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 Catholic teaching on private revelation - Excellent summary 
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New post Catholic teaching on private revelation - Excellent summary
Rev. Michael Walsh, B.D.. B..A , The Apparition At Knock - A Survey Of Facts And Evidence, 2nd ed. St. Jarlath’s College, Tuam, 1959. Pp 10-14. Chapter IV - Catholic Teaching

HERE it may be well to summarise Catholic teaching on the class of supernatural phenomena with which we are dealing, namely, revelations, visions, apparitions.

Divine revelation is a manifestation of a truth by God to man in a manner beyond the ordinary course of nature. Public revelation is addressed to the whole human race. It is contained in the Bible and in Apostolic Tradition. It came to an end with the teaching of the Apostles. The truths of public revelation are all dogmas of the Church, and we are bound to believe them by divine Faith. Private revelation is addressed to an individual or group of individuals for their own welfare or that of others, instances of private revelation have occurred in every age. Belief in them is not of obligation, even after they have got the approval of the Church. They never become part of Catholic dogma. The revelations made to St. Margaret Mary, to St. Bernadette at Lourdes and to the children at Fatima are examples of private revelations.

Revelations have been made through visions and apparitions. Neither the word “vision” nor “apparition” is always used with exactly the same meaning by all writers. A vision may be described as the apprehension of an image or concept in the psychological genesis of which God has played a special role and for which there is no external correlate present to the beholder. Three kinds of visions are distinguished: intellectual, imaginative and sensible. An intellectual vision is apprehended by the mind alone without an interior image. St. Teresa of Avila had intellectual visions of the Blessed Trinity. An imaginative vision is apprehended by means of an interior image. The image does not give the impression of being exterior. St. Paul’s vision of Ananias might be described as being an imaginative vision. A sensible vision is also apprehended by means of an interior image, but in such a way as to give the impression of exteriority, and it is related in some way to the external objects present. Instances where Our Lord appeared in the Blessed Eucharist to one person while remaining invisible to all others in the congregation would seem to be examples of sensible visions. Care must be taken not to confuse the imaginative and sensible types of vision with images naturally produced on the imagination or images that are the result of pathological disorder.

An apparition may be described as the manifestation of an external object in a preternatural or supernatural manner. In the subjective sense it is the perception of an external object for whose presence God is in some special way responsible. An apparition is seen by the bodily eyes. The perception of an apparition cannot properly be called supernatural, as the senses are acting normally. The appearances of Our Lord after His Resurrection were apparitions. For an apparition to be real and genuine it is not necessary that the object of the apparition be a real human body of flesh and bones. It suffices that it be a sensible or luminous form external to the beholder and occupying a definite space. St. Thomas is of the opinion that Our Lord after His Ascension rarely appeared in Person. He discusses appearances of Our Lord in the Blessed Eucharist, and he says these can be explained either as a miraculous impression directly produced in the eye of the beholder, or as a form that is external and visible but distinct from Our Lord’s Own Body. The former explanation is adopted if only one person sees the appearance, while others who are present do not see it; the latter, if all present see it. St. Thomas reasons in this way, because it is his opinion that the Body of Our Saviour cannot be seen in Its own proper form except in the one place which actually contains it. Following this principle some writers are of the opinion that when Our Lady appeared on earth, her body remained in Heaven, and what appeared at the spot of the apparition was a visible form which represented her. Writers, however, are not agreed on this point.

God can manifest Himself to whomsoever He will, but it is to souls far advanced in holiness that visions usually are granted. Father Poulain says that “visions and supernatural locutions of a higher order are not usually granted, with any frequency, at least, until the period of ecstasy is almost reached” . The same writer, however, states that “history proves that visions or exterior locutions have often been received, transiently, at any rate, by persons who were still in the way of ordinary prayer” , and that “experience seems to prove that God has at times manifested Himself to simple souls of quite ordinary virtue, in order to found a pilgrimage or to suggest some useful undertaking” . It is recognised that among sinners visions rarely occur.

