Dignitas, Gaudium, and deportations

A certain passage in Dignitas infinita, the recent document on human dignity, strikes me as phrased in a misleading way, and I wonder if anyone else is noticing this too.  In paragraph 34, the Congregation Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith states that the Second Vatican Council

denounced ‘all offenses against human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children, degrading working conditions where individuals are treated as mere tools for profit rather than free and responsible persons.’”

Dignitas infinita 34, quoting Gaudium et spes, section 27

The word that stands out to me is “deportation”. Is Dignitas trying to tell us that Vatican 2 denounced deportation in general?

That would be politically useful now, as it would seem to fit in with the frequent emphasis from Pope Francis about the rights of migrants, who are mentioned directly in paragraph 40 of Dignitas.

But I doubt that the Council meant to reject deportation broadly in Gaudium, since the Church has acknowledged the right of countries to regulate immigration:

Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions…

Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2241

and that implies a right for countries to refuse foreign nationals who don’t meet the juridical conditions.

But Gaudium et spes names “deportation” without any specifics. If it could not have meant deportation in general, it must have been referring to categories of deportation that readers at the time would recognize as abusive. What might those be?

Gaudium was promulgated at the height of the Cold War, in 1965. The deportations that drew the most attention then were probably the occasional expulsions of individual Soviet-bloc dissidents to the West, and there had also already been the expulsions committed by various empires for the sake of what we now call “ethnic cleansing”: that is, in the Ottoman Empire, the German Third Reich, and the Soviet Union: expulsions of millions of people, some deported outside the respective empires, some exiled internally to places where they were treated as cheap or even enslaved labor.

So 59 years ago the Council had good reason to list deportation as an insult to human dignity, in Gaudium et spes (in section 27, Latin deportationes). But now, when Abp. Fernandez incorporates the passage into Dignitas infinita, the bare, unexplained word may give present-day readers the false impression that an Ecumenical Council had broadly denounced normal governmental control of immigration as a grave moral offense. It would be a rhetorical sleight-of-hand, even though unintended.

Bishop of Amsterdam’s statement on alleged apparitions

Bishop Johannes Hendriks of the diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam has issued a statement in the wake of the CDF rejection of the alleged apparitions to Ida Peerdeman, from which the title “Lady of All Nations” was promoted. He writes that the title is, in itself, legitimate and can be used, but must not be treated as any sort of endorsement of the apparition claims.

The English text below was published on the diocesan web site. Where dates appear in numeric form in the text, the translation gives them in American format (month/day/year).

Clarification by the Bishop of Haar­lem-Am­ster­dam regar­ding the Lady of All Nations

Having consulted the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and in accordance with it, I declare the follo­wing:

Through devotion to Mary, the Mother of All Nations, many faithful express their desire and their effort for the universal fraternity of man­kind with the help and support of Mary’s intercession. “Mary is our Mother, she is the Mother of our peoples, she is the Mother of us all” (Francis, Homily of 12/12/2019) and she invites us to collaborate with God’s plan and His desire that we all are, and become always more, brothers and sisters (cf. Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Caritas in veritate, n. 42).

Pope Francis writes in his Encyclical Letter Fratelli tutti: “For many Christians, this journey of fraternity also has a Mother, whose name is Mary. Having received this universal motherhood at the foot of the cross (cf. Jn 19:26), she cares not only for Jesus but also for ‘the rest of her children’ (cf. Rev 12:17). In the power of the risen Lord, she wants to give birth to a new world, where all of us are brothers and sisters, where there is room for all those whom our societies discard, where justice and peace are resplen­dent” (n. 278).

In this sense, the use of the title Lady of All Nations for Mary is in itself theologically acceptable. Prayer with Mary and through the intercession of Mary, Mother of our peoples, serves the growth of a more united world, in which everyone recognizes themselves as brothers and sisters, all created in the image of God, our common Father.

Nevertheless, the recognition of this title cannot be understood—not even implicitly—as the recognition of the supernaturality of some pheno­mena from which it seems to have come. In this sense, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reaffirms the validity of the negative judg­ment on the supernaturality of the alleged “apparitions and revelations” to Ms. Ida Peerdeman approved by St. Paul VI on 04/05/1974 and published on 05/25/1974. This judg­ment implies that everybody is urged to cease any propagation concer­ning the alleged apparitions and revelations of the Lady of All Nations. Therefore, the use of the images and prayer cannot in any way be consi­dered a recognition—not even implicitly—of the supernaturality of the events in question.

