Questions and Answers
What are we to think of the Divine Mercy devotion?
Many people have certainly received graces from the devotion to Divine Mercy propagated by St. Faustina, and her personal piety was certainly most exemplary. However, this does not necessarily mean that this devotion is from God. It is true that Pope John Paul II promoted this devotion, that it was through his efforts that the prohibition was lifted on April 15, 1978, and that he even introduced a feast of Divine Mercy into the Novus Ordo. However, the fact that good and pious people receive graces and that Sister Faustina was pious do not necessarily means that it is from heaven. In fact, it was not only not approved before Vatican II. It was condemned, and this despite the fact that the prayers themselves of the chaplet of Divine Mercy are orthodox.
Condemned by the Holy Office
There were two decrees from Rome on this question, both of the time of Pope John XXIII. The Supreme Congregation of the Holy Office, in a plenary meeting held on November 19, 1958, made the following decisions:
The supernatural nature of the revelations made to Sister Faustina is not evident.
No feast of Divine Mercy is to be instituted.
It is forbidden to divulge images and writings that propagate this devotion under the form received by Sister Faustina.
The second decree of the Holy Office was on March 6, 1959, in which the following was established:
The diffusion of images and writings promoting the devotion to Divine Mercy under the form proposed by the same Sister Faustina was forbidden.
The prudence of the bishops is to judge as to the removal of the aforesaid images that are already displayed for public honor.
What was it about this devotion that prevented the Holy Office from acknowledging its divine origin? The decrees do not say, but it seems that the reason lies in the fact that there is so much emphasis on God’s mercy as to exclude His justice. Our sins and the gravity of the offense that they inflict on God is pushed aside as being of little consequence. That is why the aspect of reparation for sin is omitted or obscured.
The true image of God’s mercy is the Sacred Heart of Jesus, pierced with a lance, crowned with thorns, dripping precious blood. The Sacred Heart calls for a devotion of reparation, as the popes have always requested. However, this is not the case with the Divine Mercy devotion. The image has no heart. It is a Sacred Heart without a heart, without reparation, without the price of our sins being clearly evident. It is this that makes the devotion very incomplete and makes us suspicious of its supernatural origin, regardless of Sister Faustina’s own good intentions and personal holiness. This absence of the need for reparation for sins is manifest in the strange promise of freedom from all the temporal punishment due to sin for those who observe the 3:00 p.m. Low Sunday devotions. How could such a devotion be more powerful and better than a plenary indulgence, applying the extraordinary treasury of the merits of the saints? How could it not require as a condition that we perform a penitential work of our own? How could it not require the detachment from even venial sin that is necessary to obtain a plenary indulgence?
Presumption in the Writings of Sister Faustina
The published Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalski (Marian Press, Stockbridge, MA, 2007) also indicates several reasons to seriously question the supernatural origin of the more than 640 pages of voluminous and repeated apparitions and messages. The characteristic of any true mystic who has received supernatural graces is always a profound humility, sense of unworthiness, awareness and profession of the gravity of his sins. Yet this humility is strangely lacking in Sister Faustina’s diary. On October 2, 1936, for example, she states that the “Lord Jesus” spoke these words to her: “Now I know that it is not for the graces or gifts that you love me, but because My will is dearer to you than life. That is why I am uniting Myself with you so intimately as with no other creature.” (§707, p. 288). This gives every appearance of being a claim of being more united to Jesus than anybody else, even the Blessed Virgin Mary, and certainly more than all the other saints. What pride, to believe such an affirmation, let alone to assert that it came from heaven!