Accounts of visions or apparitions are not to be accepted without serious examination. There is the possibility of falsehood on the part of the person claiming the vision, or trickery by some other person, or the intervention of the devil, or the supposed vision may be due to illusion or hallucination. It is also possible that mistakes be made in reporting a true revelation. The person who has seen the vision may interpret the message wrongly, or he may unconsciously mingle ideas of his own with what is genuine revelation, or he may subsequently, without realising it, alter parts of the original message. For these reasons the Church insists on careful examination of all accounts of visions and apparitions, and it is well known that she is very slow in giving approval to such accounts. Even when the Church approves private revelations, she does not make them the object of Catholic Faith. The assent given to them is an act of human faith based on human testimony. Benedict XIV states the mind of the Church thus: “Although an assent of Catholic faith may not and can not be given to revelations thus approved, still, an assent of human faith, made according to the rules of prudence is due them; for, according to these rules such revelations are probable and worthy of pious credence” . In giving her approval the Church simply permits them to be published for the instruction and edification of the faithful.

Many devotions and pilgrimages owe their origin to an apparition. The procedure adopted for deciding on the authenticity of an apparition is that the bishop of the diocese sets up a tribunal to make a thorough investigation of the occurrence. The investigation may take several years. If after careful examination and consultation the bishop finds that the evidence is sufficient to warrant a prudent belief in the authenticity of the apparition, he may make known his decision in the form of an edict. The Bishop of Tarbes declared the authenticity of the apparitions at Lourdes in the following manner: “We judge that Mary Immaculate Mother of God, has really appeared eighteen times to Bernadette Soubirous, on February 11 and the following days, in the Grotto of Massabielle, near the town of Lourdes, and that the apparitions have been proved to be true, and the faithful may believe it in all security.”

The statement of a bishop on the authenticity of an apparition is not, of course, an infallible pronouncement, and does not close the case absolutely. The faithful are not bound by obligation to believe in the apparition, but the verdict of the bishop must be accepted as the decision of an expert, and must be treated with the respect due to the spiritual ruler of the diocese.

At the request of the bishop the Holy See may grant liturgical or other privileges to the shrine, and it may even encourage the devotion or pilgrimage connected with the apparition, but in doing so it acts for theological reasons which are independent of the apparition, and in granting such approval it does not guarantee the historical fact of the apparition. In 1877 the Congregation of Rites was asked whether it approved the apparitions at Lourdes and La Salette. The reply was: “Such apparitions are neither approved nor reproved or condemned by the Holy See; they are simply authorised as pious beliefs on purely human faith, according to a tradition which has been confirmed by suitable testimonies and evidences.” (A.S.S., 11. 1877).

In general it can be said that until such time as a decision has been made by competent authority, two extremes are to be avoided in regard to reported revelations and apparitions. One is the credulous mentality which accepts all such stories uncritically. The other is the frame of mind which automatically rejects them. Neither attitude is scientific. Care must be taken to find the truth. True revelations are useful. They are the work not only of God’s power, but of His wisdom. In making revelations and manifesting apparitions God uses extraordinary means to achieve extraordinary good.


Sun May 21, 2006 9:00 am
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New post revelations
This is an excellent summary of the Church's teaching onprivate revelations. And good enough reason to always approach them with due prudence. There is no need to go "apparition chasing" when in fact we have the completeness of truth and the knowledge of what we must do to save our souls.
We must always apply this to the message of any perported messages from heaven. Yes, as Jesus said by their fruits you will know them, and we have seen good fruit coming from authentic revelations and bad fruit from those which are fraudulent or satanic.
We must always suspend judgment until either the prophecies have been fulfilled within a reasonable time frame or else some visible sign emerges from the apparition site. Only then does the church speak authoritatively about it.


Sun May 21, 2006 1:40 pm
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Pax Christi !

Wonderful posts ! And this is timely given the myriad of ' apparitions' present in this day and age. The Catholic Faith is what we need, not " signs and wonders" abounding around every corner.

In Christ our King,
Vincent


Wed May 24, 2006 1:01 am
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New post The Casuist - 1906
Another excellent summary of the Church's doctrine on this subject.

The Casuist, Wagner, New York, 1906, Vol. I, pp. 123-127.


XXX. Concerning the Perusal of Private Revelations.

1. There are many persons, especially women endeavoring to lead a holy life, who occupy themselves a great deal with so-called revelations made to pious persons, even to the exclusion of all other spiritual reading matter. Sometimes such persons study the revelations made to some particular saint, drawing all their spiritual nourishment from them; then having their appetite whetted by the perusal of one book of this kind, they eagerly devour anything of the same nature that they are able to lay hold of. They believe in these revelations as firmly as they believe in the Gospels and are strongly disposed to brand as heretics, or at least as suspects, all who do not put the same faith in them as they do themselves. This disposition alone is sufficient to prove that the perusal of these private revelations is not a healthy, spiritual exercise for all indiscriminately, and it becomes necessary from time to time to instruct the faithful on this head.

