Newsflash: Vatican Published Rules On Apparitions And Revelations

A crucial document on apparitions prepared by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is now available in five languages

From Vatican Insider
ANDRÉS BELTRAMO ALVAREZ
VATICAN CITY

Visions, revelations, divine messages: The history of the Church is riddled with mystical events. Since the apparitions in Fatima and Lourdes, earthly manifestations of the Virgin which received official papal recognition, bishops and theologians from all over the world have found themselves battling with a number of supernatural phenomena. The same question always crops up: How does one judge whether they are true? The Vatican has the answer and is preparing to reveal it to the world.

The key to analysing these cases is a text entitled “Rules regarding the procedure for distinguishing supposed apparitions and revelations”. The document was approved in 1978 by Pope Paul VI and for years, its content could only be accessed by prelates and specialists. One of the reasons for this was that the only official version available was in Latin.

This looks to change in the next few days as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is to publish translations of the text in Italian, Spanish, German, English and French. All of these will be official and final versions. Indeed, the Vatican Publishing House has already printed a number of copies and the Vatican daily broadsheet L’Osservatore Romano has published an article on this.

The text is a real vade mecum on the steps to follow when one becomes aware of a potential apparition. Contrary to popular belief, it is firstly down to the relevant bishop and not the Vatican to examine any potential supernatural phenomena. The Apostolic See lacks experts in the field and scientific investigators, but it can intervene in unique and extreme cases.

Despite this, the Roman Curia receives a number of dossiers on alleged revelations each year. The experiences described in these dossiers are extremely varied and in almost all cases are sent on to the dioceses. These visions spread fast among faithful thanks to the internet and today’s ease of travel makes spontaneous pilgrimages possible. This poses a real challenge to ecclesiastical authority.

Benedict XVI shared this concern in his post-synodal apostolic exhortation “Verbum Domini” in which he recognised the need to “help faithful distinguish correctly between the Word of God and private revelations” whose function “is not to provide a definitive and complete revelation of Christ but to help experience it more fully within a certain historical context.”

The rules provide both “positive” and “negative” criteria for assessing the credibility of extraordinary phenomena. The main objective is to safeguard people’s faith and prevent the spread of advocations that reject the teachings of the Church or directly contest these.

A rigorous investigation into an alleged apparition is key to guaranteeing the moral certainty of its occurrence. It is vital for “seers” to be psychically balanced, honest, people of integrity, sincere, obedient to church authority and able to return to a normal life of faith. They must not have experienced episodes of psychosis or collective hysteria.

Conversion is not enough to guarantee a divine apparition, although “abundant, constant spiritual fruits” are influential. The messages received by seers must respond to an “error-free doctrine.” The credibility of apparitions is tarnished by an obvious interest in material gain or by immoral acts committed by the seer or their audience during or following the apparition.

It is every bishop’s duty to be vigilant, get informed and act in order to resolve or prevent misconduct in the practice of worship, to condemn erroneous doctrine and avoid the danger of false or unsuitable mysticism. If they are certain of the occurrence of a divine episode, bishops have the power to allow public manifestations of devotion.

The decision to publish the set of rules was taken independently of the specific episodes and these can be applied in all cases. It is interesting that they have come to light just as an international commission formed by the Vatican is studying the apparitions which allegedly took place in the small Bosnian village of Medjugorje. This is an internationally famous phenomenon with thousands of followers and just as many critics. And it is a subject which the Holy See is very keen to declare itself on, based on a set of criteria that are now accessible to everyone.

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22 Responses to Newsflash: Vatican Published Rules On Apparitions And Revelations

  1. toadspittle says:

    .
    “Medjugorje…. is a subject which the Holy See is very keen to declare itself on,”

    And it will. Very soon. One of these days. Within the next few months. Might take years, though. Maybe. Hard to say. Mustn’t be hasty. Can’t be too careful. Look before you leap.
    Meanwhile…

    Like

  2. kathleen says:

    Yes Toad, Medjurgorje is certainly a very controversial topic, “with thousands of followers and just as many critics”. Whatever the outcome of the Holy See’s investigation, a lot of people are going to be disappointed, either on one side or the other.

