jesus is truly a self-including member of the Church, in an essential way.
Furthermore, Christ must be a member of the body. Membership means being a part of, that is, participating in the Church, in some way. The scriptural language of head doesn’t exclude membership. Rather, it portrays that Christ’s membership is in an entirely different category from the regular members. Scripture’s very simple language makes clear that the head is “separate” from the body in terms of regular membership, but implicitly it is defining a category.
The difference here is that of perspective. The scriptural is the “outside” view whereas the self-including is the “inside” view. But these two models are only abstractions, and are essentially the same. Though the self-including perspective better illustrates that headship is about category, not membership.
Now, from the principle of what is true of Jesus is generally true for Mary, one would expect a subcategory of self-including member pertaining to Mary. In the order of grace, this is exactly what is found, and subordinate as anticipated. Specially, all of the regular members depend on Mary for their membership as grace is the founding principle of the Church, which is union with God.
Surely, the subcategory of subordinate self-including membership is infinitely lower than the category of absolute self-including membership. But the syllogism’ point is that Mary is not a regular member. The pre-eminent qualifier used by Saint Augustine is lacking. The difference is evidently a question of category, not simply quality, where the category is manifestly foundational.
Of course, the traditional understanding is not inherently wrong as this is a refinement, not a repudiation. But Saint Augustine (and others) were “categorically” wrong on this point, if the category is accepted.
Logic is logic: there is a clear category and subcategory here. This may not be “music to their ears” for the entire Magisterium. However, the category regarding Christ is simple enough, which isn’t new outside of the name. But there is the clear implication regarding the subcategory and its implications, which brings to the floor the divisive contention that years ago Vatican II wanted to avoid. Though again, what is new is essentially the name that highlights the logic.
At this point, a few examples from private revelation are worth mentioning. From The Apostolate of Holy Motherhood (which bears an imprimatur), within the context of Catholics who reject Mary, the Christ Child said “They deny My Mother her rightful place in her own Church.” The full message includes the language “the very Church I founded” and “My Church.” Yet, Jesus indicates the union with His Queen Mother by saying it is “her own Church” as well.
The Marian Movement of Priests provides another example of the usage of “Her Church.” The usual phrase in the messages is “the Church.” But on more than a dozen occasions (in the English translation), the Virgin used the phrase “my Church.”
An interesting implicit example can be found in a recent message from Medjugorje: “Through love, Jesus seeks unity between Heaven and earth; between the Heavenly Father and you, my children - His Church.” It is as if She wanted to also say “My Church” but didn’t, as if humbly waiting for formal recognition.
The sentence immediately following is also interesting: “Therefore, it is necessary to pray much, to pray and love the Church to which you belong.” In Medjugorje, the Blessed Mother often expresses Her solidarity by reminding us that She too had to go through the trials of this life. But not so here. Mary said “the Church to which your belong,” carefully omitting Herself, albeit the reference of what follows is the Church Militant.
This was just repeated, six months later, with the Queen of Peace invoking Her title as Mother of the Church and contains the exhortation to “pray for your Church.” Or is that making too much of this? Perhaps, but then again…
One final example is from the recently approved apparitions at San Nicolas, Argentina. The excerpt is a rather stark passage, which reads: “The enemy is challenging me pitilessly; he is tempting my children openly. It is a war between light and darkness, a constant persecution of my dear Church.”
The Blessed Virgin Mary isn’t so much the Queen as She is the Queen Mother. More often than not, when She speaks, it is from that perspective, always exhorting “my children” to place the things of Heaven first. One of the infrequent exceptions was at Lourdes when She declared “I am the Immaculate Conception.” Interestingly, Monsignor John Walsh states this was pronounced “in a voice that trembled.” And such is our Queen.
