The Position of the Catholic Person Faithful to the Churchby Father Guido Sommavilla, SJ
Meeting with Vassula at Teatro Carcano, Milan, 19 April 1997
My dear people, sisters and brothers in the Lord Jesus; my dear Vassula. Following the second notification by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (once known as the Holy Office) last December, I have been invited to give light to the consciences of the Christians who believe, who are Catholic and faithful to the Church, as I am and I hope as you all are.
Those who know me or my writings, know that I am Catholic, that I am a priest, a Jesuit, who is very faithful to the Church, who loves her and defends her – some say even too much. I know that the Holy Office truly is a sacrum officium, that is, a sacred and holy service, necessary to the Church and rightful for the Church and for the faithful. These pronouncements by the Holy Office are magisterial pronouncements, of the extraordinary or solemn type, or of the ordinary type which can be private or universal. In this case it is an ordinary, private one. All of us, especially us priests, know that when concerning the ordinary, private cases, the magisterium can err. Everyone knows it. They, of the Congregation, are the first to know it, starting from Cardinal Ratzinger. It is possible to err. Nothing is infallible and nothing is definitive in this sacred service. It has come to be that the Congregation has erred.
To give you an example, it erred when it declared that Padre Pio’s charismas and stigmata, etc. were bogus, i.e. fruit of sickness and fantasy (1920-22). It erred when it declared that the charismas of Sr. Faustina Kowalska were bogus; that Polish nun who was recently beatified. Thus, the Holy Office can err. These are two examples taken from this century. There is a third case belonging to this century, and other cases from earlier on, however, these are the exceptions to the rule, because most of the time it does not err. Thus, it could have erred this time too, and they also know this.
What does the notification concerning Mrs. Vassula Ryden say? It is not a precaution, but a piece of information, which after having briefly laid out a number of motivations, invites the faithful not to believe that there is anything supernatural in Vassula Ryden, and that it is not God who writes, speaks, dictates, appears, directly through her. I repeat, it is an invitation. Now, invitations, like recommendations (take for example the Gospel recommendations of chastity, poverty and obedience), are something which we are free to accept or not to accept. Our conscience is free to choose.
All of us, with regards to Vassula and her charismas, are free to believe that Jesus is in her, that He writes and communicates to her. Furthermore, this notification not only speaks in a certain sense against her, but it also speaks quite a bit in her favour by recognizing that there are positive aspects in the messages and prophecies. It also says that Vassula’s further writings do not contain the errors which they listed in the notification. Now this occurred when the first five volumes were available 15 months prior to the notification, however it is certain that the Holy Office has since seen the later volumes and noticed that there were no errors here either, otherwise they would have said. Therefore, from the fourth to the eighth volumes published, according to the Holy Office, there are no errors; everything is positive.
Consequently, according to the Holy Office, the positive aspect (this is to be intended in a religious, spiritual and moral sense) in Vassula is far greater than the negative part. The notification goes on to say, however, that the negative part, i.e. the errors, is such that the Vassula phenomenon on a whole is negative. Thus follows the invitation not to believe.
Now I would like to say something. I taught philosophy, among other things, in Milan for 40 years and I specializeded particularly in the logic of philosophy. Three of my books on the argument have been published, and so this is how I reason: if the Holy Office chose a simple invitation to tell the faithful of the negative side then I logically deduce that this negative part is weak; it is slight; it is fragile, otherwise they would have made an outright prohibition. Thus, if this negative part that we are called to be aware of is slight, then also the reasoning behind it is slight. The errors, singly and as a whole, are weak. (Today I do not have the time to point out the content of this slightness, however, if you care to read the third introduction to the eighth volume (of True Life in God) you will find a kind of analysis of the motivations of those who are against Vassula.)
So, if the reasons are slight and the negative part which we are warned about is slight, then the weight which could press on the consciences of those who choose not to accept the invitation (and I am one of these) can only be slight. Now I ask, and some of you may be wondering: could it be more perfect to accept rather than not accept this invitation; could God be given more glory by the acceptance of it; could He be more pleased by our acceptance of it? Well, the answer has to be this: it is like with the Gospel recommendations of poverty, chastity and obedience which also come from God, that is, from Jesus. [The invitation] is a recommendation; if you choose not to accept it you are not committing the slightest of sins.
