Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Vassula Ryden, the Notification and CDF

The original Notification against the writings of Vassula Ryden focused on some serious questions about some aspects of the writings themselves and some other matters connected either with Vassula or with the way the writings were presented.

These questions have been answered by Vassula. Her answers have been given to the Congregation for the Faith (CDF) and, at the outset, it was the express wish of Cardinal Ratzinger that these answers should be printed in the True Life in God books (the messages) . What does this mean? Common sense suggests the following;

Firstly, the books are not "banned" (they never were!).
Secondly, it is O.K. to have or borrow a book (otherwise we would not see the answers)
Thirdly, the Notification, although still in existence, does not prevent us reading the books or talking about their content.
Not only that, but since questions about Vassula's marital status and other matters (e.g. attendance and participation at Catholic Masses) were also clarified in her coorespondence with the CDF there should be no further accusations relating to these things (otherwise one runs the risk of committing a sin of injustice).

What was the status of the Notification anyway? Cardinal Ratzinger himself said it was not a "condemnation" but a warning. As a warning it focused on some unanswered questions. They have now been answered.

Here is another point. In the letter from Cardinal Ratzinger that Vassula was allowed to use for publication, it is clear that the question of whether Vassula is welcomed at a Catholic venue or not need not be answered by reference to the Notification. Given that the questions raised by the Notification have now been clarified and it has been made abundantly clear, for those willing to listen, that it is O.K. to read the books, it can be argued that in all cases connected with Vassula Ryden and "True Life in God",
it is unfair to read the Notification without also reading Vassula's answers.
Should Catholics join True Life in God Ecumenical Prayer Groups? If the group plans to meet in a Catholic Church, this question may have to be referred to the local Bishop. No permission is needed for meetings in a private house or flat.

Those who argue that the Notification should have been formally removed by the CDF (perhaps with a piece in Osservatore Romano) do not understand how the Vatican normally deals with such matters.
In any case, the dialogue of Vassula with the Congregation is unusual. The CDF would not normally investigate such matters in this way whilst the person concerned is still alive. In justice, we cannot expect too much under these circumstances; what has happened is already more than would normally be expected. Also, in such a serious matter, recognising the possibility that the messages are of vital importance, there is surely an obligation to follow both the norms of prudence and justice. One can disagree with the messages or decide against Vassula without descending to personal attack or rash judgement. The process of true discernment is normally characterized by calmness and charity - not agitation and invective.