Rorate Caeli

Our Lady left behind: The Marian Question in Vatican II
Second part: the faithful must "purify" their devotion in the name of ecumenism. The closest vote of the Council.

Fra Angelico
Coronation of the Virgin

In January 1963, after the closing of the first session, the Council’s coordinating Committee decided that the schema on the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, would be treated separately from the schema De Ecclesia. “There is no doubt - Komonchak admitted - that the schema De Beata Maria Virgine, also regarding Her role as Mediatrix, met with the expectations and desires of a great number of bishops, according to their vota beforehand.

The Schema constitutionis dogmaticae de [Beata] Maria [Virgine] was sent to the Fathers during the month of May [1963]. Neither the decision, nor the approved text, pleased Father Rahner, who in a written text addressed to all of the participants at the Fulda conference [of German-speaking Council Fathers and their experts] in August 1963, expressed his great concern regarding the document. These (concerns) – he assured – were shared by Fathers Grillmeier and Semmelroth. If the text were adopted, he affirmed “it would cause unimaginable harm from the ecumenical point of view regarding both the Orientals and the Protestants" [154]. Certainly, Rahner added, it could not be expected that the schema would be rejected like the one on the sources of Revelation. To reduce its importance, it was necessary to push, with all the insistence possible, for the schema to become a chapter, or the epilogue, of the schema on the Church. This, to his mind, would have been “the easiest means to suppress from the schema the affirmations that theologically, are not sufficiently developed and would do nothing other than create incalculable harm from an ecumenical point of view. Thus, bitter discussions would be avoided”[155].

Fr. Karl Rahner, S.J.
The point that Rahner attacked with the greatest vigor was the teaching of the schema about the mediation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and more precisely the title which was attributed to Her, as “Mediatrix of all graces”. This teaching proposed in the draft not as a dogma of faith, but as an ordinary doctrine of the Church, was rejected by Rahner, because of the negative consequences, that in his opinion, they could have had on Mariology and on the devotion of the faithful towards Mary. The Protestants, in fact, denied any formal cooperation whatsoever of Mary with the Redemption and abhorred the terms “Mediatrix” and even more “Co-Redemptrix”. He concluded affirming that the Bishops of Austria, Germany, and Switzerland had to consider it their duty to assume an open rejection of the schema in its present formulation [156].

The Fulda Conference adopted Rahner’s suggestions, but on the point of Mary’s mediation, it limited its criticism only to the expression “Mediatrix of all graces”. The proposal, officially submitted by the Fathers at the Fulda Conference to the general Secretary of the Council, also cited Protestant fonts, recalling how the Lutheran German bishop Dibelius had declared in 1962 that the teaching of the Catholic Church on Mary was one of the major obstacles to ecumenical unity. According to other German Protestants, the Council Fathers had to remember that, approving a schema on Mary, they would have raised a new wall of division; they would therefore have had to maintain silence on the theme or call to order those who rendered themselves guilty of excesses.

c) The success of the “minimalists” 

On September 30, 1963, the opening day of debates, the “minimalists” immediately asked, by way of Cardinal Frings [157], that all that regarded the Blessed Virgin Mary be absorbed by the schema on the Church, intended to facilitate ecumenical dialogue with the separated brethren. The following day Cardinal Silva Henríquez [Archbishop of Santiago de Chile - 158] also sustained that in Latin America the devotion to the Virgin Mary exceeded the limits of Christian devotion and that the approval of a schema on the Madonna would have worsened the situation. Consequently, on behalf of 44 bishops from Latin American countries, he supported Cardinal Frings’s proposal. Similar declarations were made that same morning by Abp. Garrone [159], Archbishop of Toulouse, on behalf of  “many French bishops”, by Abp. Elchinger [160] and by Abp. Méndez Arceo [161].
Cardinal König and the Dalai Lama, 1973

On October 4, the English and Welsh hierarchy intervened in favour of Frings’s proposal. On the same day a text drawn up by the Servite Fathers was distributed to the Council Fathers, in which they suggested that, alongside the title of “Mediatrix” , also the title of “Co-redemptrix” should be used. Father Balić, expert in the Theological Commission, in turn, circulated a document in which he set out the reasons why the schema on the Blessed Virgin Mary had to remain separated from the one on the Church. Also Cardinal Arriba y Castro [162], Archbishop of Tarragona, speaking on behalf of 60 Spanish bishops, declared that, given the importance of the Mother of God in the economy of the Redemption, contrary to what had until that moment been sustained, it would have been preferable to adopt a separate schema on the Blessed Virgin Mary [163]. The discussion continued with interventions of opposing trends. On October 24, the Cardinal Moderators announced that seeing the great number of Fathers that had requested the inclusion of the schema on the Blessed Virgin Mary within the one on the Church, the Holy Father had charged the doctrinal Commission to choose two from among its members to expose their different positions. 

