“Is Pope Francis against Medjugorje?”

medjugorje_map-391x278Here is a short item from the news site Corrispondenza Romana. It doesn’t indicate any sources, so I’m not sure how reliable it is, but here it is for your information. The translation (and any mistakes in it) are mine:

Last Saturday, September 7, at his morning meditation in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, Pope Francis, speaking on the theme “there is no Christian without Jesus” criticized “revelationist” Christians and expressed his strong reserve about the alleged apparitions at Medjugorje.

However, the official site of the Holy See and the Osservatore Romano (here is the Italian version) purged their words of any reference to Medjugorje, referring to it only in these terms: “There is another group of Christians without Christ: those who look for rarities and curiosities that come from private revelations,” whereas Revelation was completed with the New Testament. The Holy Father warned about the desire of such Christians to go “to the spectacle of a revelation, to experience something new”. But the Pope addresses to them this exhortation: “Pick up the Gospel!”

The homilies the Holy Father delivers off the cuff in the little chapel of the Casa Santa Marta, where he resides and where he celebrates the Holy Mass almost every morning with various groups of the faithful present, are not acts of the Magisterium, but are often presented as though they were. Still, they do express the Pope’s thinking somewhat and in that way may give an indication of his acts of governance. It would be meaningful to put a DVD containing the full texts of his talks at the disposition of the faithful, as with other homilies.

On the coming 13th of October, at the foot of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima, Pope Francis will consecrate the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and will almost certainly talk about the role of Marian apparitions in the economy of salvation. Considering the Pope’s character and his way of governing, it is hard to think that he would avoid expressing his position in public or in private on the delicate case of Medjugorje. In 2010 the Holy See established a special international commission of inquiry about it, under the presidency of the cardinal Camillo Ruini, composed of 13 permanent members. The definitive results of the inquiry will be submitted to Pope Francis shortly for a definitive decision.

Mark Miravalle analyzes “Maria Divine Mercy”

Here’s an item from the “Credit Where It’s Due” department.
Ireland seems to be the hotbed for phony Catholic prophets. Every few years, it seems, another kook mystic either comes from there or goes there from here to set up shop. For a while Christina Gallagher was attracting followers with her supposed messages from the beyond, then American-born Kathryn Ann Clarke (“Anne, a lay apostle”), and now it’s the anonymous gal styling herself “Maria Divine Mercy”. With a name like that, obviously she didn’t get the humility memo from Pope Francis.
Her writings are full of angry, apocalyptic talk, and even after the failure of her date-specific prediction of a worldwide “warning” to souls, there are still Catholics here and there sucked into her stories of impending doom and disaster, war and warnings, false popes and fake prophecies. From what I see, these are angry people who would like God to knock heads and kick butts, and they are quite willing to spread the gospel of anger provided by this would-be seer. She tells us that the Church isn’t going to approve her messages, but that we should believe her anyway, because God’ll get you if you don’t; and (in her apparently heretical dispensationalist teaching) she indicates that the Church will no longer have a real Pope, so who’s gonna say no to her?
Well, that’s not how Catholic life works.
Professor Mark Miravalle has helpfully applied the Church’s criteria for evaluating mystical claims to her case, and gives the results of his analysis in an on-line article.
Why is this a case of “credit where it’s due”? Because I’m usually pretty skeptical about Miravalle’s writings; after all, he’s taken far too favorable positions about various cases of dubious mysticism: Medjugorje, Kathryn Ann Clarke, and the Amsterdam case. But when he’s right, he deserves our thanks.

Free speech, part III: Critical website on Vassula Ryden case returns at new address: pseudomystica.info

Here’s a little good news for readers who are concerned about the case of non-Catholic false mystic Vassula Ryden. You may recall that Mrs. Ryden won a small victory in 2012 by shutting down the leading web site with critical information about her writings.
Her campaign of harassment by means of lawsuits got the site owner to close the web site.
But in an example of the Streisand Effect, the suit brought lots of attention to Mrs. Ryden and her dirty method of dealing with sincere religious critique: among Orthodox Christians here and among sect-watchers here, and particularly here on the world’s leading English-language Catholic news site. And there’s information here in Spanish; and here in French and here in German.
And various people took action to make sure that the informative material on that web site would not disappear. For instance, Catholic Culture picked up this analysis of the case by a prominent Dominican theologian, Fr. François Dermine, O.P.
Now the theologian himself has stepped up by putting the whole website back on line, at the new domain pseudomystica.info. He’s the president of an Italian organization studying religious sects, and they’re willing and able to defend their freedom of speech from legal harassment by sect leaders.
Mille grazie, Padre Dermine!

