Article published April 2018. Updated April 2020.
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"
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to dioceses all over the world, implying that the Notification was no
longer valid.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
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
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.
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
place where the books are published, which corresponds to the
domicile of the publisher (12).
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
The nihil obstat and
are not a judgment on the authenticity of a private
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
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
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.
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
(1) Did the TLIG messages get a
nihil obstat and imprimatur?
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,
(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,
(4) Theologians and bishops warn
(5) Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur,
Joseph IANNUZZI, 13 May 2017,
(6) Bishop who gave nihil obstat
reveals that he knew he was going against Church law, July 2008,
(7) Did the TLIG messages get a
nihil obstat and imprimatur ?, Maria Laura PIO, July 2008,
(8) Frequently Asked Questions
about an imprimatur and/or nihil obstat,
(9) EWTN Catholic Q&A on Nihil
Obstat and Imprimatur, Question from Manfred on 12/3/2000, Father
(10) Rulings of the Committee on
Heresies of the Holy Synod regarding Vassula Ryden, 2001,
(11) Announcement by the
Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople on Vassula Ryden's teachings,
(12) New Commentary on the Code
of Canon Law, John P. BEAL, Paulist Press, 2000, p. 979.
Philippines' Bishops warn against Vassula
and remind the faithful that she has not been approved by the
In an article dated November 19, 2019 published on the
website of the Catholic Bishops'
Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), the faithful are
reminded that Mrs. Ryden's writings have not been approved by the
The Philippine Catholic Church has cautioned against a controversial
self-proclaimed mystic’s claims of presenting messages from Jesus.
Archbishop Romulo Valles,
president of the Bishops' Conference, said that the Vatican statements
warning Catholics against Vassula Ryden remained in force.
In a letter issued Nov. 18, he
advised bishops not to provide any opportunity in their dioceses for the
dissemination of Ryden’s pronouncements.
“We should be extremely careful and also pastorally charitable to our
people who are attracted to the teachings of Vassula Ryden,” Valles
He also reminded the bishops that the “notification”
made against Ryden by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in
1995 remains in effect.
Ryden was born to Greek parents living in Egypt in 1942 and claims to be
receiving messages from Jesus and Mary.
A Greek Orthodox living in Switzerland, she had documented the supposed
messages in multiple volumes of a book titled, “True Life in God”.
Valles said some seminars and other activities are being held to spread
the book’s teachings to Catholic circles throughout the country.
In 2011, the Greek Orthodox Church also disapproved Ryden’s teachings
and the Church of Cypress did the same the following year.
A summary of the Vatican's position regarding Vassula was also published
on the website of the Philippines Episcopal Commission on the Laity,
stressing that the Vatican's position
"upholds the 1995 original notification, even after a dialogue with
Vassula Ryden in the Vatican":
The writings and messages of Vassula Ryden are not of divine revelation
but are rather "personal meditations".
They contain both positive and negative contents, but some of the
negative contents are contrary to Church doctrines;
Therefore, deep discernment is necessary when one reads them;
Her participation in the Catholic liturgy raises confusion among the
faithful since she is not Catholic but is an Orthodox Christian;
She is not to receive Holy Communion in the Catholic church;
Catholics should not join Vassula Ryden's prayer groups.
These articles follow a recent controversy regarding the validity of a
nihil obstat and
given to Mrs. Ryden's writings in 2005 by a Philippine Bishop,
Cardinal Arguelles (now retired), a well-known supporter of Vassula.
Argüelles could not give the
imprimatur even if Vassula's books were circulating in his diocese.
recent interview, Bishop Felix
Toppo reacts to our article regarding the irregularities in the
nihil obstat and imprimatur
that were given to Vassula's books in 2005. He states that Bishop
Argüelles of Lipa (Philippines) was entitled to give an
imprimatur to Vassula, because
Canon Law "grants permission to
any Bishop to give the Imprimatur for a book that is circulated in his
diocese, even though the author does not live in his diocese" (1).
Bishop Toppo is confusing the
place of publishing (the domicile of the publishing house) with the
place of distribution or circulation
(in this case worldwide).
in fact refers to the publishing house, as explained for instance in
Beal's New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law:
Location determines competence, that is the
of the author
and the publisher
specify the local ordinaries who may be asked to examine the book in
question. The rules on domicile are canons 102-107. (2)
Canon 829 specifies that
"the approval or permission to
publish some work is valid for the original text
but not for new editions or translations
of the same".
The publisher of the English version of the messages in a single volume
(3) - which is the text that was given the
nihil obstat and where it
appears for the first time - was the
English Association of True Life in God
based in Wantage, Oxfordshire, UK. So
the publisher's local ordinary was in the United Kingdom and not in the
Once a book is printed, it can be circulated anywhere, but the publisher
remains the one indicated in the book.
We apologize for the technical detail of the above clarification, that
we considered necessary following indeed the "technical" fuss raised in
Bishop Toppo's interview. We could have done without these explanations,
the lack of validity of these ecclesiastical approvals results from the
fact that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had already
publicly given a negative doctrinal judgment on Vassula's writings, a
judgment which remains in force to this date.
For a more detailed discussion, see the article above:
Why we should
be suspicious of the nihil obstat and imprimatur given to Vassula's True
Life in God messages
Information regarding the articles published on Pseudomystica
Bishop Toppo's interview resulted in unexpected publicity for us, surely
unintentional on TLIG's part, but nevertheless always welcome. We take
however this opportunity to explain the following:
Every article, even if it is not written by a theologian, is submitted
before publication to the critical examination of theologians for
proofreading and suggestions.
Furthermore, Pseudomystica belongs to the
Gruppo di Ricerca e Informazione
Socio-Religiosa (GRIS), a Catholic association of Italy,
whose statutes are officially recognized by the Italian Bishops'
Previously, Vassula's books in English had been published by Trinitas
based in Independence, Missouri, USA.
1 TLIG writings officially
approved, Fr. Joseph IANNUZZI, in True Life in God Newsletter of May
3, 2018, distributed by e-mail,
2 New Commentary on the Code of
Canon Law, John P. BEAL, Paulist Press, 2000, p. 979.
3 True Life in God, Vassula
Ryden, English Association of True Life in God, September 2006.
who gave nihil obstat reveals that he knew he was going
against Church Law
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
not do it.
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
about the nihil obstat he had granted to the
TLIG messages in 2005, the bishop confessed that:
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
the end, after much prayer, he decided that he should not
since he had found
nothing contrary to the teachings of the Church
and that this nihil obstat would
help the universal Church.
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
), but by a partisan of Vassula, specifically chosen by her.
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.
28, 2007 (revised July
Did the TLIG messages get a
months ago, rumors started to circulate that the TLIG messages had received a
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
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
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:
LIFE IN GOD: DIVINE DIALOGUE
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 Churchs 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.
+Felix Toppo, S.J., DD
24th November 2005
are the nihil obstat and imprimatur?
reproduce below extracts from the Catholics United for the Faith article on
obstat and imprimatur (www.cuf.org):
the Catholic Church, some types of writings need a bishops 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.
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
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.
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. (
nihil obstat and imprimatur are not the equivalent of an endorsement or recommendation.
They do not affirm that the whole of a works contents are true. Neither do the nihil
obstat and imprimatur indicate that the censor or bishop necessarily agrees with the
contents of a work. (
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: (
comments and questions
do not doubt about Bishop Toppos 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:
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
nihil obstat and imprimatur cannot be used to authorize nor approve a
my questions are: