Church establishes yearly Day of Prayer for victims of abuse
The Bishops of Scotland [pictured above] have established A Day of Prayer for those who have suffered abuse, to be marked on the Friday following Ash Wednesday.
The Church issued resources to every parish in Scotland to be used this Friday, March 8, during a ‘holy hour style Service of Acknowledgment, Prayer and Reflection,’ or during Mass.
A spokesperson for the Catholic Church said: “The Bishops of Scotland have established A Day of Prayer for those who have suffered abuse to be marked each year on the Friday following Ash Wednesday.
“This allows the Church to renew its apology to anyone who has suffered and to stress its commitment to the essential work of safeguarding across our parish communities.”
In February, Bishop Hugh Gilbert of Aberdeen Diocese, president of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, attended a Vatican meeting of Episcopal Conference Presidents from across the world in Rome to discuss the Protection of Minors.
The format of the day of prayer on Friday—after the SCO went to press—included prayers for victims of abuse of all kinds and a penitential rite to seek forgiveness for abuse committed by Church personnel.
The Church has proposed that during Mass on Friday the intercessions provided could be used either as intercessory prayers or as an extended Penitential Rite.
An opening hymn reads: “We cannot measure how you heal, Christ be beside me, Christ be our light, Be thou my vision.”
In Dundee, the service took place at 7pm in St Andrew’s Cathedral.
In Motherwell Diocese St Columbkille’s Church in Rutherglen held a ‘Day of Prayer’ for those who have suffered abuse.
A spokesperson for the parish said: “Our parish community will acknowledge and pray for all those who were the innocent victims of some in the Church whom they trusted to protect them.
“We shall pray that survivors of abuse will experience healing, justice and renewal in their lives.
“We shall also pray that the Church, which has been scarred by the grave sin of abuse, will, through repentance and reparation, resolve always to protect the young and the vulnerable.”
The Divine Mercy Novena at 3pm in Rutherglen’s St Columbkille’s would help provide a ‘focus for acknowledgement, prayer and reflection.’ END.
Read the current edition of Catholic Truth, which you can download on the Newsletter page of our website here, to uncover the years and years of neglect on the part of the Scottish Hierarchy, where dissident and sexually deviant priests have been (and continue to be) allowed to live as they please, without suffering so much as a rebuke. Not even discipline-lite. All, of course, except Father Matthew Despard who had the temerity to write a book exposing the level of homosexual clergy within the Church in Scotland 5 years ago and remains suspended from priestly ministry for his trouble.
Yet now, we find these same Bishops subjecting faithful priests and laity to an annual reminder of the abuse scandals – as if the clergy don’t feel tainted enough – whereas, what the Bishops should be announcing is that they will be making a Lenten retreat of repentance for their own negligence in so many ways, such as allowing dissidents platforms to spread their poison, and failing to discipline priests who have been promoting the LGBT+ agenda, and in certain cases continue to do so at the present time.
They’re good at superficiality, the Scottish Bishops – that’s for sure. And this is just one more example of it. Makes a change, I suppose from the annual “Lentfest” – where the faithful in the Archdiocese of Glasgow were encouraged to use the six weeks of Lent, not to do penance for our sins but to get better acquainted with the arts and to, well, enjoy ourselves. That seems to have fallen by the wayside – or at least, I didn’t find any mention of it just now on a quick visit to the archdiocesan website. So, hopefully, the penny has dropped that having fun isn’t really true to the spirit of the, er, penitential period of Lent. I heard a priest tell a really comic-tragic story about this Lenten “fun” mentality just last week during his sermon, when he mentioned a young woman who had decided to throw a party on Ash Wednesday to mark the start of Lent and the main dish was some kind of fancy Ham dish. Truly, it was impossible to keep a straight face. Father didn’t bother to try.