2. That there may be, that there have been, and that there are at present revelations made to private individuals is beyond question. We are speaking, of course, of revelations made to holy and devout persons, which have been investigated by the Church and declared to contain nothing against faith or good morals. No positive ecclesiastical approbation is ever given to such revelations.

3. When the Church revises and approves revelations and visions in this sense, all she does is to certify that these visions and revelations contain nothing against the ‘‘rule of faith,’’ the “regula fidei’’; so that the faithful may believe them without injury to their faith (pie creditur) and use them as a guide to conduct without fear of believing or doing anything unauthorized by the Church. Where the Church has thus given her approval to any particular private revelation, it is no longer permitted to ridicule or to despise it. “Fas non est,” says Card. Franzelin, “tales revelationes contemnere” (de div. trad. 22). To do so were to fail in the respect due to the Church. But not to believe the revelation is no sin against the obedience we owe the Church. For the Church, by her approval or quasi-approval of these revelations, has no intention of obliging the faithful to believe them. Whoever believes in them, does so “fide humana,” and not ‘‘fide divina,’’ at least not “fide divina Catholica.”

“In spiritual things,” says Catherine Emmerich, “I never believed anything except what was revealed by God and proposed for my belief by the Catholic Church. What I saw in visions I never believed in this way.”

4. The body of revealed truth, necessary to salvation and bearing the seal of infallibility, was completed and closed, once for all, by the teachings of Christ and the apostles. When the Church defines a new dogma, she simply declares authoritatively that it is contained in the teachings of Our Lord and the apostles. Just as private revelations do not bear the seal of infallibility, so neither do they bear the mark of inerrancy. There is no divine inspiration guaranteeing the correct recording of private revelations, as is the case with the Holy Scriptures, even though the fact of the revelations has been established.

Private revelations are exposed to a threefold danger. The understanding may err in receiving the revelation. The memory may fail in recording orally or in writing the contents of the revelation. The tongue may err in its effort to clothe the revelation in human words.

Moreover, as Bened. XIV remarks, notions and ideas acquired previous to the revelation may be confounded by the person receiving the revelation with the things learned in the revelation, and thus the saints have sometimes considered things to have been revealed to them which were in nowise revealed. Hence the contradictions in different revelations.

5. The supernatural communication, therefore, as well in its reception as in its transmission, may be unwittingly falsified. The Holy Scriptures alone are preserved from such falsifications. And thus it happens that the private revelations of different holy persons contradict one another openly, and in many things.

6. All that the Church says, therefore, when she lends her approval to the private revelations of the saints or other holy persons, is that these revelations may he believed “fide humana,” and that they are adapted and may be used for the edification of the faithful.

The declaration of Bened. XIV does not contradict this: “When the Church has examined and approved these visions, no one may any longer doubt their supernatural and divine origin.” The Pope speaks only of their origin, and not at all of their contents, nor of their correct reproduction. And even a refusal to believe in their divine origin would not be a sin against Catholic faith.

7. After these theoretical remarks let us add a few words of a practical nature. The reading of these visions and private revelations is in nowise adapted to the needs of ordinary people, even though they may have correct notions about the credibility of private revelations. Many of these revelations are beyond the needs and the intelligence even of persons already far advanced in the spiritual life, and are often clothed in language quite unintelligible. And herein precisely lies a new source of anxiety, because a new danger, namely, the danger of understanding the revelation in a wrong sense, which may easily lead to positive error and sin against the “rule of faith.”

8. Besides the danger just mentioned there is another, namely, the danger of a one-sided and an imperfect direction in holiness, and of laying great stress on trifles and things of secondary importance. But what is worst of all is that the reading of these revelations gives rise to secret spiritual pride and makes silly pious people, for it is such persons that are most addicted to this kind of reading, that imagine themselves farther advanced in the ways of perfection than others and think that they know more about matters of faith and morals than most other people, even more than the priests themselves.

9. It may cause some surprise if we add a warning for members of religions orders, especially of women .As a general rule, it is not advisable to make use of histories of private revelations, made to pious and holy persons, for general community reading. And those in authority in religious communities should be very slow to allow individual members of the community to make use of the same for their private reading. Women in religions orders who are endeavoring to lead holy lives are more apt to evince a weakness for what is extraordinary than for what is ordinary in their quest of perfection, than their sisters in the world. They prefer the revelations of St. Brigitta or of St. Gertrude to an ordinary introduction to the spiritual life. And it is precisely those who are by no means firmly grounded in the spiritual life who hanker after what is higher before they understand or put into practice the most ordinary and necessary requirements of spiritual growth. In the case of religious the evil effects of this kind of reading are more pronounced and more disastrous than in the case of lay people, and they sometimes create disturbance and division in an entire convent.

