Vatican Clarifies Process for Evaluating Reported Apparitions, Revelations
Publishes Decades-Old Guidelines
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VATICAN CITY, MAY 24, 2012 (Zenit.org).- The Vatican recently published a translation of a 1978 document sent to bishops around the world, in Latin, that outlines a series of guidelines meant to help discern if supposed apparitions or revelations are genuine or not.
The document, “Norms Regarding the Manner of Proceeding in the Discernment of Presumed Apparitions or Revelations,” was issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on Feb. 25, 1978.
“At that time the Norms were sent to Bishops for their information, without, however, being officially published, as the norms were given for the direct aid of the Pastors of the Church,” explained Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in a preface to the recently published document.
“It is my firm hope that the official publication of the Norms regarding the manner of proceeding in the discernment of presumed apparitions or revelations can aid the Pastors of the Catholic Church in their difficult task of discerning presumed apparitions, revelations, messages or, more generally, extraordinary phenomena of presumed supernatural origin,” he said.
“Today, more than in the past, news of these apparitions is diffused rapidly among the faithful thanks to the means of information (mass media),” the 1978 guidelines explained.
“Moreover, the ease of going from one place to another fosters frequent pilgrimages, so that Ecclesiastical Authority should discern quickly about the merits of such matters,” it explained.
The guidelines spell out both positive and negative criteria for discernment. The positive criteria include:
-- Moral certitude, or at least great probability of the existence of the fact, acquired by means of a serious investigation;
-- Personal qualities of the subject or of the subjects (in particular, psychological equilibrium, honesty and rectitude of moral life, sincerity and habitual docility towards Ecclesiastical Authority, the capacity to return to a normal regimen of a life of faith, etc.);
-- As regards revelation: true theological and spiritual doctrine and immune from error;
-- Healthy devotion and abundant and constant spiritual fruit (for example, spirit of prayer, conversion, testimonies of charity, etc.).
Among the negative criteria are:
-- Manifest error concerning the fact.
-- Doctrinal errors attributed to God himself, or to the Blessed Virgin Mary, or to some saint in their manifestations, taking into account however the possibility that the subject might have added, even unconsciously, purely human elements or some error of the natural order to an authentic supernatural revelation.
-- Evidence of a search for profit or gain strictly connected to the fact.
-- Gravely immoral acts committed by the subject or his or her followers when the fact occurred or in connection with it.
-- Psychological disorder or psychopathic tendencies in the subject, that with certainty influenced on the presumed supernatural fact, or psychosis, collective hysteria or other things of this kind.
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On the Net:
Preface by Cardinal Levada: http://www.doctrinafidei.va/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20111214_prefazione-levada_en.html