Regar­ding the mere title “Lady”, “Madonna” or “Mother of All Nations” the Congregation generally is not opposed to its use, provided that this is clearly separated from the recognition of the alleged apparitions. If the Virgin Mary is invoked under this title, pastors and faithful must ensure that all forms of this devotion refrain from any reference, even implicit, to alleged apparitions or revelations.

Haar­lem, the 30th of December 2020

+ Johannes Hendriks
Bishop of Haar­lem-Am­ster­dam

(Translation from the Dutch original)

More on Amsterdam

Journalist David Murgia, on his web site ilsegnodigiona.com, has published a copy of the recent (July 20) letter about CDF’s position on the Amsterdam apparition case. The letter from the Apostolic Nuncio in Lebanon, addressed to the Maronite Patriarch, appears there, and here is my own English translation of the Italian text.

Apostolic Nunciature in Lebanon
Harissa, July 20, 2020

Prot. N. 2353/20

Your Eminence,

in response to the request of Your Most Eminent Beatitude on what is the official position of the Church regarding devotion to the Virgin Mary “Our Lady of All Nations”, this Nunciature has requested clarifications from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The aforementioned Dicastery explained that the Notification published on May 25, 1974, available on its web page, remains valid.

In the declaration it is stated that, after appropriate study, there was found “no evidence of the supernatural nature of the apparitions.” Therefore the faithful are invited to “discontinue all forms of propaganda with regard to the alleged apparitions and revelations of ‘Our Lady of All Nations'”, and are exhorted “to express their devotion to the Most Holy Virgin, Queen of the Universe […] by forms of piety which are recognized and recommended by the Church.”

The letter of the same Congregation to the Philippines Episcopal Conference of May 20, 2005 does not contain anything that could lead to thinking that the judgment of the Congregation on the matter had changed.

Taking all of that into consideration, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is of the opinion that it is not suitable to contribute to the spread of devotion to Mary as “Our Lady of All Nations”.

Remaining at the disposal of Your Most Eminent Beatitude for any further information in this regard, may I take the occasion to confirm with a sense of deep veneration, I am

Your Beatitude’s most devoted

+ Joseph Spiteri
Apostolic Nuncio

His Beatitude the Most Eminent
Lord Cardinal Béchara Boutros Raï
Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites

Amsterdam: CDF says no

The news agency I.Media is reporting that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has denied the alleged apparitions of the “Lady of All Peoples” in Amsterdam from 1945 to 1959. The story appeared in French on the Aleteia web site on September 15, and apparently the statement was given in July.

The piece in Aleteia reviews the story of the claimed apparitions and its varied treatment by past bishops, so it’s informative for people who haven’t followed the case before. The unnamed writer, though, does succumb to cliché a bit, when he or she mentions for the third time that CDF was once called the “Holy Office”. Apparently even Catholic news writers feel the compulsion to allude to the Inquisition!

I haven’t found an English version of the report on the net so far, so for the convenience of readers, here is my quick and unofficial translation of the text.

Some of the expressions used in regard to the evaluating the alleged apparitions do seem unclear, so I hope there will be a more complete public statement by CDF.

Based on a screenshot from the promotional site de-vrouwe.info

The Holy See rejects the apparitions of the Virgin to Ida Peerdeman

I.Media / September 15, 2020

The apparitions of Amsterdam are false. The ‘Lady of All Peoples’ may not be venerated and the faithful must cease all promotion,” declared the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in a document dated July 20, 2020 that has only now become public. After multiple decades of controversies, the fifty-six alleged apparitions of the Virgin Mary to Ida Peerdeman have been formally rejected by the Holy See.

Is the Peerdeman case at last closed? A young Dutch woman of the 20th century, Ida Peerdeman claimed to have witnessed, between 1945 and 1959, fifty-six apparitions of the Virgin under the name of “Lady of All Peoples”. These mystical revelations remained controversial until last July 20 when, at the request of Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai, the Maronite Patriarch of Antioch, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), formerly called the “Holy Office”, clarified the position of the Holy See regarding the visions of Ida Peerdeman in a letter addressed to the prelate.

