PRIVATE AND PUBLIC REVELATION
Public revelation is what we have in Scripture and Tradition. It was
completed, finished, when the last Apostle died and the New Testament was
finished. So there is no more until Christ returns at the end. In this
area the Church has His promise of providential protection in teaching.
Even though there is no new public revelation, the Church can progress in
deepened understanding of the original deposit of faith--thus the
Immaculate Conception, for example, was not mentioned in the first
centuries, was even denied by many in Middle Ages, but could be defined in
1854. This progress is the result of the growing light of the Holy Spirit.
At the Last Supper Jesus promised Him to lead the Church into all truth.
Private Revelation is all else. The word private is poor, but usual. Even
Fatima, addressed to the world, is private. But there is a great
difference. The Church does not have the providential protection in
matters of private revelation. Ordinarily the decision of the local Bishop
is final on authenticity of a revelation. Yet we would not have to believe
any decision on private revelation--though we must obey a command, if a
Bishop gives such, not to go to the place of a an alleged revelation. In
obeying, we do not lose any graces. Christ saved the world by
obedience--cf. Rom. 5:19. St. Margaret Mary says He told her: "Not only do
I desire that you should do what your Superior commands, but also that you
should do nothing of all that I order without their consent. I love
obedience, and without it no one can please me."
The most the Church can do on a private revelation is: 1) say it does not
clash with public revelation. If it did, that part of it would be out. 2)
Say it seems to deserve human acceptance--that is in contrast to something
accepted on the divine virtue of faith, which comes into play only in the
area of public revelation.
The Church has shown very special favor to some private revelations, such
as Fatima, and the Brown Scapular. For the 700th anniversary of the vision
given St. Simon Stock for the Scapular, Pius XII wrote a letter to the
major superiors of Carmelites, which showed he personally believed it. In
that letter he warned that the mere physical wearing of the scapular is
not enough--it must be the outward sign of a solid Marian devotion. If it
is, then even if the vision never took place, they will get what is
promised. For Pius XI in 1923 ("Explorata res," Feb. 2, 1923) wrote: ". .
. nor would he incur eternal death whom the Most Blessed Virgin assists,
especially at his last hour.This view of the Doctors of the Church,
in harmony with the sentiments of the Christian people, and supported
by the experience or all times, depends especially on this reason, the
fact that the Sorrowful Virgin shared in the work of the redemption with
Jesus Christ. . . . "There are similar statements by Benedict XV and Pius
XII. We note Pius XI rested this teaching not on private revelation, but
on public revelation, on the fact that she shared in the redemption with
Jesus (On this please call for, in library 7 file mared2.txt and\or
marscr.txt and in library 8 kenos.txt. There is a true wealth of thoughts
on her share in the redemption from the Magisterium in the files just
listed. Most Catholics have never heard of these teachings, but will be
pleasantly surprised to learn of them. Some private revelations, like
Akita, urge promotion of the teaching on her share in the redemption,
but do not offer much of any development on the idea. The Magisterium
does). So this teaching is protected by the promise Christ gave the Church,
in as much as it depends on something in public revelation.
Many things depend on both public and on private revelation. The Rosary
does not depend on the reported apparition to St. Dominic, but on basic
theology, since it consists of 10 Our Fathers (composed by Our Lord), and
50 Hail Marys (first half is from Gospels, second composed by the Church)
plus meditation, and has been recommended by so many Popes. Similarly the
three requests of Fatima ---moral reform and reparation (penance), plus
Rosary, and Immaculate Heart Devotion ---are valid in general theology in
public revelation. If we try to get people to follow the three requests,
and they say: It is only private revelation, which I do not have to
believe, then we can "sell" the three promises on the basis of general
theology from public revelation. The Sacred Heart devotion rests basically
on public revelation, as Pius XII insisted in his Encyclical on the Sacred
Heart (please read it!)--it is honor paid to the love of God as found in
and symbolized in the Human Heart of Jesus. So, it is part of the main
line of our faith. It calls for consecration (recognition of the fact He,
as Creator and Redeemer, has absolute rights over us, which we then pledge
to respect and to carry out better and for reparation, make-up for sin
(sin is a debt: cf. file sedaqah.txt). Marian consecration in the full
sense, means not just entrusting self to her care, but calls for acts in
parallel to those for consecration to the Sacred Heart. Some private
revelations, especially those on the Sacred Heart and on the Scapular,
offer special promises in addition to what we find in public revelation.
They are very worth while.
It is not spiritually good to center one's life around private
revelations. They are good when approved, and may be used, but the core is
in public revelation, especially some of the things just mentioned.
Really, the essence of spirituality is conformity of my will to the will
of God--for the only free thing in me is my free will. If I could make it
match exactly the will of God, nothing more need be done. To develop this
takes time and effort, more than just one nice prayer.
There is much room for error in private revelations, even when they are
given to Saints (cf. file on discernment of spirits). Canonization of a
Saint does not at all guarantee the truth of alleged private revelations.
St. Catherine of Siena seems to have claimed Our Lady appeared to her and
denied the Immaculate Conception.