This annual service to remember clergy abuse is pointless. It is but one more way to scandalise the faithful and to belittle Christ’s Spotless Bride, the Church, which has not, and cannot sin. Only the members of the Church can sin, and we make up for those sins through prayer and penance, certainly, but not in a manner which suggests that “the Church” is to blame. Churchmen certainly are to blame – priest abusers and their negligent bishops – but not “the Church”. Such priests should always be removed from active ministry and again, this would be the case if only the Bishops would invoke Canon Law. Unless the Bishops add a prayer acknowledging that they are refusing to use their authority to rid the Church of these deviant priests, then such a “Day of Prayer” is nothing but a pretence. Indeed, this annual reminder service is not only misleading – it is, in and of itself, a cause of scandal.
Or maybe you disagree? Let’s hear it!
Below, the text of the Pastoral Letter sent from the Archbishop of Glasgow to be read in all parishes tomorrow, Sunday, 3rd March, 2019. Underneath the Pastoral Letter, is the text of the ad clerum – that is his letter to priests – on the same subject. Compare the two – and weep!
Pastoral Letter for Sunday 3rd March 2019
My dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
We are approaching the time when, each year, young Catholics make First Confession and receive First Holy Communion.
It is incumbent upon the whole community to pray for these children, to support them in their journey of faith and to show them good example of Catholic faith, practice and discipline in the celebration and reception of the Sacraments.
I call especially upon the parents and guardians of these young Catholics to be mindful of the promises they made when they presented their child for baptism. The Church considers you as “the first and best teachers of your children in the ways of faith”. There is no doubt that the influence of parents, siblings and family is central to the faith formation of children. So, please, pray with your children, accompany them to Sunday Mass and be a good example to them of practising Catholics. Please cooperate with your Parish Priest, with our teachers in Catholic schools, with Parish Catechists and with all who are currently preparing your children.
The Sacraments are Sacraments of Christ, of the Church and of faith. Our faith teaches us that the Sacraments confer grace when they are received with the right disposition. When we go to Confession, our sins are truly forgiven through the grace of Jesus Christ. When we receive Holy Communion, we are nourished by the true Body and Blood of Christ. When we receive the Sacraments, the Lord deepens our belonging to his Church.
Please help your children to receive the Sacraments with faith, devotion and reverence. Let your families and friends rejoice with you. Let your enjoyment always be worthy of the “holy things” that you and your children have received.
I hope and pray that this Season of the Sacraments for your children will bring us all an increase of faith and of the immense joy of profound encounter with Jesus Christ our Lord. May Mary, Mother of the Church, intercede for children and families, and bring them to Jesus.
Yours devotedly in Christ,
Most Reverend Philip Tartaglia Archbishop of Glasgow
18th February 2019
Dear Monsignor, Canon, Father,
Dear Rev. Deacon
Ad Clerum Letter on Preparation for the Sacraments
As you know, I have written a short Pastoral Letter on the Season of First Confession and First Holy Communion addressed to parish communities and especially to the parents and guardians of the boys and girls they have presented for these Sacraments. My letter to them encouraged them to prepare their children as well as possible for the Sacraments, to give them good example of Catholic faith and practice and to cooperate with Parish and School in the programmes and initiatives designed to prepare the children for the Sacraments. Finally, I wished them and their family holy joy in this Season of the Sacraments.
With this Ad Clerum letter, I wish to address a few words to you. I want to express my support for you in your attempts to prepare the children and their families for the Sacraments. We all know that in this time of apathy, indifference and superficiality, good preparation for the Sacraments is both rather challenging and very necessary. It is such a joy and such a consolation for priests and deacons when children and their families respond to our promptings with sincere faith and regular practice.
At the same time, my dear brothers, you know as well as I do that the faith of many families is weak and that, for them, the celebration of the Sacraments is alarmingly superficial. Much to our frustration, their personal circumstances andometimes mean that they cannot or will not cooperate with the preparation initiatives that we would like them to engage in.
I ask you to have compassion for these families and not to be too demanding with them. The whole weight of contemporary culture is against them. They are the ones who above all need the love and encouragement of their Priest and Shepherd.
