Luisa Piccarreta - Status of her Cause
EWTN's original FAQ from 2003 is provided below. As it notes, the patrimony of Luisa Piccarreta remains the responsibility of the Archbishop of Trani, Italy, until the Holy See determines otherwise. The promotion of the writings and the use of translations is not authorized without his permission, except as stipulated in the directives indicated.
For several years an incongruity has existed between the fame of holiness of Luisa Piccarreta, which includes the canonization of one of her spiritual sons, St. Annibale de Francia, and the establishment of a Cause for her own beatification, and the confusion and controversy surrounding her name and spirituality, especially in the United States. It has never seemed justified to attribute this confusion to the Servant of God, but rather to poor translations, rash interpretations of her writings, and a lack of theological competence by some who try to explain her writings. For this reason, EWTN has always urged Catholics to use great caution, until such time as clarity could be brought to the situation by ecclesiastical authority.
Toward this end, EWTN contacted the Holy See and the new Archbishop of Trani, Italy, Giovanni Picchierri, where Luisa lived and died and where in 1994 the Diocesan phase of a Cause for her Beatification was opened. Until the Cause arrives at the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints for its Roman phase, the Archbishop is the competent ecclesiastical authority. This contact resulted in a letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the sending of the Promoter of the Faith, Father Bernardino Bucci, OFM Cap., to the United States, both to answer EWTN's questions and to meet with various groups who promote the spirituality of Luisa Piccarreta. His official capacity is certified by the Archdiocese in the Certificate he supplied. Deacon Bill Steltemeier and myself met with Fr. Bucci for several hours, during which time he answered our questions and provided the following important clarifications, many of them in writing (as documented below). I have summarized our meeting and the documents as follows:
The Servant of God
Luisa Piccarreta lived a holy life of prayer and suffering, attested to by her contemporaries and with a fame of holiness to this day. She was always obedient and submissive to the Church in everything. This is precisely known, since from 1884 until her death in 1947 she was under the care of confessors appointed by her bishop. On this basis the Archbishop of Trani, with the permission of the Holy See, opened her Cause for Beatification in 1994. The investigation has confirmed these facts without any doubt. Any attribution of heterodoxy to her constitutes a grave injustice [Clarifications 1-6].
On October 29, 2005, Archbishop Pichierri declared the diocesan process of the Cause for the Beatification of the Servant of God completed, and he committed the documentation to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints.
Writing under obedience, Luisa Piccarreta wrote two small texts Life of the Blessed Virgin and Hours of the Passion, and later produced 36 numbered manuscripts, in which she elaborated what she received in prayer about "living in the Divine Will." These texts were written in her region's Italian dialect, rather than in standard Italian, a factor which complicates accurate translation of the sense. A number of the early volumes were reviewed, and published, by Saint Annibale de Francia (+1927), in his capacity as confessor and diocesan censor. In 1938, however, this activity ended, when three of her works, annotated by another person, were put on the Index of Forbidden Books. The balance of her writings were taken into custody by the Holy Office (now called the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith), where they remained sequestered until 1994.
In that year, the Holy See authorized the Cause for the Beatification of Luisa Piccarreta, now designated Servant of God, by granting it the nihil obstat. Retaining the originals, the Congregation allowed the Postulation to photocopy the writings for study and the production of a critical edition, now in process. Some other copies of the writings, however, are in circulation, both from before 1938 and reproduced and translated from the 1994 photocopies. These latter have neither the approval or the imprimatur of the Archbishop of Trani, who is the legal owner of Luisa's writings. While the Archdiocese has allowed some small publishers to exhaust their stocks of the first two books (Life of the Blessed Virgin and Hours of the Passion), in the future the Archdiocese alone will produce the authorized translations of the writings, based on the critical edition. The Postulation is not now granting, or encouraging, publication and promotion of the writings (except as noted above), so as not to create obstacles to the Cause. [Clarifications 7-9, 11, 14; Communique, Iannuzzi letter]
As for the status of the writings with the Holy See, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith affirmed the following in a letter to EWTN of 4 October 2003,
It should be noted that as of the close of the Diocesan phase of the Cause in October 2005, the typical edition of the writings had been prepared for delivery to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints which, together with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, will review it. Only after review could the critical edition of the writings be publicly released. [Clarifications 2-3,7-8]
Interpreting her Writings
The Servant of God's writings should be interpreted according to the mind and teaching of the Church. Even if they are ultimately judged to be of supernatural origin, they necessarily correspond also to the mystic's own mentality, which was that of a simple pious person and not a theologian. In keeping with Catholic theology, this must be taken into account in judging what she wrote down of her mystical experiences. At this stage in the Process there is no definitive interpretation of her work. The Diocesan Process judged only her life and heroic virtues, and prepared the critical edition of the writings with commentary, for the review of the Holy See, which alone can give a definitive judgment and explanation.
In 1998 the now retired Archbishop of Trani, Carmelo Cassati, ordered the suspension in the United States of Divine Will Conferences, because of the controversies noted earlier. While this suspension no longer applies, the following statements govern conferences in the U.S. and throughout the world.
The current Archbishop can only directly authorize priests under his authority, such as Fr. Bucci, to speak on Luisa and her spirituality. However, priests who have a letter from their own Bishop permitting them to speak on Luisa, and who are conversant with both her writings and Catholic theology, can have their Bishop request a letter from the Archbishop of Trani which authorizes them to speak officially. They can then present the Archbishop's letter to the bishops of locales where they wish to give conferences.
The Archbishop will only grant permission to speak publicly to priests, and then only about the life and virtues of the Servant of God. Lay persons will no longer be permitted to teach publicly, either about the spirituality of the Divine Will, or regarding her life and virtues. All conferences presented by priests without this letter, or by laity, would not represent the Postulation. So, while unable to regulate what local bishops might allow, the Postulation is discouraging Catholics from attending conferences given by individuals without a letter of authorization from the Archbishop of Trani, Italy. (Clarifications 14)
Reading her Writings
While the Postulation does not have the authority to prohibit the reading of Luisa's writings that are in circulation, no one is permitted to publish her Diary of 36 volumes. Exceptions have been made for the following writings of Luisa: The 24 Hours of the Passion, The Virgin Mary in the Kingdom of the Divine Will, and her Letters, as well as for the works of Padre Bernardino Bucci about Luisa. Prayer groups are encouraged to study these approved books until such time as the official typical edition is published in conformity with the doctrine of the Church and the approval of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints. [Clarifications 8, 14]
The Postulation encourages prayer groups in the various dioceses of the world, in order to spread Luisa's fame of holiness. It especially desires that her great devotion to the Mother of God be imitated. It urges, whenever possible, that groups be conducted under the guidance of a prudent priest of proven orthodoxy. The supervision of prayer groups falls under the competence of each diocesan bishop.
The Postulation also encourages prayer to Luisa, and the careful documentation and reporting of any favors received through the intercession of the Servant of God. However, in keeping with the norms of the Holy See, while there may be private prayer and veneration (i.e. outside the church setting), there must be no public veneration (cultus) of Luisa, as would be given to a blessed or saint (public liturgies or devotions, images in churches, etc.) . This would constitute a grave obstacle to the Cause, as it belongs to the Holy Father alone, with the Beatification of an individual, to permit public veneration. [Clarifications 10, 12-13]
Answered by Colin B. Donovan, STL
15 October 2003, revised 3 May 2012
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