The Commission designated Cardinal Rufino Santos [164], of Manila, as advocate for a separate draft schema and Cardinal Franz König of Vienna as advocate for the absorption. The two Council Fathers exposed their contrasting propositions in aula on October 24 [165]. The Archbishop of Manila enunciated 10 arguments in favor of the separate schema, affirming that Our Lady is the first and principal member of the Church, but at the same time is above the Church and, according to Saint Bernard’s judgment, “stat intra Christum et Ecclesia” [stands between Christ and the Church]. The faithful – he added – would have interpreted the incorporation of De Beata into the De Ecclesia as a sign of lessening Marian devotion. König affirmed, on the contrary, that the faithful had “to purify” their Marian devotion in order to avoid their attachment to that which was secondary and accidental and, above all, in order not to damage the cause of ecumenism

The texts of the two Cardinals’ reports were distributed on October 25. The “Ecclesiotypical” concept of the “minimalists" aimed at the relativisation of the Blessed Virgin’s role, which considered Her in relationship not with Her Divine Son, but with the ordinary faithful in the Church [166]. They overturned the traditional conception that had always considered Mary not as a figure of, but as a model for the Church. Indeed, “the figure is inferior to the figurative, of which it constitutes the effect, while the exemplary is superior to its image and it constitutes the cause. Therefore, it is rather the Church that is the image and figure of the Virgin” [167]. On October 29, the following question was put to vote: "Does it please the Council Fathers that the schema regarding the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, be revised in order to become the VI Chapter of the schema on the Church?" The results of the vote were 1,114 in favor, 1,074 against. For the first time the assembly found itself split in two, with a disparity of only 40 votes; the division corresponded to that of two opposing theological visions and marked a victory for the “minimalists”, even if by a small margin [169]. According to Melissa Wilde , the success of the Progressives, was caused less by their strength, than due to the weakness of the Conservatives, who had still not found any organizational form. Despite the efforts of some of them, like Father  Balić, who, on his own initiative, distributed his writings to the Council Fathers, they lacked a coordinated and systematic action. “As the Council was voting on Mary, the leaders of the CIP (Coetus Internationalis Patrum) were just beginning to correspond and had still not seriously constituted their organization. It was, in fact, the defeat of the Marian schema, along with the disastrous votes on collegiality the following day, that forced the conservatives into organizing themselves better (…). The evidence shows that they would have been able to do much more regarding the Marian schema if they had been better organized beforehand in the Council.” [170] 

[Roberto de Mattei, Il Concilio Vaticano II: una storia mai scritta (The Second Vatican Council – a never before written history) Chapter IV - 1963 THE SECOND SESSION - No. 6 – The Marian Question, pages 314-324. Second and last part.]

[Translation: Contributor Francesca Romana]


153 J. KOMONCHAK, La lotta per il Concilio durante la preparazione (The fight for the council during preparations) cit., P.277. Also SALVATORE PERRELLA, I “vota” e i “consilia” dei vescovi italiani sulla mariologia e sulla corredenzione nella fase antepreparatoria del Concilio Vaticano II, Marianum, Rome 1994. 154 WILTGEN, P.90. 155 Ibid. p. 91.
156 WILTGEN, P.91. Anche ANTONIO ESCUDERO CABELLO, La cuestiòn de la mediaciòn matiana en la preparaciòn del Vaticano II. Elementos para una evaluaciòn de los trabajos preconcilares, LAS, Rome 1997.

