Pope John Paul II on Justification and Mariology

Abstract from the original German talks given at the German Mariological Consortium on Influece of Mary on Pope John Paul II, provided by Sister M. Danielle Peters.

The Ecumenical Litmus Test: A Mariological Re-lecture of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification of October 31, 1999

– Michael Kreuzer1

Kreuzer wishes to examine whether or not there exists reciprocity between the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification of October 31, 1999 and (Catholic) Mariology and whether or not Mariology can contribute to progress in ecumenism. The author studies this question with the help of three German Mariological publications released between 1999 and 2001.2

Kreuzer summarizes K. Menke’s The Word was made Flesh in the Virgin Mary by re-stating the two classic positions: while catholic theology declares Mary’s "yes" as archetype of the new covenant in which grace is accepted according to the modus of giving and of cooperating with one’s mission, reformed theology considers Mary as the exemplary person who solely trusts in God and owes everything to his grace and justification.3 W. Beinert, too, presents Mary as the classic example of God’s act of justification. The event of the Annunciation individualizes the covenant in Mary’s life which at the same time is the axis of salvation history. Analogous to the covenant structure God demands Mary’s free "yes" for the Incarnation to be actualized. Mary gives her yes based on her faith. Mary is elected sola gratia, she speaks her fiat sola fide. This “unique historical event” constitutes “the model for God’s interaction with people.”4 Beinert’s conclusion is that according to St. Paul, to Lutherans and to the Joint Declaration, justification happens sola gratia and sola fide. Beinert denies Mary’s cooperation at the Annunciation. The Incarnation according to him is solely God’s initiative which does not include human cooperation. He considers Mary’s receptivity for God’s was not an action per se but merely a supposition for the Incarnation to take place.

The third text by Heinz Schütte is a talk given at the convention of the Consortium of Marian Associations of Germany in 1999. Its title Mary – Archetype of a Succeeding/Successful Occurrence of Justification and Type of the Church [Maria – Urbild gelingenden Rechtfertigungsgeschehens und Typus der Kirche]. Schütte examines the text of the Joint Declaration in view of its application to Mariology. Kreuzer observes imprecision in terms of the binding character of the Joint Declaration for both denominations as well as of the author’s knowledge of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. He also criticizes that Schütte does not once refer to the text of the Joint Declaration.

Kreuzer then examines the actual text of the Joint Declaration which does not directly refer to Mary. However its numbers 37-39 highlight the relationship of grace and human cooperation with grace. Both denominations agree that there is and has to be human cooperation with grace. The question is the efficacy of cooperation. Are good works merely a sign of and a consequence of the existence of grace or do they also provide the preservation of grace? The answer is not given in the Joint declaration.

Kreuzer concludes by citing Catholic echoes to the Joint Declaration which seem to converge with the sola gratia approach. For Kreuzer this constitutes a paradox: classic Catholic Mariology is not compatible with the Joint Declaration. Any attempt to bring Catholic Mariology in sync with the Joint Declaration arrives at a new interpretation of Mariology. How can this be reconciled with John Paul II’s comment to see in the person of the Blessed Virgin Mary the measure of interpreting the Joint Declaration?


[1] Mariologische Studien. Volume XVIII: Totus Tuus – Maria in Leben und Lehre Johannes Pauls II. Edited by Anton Ziegenaus. Regensburg 2004.

[2] Menke, Karl Heinz. Fleisch geworden aus Maria. Die Geschichte Israels und der Marienglaube der Kirche. Regensburg 1999. Beinert, Wolfgang. Maria, Spiegel der Erwartungen Gottes und der Menschen. Regensburg 2001. Arbeitsgemeinschaft Marianischer Vereinigungen in Deutschland. Maria und der Weg zur Einheit. Beiträge zur Ökumene. Leutesdorf 2000.

[3] Cf. Menke 166.

[4] Cf. Beinert 131.

More Information

International Marian Research Institute

300 College Park 
Dayton, Ohio 45469 

Connect