Saturday, November 16, 2013

Isn't it nearly heresy today to question the Divine Mercy Devotion?

Anyone who looks into the history of the Divine Mercy Devotion, as well as Divine Mercy Sunday, a solemnity instituted by the late Pope John Paul II and celebrated the Sunday following Easter, may unexpectedly discover some rather shocking things. According to the text of a sermon by Msgr. Patrick Perez (April 21, 2013):
Pius XII ... placed this devotion, including the apparitions and the writings of Sr. Faustina on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum (Index of Prohibited Books).

Next, came other prohibitions made by Pope John XXIII. Twice in his pontificate, the Holy Office issued condemnations of the Divine Mercy writings.

Not once, but twice under Pope John XXIII, this particular devotion was condemned through the Holy Office. The first condemnation was in a plenary meeting held on November 19, 1958. The declaration from the Holy Office issued these three statements about this devotion:
  1. There is no evidence of the supernatural origin of these revelations....
  2. No feast of Divine Mercy should be instituted....
  3. It is forbidden to disseminate the images and writings propagating this devotion under the form received by Sr. Faustina.
So how did we get from that, to this: Divine Mercy Sunday with promises of unconditional mercy and no mention of penance? Did I miss something? Nothing but an honest question.

[Hat tip to K.J.]
[Advisory - See ##7-9 in Da Rulz]


Tyburn's Ghost said...

A 30 minute homily on the topic and there are roughly 12 homilies in total on the subject since 2003 on the Audio Sancto site.

The definitive references are the Thomistic analysis and the translation errors from Polish to Italian that caused the first condemnations.

Concerned said...

The condemnations of the devotion and writings of Faustina stemmed largely from judgments based on faulty Italian translations of the diary. It is important to remember that Faustina's formal education didn't extend past about 2nd Grade elementary school. She tended to spell things phoenetically and her grammar was poor; moreover, she did not employ a rigorous mechanism for dileniating in her text where the interlouctions with Our Lord and Lady stopped and started, relative to her own thoughts and words. When the Diary was first compiled from the handwritten text (during World War II), there was not the luxury of time to carefully analyze it and provide a critical apparatus for working around those shortcoming. When it was translated into Italian, the problems were compounded. In those early translations, it was not possible to easily determine whether Faustina's references to "mercy" and "my mercy" and various other spiritual favors and promises referred to her own person or to Our Lord. The rest is history – for a period of nearly 20 years, the devotion and Diary were censured by Rome. The Diary as we have it today is much more faithful to the original, and the efforts behind clearing up the confusion are largely owed to the man we know today as John Paul II.

The private revelations to St. Faustina (inclusive of the Image, Chaplet and Feast) seem to me to be among the most important of the last 500 years, at least. Our Lord and Savior Himself, if one gives credence to the revelations, asked for the Feast to be celebrated on the Sunday following Easter, and He also asked for the novena of chaplets.

Whatever his faults as pope, John Paul II's pontificate seemed to be caught up, by Divine Providence, in this supernatural message of mercy. His second encyclical focused on God's Mercy ("Dives in Misericordia") and he died on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday in 2005. He was primarily responsible for the re-opening of Faustina's cause (prior to his election); as pope he beatified her and then made her the first saint canonized in the 3rd Millenium.

Our Lord's promise of what amounts to a complete renewal of baptismal grace in return for honoring Divine Mercy on the feast day (which is distinct from the indulgence the Church has attached to it) should be a cause of great joy for Catholics the world over, whether they assist as Masses in the extraordinary form or ordinary form. The link between Low Sunday and the Feast of Divine Mercy also seems to reside in these special promises. By ancient tradition, neophytes would lay aside their baptismal garments on Low Sunday -- it is as if Our Lord is saying: The visible sign you have lain aside, today or perhaps years go, I have renewed its underlying reality to pristine splendor, because I am Love and Mercy itself.

Concerned said...