Free speech, part II

Some months ago the non-Catholic false mystic Vassula Ryden sued Swiss resident Maria Laura Pio, in a court in Belgium, demanding to take down Mrs. Pio’s web site of critical articles, infovassula.ch. The choice of Belgium as a venue was puzzling, since both Pio and Ryden are residents of Switzerland. Maybe some foolish lawyer in Belgium is a follower of Mrs. Ryden and volunteered to do the dirty work at no charge, thinking that he’s serving God by persecuting Mrs. Pio.
When the case came to a hearing, the court in Belgium promptly dismissed it on procedural grounds, so that went nowhere.
Well, Mrs. Ryden has found another foolish lawyer to do her dirty work, and this time she may get her way. A lawyer in Cardiff, Wales, has threatened to sue Mrs. Pio, claiming that the domain name of her web site infringes on Mrs. Ryden’s trademarks. Mrs. Pio has decided not to spend any more time defending herself from such vexatious litigation and has announced (here’s a copy) that she’s closing the site this month.
A commenter on the previous blog post observes:

Vassula and TLIG are at it again and this time may have potentially shut down the one-stop site for truth about the cult – http://www.infovassula.ch/tliglawsuit2.htm

The threats are spurious – and I’ve done some more research on the people behind this. The solicitor who is threatening to sue for legal fees and loss of TLIG(TM) earnings, Anthony Jeremy, is a specialist in CANON law and a fully paid up member of the cult, having posted at length, coincidentally, about the Congregation’s ban on the use of church premises and being mentioned by someone else in a ‘testimony’.

Vassula(TM) is a registered trademark, as is TLIG(TM), which is curious. The attack has no basis, clearly Pio’s site is not trading as TLIG, is not selling a bogus product, in fact is not selling anything and doesn’t even carry advertising! It clearly falls under ‘fair use’, otherwise it would be impossible to ever mention Vassula(TM) or TLIG(TM). Also note that nowhere on the TLIG(TM) site does it mention that these are registered trademarks and only refers to copyright on the message content. I wonder why?

Also note that TLIG(TM) is not mentioned in full, no corporate address or full details of the company. TLIG(TM) seems not registered in the UK as a trading entity. Looking at the Foundation, we find that this is registered in Switzerland. It has one office and one employee. The president, Jan Kooger Howard, has currently 19 separate companies running from front offices around Geneva – none has more than 6 registered employees – his main interest seems to be an oil brokerage for Nigerian oil, Sahara Energy Services. And no, that does not appear to be a trademark!

The trademarks are owned by the VP, another Swiss big businessman, Jacques Gay, one of the Freres Gay and the owner of a few watch clasp patents.

I’ll take your word as to the lawyer’s identity, since I don’t know it for myself. His claims seem spurious to me too: Mrs. Pio isn’t engaged in trade, so it seems strange to claim that she’s violating a trademark. And the claim that Vassula’s followers can’t tell a critical website from a supportive one is really an insult to them.
How a lawyer can make such implausible assertions without turning purple from embarrassment is beyond me, but some people have a natural skill for it.
[Update (August 2012): clarified the description of the Belgian court’s action.]

CDF publishes document on apparitions 34 years after its first issuance

Thanks to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which has just published its 1978 document of guidance for bishops discerning private revelations.
Yes, you read that right. It’s 2012, and we’re talking about the publication of a 1978 document. If anything proves the old quip “Roma eterna, sed civitas Vaticana sempiterna” (“Rome is eternal, but Vatican City is almost eternal”), it’s this.
The document, usually known as Normae Congregationis from the first words of its title, was issued in 1978 and sent to bishops. It contains principles and general procedures for bishops on how to judge a claimed private revelation. It was issued with the intimidating marking sub secreto, a warning that it was not to be published: not because it contained anything startling, but probably because it hadn’t undergone the full review process a public document would receive.
But “information wants to be free”, as the saying goes, and from 1994 to 2010 various writers, from Japan to France, and from Canada to Italy, have published it in Latin and in vernacular versions. It appeared in at least one canon-law dissertation, and I even contributed to its spread a little by publishing an English translation made with two colleagues (and yes, the leader of the project did have permission from his bishop). Most recently, the vaticanist Andrea Tornielli got a copy by simply asking the CDF for it, and his copy had no instructions about keeping it secret, so he published the Latin text and an Italian translation in February 2012.
Cdl. Levada writes in a preface that the document had in effect passed into the public sphere, so CDF chose to make its release official, here in Latin and with five vernacular translations, including the English version, Norms regarding the manner of proceeding in the discernment of presumed apparitions or revelations. Cdl. Levada’s preface also discusses the issue of private revelations in general and mentions how the topic came up in the bishops’ Synod on the Word of God, and expresses his hope that the document will be helpful to pastors and experts needing to deal with this pastoral issue.