On apparitions and addiction to them

On apparitions and addiction to them

Cardinal Ratzinger has backed up Cardinal Keeler of Baltimore, who said the alleged apparitions in Emmitsburg, Maryland, are not “valid.” Actually, “valid” is probably not the correct word, but Keeler basically said the supposed visions by Gianna Talone-Sullivan were not supernatural or miraculous and contained “negative” elements of apocalyptic prophecies.

I found one of the comments by Keeler’s commission curious:

Keeler’s panel, after interviewing worshipers who attended the services and conducting a 16-month investigation, wrote that with a worldwide “growing addiction to the spectacular, we think that the Church should not promote or encourage persons claiming to have extraordinary channels to God.”

If the visions were true, what does it matter that there’s worldwide addiction to the spectacular. Isn’t that irrelevant to whether the Mother of God is appearing a private revelation? I’m not saying that it is authentic, but that the point made in the quote seems besides the point.

In reaction to Ratzinger’s comments, we received an email here at Catholic World News from someone claiming to be a priest who had harsh words for Keeler and Ratzinger. He obviously has a deep and abiding belief in the apparition that supercedes any obligation to obeidence to the magisterium. What was most curious though was his excoriation of Talone-Sullivan for acceding to Keeler’s admonitions and order to “shut down” the prayer meetings surrounding her apparition. The writer even went so far to say that if Talone-Sullivan was willing to capitulate to the cardinal when the Holy Spirit is communicating truth to her, then she must not really be receiving authentic private revelation. Huh? He’s gotten himself into a logical whirlpool: If the message is authentic and Talone-Sullivan is acceding to the cardinal’s order, then the message is not authentic.

I’m not one of those people enamored of apparitions and visions. I don’t discount them, but they aren’t a big part of my devotional life. I know many people who have made pilgrimages to Medjugorje, but I’ve never felt a need to go there myself. And there are aspects of the whole modern apparition thing that make me uncomfortable, especially the apocalyptic tone including predictions of supernatural events that seem to be at odds with Scripture and Tradition.

So the point is that while private revelations can be aids to faith, they sometimes because the basis of some people’s faith who go even so far as to believe that in order to be an authentic Catholic you have to believe every utterance of their favored visionary. Sorry, but that’s not Catholic and never will be. Private revelations, even those approved by the Church, are just that and impose no obligation on the faithful.

  • Oh, I know quite a few people who experienced miracles and major conversions as a result of going to Medjugorje, some of them people quite close to me.

    My old roommate from Steubenville, Joe Tremblay, and I had a great ongoing discussion over the need for obedience in relation to apparitions. He was a Medjugorje doubter and challenged me with pronouncements by a couple of Croatian bishops against the phenomena there and asked if I was willing to be obedient if the Vatican said No to Medjugorje. It’s not even a question for me. Of course, I would be.

    But would everybody? I think people need to be careful on what they base their faith—is it private revelation or public revelation. A good book on the topic is Fr. Benedict Groeschel’s A Still, Small Voice. I reviewed it on a previous incarnation of this site way back in 1999.