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4 Features of the Vatican’s New Documents on Apparitions

Apparitions and extraordinary spiritual phenomena are not necessary for salvation, but they can be spiritually fruitful. A new document from the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF) attempts to guide bishops in preserving the spiritual fruit while not having to take a position on the supernatural integrity of the phenomena itself.

The document, entitled “Norms for Proceeding in the Discernment of Alleged Supernatural Phenomena,” replaces the procedures put in place by Pope St. Paul VI in 1978. The new norms and their introduction by Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, prefect of the DDF, make no mention of Medjugorje; however, it seems likely that the claimed apparitions there — which began soon after the 1978 norms, in 1981 — influenced the 2024 document. Medjugorje was addressed in the press conference presenting the document.


Declining to Determine Authenticity

The new norms stress that extraordinary spiritual phenomena are a sign of the Holy Spirit at work today and emphasize the role of the “faithful people of God.” Most apparitions in history have been to the lowly and marginal. Such phenomena show that the Holy Spirit is still active and blows wherever he wishes.

Discernment is needed by the local bishop to determine if the phenomenon is authentic, or the result of confusion, illness or fraud. The new norms regulate how the local bishop(s) are to go about that, in consultation with their national episcopal conference and with Rome.

The most significant change is that the new norms don’t require the local bishop to decide authenticity.

Previously, the 1978 norms required a bishop to make a judgment on the alleged miracle or apparition. He could render three judgments: confirmed to be of supernatural origin; not confirmed to be of supernatural origin; or confirmed to not be of supernatural origin.

The focus was on the miracle or apparition itself. Was it real? Various factors were taken into account, in particular the content of any messages and the character and conduct of the witnesses. But the focus remained: Was this real, authentic, true?

The new norms set that question aside and give six alternative judgments. At the highest level of “approval,” the local bishop can issue a nihil obstat (no objection), which permits, even encourages, the evident good fruit he observes. Critically, he does not have to pronounce on the supernatural authenticity of the event.

Read more at National Catholic Register 

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