    Another place of supposed apparitions, also an ongoing contentious subject that draws big crowds of followers, is “El Escorial” just outside Madrid. Not many people outside Spain have heard of it though.

    This Newsflash comes after the interesting (but very long-winded) post of the other day, “The Greatest of Pastoral Care”, that advised priests on how to handle this delicate subject of “private apparitions”. The article gave a link which I followed to a certain Sr. Magdalena de la Cruz, a supposed holy visionary of the 16th century, who was in fact possessed by the devil!!
    http://www.mysticsofthechurch.com/2011/12/sister-magdalena-of-cross-nun-who-made.html
    I found this story really scary! It brings home the great need for caution the Church needs when dealing with apparitions.

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  3. toadspittle says:

    .
    “…a lot of people are going to be disappointed, either on one side or the other.”

    Not Toad. He will lose no sleep.

    “Sr. Magdalena de la Cruz, a supposed holy visionary of the 16th century, who was in fact possessed by the devil!!”

    What do you mean, “in fact” Kathleen? Matter of opinion, I’d imagine. Hard to ‘prove’ either way. Impossible, in fact</i<.

    Who's to say whether it's God, The Devil, or one's own lurid imagination, that provides the ‘voice’ that orders you, for example, to out and cut off all prostitutes’ heads?

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  4. kathleen says:

    Not just a “matter of opinion” Toad. All the evidence is that this nun fooled almost everyone into thinking she was extremely holy, whereas in reality she had made a pact with the Devil! Read the article and see for yourself how cunning the Devil can be.

    Let’s keep praying to St. Michael the Archangel to be our “safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the Devil”.

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  5. toadspittle says:

    .

    “In 1497 at the age of ten, Magdalena is already quite beautiful, and in her purity she is very cautious to hide herself under long black dresses and skirts. Even so, she still finds herself too beautiful, and one day for penance she tries to crucify herself on the wall of her bedroom. She starts by nailing her two feet, then her left hand. Blood flows, and she faints from the atrocious pain. “

    Really Kathleen, this is hardly a very suitable advertisement for the Catholic Church! Let’s just hope Lady Gaga doesn’t read this, and get ideas!

    Do we know “who” prompted to nail herself to the wall? God or the Devil? If it was God, would it be OK? However, it doesn’t matter, does it, because the poor girl was clearly barking from Day One.
    Very funny story, though. Don’t miss this link, folks!

    We need lots more ripping yarns like this on CP&S, Toad thinks we all agree!

    (How do we know Saint Michael the Archangel, isn’t The Devil in a different hat? Tricky!)

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  6. kathleen says:

    Really Kathleen, this is hardly a very suitable advertisement for the Catholic Church!

    Yes, Toad, I agree, it is a really horrific story……. but it is a well documented story (especially Magdalena’s final exorcism) and not just a fabricated yarn.

    I believe how it just goes to show that, because of our fallen nature, no one – not even very pure, devout and humble souls – are beyond the danger of falling into temptation. Magdalena was clearly one of these, she was zealous and prayerful, yet she fell ‘heavily’ into very serious sin! (She relented and confessed in the end, living the rest of her life doing penance, so the story has a happy ending.)

    The Devil’s attacks on those “beloved of the Lord” will always be more virulent. It is well known that many saints, e.g. St. Padre Pio, St. Jean Vianney, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Faustina (to mention just a few) all had terrible visions and even tussles with the devil. Having not fallen for Satan’s deceitful lures, he subjected them to other horrors. St. Padre Pio, for instance, often emerged from his cell in the morning covered with bruises from these nightly attacks!
    It is because these souls were holy; they drew many other souls to God, and this infuriated the Devil.

    We must pray fervently for all those most subjected to temptation: for all good people who work unceasingly for the Kingdom of God on Earth. Our priests, so vitally important for the Church, especially need our prayers to remain pure, faithful and obedient to their holy calling.

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  7. toadspittle says:

    .

    We are somewhat at odds on this one, I fear, Kathleen.

    It’s not that Magdalena’s story, is as you say, “horrific” which makes it something of a massive embarassment to any reasonable person – but that it is utterly idiotic.

    And I suspect a great many Catholics, including some on on CP&S, will agree.
    Whether they will have the nerve to say so, remains to be seen.

