National Catholic Register


A Reader Hurt by Private Revelation Enthusiasts Writes…

BY Mark Shea

| Posted 3/23/14 at 11:59 PM


Quite frankly, I'm starting to have doubts on approved private revelations: Lourdes & Fatima for example.

What kind of God would request for us to pray the rosary in order to annihilate communism, and respond to the message of the first Saturday etc, for the sake of conversion of Russia--but by the time the apparition is approved not enough catholics responded to the call, so a 2nd war broke out and communism spread her errors??

[Perhaps I've been taught the wrong info by fanatics] on private revelations, but it just doesn't sound like a loving God who'd blame his children for communism spreading her errors b/c the Church took her time to investigate it.

On the other hand, we don't have to respond to the bishop's approval on the private revelation. [???] But God blames us anyway b/c not enough people responded to the message..???.. God is sorely being misrepresented.

I rather dismiss private revelations than trust God is that cruel and mean.

There's far too much confusion on private revelations by catholics like me who are sorely uncatechized Mark, who listen to ambiguous messages and teachers who only quickly entangles us in knots, as we respond to the call in fear. And worse, those who spread the message of the private revelation go around pounding one another in the ground with hammers to respond to the call--the root is not charity. Rather it's slaves responding to a cruel master--who is NOT God!

I think the important thing to note here is that my reader is obviously speaking out of a lot of pain.  It’s a pain I can empathize with since I have also encountered enthusiasts for private revelation, both approved and unapproved—and even condemned--who, so to speak, know the words, but not the tune of Christianity and who use their fave rave private revelation to inflict cruelty, to attack innocents and to indulge in (sometimes) malice I can only describe as satanic.  I can (but won’t) link sites on the web right now whose owners are ostensibly devotees of such approved revelations as Fatima and La Sallette that breathe an air of such evil and malice that it hits you in the face like the heat of a furnace with their denunciations of Pope Francis as a demon, with conspiracy theories accusing John Paul II and Benedict as liars, with gloating over innocent women who have miscarried, with gleeful hope that their enemies are in hell, and so forth.  If my reader’s exposure to devotion to private revelations has primarily come from such anti-apostles, it’s not only understandable, but most likely a sign of spiritual and psychological health that she has recoiled and run the other way.  As Jesus says, the sheep “know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” (John 10:4-5).  On the whole, I can live with people whose healthy instinct is to flee pride, malice, hatred, domination and evil in search of the true God, even if they make a booboo about whether or not Fatima or Lourdes or some other approved private revelation is, in the words of the Church, “worthy of belief”.  If such people are—as they appear to be—open to the truth, they can be engaged in cool discussion once the fever of battle with crazy and evil people is past and the merits of the Church actual teaching about the validity of this or that private revelation made clear.

The model, for healthy devotees of approved private revelations facing with people who have difficulties, is Priscilla and Aquila.  When they bumped into Apollos, a serious believer who was not fully catechized, they didn’t berate or accuse him for being partly wrong about something that mattered to them a lot.  Instead, they rejoiced in the glass half full, took him in, and “expounded to him the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:26).  The Church around them did likewise.  They saw the fundamental fact: that Apollos was a friend, not an enemy, and worked from there.

As to the specific concern my reader has, I think that, apart from the obnoxious behavior of some proponents of private revelation, the general rule of thumb here, as usual, is to trust the guidance of the Church on something like Fatima or Lourdes.  When I look at the evidence for these events, as when I look at the evidence that Booth shot Lincoln or Armstrong landed on the moon, I conclude that the Church is right: it is “worthy of belief” that Mary appeared at, say, Fatima and Lourdes.  It’s the most reasonable account of the facts.  So even if I have no personal devotion to the apparition at Fatima, I think that it happened as a mere matter of historical fact.  As to the reader’s objections, they don’t seem to me to carry a lot of force.  I don’t buy that the apparition at Fatima is blaming the Church for taking her time to investigate the apparition, nor that Catholics are to blame for waiting on the Church.  That’s as it should be.  The content of the message is “Repent and believe the good news” and the warning that goes with it is the immemorial warning that attaches to the gospel: Bad Things will happen if the gospel offer is ignored.  It’s a warning that goes back to Matthew 24.  But the nature of the warning is always that a) God does not desire the Bad Things and b) the Bad Things are not God-inflicted but self-inflicted by the human race.  That the human race does indeed do such things to itself is the eloquent record of the 20th century.  On the whole, I’m grateful, God gave the 20th century some kind of warning and opportunity to repent and prepare, even if some Fatima zealots have tried to turn this particular private revelation into a combination baseball bat and fifth gospel for pounding the heads of fellow believers with private dogmas the Church in no way requires.  The devil is always glad to send error into the world in pairs so that, fleeing one, we may embrace its opposite. One error is to turn private revelation into a terrifying dogma that fills people with servile fear.  The opposite error is to chuck out the judgment of the Church that a private revelation is “worthy of belief” and a fruitful source of grace.  If a private revelation does not scratch where you itch, you are complete free to leave it alone.  If it is helpful toward making you a better disciple of Jesus, fine.  Just stick with the old saying: In essential things, unity; in doubtful things, liberty; in all things, charity.