I have always taken the following as a pastoral rule of thumb in discerning the threshold for the reception of the Sacraments. If the child is baptised, is a pupil at a Catholic school, if the parents request the Sacraments for their child, and if the child sincerely wants to receive the Sacraments, I believe that the minimum threshold for reception of the Sacraments has been reached. This minimum threshold is not to place an obstacle to the grace of the Sacraments (cf. Council of Trent, Decree on the Sacraments in General, Can 6).
Of course, we want more, and that is why we invite parents and candidates to engage in various initiatives. The Sacraments are Sacraments of faith (Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium, Constitution on the Liturgy, 59), and we want as much faith as possible to welcome the encounter with Christ, which is the core of the sacramental event.
These are our neediest brothers and sisters. Jesus died for them. He loves them. He reaches out to them through you. I do not wish to supplant your pastoral judgment. You are there on the spot and you know your people as the Good Shepherd does. Please consider carefully what you are asking them to do. Please do not place unnecessary obstacles or hurdles in their way. Please give the child and the grace of the Sacrament the benefit of the doubt, for Jesus Christ alone is the Saviour, and we are the priests and servants of his mysteries of grace.
With the greatest respect and esteem for your priestly and diaconal service,
Yours always in Christ,
Most Rev. Philip Tartaglia Archbishop of Glasgow
Well, doesn’t that take the proverbial biscuit? In essence, Archbishop Tartaglia tells parents to practise the Faith, show good example to their children as they prepare for First Confession and First Holy Communion, only to tell his priests not to expect too much, and by too much, he means ignore the fact that they’re lapsed. Just let the children receive the Sacraments and get back to your golf. Honestly, it really does take the biscuit. But don’t take my word for it – let’s examine what, precisely, the Archbishop of Glasgow is saying to his priests in the above ad clerum…
In paragraph one, he mentions his Pastoral Letter acknowledging that he is encouraging parents to do what he later (in his ad clerum) admits they just cannot do, which is to “prepare their children as well as possible for the Sacraments, to give them good example of Catholic faith and practice and to cooperate with Parish and School in the programmes and initiatives designed to prepare the children for the Sacraments… ” [para 1]
He describes “this time of apathy, indifference and superficiality” [para 2] without mentioning the part he and his priests have played in creating and perpetuating this apathy, indifference and superficiality. Think, for example, of the many dissenters given platforms in Glasgow – even to the point of having a female Anglican vicar speak in the Jesuit church, St Aloysius College only a few weeks ago.
The entirety of paragraph three is a damning indictment of the Catholic Church in Scotland, and the Archdiocese of Glasgow in particular: “…you know as well as I do that the faith of many families is weak and that, for them, the celebration of the Sacraments is alarmingly superficial. Much to our frustration, their personal circumstances and low level of Catholic formation sometimes mean that they cannot or will not cooperate with the preparation initiatives that we would like them to engage in. ” [para 3 – emphasis added]. Who, pray, is to blame for the fact that children are now coming forward for the Sacraments, from homes where the parent(s) have not, themselves, been adequately taught the Faith? As he laments this scandal, the same Archbishop is allowing the Scottish Catholic Education Department to push homosexual/transgender propaganda in Catholic schools. Is the Archbishop really that incapable of joining up the dots?
In paragraph four, the blindness becomes even more apparent: “I ask you to have compassion for these families and not to be too demanding with them. The whole weight of contemporary culture is against them.” Talk about missing the point! The whole reason why these families are faithless is because of negligent priests in pulpits and teachers in schools – overseen by “liberal” bishops; it is precisely because nobody has been remotely demanding with them. Can he really not see that? And as for this nonsense about contemporary culture – Muslims, Jews and Hindus live, move and have their being in the very same contemporary culture and they can be picked out on any street as they, literally, wear their religion for all the world to see. So, don’t gimme “contemporary culture” – gimme instead, an open admission of negligent hierarchy, clergy and allegedly Catholic teachers.