Although for some the Madonna that appeared to Ida Peerdeman presents many similarities to the Virgin who appeared to Catherine Labouré in 1830 (a globe below her feet, rays of light emanating from her down-turned hands), the former Holy Office confirmed a notification signed in 1974 that “considers that it is not appropriate to contribute to spreading the veneration of Mary as the ‘Lady of All Peoples’.”

The fifty-six pseudo-apparitions

According to the account given by the young Dutch woman, born on August 13, 1905 at Alkmaar (The Netherlands), the Virgin appeared to her for the first time on October 13, 1917, the day on which the Marian apparitions of Fatima came to completion with the famous episode of the “miracle of the sun”. The alleged seer, then twelve years old, reported that when she returned home in Amsterdam after a confession she saw a “luminous woman of exceptional beauty whom she immediately identified as the Virgin Mary.”

The first long apparition only took place on March 25, 1945, the Solemnity of the Annunciation. It was followed by fifty-six others until 1959. After some visions, the Virgin was said to have disclosed her name to Ida Peerdeman: “I am the Lady Mary, Mother of all the peoples.” She allegedly said she had been “sent by the Father and the Son to help humanity,” to announce the end of the war and warn the world of “degeneration, disasters, and war” and the danger of a third “worldwide catastrophe”.

There followed numerous predictions about political, economic, and social events of the 20th century: the Cold War, the dissolution of the USSR, the Korean War, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the political chaos in Palestine and in the Near East, etc.

Starting in 1951, the Virgin reportedly showed Ida a vision of the Second Vatican Council, which was to take place a decade later. She allegedly confirmed the necessity of reforms and changes, and disciplinary changes that include the formation of priests and religious. She appeared to be particularly concerned for Rome and the Vatican, which were in danger according to her. Ida described one of the purported visions thus:

Now I notice that the Lady is holding her hand above the Pope and St. Peter’s. The Pope is seated, with his hands raised, and on his head is written ‘Fight.’ I see more and more fighting. Then suddenly I see soldiers wearing tall caps standing behind the Pope; they raise two fingers. Could this be a reference to freemasonry?

Ida Peerdeman, 1951

Controversies and recognitions

Traditionally, in the Catholic Church the task of judging the supernatural character of an apparition falls to the bishop of the diocese in which the apparition took place: in this case, the diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam. The difficulty of the Peerdeman affair resides in the fact that the successive prelates of the dioceses have rendered contradictory judgments.

The first, Mons. Johannes Huibers, bishop at the time of the apparitions, gave his permission (nihil obstat) to the title and to the prayer associated with the apparition. However on May 7, 1956, after having attentively examined the case of the claimed apparitions and revelations of “Our Lady of All Peoples”, the same bishop reviewed his decision. He declared that he had found “no proof of a supernatural character of the apparitions”.

On several occasions, in 1957, in 1972, and in 1974, the CDF confirmed the position of the Dutch bishop. Meanwhile afterward, on May 31, 1996, one of his successors, Mons. Hendrick Bomers, with the authorization of the CDF, authorized public veneration of the same Virgin, maintaining that the question of the supernatural character of the apparitions themselves had not been resolved. He reiterated his decision in a letter dated December 3, 1997.

On May 31, 2002, Mons. Jozef Marianus Punt, the following bishop, declared that the apparitions were of supernatural origin. Since then, the question remains of knowing whether Mons. Punt had the power to annul the decision of his predecessor, having given that the latter’s decision had been confirmed by the CDF. In an unpublished letter of July 2005, the CDF asked that the prayer associated with the apparition be modified, replacing the words “who once was Mary” with “the Holy Virgin Mary”. The supporters of the alleged apparitions concluded from this that the CDF had tacitly accepted the approval by Mons. Punt.

Is the Peerdeman case closed?

At the inquiry of the Lebanese cardinal, the former Holy Office recalled, in a letter signed last July 20, that the judgment of the Church remained the one published by the diocese of Amsterdam on May 25, 1974, in which it is said – after an appropriate study – that Ida Peerdeman “was not conscious of the supernatural character of the apparitions.” This is why, one reads in the letter from of the Vatican Nunciature, the faithful are urged to “cease all promotion of the purported apparitions and revelations of the Lady of All Peoples and are exhorted to express their devotion to the Most Holy Virgin, Queen of the Universe, under the forms that are recognized and recommended by the Church.”