157 AS (Acta Synodalia sacrosanti Concilii Oecumenici Vaticani II 1970-1980, Typis Vaticanis, Citta del Vaticano 1970-1999. II/I,pp.343-346.
158 Ibid, pp. 366-368. 159 Ibid, pp.374-375. 160 Ibid, pp.378-380. 161 Ibid, pp. 385-386.
162 Benjamìn de Arriba y Castro (1886-1973), Spanish, ordained in 1912. Archbishop of Tarragona from 1949 to 1970, created cardinal in 1953.
163 As, II/2, pp. 14-16.
164 Rufino J. Santos (1908-1973), Philipine, ordained in 1931. Auxiliary Bishop (1947), then Archbishop of Manila from 1953 until his death. Created cardinal in 1960. Member of the central Preparatory Commission and the Doctrinal Commission.
165 AS, II/3, pp. 338-342 and pp.342-345.
166 FRANCOIS-MARIE o.f.m.., La nouvelle mariologie dans chapitre 8 de Lumen Gentium, in L’unité spirituelle du genre humain, pp.272-273 (pp.269-288).
167 Ibid, p.282. 168 AS, II/I, p.627; CAPRILE, vol.III, PP.160-163.
169 For a total description of his concepts, LAURENTIN, La Vierge au Concile, cit., P.138.
170 Melissa Wilde, Vatican II: a sociological analysis of religious change, Princeton University Press, Oxford 2007 – p.108.


  1. Prof. Basto3:34 AM

    The Council wanted to please the Protestants, and lost the Catholics.

    Such was the degree of change and decay, and of abandonment and ridicule of old devotions, that the evidence of historical continuity, in terms of coherence of tought, in terms of the continuity of the religious beliefs, became harder to grasp, so that, in order to continue believing in the Church, one needs to put a lot of effort. It is indeed a leap of Faith.

    It is no surprise that millions of people stopped believing in the supernatural character of the Church, and on her historical continuity of belief, once they witnessed her changing her and attitudes even in such themes as Mariology, the veberation of the Saints, etc. Because we affirm that the doctrine is the same, but in actuallity the attitudes are clouded by new toughts. That is why new Churches are built without icons of the saints, etc. Consider the horrid new Church in Fátima.

    And, in a way, Vatican II formally got along with that attitude when it decided to diminush the honour due to Our Lady under the pretext of appeasing Protestant heresy.

  2. Julia of Arc3:48 AM

    I am very thankful for this letter from Roberto De Mattei.I have enjoyed also other articles written by him. I find so hard to believe that so many Bishops during the VII would so easily embrace ecumenism and talk of Mary simply as Our Lady of Graces. Those bishops today are cardinals and they keep on defending ecumenism at all cost and call it dialogue! They want to be unclear in their teaching so they have ended up forming a fake catholic church that pretends to be side by side with the true catholic church.

  3. I believe that the definition of the dogma of Mary Co-Redemptrix may be the ultimate turning point, and the last great dogmatic definition to be made. Can you imagine how that would divide the sheep from the goats? I predict that it will happen eventually, and that it will secure the final victory for the church militant.

  4. And by the way, when is this marvelous and revealing book going to finally be published in English?

  5. Thank you for this most useful piece of research. The press reports of the Second Vatican Council delayed my becoming a Catholic for nearly thirty years.

    God bless!

  6. Stefano10:34 AM

    In a 1957 interview with Father Fuentes, Sister Lucia stated, "God is about to chastise the world in a terrible manner. The punishment from Heaven is imminent." The Third Secret of Fatima was to be made public in 1960 and its message concerned only the Catholic Faith. The Hierarchy has paid a heavy price for ignoring the Fatima message resulting in a catastrophic loss of faith.

  7. NIANTIC12:41 PM

    @Prof.Basto; "The Council wanted to please the Protestants, and lost the Catholics".
    Yes, indeed. That ought to be carved onto the Vll tombstone AND ought to be the headline banner for the upcoming "anniversary".

  8. This is nothing but monstrous.
    According to other German Protestants, the Council Fathers had to remember that, approving a schema on Mary, they would have raised a new wall of division"

    Really, It's the protestants that they themselves put up the wall of division. I wonder how many of these people even know what the Brown Scapular is.

  9. Virgil12:49 PM

    New Catholic,

    Between this series on the Marian debates before and during the Council from de Mattei, the position papers of FIUV, in addition to your excellent commentary and reporting on issues that matter to the traditional world, Rorate continues to outshine itself. Thank you for this!

  10. Torkay2:32 PM

    So much for the Holy Ghost "protecting the documents of Vatican II." Fr. Malachi Martin has the best thumbnail sketch of Rahner in "The Jesuits."

  11. "The Council wanted to please the Protestants, and lost the Catholics".

    But to be more precise, it wanted to please the liberal Protestants, who many Council fathers and periti clearly envied and sympathized with.

