Monday, February 06, 2006

 

Vassula and the CDF

In the second book in the series, Touched by the Spirit of God, Fr. Edward D. O.Connor, CSC, teacher of Theology at Notre Dame for 41 years, provides a reliable analysis of the Notification by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, dated October 1995.

Fr. O’connor, makes several comments regarding the Notification by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF):

Episcopal Support for Vassula

Whatever authority be attributed to this Notification, it is counterbalanced to a serious degree by that of the bishops who have spoken favorably of Vassula, in some cases even after the Notification. It would be a great misconception to think that the CDF represents ‘Rome” (or even of the Pope) in a particular locality. Bishops are the ordinary pastors and teachers of the church, instituted for this responsibility by Christ himself. The CDF is a commission set up by the papacy to aid in the role of supervising the teaching going on in the Church. Just how the authority of the bishops relates to that of the CDF is difficult to define; it may not be at all susceptible of a simple formulation. No doubt, the CDF, being composed of professional theologians specializing in doctrinal issues, has a competence in judging theological issued that few bishops could match. On the other hand, bishops are by and large better placed to appraise the fruits of a particular work; and this is crucial for evaluating someone like Vassula. Thus, someone who believes in Vassula cannot be accused in standing against the teaching authority of the Church as represented by the CDF; he is following the lead of bishops who have been commissioned to make just such a judgment.

Errors about the Trinity

Let us take up now the particular errors which the Notification attributes to Vassula’s writings. The first consists of “ambiguous language in speaking of the persons of the Holy Trinity, to the point of confusing the specific names and functions of the Divine Persons.” The document does not offer any examples of this ambiguous language; however, a lengthy study by Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S.J., two years prior to the Notification, made a similar criticism [“Critique of a visionary”, Catholic Twin Circle, 8/1,8 and 15 1993]. Perhaps the CDF relied on his work; in any case, the instances given by Fr. Pacwa can serve as plausible examples of what the Congregation may have in mind.

Fr. Pacwa cites as heretical the statements Vassula attributes to Jesus, “The Father and I are one and the same,” and “the Holy Spirit and I are one and the same.” He calls attention to a text in which Jesus tells Vassula that she can call him Father, and concludes that she is confusing the first and second persons of the Blessed Trinity. But since Vassula’s writings on the whole clearly differentiate between the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, as Fr. Pacwa himself acknowledges, the text just cited should not be understood as denying the distinction of the divine persons, but simply as insisting on their unity.

In one of here earliest messages, Vassula tells how Jesus asked her to “design how the Holy Trinity is.” She described having “a vision of one light. Then one light coming out then another one, making three.” She adds the comment, “When the Son is in the Father, then they are one. The Holy Trinity is ONE and the same. They can be 3, but all 3 can be one. Result, One God.” [TLIG message 11/4/87]. This is a faultless statement of the Trinitarian mystery, in the light of which other statements ought to be read [it also employs a metaphor that goes back to the Nicene Creed which declares that the Son came forth from the Father as “light from light .” this image has since become classic in Christian thought. For example, Symeon the Theologian, a Greek mystic who lived shortly before the great schism between the Orthodox and Roman churches, writes of “the One who was in the beginning, before all ages, begotten of the Father, and with the Spirit, God and word, triple in unity, but one light in the three. (hymn 12,14-18)].

A few months later came the sort of statement that disturbs critics. Jesus said to Vassula, “I your Holy Father love you I am the Holy Trinity, you have discerned well! write it “ Vassula herself added, “I discerned while Jesus was saying I am your Holy Father, a ‘triple’ Jesus, like those fancy pictures of one person but made as though they are 3, one coming out of the other, all similar and all 3 the same.” Jesus then continued, “I am the Holy Trinity, all in One.”

If you look just at the initial statement attributed to Jesus, you might wonder if he is not identifying himself with the Father and then with the entire Trinity. But when you read on, it is clear he is not. And the analogy of an image in triplicate is just as tolerable as the shamrock popularly attributed to St. Patrick.

….None of the inspired writers of Scripture were theologians in our sense (not even John, despite his nickname of “Theologos”). God chose weak and foolish messengers to carry his Gospel to the world and those messengers often used inept expressions for which we must be willing to make allowance if we are ever to hear what the Lord is telling us.

Fr. Pacwa is a very skilled exegete, and we are all indebted to him for a masterful expose of the errors of New Age religion [Catholics and the New Age, by Mitch Pacwa, S.J. Servant Publications, Ann Arbor, MI, 1992]. But he seems to have gone through the writings of Vassula the way some professors read examination papers, looking for errors and pouncing fiercely on the least inaccuracy. Would it not be more appropriate, when coming upon a questionable assertion, to stand back and ask in the light of the whole of her work, “What is this woman trying to say?”

More can be read in the book entitled Touched by the Spirit of God, Vassula and the CDF, ISBN No. 1-883225-25-6.

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