There is certainly precedent for private revelations to affect the liturgical life of the Church. For over a century and a half, the Church has universally celebrated the Feast of the Sacred Heart. More recently, Pope Pius XII established the Feast of the Holy Face to be celebrated on Shrove Tuesday. The reason for his doing so lay squarely in the private revelations to Bl. Maria Pierina (beatified by Benedict XVI in 2010), in which Our Lord asked for that feast to be established. Sadly, the Feast of the Holy Face was forgotten in the revised calendar.

There is more to consider. For example, I believe a case can be made there is a deep connection between the private revelations given to Josefa Menendez, Maria Pierina and Mary Faustina Kowalska. Have you read Josefa's diary? Jesus spoke to her of other souls on whom He chose to bestow special visitations when He was away from her, and to whom He likewise entrusted special missions (all three lived in the same era). Pius XII was a devotee of the revelations to Josefa and Maria (there is no doubt, it is a matter of record). When controversy swirled around Faustina (owing it seems to problems with an early translation of her diary), Cardinal Ottaviani asked Pius XII to sign a condemnation. Whether by circumstance and so only by Providence, or perhaps owing to personal spiritual insights (we may never know), Pius XII refused.

In some ways, I think a full appreciation of the Divine Mercy revelations is delayed until that time when the messages given to Josefa Menendez and Maria Pierina experience a resurgence of interest and devotion. Perhaps that time can begin now. Or perhaps I am quite wrong about these matters. Peace of Christ be with you.

Fr Paul McDonald said...

"No mention of penance" to establish which would require 1) precision about "penance": do you mean a) repentance, contrition, metanoia b) reparation, expiation, atonement; 2) an exhaustive study of at least the Diary proving that forgiveness is offered with contrition.
May I respectfully suggest that this is far from being done. Rather, a study of the writings might rather show various stern themes not exactly ecclesiastically politically correct: divine wrath and judgment, hell, purgatory (very severe), demons, etc.

Fr Paul McDonald said...

Re supernatural origin, would not the beatification miracle and the canonization miracle of the chief witness, established as heroically just, prudent, faithful, charitable suffice?

Diane Korzeniewski said...

I wondered the same thing. But, those actions, to the best of my recollection, were based on faulty translations, and I believe because another woman took liberties with the words of St. Faustina that were sent in.

I just went digging in my blog for some kind of reference and I see some links in this part of my post. They may not satisfy you entirely, but I'll look into the question and perhaps make a post on this question alone.

Here is another reference that I think explains it well, but it's probably best to find a book on the history of the Divine Mercy where the question is scrutinized at a more scholarly level if you are uncertain of this. I would do that before questioning it since it is now accepted by Holy Mother Church.

I no longer have any misgivings about it myself, given that the original problem came from someone tampering with the writings of St. Faustina without her knowledge (from what I recall) and faulty translations.

Diane Korzeniewski said...

Oops, I may have forgotten that second link. If so, here it is.

Elizabeth D said...

This is the right operating procedure for any private revelation that hadn't been approved yet--it shouldn't be disseminated. St John of the Cross is the Church's highest authority on these matters and his teaching is that one should ignore every such thing since it may be demonic, it may be from confused human nature, and God will bring about the benefit He desires in the event it is authentic, without us paying undue curious attention. That's what "no evidence of supernatural origin" means, in other words non constat de supernaturalitate, it's not held to be supernatural.

What happened with the Divine Mercy devotion was that the translation of St Faustina's writings into Italian was not sound, and people judged from the translation that it was heretical. Later the confusion was corrected. No one has to be devoted to any private revelation, or consider any private revelation to be certain. But the Church did approve considering that one supernatural.

Anonymous said...

I think the prior condemnations are fairly well known. The only explanation I've ever heard was that they were based on an inaccurate translation of St. Faustina's writings. No one could ever tell me what had been mistranslated, though.


Michael Ortiz said...


Have you read Faustina's diary?

Lots of penance. Lots of suffering.

Reminds me of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque...

Brendan said...