  12. Very few people know that the Dali Lama got that position because he is the seventh son of Mama Lama.

    The first six sons were named:
    Tab Lama
    Rufus Lama
    Meadowlark Lama
    Percy Lama
    Vito Lama
    Obama Lama (Phew, that was close)

  13. Ecumenism is the enemy of The Immaculata! (Fr Maximilien Kolbe)


  14. I think this is making a mountain out of a mole hill. Many clergy saw that Marian devotion had taken on the role of culturally usurping devotion to Jesus. That is why it is observed that, the "Archbishop of Santiago de Chile also sustained that in Latin America the devotion to the Virgin Mary exceeded the limits of Christian devotion and that the approval of a schema on the Madonna would have worsened the situation... Similar declarations were made that same morning by the Archbishop of Toulouse, on behalf of 'many French bishops'..." Maybe they were in fact on to something. No doctrine about Mary was denied. The Marian teachings were simply placed in subordination to the teachings on Her Son, in a move reflecting sound Christology. To DENY Marian truths is to be unCatholic. To contextualize them is not. The current crisis is not due to a de-emphasis of Marian doctrine, but a denial of fundamental Christological doctrines! Rahner may have been problematic, yes, but his involvement does not nullify something, anymore than Garrigou-Lagrange's automatically certifies something. Ratzinger also seems to approve of the Marian decisions at Vatican II... and he has proven a far cry from Rahner. Marian truth is important, but the fundamental question remains "What think ye of Christ?', and NOT "What think Ye of Mary?" The two are related but they are not the same. Vatcian II seems to have sensed that. Sure the vote was close, but the reason they have votes in the first place is to settle contentious issues. It got settled.

  15. JM
    No devotion to Mary usurps the devotion to Jesus.
    Per Mariam Ad Iesum - remember?
    And - De Maria nunquam satis.

    You think st. Montfort and st. Kolbe forgot about Jesus since all they were talking about was: "Glory to the Immaculate."? I read Maximilian's diaries, articles and letters. This phrase is an ending to almost any of his writings...

    No no mister. She is the one who teaches us how to love our Lord...

  16. Barbara9:59 AM

    “I think this is making a mountain out of a mole hill.”

    Your comment is very sad, JM, also because so many Catholics think in the same way nowadays. Were the minimalists right after all? NO! Have they won? NO! It only appears that way – as it appears that way with the norm of the New Order of the Mass.

    You also wrote: “but the reason they have votes in the first place is to settle contentious issues. It got settled.” IT IS FAR FROM SETTLED, JM. There is no settlement here. According to this report, minimizing Our Lady’s role in the work of the Redemption was a planned attack of the modernist -protestant- inclined Fathers at the Council. This has cost the Church and us most dearly in the loss of a distinctly Catholic identity not to mention Our Lady’s protection and intercession because of the lack of devotion and prayers to Her by so many Catholics over the past fifty years. See what misery and confusion engulfs the Church now – it cannot be denied! What skullduggery went on during that Marian debate at the Council on account of ecumenism and pleasing the Protestants! The minimizing of Our Lady is yet another aspect of the loss of transcendence in our Holy Faith

    I read that people after the council were encouraged to discard the rosary and read the Bible instead. More protestant than that? Why weren’t they told to do both? The protestants resent Our Lady. Don’t ask me why – I have no idea why they would resent the Most Holy Mother of God – but I have seen their disdain and distaste for Her. They want to erase the Marian interpretation of “the Woman clothed with the sun and the moon under Her feet and on Her head a crown of twelve stars” – reducing the Immaculate Conception – unique creature - to the same level as any other woman who walks or has walked the face of earth This is no settlement. Our Lady has had THOUSANDS of wonderful titles in use for centuries all over the world – this cannot be dismissed as unimportant. And look at what Dante wrote about the fairest of women:

    “O Virgin Mother, Daughter of thy Son/ Lowliest and loftiest of created stature/Fixed goal to which the eternal counsels run/Thou art that She by whom our human nature/Was so ennobled that it might become/The Creator to create Himself His creature. […] Lady, so great thou art and such thy might/The seeker after grace who shuns thy knee/May aim his prayer, but fails to wing the flight.”

    From this article: “In particular, Pius XII saw in the increasing devotion of the faithful to the Virgin “the most encouraging sign of the times”146 and “ an infallible touchstone in distinguishing true Christians from false ones”147.

