Is the church's approval of private apparitions infallible?

When the Church approves a private apparition as “constat de supernaturalitate”, is this declaration infallible? Or in other words, is there some chance of error in the Church’s affirmation of some private revelation as having a supernatural character, or can we be absolutely certain from the approval that it is supernatural?

If the Church is not subject to error in this regard, in what sense can we say that these apparitions only deserve the assent of ‘human faith’? As the CDF commentary on the Professio Fidei states “There are truths which are necessarily connected with revelation by virtue of an historical relationship; while other truths evince a logical connection”. Thus any truths logically connected to the infallibility of the Magisterium are also de fide. Thus if there is no chance of error when the Church affirms a revelation as supernatural, wouldn’t we be logically forced to give the same de fide assent to these affirmations as, for example, papal succession, canonization of saints, etc that the Magisterium declares without possibility of error?

No Catholic is required to accept the teachings of ANY private revelation beyond the Apostolic Age. Catholics are free to reject Fatima, Lourdes, etc - and to reject them publicly. Catholics are NOT free to ascribe accepted apparitions to Satan or some other evil influence. We may deny them and refuse to believe in them (or ignore them, as I do), but we may not ascribe them to evil.

Catholics are not free to reject de Fide teaching. Thus, approval of a private revelation cannot be considered de Fide.

We are perfectly free to ascribe non-approved apparitions to evil influences, including the activities in Medjugorje. And we may also do so here under the rules of this forum (CAF rules prohibit promoting non-approved apparitions, but not condemning them).

Is the church’s approval of private apparitions infallible?
No. The Church’s approval simply means a specific private revelation is worthy of belief. It has nothing to do with infallibility.

Also, though the Church might approve an apparition, it doesn’t oblige the faithful to accept that the apparition in question did occur. All it suggests, is that there is nothing contained in the revelation that is contrary to the Deposit of the Faith.

I am pretty sure that apparitions are typically approved at the diocesan level by the ordinary, correct me if I’m wrong. As such, it’s like giving an Imprimatur to the content of that revelation: there is nothing contrary to Catholic faith and morals being taught through that revelation. Teachings of individual bishops, as part of the Ordinary Magisterium, are considered fallible, as opposed to the infallible Sacred Magisterium.

That is great to know.

I hear a lot of people saying Fatima said this and Lourdes said this in debates and I am just like :shrug:.

These responses don’t really address my question. Maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned all the implications. Let me restate it in a simpler way. Are the church’s (for the sake of argument lets say it’s the Vatican, not just the local bishop as in most cases) approval of apparitions subject to error? In other words, is there any chance (no matter how small) that the Church may be mistaken and the apparition may still be a hoax?

These declarations are not infallible (if they were, Catholics would be required to believe it). It is possible that a hoax could be declared a legitimate apparition.

So… apparitions like the ones to St. Faustina are not infallible even though we get our concept from the Sacred Heart of Jesus from them and attach to them indulgences?

Why do you ignore them, David? I mean, that is fine and everything, but I have met some Catholics who puzzle me when they simply refuse to even entertain the possibility.

The grace of the indulgence does not come from the Saint (or whatever) but from the Spiritual Treasury of the Church.

If we somehow were able to determine that St. Faustina was a hoax, the Church would discontinue offering indulgences related to her, but it would not affect the graces that were already obtained - they were earned in good faith, and the Church will uphold Her end of the bargain and provide those graces from the Spiritual Treasury. The validity of St. Faustina is irrelevant.

There are many things that are not necessary, but people do because it gives them spiritual fulfillment. Rosaries, for example. Some people feel they benefit from interest in apparitions. I’m not one of them, so I choose to pursue other interests (such as apologetics). I would much rather read about St. Cyprian of Carthage than about Fatima - it simply does not interest me, and I’ve never bothered to form an opinion about it.

No those apparitions are not infallible.

BTW, the Sacred Heart of Jesus devotion comes primarily from the visions of St. Marguerite Marie Alacoque. St. Faustina is associated with the Divine Mercy devotions.

Why do you ignore them, David? I mean, that is fine and everything, but I have met some Catholics who puzzle me when they simply refuse to even entertain the possibility.

