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Brenda wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • Is it official Church Teaching that all requests to Jesus must first pass through Mary?

I can understand asking her to pray for something specific, but all our prayer requests!!

  • Is she always the quickest path to Jesus?

I know she is a great intercessor, but, perhaps, our prayers don't often merit a quick response.

  • Does imitation of Mary equal devotion to her?
  • How does she guide the Church besides through her intercession on our behalf?

Finally, in Redemptoris Mater, Pope John Paul II suggests that we meet Mary in her shrines.

Though I may have accidentally misquoted this, a little more explanation would be helpful.

Also, he states that one should incorporate Mary into all aspects of life.

  • How is this done?

I read the whole document and found the Late Pope's words easy to understand. It actually cleared up some misconceptions one may have regarding Catholic doctrine and teaching on Mary.

I would suggest to any other Protestants or others, who like me, want to know more about Mary
to read this document.


  { Is it official Church teaching that all requests to Jesus must first pass through Mary? }

and in a similar question:

Brenda wrote:

Hi, guys —

I understand the Catholic Church's definition of Mary as Co-Redemptrix. If I'm correct, all it means is that Mary participated in the life of Jesus, including His Death on the Cross. This participation, she undertook willingly.

I have no problem understanding that dogma but, I really don't get the title of Mediatrix of All Graces.

  • Is this just a fancy-schmancy way of saying that she is an intercessor for us?
  • How does she "dispense" grace?

One of the popes (I believe is was the last Leo), stated that since we can go to Jesus through Mary, all grace from God comes to us from Mary.

So, does this mean:

A. that Since Mary gave birth to Jesus, she is the Mother of Grace,
B. that her intercessory prayer to God leads to His giving us His grace, and
C. that we receive the grace, favors, and gifts of God through Mary.

This last point is particularly troubling. I understand Mary is subordinate to Christ, but, this last point seems to relegate her to a sort of "treasurer", who delivers God's grace to everyone.

  • Has this last point been formally defined by the Church?

Perhaps I'm missing something here. Lastly, what do any apologists on the AskACatholic team, think of the titles of Co-Redemptrix or Mediatrix of All Graces. Quite honestly, they are confusing to Catholics and Protestants alike.

A better explanation of the latter would be most helpful.



  { Can you explain Mary as Mediatrix of All Graces and Co-Redemptrix? }

John replied:

Hi, Brenda —

The titles imply a function, i.e., co-redemption or mediation of all graces. Mary served and continues to serve these functions. That said, we have no dogmatic definition as to how Mary is the Mediatrix of All Graces. Hence, we can have varying theories as to how, and to what extent, these functions work.

For example, it is perfectly acceptable to say: Since Christ, in the Incarnation, personifies all grace, Mary mediated between Heaven and Earth by bringing Christ into the world.

Hope this helps,

John DiMascio

Mary Ann replied:

Hi, Brenda —

You may pray however you wish. No one has to pray to Mary but Mary dispenses all the favors, in the sense that through her, Christ comes into the world. That is her role. She fulfills it regardless of whether we pay attention to her or not, as any mother takes care of her children, regardless of how they treat her.

It is good to pray to Jesus, to the Holy Spirit, to the Father, to St. Joseph and other Saints and Angels, and every Saint has had his or her own special devotion, but the closer you are to any of them, the closer you are to Mary. If you follow the Holy Spirit, you will find Mary by your side. If you pray to St. Joseph, ditto. One should not force a particular devotion.

Often, God allows us to grow gradually in our understanding and appreciation of Mary, because of natural situations and psychologies that may interfere with relating to her. People have historical, theological, and personal relationship problems that get in the way of seeing and loving Mary.
God heals these things in time, but it is important to have a basic respect for Mary and knowledge of her role. It is important to imitate her (the truest devotion!) because she is the pattern of the perfect disciple. You can do this directly or indirectly.

  • Directly, it is a matter of imitating her faith in and obedience to God's word.
  • Indirectly, it is a matter of following the Word, which is Christ — that is, of imitating Christ.

When we get "hung up" on some aspect of the faith, we should relax. We should ask for the Holy Spirit and we should continue in prayer and simple trust, and everything will work out. Eventually, we will see as much as God wants us to see. That is what Mary did.

