Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur
On this day of May 13, 2017 I wish to address the Catholic Church’s present-day position on the prophetic revelations of God to Vassula Rydén contained in the publication, “True Life in God”. This present-day position is summarized in the following five points:
- The TLIG prophetic revelations enjoy the Magisterium's Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat – official ecclesiastic seals of approval.
- The Church's Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat are an exercise of the Magisterium.
- The Church requires of the Christian faithful “adherence with religious assent” to the Church's Magisterium, which is particularly exercised by those bishops teaching in communion with the Pope.
- The teachings of those bishops in communion with the Pope and exercising the Magisterium have granted to the TLIG prophetic revelations said seals of approval (11/28/2005 Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur) that remain in full force this day.
- By virtue of the conferral of the Magisterium's Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat upon the TLIG prophetic revelations, Christians are prohibited from setting themselves up as their judge and from publicly condemning them. On the contrary, inasmuch as all Christians are to “concur with their bishop's judgment concerning faith and morals” and “adhere to this” judgment and to the Magisterium “with a religious assent of the mind”, the Magisterium's Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat upon the TLIG prophetic revelations elicit from the Christian faithful said religious assent.
Below I elaborate on these five points.
1) The TLIG prophetic revelations enjoy the Magisterium’s Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat – official ecclesiastic seals of approval.
Because the Magisterium of the Church has the duty to “preserve God’s people from deviations and defections, and to guarantee them the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error”, as well as “expound it faithfully”, it examines publications, particularly works on faith and morals and pronounce whether they are free from doctrinal error.
On March 19, 1975, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued norms for pastors of the Church who have the duty to be vigilant with publication of materials on faith and morals, which should be submitted to the Church for “approval.” This mandate was reiterated in the 1983 Code of Canon Law, canon 823. This approval occurs through a process that begins with the author submitting the manuscript to the censor librorum or deputatus, who is appointed by the bishop or other ecclesiastical authority to make such examinations. If the censor finds no doctrinal error in the work, he grants a Nihil Obstat (“Nothing obstructs” its publication) attesting to this. If the bishop grants his Imprimatur (“Let it be printed”), this ecclesiastical seal constitutes an „approval‟ of the work that allows it to be “displayed and sold in churches” and a declaration of “both a juridical and a moral guarantee for the authors, the publishers and the readers” that the work “contains nothing contrary to the Church’s authentic magisterium on faith or morals” and “that all the pertinent prescriptions of canon law have been fulfilled.”
On November 28, 2005 His Excellency Bishop Felix Toppo, S.J., D.D., granted the Nihil Obstat to the TLIG writings. On November 28, 2005 His Excellency Archbishop Ramon C. Arguelles, STL, DD, granted the Imprimatur to the TLIG revelations.
Moreover on November 24, 2005 Bishop Felix Toppo penned the following letter that accompanied the Magisterial Nihil Obstat underscoring the supernatural nature of the TLIG revelations:
“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 Rydén. I have not found anything objectionable and anything contrary to the Church's authentic authority on faith and morals. Reading these books and meditating on the contents are spiritually beneficial to all. I recommend these books to every Christian.”
On September 30, 2004 Archbishop of Lipa Ramon C. Arguelles, STL, DD, who granted to the TLIG prophetic revelations the Magisterium’s Imprimatur, wrote the following letter further attesting to the supernatural nature of the TLIG prophetic revelations:
“Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger showed such Christ-like open-mindedness when he spearheaded the review of Mrs. Vassula Ryden's case. Through Fr. Prospero Grech, Consultant of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the good Cardinal asked Vassula to respond to five questions (see letter dated April 4th, 2002) to clarify some difficulties suggested in the Notification of 1995, regarding the writings of True Life in God, and about her activities related thereto. The responses will immensely help some doubting Thomases, who are entitled nevertheless to peace of mind…
Cardinal Ratzinger asked P. Joseph Augustine Di Noia, O.P., Undersecretary of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, to provide Mrs. Ryden with a copy of that same letter to enable her to inform everyone about the exchange of clarification letters. I am extremely happy that Cardinal Ratzinger perfectly mirrors the attitude of the Holy Father whose great obsession and probably the reason for the life and energy he manifests is the UNITY OF CHRISTIANITY…
No matter what Mrs. Ryden's past life may be, she can and already is an instrument of God in our days to bring to reality God's dream, the Holy Father's dream, the Church's dream which may be the greatest event of the early years of the Third Millennium: THE UNITY OF ALL DISCIPLES OF CHRIST! People like Vassula who suffer for Christian unity with the Holy Father need encouragement, understanding and prayer. I am willing to give her that if only to join the Holy Father, Cardinal Ratzinger and many unknown souls who sincerely desire a renewal of Christianity, a renewed thrust of Evangelization, and unity of all Christian brethren. May Mary help us grow in the TRUE LIFE IN GOD.”
2) The Church’s Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat are an exercise of the Magisterium.
It is noteworthy that the Church’s Magisterium enjoys three gradations of teaching authority which the Christian faithful are to uphold, and which elicit from them respectively the “assent of faith” (the first two gradations of her teaching authority) and “religious assent” (the third gradation of her authority, e.g., to the Magisterium’s Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat).
