Saturday, October 16, 2010

Church Teaching on Marian Apparitions and Other Private Revelations

It seems that an awful lot of people have been followers of places like Fatima and Lourdes, and the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is everywhere. And now there are these claimed apparitions in Medjugorje. But I'm not sure about any of these. Does that make me a bad Catholic? Am I required to believe in these things?

Throughout history there have been supernatural apparitions and signs which go to the heart of human events. That is, throughout the ages, there have been so-called "private" revelations, including various appearances of the Blessed Virgin Mary, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church as being “worthy of belief,” but one is not “required” to believe in any of them.

"’The Christian economy, therefore, since it is the new and definitive Covenant, will never pass away; and no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ (Dei Verbum 4) Yet even if Revelation is already complete, it has not been made completely explicit; it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full significance over the course of the centuries.” CCC 66

Private revelations “do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ's definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history. Guided by the Magisterium, the sensus fidelium knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church.” CCC 67

“While not belonging to the deposit of faith, private revelations may help a person to live the faith as long as they lead us to Christ. The Magisterium of the Church, which has the duty of evaluating such private revelations, cannot accept those which claim to surpass or correct that definitive Revelation which is Christ.” Comp. CCC 10

Again, there have been thousands of claimed apparitions and visions of Mary, Jesus, and others over the centuries. The Church does not investigate the vast majority of these and of those that are investigated, many are found to be false, especially when they are contrary to the deposit of faith. An apparition or vision might be false because it is outright fraudulent or a lie, or it might be a hallucination or the fanciful imagination of the seer or those around him or her. Or, when it is determined that the seer did, in fact, see something and receive some message, it might be that the vision is of demonic origin, not of divine.

But some apparitions and visions are found to be worthy of belief, including Fatima, Guadalupe (present-day Mexico), Lourdes (France), La Salette (France), appearances to St. Catherine Labouré (France), La Vang (Vietnam), Kibeho (Rwanda), the Divine Mercy visions of Jesus by Sr. Faustina (Poland), and others.

The claimed apparitions in Medjugorje, on the other hand, have not been found worthy of belief, rather, it is still an open question. The bishops of that diocese have voiced their opposition, but many prominent people and thousands of the faithful are supportive. The Holy See has established a commission to investigate and evaluate the claims. If Medjugorje teaches us anything, it is that we should not be too rash and too quick in our conclusions in this area.

So, unlike a doctrine of the Church, as with the Immaculate Conception, for example, it is not a simple matter of the individual simply giving his assent, "OK, I don't understand it, but the Church teaches it, so therefore I believe." Rather, one must necessarily judiciously and prudently decide for himself, at least in those cases where the Church has not definitively determined it to be false or fraudulent.

Are the events of Fatima true? Did Mary guide the bullet to save the life of Pope John Paul II at the assassination attempt? You decide.


See also Cardinal Ratinger's commentary on the Church and Marian Apparitions



Persona non grata said...

I could tell you a story, were you interested in hearing it.

Bender said...

What's your story?