Mary Ann

Mary Ann followed-up:

Brenda —

When I say "it is good to pray to Jesus", etc. it should be corrected. It is not just "good", it is necessary! All prayer goes to God through Christ in the Holy Spirit. Mary prays with us and with the whole Church, for all our needs. She is indispensable in the plan of salvation.

It is not Catholic Teaching that she is the one who offers our prayers to the Lord and it is not Catholic dogma that she is Mediatrix of All Graces, because the understanding of that term is varied and subject to misinterpretation.

She is, however, the one who:

  • brought Christ to birth
  • who offered Him to the Father, and
  • around whom the Church gathered to receive the Spirit.

She continues those roles in our lives.

Mary Ann

Terry replied:

Dear Brenda:

Thank you for your perceptive questions about Mary's titles of honor: Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix of All Graces, and Advocate. You point out that these titles are confusing and ambiguous, especially to Christians of the reformed tradition. The answer is simple — they are technical theological terms, which when rightly understood, make good sense. One has to explain that "co" (from the Latin cum), in Co-Redeemer, means with the Redeemer and not equal to. Many have tried to find alternatives without success. It is no more ambiguous than the term Mother of God!

There is ample evidence from Scripture, the Fathers, the Liturgy, Papal documents, and theological opinion to support the belief that this is a doctrine held and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium of the Catholic Church. In brief, Mary's role in the history of salvation is that of a universal Mediatrix "participating" in the work of the unique Mediator, Jesus Christ.
As the New Eve, Mary is the associate and helper of Christ, the New Adam, in the acquisition of the grace of redemption and reconciliation. By the grace of God, she gave her informed consent to be the Mother of the Redeemer, thus actively cooperating in the work of redemption and so becoming a co-redeemer with Christ. As Spiritual Mother in the order of grace, Mary "participates" with the one Mediator in the application of the graces of the Redemption, through her intercession and advocacy.

It is a doctrine of profound theological and pastoral significance. Whereas the virginal conception of Jesus and the dogma of the Theotokos (God-bearer) are important statements about Christ, this doctrine is about the vocation and mission of the Church. That the Second Vatican Council Fathers should include Mary in the schema on the Church, and Pope Paul VI proclaim Mary to be the Mother of the Church, would seem to be prophetic. A clear understanding and expression of Mary's role as Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate would clarify the role of the Church and Her members in the work of redemption.

Mary Co-Redemptrix

I am interested that you have little problem with the concept of Mary's role as Co-Redemptrix.
For many people, this is the greater problem. The Redemption of the human race could only be achieved by a human being who was also divine. Our Redemption was entirely the work of Jesus Christ — a man who was personally God, so that what He did, as the representative man, had infinite merit.

However, Mary actively participated in that work in that she cooperated with God the Father at the Annunciation. God has given His creatures the freedom to accept or reject His love. Mary's "Yes" was an act of loving obedience to the Father on behalf of all mankind. Her "Yes" to God was a necessary condition for the Incarnation of the Redeemer, and so a participation in, a cooperation with God, in the work of redemption. Mary's maternal role with all its trials prepared her for the ultimate trial at the foot of the Cross, where her "Yes", her commitment, was total.

The majority of theologians, while agreeing that Mary's oblation on Calvary was a true cooperation in the Saviour's redemptive sacrifice, deny that it constituted a true sacrifice in the formal sense. She did not belong to the order of the priesthood; hers was of the same order as that of all the baptized, though of a higher degree because of her grace and dignity.

There are differing opinions as to the manner of Mary's immediate cooperation in the Redemption. Firstly, Mary influenced her son, by her entreaty and encouragement, that he lay down His Life for our salvation. Merkelbach put it this way:

"As the Son was moved to obey the command of His Father [to suffer and die], so He could not help being influenced likewise by His Mother's consent . . . Through her consent and desire, Mary morally influenced her Son and disposed Him to accomplish the Redemption of the human race."

