New standards regarding supposed supernatural phenomena

New standards regarding supposed supernatural phenomena

From nulla osta to negative judgment: there are six different sounds to distinguish the cases set out in the document of the Circle of the Doctrine of the Faith approved by the Pope. As a rule, neither the bishop nor the Holy See will comment on the supernatural nature of this phenomenon, confining themselves to authorizing and promoting worship and pilgrimages.

Vatican News

The criteria for distinguishing supposed supernatural phenomena has been updated: this is what establishes A new document from the Department of the Doctrine of the Faith, issued on Friday, May 17, which will enter into force on Sunday, 19, Pentecost. The text is preceded by a clear exposition by Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernández, followed by an introduction outlining six different possible conclusions. Faster pronouncements will be made regarding popular loyalty, and, as a rule, there will be no interference of church authority in the official definition of the supernatural nature of a phenomenon that can take a long time to study in depth. Another new thing is the more explicit participation of the Department for the Doctrine of the Faith, which must approve the bishop's final decision and will have the authority to intervene on its own at any time. In several cases in recent decades in which individual bishops have expressed their opinion, the former Holy Office has been involved, but the involvement has always remained behind the scenes and has been asked not to be made public. What now motivates this explicit participation of the Department is also the difficulty of identifying phenomena, at the local level, that in some cases reach national and even global dimensions, “so that a decision regarding the diocese can also have consequences in other areas.” Places”.

Reasons justifying the new standards

The origin of the document is the long experience of the last century, with cases in which the local bishop (or bishops of the area) quickly declared a supernatural presence, and then the Holy Office expressed a different opinion. Or cases in which a bishop expressed himself in one way and his successor in the opposite way (almost the same phenomenon). Then there are the long times needed to evaluate all the elements and come to a decision as to whether or not the phenomena are supernatural. Times that sometimes clash with the urgency of providing pastoral responses for the good of believers. Therefore, the Chamber began reviewing the rules in 2019 and arrived at the current text, which was approved by the Pope on May 4. A completely new text that, as mentioned, offers 6 different possible conclusions.

Spiritual fruits and dangers

Cardinal Fernández explains in his presentation that “These manifestations have often given rise to a great wealth of spiritual fruits, growth in faith, devotion, brotherhood and service, and in some cases have given rise to various sanctuaries spread throughout the world, which today have become part of the heart of piety.” popular among many peoples. However, there is also the possibility that “in some cases of events of supernatural origin” there are “problems that are very serious, damaging to believers”: cases in which “profit, power, fame, social disrepute, and personal interest” (II, Art. 15, 4°) derive from the supposed phenomena, even amounting to “exercising control over people or committing violations” (II, Article 16). There may be “doctrinal errors and unnecessary reduction in the proposal.” The message of the Gospel, the spread of the sectarian spirit.” There is also the possibility that “believers may be swept away by a phenomenon attributed to divine initiative, but it is the result only of imagination, the desire for innovation, the obsession with myths or the tendency to forgery.”

General trends

According to the new criteria, the Church will be able to distinguish: “if in phenomena of supposed supernatural origin we can find signs of divine action; and if in the final writings or messages of those involved in the supposed divine action.” “There is nothing in the phenomena in question that contradicts faith and good customs, whether it is legitimate to value their spiritual fruits or whether it is necessary to purify them of problematic elements or warn believers of the dangers arising from them” (I, 10). Moreover, “it must be specified that, in ordinary ways, there should be no positive recognition on the part of ecclesiastical authority regarding the divine origin of supposed supernatural phenomena” (I, 11). Neither the diocesan bishop, nor the episcopal conferences, nor the department will declare that these phenomena are of supernatural origin. However, the Holy Father may authorize action in this regard” (1, 23).

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Possible votes on the hypothesized phenomenon

Below is a list of 6 possible final votes at the end of the distinction.

Nihil Obstadt: Certainty of supernatural authenticity is not expressed, but signs of the work of the Spirit are recognized. The bishop is encouraged to value the pastoral value and promote the dissemination of this phenomenon, including pilgrimages.

Pray Oculis Habitur: The positive signs are known, but there are also elements of confusion or risks that require discernment and dialogue with recipients. Doctrinal clarification may be necessary if there are writings or messages related to the phenomenon.

curatur: The critical elements are there, but there is a widespread phenomenon with verifiable spiritual fruits. Bans that could disturb believers are not encouraged, but the bishop is asked not to encourage this phenomenon.

Sub-state: The critical issues are not related to the phenomenon itself, but rather to its misuse by people or groups. The Holy See entrusts the pastoral direction of the site to the bishop or a delegate.

Ban and obstruction: Despite some positive elements, the criticisms and risks are serious. The department asks the bishop to publicly declare that membership is not permitted and to explain the reasons for the decision.

Declaring the absence of the supernatural: The bishop has the right to declare that the phenomenon is not supernatural based on concrete evidence, such as the confession of a supposed fortuneteller or reliable testimonies that the phenomenon is falsified.

Procedures to be followed

The procedures to be implemented are explained: It is up to the bishop to examine the case and submit it to the department for approval. The bishop is asked to refrain from making public statements about authenticity or the supernatural, as well as to ensure that there is no confusion and not to promote sensationalism. If the combined elements seem “sufficient,” the bishop must form an investigative committee, including among its members at least a theologian, an ecclesiastical lawyer, and an expert chosen based on the nature of the phenomenon.

Positive and negative standards

Positive criteria include “the credibility and good reputation of persons who claim to be recipients of supernatural events or directly involved in such events, as well as witnesses who have been heard… the doctrinal doctrine of the phenomenon and the final message and the unexpected character of this phenomenon, from which it clearly appears.” It is not the result of the initiative of the persons concerned, but is the fruit of the Christian life” (II, 14). Negative criteria include “the possibility of an apparent error regarding the truth, the possibility of the presence of sectarian errors… a sectarian spirit, generating division in the ecclesiastical fabric, a clear search for profit, power, fame, and social reputation, and a directly related personal interest.” To the truth, gravely immoral acts… psychological changes or psychopathic tendencies present in the subject, which may have an influence on the supposed supernatural reality, or psychosis, mass hysteria or other elements traceable to the pathological horizon” (II, 15) And finally, “the use of possible supernatural experiences or recognized mystical elements as a means or pretext to exercise control over people or commit abuse” (II, 16) It is the duty of the delegate to continue to monitor the phenomenon and the people involved, specifically to exercise his or her normal authority (II, 24). .

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