10. Some may think these remarks and warnings too severe and even exaggerated. And such indeed were the case did we apply them, a priori, to all private revelations. They hold good only for those who read indiscriminately, and without selecting, especially revelations made to holy persons in times long gone by, and which are profoundly mystic, not to say apocalyptic in their presentation.

Simple books, and books that may be readily understood, like the visions of Catherine Emmerich concerning the life and sufferings of Our Lord and His Blessed Mother, are much to be preferred to others, and we would even recommend them.


Mon Aug 27, 2007 2:43 pm
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That's all very well, but with Fatima I don't think that there is an option for any straight thinking Catholic to ignore it or act as though it is optional. I find it incredible how some Traditionalists can treat Fatima with such contempt or lump it in with other apparitions.

We have a very public miracle, 70,000 people witnessing it including non-Catholics and anti-Catholics, dire warnings of punishment, a message supposed to be released in 1960 (a very curious date is it not) and a cover-up over the Third Secret for the past 47 years.

God does not work the greatest miracle the world has seen for the last 2000 years unless there is a VERY important reason for it.

It is abundently clear to me that this whole scenario we are living through now is INTIMATELY tied up with the Fatima apparitions; as will be the resolution and restoration.


Mon Aug 27, 2007 6:31 pm
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ConversionofRussia wrote:
That's all very well, but with Fatima I don't think that there is an option for any straight thinking Catholic to ignore it or act as though it is optional.

Whether it suits us or not to accept the fact, Fatima is "optional" in the sense that it is not part of the deposit of revelation and it is not a sin against Faith to ignore it.

But you seem not to have noted the following:
Quote:
Where the Church has thus given her approval to any particular private revelation, it is no longer permitted to ridicule or to despise it. “Fas non est,” says Card. Franzelin, “tales revelationes contemnere” (de div. trad. 22). To do so were to fail in the respect due to the Church. But not to believe the revelation is no sin against the obedience we owe the Church. For the Church, by her approval or quasi-approval of these revelations, has no intention of obliging the faithful to believe them. Whoever believes in them, does so “fide humana,” and not ‘‘fide divina,’’ at least not “fide divina Catholica.”


These are crucial distinctions. If they were understood by all, there would be no further sedevacantist schisms. The entire position of those who feel that somehow or other they must elevate the sedevacantist position into a quasi-dogma would collapse as the vapour that it is. Such men would be able to explain why the sedevacantist position is important and how it obliges the conscience. They would be able to do this without resorting to the erroneous suggestion that there is something morally deficient in those who don’t share our judgement. They would be freed from the fear that if they admit that our view is only our own opinion then this would reduce it to a matter of no moment, when obviously it is a matter of very great moment indeed. In a word, these men could recover their balance and do much good, whilst avoiding the evils they presently perpetrate by their misplaced and ill-informed zeal.

Fatima obliges by the fact that it is manifestly God’s will that we hear His Mother. We know this, as you’ve pointed out, because He worked a very great miracle to give her message the highest possible credibility short of public revelation itself. But if one were to fail to accept it he would not, on that account, lose his Faith. He could still be saved. There is for this reason an unbridgeable chasm between the obligation of Faith and any other obligation to believe something.

The sede vacante thesis obliges on a distinctly lower level than Fatima, for the obvious reason that it has not been confirmed by any public miracles at all. But still, the same distinctions apply.


ConversionofRussia wrote:
It is abundently clear to me that this whole scenario we are living through now is INTIMATELY tied up with the Fatima apparitions; as will be the resolution and restoration.

Yes, I fully and emphatically agree with you. And the first apparition was on the (future) Feast of St. Robert Bellarmine. Our Lady and Bellarmine – our two greatest guides in this particular crisis.

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Tue Aug 28, 2007 12:22 am
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Pax Christi !


Speaking of private revelation; what are we to think of Bishop Williamson's " letter" ? Is this really from the good Bishop? He thinks Father Kramer may have prophetic gifts? Not to mention, Garabandal?

