CDF publishes the 1978 norms about apparitions and private revelations

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has been doing their job.  They have published … get that? … published… something that has been around awhile.

“Norms regarding the manner of proceeding in the discernment of presumed apparitions or revelations”

From VIS:

atican City, 29 May 2012 (VIS) – The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith recently published its “Norms regarding the manner of proceeding in the discernment of presumed apparitions or revelations”, translated into various languages. The document was approved by Pope Paul VI and issued by the congregation in 1978 though it was not then officially published as it was principally intended as a direct aid for the pastors of the Church.

Over the course of the years the document has appeared in various works dealing with the subject in question, although without the authorisation of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which is the competent authority in such matters. Since the contents of the Norms are already in the public domain, the congregation believes it is now opportune to publish them.

The publication is accompanied by a preface written by Cardinal William Joseph Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, extracts of which are given below.
“In the Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Word of God held in October 2008, the issue of the problems stemming from the experience of supernatural phenomena was raised as a pastoral concern by some bishops. Their concern was recognised by the Holy Father Benedict XVI, who inserted the issue into the larger context of the economy of salvation in a significant passage of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation ‘Verbum Domini’. It is important to recall this teaching of the Pontiff”.

“As the Fathers noted during the Synod, the uniqueness of Christianity is manifested in the event which is Jesus Christ, the culmination of revelation. … He Who ‘has made God known’ is the one, definitive word given to mankind. … The Synod pointed to the need to ‘help the faithful to distinguish the word of God from private revelations’ whose role ‘is not to complete Christ’s definitive revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history’. The value of private revelations is essentially different from that of the one public revelation: the latter demands faith; in it God Himself speaks to us through human words and the mediation of the living community of the Church.

“The criterion for judging the truth of a private revelation is its orientation to Christ Himself. If it leads us away from Him, then it certainly does not come from the Holy Spirit, Who guides us more deeply into the Gospel, and not away from it. Private revelation is an aid to this faith, and it demonstrates its credibility precisely because it refers back to the one public revelation. Ecclesiastical approval of a private revelation essentially means that its message contains nothing contrary to faith and morals; it is licit to make it public and the faithful are authorised to give it their prudent adhesion. A private revelation can introduce new emphases, give rise to new forms of piety, or deepen older ones. It can have a certain prophetic character and can be a valuable aid for better understanding and living the Gospel at a certain time; consequently it should not be treated lightly. It is a help which is proffered, but its use is not obligatory“.

“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”.

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  1. Supertradmum says:

    About time…yeah CDF! I have written about this, that is private revelations, many times. I have tried to help good Catholics see the danger, the heresies in so many of these. on a train..I hate the comment from some trads who disregard bishops because “they are liberal” and therefore not worthy of obedience, with regard to personal revelations.
    We need more guidance on the proliferation of Marian so-called apparitions

  2. Tina in Ashburn says:

    As with all Church guidance, we need a return to unambiguous direction on this, naming names and specifics. Those for whom these directives are meant will tell themselves that these rules are about other people, and be oblivious to their own gullibility or dealings with dangerous phenomena.

    It is time for those charged with our shepherding to speak up in clear and certain terms. There are too many lost and ignorant souls. Have pity.

  3. digdigby says:

    My quibble is with the ‘increase of faith’ as a usable criteria. I am sure there are many whose faith is increased by Sister Emmerich’s ‘Dolorous Passion’ and I am not one of them. I find her ‘visions’ cloying, transparently subjective and extremely detrimental to faith. The distressing logorrhea of Adrienne von Speyer as well overwhelms and sickens and oppresses me.

  4. Thank goodness. I myself stick to Lourdes, Guadalupe, Fatima, M. Medal.

  5. Gus Barbarigo says:

    Great news. Please pray that the controversy surrounding “Our Lady of America” will be resolved soon, so we may benefit if the apparition is worthy of belief!

    Please also ask Our Lady of Good Help to guide as, especially as we need better catechesis now more that ever! OLGH emphasized Catholic education and repentance.

    (I think it’s significant that Our Lady of Good Help appeared in Wisconsin, as that state was the first to allow vouchers for Catholic schools, and have it upheld by SCOTUS. Also, a Catholic school in Milwaukee was vandalized last year just prior to a visit from Scott Walker: . And it’s another crime, that a school in the Diocese of Madison had to close due to liberal shenanigans: .)

  6. Centristian says:

    I kind of wish the Vatican would find another term besides “approval” to use when it comes to clearing private apparitions and alleged Heavenly messages. To say that a private revelation is “approved” sends the wrong message, it seems to me, to alot of people. The term “approved” is often interpreted to mean that such and such a private paranormal phenomenon amounts to an absolutely certain historical event, unquestionable, undeniable, and that whatever was promoted by it must, therefore, be embraced by every Catholic and incorporated into his piety and beliefs, or else.

    It can be disquieting to be scolded by one’s fellow (Roman) Catholics who discover that you are not doing what the Lady of s0-and-so “asked of us”, or when they determine that the “approved” private revelation that they embrace so fervently is not anywhere on your radar screen. “How can you just ignore it? It’s been “approved” by the Vatican!” Implication: you are disobedient to the (figure represented in the “approved” paranormal phenomenon in question) and are not, therefore, a good Catholic.

    Perhaps one day the Church will see fit to allow private revelations to remain genuinely private, and not make them effectively public by naming churches after them or by honoring them with dates on the calendar. It’s a strange thing, for example, to say to a Catholic who attends Mass at a church called “Our Lady of Fatima Church” that he doesn’t have to believe in Our Lady of Fatima.

