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A Critical Analysis of the Explanatory Letter of Condemnation
The images below are scanned copies of the original decree of condemnation and anonymous explanatory letter, published on the front page of L'Osservatore Romano, January, 1960. Both newspaper printings have been obtained with permission from L'Osservatore Romano and posted here for public viewing. For reference, please review the “Norms in Proceeding in Judging Alleged Apparitions” promulgated by the CDF in 1978 (see also; “Private Revelations”, by Catholic Encyclopedia, and "Apparitions and Private Revelations, by Colin B. Donovan).

English Translation of the Explanatory Letter
translated by two independent professional translators
*in-line notes in blue

"Elsewhere in our newspaper we have reported on the decree issued by the  Holy Office [1a] which placed on the Index a work of four volumes penned by an anonymous author (in this edition, at least) and published at Isola del Liri. Though dealing exclusively with religious matters, the aforementioned volumes have no “imprimatur” as required by Canon 1385, sect.1, n. 2 of the Code of Canon Law. [1b]

[1a] Notice the wording in the very first sentance; "our newspaper", and "issued by the Holy Office", suggesting that the author of this article is not even a member of the Holy Office, but rather, an employee of the newspaper company.

[1b] Canon 1385 was the legal principle for the inclusion on the index; the same principle that compelled John XXIII to sign the decree passed by his desk. As we will demonstrate further on in this letter, this was the only valid grounds for the condemnation (which also did not require the pope to read the writings). However, it should be noted that Canon 1385 was supressed in 1966 by Pope Paul VI, and is thus no longer a valid consideration in judging alleged apparitions.

In a brief preface, the editor writes that the Author, "like Dante, has provided us with a work in which numerous characters are framed against a splendid descriptive backdrop of times and places, speaking to each other and to us in an alternatively sweet, strong, or admonishing voice. The result of this is a work that is both humble and imposing: the literary homage of a suffering invalid to the Great Comforter, Jesus ”. Instead, to a careful reader, these volumes are nothing more than a long romanticized life of Jesus. [2] Apart from the vainglorious association with Dante and notwithstanding the fact that a number of distinguished individuals have given their support to this publication (whose doubtless good faith had been surprised), nonetheless the Holy Office has deemed it necessary to place this work on the Index of Forbidden Books. The reasons are easily identifiable by those who have a Carthusian-like patience to read the nearly four thousand pages dense print.

[2] Here, the anonymous author effectively states that the Poem is merely a work of fiction, and concludes, in a rather sensational fasion, with the promise of facts to support this premise. Thus, we should now expect an objective analysis and presentation of relevant evidence.

First of all, the reader is struck by the length of speeches attributed to Jesus and to the Blessed Virgin; [3] by the interminable dialog between the various characters who populate these pages. The four Gospels present us with a humble, reserved Jesus; his speeches are lean and incisive, but have maximum effectiveness. Instead, in this type of romanticized story, Jesus is most talkative, almost ostentatious, always ready to proclaim himself Messiah and Son of God and to give lessons using the same kind of terminology that might be used by a theologian today. [4]

[3] Here the author begins to outline his impressions, none of which are objective norms for judging apparitions. For example, nowhere in the Church’s criterion for judging alleged apparitions is the “length of speeches” a consideration, nor is the style of writing of a private revelation required to match the style of how Sacred Scripture was written. What matters, principally, is theological and moral content. And no bishop or Cardinal, in writing, has ever found moral or doctrinal error in the Poem.

[4] There are approved private revelations where "long speeches" are a regular occurrence, such as Venerable Mary of Agreda's "Mystical City of God". However, it should be noted that how rarely Jesus speaks in the Poem during daily life on earth. The only instances of “long speeches” is when Our Lord is clarifying a vision directly to Valtorta or preaching to crowds. As a rabbi, He would be have been expected to read from scrolls of the Old Testament to give commentary, preach in the temple, etc. There were many things that Jesus did which were not written in Scripture, as the gospels point out; "If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written" - [John 21:25] The Apostles recorded only what was necessary to to convey the message, as it would have been impossible to remember every detail and lesson by memory.

In the story of the Gospels, we admire the humility and the silence of the Mother of Jesus; instead, for the author (or authoress) of this publication, the Blessed Virgin Mary has the fluency of a modern-day propagandist. [4] She is always present everywhere and always ready to give lessons in Marian theology that are up to date with the latest studies by current specialists in the field.

[4] See above. Mary’s words **during Her earthly life**, like that of Jesus’, are few in number and frequency--even more so. It is only when the Blessed Virgin is giving clarification directly to Maria Valtorta, when more words are necessary, to explain nuances of subtle passages, or to corrrect her human misunderstandings. It may also be worth noting; even if the author's contention is true, it does not prove heretical doctrine. This is again an opinion, not an objective norm of judgment.