Fasten Seatbelts
Eleison Comments XIX

Prepare to fasten your seat-belts for the year 2008! It is always risky to announce dates for dramatic events in the future, because if they do not then happen, the doom-dater has only discredited himself. However, there is a triple convergence for next year which may be at least an “orange alert.”

First and foremost there is the pressure building towards a Third World War, which may well be the beginning of the long-deserved chastisement of a globe turning its back on God. On the side of the United States there is an insane pressure group beating the war-drums for an attack upon Iran, when more and more now know that the disastrous attack upon Iraq was only made possible by fraud (9/11) and lies (WMD). On the side of Russia, President Putin has backed his good reasons for condemning any such attack with the threat to resist it.

But the West’s vile media silence the reasons and step up the war-drums. President Bush announces he wishes to “prevent Iran’s nuclear capacity” before he leaves office – end of 2008 – and in 2007 we see a mounting economic and financial crisis within the USA and in the world which risks presenting him no later than 2008 with a virtually irresistible temptation to “busy giddy minds with foreign quarrels” (H-IV, Pt II).

Secondly, two years ago Fr. Paul Kramer quoted in the “Fatima Crusader” a German priest (living) who may be privileged with prophetic gifts from Heaven, and who has foretold 2008 as the year for the outbreak of WWIII.

Thirdly, one of the four girls from Northern Spain who saw Our Lady in Garabandal many times between 1962 and 1965 is reportedly giving March and April of 2008 as the months of the Great Warning and Great Miracle respectively. We shall see.

The prophecy from Germany and report from Spain are worth no more than they are worth (nor less), but the realities from the USA and Russia are for real. It does no harm to take a little more seriously still our constant need to “pray without ceasing” (I Thess. V, 17). Kyrie Eleison.

Bishop Richard Williamson
La Reja, Argentina


Wed Nov 21, 2007 6:02 pm
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I usually love to know what Bp. Williamson is up to. He's pretty right-on about a lot of worldwide issues, I think.


Thu Nov 22, 2007 5:18 am

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I guess, as Bishop Williamson says, we shall see. 5 months and we'll know whether his hunch was right.


Fri Nov 23, 2007 3:08 pm
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Pax Christi !

First.. I am having turkey withdraw ! Yes, per shame I am a turkey addict :)

Conversion, a few things struck me; I had no idea the good bishop had thought that Father Kramer may have prophetic gifts, nor was I aware he gave credence to Garabandal.

I do not dabble in speculation about the ends times, but on the surface, the world looked in many ways much worst in 1967-73, then today.

a. Active war - Israel ( USA) vs. Arab nations ( USSR)
b. The new mass 1969 ( the Grace famine is now 38 years and counting )
c. Abortion legalized worldwide


Recently;

a. breakup of the USSR
b. Communism is wanning. The consumer minded world is casting it to the wastedump.

What scares me the most at this point is - WWIII most likely will be a non-shooting war, it will be China, Russia, India, burying the west economically, with nary a shot being fired.

In America- 70% of Engineers are not native to the US. Our children with the substandard education they receive will be regulated to the “ food service” industry “ Welcome to McDonalds can I take your order ”


Fri Nov 23, 2007 7:42 pm
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I believe that Fr. Kramer thinks Ruffino and a German mystic have prophetic qualities. I have not seen where Fr. Kramer says he is a prophet. He is interested in prophecy, and was friends with some mystics. Unless I'm reading this all wrong. I read The Devil's Final Battle" by Fr.Kramer a few years ago. I think he studies mysticsm,but does not declare himself as such.


Fri Nov 23, 2007 8:18 pm

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Pax Christi !

< Secondly, two years ago Fr. Paul Kramer quoted in the “Fatima Crusader” a German priest (living) who may be privileged with prophetic gifts from Heaven, and who has foretold 2008 as the year for the outbreak of WWIII. >

Eliz- good catch ! I should read and type much more carefully.

Hope you and yours had a wonderful Thanksgiving, even though the Pilgrims never did eat Turkey at theirs !

:) :) American " history" is steeped in mythology.


Fri Nov 23, 2007 11:43 pm
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Happy Thanksgiving to you, too Vince! The photos of yesterday have caused a full-fledged fat attack. Let's see if fasting all of Advent does corporal good.

Wouldn't it be nice if people celebrated the Epiphany or the Feast of the Immaculate Conception the way Thanksgiving is?

I think the time could be close. But then, we had a fallout shelter and bugged out for the Cuban Missle Crisis when I was a child. It's in the blood.


Sat Nov 24, 2007 1:19 am
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