A bishop's warning about the promotion of unapproved "apparitions"
Allow me to draw your attention to a timely blog post from Diane at Te Deum Laudamus, highlighings a statement issued last year by His Excellency, Archbishop Peter Sartain, the newly appointed Archbishop of Seattle. (Note: This statement apparently was issued while he was still Bishop of Joliet.) It gives a good example of the proper caution and circumspection Catholics should have regarding the claims of alleged apparitions and alleged visionaries, such as those associated with Medjugorje.
Diane writes: “In April of 2009, Bishop Peter Sartain, of Joliet, Illinois, . . . issued a memo to priests of the diocese which states, in part (emphases mine in bold; added emphasis in italics).”
“From time to time we are approached by parishioners who would like to invite speakers representing various alleged apparitions of the Blessed Virgin, private revelations or locutions, or others claiming to possess extraordinary spiritual gifts. My purpose in bringing this to your attention is to ask that you not issue such invitations. Whether the speakers would make presentations on well-known alleged apparitions, such as Medjugorje, or lesser known private revelations, we must be extremely cautious about inviting or promoting them.
“As you know the Church takes great time and care before declaring that an apparition is worthy of belief, and even then it never says that a Catholic must accept the apparition as a matter of faith. We must avoid giving the impression that alleged apparitions about which the Church has not made a judgment are somehow already approved.
“It is our responsibility to see that our parishioners are not led down the wrong path. That is not to say that those who ask us to promote these matters are doing so out of bad faith, but we must be extremely careful not to confuse our parishioners.
“Our greatest spiritual treasures are the Word of God, the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist, and the teaching of the Church, and our focus should always be there. Needless to say, these comments do not refer to apparitions such as Fatima, Lourdes or Guadalupe which enjoy the approval of the Church.”
[Diane comments . . .]
“Bishop Sartain exemplifies the very behavior exhibited by bishops throughout the history of the Church by discouraging activity in his diocese which could lend credibility to the alleged apparitions, including those of Medugorje. His actions are also very collegial in that his statement is also in harmony with the pastoral directives of his brother bishop.
DISHARMONY and RUPTURE
It’s hard for me to fathom why a bishop or archbishop would knowingly permit (or invite) “visionaries” of unapproved apparitions to speak and have “visions” on Church property. People develop attachments to such phenomena, which they believe to be real (we are not talking about approved apparitions like Lourdes and Fatima). It is hard enough for some to give up this attachment if the Church condemns it as not supernatural. This may be even more true, if a bishop’s actions (or permissiveness), gave the thing even more credibility than it should have had. I’m sure there are cases where a bishop is unaware that such activity is happening in his diocese. But, when high profile diocesan staffers are involved – such as a vocations director – or the archbishop himself shows up to greet the “seers”, it seems unlikely that he would not know what is going on. I think the more likley scenario is that he is not well informed about the phenomena as he thinks he is. In any event, a simple phone call to the responsible diocesan bishop, or even the CDF, rather than to favorite mariologist would seem prudent, and collegial. If he is disinclined to speak to his brother bishop about the events, then this too is a fruit which calls for deeper examination. (source)