A leak from the Medj study commission

David Murgia, a religion journalist who has produced a number of projects for national television networks in Italy, and who is also a supporter of the alleged apparitions at Medjugorje, writes on his blog Il Segno di Giona (“The Sign of Jonah”) that he has come into the possession of a copy of the Ruini commission report. In this post I’ll present a draft English translation of his excerpts from the report.

This study group was launched under Pope Benedict XVI in 2010 and led by Camillo Cardinal Ruini, the former head of the vicariate of Rome. It spent four years gathering information on the case and forwarded its result, a thirty-page document, to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Pope Francis praised the group for its work and some leaks appeared about its conclusions, but neither the Pope nor CDF took any steps toward an official approval or rejection of the apparition claims. Instead, Pope Francis appointed a bishop – a rather sympathetic one to the Medjugorje phenomenon – from outside Bosnia-Herzegovina to provide pastoral supervision.

The document excerpts provided by Mr. Murgia are consistent with the story linked above, but go into some aspects of the commission’s positions. The first excerpt gives an example of rather typical academic prose in Italian: a preference for many nouns and few verbs, for impersonal expressions, and for length:

“Having identified the formal object and specific material capable of offering and outlining the physiognomy of a religious event of specific interest, from the point of view of its possible supernatural origin, this can then be recognized, in a sufficient and reasonable way, in the first seven alleged apparitions, which are attested to have taken place from June 24 to July 3, 1981 to Ivanka Ivanković, Mirjana Dragičević, Vicka Ivanković, Ivan Ivanković, Milka Pavlović and Ivan Dragičević (that is, the seers Marija Pavlović and Jakov Čolo, now part of the six seers, were added on June 25, 1981, while Milka Pavlović and Ivan Ivanković ‘left’ the group of the seers.)”

“the hypothesis of a demonic origin from the beginnings of the phenomenon appears gratuitous and unfounded… by the positive fruits derived from the phenomenon itself”

“On the basis of these data, the International Commission considers that it can affirm with reasonable certainty that the first seven apparitions prove to be intrinsically credible, as they were capable of fostering in those who saw them an awakening of faith, a conversion in their way of life, and a renewed sense of belonging to the Church.”

The commission’s members voted in agreement with the proposition that start of the phenomenon was “not attributable to human dynamics alone, but having a supernatural origin” [the vote was: 13 for, 1 against, with one member deferring on the question].

Considering the widespread promotion of belief in the phenomenon: “…. It can be affirmed, therefore, that the succeeding thirty-year history since the original events has spread so far and in such depth as to exclude an individual or mass manipulation. We are faced with a dynamic — with every possible caution for this analogy — of the little seed that bears great fruits.”

The Commission does not, however, think that everything claimed by the seers bears signs of heavenly authenticity: “The International Commission has had to consider the repetitive banality of some of the communications which the witnesses declare they received from the Gospa, and likewise the lack of elements of incalculability and of transcendence, which is proper to supernatural character – while the content of these communications remains generally in line with the fides Ecclesiae.”

The commission, despite its investigative mission, did not think it had authority to insist on any disclosure of the “ten secrets” allegedly entrusted to the seers: “The way in which the alleged witnesses speak of these realities, through some analogous aspects, recalls the function taken on by elements both in the course of phenomena authenticated by the Church – foremost of them, Fatima – and in the realm of phenomena not recognized as such by competent ecclesiastical authority but which continue, one way or another, to have credibility among some sectors of the Christian people. The International Commission has considered itself unable to order the alleged seers to reveal the content of the ‘secrets’, and thus it does not have the power to include this in its decisions…. Moreover the alleged seers describe them as hidden realities which, by order of the Gospa, cannot be revealed until the opportune moment, which will be shown to them exclusively by the Madonna.”

Hence the “secrets” and the “life of Mary” and analogous texts “cannot enjoy any ecclesiastical approval”.

The commission advises that for any ongoing events “the linguistic formulation of the alleged messages of the Madonna… should take place in the presence of the priest entrusted with the spiritual accompaniment of the alleged seer”. This is astounding advice, urging authorities to have the alleged messages from Heaven processed through a doctrinal inspection before they are ever spoken or written. It would become impossible to separate the mystical phenomenon itself from the human activity of its overseers, and so judging the authenticity of new messages on the grounds of their compatibility with sound doctrine would become practically impossible. An intervention like this did actually happen in the past: at the time in the 1980s messages were recorded in the parish’s “Chronicle of the apparitions” maintained by then-friar Tomislav Vlasić, eventually laicized in 2009 after his own doctrine and behavior were investigated by CDF. Some questionable points of doctrine were recorded in the Chronicle as messages from the Madonna with no apparent objection from him.

