By Charles J. Scicluna, Promoter of Justice for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Doctrinal Guidelines and Competencies of the Diocesan Bishop and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Discernment of the Marian Apparitions
Apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in History, Faith, Theology.
International Marian Congress celebrated in Lourdes in the year 2008.
Subsequently published in Studia in sessionibus plenaria exhibita, vol 1, PAMI, Vatican City 2010, 329-356.
1. The discernment of the Marian apparitions is possible
We must affirm the possibility of discernment to avoid the temptation of an ecclesial agnosticism refractory to all pronouncements that recognizes the supernatural intervention. The possibility of this judgment is based on the fullness of the power given to the Church in the person of Peter: "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth will be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth will be loosed in heaven "[" Tibi Dabo claves kingdoms caelorum et quodcumque ligaveris super terram ERIT ligatum in Caelis et quodcumque solveris super terram ERIT solutum in Caelis "] (Mt 16:19). It is also based on the exhortation of the Apostle Paul concerning the prophecies: "Test everything: do you think that is good" ["omnia probate autem daily bonum east hold"] (1 Th 5:21), and the Apostle sull'ingiunzione John about the spirits: "Beloved, do not want to believe every spirit, but considered the spirits to discover whether they are from God, because many false prophets have come into the world" ["Dear nolite omni spiritui believe you sed probate spiritus ex Deo sint quoniam multi pseudoprophetae exierunt in mundum "] (1 Jn. 4, 1).
2. The discernment of the Marian apparitions must happen
The judgment on the prophecies, including vision and apparitions, is imposed as a requirement of the pastors that pastoral charity which must govern their ministry. They have been entrusted with the Lord's flock. They undertake the task to defend the flock from the deceptions of evil that masquerades as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14). If there is no discernment ministry of the holy things will mix easily with the sordid things, resulting in serious damage to the simple faith of the people.
3. The doctrinal content of the Marian apparitions must be in harmony with the deposit of faith jealously guarded in its entirety by the Catholic Church.
By way of confirmation suffice it to mention the CCC 67: "Throughout the ages, there have been revelations called 'private', some of which have been recognized by the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. Their role is not to "improve" or "complete" the Christ's definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully in a certain period of history. Guided by the Magisterium of the Church, the sense of the faithful discern and embrace what in these revelations is an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church. The Christian faith can not accept "revelations" that claim to surpass or correct the Revelation of which Christ is the fulfillment. And the case of some non-Christian religions and also in certain recent sects which base themselves on such 'revelations'.
4.The classic criteria for the discernment of spirits also apply to the discernment of the Marian apparitions
Classical authors were wont to set the discernment of apparitions from the evaluation:
1) the historical certainty of the charismatic phenomenon;
2) the subject of the charism, in our case the person seer;
3) the object or content of the charismatic phenomenon or appearance;
4) of all the circumstances;
5) the effects of the charismatic phenomenon or the apparition: a) the person seer b) on the other (the evangelical criteria of the waves);
6) the possible confirmation of miracles.
Saint George Preca (1880-1962), Maltese priest and tireless catechist, who was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI June 3, 2007, provides an excellent summary of the classical doctrine for the discernment of apparitions in the valuable work entitled "The Book of Signs" (1945) :
Argument: Visions from the sky
A view of the sky can be recognized (Signs in the experience of the person seer)
1. From fear and confusion at the beginning that soon turn into joy and peace of the soul.
2. The elevation of the thoughts in God
3. By the provision that the readiness of the soul to prayer.
4. By the light and calm that are generated in the soul.
5. Humility deep and sincere soul.
6. Shame that the soul feels while telling the fact to only its Director, and not to others.
7. From the fact that the soul favored found that the vision does not depend on its own minds.
8. From that touch the soul favored think that has nothing. if not misery.
9. Soul generated by love of God.
10. To attraction towards the things of heaven generated in the soul.
11. By feelings of detachment which the soul test things in the world.
12. The desire for mortification and penance.
13. From strength to the practice of virtue.
[Signs object that appears]
14. From the great decency of the face, posture, and the acts of the figures that appear, which always generate feelings of great purity.
15. From the truth who say the characters that appear: they never tell lies or things against the doctrine of the Church.
16. The holiness that the characters from the Sky show in their words.
17. By the acts or words of the characters that appear, that never contain useless things, but always useful for the soul and glory to God.
Argument: Visions of Satan
A vision from Satan can be recognized:
[Signs in the experience of the person seer]
1. From the joy and delight that you feel at the beginning.
2. Restlessness and confusion and sadness of heart that follows after the joy of the senses.
3. By darkness and confusion deh soul that abides in those who receive these visions and not contradict them.
4. Deceptively initial delight that then leaves the soul sad, disgusted, dry and not at all ready for prayer.
5. Hardship and sadness trying to elevate the soul in God after the vision of Satan.
6. The pride generated in the soul that keeps feelings of pride and self-esteem.
7. From the desire of this soul to tell everyone what he saw and everything that has happened.
8. From entitlement (delectatio) and delights in love impure and carnal feelings.
9. Vanity generated in the person seer.
10. Disobedience of the soul that does what he thinks and does not follow the advice of others.
11. Impatience of the soul that does not tolerate contradictions.
12. The lack of love for the other soul who criticizes them and treats them badly
13. Lack of mortification soul after watching.
14. From the spiritual good which the soul thinks that you have obtained, and immediately vanishes just after the vision, leaving nothing useful for the soul.
[Signs object that appears]
15. Imperfections or defects from the figure that appears. and especially in the face, hands and feet that have dell'animalesco.
16. The words spoken by the figure that appears: because he says things that are untrue or useless. or vain. or harmful to the soul.
17. Deception with which the figure that appears mixes things good and true with false things, and so the soul is also believed to things misleading and false.
18. By the flight or movement of terror operating the figures that appear to be Satan. before the sign of the cross or holy water or all'aspersione the words: "Verbum Dei dear factum east."
(Translation from the original in Maltese: Il-tas-Ktieb Sinjali, "Dehriet tas-Sema", "Dehriet tax-Xitan" [Second Edition] pp. 42-44 with the addition of subtitles and slight rearrangement of the numbers).
5. The discernment of the Marian apparitions must be conducted and lived in hierarchical communion.
The responsibility to express an opinion on the authenticity of the Church or not is up to the hierarchy of the Marian apparitions, especially to the local bishop. "Every bishop exercises his ministry from within the episcopal college, in communion with the Bishop of Rome, successor of St. Peter and head of the college, and the priests exercise their ministry within the presbyterate of the diocese, under the direction of their bishop" (CCC 877). "Through the" supernatural sense of faith "the People of God" unfailingly adheres to this faith "under the guidance of the living teaching office of the Church" (CCC 889).
6. The miracle closely connected with the apparitions of Mary is the ultimate criterion of the authenticity of the same.
It is worth mentioning here the incisive words of A. ODDONE in his famous article published in The Catholic Civilization in 1948: "The criterion then ensures that the most certain of the supernatural character of a vision, it is certainly a miracle. But this is absolutely necessary condition, namely, that the miracle has a at least implicit or explicit connection with the vision that she have what is said by some relative truth of the miracle. Without this connection, the miracle will be an opus divinum, an extraordinary intervention of God to reward the faith of someone or for some other reason, but you can not cause as evidence for the view " (A. ODDONE SJ," Criteria for distinguishing between true visions and supernatural apparitions ", The Catholic Civilization 99 (1948) no. 2, pp.363-375: p. 375, note 1).