So, each person must ask himself if he does better or worse by accepting or not accepting it. I think that all of us here are convinced that most people do the best thing by not taking vows, because most of the people are not suited to them. Furthermore, there are many people who cannot take them, i.e., who cannot follow these recommendations of Jesus, and these are all those who are married. Now, concerning this, I can say of myself that I am, in a certain sense, married. That is, I am indissolubly tied to believing in Vassula. I am tied to the evidence that she cannot be the author of all those wonderful messages, for I believe that there really is Jesus, God and Mary in her who write, make themselves be known and heard. This continuous dialogue occurring in her is real. I am sure of this; I have the evidence because I have been reading and meditating Vassula’s books for years.
Then in 1995, Avvenire (Italian Catholic daily), of which I am a correspondent, asked me to defend Vassula against the negative pamphlet written by Fr. Dermine. My article was published in Avvenire and following this, the Italian publisher of True Life in God asked me to study Vassula and write a book. I have been studying the matter for more than one year now and I have come to the conclusion that Vassula’s charisma is authentic. Thus, against the evidence of the truth no obedience holds.
In his famous letters on obedience, St. Ignatius of Loyola (who is perhaps the greatest teacher on obedience in the Church) says that before the evidence of the truth one cannot obey when obeying means to go against the truth. Perhaps each of you should ask yourself: do I have this evidence? Thus it depends on the degree of evidence of truth that each of Vassula’s readers have responsibly and intelligently acquired from the reading of the messages. It depends on each single person. I think, even hope, that the greater part of the intelligent and responsible people who read Vassula should be able to understand this evidence of truth.
Furthermore, in this notification there is not even the slightest mention that we should not invite Vassula, therefore, we can invite her, we can come and listen to her, come and pray with her. Neither does the notification say anything about prohibiting the information on her. Thus, we are free to be informed about her. Not even the slightest mention was made about this, and you see, her books are still being published. Introductions to her books and articles on her are being published by a Catholic publisher belonging to a religious community: the Priests of the Sacred Heart, the Dehonians. Any type of information, be it via the press, or via the television or the radio or any other communication system, is legitimate. It is all legitimate. This is how things stand.
There is another thing to consider: the invitation, or rather the reminder made to the bishops of the world. Vassula goes around the world a lot because she receives invitations to go. She does not go so as to place herself on show. It must be said that she does not like being the centre of attention. I recall that in a conversation with her angel she said: “Angel of mine, you know I don’t like being on show.” Vassula does it because it is her duty because it is Jesus Who wants it and she is more than certain that it is Jesus Who wants it. It costs her a lot to go, yet Jesus wants her to go and so she goes. So, there is a reminder to the bishops of the Catholic world to act accordingly. Now, this is something that regards the bishops. It is up to them to decide what action to take. Now the logic of things, however, brings me to observe that the bishops’ actions cannot go beyond what the Holy Office has already done. That means that they cannot do any more than to transmit the invitation, which leaves the faithful basically free.
There is one last thing to be said. It is something which gives us reason to rejoice and to be thankful for. The notification says that all these messages, all this dialogue, this poem of the life of God, true life in God, “are only private meditations of the woman.” With this choice of words, with this authoritative interpretation of the Holy Office, all other interpretations are excluded, or disqualified, and in particular, two interpretations which attribute all this prophetic phenomena to either the devil or to one’s subconscious. This, for instance, is what Fr. Dermine has been saying of Vassula in the transmissions on Radio Maria – yes, that “holy Radio Maria” which in this case is not so holy. Pychologists know that, were it true, she would be suffering from a terrible case of schizophrenia; her mind would be gravely ill. Now those who know her, even a little, know that this is not the case. Thus, when the notification says that the phenomena is to be attributed totally to her, it is excluding the other two attributions to the devil and to the subconscious. It is known that in the first years especially, Vassula had doubts herself that it may have all been coming from the devil or even from her subconscious. Now, we have the Holy Office which is ensuring her that it cannot come from her subconscious and neither from the devil.
We are thankful for this clarification by the Holy Office. Thank you.