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SACRED CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH _________________________________________________________

(Sub secreto)

NORMS OF THE SACRED CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH ON THE MANNER OF PROCEEDING IN JUDGING ALLEGED APPARITIONS AND REVELATIONS

PREFATORY NOTE

THE ORIGIN AND CHARACTER OF THESE NORMS

In the Annual Plenary Session held in November 1974, the Fathers of this Sacred Congregation examined problems arising from alleged apparitions and the revelations frequently connected in origin with them and arrived at the following conclusions:

1. Today, more than in the past, news of apparitions is quickly spread among the faithful through the work of the means of information («mass media»); furthermore, the convenience of travel fosters more frequent pilgrimages, so that the ecclesiastical Authority needs to discern the matter quickly. 2. On the other hand, due to the modern way of thinking and the requirements of science and critical investigation, it is most difficult, and nearly impossible, to manage with due speed to reach the judgment by which investigations into such matters were concluded in the past («constat de supernaturalitate, non constat de supernaturalitate») and which provided Ordinaries the possibility of permitting or prohibiting public veneration [cultus] and other forms of devotion by the faithful.

For these reasons, so that the devotion of the faithful occasioned by events of this kind may be manifested while preserving full communion with the Church, and bear fruit by which the Church herself may be able in the future to discern the true nature of the events, the Fathers deemed that the following praxis is to be encouraged in such matters.

When the ecclesiastical Authority is informed of some alleged apparition or revelation, it will be his task: a) First, to judge the event according to positive and negative criteria (cf. below, part I); b) Then, if that examination has a favorable outcome, to allow some public manifestations of veneration and devotion, and at the same time, watch over them with great prudence (this is equivalent to the formula «nothing to oppose for now»); c) Later, with the benefit of time past and of experience (in particular, the abundance of spiritual fruits arising from the new devotion), if the case requires, to present a judgment on its validity [veritate] and supernatural character.

I – CRITERIA FOR JUDGING, AT LEAST WITH PROBABILITY,
THE CHARACTER OF THE ALLEGED APPARITIONS OR REVELATIONS

A) Positive Criteria:

a) Moral certitude or at least great probability as to the existence of the events, acquired through the work of a serious investigation. b) Particular circumstances regarding the existence and nature of the events, i.e.:

1. Personal qualities of the subject or subjects (especially mental equilibrium, honesty and rectitude of moral life, habitual sincerity and docility toward ecclesiastical authority, capacity for returning to the regimen of a normal life of faith, etc.); 2. As pertains to the revelation, true theological and spiritual doctrine, exempt from error; 3. Healthy devotion and abundant and constant spiritual fruits (for example, the spirit of prayer, conversions, the testimony of charity, etc.).

B)

Negative Criteria: a) A manifest error about the event.

b) Doctrinal errors attributed to God Himself, to the Blessed Virgin Mary or to some other Saint manifesting himself (while taking into account the possibility of the subject adding — even unconsciously — purely human elements, or even some error in the natural order, to an authentic supernatural revelation: [cf. S. Ignatius, Exercit. N. 336]). c) An evident seeking of money closely connected with the event. d) Gravely immoral acts at the time of the event itself or in association with it, committed by the subject or by his close followers. e) Mental illnesses or psychopathic tendencies in the subject that clearly exercised an influence on the allegedly supernatural event, or psychosis or collective hysteria, or other things of this kind.

These Criteria, both positive and negative, should be considered indicative and not exhaustive [taxativa], and should be taken cumulatively, as it were, in convergence with one another.

II — H OW THE COMPETENT

ECCLESIASTICAL

AUTHORITY IS TO PROCEED

1. When veneration or some other devotion on the part of the faithful appears to begin spontaneously in connection with an event alleged to be supernatural, a serious duty falls upon the competent ecclesiastical Authority to inform himself without delay and to keep watch diligently. 2. If the faithful are legitimately requesting it (that is, in communion with the Pastors and not driven by a sectarian spirit), the competent ecclesiastical Authority can intervene, to permit and promote some forms of veneration and devotion, if, according to the Criteria as noted above, there is no obstacle to them. Nevertheless, there should be caution lest the faithful take this manner of acting as an approval on the part of the Church for the supernatural character of the event (cf. Prefatory note, under c). 3. Indeed by reason of his doctrinal and pastoral duty, the competent Authority can intervene motu proprio [on his own initiative] and must do so in grave circumstances, for example, in order to correct or warn against abuses in the exercise of veneration and devotion, to condemn erroneous doctrines, to avoid the dangers of false or disorderly mysticism, etc. 4. In uncertain cases that make little difference to the good of the Church, let the competent ecclesiastical Authority abstain from any judgment and direct action (it may even happen that, with the passage of time, the event said to be supernatural may fall into oblivion); nonetheless he should not leave off vigilance, so that if necessary, he can intervene promptly and prudently.

III — THE AUTHORITY COMPETENT

TO INTERVENE

1. The office of supervising and intervening is, first of all, within the competence of the local Ordinary. 2. The regional or national Episcopal Conference can intervene: a) If the local Ordinary, after carrying out his part, has recourse to it in order to judge the matter more securely; b) If the matter is of national or regional scope; nonetheless, the prior consent of the local Ordinary is necessary.

3. The Apostolic See can intervene, either at the request of the Ordinary or of a qualified group of the faithful, or even directly, by reason of the universal jurisdiction of the Supreme Pontiff (cf. IV, below).

IV — INTERVENTION BY THE SACRED CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH 1. a) The Ordinary can request the intervention of the Sacred Congregation, even after he has carried out his part, or a qualified group of the faithful can ask. In the latter case care should be taken lest recourse to the Sacred Congregation be made for reasons that are suspect (e.g. to compel the Ordinary to change his legitimate decisions, to confirm some sectarian group, etc.). b) It is proper to the Sacred Congregation to intervene at its own initiative in more serious cases, especially if the matter affects a larger part of the Church; the Ordinary is always to be consulted and, if appropriate, also the Episcopal Conference. 2. The Sacred Congregation will be able either to evaluate the Ordinary's manner of acting and approve it, or, if possible and appropriate, to initiate a new examination of the matter, distinct from the study completed by the Ordinary, either on its own or through a special commission.

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After the present Norms were deliberated in the Plenary Session of this Sacred Congregation, they were approved by the Supreme Pontiff, Pope Paul VI, happily reigning, 24 February, 1978. Given in Rome from the offices of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 25 February, 1978. Francis Cardinal Seper, Prefect [Signature] + Fr. Jerome Hamer, OP, Secretary [Signature]

Translation copyright 2010 A.D. Kevin J. Symonds, Richard Chonak, and “Wisconsin Priest”. All rights reserved. Republication of this document is prohibited without express written permission. Contact desiderium.kevin@gmail.com for further information.