What is Private Revelation
By Raymond Taouk
Catholics must be extremely cautious about private revelations not approved by the Church. Everything necessary for our salvation is contained in Public Revelation (the Scriptures) which ended with the death of St. John the Evangelist. The Church has authority only to teach from the sacred Deposit of Faith; that is from Sacred Scripture and Tradition, which constitute public revelation. Further Pope Benedict XIV tells us:
" Even though many of these revelations have been approved, we cannot and we ought not to give them the assent of divine faith, but only that of human faith, according to the dictates of prudence whenever these dictates enable us to decide that they are worth of pious credence (De canon., III, liii, xxii, II)."
When private revelations have been approved by the Church, this only means that they do not contain anything contrary to faith and morals and that there is sufficient evidence to justify belief in there authenticity; She does not and can not, impose belief in a private revelation and its contents, either on an individual or on the faithful at large. This because all that is needed for salvation is contained in public revelation. Nothing that is contained in private revelation is necessary for salvation. Dante in his day wrote "Do not be like feather that are the sport of every wind" (Canto 5,Vv.73-77), thus warning the Christians that they already have what is what "is sufficient for salvation" rather than turn an ear to any seer that may claim to receive visions. Catholics are not even obliged to believe, as a matter of faith, Lourdes, Fatima, etc., although, when such apparitions are given some form of Church acknowledgment, as in the Sacred Liturgy, one should not capriciously reject them and normally give religious assent to them.
Even when private revelations have been approved by the Church, this only means that they do not contain anything contrary to faith and morals and that there is sufficient evidence to justify belief in their authenticity; She does not and can not, impose belief in a private revelation and its contents.
If we were to believe every "seer" and "visionary" who came along, then Our Lady is appearing daily in one place or another and giving contradictory messages to the faithful. Further, Jesus warns us about the "false prophets" and this is another reason why we must be very careful about such dubious revelations.
Catholics should avoid private revelations which have not been approved by the Church ; these include Medjugorje, Bayside etc. Further many of these new age seers can be linked by their Characteristics to Past heresies that the Church has condemned, Some of which are : * New age Movement. It is a pan-denominational movement with a non-Catholic principle as its unifying factors, in this case, "baptism in the spirit". It offers a religion of EXPERIENCE. Charismatics never really provide a satisfactory theological explanation of "baptism of the spirit," but emphasize that it is something that must be experienced. Yet the Scriptures Say you are complete in Christ, (COL 2:9).
* Messalianism, a heresy that originated in Mesopotamia in A.D. 360. The Messalians denied that the Sacraments give grace and declared that the only spiritual power is prayer leading to possession by the Holy Spirit. Such "possession" eventually led to immorality, from which they were also called "The Filthy." Various bishops and councils of the Church condemned them.
* Montanism, a heresy that claimed the Holy Spirit superseded the revelation of Christ and was supplementing the revelation of Christ, such that they were acting under a "new outpouring of the Spirit." Pope St. Zephyrinus (199-217) denied them communion with the Church.
* Nominalism, an erroneous modern philosophy teaching there are no absolutes, only the senses and feelings. This philosophy led to the denial of several doctrines of the Church (the divinity of Christ, the veneration of the saints and of the Blessed Virgin Mary).
We can thus see that this work of the devil is nothing new as even our days millions of simple, pious people have been led into error by so-called 'apparitions'. Many of these are nothing else than clever traps of Satan who as St John of the Cross further warns " Transforms himself into an Angel of Light for the sake of deception" 2 Corinthians 11:14 (Ascent of Mount Carmel Chapter 37) . One of the most famous cases of this in Church history is that of Madelane de la Croix in the 16th Century who was the "Franciscan nun of Cordova, dedicated to the Devil from infancy, who, for 30 years, deceived the greatest theologians, Bishops and Cardinals. She had a reputation as a Prophet, as a holy person and a miracle worker. She spoke continuously of the need to do penance. On the strength of this, people flocked to the Sacraments. She was unmasked by blessed Acarie, who proved without doubt' that the Devil was the author f everything extraordinary about her, and that he (the Devil) could lose a little in order to gain much. (Madame Acarie by J.B Boucher - "History of Religious sentiment" Pg. 69-79)
It could rightly be asked "should we yearn for private revelations? Our Lord has never recommended that we should, and He has good reason for that. Satan can use so-called 'apparitions' to seduce pious people who carry in their soul the latent virus of pride. Christ himself has said to us " If anyone says to you behold here s the Christ, or there he is, do not believe it. False Christ's and false prophets will arise, and will show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible even the elect." (Matt. 24:24 ). Thus it may be said that the easiest prey for Satan are those persons who are yearning for special revelations.
Further St John of God tells us that "The Devil rejoices greatly when a soul seeks after revelations and is ready to accept them, for such conduct furnishes him with many opportunities of insinuating delusions, and derogating from the Faith as much as he possibly can, for such a soul becomes rough and rude, and falls frequently into many temptations and unseemly habits (Assent of Mount Carmel, Book 2, Chapter 11). Any true Mystic of the Church never rushes into publicity, rather they try and conceal their extraordinary gift, and come out in public only through obedience to their superiors.
However St. Johns writings are only further confirmed by the Catholic Encyclopedia which warns us that "One should be aware of over eagerness for extraordinary facts. A craving for marvelous and sensational is not in keeping with the mind of the Church. It exposes one to the danger of not heeding her decisions in these matters, although she has the right and the duty to judge of their nature and truth".
The above may be object to by some who say that Satan wouldn't ask us to pray would he? Yes indeed he would, as Satan give some ground in order to gain much (ones soul) as by receiving true doctrine one may come to the Knowledge of the truth and be saved (1 Tim 2:4) . Further this is confirmed to us in the scriptures when Satan even quoted from the scriptures in order to try and deceive Christ. Let also note that Our Lord himself condemned the Pharisees of old who demanded a sign saying to them that "An evil and adulterous generation demands a sign' (Matt. 12:38).
The spiritual master, St. Vincent Ferrer did not hesitate to condemn in stern terms those who seek after visions or who try to procure them. These are his words: "The First remedy against spiritual temptations which the devil plants in the hearts of many persons in these unhappy times, is to have no desire to procure by prayer, meditation, or any other good work, what are called (private) revelations, or spiritual experiences, beyond what happens in the ordinary course of things; such a desire of things which surpass the common order can have no other root or foundation but pride, presumption, a vain curiosity in what regards the things of God, and in short, an exceedingly weak faith. It is to punish this evil desire that God abandons the soul, and permits it to fall into the illusions and temptations of the devil, who seduces it, and represents to it false visions and delusive revelations. Here we have the source of most of the spiritual temptations that prevail at the present time; temptations which the spirit of evil roots in the souls of those who may be called the precursors of Antichrist. - The Life of St. Vincent Ferrer, by Fr. Andrew Pradel, London, 1875, pg. 181-2,
St. Paul warns us that there " will come a time when they will not endure the sound doctrine; but having itching ears, will heap up to themselves teachers according to their own lusts, and they will turn away their hearing from the truth and turn aside rather to fables" (2 Tim 4:3-5). The antidote to this is Sound doctrine, orthodoxy -- Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition and the teaching of the Church that is based upon them.
It is thus imperative for us to thus insist that on the great harm done to the spiritual life by all such curiosity, enthusiasm, and attachment to apparitions.
- CATHOLIC APOLOGETICS -