A second explanation suggests that Mary's own merits and satisfactions were accepted by the Eternal Father together with, though subordinate to, the merits and satisfactions of Christ for the redemption of mankind. Both acquired the grace of salvation though in different ways. Mary's cooperation was redemptive ‘because the actions of Christ conferred a redemptive value on Mary's cooperation, thus enabling it to concur in the production of the same effect.'

This explanation has the most support.

A third theory proposes that Mary, "being the true Mother of Christ, had a right to protect her Son from unjust aggressors. By surrendering this right, she removed an impediment to her Son's sacrificial immolation, and thus furnished the material principle for the redemptive act."

By her assent and obedience, and by the renunciation of her maternal rights, Mary became an efficient cause of the Redemption.

The concept of co-redemption has considerable significance for the Church and for us, Her members. When St. Paul tells us that "we are God's fellow workers" (1 Corinthians 3:9), and speaks of "my co-workers for the kingdom" (Colossians 4:11), and "our fellow worker in Christ" (Romans 16:9), he is indicating that, as Christians, we have a mission to become co-workers with Christ for the sake of the Kingdom. That is, God invites us to cooperate in the work of redemption. This work involves renunciation of self and often much suffering. So in a mystical way, we can say with St Paul, "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church". (Colossians 1:24) Mary, as perfect disciple and exemplary member of the Church, has shown us what we have to do. Mary, by her maternal compassion, shared in the suffering of the Redeemer. We too are called to join our sufferings to those of Christ on the Cross, so that in a mysterious way our suffering may become redemptive. It is not God's will that we shall suffer, but it is our experience that all do suffer to a greater or lesser extent. Much of this suffering may be attributable to sin. By offering all we are and do, our work, our suffering and joy to God through Jesus, for the salvation of the world, our lives take on a new meaning. Through our own suffering, we, the baptized, make up that which is lacking in Christ's suffering: we bear witness to his perfect Sacrifice and we make it ever present in a broken world. We have also the example of many saints, martyrs, stigmatists, and victim souls, who in their suffering have identified with Jesus crucified. In this sense, the Church as a whole, and all members of the Body, are co-redeemers with Christ.

Mary Mediatrix

St. Paul tells us, "there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all". (1 Timothy 2:5–6) Paul is quite specific: "there is one mediator between God and men". Ultimately, this is true, but it does not exclude others sharing in His mediation. We are used to the idea of the ministerial priesthood participating in the one high priesthood of Christ. We have no problem in asking our friends to pray for us in time of need. As Catholics, it is common place to ask Mary, our Mother, to pray for us.

At the foot of the Cross, Mary was given a maternal responsibility for John, the representative of all disciples, and hence for the Church. Mary was thereafter to be the spiritual mother of all God's people. While on earth, Mary was intimately associated with her Son in the acquisition of the graces of redemption. It is reasonable to postulate that now she is assumed into Heaven, she will have a part in the distribution of those graces to her spiritual children.

It has been the constant belief of the Church that Mary has a particular power of intercession.
In this, she conforms to her son "who lives always to make intercession for us." (Hebrews 7:25) Her intercession to the Father is with Christ, and through Him, in the power of the Holy Spirit. This aspect of her mediation is appropriate, because as a Spiritual Mother, she knows all the spiritual and practical needs of her children. Her maternal love impels her to exercise her care for us. Being at one with her son, she can request only that which conforms to the will of the Father, and we have the guarantee that "Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son; 'if you ask anything in my name, I will do it.' ". (John 14:13–14) Thus, we can attribute to her a "Suppliant Omnipotence".

There is a very real problem when we consider the full title of Mediatrix of All Graces. Whereas Mary's ascending mediation, by means of her intercession and advocacy, has been widely accepted since the earliest times, her descending mediation is less easy to understand. When it is stated that Mary is the Treasurer and Dispensatrix of all graces, without exception, there seems to be no firm evidence to support this pious belief. A possible solution proposes that the Virgin Mary, empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit, is the one who actively receives all grace on behalf of the Church. At the Annunciation, she cooperates with the will of the Father and so becomes the medium by which the Mediator of All Graces comes into the world. The Virgin becomes fruitful as the Mother of the God-man. In this way, she has a secondary causal role in the mediation of all grace. At the foot of the Cross, the Virgin Mother receives the graces of redemption and becomes fruitful as the Mother of the Church. Assumed into Heaven, she continues to fulfill her mission.
At one with her Son, she participates in the work of the one universal Mediator. As the perpetual Virgin, she receives the graces of the Redemption on behalf of the Church as its representative. As the caring Mother of the Church, she administers those graces to all who seek them.