Of these three levels of magisterial authoritative teaching which establish “the order of the truths to which the believer adheres,” there are 1) truths taught as divinely revealed (depositum fidei), 2) definitively proposed statements on matters of faith and morals closely connected with the divinely revealed truth, and 3) non-definitive teaching that a) aids in the better understanding of the divinely revealed truth and makes explicit its contents, b) recalls how some teaching is in conformity with the truths of faith, or c) guards against ideas that are incompatible with these truths.
In the official Vatican document, Donum Veritatis, from the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith entitled, a fourth category of magisterial teaching is mentioned, i.e., ordinary prudential teaching on disciplinary matters.
- To the first gradation of magisterial authority belong “truths taught as divinely revealed.” This is an exercise of the “supreme Magisterium”, commonly referred to as the “extraordinary Magisterium and it is universally binding. These truths are de fide credenda doctrines, often referred to as “infallible dogma” or “definitive dogma”, that require from the faithful an assent of “theological faith;” they are contained directly in the Word of God and the Magisterium has declared them to be divinely revealed. These truths are infallible and to them the faithful owe the “obedience of faith”.
- The contents of the second category belong to the Magisterium proposing “in a definitive way truths concerning faith and morals, which, even if not divinely revealed, are nevertheless strictly and intimately connected with Revelation.” These truths are not immediately contained in the Deposit of Faith (Depositum Fidei), but are rooted in the primary teachings of the depositum fidei as secondary truths, or secondary objects of infallibility, that necessarily follow from them logically or historically, and which are needed to expound them faithfully. The proclamation of these teachings constitutes an exercise of the “ordinary Magisterium” and they are binding universally. These secondary truths are de fide tenenda doctrines, which “must be firmly accepted and held” by all and anyone who rejects them “sets himself against the teaching of the Catholic Church”.
- The third category of the Magisterium is non-definitive teaching that serves a) to aid in the better understanding of a divinely revealed truth and make explicit its contents, b) recall how some teaching is in conformity with the truths of faith, or c) guard against ideas that are incompatible with these truths (e.g., the Magisterium’s Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat).
I wish to emphasize that these three levels of magisterial teaching constitute Catholic doctrine through an „assent of faith‟ or a „religious assent‟. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reveals how Christians are to receive such doctrines: “To this ordinary teaching the faithful „are to adhere to it with religious assent‟ which, though distinct from the assent of faith,
is nonetheless an extension of it.” The passage in Lumen Gentium 25 addresses a “religious assent (assensus religious) of mind and will” – required for the third category; it is distinguished from the „assent of faith‟ (assensus fidei) – required for the first and second categories.
While such distinctions of assent emphasize the gradation in adherence to Magisterial teaching, the Magisterium places no lesser emphasis on the obligation of all Christians to submit loyally to the Church in all aforementioned categories of her magisterial teaching authority: “The willingness to submit loyally to the teaching of the Magisterium on matters per se not irreformable must be the rule”.
3) The Church requires of the Christian faithful „adherence with religious assent‟ to the Church’s Magisterium, which is particularly exercised by those bishops teaching in communion with the Pope.
The reason why the Catholic Catechism affirms „religious assent‟ is to be given by the faithful to those official but non-definitive teachings of the ordinary Magisterium (e.g., the Church’s official Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat), is articulated in the following statement of the Catholic Catechism:
“Divine assistance is also given to the successors of the apostles, teaching in communion with the successor of Peter, and, in a particular way, to the bishop of Rome, pastor of the whole Church, when, without arriving at an infallible definition and without pronouncing in a ‘definitive manner,’ they propose in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium a teaching that leads to better understanding of Revelation in matters of faith and morals. To this ordinary teaching the faithful ‘are to adhere to it with religious assent’ which, though distinct from the assent of faith, is nonetheless an extension of it”.
Although the Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat may be given by the local bishop for his diocese, one ought not to lose sight of the fact that these official seals, though given locally and within one diocesan jurisdiction, customarily transcend juridical boundaries by virtue of episcopal collegiality and their acceptance by other bishops the world over. Despite the confusion within the Church foretold in various approved Marian apparitions, the following affirmations of the Church articulate the enduring collegiality and the mutual relations among bishops:
“This collegial union (of bishops) is apparent also in the mutual relations of the individual bishops with particular churches and with the universal Church… The individual bishops, however, are the visible principle and foundation of unity in their particular churches, fashioned after the model of the universal Church, in and from which churches comes into being the one and only Catholic Church. For this reason the individual bishops represent each his own church, but all of them together and with the Pope represent the entire Church in the bond of peace, love and unity.”
“The collegial spirit (of all bishops) is the soul of the collaboration between the bishops on the regional, national and international levels. Collegial action in the strict sense implies the activity of the whole college, together with its head, over the entire church.”
“Through episcopal consecration itself, bishops receive with the function of sanctifying also the functions of teaching and governing; by their nature, however, these can only be exercised in hierarchical communion with the head and members of the college.”