The story unfolds slowly, in an almost gossipy manner.  There are new facts, new parables, new characters and many, many women who follow Jesus. Some pages are written in a rather inappropriately and recall certain descriptions and scenes from modern romance novels. A few examples of this include the confession made to Mary by a certain Aglae, a woman of loose morals (Vol I, p.790 and following), the rather less than edifying story found on p.387 and following of Vol I, and a dance performed – certainly not modestly –for Pilate in the Praetorium. (Vol IV, p.75). And this point provokes a particular reflection: This work, by its very nature and in accordance with the intentions of the author and publisher, could easily fall into the hands of women religious and students in their universities. Should that occur, it would be difficult to avoid the spiritual danger or damage that could be caused by reading passages of the kind cited above.

[5] "Gossipy", "rather inappropriate", "less than edifying". The author is continuing to offer subjective impressions which have no relevancy in determining the authenticity of alleged apparitions. A decree of condemnation is very serious matter, and demands a high caliber of scholarship and dispassionate analysis with relevant evidence. The letter mentions no investigation into the life of the visionary (because none was made at the time) -- a necessary prerequisite according to the Church's own criterion for judging alleged apparitions. Nothing is said of her moral character, and her docility to Church authority, her desire to remain unknown, or the spiritual fruits of the work. Nor does it demonstrate any theological errors, for which it purports there are many. Instead, the letter focuses principally on style and emotional value (difference of style is expected between twentieth century woman--with a keen attention to detail--and first century man), detailing scenes that make the author uncomfortable. Certainly there were times when the Apostles too were uncomfortable, face to face with the misery of the fallen human condition; murderers, adulterers, prostitutes. What is important is that in every one of these scenes, a greater moral message is always conveyed.

Specialists in biblical studies will no doubt find many historical and geographical blunders [6], and the like. But this being a ... romance, these inventions obviously serve to enhance the picturesque and dramatic qualities of the book. But, in the midst of so much ostentatious theological culture, one may pick up a few... pearls that hardly shine for their Catholic orthodoxy. Here and there, on the subject of the sin of Adam and Eve, an opinion is expressed that is rather uncommon and inaccurate. [7]

[6] No evidence is provided to support this claim, and the evidence that we do have, indicates the opposite is true.
[7] This statement is likely referring to the Poem's description of the first sin of Adam and Eve being sexual in nature. It should be noted that the tradition of the Church allows for some room for interpretation of Genesis, being that the creation account is largely anthropomorphic.

In Volume I, on page 63 we read this title: “Mary may be called the second-born of the Father”: [8] an assertion repeated in the text on the following page. The explanation limits the meaning of this statement, thereby avoiding a heresy; but it does not eliminate the strong impression that there is a desire to construct a new Mariology [9], which easily transgresses the boundaries of convenience.

[8] "Strong impression", "transgresses the boundaries of convenience". We are reminded again that these are ambiguous statements, which fall short of declaring anything definitive.Furthermore, the author himself admits to this; that there is no heresy in the passage. Thus far, the author has not yet indicated a doctrinal error to justify condemnation.
        Regarding the passage in question, however, it is important to note that the Church recognizes the Blessed Virgin as the most perfect creature in all creation, above all the angels and saints combined. Following this, it is correct to say that the greatest of created beings is second only to the Creator, even though the difference between the Creator and the created is infinite. The statement in question should not be problematic, and in fact has been articulated in similar forms by many marian saints (St. Louis De Montfort, St. Alphonsus De Ligouri, St. Maximilian Kolbe, to name a few, calling Mary the "quasi-incarnation of the Holy Spirit", the posessor of all the power of God, closer to divinity than humanity, etc.).

[9] It is also worth noting that many passages of Scripture and private revelations can be re-constructed in far more divisive ways, if taken out of context. For example, in Saint Faustina's diary, pg. 143 we read the following; "After a while I saw the child Jesus on the altar, joyfully and playfully holding out His hands to him. But a moment later the priest took the beautiful Child into his hands, broke Him up and ate Him alive". Similarly, Psalm 137 reads; "O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us-he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks."  Critics of the Poem must admit, that out of ten-thousand pages of descriptive text, they are unable produce anything as confusing (and in need of explanation) as what can be usurped from Scripture or other approved private revelations.

In the second Vol. on page 772 one reads: "Paradise is light, perfume and harmony. But if the Father does not rejoice in Paradise, contemplating the All Beautiful [Mary], which makes the Earth a paradise, and if in the future Paradise should lack the living Lily within whose bosom contains three pistils of the flame of the divine Trinity—light, perfume, and harmony—the joy of Paradise would be diminished by half." An uncommunicative and extremely confused concept, fortunately; because if one were to take it literally, it would not be spared from severe censure. [10]

[10] This is poetic language, not heresy. If Maria Valtorta stated "Mary is the 4th person of the Trinity," or "Mary should be worshipped," etc., then that would be heresy. But Maria Valtorta merely uses analogous language to describe heaven as "light, perfume, and harmony." Perhaps this is a metaphor for the senses: Light (sight), perfume or fragrance (smell), and harmony (hearing). We don't know. But to suggest poetic language could warrant censure is more akin to a Fundamentalist Protestant mentality than a truly Catholic ethos. This same mentality would also condemn St. Louis De Montfort as being too sentimental, or St. Maximillian Kolbe for using too flowery of language, or Dante for too vivid imagery, etc. The next sentence can be read in this same vein;

"But if the Father does not rejoice in Paradise [ ... ] and if in the future Paradise should lack the living Lily [ ... ] the joy of Paradise would be diminished by half."

