How to Tell a Real Virgin Mary Apparition

The Catholic Church has released, for the first time in English, its rules for figuring out whether a claimed apparition of the Virgin Mary, or a message allegedly received from the Virgin Mary, is genuine or not. They’re pretty amusing, wasting a great deal of verbiage with little actual meaning.

1. Today, more than in the past, news of these apparitions is diffused rapidly among the faithful thanks to the means of information (mass media). Moreover, the ease of going from one place to another fosters frequent pilgrimages, so that Ecclesiastical Authority should discern quickly about the merits of such matters.

2. On the other hand, modern mentality and the requirements of critical scientific investigation render it more difficult, if not almost impossible, to achieve with the required speed the judgments that in the past concluded the investigation of such matters (constat de supernaturalitate, non constat de supernaturalitate) and that offered to the Ordinaries the possibility of authorizing or prohibiting public cult or other forms of devotion among the faithful.

For these reasons, in order that the devotion stirred among the faithful as a result of facts of this sort might manifest itself in full communion with the Church, and bear fruits by which the Church herself might later discern the true nature of the facts, the Fathers judged that in this matter the following procedure should be promoted.

When Ecclesiastical Authority is informed of a presumed apparition or revelation, it will be its responsibility:

a) first, to judge the fact according to positive and negative criteria (cf. infra, no. I);

b) then, if this examination results in a favorable conclusion, to permit some public manifestation of cult or of devotion, overseeing this with great prudence (equivalent to the formula, “for now, nothing stands in the way”) (pro nunc nihil obstare).

c) finally, in light of time passed and of experience, with special regard to the fecundity of spiritual fruit generated from this new devotion, to express a judgment regarding the authenticity and supernatural character if the case so merits.

I. CRITERIA FOR JUDGING, AT LEAST WITH PROBABILITY,
THE CHARACTER
OF THE PRESUMED APPARITIONS OR REVELATIONS

A) Positive Criteria:

a) Moral certitude, or at least great probability of the existence of the fact, acquired by means of a serious investigation;

b) Particular circumstances relative to the existence and to the nature of the fact, that is to say:

1. Personal qualities of the subject or of the subjects (in particular, psychological equilibrium, honesty and rectitude of moral life, sincerity and habitual docility towards Ecclesiastical Authority, the capacity to return to a normal regimen of a life of faith, etc.);

2. As regards revelation: true theological and spiritual doctrine and immune from error;

3. Healthy devotion and abundant and constant spiritual fruit (for example, spirit of prayer, conversion, testimonies of charity, etc.).

B) Negative Criteria:

a) Manifest error concerning the fact.

b) Doctrinal errors attributed to God himself, or to the Blessed Virgin Mary, or to some saint in their manifestations, taking into account however the possibility that the subject might have added, even unconsciously, purely human elements or some error of the natural order to an authentic supernatural revelation (cf. Saint Ignatius, Exercises, no. 336).

c) Evidence of a search for profit or gain strictly connected to the fact.

d) Gravely immoral acts committed by the subject or his or her followers when the fact occurred or in connection with it.

e) Psychological disorder or psychopathic tendencies in the subject, that with certainty influenced on the presumed supernatural fact, or psychosis, collective hysteria or other things of this kind.

It is to be noted that these criteria, be they positive or negative, are not peremptory but rather indicative, and they should be applied cumulatively or with some mutual convergence.

X Files, the Roman Catholic version. Hell, even Scooby Doo had a more rigorous set of tests than that.

Comments

  1. Reginald Selkirk says

    Excellent! I’m going to start applying these to scientific research. I’m not going to accept anybody’s results unless they have psychological equilibrium, honesty and rectitude of moral life, sincerity and habitual docility towards Ecclesiastical Authority, the capacity to return to a normal regimen of a life of faith, etc.

  2. Reginald Selkirk says

    Psychological disorder or psychopathic tendencies in the subject, that with certainty influenced on the presumed supernatural fact, or psychosis, collective hysteria or other things of this kind.

    This makes it simple. If we define religion as “collective hsteria,” we can discount all of these apparations.