The rest of the Archbishop’s letter to priests can be summed up thus: don’t bother your heads if the parents are not practising; don’t put obstacles in their way – if they want their child to dress up in a pretty Communion dress, kilt or nice suit, and have their “special day”, don’t go and be a spoil-sport by talking about off-putting things like Commandments (to keep holy the Sabbath) or Church laws (like regular Confession, Sunday Mass etc)
Left unsaid in the ad clerum: do you really want to have to say you had no First Communicants this year? Think of the field day Catholic Truth would have with that little nugget…
Consider: what SHOULD priests do when presented with non-practising families; child is baptised and attends Catholic school – should they be permitted to make First Confession, Communion and, later, Confirmation? Does it make sense to be confirmed in a Faith you know little to nothing about and don’t actually practise – except when weddings and funerals come around? Let’s hear it…
Today, the Vatican summit begins, called supposedly to address the avalanche of scandals caused by priests and bishops abusing minors (or covering up abuse of minors.)
Trouble is, it’s not only minors who are being abused, but young men, including seminarians, and the conference organisers include Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago who is, shall we say, not to overstate the case, not the kind of person you’d leave in a room alone with a five pound/dollar note. Archbishop Vigano – in his devastating testimony about the cover-up in the McCarrick case – writes of Cupich: “…one cannot fail to note his ostentatious arrogance, and the insolence with which he denies the evidence that is now obvious to all: that 80% of the abuses found were committed against young adults by homosexuals who were in a relationship of authority over their victims. ”
Let’s pray for a breakthrough at this summit over the next few days. It really will take a miracle to penetrate the dark souls of those who are responsible, whether directly or indirectly, for this unthinkable physical and sexual abuse by priests and bishops. Certainly, Archbishop Vigano believes that the Vatican is not genuinely seeking to end clerical child abuse and is, instead, determined to continue to cover up the real issue, which is the problem of homosexual priests
Theodore E. McCarrick, a former cardinal and archbishop of Washington, was expelled from the priesthood after he was found guilty of sexual abuse.
Pope Francis has expelled Theodore E. McCarrick, a former cardinal and archbishop of Washington, from the priesthood, after an expedited canonical process that found him guilty of sexually abusing minors and adult seminarians over decades, the Vatican said on Saturday.
It appears to be the first time that a cardinal or bishop in the United States has been defrocked, or laicized, from the Catholic Church, and the first time any cardinal has been laicized for sexual abuse. Laicization, which strips a person of all priestly identity, also revokes church-sponsored resources like housing and financial benefits.
While the Vatican has laicized hundreds of priests for sexual abuse of minors, few of the church’s leaders have faced severe discipline. The move to defrock Mr. McCarrick is “almost revolutionary,” said Kurt Martens, a professor of canon law at the Catholic University of America.
“Now you will see that bishops are also treated like their priests,” Mr. Martens said in a phone interview. “Bishops and former cardinals are no longer immune to punishment. The reverence that was shown in the past to bishops no longer applies.”
Mr. McCarrick, now 88, was accused of sexually abusing three minors and harassing adult seminarians and priests. A New York Times investigation last summer detailed settlements paid to men who had complained of abuse when Mr. McCarrick was a bishop in New Jersey in the 1980s, and revealed that some church leaders had long known of the accusations.
Francis accepted Mr. McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals in July and suspended him from all priestly duties. He was first removed from ministry in June, after a church panel substantiated a claim that he had abused an altar boy almost 50 years ago.
Mr. McCarrick was long a prominent Catholic voice on international and public policy issues, and a champion for progressive Catholics active in social justice causes.
The move is the most serious sign to date that Pope Francis is addressing the clerical sex abuse crisis in the United States. In October, the pope laicized two retired Chilean bishops accused of sexually abusing minors. In December, Pope Francis removed two top cardinals from his powerful advisory council after they were implicated in sexual abuse cases.