There's nothing shocking about this at all, it's a well known part of the history of the devotion. Padre Pio was widely suspected as a fraud in the Vatican and was persecuted within the Church. Later recognized as a Saint. St. Bernadette was seriously doubted within the Church as well, now recognized as a saint. Point is, the items you quoted are not abnormal, and my guess is you are questioning how you see DM devotion practiced, not the real thing. Faustina is a saint, this obviously unquestionable given the Church's recognition. We're not talking about Medjugorje here. And mercy without penance? Indulgences involve only the penance of confession and the key is zero attachment to sin. I have never thought of DM as mercy without penance (any more than a plenary indulgence is), but it does involve radical repentance. You of course have no obligation to practice devotion to DM nor believe in the visions of St. Faustina (though you are obligated to acknowledge her as a saint). But don't criticize a legitimate devotion nor those who are spiritually aided by it because of some who may not practice it correctly.

James Joseph said...

What I got out of St. Faustina's writing was this.

Demand justice in this world and you will receive Justice in the next; that is, His Justice and all the pain and suffering of hell and purgation.

Show mercy in this world and you might see Mercy in the next; that is, His Mercy just might be extended by way of Our Lady.

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Novus Ordo Watch had a link worth reading

When even John Allen is skeptical, one is justified in asking questions

JM said...

The modern phenomenon: something condemned in the past is subsequently embraced, with the justification of translation or linguistic issues.

Even De Chardin is condemned, only to later to be quoted fondly by Popes. I wonder if we will live to see him raised to the altar. Sure he told a little lie, but so what, so did Fulton Sheen! And the Pope likes his theology!

The John Allen link is disturbing. So is the new penchant to waive the requirement for miracles. It is unsettling how hard people push candidates thru to sainthood simply because THEY like them, without regard for the harm their canonization may do to the whole saint-making process (Chesterton, anyone?) JPII's speedy rise is a case in point, this may be another.

Forgive me if I am far from certain a papal decree on canonization is infallible. In modern times, with more exacting data collection and information systems, we are far more able to be even more discerning.... and yet instead we become more and more inclusive, based on our certainty of God's mercy, certain so many are indeed saints. Anyone who is extraordinary is deemed needful of sainting.

Of course, more is not always better. This brings to mind a mantra you sometimes here that seems comically true: "If everyone is special, no one is...."

Tony said...

This is an argument that we cannot win. John Paul II
intervened to reverse the judgement of the Holy Office.
I regret that the Divine Mercy has taken the place of the Sacred Heart Devotion throughout the Church. For me the Sacred Heart is the richer devotion going back to the visions of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in the 17th century. Hundreds of religious orders were founded on this devotion and the Jesuits were the keepers of the flame. St. Claude de la Columbiere was the chaplain
of St. Margaret Mary.

The Jesuits after WWII sought to marginalize theSacred Heart seeing it as an obstacle to ecumenism. Unfortunately the Sacred Heart was the spirituality of a majority of nuns. Deprived of their spirituality the nuns turned to psychology and feminism.

The Marian Fathers adopted the Divine Mercy Devotion almost by accident when one of their members fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe undertook a journey to the United States through Vladivostock
spreading the devotion as he traveled.

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear JM I have heard a layman speak after The Lil' Licit Liturgy in my home town; Remember that Divine Mercy Sunday is coming soon. All you have to do is say some prayers in front of this image (gestures towards poster) and all your sins will be forgiven and you will immediately go to Heaven when you die

This is all so much funner than that creepy First Friday Devotion that the bad old medieval church used to show down our throats.

To be in the New Church is to have been ruptured out of the Church men like me were born into.

The prots got nothing on us; Rapture? Pffft That is a heresy about some sometime-in-the-future event.

We got rupture, baby; in the present

Elizabeth said...

