April 25, 2003
Dear Believers in Our Lady of Emmitsburg,
A few weeks ago I asked about a dozen “good” Catholics what was the meaning of the Immaculate Conception? I was distressed to find that about 70% did not give the right answer. I hope that there would be a better score in the United States. Be that as it may, I suspect that worldwide too many Catholics are not aware of the basic tenets of our religion.
So said, there was nothing new in the report in the Catholic Review of April 17, 2003 other than that, in spite of our petitions, not surprisingly for many reasons, there is the persistence in supporting the conclusions of the Commission of Inquiry into the alleged apparitions of “Our Lady of Emmitsburg,” a report in which, not only were there major misrepresentations and misinterpretations of the “messages”, but also vociferous objections and criticisms of the so-called “apocalyptic” nature of a few of the messages and an unpleasant denigration of the visionary―all this in an era when images and statues of Our Lady and Our Lord have been weeping blood in many countries of the world, including the Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Our Lady of Fatima and several Rosa Mystica statues in the United States since the early 1970s―“Rachel weeping for her children and would not be comforted because they are no more” (Matthew 2:18).
This release was significantly (as we shall see later in my penultimate paragraph) published on Holy Thursday/Good Friday. It read: “The Vatican has strongly confirmed Cardinal William H. Keeler’s September 2000 decision to prohibit the Thursday evening prayer services at St. Joseph’s Church, Emmitsburg,” et cetera, and was headlined “Vatican supports action to suppress visionary.”
To me, this headline is misleading and misinformative in its drama. You see, it is well-known (or should be) that Rome always initially leaves decisions as to the authenticity or otherwise of apparitions to the local Bishop. In fact, as we all know, successive local Bishops of Mostar, Yugoslavia have consistently denied any authenticity of the apparitions of Our Lady of Medjugorje to the six visionaries there, nonetheless, these “apparitions” and “messages” continue, and the faithful (including thousands upon thousands from the United States) also continue to go to Medjugorje. In fact, it is well recorded that on one occasion our Holy Father Pope John Paul II said to some pilgrims (and I can hear him saying it with his measured and characteristic accent): ”If you go to Medjugorje to pray, fast and convert, then go.”
In spite of the Bishops, Rome to this day has not prevented people from going to Medjugorje and I say to you that Rome to this day has not prevented the faithful from going to Emmitsburg or believing in Our Lady of Emmitsburg―and until I see such a clear and decisive directive, I will continue to go to Emmitsburg because “I believe.”
Now, as I am primarily a scientist and not a theologian, I therefore thought it prudent and proper to quote, not my own view, but once more that of one of the great mariologists, Fr. Albert Hebert, S.M., the author of the book The Tears of Mary and Fatima, and many others. You may recall that with respect to private revelations, he wrote: “It would appear that not all private revelations achieve their stated purpose. It would seem that some suffer so much harassment, interference and opposition from various sources, including ecclesiastical, that it is reasonable to believe that Christ or Mary would lessen the benefits in such cases, withdraw their own activity and influence at the site, and terminate the mission.”
(Apropos this, I am told that Our Lady of Emmitsburg has told her chosen visionary on more than one occasion: “I am not leaving Emmitsburg.” Neither am I―and this is not contrary to good Catholic practice and principle).
To return to Fr. Hebert’s opinion, he wrote: “To spare his name, a certain Cardinal in Europe at one time forbade his priests to go to Fatima on the pain of excommunication. (I have no proof that this is the same Cardinal but it is well recorded in the annals of Fatima and quoted by the renowned mariologist Fr. Robert J. Fox in his book Fatima Today that His Eminence, the Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon, Dom Antonio Mendes Belo once prohibited the clergy from encouraging or taking part in any religious manifestations relating to Fatima.”
In fact, John Haffert, that great apostle of Fatima, who first the brought the devotion of Our Lady of Fatima to America, and a good friend of mine (recently deceased), once told me that “the Cardinal repented of that decision on his death bed”.
