Saturday, September 25, 2010

Should bishops permit "seers" of unapproved apparitions to speak in their dioceses?

There is a pretty hot discussion taking place over at the blog of Catholic apologist Patrick Madrid based on an earlier post I made in which I talked about the actions of Bishop Peter Sartain. 

The discussion is going on in two places: 

Patrick's blogA bishop's warning about the promotion of unapproved "apparitions"

Patrick's FaceBook account: This bishop makes a good point. What do you think?

I have made a single post at my other blog compiling something I was trying to convey over several comments at Patrick's blog:  Should bishops allow "seers" of unapproved apparitions to speak in their dioceses?


One only needs to look to the example of Holy Love Ministries in Cleveland and what has happened since the "apparitions" there were condemned as "not supernatural".  It was the Holy See which directed Bishop Lennon to, "make a definitive judgment".  Definitive means final, and the fact that he was directed to do so by the Holy See is evidence that his decision is the decision of the Church.

But, followers who became attached to the "apparitions" there, have placed their own discernment capabilities above those of the Church. In the meanwhile, the "apparitions" themselves have issued their own decree against the diocesan bishop (a sure sign of fraud or diabolical involvement), and have continued to suggest that people not pay any attention to him.  There are some priests out there, still scheduling pilgrimages to this very strange place.  Do not be led away by all sorts of strange teachings! (Hebrews 13:9)

Setting all of that aside, I have received emails from people defending Holy Love, some of whom have told me that they have a master's degree in theology and they see nothing contrary to Church teaching.  With all due respect, these people should ask for a refund if it was from a Catholic university.

Let me tell you, that only a cursory understanding of the Catechism of the Catholic Church reveals heresy in many of the "messages" coming out of Holy Love.  Ray Conte of Catholic Planet and I are on different planes with regards to Medjugorje, and perhaps some other things, but I do refer people to his analysis of some of the messages coming out of Holy Love. 

The Church urges caution, not promotion, of private revelations which have not been given approval for a cult following.  While private pilgrimages are permitted for Medjugorje (this means not organized by the diocese or parish), and on condition that they do not presuppose supernaturality, Medjugorje has never been granted such approval.  The 1978 Criteria for Discernment of Apparitions staes:

b) Then, if this examination appears favorable, to allow certain public demonstrations of cult and devotion, while continuing to investigate the facts with extreme prudence (which is equivalent to the formula: “for the moment, nothing is opposed to it”).

There has never been a favorable examination of Medjugorje, not by two consecutive bishops, and not by the any of the three previous commission, the last of which, in April of 1991, voted 19-1 for the current status (it cannot be affirmed as supernatural).

Could the new commission on Medjugorje allow for a cult following in the future? Anything is possible, but this commission will need to overturn the decision of the the last commission, and answer the reasonable objections raised by the local bishop.  One such example, is what the bishop highlighted in a document entitled, "The Games Surrounding the Great Sign" in which he used the writings of Medjugorje protagonists to make his case against authenticity.

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Vincenzo said...

"Patrick's FaceBook account: This bishop makes a good point. What do you think?"

I wonder if there's a way that he can make his Facebook wall visible to non-friends, a setting that can be changed? Because he has 5,000 friends (and that's Facebook's number limit) new people can't send friend requests and therefore can't see this discussion on his wall.

Nick said...

I've found that some things I believe on apparitions - like Christians not being allowed to follow unapproved revelations - aren't actually what the Church teaches, that is, it's not in any document I could find.

That's why, as I told you in my e-mail, I wrote to the Holy See two times, asking some questions on private revelation. I think an official statement on the matter is best, because, as Saint Augustine said: "Rome has spoken, the matter is closed."

Diane M. Korzeniewski, OCDS said...


It's not dogma or doctrine. It's simply a matter of prudence and it follows a simple rule....

You can become so attached to a private revelation which has not been granted a cult following by the Church, that it becomes difficult to detach from it, should it be condemned.

With regards to Medjugorje, people are not honoring the 1991 Zadar Declaration, which is still in effect, and they are actively promoting it, and spreading the messages. This was explicitly prohibited by Bishop Peric, who has authority, and the backing of the CDF.