In April 1938, Sister Faustina read the canonization of St. Andrew Bobola and was filled with longing and tears that her congregation might have its own saint. Then she affirms the following: “And the Lord Jesus said to me, Don’t cry. You are that saint.” (§1650, p. 583). These are words that most certainly no true saint would affirm, but rather his sinfulness and unworthiness of his congregation. This presumption in her writings is not isolated. She praises herself on several occasions through the words supposedly uttered by Jesus. Listen to this interior locution, for example: “Beloved pearl of My Heart, I see your love so pure, purer than that of the angels, and all the more so because you keep fighting. For your sake I bless the world.” (§1061, p. 400). On May 23, 1937 she describes a vision of the Holy Trinity, after which she heard a voice saying: “Tell the Superior General to count on you as the most faithful daughter in the Order” (§1130, p. 417). It is consequently hardly surprising that Sister Faustina claimed to be exempt from the Particular and General Judgments. On February 4, 1935, she already claimed to hear this voice in her soul: “From today on, do not fear God’s judgment, for you will not be judged” (§374, p. 168). Add to this the preposterous affirmation that the host three times over jumped out of the tabernacle and placed itself in her hands (§44, p. 23), so that she had to open up the tabernacle herself and place it back in there, tells the story of a presumption on God’s grace which goes beyond all reason, let alone as the action of a person supposedly favored with innumerable and repeated mystical and supernatural graces.
It is perhaps not accidental that Pope John Paul II promoted this devotion, for it is very much in line with his encyclical Dives in Misericordia. In fact, the Paschal Mystery theology that he taught pushed aside all consideration of the gravity of sin and the need for penance, for satisfaction to divine justice, and hence of the Mass as being an expiatory sacrifice, and likewise the need to gain indulgences and to do works of penance. Since God is infinitely merciful and does not count our sins, all this is considered of no consequence. This is not the Catholic spirit. We must make reparation for our sins and for the sins of the whole world, as the Sacred Heart repeatedly asked at Paray-Le-Monial. It is the renewal of our consecration to the Sacred Heart and frequent holy hours of reparation that is going to bring about the conversion of sinners. It is in this way that we can cooperate in bringing about His Kingdom of Merciful Love, because it is the perfect recognition of the infinite holiness of the Divine Majesty and complete submission to His rightful demands. Mercy only means something when we understand the price of our Redemption.
Does Pope Benedict XVI support the charismatic renewal?
One of the clearest indications that the Holy Father is not supporting Tradition is contained in his unambiguous support of the charismatic renewal, which is the vehicle of the Protestant ideas with which it was founded and a denial of Catholic Tradition. The whole purpose of this movement is to replace the sacraments and the Mass as the principal means of grace. They are replaced by a personal and sentimental experience, in typical modernist fashion.
On the occasion of the 13th international conference of the Catholic Fraternity of Covenant Charismatic Communities and Fellowships, the Pope reiterated his support of these charismatic groups and gifts (Zenit.org, October 31, 2008):
Young ecclesial communities are a gift from God and their contributions should be valued and welcomed with trust.…The ecclesial communities which bloomed after the Second Vatican Council, are a unique gift of the Lord and a precious resource for the life of the Church.…The movements and new communities are like an inrush of the Holy Spirit in the Church and in contemporary society. One of the positive elements and aspects of the communities of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal is precisely the importance given by them to the charisms and gifts of the Holy Spirit, and their merit lies in having reminded the Church of the actuality (of these gifts).
This is nothing less than a profession of belief in the evolution of the Church. For clearly if these communities are now such a bonus to the Church, then the Church before 1967, when they first came into existence, could not have been what it is now, and in fact must have been much less.
Then, On May 4, 2009, Benedict XVI sent a telegram, though Cardinal Bertone, Secretary of State, to 20,000 members of the Italian chapter of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, gathered in their 32nd national assembly in Rimini.
Far from reproaching them for the deviations of the Charismatic Renewal, he expressed his hopes for
an abundant outpouring of the fruits of the Paraclete” on the gathering and expressed his desire that it would “enkindle a renewed adherence to the crucified and risen Christ, a deep fraternal communion and a joyous evangelical witness.” (Zenit.org)
He made no mention at all of the grave dangers of sentimentalism and of the protestantizing substitution of special charismatic experiences for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the sacraments as the ordinary means of sanctification.
