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A critical website on Vassula Ryden & True Life in God

Why we should be suspicious

of the nihil obstat and imprimatur

given to Vassula's True Life in God messages

Demystifying Fr. Iannuzzi's article 

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Article published April 2018

In 2006, Vassula re-published her True Life in God (TLIG) messages in a single volume, bearing the nihil obstat and imprimatur given by two well-known bishops  who are her long-time followers (1), in spite of the 1995 Vatican Notification stating that her writings contained "doctrinal errors" (2).

During that time, local TLIG associations had been sending documentation to dioceses all over the world, implying that the Notification was no longer valid. This resulted in a circular letter sent by the CDF in 2007 to all Bishops' Conferences confirming the negative doctrinal judgment of the 1995 Notification, declaring that the messages are not divine revelations and advising against the participation of the faithful in Vassula's prayer groups (3). Since then, bishops of several countries have regularly informed the faithful about the CDF documents and canceled TLIG meetings in their dioceses(4).

Recently, Fr. Joseph Iannuzzi, another long-time supporter of Vassula, has written a lengthy article developing the thesis that the nihil obstat and imprimatur given to Vassula's books were an "exercise of the Magisterium" and therefore "Christians are prohibited from setting themselves up as their judge and from publicly condemning them". (5)

It is a cleverly written article with three pages of references and might result impressing for unwary readers. The scope is to promote Vassula and reassure her followers. However, a critical examination of the matter reveals a series of flaws that invalidate the article's premises and conclusions.

 

Problems with the nihil obstat and imprimatur given to TLIG

1.      The nihil obstat and imprimatur contradict the CDF's consistent public declarations that Vassula's writings contain doctrinal errors.

This alone is enough for any bishop to refrain from giving the imprimatur to the books.

 

2.      The nihil obstat and imprimatur were not sought in accordance with Canon Law dispositions

Although Vassula never resided in the Philippines nor was the TLIG One volume of messages published there, the imprimatur was granted by a bishop of that country (Archbishop Argüelles of Lipa). Canon 824 §1 states that the permission or approval to publish should be granted by the local ordinary (= bishop) of the author or of the publisher.

 

Canon 830 §2 warns the censor that any favoritism should be laid aside, and only the doctrine of the Church as proposed by the Magisterium should be considered. This canon was blatantly ignored. Not only had the CDF already declared that the writings contained doctrinal errors, but the censor was personally chosen by Vassula among her supporters (6). In fact, Bishop Toppo of India is a regular participant at the TLIG pilgrimages and has declared that he believes the messages to be of supernatural origin (7).

 

In fact, Bishop Toppo told in an interview, that before giving the nihil obstat to Vassula's books, he previously asked the opinion of a famous Canon Law expert, who clearly told him that according to Canon Law, he could not give the nihil obstat (6).

 

Therefore, the TLIG books were not reviewed by the official and independent censor of Bishop Argüelles' diocese, but by a partisan of Vassula, whose judgment was known in advance to be favorable.

 

All this undermines the scope of the process, which is to guarantee an objective examination of the writings. Sadly, the practice of getting a supporting Bishop to grant a complacent imprimatur is not uncommon (8).

 

3.      The nihil obstat and imprimatur  are not a judgment on the authenticity of a private revelation

The imprimatur is a technical declaration that a particular book has been reviewed by a censor and is free from doctrinal error. It does not mean that the bishop who grants it necessarily agrees with its contents. Even in the case of a valid imprimatur, anyone can disagree with the author's opinions and conclusions (9).

 

Nor is the imprimatur an instrument to recognize the authenticity of a private revelation. Only the seer's local bishop or the CDF have the authority to investigate such claims. As seen previously, Mgr Argüelles is not Vassula's ordinary and the CDF confirmed in its 2007 circular letter that the messages contain doctrinal errors and are not to be considered as divine revelations.

 

A similar conclusion was also reached by Greek Orthodox authorities (let's not forget that Vassula is Greek Orthodox). In 2001, the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece ruled against her writings (10), and in 2011 the Patriarchate of Constantinople declared that her writings deviate from Orthodox doctrine and are unacceptable (11). Mgr. Arguelles' imprimatur therefore is also questionable from an ecumenical point of view.

 

 

In conclusion

There are sufficient elements to question the value of the nihil obstat and imprimatur given to Vassula's messages: the process was not objective, it did not follow canon law rules and the CDF's doctrinal judgment on the writings was ignored, resulting in an obvious lack of "communion" with the Church in order to favor Vassula. 

So, why hasn't the imprimatur been removed by the CDF? Perhaps the matter was considered resolved with the CDF's 2007 circular letter sent to all the Bishops' conferences in the world, confirming that Vassula's writings contained doctrinal errors. This should be enough for any bishop to disregard the validity of an imprimatur given to those writings.