Treasurer and Dispensatrix of All Graces

From the reign of Leo XIII (1878–1903 A.D.) onwards, there have been many statements which refer to Mary's cooperation in the Redemption, and they have employed a variety of titles, such as "Co-operatrix", "Reparatrix", and "Dispenser".

Louis Grignion de Montfort (d. 1716 A.D.) incorporated the notion of Mary as Treasurer and Dispensatrix of All Graces in his spirituality.

Mary's universal mediation would be summed up by Matthias J. Scheeben (d. 1888):

Not only Mary's whole position as Mediatress, but also her preceding mediatorial functions are entirely designed for a universal mediation of grace, and condition the communication of all grace without exception.

Final Thought

Since the Second Vatican Council, we have come to think of Mary as one of us, though specially gifted. She is the first and exemplary member of the Church — one to be accepted as a model. The high Mariology of previous times has been de-emphasized. Mary as Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate belongs to this higher theology and was first developed by Francisco Suárez, S.J., (1548-1617), the Founder of Systematic Mariology. The evidence for this doctrine is convincing, and the implications following from it are significant for our understanding of the Redemption.

Hope this helps answer your question,


Mike replied:

Hi, Brenda —

You said:
So, does this mean:

A. that Since Mary gave birth to Jesus, she is the Mother of Grace,
B. that her intercessory prayer to God leads to His giving us His grace, and
C. that we receive the grace, favors, and gifts of God through Mary.

Yes, No, Yes

A. Yes, she is the Mother of Grace because of God's Divine Plan, not Mary's own human plan.
She was to be born a virgin and brought [Salvation|Jesus] into the world through her holy womb.

Important Note: Not in a normal way that mother's give birth to their children, but in a miraculous manner. The Divine Plan of Salvation consisted of God's Divine Will and Mary's free will "Yes" to become the God-Man bearer of the Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus, the Christ.

B. No, this statement is incorrect. We can pray directly to God and God can give us any prayer petition or grace we need. What we do believe is, in the same way a good friend who is high up in a company, can put in a good word to the President of the company, for a neighbor of his who is currently unemployed, so Mary, who is Our Lord's mother, can put in a request to her Son that our petition can be considered. Remember though, this isn't a fight over who gets the prayer petition and who doesn't. Being Catholic is a family affair!

C. Yes, Our Lord has chosen to have all the graces we receive, come to us through His Mother who is our spiritual Mother, Mary. Without Our Lady, no one would be able to have a personal relationship with Jesus! That's because there would be no Jesus who is both True God and True Man in one Divine Person.

You said:
this last point seems to relegate her to a sort of "treasurer", who delivers God's grace to everyone.

I have no problems and I don't believe the Church has any problems with referring to Our Lady as a type of "treasurer" of God's Graces, but we must remember, no matter what honors or titles we give to Our Blessed Mother, they are not of her own doing. It is the work of Our Lord Jesus, from beginning to end, with one exception. Only Mary could have said:

Yes, I will become the Handmaid of the Lord and the Bearer of the Second Person of the Trinity.

God could not have forced Mary to say, "Yes".

Though her free will came from God, God doesn't compel her to use it in a particular situation. This is why the Church honors her so.

You said:
Lastly, what do any apologists on the AskACatholic team, think of the titles of Co-Redemptrix or Mediatrix of All Graces.

For the reasons I have explained above, I think these are all fitting titles of honor and truth for Our Lady. To follow up on what Mary Ann has said, Our Lady's titles of "Mediatrix of All Graces" and "Co-Redemptrix" are not dogmas of the Church, though some bishops at Vatican II wished further to enrich Marian doctrine with other statements on Mary's role in the work of salvation.

They are doctrines or teachings of the Faith. Because they are not dogmas, Catholics are not bound to believe them. These teachings are proposed for religious assent, meaning a sort of "pious obedience of willingness to accept", rather than having to believe them with divine faith.