In the statement on Saturday, the Vatican said that the prelate had been dismissed from a clerical state after he was tried and found guilty of several crimes: “solicitation in the Sacrament of Confession, and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power.” Read original New York Times report here
Is this laicisation of a “Prince of the Church” a sign of things to come? Is the tide turning? Is this an indication that the liberal stranglehold on the Church is coming to an end? Will it help to rein in dissenters and abusers? Share your thoughts…
A reader in England alerted me to this sermon, available online, so thank you, John.
Father Sebastian Wall (pictured left) is a priest of the Society of St Pius X; he is the Society Prior in Scotland, serving the SSPX churches in Glasgow and Edinburgh but he also supplies at the Gateshead church fairly regularly. Click on the image, or click the link below, to hear him preach a hard-hitting sermon in which he offers some specific examples of “poor quality Catholicism” – I saw myself in there. Maybe you will, as well (not see ME, cheeky! You know what I mean…) Share your thoughts – what part of this excellent sermon hit home with you?
To hear the sermon, click here
From time to time, I find myself in conversation with well-meaning Catholics who are followers of Medjugorje and, typically, assure me that they won’t be “converted” – no point in discussing it, as they won’t change their mind. I met one such Catholic again this past week and it renewed my interest in the matter of how to distinguish true from false apparitions, and why it is that those who follow false apparitions, especially the Medjugorje phenomenon, are so wholeheartedly convinced of its truth.
In almost every case where I’ve met a person convinced that Our Lady is appearing at Medjugorje, the person tells me that they had a profound spiritual experience, that their lives were completely transformed by Medjugorje. Typically, though, and very tellingly, these same people are – in every case known to me – accepting also of the “reforms” of Vatican II and devoted to the “saint” popes who promoted it. They have no problems with the new Mass and all the liturgical abuses that have flowed from it.
It seems clear, then, that without an authentic grasp of the centrality of Catholic Tradition across the board, in every area of our lives, no adherent of a false apparition will ever be convinced of the need to turn away from unapproved apparitions. In the most recent conversation, the person expressed some surprise as she asked me if it were the case then, that I would only accept (and promote) approved apparitions. This is the elementary Catholic position – we were always taught to be sceptical of alleged apparitions until the one person in the Church with authority to pronounce otherwise – the Bishop – told us that this or that alleged apparition had now been thoroughly investigated and was either worthy of belief or not worthy of belief. Below, a very good article setting out the traditional position of the Church on apparitions, and it is worth noting that the author touches on a number of alleged apparitions in our times, including Medjugorje…
One of the most appalling phenomenon in the modern Church is the rise in false visionaries who draw away large segments of the faithful into sectarian groups intent on promoting their own visionary. These range from the very large movements like Medjugorje to the very small, like Our Lady of Emmitsburg. In America and Europe, much credence has recently been given to an anonymous web-based locutionist known only as “Maria Divine Mercy.” That an unknown locutionist can get such a following posting anonymous messages on a website is astounding, but it is a symptom of the sad state of affairs in Catholic spirituality these days, where the position of many Catholics seems to be to give implicit credence to any alleged apparition without a thought. As with other issues, the answer is to look to Catholic Tradition to bring back some sanity to the problem of evaluating alleged apparitions. In this article, we will take a very broad look at the Catholic Tradition regarding how alleged private revelations are to be judged, looking at questions of the character of the visionaries, the content of the apparitions, the manner in which they are delivered, as well as guidelines of a more general nature that teach us how we should dispose our mind whenever looking at these questions.
It is difficult to point to a single place in Tradition where we can see all of the following principles crystallized, and this article will draw on the summary already provided in the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia, which itself draws on the teachings of several popes and theologians, especially of the 17th-19th centuries. Special mention should be made of the scholar-pope Benedict XIV (1740-1758) who wrote extensively on this topic.