  3. Trebuchet says

    c) Evidence of a search for profit or gain strictly connected to the fact.

    It does not, of course, occur to the church to apply this rule to itself!

  4. otrame says

    Scooby Doo, as many (like Eddie Izzard and Tim Minchin) have noted, is a prototype for skepticism readily available to small shildren, and as such is valuable tool for teaching.

    Too bad more adults can’t seem to figure it out.

  5. coragyps says

    “habitual docility towards Ecclesiastical Authority”

    Baaaa! Baaaa!
    Lead those sheep, Palpatine!

  6. quoderatdemonstrandum says

    . . .habitual docility towards Ecclesiastical Authority. . .

    yeah, because the virgin wouldn’t appear to anyone who might be uppity and have a revelation that contradicts the Vatican.

    “Praise Jeebus! Mary Mother of God appeared to me and said He totally couldn’t care less about who marries who, we’re all god’s children, including LGBTQ people. Oh yeah, and he also said that hate mongering homophobe bigots better do some serious repenting and good works for LGBTQ charities or he’s going to open up a case of whoop ass and there shall be smiting all around”

  7. Larry says

    Hey, all I wanna know is if the image on a Pringles potato chip I have is the virgin mary or Zig-Zag rolling paper guy. This gobbly-gook is totally silent on food-based apparitions.

  8. busterggi says

    What? No mention of the importance of the type of cheese in the grilled sandwich – surely Mary would only appear on those containing American cheese not those pagan European cheeses.

    America is Jeses’ country, it says so in the Constitution.

  9. says

    Whoa! First question: what the hell are the “Ordinaries”? Is that us? Is it me?

    and I don’t like that phrase: “habitual docility towards Ecclesiastical Authority.” Not one bit.

  10. Sastra says

    I think they need to discover and list the criteria which would allow them to distinguish between a real Virgin Mary apparition and a false one that nevertheless ends up benefiting the Catholic Church. The distinction here seems a bit fuzzy to me.

  11. Scott Hanley says

    wasting a great deal of verbiage with little actual meaning.

    Here’s where I disagree with Ed, because there’s a serious meaning to these criteria. “Will endorsing the apparition tend to support or undermine our authority and public image?” That’s a pretty serious test.

  12. says

    Slightly OT – they were saying on NPR this morning that there’s a bit of a scandal at the vatican. One of the pope’s assistants was apparently selling information to the press (pretty seriously). He is currently under arrest and looking at up to 30 years in prison. So it’s OK to rape kids but leaking information to the press? That’s SERIOUS.

  13. demonhauntedworld says

    with special regard to the fecundity of spiritual fruit generated from this new devotion

    Somebody take away their thesaurus. This reads like a Nigerian scammer e-mail.

  14. chilidog99 says

    So you mean it’s not a vision, but it is really the caretaker of the shut down amusement park, old man Cranston, wearing a rubber Virgin Mary mask?

  15. sezme says

    I’m with reverendrodney (#9). The use of “Ordinaries” and “habitual docility towards Ecclesiastical Authority” tells me everything I need to know about these clowns.

  16. says

    “So you mean it’s not a vision, but it is really the caretaker of the shut down amusement park, old man Cranston, wearing a rubber Virgin Mary mask?”

    That’s a disturbing image; not as disturbing as Pope Panzerfaust in a full gimp suit, but close.

    “wasting a great deal of verbiage with little actual meaning.”

    That could be their sub-header.

    “with special regard to the fecundity of spiritual fruit generated from this new devotion.”

    I think that one of the monk/scribes was doing some “one handed illuminating” when he wrote that.

    “habitual docility towards Ecclesiastical Authority.”

    It ain’t just for altar boys anymore.

    “What? No mention of the importance of the type of cheese in the grilled sandwich –”

    I was at a McDonalds recently and had a McDouble. When I was putting an extra pint of Ketchcornsyrup on it I noticed that it had the likeness of the Immaculate Conceptionist in Velveetaish gooey goodness. I was gonna document it and put it on e-bay; then I realized that JESUS’ mom–fine upstanding jewish girl of her times that she was–wouldn’t be caught dead with or IN a cheeseburger.

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