  7. leonugent2005 says:

    The “seers” of Medjugorgi have claimed that the Mother of God revealed her “true” birthday to be August 5. Why this didn’t immediately disqualify this fake apparition I’ll never know. They even claimed that they left a piece of birthday cake up on the mountain and when they came back the next day it had been assumed into heaven! I suppose it’s more fun to watch these guys and gals to be trapped in the corner they have painted themselves into. Unfortunately I probably won’t be around to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the ongoing revalations.

  8. My local parish is an Our Lady of Fatima Church. Beside it is a garden with a statue of Our Lady of Fatima. Before it are statues of the children Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta kneeling and gazing up at her.

    One day a Protestant minister was visiting our church. He allegedly (though maybe apocryphally) said “One thing really puzzles me about Catholics. Not only do you pray to statues, but you have statues that pray to other statues!”

  9. catholicmidwest says:

    Well, it’s enough to make you wonder if they’re going to be ruling on Medjugorje soon. Maybe that’s why they’ve re-released this thing.

  10. Diane at Te Deum Laudamus says:

    There’s little doubt in my mind that a near-future pronouncement on Medjugorje will point back to these 1978 norms.

    Back in March of 2010 the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop D’Errico, stated that the Holy Father considered Medjugorje a question – a question which the Holy Father felt responsible to prounce a clear message. Then, earlier this year we learned the Commission finished it’s work.

    The release of these norms after all these years – or the timing of it, is impeccable.

  11. HeatherPA says:

    @Diane- I completely agree with your assessment. I couldn’t help but happily think this was released mainly due to the coming clear pronouncement regarding Medjugorje. I pray it will be followed.

  12. irishgirl says:

    I personally know people who have been to Medjugorje (one of them is my very dear friend from England, though he told me he wasn’t very ‘impressed’ by the place), as well as someone else who promoted the so-called ‘message’ of Bayside, NY [condemned by the Bishop of Brooklyn).
    And I know still more people who have been to the so-called ‘Holy Love apparitions’ in Ohio. I remember once when an announcement of a bus trip to ‘Holy Love’ was placed in the bulletin of one of the local parishes; within a week or two, the pastor had gotten a letter from the diocese where the so-called ‘apparitions’ took place, saying that they weren’t authentic and that people shouldn’t be going there. He had it printed in the bulletin to let everyone know about it.
    Myself, I keep my distance from such things, and believe only in the ones which the Church has already approved, such as Guadalupe, Rue de Bac (Miraculous Medal), Lourdes, Fatima and [now] Green Bay (Our Lady of Good Help). I’ll stick to these right now….
    But I’m glad that the CDF has published these norms…..

  13. johnpaul79 says:

    when i read this medjugorge sprang to mind,we already know there has been a new investigation underway for a while now and an pronouncement is expected from the holy see very soon and anyone with a lick of sense can guess what it will be, but i must say leonugent2005 i have heard a few seriously far fetched stories coming from the so called seer,s of medjugorge like this one but the one about the cake being assumed into heaven is just too much, then again maybe it was a seriously heavenly cake..

  14. Mary Jane says:

    @ Centristian: I hardly think that Fatima could be called a “private paranormal phenomenon”.

  15. Mary Jane says:

    @ Henry Edwards – I had to chuckle at what the visiting Protestant minister said when visiting your church! Too funny. :)

  16. acardnal says:

    @johnpaul79: could have been an Angel Food cake!

  17. acardnal says:

    @Henry Edwards:
    One day a Protestant minister was visiting our church. He allegedly (though maybe apocryphally) said “One thing really puzzles me about Catholics. Not only do you pray to statues, but you have statues that pray to other statues!”

    That line has been around for years. I have heard Catholic apologist Stephen Ray and maybe even Scott Hahn use it.

  18. chantgirl says:

    Supertradmum- I have a theory about the proliferation of Marian apparitions. This is NOT Church teaching; just my own personal conjecture. I have often wondered if Jesus had a prophet for His first coming ( John the Baptist, plus many Old Testament prophets), would He likewise have a prophet for His second comin? To me Mary has always seemed to be the most likely candidate. I’m not saying the Second Coming is imminent because I don’t know, but when we see so many supposed Marian apparitions, I have to think that maybe a couple are real. Often when there has been a real Marian apparition, like Lourdes, there were fake apparitions at the time too. Nothing like a bunch of fake apparitions for Satan to sow doubt and confusion and drown out the real ones. So, whether we are close to the end of the world or just a time of hardship, it does seem that Mary has been trying to warn humanity for several centuries. When I see the smoke of so many apparitions, I have to think there must be fire somewhere. Honestly, we are at a point in time where we don’t even need an apparition to tell us we’re in trouble. For all of the false apparitions, though, it is nice to see the Church give people a little more concrete guidance.

  19. Supertradmum says:

    chantgirl, even Christ on earth said He did not know the day or the hour. We have all the Revelation we need and there is no more revelation, see the CCC, for example. I wait for the Church to tell me whether a Marian apparition is real or not.

  20. chantgirl says:

    Supertradmum- agreed that we should wait for the Church to discern apparitions. There are some pretty weird ones, and some which give me the creeps. It’s true that none of us know the day or time, and many have thought the end of the world was imminent and were wrong, but Christ also told us to discern the signs of the times. We may not be close to the end, but the signs of our own time don’t look great. I don’t think we need an apparition to tell us it’s time to do some penance.

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