Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Apparitions: Types of Decisions the Church can Hand Down

To fully comprehend the status of an appartion in the eyes of the Church, an understanding of decisions is needed. Links with cited source info can be found at the bottom.

What kind of decisions can be handed down by the Church? There are three:

  • Constat de supernaturalitate (established as supernatural).
  • Non constat de supernaturalitate (not established as supernatural).
  • Constat de non supernaturalitate (established as not supernatural).

The first decision at the top of the list, Constat de supernaturalitate, is clearly favorable. There are clear signs of something supernatural, and nothing is found to contradict doctrine1. Also, those receiving the private revelations have been cleared of mental illness or physical conditions which could explain the phenomena. In addition, there is honesty and upright behavior (immorality in the form of lies, deceit, promiscuity, etc., are absent).

What distinguishes the last two classifications?

Constat de non supernaturalitate is a negative judgment. Examples of private revelations which have received such a judgment include Bayside and Necedeh. Colin Donovan explains2:

The judgment that an alleged apparition has been shown to be not supernatural means it is either clearly not miraculous or lacks sufficient signs of the miraculous. Private revelation, for example, which is doctrinally dangerous or which manifests hostility to lawful authority could not come from God. It could even be demonic, especially if there are extraordinary signs accompanying it. The devil gladly mingles truth and lie to deceive the faithful, dazzling them with signs and wonders to give credence to his message. His purpose is to separate them from the Church, either by getting them to believe things contrary to the deposit of the faith or to act contemptuously of Church authority. An attitude of pride and judgment toward the Church is a clear sign of his presence. An alleged revelation may also only be a pious rambling, consistent with faith and morals, but lacking evidence of being anything more than the product of human effort. No fraud need be intended, only an active imagination. Finally, it may be that the doctrine may be sound and there may be phenomena, but insufficient to demonstrate supernaturality. In this latter case, there would seem to be a possibility of revision.

Non constat de supernaturalitate is not necessarily a neutral judgment. Nor is it likely a final judgment. Rather, nothing has been found which would be considered supernatural. It also seems to leave itself open for further discernment. People need to be careful with claims by promoters and supporters of any private revelation of things like, "healings" and "cures". Before such a proclamation can be made and associated with a person or place, it needs to be studied and verified. Anyone can make such claims, but will it stand up to the level of medical scrutiny worhty of the title, "miraculous"? Similarly, mystical phenomena (dancing sun, things changing in appearance, strange lights, visions, etc.,) must be examined for natural explanations first. If such explanations are ruled out, then there are two others possible sources: Divine and diabolic. Hence, even the presence of mystical phenomena is not proof of divine involvement.


    1) See Catechism of the Catholic Church #65-67
    2) Apparitions/Private Revelations written by theologian Colin Donovan, STL, April 2001 Revision accessed on Sept 10, 2008