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, highlighitng a statement issued awhile back by His Excellency, Archbishop Peter Sartain, the 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.

Those who chase after “signs and wonders” and flock to hear alleged visionaries associated with unapproved apparitions speak in public — complete with apparitions on demand — should heed the words of this vigilant bishop. 

“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 Medjugorje.  His actions are also very collegial in that his statement is also in harmony with the pastoral directives of his brother bishop.


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)


  1. Wade St. Onge

    Stephen, you write: "when someone askes a question directly to me or others I am eager to answer right away". That is not true. You have still not said one word in response to my six posts. You were also dishonest with me when you said you were done with Patrick's blog. What gives? Are you going to ignore this post like you have ignored my others? Let's see …

  2. Patrick Madrid

    Easy, Wade. It's neither fair nor charitable to brand Stephen as "dishonest." People change their minds. Anyway, I'm glad you both are here to discuss, and I hope it works out that you can both dig into the issues raised to your mutual satisfaction. Let's just keep things calm and courteous. That's all I ask. Thanks.

  3. Wade St. Onge

    Thank you, Patrick. Charity requires me to give the benefit of the doubt, and it was wrong for me to conclude this was just a way to bait me to his site and avoid answering my points. I apologize, Stephen, for calling you dishonest. Still, I think you can understand my frustration. Stephen comes on here and asks for dialogue. He makes a number of points, I put in a great deal of time and effort to engage his points and formulate responses, and he just ignores them all. He expects us to grapple with the points he makes, but then does not do likewise with ours. That is why I said I felt like I was "taken for a ride" – there was an impression given there would be a fruitful discussion, I believed this and thus decided it would be worth my time, and then it ended the way I discussed above. No response to my points, no acknowledgment on anything he may have agreed with. That is not very charitable either.

  4. Arch Hall B& B

    hi this is steve ryanPatrick I did not change my mind really. I just wanted to address the point about my frustrations with the combox. Again.. you are not the source of my frustrations I have been kind of shootin the messager. The real culprits are the spammers who interfere with the exchange of ideas over the internet. I have a terrible problem with it so my sympathies . But for this kind of conversation right here this is probably not the best format.

  5. Martha

    Wow. I agree with Patrick 100%. Poor Patrick. Hang in there! I'd love it to be real, too- who wouldn't? At least that's what the Bishop of Mostar said! But the Church hasn't approved it yet, so we should all be prudently cautious.I'd like to know, too: why is everyone so upset? It's CREEPY!! My family is ready to cast me out for even questioning such a thing, as though it's Dogma or something. We're all Catholic here (I'm assuming!), and it's very black and white. Being Catholic is such a wonderful gift because, unlike Protestants, we're not forced to figure everything out ourselves, as though we're each some individual prescient deity! Thank the Lord for the Catholic Church!And pray that she comes to a ruling soon, as everyone has clearly lost their minds. I love Mary so much. Love her as she is- don't try to guess where she MIGHT be. Love her at Lourdes, at Fatima, in your heart! Love her while adoring her son at Mass in your own local Parish! Love her while praying a rosary in your own home! I'm certain that loving her in Medj. won't be held against you if it is disapproved, but whyyyyy go to those lengths? There aren't even any indulgences in it for you! Silly, silly, stiff-necked people. Never listen to your parents, never know what's good for you.All we have to go on is what's already been deemed by the local Bishops, and the first committee. And that doesn't look so good.Be Catholic, people. I love what Kevin Symonds said on a comment near the top. We're not Protestant. Where's the question? There isn't one! Obey your authorities.

  6. Daniel

    Stephen Ryan's comments seem to suggest that there has only been one bishop of Mostar for the past 30 years (one man's opinion). After Bishop Zanic retired some 13 years into the case, the Vatican replaced him with Bishop Peric for the past 17 years. If the Vatican did not like Bishop Zanic's negativity, they made an odd choice for his replacement.

  7. MaryAgnesLamb

    It seems to me that an important rule of polite engagement would be to at least get the name of your correspondent right. @Steve Ryan, you might want to try to do that. the lady's name is Diane. one n. quite simple really.I once was very interested in Medjugorge. Not so now, as I found the evidence of lying, disobedience and the purported encouragement of disobedence to legitimate authority by Our Blessed Lady (!!!) simply too much to bear.Nothing is lost by obedience. By disobedience, all is thrown away.Denise Griffiths, OCDS

  8. Phillip Seeberg

    My church has the Lay Apostolate meeting and recruiting. It reminds me too much of the Mormon church with its own writings. The time one of the ‘appostles’ told me that if I liked reading what Jesus said 2000 years ago I would like reading what he says today. I ran the other way and it has been a source of spiritual pain for me as I see this as an infestation of a heresy.

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