    “When she whips herself to bleeding point while doing penance, her wounds are miraculously healed the next day to everyone’s great surprise. She is healthy, and everything about her seems wholesome…”

    Not to Toad…

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  8. Mimi says:

    I’d like to second what Kathleen said. It is indeed a frightening cautionary tale, providing much food for thought, but fortunately with a happy ending.

    I remember reading somewhere, long ago, that the devil cannot say the Divine Praises, and that if one was ever confronted with an apparition, one should ask him/her to say them. A holy apparition would do so willingly, but an unholy one could not. Luckily, I have never had occasion to put this to the test! 😉

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  9. toadspittle says:

    .

    Well, Mimi and Kathleen, If you are accustomed to whipping yourselves to “bleeding point,” (what’s the bleeding point of that?) and are in the habit of nailing your respective selves to the living room wall for the greater glory of God – then I suppose Magdalena’s story would not strike you as anything particularly remarkable – let alone total gibberish. Oh, well.
    There is also the question here of “phantom pregnancies.” Perhaps Burrissimo might un-nail himself from his operating-room wall long enough to give us the professional opinion?

    (Surely all tis self-mutilation is some sort of sin, if suicide and self-abuse is?)
    This story is not really worth this much ink. Thinks Toad. But it is amusing.

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  10. kathleen says:

    I remember reading somewhere, long ago, that the devil cannot say the Divine Praises, and that if one was ever confronted with an apparition, one should ask him/her to say them. A holy apparition would do so willingly, but an unholy one could not.”

    That’s a useful tip Mimi! (Not though, as you say, it is one we are likely to have need of ;-).)

    Yes Toad, your quotes from the article on Sr. Magdalena’s self-mutilation – in the name of penance – are truly horrible .Everyone would agree with you. I think it just goes to show to what lengths over-zealousness or fanaticism can reach. Such things are a sure sign of spiritual pride!! Of course no sane person, however devout, should go to these extremes and torture their bodies in this way. What an idea!
    We are all asked to make sacrifices and do penances for the conversion of sinners though, and plenty of these come our way every day! Any little extra thing should never be in detriment to our bodies or to those around us.

    However “idiotic” you may think this story might be, don’t forget that the Devil does exist. As Charles Baudelaire once said: “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”

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  11. toadspittle says:

    .

    “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”

    In that case, Kathleen, how is it that you, and – I have to suppose – many millions of others in the world, still actually think that the Devil does exist?

    For what it matters, I think the Devil does exist.
    He is me. I am human.
    Nothing anyone does, or has ever done, or will ever do, is alien to me.

    Unacceptable, to be sure, in a great many cases, unspeakable in others, but never unbelieveable.

    It would make more sense, oddly enough, for Gloomy Old Chas to have said, “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was to convince people that he did exist.”

    Much more damage done that way. And not anyone’s fault.
    Thinks Toad.

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  12. Mimi says:

    Toad says:
    “It would make more sense, oddly enough, for Gloomy Old Chas to have said, “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was to convince people that he did exist.”
    Much more damage done that way. And not anyone’s fault.
    Thinks Toad.”

    Toad, you seem to be under the impression that belief in the devil’s existence somehow lessens personal responsibility for evil-doing.

    It doesn’t.

    Excuses such as “The devil made me do it” have never cut any ice since time began (cf. Adam: “The woman made me do it”; and Eve: “The serpent made me do it”). No matter what the external or internal influences or temptations, each one of us is personally responsible for the choices we make, good or bad. Our sin is always our fault, not anyone else’s.

    Like

  13. toadspittle says:

    .
    Then what the devil is the Devil for, Mimi?
    Then you say:
    “Toad, you seem to be under the impression that belief in the devil’s existence somehow lessens personal responsibility for evil-doing.”
    As someone who is highly dubious of the existence of The Devil as a force exterior to human beings, this is hardly likely to be my viewpoint. And it isn’t.
    People do bad things for various reasons, but they all are human reasons.
    And, yes, I agree with you that people often use The Devil as an unnecessary excuse.
    Not an option open to me..

    Like

  14. kathleen says:

    Toad, if you don’t believe in the Devil, I presume you don’t believe in Angels either then?
    In the Bible – and especially in the New Testament – there are numerous references to angels and devils; Our Blessed Lord often spoke of them. But it is impossible to have a discussion with you on this topic if you question one of the fundamental teachings of our Faith.

