By far the most significant criticism, if only on account of its source, has been that of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict.

Ratzinger told a German interviewer in 2000 that the "formula `Co-redemptrix' departs to too great an extent from the language of Scripture and of the (church) Fathers and therefore gives rise to misunderstandings," threatening to "obscure" the status of Christ as the source of all redemption.

"I do not think there will be any compliance with this demand (for papal proclamation of the dogma) within the foreseeable future," he said at the time.

But Benedict has shown increasing openness to the dogma in the years since, proponents say, even though he has never used the word "Coredemptrix" as pope.

"Joseph Ratzinger has never been more Marian than since he became Benedict XVI," Miravalle said.

Calkins, who carefully tracks the pope's statements on "Mary's role in the work of our redemption," said Benedict's words on the subject already fill up 25 pages.

Most of the church's academic experts on Mary continue to oppose the dogma, however, deeming it unnecessary to encourage a proper devotion to Christ's mother.

"To give Mary honor, I would institute a new feast, or a special title," said the Rev. Johann G. Roten, director of the International Marian Research Institute in Dayton, Ohio, and a member of a Vatican panel that unanimously advised against the new dogma in 1996.

Yet Miravalle says papal recognition of Mary as Coredemptrix would be more than a formality; it would lead to an "outpouring of grace," helping to dispel a range of contemporary problems, including abortion, terrorism and natural disasters.

"To the extent that we acknowledge Our Lady's roles, to that extent God allows her to fully exercise those roles," he said. "And we can use some extra grace at this time."

c. 2009 Religion News Service.

Original publication date: May 28, 2009