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January 2005

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.

‘Seers’ and ‘Apparitions’

“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 Joseph’s article failed to deal with Medjugorje, or the revelations of Fr Gobbi.”

My purpose was to give an exposé of the principles for judging all revelations; not to treat of any particular revelation in detail. The principles in my article make it clear that one cannot propagate the messages of Medjugorje. As to why, Bishop Peric’s talk in the same issue of Christian Order deals with that very fully.

On other occasions, I have told people (generally to no avail) to stop following it or promoting it. My reasons are basically: 1. The Bishop has said it is false. 2. No verified miracles. 3. Repetitive, banal messages, unworthy of the Mother of God. There are plenty of other reasons.

As to Fr Gobbi, I am not aware of any official judgement, positive or negative, but I think his messages are repetitive, prolix, and sometimes contradictory. The Antichrist did not appear in 1998, as prophesied; nor did the Second Coming occur, which the messages of the 1990’s were predicting for the end of the decade.

* * * * *

 “If priests like you had your way, no apparitions would ever be approved! All revelations were condemned at the start.”

I am glad to follow approved revelations, because they were approved only after careful investigation. We must have faith but not credulity. The objector gives a typical case of false reasoning. ‘Many geniuses were condemned by colleagues, because they were ahead of their time. Therefore everyone condemned is a genius’!

It is not true that every approved apparition was once under a cloud of condemnation. No judgement was ever issued against the revelations of Guadalupe, Paray-le-Monial, Rue de Bac, Lourdes, Knock, Fatima, Banneux, Beauraing. Were the Bishops cautious? Generally, yes - as they have to be.

Devotion to the Divine Mercy was suppressed by order of the Holy See from 1958-1978. It was never condemned or said to be false. It was just ordered not to be propagated. The evidence was inadequate, and it is now known that some of the transcriptions and translations back then were misleading. What should we have done in those 20 years? Obey the decree, as everyone did. I am not aware of any disobedience in that time on that matter. Such obedience was pleasing to God.

If you want to propagate condemned messages, you may as well be a Protestant, above the Bishops and the Church.

 * * * * *

“How can we know which situations have actually been disapproved by a bishop of authority? In the case of Garabandal, I have read so many claims and counter-claims that I don’t know who to believe.”

It can be difficult to know exactly what judgement has been given. But a letter to the Diocesan Chancery, asking for the official position, will generally get you the answer you need.

The onus of proof is on those who claim approval. You need to say to them: ‘Please provide the full text (and the date) of the decree of the Bishop giving approval.’ Any claimed decree can then be verified with the Chancery.

In the case of Garabandal, I have read over the years statements of successive bishops giving negative judgments. I did see some years ago a letter from the Apostolic Nuncio of Australia, re-asserting a negative judgment on Garabandal, and deploring the disobedience of those who promote it. 

As for the claim, ‘There is a new investigation’: even if true, it has no bearing on the current situation. You may not promote anything pronounced against, until a new decree overturns the earlier one.