“There are similar instances of restraint in the history of genuine apparitions, stigmatists, saints, seers and/or holy persons,” wrote Fr. Hebert. “In our own days the private revelations of Sister Faustina of Poland were kept under wraps (by the Bishops) for years and her ‘Mercy of God’ message and cult only approved by a decree of April 15, 1987, influenced by Pope John Paul II, then a Cardinal in Poland. In the cases of Padre Pio and Sister Faustina, what would many good people surmise for years but that Rome must be right and Padre Pio and Sister Faustina not authentic! Now, the life, private revelations, diary and apparitions to Sister Faustina are being spread all over the world (and Padre Pio is now a saint).”
Take heart, Gianna! Thousands are with you. What you are experiencing in your suffering is nothing new in our Church history.
As Fr. Hebert continued: “When Padre Pio submitted he wept, not on the restriction placed on himself―an isolated life would be easier for him as a contemplative religious―but for all the graces that would be lost to all the people… What are the rights of individuals, who are convinced of the authenticity of a certain private revelation and mission of the claimant recipient, and who then learned that the local Bishop has given out a statement to the effect that nothing ‘supernatural’ has occurred, or there is no reason for such belief? In such a case, a well-informed priest or layman may simply respond: ‘The Church does not oblige me to accept a judgement as true when a local Bishop declares a particular revelation to be credible. That is because it is not a matter of divine Catholic Faith, and in this area, that of private revelations, the judgement of the Bishop is not objectively infallible. Conversely, therefore, I do not have to accept any negative statement from a Bishop in the case of a private revelation, especially when I have had close contact with the principals who have acquired extensive knowledge of the matter through competent witnesses, authors, priests, theologians and other professional people, and have reached a considered judgement adverse to that of the local Bishop.
“In a word, if a Catholic is free to disbelieve what a particular Bishop states is credible, then also an ‘informed’ Catholic can personally believe in a particular private revelation, which another particular Bishop declares is not worthy of human credence… However prudence and patient suffering may be combined here and a refraining from any belligerent public statements. If a Commission or diocesan tribunal gives a negative report which is adopted by the Bishop, then surely some rationale and proof for such a general statement should be offered to mature and intelligent Catholics and the world at large.”
In accordance with this, I am now requesting a release of the full statement (which I have seen) and rationale for the negative report of the Commission of Inquiry to “the world at large.” I would also appreciate if the Commission of Inquiry will explain to us and “the world at large” why the scientific authentication of Gianna’s ‘ecstasy’ by the well-known mariologist, Fr. René Laurentin and his team of medical experts was disregarded by the Commission.
To return to Fr Hebert, he ended his dissertation with these words: “There is the undoubted eventual triumph and the coming victory of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Such encouraging elements are endless in modern manifestations and private communications of Christ and Mary to victim souls and chosen instruments… In the end Christ and the Immaculate Heart of His Holy Mother will triumph completely. It is up to us to triumph with them and to help others participate in that victory. But the road to Easter and Resurrection is through the paths of suffering and the Way of the Cross, of prayer and reparation for others. Easter Sunday is beyond Calvary and Good Friday. But Easter Sunday always comes. We believe a real big one is coming before long. We also believe there is going to be a big Holy Week before it!”
Interestingly, following the release in the Catholic Review last week, one of her many spiritual advisors advised Gianna to throw holy water on the apparition of Our Lady when next She came to her home and see what happens. In obedience to the request, when Our Lady appeared on Easter Sunday night, someone in the room (not Gianna) threw holy water from Fatima in the area of the apparition. Our Lady of Emmitsburg smiled ever so gently and continued to give her message to Gianna!
So said, may I say that I have just begun to fight for Her Majesty. My breastplate is now strapped firmly on. My helmet, shield and sword to follow in due time. Other priests and theologians in support of Gianna will join the fight in some way or the other.
Next week, I will like to relay to you how all the visionaries of Lourdes, Fatima, Akita and Amsterdam (Church-approved apparition sites) were opposed and suffered greatly for long periods before their apparitions were finally approved by the Church.
Professor Courtenay Bartholomew