Two preliminary remarks to help frame this discussion:
(1) According to Tradition, it has always fallen to the local Ordinary to judge the legitimacy or illegitimacy of any private apparition. This is why, in the story of St. Juan Diego, it is not the pope but Bishop Juan Zumarraga whom Juan Diego must convince; when Zumarraga is skeptical of Juan Diego’s claims initially, we do not see Juan Diego saying, “I will wait for the Pope to weigh in on this” and appealing to Rome; it remains the bishop whom Juan Diego must convince, because final judgment rests with the local Ordinary. This is the Tradition of the Church, and this Tradition still maintains the force of law per the 1978 CDF document cumbersomely named “Norms for Judging Alleged Apparitions and Revelations”, which notes that “the foremost authority to inquire and to intervene belongs to the local Ordinary” . An episcopal conference or even the Holy See may intervene, but only if specifically requested by the Ordinary; thus authority remains with the Ordinary in these cases, which means that those proponents of certain private revelations who protest their legitimacy based on the fact that “the Vatican has not condemned it” are thinking of the problem amiss, especially if the apparition in question has actually been condemned by the local Ordinary. It has never been the Vatican’s prerogative to either approve or condemn; this action is done by the local Ordinary.
(2) In American law, a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. In Catholic Tradition, an apparition is judged false until proven true. This is the case because in any given situation the possibility of a true apparition is relatively small. Therefore, the Church must approach all apparitions from the standpoint that they are probably false until such a time when a miraculous occurrence gives reason to believe they are true. In fact, until October 14, 1966, Canons 1399 and 2388 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law forbid anyone to circulate publications about new revelations, appearances, miracles, etc. until they had been expressly approved by the local Ordinary. While the new discipline allows for such publications provided they contain nothing contrary to faith or morals, the fundamental disposition of the Church has not changed: an alleged apparition is presumed to be false until positive evidence can be brought forward demonstrating that it is not.
A Serious Business
The Catholic Encyclopedia warns that dealing with apparitions is a serious business:
“Illusions in the matter of revelations often have a serious consequence, as they usually instigate to exterior acts, such as teaching a doctrine, propagating a new devotion, prophesying, launching into an enterprise that entails expense. There would be no evil to fear if these impulses came from God, but it is entirely otherwise when they do not come from God, which is much more frequently the case and is difficult of discernment.”
In ancient Israel, false prophesy was considered so serious as to merit death on the part of the false prophet, who was guilty of not only misleading his people but of blaspheming God by saying in God’s name things which God had not commanded him to say.  Notice that it says that it is difficult to discern if a message comes from God or not, and that it is “much more frequently the case” that it is false. In the history of the Church, it is much more likely that any given person who believes they are receiving messages from heaven is mistaken than not, and because of the very serious consequences that can flow from propagation of alleged messages, those investigating these phenomenon must do so in a manner that is exacting and methodical. It should be noted that to be methodical is not to be judgmental; many supporters of Medjugorje, for example, criticize those who seek to look at the evidence in a straightforward and scientific manner as being judgmental. This intent is not to condemn something prematurely, but neither must we praise and approve something prematurely. This methodical, exacting scrutiny is a must because, as the Encyclopedia says, the truth is “difficult of discernment.”
In judging the apparitions and the messages themselves (not counting whatever is found about about the life of the seers), the Church uses a guilty until proven innocent method:
“To prove that a revelation is Divine (at least in its general outlines), the method of exclusion is sometimes employed. It consists in proving that neither the demon nor the ecstatic’s own ideas have interfered (at least on important points) with God’s action, and that no one has retouched the revelation after its occurrence.”