 

References

(1) Did the TLIG messages get a nihil obstat and imprimatur? Maria Laura PIO, July 2008, http://www.pseudomystica.info/tlignihilobstat.htm

(2) Notification, Joseph Card. RATZINGER and Tarcisio BERTONE, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 6 October 1995, http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19951006_ryden_en.html

(3) Circular letter to the Presidents of Episcopal Conferences regarding the writings and activities of Mrs. Vassula Rydén, William Cardinal LEVADA, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 25 January 2007, http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20070125_vassula-ryden_en.html

(4) Theologians and bishops warn the faithful, http://www.pseudomystica.info/tligtheologians.htm

(5) Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, Joseph IANNUZZI, 13 May 2017, http://www.tlig.org/en/testimonies/churchpos/nihilobstat/

(6) Bishop who gave nihil obstat reveals that he knew he was going against Church law, July 2008, http://www.pseudomystica.info/tlignihilobstat.htm#Bishop

(7) Did the TLIG messages get a nihil obstat and imprimatur ?, Maria Laura PIO, July 2008, http://www.pseudomystica.info/tlignihilobstat.htm

(8) Frequently Asked Questions about an imprimatur and/or nihil obstat, http://www.catholicdoors.com/faq/qu89.htm

(9) EWTN Catholic Q&A on Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, Question from Manfred on 12/3/2000, Father Echert, http://www.ewtn.com/v/experts/showmessage.asp?number=350454

(10) Rulings of the Committee on Heresies of the Holy Synod regarding Vassula Ryden, 2001, http://www.pseudomystica.info/tliggreekorthodox.htm#committee

(11) Announcement by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople on Vassula Ryden's teachings, January 2011, http://www.pseudomystica.info/tliggreekorthodox.htm

 

 

Update July 2008:

 

Bishop who gave nihil obstat reveals that he knew he was going against Church Law

 

In a recent interview made available on-line through the official TLIG video website, Bishop Felix Toppo confesses his full commitment to Vassula Ryden and reveals that, before giving the nihil obstat to her True Life in God (TLIG) messages, he consulted a famous canonist who clearly told him that he “could not do it”.

The Bishop of Jamshedpur (India) was interviewed during the TLIG pilgrimage to Egypt in which he participated in April of this year. The 45 minutes interview was directed by three Catholic priests: fathers John Abberton and Tony Sullivan from the UK (considered the TLIG associations’ spiritual advisors) and Friar Vincent Cosatti from Switzerland.

Asked about the nihil obstat he had granted to the TLIG messages in 2005, the bishop confessed that: “In the beginning I hesitated; then I went to a Seminary where there is a famous canon lawist [sic]. I consulted him. And he very clearly said that according to the Canon Law you cannot do it. Then I was wondering what to do. Then I think Vassula consulted another theologian, Ren� Laurentin. He said there is no problem in giving it. I still hesitated.” In the end, after much prayer, he decided that he should not “be afraid”, since he had found nothing contrary to the teachings of the Church and that this nihil obstat would help the universal Church”.

Bishop Toppo also states clearly that he was asked by Vassula to be the censor. In other words: the TLIG books were not reviewed by the official and independent censor of Mgr Arguelles' diocesis (who gave the Imprimatur and who is also a supporter of Vassula, see: http://www.pseudomystica.info/tligfaq.htm#Philippines   ), but by a partisan of Vassula, specifically chosen by her.

Note: The complete interview was on-line at: http://www.tligvideo.org/toppo.html (official TLIG video website) until the end of 2009, but was later removed.

 

 

 

February 28, 2007 (revised July 2008):

 

Did the TLIG messages get a nihil obstat and imprimatur ?

Several months ago, rumors started to circulate that the TLIG messages had received a nihil obstat and imprimatur. The information reached me from different sources and basically said that an official communication had been sent privately to the coordinators of local TLIG associations, stating that at the end of 2005, their books had been granted a nihil obstat by a bishop of India, and an imprimatur by a bishop of the Philippines. The communication precised that Vassula wished to maintain the information confidential and that the nihil obstat and imprimatur would be included in all the books printed or re-printed from that date on.

 Although I was sure of the reliability of my sources, I could not publish the information without some kind of confirmation. The confirmation arrived this morning (27/2/07) and it is official: the English edition of the True Life in God messages in a single book is published with the Nihil obstat from Bishop Felix Toppo, S.J., DD, Bishop of Jamshedpur, India, censor librorum and the Imprimatur from Archbishop Ramon C. Arguelles, D.D., STL, Archbishop of Lipa, Philippines, dated November 28th, 2005. The book, which ressembles a Bible, bears the copy of a letter written by Bishop Toppo, which is reproduced hereunder:

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TRUE LIFE IN GOD: DIVINE DIALOGUE

I have read all the TRUE LIFE IN GOD books and meditated on their contents. I truly believe that the books contain the Divine Dialogue of the Holy Trinity, Our Lady and the Angels with humankind through Vassula Ryden. I have not found anything objectionable and anything contrary to the Church’s authentic teaching authority on faith and morals. Reading these books and meditating on the contents are spiritually beneficial to all. I recommend the books to every Christian. 

