JANUARY 7, 2013
Apparitions True and False
By Fr. Peter Joseph,
Examples of visionaries judged to be false
Some individuals have been pronounced against by name, e.g., Vassula Ryden, and the
Little Pebble, William Kamm. Vassula has been condemned twice by the Holy Office (the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith), on the grounds that her revelations do not come from God, and because they contain errors against the Faith. You hear people say: “But her writings are so spiritual and so beautiful!” I agree; possibly 99% of Vassula’s messages are in conformity with the Catholic Faith — but that is just how the devil operates to deceive pious Catholics. It is the 1% that does harm. A poison apple is mostly good apple — but will harm you nevertheless. The devil knows he cannot mislead devout Catholics with outright heresy, but he can appeal to their piety and then subtly plant errors within.
In any case, there has been no approved revelation in the history of the Church where God took someone’s hand and gave messages by writing with their pen. But you do find handwriting messages given at séances—and séances are condemned by the Church as a practice of the occult against the law of God.
I have seen one pious magazine defending Vassula by saying that Cardinal Ratzinger never signed the statement against her printed in L’Osservatore
Romano. A man I know sent them the official statement from Acta Apostolicae Sedis, the official Vatican gazette, which has the Cardinal’s signature at the bottom, along with [that of] the Bishop Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Unfortunately, the editor of the magazine had neither the humility nor the honesty to print a correction in the next issue.
The authority to judge and the duty to obey
No private individual has the authority to judge definitively and officially which private revelations are true and which are not. The authority to rule on the genuineness of a private revelation rests first with the local Bishop.
The apparitions of Lourdes, Knock, Fatima, Beauraing, Banneaux – to name only a few – were approved by the local Bishops. The Popes of the time never issued any judgement on them. The current canonical practice is that the local Bishop must appoint a committee to investigate and rule on any private revelation (if he thinks it worthy of investigation), but the Holy See may intervene if necessary or if the Bishops ask it to. Alternatively, he may ask the Episcopal Conference of his country to assist in the investigation and judgement.
It is forbidden, as well as sinful, to propagate private revelations which have received a negative judgement from the local Bishop, the conference of Bishops, or the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Some people say, “I’m going to follow it until the Pope says it’s false.” This is a useless guide for action in this matter – very rarely does the Pope make a pronouncement for or against a revelation.
As for statements attributed to the Pope (e.g., “I heard that the Pope told Mrs Smith after Mass in his private chapel that he believes in Garabandal and Bayside;” “The Pope told Jack that he could go ahead and print that condemned book”) – no one is entitled to act on such gossip. The Church is governed by publicly promulgated statements – not by hearsay and personal communications… …
Even should the local Bishop mistakenly disapprove of a genuine revelation, obedience to the Church remains paramount. It is a sin to propagate a private revelation disobediently, but it can never be a sin not to propagate one. This applies both to claimed seers and to followers.
In fact, if an alleged visionary disobeys a legitimate order from the Bishop, and claims God’s backing for the action, this is a sure sign that the message is not from God. Even if a genuine private revelation has been given, not even God Himself would want or command a seer to spread it against a lawful decree of a Bishop to desist. In fact, there are occasions in the life of St Teresa of Jesus of Avila (died 1582) and St Margaret Mary (died 1690) and Sr Josefa Menendez (died 1923) where Our Lord gave them a directive, but then their superior forbade it. What did they do? They obeyed their human superior on earth. What did Our Lord then tell them? –’You were right to obey my representative.’
On one occasion, the Sacred Heart of Jesus told St Margaret Mary to do something, but her Superior did not approve. When He came again, she asked Him about this, and He replied: “…not only do I desire that you should do what your Superior commands, but also that you should do nothing of all that I order without their consent. I love obedience, and without it no one can please me“
[Autobiography of St Margaret Mary].
Spiritual writers have an axiom: A Superior may or may not be inspired by God in his command, but you are always inspired in obeying. (Of course, we’re not talking about where a Superior commands a sin; and, as I said above, it is not a sin to drop a private revelation).
Satan may really promote good things for a while provided that he gains in the long run. The revelations of Necedah, Wisconsin, seemed to have good fruits, yet were false. Rosaries were said to change to gold. Similarly for Bayside. But disobedience showed them false. St Margaret Mary was told by Our Lord: “Listen, My daughter, and do not lightly believe and trust every spirit, for Satan is angry and will try to deceive you. So do nothing without the approval of those who guide you. Being thus under the authority of obedience, his efforts against you will be in vain, for he has no power over the obedient“
After error itself, the mark of a false mystic is willfulness and disobedience. I love this quote from Saint Faustina Kowalska: “Satan can even clothe himself in a cloak of humility, but he does not know how to wear the cloak of obedience.” (Diary, par. 939) Genuine mystics, like Saint Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio), are models of obedience. They never pretend to set up Christ against His Church.
Everyone is free to have an opinion, but all have to submit to the judgement of the Church with practical obedience. What I mean is: you are still free to disagree (the Bishop is not infallible in this matter), but you owe him practical obedience, that is, you may not act against the decree; you may not propagate a revelation that the Bishop has judged negatively, or continue to say publicly that you regard it as genuine. Remember, a Church commission may give a negative verdict for reasons which it cannot state publicly, e.g., it may have found out things against the character of the seer, but will not say so publicly, even though this would justify the decision and help people to accept it.
If a so-called message is judged not authentic for doctrinal reasons, then you are not free to defend such messages, because then you will be defending error. Vassula Ryden is an example of this: the judgement against her was for false doctrine in her writings. How and why pious Catholics defended her after the negative judgement by the Holy See’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is beyond me. Her whole case is black-and-white. Apart from unorthodoxy, her alleged messages, which are meant to be handwritten by Our Lord Himself, contain mistakes in English spelling and grammar!