The Final Dogma
To reiterate the core point of the syllogism, if Mary is the Queen of the Church, there is the membership issue (the self-inclusion problem). And if Mary is not the Queen of the Church, how is She the Queen of the Universe? (another inclusion problem) However, significantly, the Church has never declared Mary to be the Queen of the Church.
This brings us to the root of the issue; namely, Mary’s final crowning per the triple-crown of Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix of All Grace and Advocate as represented by the Final Marian Dogma. The proposed dogma deals with Mary’s role in Heaven regarding how She participated in meriting the grace of Redemption (Co-Redemptrix), how She distributes that grace (Mediatrix), and how She intercedes for us to obtain that grace (Advocate).
The ongoing work of the Redemption is the Church’s mission, and that is exactly what the proposed dogma describes in terms of Mary’s role. Raising this ancient doctrine to the level of dogma would provide a doctorial clarity that impacts the membership issue.
Pope Pius XII wrote in Ad Caeli Reginam that “a new truth” on Mary’s Queenship would not be proposed here because its basis has “already been clearly set forth… in ancient documents of the Church and in… the sacred liturgy.” In brief, “the title and… Mary's queenly dignity” are already established. Yet, there is the self-inclusion problem.
Pius XII stated the basis of Mary’s Queenship is established. In terms of something completely new, Maryologists concur that all of the big pieces are already known. From that it follows the Queenship of Mary resides in exactly what the Church already teaches (subject to refinement).
Hence, in that sense and within those limits, Mary is the Queen of the Church. It is Her Church, the rest are subjects in terms of grace for Mary is the “Dispensatrix of all graces,” as Pope Pius VII said two centuries ago. To be sure, grace “is dispensed from God to Christ, from Christ to the Virgin, from the Virgin to us,” and in all ways Christ is infinitely supreme with Mary completely subordinate. So Mary is no more than those limits, but also no less.
Pope Pius X, citing Saint Bernard and Saint Bernardine of Sienna, said Mary is the channel through which Christ’s graces flow, from the Head to the body: She is the neck. As previously noted, this traditional understanding, from the 12th and 15th centuries respectively, does place Mary separate from the body (a quasi-member) while connected (as queen) to the head.
It is pertinent here to consider how Mary transmits all graces. It may be via a moral causality, or as Garrigou-Lagrange said, after citing several arguments, “as it would appear… by physical instrumental causality.” For just one example, Father Hugon notes that the neck analogy seems to require physical instrumentality for it to retain its full force.
What is at stake is whether every grace we receive is through Her prayer only, or actually through Her action as well. It would be quite the “member” through whom all grace, the essential life blood of our salvation, is transmitted by direct physical intervention, of course, subordinate to Her Son.
Physical instrumentality is theologically only a “serious probability” with Garrigou-Lagrange further stating “it does not seem possible prove [it] with certainty.” Though it cannot be ruled out and a break-through in understanding cannot be ruled out either.
The neck analogy is based on grace. Grace breaks the membership equation, and grace considered as a source creates a self-inclusion. These two criteria alone form a solid logical foundation of why Mary is above the mystical body, which parallels Jesus being the head (though in the absolute sense verses Mary’s subordinate dominance).
But in addition, the “inside view” demonstrates that Mary is a subordinate self-including member. This reveals that the neck analogy is actually a substantive subcategory. As the main category is the logic of the Incarnation, the Mother of God being in a subcategory is quite natural and almost to be expected.
Furthermore, grace as a source goes beyond Mary’s role as Mediatrix. Her role as Co-Redemptrix raises being the immediate source (relative) to the realm of the actual source because of Her unique active participation in obtaining the grace merited by Christ. Finally, Her role as Advocate brings this full circle as She pleads on our behalf to obtain grace.
The Mother “pleading” is actual a self-inclusion when greatness is measured in terms of “sending” petitions. The Virgin is the immediate “receptacle,” even when petitions are not directly addressed through Her. This is because Mary obtains all grace for us: Her mediation is universal (this is theologically certain). Though, in brief, the “pleading” aspect is the “ascending” side of mediation, with distribution of grace the “descending,” as these go hand-in-hand, as they do for Christ as well.