    Have the excesses been corrected as a result of the minimizing of Our Lady at the Council? I read somewhere recently that the Church in South America (the excesses were underlined in that continent in the debate reported) is losing, at present, many people to the evangelical protestants . If this is correct, something does not add up. Things have been turned up-side-down. Besides, the excesses are another matter – to be corrected in another way – not by undermining the role of the Mother of God.

    Well, this minimalist approach does not convince and is quite dull and grey and uninspiring and man-made in it’s nuances – as Protestantism always is.

    Poor Minimalists – they don’t have a clue as to what they are missing……as for me I am with all the Saints, the Maximalists, Dante and Wordsworth and the countless others over the centuries who have understood Our Lady’s role in the work of the Redemption.

    Holy Mary, Mother of Sorrows, intercede for us all before your Divine Son.


  17. Gratias5:53 AM

    Very informative excerpt from Dr. De Mattei's book. The VC2 Fathers rejected the Virgin Mary to please Protestants and got nowhere.

    In Latin America devotion to the Virgin Mary was immense. It probably still is. Devotion to the Virgin Mary could go a long way in restoring Catholicity to the OF mass. Fortunately in our EF we pray the rosary before, and after Low masses say three Ave Marias with the Leonine prayer after mass is ended.

    I have asked several parish priests from our Novus Ordo parish why the Hail Mary is never prayed. They gave vague answers. In Mexico I have seen priests say a Hail Mary before the dismissal, just as an add-on. It worked fine and the OF can be whatever the priest wants it to be.

    But the Protestantization of the Church has not succeeded completely. Here in Los Angeles about half of our many cars have a rosary hanging from the rear view mirror. I have seen young people wearing rosaries as necklaces in Europe, USA and Mexico.

    "The Council wanted to please the Protestants, and lost the Catholics." Priceless wisdom, Dr. Basto.

  18. "this minimalist approach does not convince and is quite dull and grey"

    Barbara, I would have to agree with you here. The fascinating thing is all the reasoned and balanced talk about Mary and Scripture scholarship ends up not enticing people but pushing them towards a more modernistic stance it seems. As for "Protestantization," all I will add is that the Protestant impulse at Vatican II was a mirror image of the Catholic reaching out. Both represented the more liberal side of their churches. As a convert, I still claim Evangelicals, despite their anti-Catholic stance, have helped to maintain orthodoxy and Biblicism.

  19. The license taken in the interpretation of the Vatican II documents resulted in a rapid and severe decline in Marian devotion in the United States and other developed countries. The period from 1965-1974 has become known as "The Decade Without Mary" because of this. In an effort to correct this crisis, Pope Paul VI issued Marialis Cultus in 1974, to exhort his fellows bishops to take notice of "this troubled aspect of our tradition." Sadly, by the time the document was issued, the damage was already done and we are still fighting today to restore Our Lady's honor in the Church 40 years later. You need not look far to understand this, just try to find regular Marian devotions in our parishes (or how many Catholics today even know how to pray the Rosary) or recall how many homilies you have heard at a Sunday Mass that include mention of Our Lady in the last 40 years. And does anyone really know any longer that October is the month of the Rosary in the Church? Or ask any devout Catholic in their
    80s or 90s and you may hear horrific stories of rosaries being ripped out of hands and statues being dumped in alleys outside of churches not long after Vatican II.

    These actions hurt Our Lord and His Church. These actions were not of God and the Church has suffered because of it. How profoundly sad we could ever think denigrating the Mother of God who is also Our Mother (John 19:26-27), and those who love her, is a good thing. No one who truly loves Our Lord could have done such things. HOW could such things be pleasing to the Most Holy Trinity? Shame on all those intellectuals who thought they were doing something good in the interest of ecumenism, or whatever they thought they were doing. Rightly ordered ecumenism does not hide the truth but speaks it in love for love of the salvation of souls. And there is a very basic truth that needs to be shared here: The goal of the Christian life is union with God, literally to become "other Christs", to be divinized. One simply can not become an "other Christ" - be completely conformed to Him - if that soul does not love His Mother, Mary. Why? Because Jesus loved His Mother and if we are truly to become "Him", we must love her too. That's just the way it is.

    When the Mother is away, when the Mother is pushed aside, the children suffer, and we, the members of the Body of Christ, have been suffering now for decades. The glory of the Church will be restored when the Ark of the Covenant, Our Beloved Mother Mary, is restored. May God be glorified in all we do, particularly in our love for her, Our Blessed Mother.


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