I've never taken to this devotion. I tried. I even tried reading Sister Faustina's Diary. It just doesn't sit well with me. And I particularly don't like the fact that "Divine Mercy Sunday" has all but supplanted Low Sunday or Quasimodo Sunday, unless you're blessed to be able to assist at the Traditional Mass.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that the Diary of Divine Mercy contains the traditional doctrine of penance within it. In fact, the 3 PM Holy Hour with Divine Mercy Chaplet, meditation of the Passion, and stations of the cross Faustina says Jesus asked for is an excellent example of how to do penance. The emphasis on Divine Mercy that St. Faustina brings does not seem to me to minimize the need for penance. If it did, wouldn't Faustina be violating this teaching when she asked for penances from her superiors or did penance herself? As these words from the diary indicate, St. Faustina had a sense within her of the need for penance, and she devoted herself to it.

"309 Before heaven and earth, before all the choirs of Angels, before the Most Holy Virgin Mary, before all the Powers of heaven, I declare to the One Triune God that today, in union with Jesus Christ, Redeemer of souls, I make a voluntary offering of myself for the conversion of sinners, especially for those souls who have lost hope in God’s mercy. This offering consists in my accepting, with total subjection to God’s will, all the sufferings, fears and terrors with which sinners are filled. In return, I give them all the consolations which my soul receives from my communion with God. In a word, I offer everything for them: Holy Masses, Holy Communions, penances, mortifications, prayers. I do not fear the blows, blows of divine justice, because I am united with Jesus. O my God, in this way I want to make amends to You for the souls that do not trust in Your goodness. I hope against all hope in the ocean of Your mercy. My Lord and my God, my portion – my portion forever, I do not base this act of oblation on my own strength, but on the strength that flows from the merits of Jesus Christ. " -St. Faustina (Diary, 309).

Tyburn's Ghost said...

I am not trying to be argumentative, but not only do I now observe Divine Mercy Sunday but I'm also an enthusiastic participant in the Sacred Heart devotion on First Fridays and have a Kindle loaded up with St Gertrude the Great, Sister Josefa Menendez and soon St Mary Margaret Alocoque.

I was particularly struck by the passage in St Faustina's diary about the majority of those in hell being those who didn't believe in its existence.

Around my neck of the woods, both Sacred Heart devotions and Divine Mercy Sunday seem to only flourish at parishes with Polish pastors. Everyone else simply ignores Divine Mercy Sunday and few have ever heard of the Sacred Heart devotion.

I'd encourage everyone to give the audio sancto homily that I posted earlier a fair listen.

Perhaps I'm a spiritual glutton, but we're so starved for devotions here that I grab everyone that I can.

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

The Jesuits after WWII sought to marginalize theSacred Heart seeing it as an obstacle to ecumenism

Dear Tony. Ecumenism is the Universal Solvent.

First Fridays are but one of innumerable elements of Ecclesiastical Tradition that it has dissolved.

On the other hand, we got Assisi Syncretism as a substitute; so, we got that going for us - which is nice

JFM said...

"…In this way I want to make amends to You for the souls that do not trust in Your goodness. I hope against all hope in the ocean of Your mercy."

Disconcertingly, the pattern here becomes more obvious the closer one reads. It all shores up the central would-be doctrinal development of postconciliar theology: "Dare We Hope That All Shall Be Saved…"

Anonymous said...

Is there something wrong with respecting Scripture as the source of our knowledge of God's teaching to us. The beautiful Gospel on the Second Sunday of Easter is a wonderful reflection on a God who loves us with abundant mercy. why do we need questionable devotional things? Would it not be better to support good scripture reflection on God's mercy?

Deacon Ron

Dark Horse said...

Deacon Ron,

Dude, there's nothin wrong with Scripture sourcing, unless you turn it into a charismatic and/or Protestant Ouija Board.

Anonymous said...

Lord forgive me in my ignorance for every muttering this "divine mercy" deception. I know now it was only to encourage EVIL things such as communion in the hand such as when the holy host supposedly flew in to Faustina's hand 3 times. I know now Lord that this mess was tied in with the apostate JP2. I'm sorry Lord for being ignorant enough to ever believe this garbage from the evil one.

Anonymous said...

This woman was crazy