Altogether, from this viewpoint which includes the doctrinal concepts of the Final Dogma to an already solid foundation, logic dictates that the “full force” of the neck analogy is required. But Father Hugon says the “full force” implies physical instrumentality in transmitting grace. Yet, however, the “seems to” qualifier remains. Or does the neck being an actually subcategory have bearing on that qualifier?
The Church is a bit “schizophrenic” as it most profoundly and affectionately recognizes the Virgin Mary as its eminent Queen, but the Council didn’t bat an eye at calling Her a member. But that wasn’t the issue. The contention that divided the Council Fathers down the middle was in large part over Mary’s role as Co-Redemptrix. The basic concept was included, but the opposition won in terms of shunning the explicit language. And while the turmoil that erupted after the Council wasn’t directly due to it, the turmoil was essentially a spiritual war. It is only fair to point out that the “generals” were divided on a rather important point.
And so, the diagnosis of schizophrenia is that this is doctrinal development in the process of unfolding, and not without strife. The core theology is there. But the Queenship as a liturgical feast was only first celebrated in 1955.
The missing piece is the complete and full recognition of the Queenship, in other words, the Final Dogma. While the title Queen of the Church is not synonymous with the Dogma, it is very closely related. The Church, for good reason, has been reluctant to grant this title. It must be done precisely so as not to obscure the primacy of Christ, while still bringing out its fullness. There are Ecumenical considerations as well.
Hence, the doctrinal clarity of the 5th Marian Dogma will probably prove necessary before the Magisterium recognizes Mary with the title: Queen of the Church. The same could be conjectured regarding recognizing the self-including categorization, which highlights that headship is essentially about category of membership, not membership itself. Though on the other hand, it could go in the reverse order.
But in the end, after the dust has settled, the bland membership language can finally be relinquished to Venn diagrams and the occasional theological work which needs that strictest sense.
On the surface, the propriety of calling the Queen Mother a member may not appear to be a burning issue. Yet, actually it is. Not the language matter per se, which is largely a corollary, but rather the pending dogmatic definition. However, this is not a problem: it is, well, the solution. For the peace prophesized at Fatima hinges on it, as revealed in the Amsterdam apparitions (Church approved per local ordinary), and as stated in the portion from the May 31st, 1954 message:
“Once the dogma, the final dogma in Marian history, has been proclaimed, the Lady of All Nations will grant peace, true peace, to the world. The nations, however, must pray my prayer, together with the Church. They shall know that the Lady of All Nations has come as Coredemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate. So be it.”
The promised peace. In a world beset with so many troubles, deep and systemic; and seemingly worsening, it is a bold statement to promise peace. Such a prediction could easily be half-believed, or worse, forgotten from the day to day lives of the faithful as they strive to perform their duties and fulfill their vocations as Christians. But peace is a constant theme of the modern Marian apparitions. There are others, and other requests and contingencies, but the “must pray my prayer” condition is crucial.
This refers to the prayer dictated by the Lady of All Nations on February 11th, 1951. It parallels the Miraculous Medal as that preceded the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. Nothing seems more needful today than to “Let the Holy Spirit live in the hearts of all nations” for the reason “that they may be preserved from degeneration, disaster and war.”
Can a short prayer saved the world? Could Naaman only be cured of leprosy by washing seven times in the Jordan? The requests from Fatima (rooted in the call to conversion) are crucial as well, but so is this prayer, to be prayed well. For without Divine Intervention, true peace seems truly impossible, and thus need for prayer and penance.
So today, Jesus, a very, very, very important member, and comrade Mary, await our response. And they await the day the Church will crown the Virgin Mother with the Fifth Marian Dogma. For only then, can the Queen bring peace to all of Her children, the peace that only resides in Christ the King.