Place: Gohmuri                                                  +Felix Toppo, S.J., DD

Date: 24th November 2005                            Bishop of Jamshedpur, India

 

 

What are the nihil obstat and imprimatur?

I reproduce below extracts from the “Catholics United for the Faith” article on nihil obstat and imprimatur (www.cuf.org):

 In the Catholic Church, some types of writings need a bishop’s authorization to be published for use in Catholic instruction. The nihil obstat and imprimatur indicate that a writing has received that authorization. This means that, in the judgement of the bishop who grants the imprimatur, the work contains nothing contrary to faith and morals. However, the nihil obstat and imprimatur are not an endorsement and do not guarantee that the entire contents of a writing are true.

 Nihil obstat literally means “no impediments”. It is given by the censor librorum,   a person who is “appointed by the bishop of a diocese to examine before publication those writings or other media of communication that are subject to the Church’s supervision."

 Imprimatur means “Let it be printed”. A writing may be given the imprimatur by the local ordinary (generally the diocesan bishop) after the censor has given the nihil obstat.

 The nihil obstat and imprimatur are designed to ensure that those works that present the teachings of the Church do so correctly. They indicate that the bishop who has granted the imprimatur (or, as a practical matter, his censor on whom he must depend) sees nothing wrong with the writing as it concerns faith and morals. (…)

 The nihil obstat and imprimatur are not the equivalent of an endorsement or recommendation. They do not affirm that the whole of a work’s contents are true. Neither do the nihil obstat and imprimatur indicate that the censor or bishop necessarily agrees with the contents of a work. (…)

 We assume that our bishops act in good faith when they grant permission for a book to be published. Most go to great lengths to insure that no imprimatur is decided when one should not be. At the same time, there are several reasons why a Catholic would still want to carefully evaluate a publication bearing the nihil obstat and imprimatur: (…)

 

Some comments and questions

 I do not doubt about Bishop Toppo’s nor Archbishop Arguelles’ sincerity. Both are long-time supporters of Vassula, have invited her in several occasions to their countries for her to speak to the laity and the clergy, and this in spite of the Notification which asked Bishops not to promote her in their dioceses. In fact, Archbishop Arguelles signed the foreword to the booklet “Clarifications with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith”, in which the reader is made to believe that the Notification is no longer valid (for details, see: www.pseudomystica.info/tligchurchposition.htm)  

 Bishop Toppo states in his letter that he truly believes “that the books contain the Divine Dialogue of the Holy Trinity, Our Lady and the Angels with humankind through Vassula Ryden”. He is in fact affirming that he believes the supernatural origine of the messages. This is his opinion, which we respect, but the nihil obstat and imprimatur cannot be used to authorize nor approve a private revelation.

Therefore, my questions are: 

What is the scope of a nihil obstat and imprimatur given by a Catholic bishop to a Greek-Orthodox author who does not reside in his diocese and who has been the object of warnings from the Catholic Church as well as the Greek-Orthodox Church representatives regarding precisely the writings in question ? 

 

Vassula’s published writings are a revised version of the messages she receives. In fact, as made public by Fr. Pavic and then reported by several authors who interviewed him, Vassula has two sets of notebooks: the private one and the public one. Vassula explained that the private notebook contains also personal messages. Therefore, “God” re-writes his messages (without the private contents) on the second set of official notebooks to be published. However, this re-writing – as Fr. Pavic discovered – involved a lot of re-editing in order to wipe out mistakes and re-phrase paragraphs, and that all was not done by “God”. Fr. Pavic in fact got access to the notebooks to be published, and they were covered with marginal notes about what to erase and what to add, and even what to correct. So, how can people judge if the messages Vassula receives are from God, if they are judging on an edited and corrected version of the original messages ? (1)

 

Is it prudent to give a nihil obstat and imprimatur to a book whose writer claims that the author of the writings is God and that therefore the book contains the “words of God” ? That whoever criticizes the writings is committing mortal sin and blasphemy against the Holy Spirit ? (2) That whoever reads the messages receives a “new baptism of the Spirit” ? (3) That if somebody does not obey Vassula's directives, he/she is accused of being possessed by an evil spirit (the spirit of Jezabel)? And I could go on…  

 

I know that a nihil obstat and imprimatur only reflect the opinion of the bishop who issues them, and that those authorizations have been sometimes given to very controversial books and that imprimaturs have also been removed by the Vatican. However, I am worried about the ongoing confusion that it will unavoidably fuel.

 

Maria Laura Pio

February 28, 2007 (revised July 2008)

 

 

Notes:

(1) See Fr. Dermine's article including photocopies of the edited notebooks: http://www.pseudomystica.info/dermine2.htm

(2) See: www.pseudomystica.info/tligmortalsin.htm    

(3) In an open letter written by Vassula and titled "Vassula writes about Signs and Wonders", published in the TLIG e-Newsletter of December 14th, 2006. Vassula affirms: "The Lord tells us that by reading [the messages] we receive anointed graces, we receive a new baptism of the Spirit". (http://www.tlig.org/en/news/2006-12-14/2021/)