Can you say publicly that an approved revelation is not genuine? Yes, if you want to. The Church never orders you to accept any private revelation. But any such disagreement should be voiced respectfully.
Caution never does harm
The simple fact is that most claimed revelations are false. It is extremely foolish, therefore, to devote oneself to propagating a disapproved or dubious message, which might actually come from the Father of Lies. If one day you see its falsity for yourself, you will regret it enormously, and be unable to undo the harm done to others. On the other hand, there are more than enough approved messages to spread, if you want to spread them. It is better to keep to what is countenanced by the Church, than to go it alone and risk being a dupe of the devil.
‘Seers’ and ‘Apparitions’
By Fr. Peter Joseph,
The article Apparitions True and False by Fr Peter Joseph in our October 2004 issue provoked a number of comments and questions, the majority very positive. We print here some queries and Fr Joseph’s answers.
“It is not true, as you claim, that Vassula Ryden has been ‘condemned’ by the Holy Office. Further, Cardinal Ratzinger has given interviews in which he has said that Vassula’s writings may be read, and promoted prudently.”
The Holy Office issued two Notifications against Vassula’s ‘messages’. The first, in 1995, says there are “a number of basic elements that must be considered negative in the light of Catholic doctrine. In addition to pointing out the suspect nature of the ways in which these alleged revelations have occurred, it is necessary to underscore several doctrinal errors they contain.”
It then refers to ambiguous, confusing teaching on the Holy Trinity and the Church – “contrary to Catholic doctrine”. It also says, “She appears to be putting herself above all ecclesiastical jurisdiction and every canonical norm, and in effect, is creating an ecumenical disorder”.
All this amounts to a ‘condemnation’ – unless you believe that error, heresy and illicit behaviour are matters of no importance.
As to whether you can spread the messages anymore, the 1995 Notification says, “this Congregation requests the intervention of the Bishops so that their faithful may be suitably informed and that no opportunity may be provided in their Dioceses for the dissemination of her ideas.”
The second Notification, of 1996, re-asserts that the Bishops of the Church have canonical authority over writings concerning faith and morals, and that private revelations are not exempt from this canon law.
What about Cardinal Ratzinger’s statements since then? From my article, the reader should realise that Cardinal Ratzinger’s private, or public comments – even if authentic – cannot undo a decree of the Holy Office. Only a new decree can undo an old decree – not an interview given to the press! Even the Pope’s personal opinions and beliefs have no authority, and cannot be cited to override Church law or doctrine. As I said in my article, the Church is governed by public statements and promulgated laws, not by personal interviews or private communications.
Even if there is further, or a new investigation, all Catholics are still held to the only official judgement hitherto given, which is negative.
Fr Peter Joseph of Wagga Wagga, Australia, has a doctorate in dogmatic theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, is the editor of the revised version of Archbishop Sheehan’s “Apologetics and Catholic Doctrine” (Saint Austin Press 2001) and is currently the Chancellor of the Maronite Diocese of Australia
VASSULA RYDEN-PROBLEMS WITH ROME BUT WELCOME IN INDIA
VASSULA RYDEN-A CDF NOTIFICATION BISHOPS WARNINGS AND THEOLOGICAL CRITIQUES
VASSULA RYDEN-THE EUCHARIST AND INTERCOMMUNION ONE DATE AND PAN-CHRISTIAN ECUMENISM
VASSULA RYDEN-EXCOMMUNICATED OR NOT-A LAW SUIT
VASSULA RYDEN-THE REASONS FOR THE CHURCH’S NEGATIVE REACTION
VASSULA RYDEN-FR FRANCOIS MARIE DERMINE
VASSULA RYDEN-FR MITCH PACWA
VASSULA RYDEN-FR BRIAN HARRISON
VASSULA RYDEN-MARIA LAURA PIO
VASSULA RYDEN-MARK WATERINCKX
VASSULA RYDEN-CARDINAL BASIL HUME
VASSULA RYDEN-A CRITIQUE-DIALOGUE CENTRE INTERNATIONAL
VASSULA RYDEN’S JESUS-INGERLISE PROVSTGAARD
VASSULA RYDEN-RICHARD SALBATO
VASSULA RYDEN-JOE NICKELL
VASSULA RYDEN-CONSTANCE CUMBEY
VASSULA RYDEN-RONALD L CONTE
VASSULA RYDEN-AN ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN
VASSULA RYDEN-LAURENCE ENGLAND
VASSULA RYDEN-LAURETTE ELSBERRY
VASSULA RYDEN-RICHARD CHONAK
VASSULA RYDEN-TERRY NELSON
VASSULA RYDEN-CATHOLIC ANSWERS
VASSULA RYDEN-CATHOLIC DOORS
VASSULA RYDEN-BENEDICT TANG
VASSULA RYDEN-BRO IGNATIUS MARY
VASSULA RYDEN-INTERNATIONAL MARIAN RESEARCH INSTITUTE
VASSULA RYDEN-INVESTIGATE VASSULA
VASSULA RYDEN-SUSAN BRINKMANN
VASSULA RYDEN-TE DEUM
VASSULA RYDEN-DANIEL KLIMEK
VASSULA RYDEN-TONY-ALLEN CUCOLO
VASSULA RYDEN-ASK A CATHOLIC
VASSULA RYDEN-ORTHODOX CHRISTIANITY
CDF, OCTOBER 6, 1995
VASSULA RYDEN-THE TLIG APOLOGISTS
Categories: False Mystics