    I just want to add that if you say you are the Devil, what you are admitting (without realising it) is that the Devil in you tempts you to commit sin…… and of course all the rest of us too. You have a choice, don’t you see? You can refuse to obey him!

    Yes, the temptations of the Devil, the Evil One, who wants to lead us away from God, can be refused. God will never allow us to be tempted ‘above our strength‘. We have His word for it.

    Like

  15. toadspittle says:

    .
    Kthleen, I don’t know if there re devils and angels or not. On the whole, the evidence so far seems to be against it, but who knows?
    And if an apparent angel did appear, how would I know if it was a real angel and not a devil pretending to be one?
    Remember poor Magdalena from Cordova? What a muddle she got in!

    Like

  16. Mimi says:

    Toad says:
    “And if an apparent angel did appear, how would I know if it was a real angel and not a devil pretending to be one?”

    You’re not paying attention in class, Toad. We’ve already covered that. You ask it to recite the Divine Praises. Simples! 🙂

    Like

  17. Mimi says:

    Toad says:
    “Then what the devil is the Devil for, Mimi?”

    The devil and his cohorts roam the world seeking the ruin of souls, as I’m sure you know very well. Their purpose is to tempt us to sin and evil — to turn us to the dark side, in fact 😉 — so that we will be eternally lost.

    But, as Kathleen says, we have a choice in the matter, and we have personal responsibility for our actions and the consequences of those actions. OUR choices make us who we are and determine our final destination.

    Like

  18. toadspittle says:

    .

    “You’re not paying attention in class, Toad. We’ve already covered that. You ask it to recite the Divine Praises. Simples! “

    But, Mimi, devils are not “simples”. Any devil worth a bent Euro could, and would, deceive you by making you believe he was reciting the Divine Praises when, in fact, what he was really saying was, “Gibble gabble goo.”

    Child’s play for them. Like using “Twitter.” Kathleen will confirm this.
    That’s what demons do, They deceive.
    Then you would be well and truly Magdalena’d, wouldn’t you?.

    Descartes will tell you. Very good on demons, he was.

    Like

  19. Mimi says:

    Toad says:
    ‘Any devil worth a bent Euro could, and would, deceive you by making you believe he was reciting the Divine Praises when, in fact, what he was really saying was, “Gibble gabble goo.” ‘

    “Blessed be God. Blessed be His Holy Name. Blessed be Jesus Christ, True God and True Man …”, etc., does not sound remotely like “Gibble gabble goo”.

    I’m pretty sure I could tell the difference! 😉

    Like

  20. toadspittle says:

    .
    Sigh. Explain to Mimi someone, please.
    No? Oh, well. Never mind, because…
    …brooding on the alleged doings of demons while dogwalking this morning, Toad realised that what he suggested to Mimi earlier this morning was unnecessarily prolix.

    All our little devil has to do is to instill in Mimi’s mind the simples idea that reciting The Divine Praises is an infallible test of identifying Angels from Devils, when there is no evidence to suggest that it is any such thing. If Toad can say it, any poor devil can.

    Then poor young Mimi’s a gonner.

    Which goes to show that when we get involved with the “weird,” things quickly get “weird.”

    For how can we even be sure the planet Earth itself is not an invention of the Devil?
    It certainly seems that way, from time to time.
    Thinks Toad.
    What with the Vatican’s little problems, and all. One might fear there’s a curse on the place. (Both places)

    Like

  21. toadspittle says:

    Doh! Coding bedevilled!
    Can some angel fix it?

    Like

  22. Mimi says:

    Toad says:
    “All our little devil has to do is to instill in Mimi’s mind the simples idea that reciting The Divine Praises is an infallible test of identifying Angels from Devils, when there is no evidence to suggest that it is any such thing. If Toad can say it, any poor devil can.”

    Ah! I see what you mean, Toad. Now, that IS a worrisome thought!

    If only I could remember where I picked up that tip I might be better able to judge its reliability. I shall have to do some trawling through old books and see whether I can come across it again.

    In the immortal words of somebody, “What do other commentatorers think?”

    Like

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