I explain that here in a post on my other blog: Should bishops allow "seers" of Medjugorje to speak in their dioceses?

stephen ryan said...

hi Dianne my name is steve ryan and i think we can agree with one thing. Patrick Madrid's comment section is an abomination I have wasted a ton of time with it . They have excluded parts of my comments. I went out of my way to warn readers I was going to misspell things etc. for expediency reasons (misspelling your name is unintentional) and they have not included the real point I was trying to make. My thing about Our Lady vs Eucharist was a small side note . Can you please take Patrick Madrid out to the woodshed to either change the comments section or warn participants of its inefficiency. I was hoping to be able to have a thoughtful dialog but it is impossiable

stephen ryan said...

why do you all just let the comments run free then change or delete things you don't like in your spare time. this is turing into a real pain

Diane M. Korzeniewski, OCDS said...

Dear Steve,

Let me address your question first.

I have comment moderation enabled not to filter out legitimate discussions, but to filter out links to pornographic sites, and other sites which could have potentially carried viruses. The word verification helps keep "robots" from spamming, but not zealous human beings willing to drive by any blog and drop in a link or inappropriate comment. I believe this is why Patrick uses comment moderation.

Whatever is going on with Pat's combox is not his fault. He is using a free program, just as I am.

I can tell you this much... his combox does not like when you try to make more than one comment after another, with the box still open. They overwrite one another. That happened to me, leaving only my conclusion there.

It not only needs you to close the windows before commenting again. I think it needs a period of time - perhaps a minute or two.

With regards to spelling errors, I can look past that. I make those as well. ;)

stephen ryan said...

but my real point has been still been excluded on Patrick Madrids comments section..i have posted it a couple of times.. and nothing..i don't know what to do.

Diane M. Korzeniewski, OCDS said...


I think we need to be patient with what is in Patrick's cue.

I too have items in there, but I believe he is probably tied up or doesn't have access to the web at the moment. I assume that he is unable to moderate at this time. He's a family man with many kinds and grandkids, and this is a weekend.

Let's just all go get some other work done for a while and they will post.

I can't always moderate immediately either.

Wade St. Onge said...

Stephen, Stephen, Stephen! You speak about wasting your time on Patrick Madrid's blog. Now that you have given up on that, will you take me up on my challenge? You have still not responded to my email. Why?

Diane M. Korzeniewski, OCDS said...

Well, Stephen, I think your popularity precedes you.

Not only is Wade looking for some discussion with you, but so is Kevin Symonds.

Why not take them up on their offer?

Nick said...

My apologies for a late reply, Diane.

I understand its not doctrine or dogma, however, it's not official discipline either, as I have yet to find a document on it.

Having said, there are official disciplines regarding apparitions, as noted in the CDF's document on the discernment of apparition, which you graciously translated and uploaded online. So we cannot say there are absolutely no disciplines.

I think, if we knew Bishops could, as vicars of Christ, draw up their own disciplines for apparitions in their diocese - like, if we found this in a document of the Church - than that would solve much of the confusion over the disciplines to be taken for apparitions, such as saying visionaries of unapproved apparitions cannot go to churches.

Perhaps this is stated somewhere in the document on the discernment of apparitions? Or, perhaps it will be stated in the supposed renewal of said document the CDF is supposedly working on?

In any case, we must understand the difference between prudence and discipline. It is imprudent for visionaries to have visions in churches, but, it is not an official discipline of the Church that they cannot do this, at least none that I am aware of.

At the same time, we must not forget the local Bishop's words forbidding the visionaries from having visions in the church, nor must we forget the fact the apparitions are now in the hands of the Holy See: So the Bishop still has his God-given authority over Medjugorje, but, he no longer has the authority to officially judge the apparitions - unless the Holy See gives him the permission to.

Nick said...

Re: Stephen Ryan

”Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger intervened in 1986 and took the jurisdiction of Medjugorje away from the local bishop of Mostar, Bishop Zanic, placing it into the hands of the Yugoslav Bishops Conference."