These teachings have a basis in Revelation, but have not been solemnly proposed. For a good article on the differences between dogmas and doctrines, read the article at the end of this page.

There is no reason why some day, the Church could not define the doctrines of Mary being the Mediatrix of All Graces, or Co-Redemptrix, as dogmas of the Church. The Early Church saw these roles in Our Lady.

If the Church in the future did formally declare that Our Lady is "Mediatrix of All Graces", or
"Co-Redemptrix", it would not be an invention of the Church, as some Protestants would probably say.

Hope this helps,


Mary Ann followed-up:


I just wanted to comment on the term "religious assent". Religious assent means the humble submission of your mind and will to what Church authority proposes or recommends in a
non-binding way.

Religious assent is what we give to John Paul II's development of Catholic teaching on the Death Penalty. Since the Death Penalty is in Scripture, and throughout tradition, it cannot be absolutely morally intrinsically wrong — something the state can never do under any circumstances.

Now the Church advises us that in this era of low respect for human life, and an era in which there are superior means to protect society, that recourse to the death penalty is something which should be rarely, if ever, used in a developed society, and used as a last resort, when there is no other way to protect society. Now, we can have different opinions as to the circumstances of a society, and as to when the point of last resort is reached, and as to whether there is or is not a way to protect society, but we owe religious assent to the papal teaching on modern application of the Death Penalty.

In faith, we must hold the intrinsic morality of the Death Penalty when justly applied, because it is in the New Testament. In other words, we can't be absolutists about it, and say it is always intrinsically evil.

Mary Ann

Terry replied:

I tend to agree wholeheartedly with Mary Ann.

I also wish that everything were indeed black or white, but regretfully it is not so, and we have to exercise our judgment and (informed) conscience. Mary Ann's example of the Death Penalty is a perfect example of how we should respond to this type of teaching and accept that there is some ambiguity in how some matters may be interpreted.

The other point I would make is that there are many items in the Catholic Faith which have never been formally defined, simply because there has been no need. This faith is shared universally, always, and everywhere. Many of the Councils had the intention of refuting error, and if no one (no large body of people) is disputing a point, then no definition was necessary to protect the integrity and purity of the Faith.


Richard replied:

Hi Brenda,

I found an article on the subject by Fr. Arthur Calkins.

He argues that the Second Vatican Council's text on Mary (chapter 8 of Lumen Gentium) teaches the doctrines of her Mediation and Co-Redemption, though without using those titles.

— RC

For the sake of those reading this question and answer we should clarify what the Church means by dogma and doctrine. I found an excellent piece by Elizabeth Hruska from CUFF.

I believe it will clarify any confusion in this area.

Difference Between Doctrine and Dogma

By Elizabeth Hruska
Information Specialist
Catholics United for the Faith
827 North Fourth Street
Steubenville, OH 43952
800-MY-FAITH (800-693-2484)

The term “doctrine” can be used generally to refer to all of the Church's teachings. In addition, we can say that dogma is a subset of doctrine — all dogmas are doctrines, but not all doctrines are dogmas.

  • A doctrine is a teaching of the universal Church proposed as necessary for belief by the faithful.
  • Dogmas, properly speaking, are such teachings that are set forth to be believed as divinely revealed (Catechism, no. 88; cf. 891-892).

When differentiating from dogma, we use the term “doctrine” to signify teachings that are either definitively proposed, or are those that are proposed as true, but not in a definitive manner. (cf. Catechism, nos. 88, 891-892)

For Catholics, there is an important difference between the teachings that we must believe, which are infallible and unchangeable (doctrine), and the rules that we must obey but are changeable (disciplines). Finally, there are areas where we are free to believe, or not believe without offending against faith (theological opinions).

Christ and the Apostles, guided by the Holy Spirit, passed on the Church's doctrines in explicit and/or implicit form (Catechism, nos. 74-83). We say implicitly because, over time, the Church has come to an increasingly better understanding of Her doctrines through the development of doctrine, e.g., regarding the nature of God and the Persons of the Trinity, and also how Christ is both God and man. Collectively, the Church's doctrines make up the Deposit of Faith, and a Catholic must believe them (see Catechism, nos. 891-892, 2035-36; cf. nos. 74-90).