I am not David (obviously) but there is a huge wealth of spirituality and devotions in the Church. Over the centuries, devotions become more or less popular. It would be impossible for any one person to attend to all of them. It shouldn’t matter to you whether a person choses to observe some of the more popular devotions or choses other ways.

I think we’ve established that the Church’s approval of apparitions cannot be infallible (ie certain) because then they would be de fide by a “logical connection”, just as the church’s certain / infallible canonization of saints etc are de fide by a logical connection.

But here Cardinal Arinze says that Lourdes and Fatima are “certain” .

How is this consistent with the fact that approved apparitions are not de fide? If they are not de fide, by logical necessity there has to be some uncertainty in their approval.

They are not die fide because they are considered private revelation. Though the Church may declare these apparitions as being supernatural in origin, this does not mean that the resultant writings, etc. are the infallible and inspired Word of God as we accept the scriptures. It is assumed that some or all of the contents of such apparitions may be intended for the individual who received them [and possibly others similarly called], not necessarily for the whole Church. St. Bridget of Sweden is excellent example of this. While her writings are very faith affirming in that they reiterate very eloquently the great mysteries of our faith, certainly not all of us are called to her severe life as a widowed penitent and mystic. Additionally, even a Saint may misunderstand, misreport, or in some way distort their meaning due to his/her personal circumstances, culture, education, times, and basic humanity. However, if there are serious theological errors that might pose a danger to the faithful, they would not receive Church approval. Therefore, we are free to accept such messages in whole or in part as they see fit, hopefully through prayer and discernment with the help of the Holy Spirit.

(in writing this I must credit Fr. Benedict Groeschel’s book, A Still, Small Voice: A Practical Guide on Reported Revelations, which I have been reading on this very subject.)

It’s not inconsistent. It takes more than the endorsement of a Cardinal to make something de fide. When it comes to Lourdes and Fatima, you would be hard pressed I believe to find a Bishop that did not believe they were true apparitions. So the validity could be said to be a universal teaching. That removes virtually all uncertainty. However, nothing in private revelation,** by definition**, can be considered to be part of the de fide deposit of faith. Certainty is not the same thing as infallible.

If some particular fact is declared as absolutely certain, without possibility of error, that** is** infallibility. You can’t say that it is absolutely certain, without possibility of error, and at the same time say its not de fide - because anyone who believed in the Church’s ability to make such a pronouncement would necessarily have to believe it, not doing so would be logically inconsistent.

Anything you necessarily have to believe, as a logical consequence of the infallibility of the church, is de fide teneda. For example, the canonization of saints or papal elections are not directly part of the deposit of faith, but are connected to it by logical necessity, and thus are de fide teneda. You can’t get out of that by just saying approval of private apparitions is not de fide “by definition”. I can’t just say x = not-x by definition.

These two options are mutually exclusive: either there is some uncertainty in the approval, or anyone who believes in the infallibility of the church HAS to believe that the apparition is supernatural.

The two statements that the apparitions are approved as supernatural with certainty, and that a Catholic is free to reject their supernatural origin, are logically inconsistent.

You should really read the book A Still, Small Voice: A Practical Guide on Reported Revelations by Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR. It covers all this questions quite thoroughly.

There are degrees of certainty. This is true in Science, in Statistics and with Faith. De Fide is the highest degree of certainty. Approval of private revelations are a lesser degree of certainty. The lesser degree is required since private revelation is not binding on the faithful.

No, you’re confusing degrees of error/uncertainty with degrees of certainty. This isn’t just a semantic distinction. No statement in science or statistics is certain, because they’re all based on induction, which is inherently probabilistic and has a degree of error/uncertainty.

The only certain statements are the ones based on logical deduction (such as the ones in mathematics) and the truths of the revealed faith, and those logically connected to it. For example, there is no degree of uncertainty or error in the statement that God is Three Persons. The same applies for any statement logically connected to the revealed faith - if any of them are false, or have any degree of error, then the entire system of statements is erroneous, by necessity.

So the question remains, does the statement by the Church that some apparition is of supernatural origin, have some degree of error, or not? If there is no degree of error, then every Catholic must by necessity believe so.

Ok, I can see you have never taken statistics but I will use your terminology.

Yes, statements by the Church regarding apparitions have the *possibility *of error. They are not infallible. And yes, every Catholic must believe this. This is the heart of the teaching that private revelation is not binding on the faithful.

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