I have yet to find documented evidence of this, so, I would say it didn't happen until I'm proven wrong.

"This was done so Medjugorje could be judged objectively."

According to the Holy See, apparitions are judged by the Bishops' Conference when either the Bishop requests it or the apparition takes on national importance (I'm paraphrasing, of course). As the CDF's document on the discernment of apparitions puts it:

III. Other Authorities entitled to intervene

1. The foremost authority to inquire and to intervene belongs to the local Ordinary.

2. But the regional or national episcopal Conference may intervene:

a) If the local Ordinary, after having fulfilled the obligations which fall to him, resorts to them for a study of the event in its entirety.

b) If the event assumes national or regional importance.

"That's why Medjugorje has recently been placed under an international commission headed by the Holy See, so the apparitions could be judged objectively."

Again according to the Holy See, apparitions are judged by the Holy See when either the Bishop requests it or a group of faithful request it. (Again, I'm just paraphrasing) Again as the CDF's document on the discernment of apparitions puts it:

3. The Apostolic See can intervene, either at the request of Ordinary himself, or at the request of a qualified group of the faithful, or directly by virtue of the immediate right of universal jurisdiction of the Sovereign Pontiff (cf. above, IV).

IV. Intervention of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

1. a) The intervention of the Sacred Congregation can be agreed to be necessary either by the Ordinary, after he has fulfilled the obligations falling to him, or by a qualified group of the faithful. In this second case, vigilance is necessary so that the recourse to the Sacred Congregation is not motivated by suspect reasons (for example to force, in one way one or another, the Ordinary to modify his legitimate decisions, or to confirm the sectarian drift of a group, etc.)

b) It belongs to the Sacred Congregation to intervene of its own accord in serious cases, in particular when the event affects a broad portion of the Church; but the Ordinary will always be consulted, as well as the episcopal Conference, if the situation requires it.

2. It belongs to the Sacred Congregation to discern and approve the way of acting of the Ordinary, or, if it proves to be necessary, to carry out a new examination of the facts distinct from that which the Ordinary carried out; this new examination of the facts will be done either by the Sacred Congregation itself, or by a commission especially established for this purpose.


Nick said...

Hey Diane,

Here's a blog I wrote in response to Stephan's article:

Feel free to critique ^__^

Kevin said...

We seem to be a small community. I visit this blog and see Wade, and my good friend Kevin Symonds.

Nick, as Diane said, there is no "formal" teaching on this. This is so because the Church cannot (and will not) determine if a private revelation is "true." All revelation that Catholics must believe ceased with the death of the last apostle.

What the Church will say is if something is "worthy of belief", in that the message is consistent with the faith, the message causes good fruit in the seers and the audience, etc.

The Catholic Spiritual tradition has been pretty consistent on this stuff though. While one may make use of such devotions if they feel drawn to them, they should always place obedience to your superior (in this case the local ordinary) above the sweetness such private revelation provides. Some of the great mystics (such as St. John of the Cross) go so far as to counsel people to reject ALL private revelation, good or bad, approved or no, simply because of the dangers inherent in relying upon "signs and wonders" to form your faith.

Nick said...

I deleted my articles 'cause I don't want to turn my blog into one about apparitions. Plus, I know others can make better arguments than me. :)

Louis Bélanger said...

Kevin said: "the Church cannot (and will not) determine if a private revelation is "true."

May I respectfully disagree with your position?

1978 Norms
point to the contrary:

"So that the ecclesiastical authority is able to acquire more certainty on such or such an apparition or revelation, it will proceed in the following way:

a) Initially, to judge the facts according to positive and negative criteria (cf. below, n.1).

b) Then, if this examination appears favorable, to allow certain public demonstrations of cult and devotion, while continuing to investigate the facts with extreme prudence (which is equivalent to the formula: “for the moment, nothing is opposed to it”).

c) Finally, after a certain time, and in the light of experience, (starting from a particular study of the spiritual fruits generated by the new devotion), to give a judgement on the authenticity of the supernatural character, if the case requires this.

Is "authenticity" not equalling "truth" in that context?

Is my interpretation wrong?


Louis Bélanger