The Magisterium, which is the Pope and the bishops in union with him, is the guardian of this teaching, not its author and arbiter (Catechism, no. 85-87). The Magisterium is preserved by the Holy Spirit from formally teaching anything on faith and morals, that was not at least implicitly taught by Christ and the Apostles (cf. Catechism, no. 67). The Magisterium cannot formally teach anything that contradicts the truths revealed by Christ. The Gospels clearly show how Christ gave this teaching authority to the Apostles and their successors (see Matthew 10:40, Matthew 28:19-20, Luke 10:16, John 13:20, John 16:11). For more on non-revealed truths that the Church teaches definitively, i.e., truths necessarily connected with the deposit of faith, see our FAITH FACTS on the Infallible Magisterium and Papal Authority. See also Pope John Paul II's motu propio Ad Tuendam Fidam (“To Protect the Faith”) on the Vatican web site.

In addition to teaching authority, Christ gave the Apostles authority to govern His Church (Matthew 18:16), “Discipline” refers to the exercise of this authority. The Church needs rules to preserve inner unity here on earth, to help her members achieve perfection, and provide a protective framework within which doctrinal teaching can be lived. Disciplines, the rules promulgated by the Magisterium, provide this (see FAITH FACT on the Necessity of Law and Right Order for further discussion).

Discipline includes such things as Canon Law, priestly celibacy, and certain liturgical norms, and does not come directly from the Deposit of Faith, but from the prudential decisions of the Magisterium. Disciplines are authoritative and binding in conscience for as long as the Magisterium affirms them. Disciplinary forms can be changed when the Magisterium deems this necessary, i.e., allowing the reception of Communion in the hand. Prudence is to be exercised, however, for disciplines can be closely related to doctrinal concerns. Only the Magisterium has the authority to “bind and loose” in the domain of discipline, and this extends to bishops' conferences and individual bishops in certain circumstances (cf., for example, Congregation for Divine Worship, "Ceremonial of Bishops," no. 7).

The Magisterium can, in addressing the changing needs of the Church, change or modify a discipline or Church law which no longer seems to address a specific need, i.e., veils for women in Church or the 24-hour fast before Communion. The Magisterium cannot change dogma or doctrinal truth, which originates from the teachings of our founder, Jesus Christ, e.g. divorce, (Matthew 5:32) or homosexual activity (Romans 1:18-32 and 1 Timothy 1:10).

Finally, there is the category of theological opinion. There are many theological questions which the Church has not definitively answered one way or another. A wide range of theories or opinions on these questions are perfectly legitimate, provided the theory does not contradict any other doctrinal teaching of the Church. Such opinions must be held with a due tentativeness or reserve, ready to submit faithfully to the final judgment of the Magisterium. The danger here is to treat what is merely an opinion as a doctrine (as some did with St. Thomas's theory of limbo) or to hold on to a mere theological opinion after the Church has declared a theological question settled (for instance, in the contemporary case of the priestly ordination of women).

No formally defined dogma or formally taught doctrine has ever been reversed, or contradicted, by any later teaching. Indeed, truth cannot contradict truth. Doctrines and dogmas never proclaim anything “new” about the Faith. Over time and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Church comes to an ever deeper and fuller understanding and expression of the same essential truths (Catechism, no. 66).

For your further reading, you may wish to consult Sermon 15 of Newman's Oxford University Sermons. Or, for more extensive reading on the subject, you may want to read Newman's book The Development of Christian Doctrine (ISBN: 026800921X). This is a very helpful book by an eminent convert to Catholicism and highly learned scholar. Benedictus Books at (888) 316-2640 gives a discount of 10% to CUF members.

Please feel free to call us at 1-800-MY FAITH with any further questions on this or any other subject. If you have found this service to be helpful, please consider a donation to CUF to help sustain this service. You can call the toll-free line, visit us at, or send your contribution to the address below. Thank you for your support as we endeavor to “support, defend, and advance the efforts of the teaching Church.”

United in the Faith,

Elizabeth Hruska
Information Specialist


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