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Rome Drops 'Supernatural' Label in Rules for Judging Apparitions

Catholics do not have to believe in mystical phenomena since Revelation is complete

Bishops will no longer have the authority to pronounce that a Marian apparition or other mystical phenomena that occurs in their diocese is "supernatural," the Vatican declared Friday.


Consequently, Catholics will not be required to believe in these phenomena, "which sometimes were valued more than the Gospel itself," the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith stressed in laying down norms for discerning alleged supernatural phenomena.


Beginning Pentecost Sunday, the Church will replace its declaration of de supernaturalitate (of the supernatural) with a nihil obstat (nothing stands in the way.)

This will allow bishops "to draw pastoral benefit from the spiritual phenomenon" without "affirming with moral certainty that it originates from a decision willed by God in a direct way," the new DDF announced.


The "nihil obstat does not declare the events in question to be supernatural," the DDF explained, but it is offered as "a help which is proffered, but its use is not obligatory."

In a 14-page document released at the Friday press conference, the DDF noted that previous statements of bishops which sometimes elevated the status of supernatural phenomena, "conflicted with the Church's own conviction that the faithful did not have to accept the authenticity of these events."

"Even recently, some bishops have wanted to make statements such as, 'I confirm the absolute truth of the facts' and 'the faithful must undoubtedly consider as true,'" the statement on the norms noted, explaining why the procedure was not only lengthy and cumbersome, but also caused "considerable confusion."

Only in very exceptional cases the Holy Father "may intervene" and declare the event to be "supernatural," the norms stated.

Conversely, however, a phenomenon may be declared as "not supernatural" when there are "objective signs that clearly indicate manipulation at the basis of the phenomenon," like an alleged visionary lying or falsifying the evidence.

The norms seem to downgrade the Fatima apparitions, with the Vatican's doctrinal watchdog explaining in 2000 that that the Church has approved Fatima as a "private revelation" and this merely signaled that its "message contains nothing contrary to faith or morals."

Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernández, prefect of the DDF, justified the document theologically by arguing that "everything God wanted to reveal, he did through his Son, the Word made flesh" and "in the revealed Word, there is everything necessary for the Christian life."

Therefore, "while the Holy Spirit may grant some people distinct experiences of faith," the purpose of such phenomena is not "to improve or complete Christ's definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history."

Italian sources told Souls & Liberty that the document was most likely triggered by the scandals caused by the alleged apparitions of an Italian seer who claims to have received the stigmata and is in possession of a statue of the Madonna "weeping blood."


The self-proclaimed visionary, Gisella Cardia, believes the Virgin of Trevignano Romano — a lake town in the province of Rome — also multiplied gnocchi, pizza and rabbit, enabling her to feed priests and children.


But, allegations against the alleged seer — that the tears on the statue purchased from Medjugorje were faked using pig's blood, and that Gisella (born Maria Giuseppa Scarpulla) and her husband, Gianni, solicited and embezzled donations — have kicked up a storm in the Italian press.


"It's not pleasant to be portrayed as a crook, especially when you have a clear conscience. I feel under attack from dark forces, unidentified powers," Mrs. Cardia told Italian media.


The seer says she became pregnant with the Holy Spirit and was able to perform miracles. Gianni also speaks of "blood crosses and Aramaic writings" that appeared on the wall of their house. A priest translated the messages, which read: "I am the Trinity," Gianni claims.


Despite the presence of several priests at the site, the parish priest of Trevignano Fr. Piero Rongoni has refused to let the Marian cult use the parish premises for prayer meetings over the last six years. Cardia responds: "Jesus was also expelled from the synagogue."

Previously, the Church could declare a phenomenon constat de supernaturalitate (approved, since the supernatural origin is confirmed); non constat de supernaturalitate (doubtful, since neither supernatural nor non-supernatural origin is confirmed), or constat de non supernaturalitate (rejected, since the non-supernatural origin is confirmed.)

The new norms take effect on Pentecost Sunday, May 19, abrogating the previous norms established under Pope Paul VI in 1978.

Dr. Jules Gomes, (BA, BD, MTh, PhD), has a doctorate in biblical studies from the University of Cambridge. Currently a Vatican-accredited journalist based in Rome, he is the author of five books and several academic articles. Gomes lectured at Catholic and Protestant seminaries and universities and was canon theologian and artistic director at Liverpool Cathedral.

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1 Comment

In other words, 'Yes. No. Maybe. I don't know. Can you repeat the question?'

My question is, does this apply to future/current apparitions, or does this apply to all apparitions ever? Also, who has ever said that these apparitions add to the Gospel?

----Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernández, justified the document theologically by arguing that "everything God wanted to reveal, he did through his Son, the Word made flesh..."----

I don't see a conflict with approved Marian apparitions as She can never contradict, add to, or out-do Her Son.

----....and "in the revealed Word, there is everything necessary for the Christian life."----

Does this guy mean specifically the scriptures only?


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