The same must be said of the Pope’s final approval of the Neocatechumenal Way. This is an organization of the laity that forms small communities of “renewal” within parishes. Founded during Vatican II, in 1964, it considered itself a response to the pastoral intuitions of that council for the participation of the laity in evangelization, and soon adopted the charismatic principles, especially independence from the priesthood, the Mass and the sacraments. It received its first official recognition in 1990 by Pope John Paul II as “an itinerary of Catholic formation valid for our society and for our times,” and then on June 13, 2008, it received its final approval from the Pontifical Council for the Laity.
Lip service to the discernment of ecclesiastical authority does not change the reality that these groups, so positively approved and encouraged, have consistently displaced the true ordinary working of the Holy Ghost in souls through prayer and the sacraments, and replaced it with sentimental, extraordinary, exterior signs, that really amount to nothing more than group psychology and natural enthusiasm. It is no secret that these groups, as a general rule, have no appreciation for the sacredness of the Church, the Mass and the sacraments, nor for Catholic Tradition and devotion to the saints, nor for the teaching of the catechism of Christian doctrine, their “living” experience having replaced this rich inheritance of true spirituality.
More recently, Cardinal Josef Cordes was honored with a personal letter from Benedict XVI on the occasion of his 75th birthday, the week before Christmas, 2009. The main purpose of the letter was to thank him for his “contribution to the genesis and the growth of the World Youth Days” and for his “commitment to (lay) movements in his role in the Pontifical Council for the Laity” (Zenit of 12-22-09).
In fact, the Pope was very specific about the charismatic and Pentecostal nature of the movements encouraged by Cardinal Cordes, not only showing his clear approval of them as charismatic, but going so far as to say that the Church can no longer exist without them:
The charismatic movement, Communion and Liberation and the Neocatechumenal Way have many reasons to be grateful to you. While at the beginning the organizers and planners in the Church had many reservations in regard to the movements, you immediately sensed the life that burst forth from them–the power of the Holy Spirit that gives new paths and in unpredictable ways keeps the Church young. You recognized the Pentecostal character of these movements and you worked passionately so that they would be welcomed by the Church’s pastor.…Here were men who were deeply touched by the spirit of God and that in such a way there grew new forms of authentic Christian life and authentic ways of being Church.…They need a guide and purification to be able to reach the form of their true maturity. They, nevertheless, are gifts to be grateful for. It is no longer possible to think of the life of the Church of our time without including these gifts of God within it.” (Ibid.)
Further confirmation was found in an address given by the Pope on March 7, 2010, to the new parish (since 1989) of San Giovanni della Croce in Colle Salario, in Rome, a parish specifically open to these new, charismatic, ecclesial movements from its very inception, in particular the Sant’Egidio and Caritas groups. Benedict XVI had this to say:
From the very beginning this parish was open to the movements and to the new ecclesial communities, thus developing a wider awareness of the Church and experiencing new forms of evangelization. I call on you to continue in this direction with courage.…I was happy to hear that your community wishes to promote, in regard to the vocations and the role of consecrated persons and the laity, the co-responsibility of all the members of the people of God…moving from considering them “collaborators” of the clergy to recognizing them as truly “co-responsible” for the being and action of the Church. (Zenit.org of 3/11/2010)
In this address Benedict XVI is quite explicit about the long-term result of the charismatic movement–the undermining of the importance of the clergy and of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, no longer considered by them as essential to the life of the Church. Yet he gives it all the encouragement he can!
Let no-one affirm, then, that the Pope does not support and encourage the charismatic movement, or that he believes in the traditional doctrine that it is through the Mass and the sacraments, and our traditional prayers and devotions, that the Holy Ghost is communicated to us. He has manifestly embraced the charismatic thesis that in this post-Vatican II age the spirit is given through non-structured, non-clerical, humanistic organizations, regardless of whether they practise traditional Marian and sacramental devotion.