Photo: Flickr/Jennifer Joy Jameson
A previously “in-house” document that details the guidelines used by the Catholic Church to verify religious supernatural phenomena has been published.The document, titled “Norms Regarding the Manner of Proceeding in the Discernment of Presumed Apparitions or Revelations,” was approved by Pope Paul VI in February 1978 but was not officially published until Wednesday.
The four-page document aims to help distinguish between people who have experienced real apparitions and those who claim to have witnessed supernatural phenomenon in pursuit of fame, or financial or sexual gain.
When “Ecclesiastical Authority” is informed of a apparition or revelation, they are to first “judge the fact according to positive and negative criteria” and then, if the examination results in a favourable conclusion, members are to “permit some public manifestation of cult or of devotion” until enough time has passed that one can “express a judgment regarding the authenticity and supernatural character” with special regard to the amount of “spiritual fruit generated from this new devotion.”
Below are the positive and negative criteria:
A) Positive Criteria:
a) Moral certitude, or at least great probability of the existence of the fact, acquired by means of a serious investigation;
b) Particular circumstances relative to the existence and to the nature of the fact, that is to say:
1. Personal qualities of the subject or of the subjects (in particular, psychological equilibrium, honesty and rectitude of moral life, sincerity and habitual docility towards Ecclesiastical Authority, the capacity to return to a normal regimen of a life of faith, etc.);
2. As regards revelation: true theological and spiritual doctrine and immune from error;
3. Healthy devotion and abundant and constant spiritual fruit (for example, spirit of prayer, conversion, testimonies of charity, etc.).
B) Negative Criteria:
a) Manifest error concerning the fact.
b) Doctrinal errors attributed to God himself, or to the Blessed Virgin Mary, or to some saint in their manifestations, taking into account however the possibility that the subject might have added, even unconsciously, purely human elements or some error of the natural order to an authentic supernatural revelation (cf. Saint Ignatius, Exercises, no. 336).
c) Evidence of a search for profit or gain strictly connected to the fact.
d) Gravely immoral acts committed by the subject or his or her followers when the fact occurred or in connection with it.
e) Psychological disorder or psychopathic tendencies in the subject, that with certainty influenced on the presumed supernatural fact, or psychosis, collective hysteria or other things of this kind.
The Church is to observe spontaneous manifestation of cults of devotion and can “promote some form of cult or devotion, if, after the application of the above criteria, nothing stands in the way” while being careful that “the faithful not interpret this practice as approval of the supernatural nature of the fact.”
The Ecclesiastical Authority shall not pass judgment or intervene in “doubtful cases that clearly do not put the good of the Church at risk,” according to the document.
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