PUERTO RICAN BISHOPS WARN AGAINST VASSULA'S FALSE ECUMENISM

Fr. Brian Harrison, O.S.

The Puerto Rican bishops have followed their colleagues in Italy and Switzerland by warning the island's Catholics against the unauthorized "ecumenical" activities of Vassula Ryden, the Greek Orthodox mystic who claims to receive voluminous messages from Jesus Christ (as well as our Lady and other saints) by direct dictation from Heaven. Vassula's widest following around the world appears to be among Catholics, and her alleged revelations are promoted vigorously by some (not all) leaders of the Medjugorje movement.

In view of a widely publicized presentation on the part of Vassula scheduled for early May at a liberal Protestant university in San Juan, the Ecumenical Commission of the Puerto Rican Episcopal Conference issued a warning in the island's official Catholic newspaper, on April 29th. The announcement, signed by Bishop Ricardo Surinach, president of the Ecumenical Commission, is in Spanish. A translation follows:

"According to recent announcements, a self-styled 'ecumenical activity,' jointly sponsored by the San Juan campus of the InterAmerican University of Puerto Rico and 'The Friends of Vassula,' is to take place at the beginning of May. The central figure in this activity is to be Mrs. Vassula Ryden, a member of the Eastern Orthodox Church. This lady claims to be the recipient of numerous private revelations which, so it is said, have to do with the restoration of unity among Christians. Neither the Roman Catholic Church nor the Eastern Orthodox Church have approved these alleged revelations as authentic.

"The Ecumenical Commission of the Puerto Rican Episcopal Conference wishes to call the attention of faithful Catholics to the following norm of [the Holy See's] 1993: 'The participation of Catholics in the various types of ecumenical encounter and projects of cooperation shall respect the norms established by local ecclesiastical authority. Ultimately, it is the diocesan bishop who is to judge the opportuneness and relevance of all forms of local ecumenical activity, taking into account what has been decided at the regional or national level' (n. 164).

"We wish the Puerto Rican public, and in particular members of the Catholic Church, to know that neither the cardinal archbishop of San Juan [His Eminence Luis Aponte Martinez], in whose archdiocese the activity is to take place, nor the Puerto Rican Episcopal Conference, has given any approbation or authorization to the said activity, which should therefore not be considered by faithful Catholics as an authentic act of ecumenism.

"While the reunion of the separated ecclesial communities with the Catholic Church is indeed an objective of the greatest importance, for which we should all work and pray to the extent possible, there also exists a danger that certain persons, even though well- meaning, may propose false, inadequate, and confusing paths toward that unity which we long for thereby impeding rather than fostering true ecumenical progress. For that reason, Catholics should not feel themselves called to participate in any self-styled 'ecumenical activity' that has not been approved by the competent authority of their own Church."

It is worth noting that in this statement of the Puerto Rican Ecumenical Commission, future Church unity is spoken of in terms of "the reunion of the separated ecclesial communities with the Catholic Church." A major doctrinal problem with Vassula's claimed revelations is their insistence that Heaven's plan for unity does include the need for Eastern Orthodox Christians to convert to Catholicism, and that unrestricted intercommunion between the two churches should be practiced even before there is a full agreement on doctrine.

The Catholic Church's official criteria for the evaluation of private revelations also insist absolutely on "uprightness of moral life" on the part of the alleged visionary as a condition for authenticity (norms of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Feb. 25th, 1978, section I-A, b:1). Since this clearly means conformity to moral norms, another grave objection to Vassula's authenticity arises here, since she is divorced and remarried, any declaration of nullity of the first marriage.

Her own Greek Orthodox Church, in a clear conflict with Catholic doctrine, claims the power to dissolve even valid, sacramental marriages under some conditions, and in such cases grants divorced persons the right to remarry in church without inquiring whether the first marriage was valid or not. Vassula's second marriage was thus blessed by the Greek Orthodox Church in 1990, but for five years previous to that, while living in a purely marriage, she had been receiving hundreds of pages of "revelations" in which "Jesus" not once told her that she should correct her irregular lifestyle. (On the contrary, he explicitly condoned it-while admitting it was sinful!-in a "revelation" of Sept. 24th, 1988!) Thus, even from the doctrinal standpoint of Vassula's own church, her credentials would be decidedly murky. The whole Vassula "phenomenon" thus involves a quiet but dangerous undercurrent of permissiveness which must tend to erode her Catholic followers' belief in the indissolubility of marriage-or to reinforce their doubts about that doctrine.

(Fr. Harrison wrote about Vassula's "revelations" and "ecumenical mission" in magazine May, 1992 and May, 1994. Also see of Jan. 21st, 1993, p. 8 and Jan. 28th, 1993, p. 1.) This article was taken from the May 11, 1995 issue of "The Wanderer," 201 Ohio Street, St. Paul, MN 55107, 612-224-5733. 

Text taken from http://www.ewtn.com/library/newage/vassula.txt.