Guilty Until Proven Innocent
As mentioned above, since the vast majority of apparitions are false, and since positive evidence of supernatural activity is necessary for it to be declared otherwise, the Church takes a “guilty until proven innocent” approach. In this, she first tries to see if the apparition can be attributed to anything else: demonic activity, hallucination, fraud, etc. The investigator ought to finely comb through every detail of the supposed apparition looking for possibilities of corrupted doctrine and non-supernatural origins. Only if all of these other possibilities are ruled out is it finally admitted that the apparition may be divine. Unlike an American jury trial where a verdict of Not Guilty implies innocence, there is a neutral verdict the Ordinary may render: Non constat de supernaturalitate. This judgment means it is not clear that the alleged apparition is false but neither is it manifestly true. Therefore, when judging private apparitions, “not condemned” does not equate to “approved”, because there is a third category – neither condemned as false nor approved as true.
The Encyclopedia goes on to list seven questions to be examined when looking into the character of the alleged visionary, upon whose credibility much rests. Again, we see the process of the Church attempting to find any other explanation for the phenomenon before declaring them supernatural in origin:
(1) What are his natural qualities or defects, from a physical, intellectual, and especially moral standpoint? If the information is favourable (if the person is of sound judgment, calm imagination; if his acts are dictated by reason and not by enthusiasm, etc.), many causes of illusion are thereby excluded. However, a momentary aberration is still possible.
(2) How has the person been educated? Can the knowledge of the visionary have been derived from books or from conversations with theologians?
(3) What are the virtues exhibited before and after the revelation? Has he made progress in holiness and especially in humility? The tree can be judged by its fruits. [In looking at this criteria, we could perhaps call into question the speech of Medjugorje visionary Vicka, 20 October, 1981, she asks Mary to “paralyze someone; strike someone on the head” in regards to Fr. Jozo’s trial. She then says, “I know it is a sin to speak so, but what can we do?” Is this the words of someone making progress in grace and holiness?]
(4) What extraordinary graces of union with God have been received? The greater they are the greater the probability in favour of the revelation, at least in the main.
(5) Has the person had other revelations that have been judged Divine? Has he made any predictions that have been clearly realized?
(6) Has he been subjected to heavy trials? It is almost impossible for extraordinary favours to be conferred without heavy crosses; for both are marks of God’s friendship, and each is a preparation for the other. [Thus visionaries who are living comfortable lives of material prosperity which they acquired because of their apparitions are notably suspect]
(7) Does he practice the following rules: fear deception; be open with your director; do not desire to have revelations?
These questions pertain to the character of the visionary himself. Of course, we must also scrutinize the content of the messages: is there an authentic account of the alleged messages? Do they agree with recognized doctrine and the facts of history or science? Does it help one towards salvation, etc.?
Clear Signs of False Messages
It is interesting that the Encyclopedia goes on to list signs of false messages, not only with the content (which is obvious) but with the manner in which they are delivered. We will examine these questions and then look at how they can be brought to bear in examining contemporary apparitions.
The first sign of a false message noted is that “They [the apparitions] reply to idle questions, or descend to providing amusement for an assembly.” Also, “a revelation is suspect if it is commonplace, telling only what is to be found in every book. It is then probable that the visionary is unconsciously repeating what he has learnt by reading.” Do we find that the dignity and seriousness which become the Divine Majesty in an apparition, or do the spirits “speak in a trivial manner”?
Finally, the Encyclopedia asks: “If any work has been begun as a result of the revelation, has it produced great spiritual fruit? Have the sovereign pontiffs and the bishops believed this to be so, and have they assisted the progress of the work?” If not, this is a sign that the messages are false.
To compare these criteria with some well known apparitions: Let us look at Medjugorje, where the seers ask idle questions again and again: What happened to so and so? When is so and so going to get out of jail? We haven’t seen so and so for a few weeks; where are they? (see the messages of 9/17/81, 10/30/81 and 12/2/81 for this type of idle questioning about things unrelated to spiritual things) At one point, Mary supposedly even rebukes them for their curiosity (9/30/81), yet the seers continue their line of idle questioning!
The second sign of a false message had to do with messages that were commonplace or could have been found in any book. Again, going to Medjugorje, it would be difficult to argue that they are not commonplace. Their non-stop banal drones for peace sound like they could have come from a statement by the USCCB document. But one would imagine the messages could sound commonplace after being repeated about 35,000 times.
As far as warning about vocabulary that is excessively trivial, what could we say about Bayside, where Jesus tells Veronica Lueken that Americans will be “mowed down” by Communists with machine guns and that “many shall die at the hands of these ruffians”  Would Jesus use words like “ruffians” or phrases like “mowed down”? Or again, Bayside has Christ misspeaking, which Veronica tries to cover up: “There are many armors worn by My children that will protect them from these Satanists. I know that those who are satirists—I call them satirists, My child. ” Satirists? Clearly Veronica misspoke, attempting to say Satanists and then trying to correct her embarrassing blunder.
What about the final criteria about good works, and the assistance and support of the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops?
In the case of Medjugorje, Garabandal and Bayside, the answer os a resounding no. The Bishop of Mostar, the one is the greatest postion to know the facts of the story about Medjugorje and discern the truth, has frequently denied the visions any authenticity, and neither Pope John Paul II nor Benedict XVI accorded any merit of truthfulness to the visions. In fact, the Bishop of Mostar expressely forbid pilgrimage to Medjugorje:
“Therefore it is not permissible to organise pilgrimages and other manifestations motivated by the supernatural character attributed to the facts of Medjugorje” .
This ban was reconfirmed June 30th, 1996 by none other than Cardinal Bertone. This same document states the Vatican’s position on Medjugorje as of 1996. Note the reliance upon the judgment of the local Ordinary:
“The Vatican position, which also reflects that of local bishops in the former Yugoslav republic was outlined in a letter by Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Archbishop Bertone cited a 1991 report by the Yugoslavian bishops which said that, after much study, it could not be confirmed that supernatural events were occurring at Medjugorje. From what was said, it followed that official pilgrimages to Medjugorje, understood as a place of authentic Marian apparitions, should not be organized, Archbishop Bertone said. Such pilgrimages would be in contradiction with what the local bishops had determined, he added.”
As for Pope Benedict XVI, in 2006, Bishop Peric of Mostar discussed Medjugorje with Pope Benedict XVI during a visit to the Vatican. In a summary of the discussion published in his diocesan newspaper, Bishop Peric said he had reviewed the history of the apparitions with the pope, who already was aware of the main facts from his time as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith:
“The Holy Father told me: We at the congregation always asked ourselves how can any believer accept as authentic apparitions that occur every day and for so many years?”
Bishop Peric also noted that Yugoslavian bishops in 1991 issued a statement that “it cannot be confirmed that supernatural apparitions or revelations are occurring” at Medjugorje. Nevertheless, millions of pilgrims each year continue to disobey the Bishop and spurn his authority, producing chaos and terrible fruits, something that in itself is a witness against the apparitions. The same can be said about Garabandal and Bayside, both of which are vehemently opposed by the local Ordinaries, past and present.
Conclusion: A Call to Precision and Obedience
These are the types of criteria the Church must follow when examining alleged apparitions, not so-called fruits (which are always subjective), but hard evidence. Furthermore, no matter what the outcome of the Church’s decision is, one must always submit to the authority of the Bishop; in the case of Medjugorje, the Bishop (who by the way has led pilgrimages to Lourdes and loves the Blessed Mother dearly) has had his authority flounted at every turn. This in itself is enough to make the visions suspect. There is no cause for anyone to get bent out of shape just because somebody is trying to examine these things rationally. We have to make absolutely certain that a vision is true before we proclaim it so; otherwise, false apparitions and false prophets, like in Old Testament Israel, are able to cause much mayhem. Source
 Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “Norms for Judging Alleged Apparitions and Revelations”, 3:1
 Deut. 18:20
October 1, 1988
 November 1, 1985
 Jan 29, 1987, “Communiqué of the Yugoslav Bishops Concerning the Facts of Medjugorje” (Jan 29, 1987)