In light of the foregoing, should one choose to publicly condemn the works that presently bear this Magisterium’s seal – whether at the hand or mouth of a priest or a lay person – that individual’s actions would be considered by the Church nothing short of „reprehensible‟:
“While the freedom remains for a member of the Church to reject a private revelation which has received official ecclesiastical approval, it would at the same time be reprehensible to speak publicly against it.”
I here recall that in the history of the Catholic Church, there is no existing public knowledge of a case where a positive decision of Constat de Supernaturalitate (it is evident to be of supernatural origin) by the local bishop concerning a nationally or internationally known prophetic revelation was later changed to the prohibited category of Constat de non Supernaturalitate (evident to be of non-supernatural origin) by the Holy See. Admittedly, when considering the plethora of reported prophetic revelations and apparitions throughout the world, positive or negative judgments by the Holy See are rare, take much time and the Holy See is often silent on such matters. However, in order to avoid leaving the final judgment up to each individual Christian, the Church offers, as the best course of action, recourse to doctrinal safety through the conferral of the Bishop’s Imprimatur and/or Nihil Obstat, which, and as noted earlier, constitute an „approval‟ of the work so that it may be “displayed and sold in churches” and “a juridical and a moral guarantee for the authors, the publishers and the readers” that the work “contains nothing contrary to the Church’s authentic magisterium on faith or morals.”
One is also reminded of the letters of the Bishops who conferred upon the TLIG prophetic revelations the Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat, which attest to their supernatural nature when affirming that they “contain the Divine Dialogue of the Holy Trinity, Our Lady and the Angels with humankind through Vassula Rydén”, who “is an instrument of God in our days to bring to reality God's dream, the Holy Father's dream, the Church's dream which may be the
greatest event of the early years of the Third Millennium: THE UNITY OF ALL DISCIPLES OF CHRIST!”
4) The teachings of those bishops in communion with the Pope and exercising the Magisterium have granted to the TLIG prophetic revelations said seals of approval (11/28/2005 Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur) that remain in full force this day.
Because the duty of faithfully interpreting God’s divinely revealed Word is “entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome” who, even when not arriving at an infallible definition and without pronouncing in a „definitive manner‟, nonetheless exercise the ordinary Magisterium, and the faithful are to „concur‟ with their decisions on faith and morals. Consider the following statement of the decree of Vatican II Council:
“The bishops, when they are teaching in communion with the Roman pontiff, are to be respected by all as witnesses to the divine and catholic truth; and the faithful ought to concur with their bishop's judgment concerning faith and morals which he delivers in the name of Christ, and they are to adhere to this with a religious assent of the mind.”
Insofar as the conferral of the magisterial seals of the Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat upon the TLIG prophetic revelations and the letters of the Bishops who granted them express respectively an approval and guarantee, and a positive judgment on their supernatural nature, and the Christian faithful are to concur with their bishop’s judgment, the faithful may confidently approach these as an authentic revelation given by God for our times.
5) By virtue of the conferral of the Magisterium’s Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat upon the TLIG prophetic revelations, Christians are prohibited from setting themselves up as their judge and from publicly condemning them. On the contrary, inasmuch as all Christians are to “concur with their bishop's judgment concerning faith and morals” and “adhere to this” judgment and to the Magisterium “with a religious assent of the mind”, the Magisterium’s Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat upon the TLIG prophetic revelations elicit from the Christian faithful said religious assent.
In his treatise on the beatification and canonization respectively of the Servants of God and Blesseds, Cardinal Prospero Lambertini (later coronated Pope Benedict XIV) affirmed that while one may not choose to follow a given Church-approved prophetic revelation, as God has blessed us with several to choose from, one is absolutely prohibited from doing so without reason, without due modesty and with contempt – to publicly condemn what the Church has judged positive with her official seals of approbation is nothing short of „reprehensible‟:
“It is possible not to give assent to such revelations and to turn from them, as long as one does so with due modesty, not without reason, and without contempt”.
In these End Times when many biblical prophecies are being fulfilled, in particular, Dan. 9:27; Mt. 24:15; 2 Thes. 2:3-13; Rev. 13, more attention than ever is demanded of God’s shepherds whom he calls to tend his flock with sound teaching that not only preserves the Church’s Deposit of Faith and living Tradition, but develops it, “penetrates the meaning of the revealed Word and communicates it to others”. During this third millennium in which all priests are exhorted to “set out for deep waters” and undertake a “new evangelization”, the Church’s approved prophetic revelations occupy a quintessential role, as they bear a divinely urgent appeal that will impact the future of mankind and alter the lives of millions. Let us recall that when our Lady of Fatima foretold that many nations of the earth would be
annihilated if mankind did not convert, she did so after she made an urgent appeal to the Church and to mankind at a pivotal time in its history. A parallel appeal to the Church and to mankind today is discovered in the ecclesiastically approved True Life in God prophetic revelations. More significantly, the consequences of this appeal, if unheeded, will be global. As a shepherd of souls, I warmly invite all Christians of good will to meditate upon the True Life in God divine revelations for their own spiritual welfare and for the betterment of mankind.
Rev. J.L. Iannuzzi, Ph.B, STB, STL, STD