“What the International Commission has been able to ascertain, in regard to the accusation of a possible seeking of profit, is that the witnesses of the supernatural sign originally addressed to them now effectively have a relation, ambiguous in certain aspects, with money (and with what in general can be called a preoccupation with their own ‘wellbeing’). Yet this ambiguity, rather than being located on the side of immorality, is found on the side of the structure of the person, often lacking a solid discernment and a coherent orientation, and also because an available and steady spiritual guide has been lacking to them in the course of these thirty years. If anything, there have been many signs exhibited of spiritual self-promotion and of a lack of pastoral relationships.”

“In other words, it is fitting to recognize that, for long years, neither the bishops of Mostar-Duvno, nor the community of Franciscan friars of Medjugorje established relations with these persons of sufficient regularity and in-depth discernment of the meaning of the events which they claim and even now claim to experience. This circumstance has probably accented the current relative ‘impenetrability’ of the witnesses: innocent at times and calculated in others, through the protecting effect of repetitive formulas and stereotypes defending their mariophanic ‘experience’.”

In presenting quotations from the report, Murgia the journalist chooses to shield the subjects of the report from full disclosure, opting to leave out the name of one seer whose behavior the Commission finds particularly suspect. “This lack of spiritual and human accompaniment is surely one among the causes of certain ambivalences and ambiguities that have been manifested among the protagonists of the phenomenon underway. This negative dynamic reaches its apex in the case of [Redacted], whose continuing meetings and conferences on the Medjugorje phenomenon seem to constitute [his or her] only work and support. [Redacted] has also lied multiple times and is also less credible in the way [he or she] speaks of experiences with the Gospa.”

“The alleged seers have appeared substantially credible in their witness of the first seven apparitions, and also through the succeeding alleged apparitions, it does not seem possible to deny their subjective good faith, independent of judgment on the reality of the event. This positive evaluation, however, does not extend to [Redacted], on whose credibility serious and demonstrated reservations have emerged. Also, as regards moral conduct and in particular the question of the quaestus lucri, the position of [Redacted] is more compromised than that of the other alleged seers.”

“Church authority must keep watch over the economic activities of the alleged seers connected with the Medjugorje phenomenon, especially in the case of [Redacted].”

“Attention and pastoral care must be addressed to them above all, toward the development and deepening of their spiritual life and their sense of belonging to the Church. They do not in fact appear mature either in their faith or in their ecclesiality, and at certain times not even in their psychological consistency. The fact that none of them have been really followed by a spiritual director in their personal journey can at least explain these lacks in part.”

I find it puzzling that the commission found the first seven alleged apparitions were able to arouse faith and a sense of belonging to the Church, so well that the commission considered it a sign of the events’ supernatural origin; and yet the ensuing 38 years have not brought the seers to mature faith or self-understanding as members of the Church.

The commission “recognizes that the alleged seers, in their public statements, do not intend to take the place of the Church, and they do keep her doctrine in mind, in a sufficiently balanced way. However, there are strong tendencies to draw attention to themselves and their current alleged visions, rather than on the Christocentric and ecclesial substance of Marian spirituality.”

The commission offered some advice for the local pastors: “The Franciscans are ensuring good pastoral care” which must be “integrated and strengthened (if necessary with a greater contribution even from non-Franciscans).” “The catechesis of the Franciscans is conducted very well, in particular from the pedagogical point of view,” according to the commission.

As part of that pastoral care there has been an increase in “confessionals, guaranteeing the conditions, including physical conditions, for respect for the secret”; and “a precise discipline of confessors, verifying their identity and suitability” is being ensured.

In addition, the Commission wrote, “an enlargement of the size of the parish church” was to be hoped for.

Thanks to David Murgia for making these excerpts available; one can only hope that he will go on to publish the entire content of the report.

As for the Medjugorje question, it is left without a determinate conclusion, as with quite a few issues in the current papacy: the supportive papal visitator Abp. Hoser continues to watch over activities in the parish, including what are now officially approved pilgrimages, while the skeptical theologian-bishop Ratko Perić remains in office, even at the age of 76 governing the dioceses of Mostar-Duvno and Trebinje-Mrkan.