September 2023 Print

Lexicon of the Crisis: “Revelation”

By Fr. Paul Robinson, SSPX

Old Meaning
New Meaning

What is Revelation? Revelation is God Himself expressing in human language a deposit of supernatural truths, which He confided to the Church to be preserved and explained, so that it may be believed by all men.


What is Revelation? Revelation is “the invisible God, out of the abundance of His love, speaking to men as friends and living among them, so that He may invite and take them into fellowship with Himself.” (Vatican II, Dei Verbum §2)

What are the elements of Revelation? Its elements are the following:

  • Its content is the deposit of faith, the sum of supernatural truths which require the assent of faith.
  • Its transmission is in communicating, by word and writing, immobile truths that have never changed throughout history.
  • Its progress is that the truths of closed public revelation are explained by the Church with more clarity over time.
  • Its role is to teach men how to love and serve God, so that, living according to this knowledge, they may save their souls.


What are the elements of Revelation?1 Its elements are the following:

  • Its content is the collection of Christian realities, which includes teachings, but also the Sacraments, grace, and other gifts of God.
  • Its transmission is in communicating a presence or experience of God that is personal and so different for every man.
  • Its progress is in the living body of believers adding to their experiences over time to attain a deeper awareness of God.
  • Its role is to “shed light on the mystery of man” (Gaudium et Spes §22) by revealing man to himself.

So Revelation is public? Yes. God confides His supernatural truths to the Church and gives her the role of communicating these truths to men by her authoritative Magisterium.


So Revelation is public? Yes and no. The Church and fellow believers put a man in contact with a reality of “words and deeds,” by which God is privately revealed to him.

So Revelation changes? No. Revelation was closed with the death of the last Apostle, such that no new truths have been added to the Catholic Faith from that time or ever will be added. The truths of Revelation are merely expressed more clearly over time by the Magisterium of the Church.


So Revelation changes? No. Revelation reached its completion in the person of Christ, and He is the fullness of God’s Revelation. But each believer experiences the reality of God and Christ, and penetrates the truths of that reality, in a different way.

How is this notion of Revelation shown forth in the attitude of Churchmen? It is shown in their attitude toward:

  1. The Magisterium – Since Revelation is made up of objective, unchanging truths, the Church’s teaching office must serve those truths and never contradict them.
  2. The Liturgy – Since Revelation is set in stone, so too the liturgy, which expresses Revelation, must be set in stone in its rites.
  3. New Religious orders – Since true religion is based on the truths of Revelation, all new religious orders must be doctrinally orthodox before being approved.
  4. Apparitions – As God is accustomed to speak to men through His Church and not directly, apparitions must be investigated carefully before being approved.
  5. Charismatic movement – As the devil is accustomed to deceive men through false wonders and this movement is wholly based on Protestantism, it is to be condemned as dangerous and heretical.
  6. Non-Catholic religions – Since Revelation is the exclusive possession of the Catholic Church, all non-Catholic religions are intrinsically false and they should be opposed.
  7. Inculturation – Since Revelation is Catholic, only those aspects of pagan cultures compatible with the natural law and not tied to their false religions can be retained.


How is this notion of Revelation shown forth in the attitude of Churchmen? It is shown in their attitude toward:

  1. The Magisterium – Since Revelation is made up of realities, the Magisterium must faithfully adapt Church teaching to modern man so that he can access those realities. This is called “faith enrichment.”
  2. The Liturgy – Since God reveals Himself to man in multifarious ways, the liturgy must provide priests with many options and be open to innovation.
  3. New Religious orders – Since religion is based on an experience of God revealing Himself, any new religious order that has a religious vitality should be approved.
  4. Apparitions – As God speaks to men as friends and lives among them, apparitions are to be assumed as true until they are very clearly shown to be otherwise.
  5. Charismatic movement – It is a “very important component of the entire renewal of the Church” (Pope John Paul II), being a “new experience of the Holy Spirit” (Cardinal Ratzinger)
  6. Non-Catholic religions – Since Revelation is a reality and non-Catholics have experiences of God, then God is working in their religions and they should be encouraged.
  7. Inculturation – As all religious expression bears witness to God’s self-Revelation, the religious traditions of all peoples must be respected.

What quotations support this notion of Revelation? There are many Catholic texts that support this notion:

  • Vatican I – “The Holy Spirit was not promised to the successors of Peter that by His revelation they might disclose new doctrine, but that by His help they might guard sacredly the revelation transmitted through the apostles and the deposit of faith, and might faithfully set it forth.” Pastor Aeternus, ch. 4 (Dz 1836) 
  • “Supernatural revelation, according to the faith of the universal Church, as declared by the holy synod of Trent, is contained ‘in the written books and in the unwritten traditions which have been received by the apostles from the mouth of Christ Himself; or, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit have been handed down by the apostles themselves, and have thus come to us.’ ” Dei Filius, ch. 2 (Dz 1787) 
  • Pope St. Pius X – (Condemnations) “20. Revelation could have been nothing other than the consciousness acquired by man of his relation to God. 21. Revelation, constituting the object of Catholic faith, was not completed with the apostles. 22. The dogmas which the Church professes as revealed are not truths fallen from heaven, but they are a kind of interpretation of religious facts, which the human mind by a laborious effort prepared for itself.” Lamentabili (Dz 2020-22)


What quotations support this notion of Revelation? There are many Catholic texts that support this notion:

  • Catechism of the Catholic Church – “Thanks to its supernatural sense of faith, the People of God as a whole never ceases to welcome, to penetrate more deeply, and to live more fully from the gift of divine Revelation.” §99 
  • Pope Francis“In the Christian customs of an evangelized people, the Holy Spirit adorns the Church, showing her new aspects of revelation and giving her a new face. Through inculturation, the Church ‘introduces peoples, together with their cultures, into her own community,’ for ‘every culture offers positive values and forms which can enrich the way the Gospel is preached, understood and lived.’ ” Evangelii Gaudium, §116 
  • Pope John Paul II – “By applying the category of mystery to man, the [Council] makes clear the anthropological, even anthropocentric character of the revelation offered to mankind in Christ. This revelation is centered on man: Christ ‘fully reveals man to man himself’ … There we have the essentials of the Church’s teaching, which is, therefore, the Church’s teaching.” Sign of Contradiction, Meditation 12 
  • Fr. J. Ratzinger – “A comprehensive view of Revelation, precisely because it is concerned with the whole man, is founded not only in the word that Christ preached, but in the whole of the living experience of the person.” Commentary on Dei Verbum

What does this notion of Revelation serve? It serves reality, the divine order, and divine revelation.


What does this notion of Revelation serve? It serves modern man, by making religion personal and experiential; modern philosophy and evolution, with the idea of progressive truth; and ecumenism with Protestants by minimizing the role of the Church.

What are the major differences between these two notions of Revelation? On the left, man obtains Revelation from the Church, while on the right he gets it directly from God. In the one on the left, Revelation is objective (truths), while for the notion on the right, it is subjective (realities). On the left, man believes what he is told, while on the right, he tells what he believes.


cf. Emmanuel-Marie, Fr., “Dei Verbum: Les notions conciliaires de Révélation et de Revelation vivante,” in La Religion de Vatican II, First Paris Symposium, Oct. 2002. cf. Dormann, Johannes, Pope John Paul II’s Theological Journey I, Part I, pp. 79-80.

TITLE IMAGE: Christ Preaching in the Temple, Jan Polack, between 1480 and 1485.