Of course the joy of paradise cannot literally be reduced by 50%. This is just poetic language to convey the delight of God in His most perfection Creature. Any well-formed Catholic should be able to see this, unless he have deep Fundamentalist Protestant roots. We are not literalists (we do not, for example, limit the creation account of Genesis to a literal 6-day period). Besides, as the Marian saints continually point out, who deserves more admiration and veneration than the Queen of Heaven? Does She not "make the Earth a paradise", being the "Mediatrix of all grace", as the Church teaches? Indeed, when understood in context, there is nothing therein which is problematic. In fact, there is little variance between these passages and those found in writings of the foremost Marian Saints. There is nothing new here.

To finish, I refer to another strange and imprecise claim, in which it is said of the Madonna: "You, in the time in which you will remain on Earth, second to Peter "as an ecclesiastic hierarchy..” [11] (emphasis added – Editor).

[11] Let us look at the full context of this passage;

"During the time that you will remain on the earth, and you are second to Peter with regard to ecclesiastical hierarchy, he being the head and you a believer, but first as Mother of the Church having given birth to me, who am the Head of the Mystical Body, do not reject the many Judases, but assist and teach Peter, my brothers, John, James, Simon, Philip, Bartholomew, Andrew, Thomas and Matthew not to reject, but to assist."

Given the context, the statement becomes clear. While the Blessed Virgin was never ordained—an ontological impossibility being a woman—and thus held no clerical office within the visible Church hierarchy, nonetheless authority was Hers in an invisible sense, by virtue of the fullness of grace given Her by the Most High. There was none in creation more bestowed with grace and wisdom (a hidden truth to those of the time, veiled behind perfect humility and obedience), yet She too remained subject to Peter, the Vicar of Christ, and indeed all ordained ministers, by her perfect obedience. This not only gives credence to the Popes primacy and universal authority, but also to the Blessed Virgin's perfect virtue and singular appointment as Mother of the Church.

The Work, therefore, would have deserved a condemnation even if it were only considered a romance novel, if for nothing else, for reasons of irreverence. [12]

[12] This statement is very telling, in that it demonstrates a certain subjectivity--and even intellectual laziness--in the author's understanding of church law, which is not governed by the whims of personal impressions (supposed "irreverence" is far from a justifiable reason for condemnation), but by objective criteria. This is an important point to emphasize, since some people today seem to be of the belief that the books listed on the index conformed to a strict criteria for heresy. We see here, that this author at least, applied his own set of criteria, none of which justified condemnation. This loose model proved to be problematic, which forced the Church to later formulate a strict criteria for judging apparitions (See here).

But in reality, the author has greater pretensions. Skimming through the volumes, here and there one reads the words "Jesus says...," "Mary says...; " or also: "I see..." and the like. And then, towards the end of the IV volume (page 839) the author reveals himself as... an authoress, named Maria (Valtorta), and writes that she is a witness of the entire messianic period. These words remind us that, about ten years ago, several voluminous typescripts that contained purported visions and revelations were in circulation. It was then that the competent Ecclesiastical Authority had prohibited the publishing of these typescripts and ordered that they be withdrawn from circulation. Now we see them reproduced virtually wholesale in this current Work.

Therefore, this public condemnation of the Supreme Holy Congregation is all the more appropriate, for reasons of serious disobedience. [13]

[13] Here we actually have a statement of truth. Obedience is in fact a guiding principle of discerning apparitions. However, we are then compelled to ask the question; who was disobedient? Was it Maria Valtorta herself, or was it over zealous promoters of her works? Let us remember, there have always been over-zealous followers in all approved apparitions (Fatima, Lourdes, La Salette, etc.). According to the norms for judging alleged apparitions, the Church is only concerned with 1) the visionary herself, 2) and the moral and doctrinal content of the messages. The actions of the promoters, therefore, is irrelevant. If the Holy Office had made an investigation into the life of Maria Valtorta, they would have found a humble woman, a faithful Catholic, docile to the authority of the Church, who did not seek fame, and did not even want the writings published in the first place. And what is more, if they actually read the writings, they would find ample ink spent on stressing the importance of obedience. In fact, often times in the book, nothing hurts Our Lord more than the disobedience of one of His disciples.