With the controversy surrounding the recent pronouncement of the Diocese of San Fernando regarding the Agoo Marian Apparitions as “far from being supernatural,” and its supposedly visionary, Judiel Nieva committing “a grave dishonesty,” CL would like to clarify certain things, so that our readers and parishioners who have been like us affected by the “apparitions” will be guided accordingly. The commission’s findings, as the newspapers present them (we have not yet received the full official document) were based on four premises.
First, the statue which purportedly shed blood “have canals in the inner side of the eyes and a hole with a copper tube on the crown,” suggesting that there was an attempt to deceive the faithful.
Second, the messages after close analysis were said to be plagiarized i.e. copied from at least five sources and “were incoherent, inconsistent in style and contained a lot of grammatical errors.” Besides, Nieva delivered them so rapidly, unlike other apparitions, “suggesting that he may have memorized them.” Fr. Rañada who is chair of the Church Commission on Vision and phenomena of the Archdiocese of Manila said that the investigation which centered on the messages stated that their contents “destroy the credibility” of the apparitions.
Third, the “disappointing outcome and unedifying effects of the preceding events on the community” who in one TV interview seemed to show greed by fighting over donations.
And lastly, the lifestyle of the visionary who seemed untouched by such a holy vision by remaining far from being “a model of simplicity in Christian life.”
Perhaps we may ask after reading the reasons behind the pronouncement, (besides the first point raised which is clearly an attempt to deceive) why was the whole phenomena called a hoax. What makes a vision authentic in the eyes of the church? What are the criteria if there are any in order to prove that such is real? What makes an apparition authentic and the message through the seer credible?
Perhaps it would be best for our guidance to start from the beginning by defining apparitions and so called locutions and afterward show its “fruits” as signs of their authenticity.
A vision or apparition is described by Fr. Jordan Auman as “the result of actual bodily presence, or it may be visual form impressed directly on the retina of the eye, on the imagination or on the intellect.” In the same way locutions or messages are conveyed either by an “external sound or it may be transmitted to the ear, the imagination of the intellect of the visionary.”
There are three possible causes of these phenomena. They may come from the individual, known as a natural cause, or from God, called the supernatural cause, or from the devil himself, a diabolical cause. Since it is possible to come from three sources an apparition with it messages could not be declared as coming from God (supernatural) until such time when it could be demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that they could NOT have been caused by the individual himself or caused by the devil himself.
So in order that an apparition could be declared as authentic or coming from God the following inquiries have to be made: First, the alleged seer must be examined. Is he physically, emotionally, psychologically and morally fit? Does he have any history of previous phenomena or does he have a great desire to experience one as there can arise the possibility that the so called apparition may be a result of self manipulation by self serving interest. What are his virtues and does he have vices? Is he frank and honest? Is he interested in money or material things? Does he seek celebrity status? After the revelation, does his life conform to the least demands of the norms of Christianity? I am not in the least suggesting here that the recipient should become a living saint, but his life should at least show holiness or an honest struggle to be one, and this helps in authenticating the vision. Ultimately the best proof of authenticity is the dictum, “By their fruits you will know them.”
Second, the investigator must also examine the message. Are they theologically and spiritually sound? Are they coherent and do they contain any doctrinal errors? What is the purpose of such messages, their contents? The second question is of utmost importance because there are private revelations which sometimes contradict the doctrines and the authority of the church. Our faith teaches us that private revelations, the messages of apparitions, should support and should never contradict the revelations expounded by the Church. This is so because we hold that public revelations, revelations which are consequential for our salvation, ended with the apostolic era. And the guardian and interpreter of these revelations is the Church. Thus, private revelations of apparitions could only support, affirm or stress as urgent the demands of public revelation. From these investigations the church pronounced it judgment ont he apparitions of Agoo and its seer, Judiel Nieva.
In all these the church has to be cautious and prudent for her history is full of pretentious men and women who mislead people because of their claim. Fr. Rañada for example cited that between 1948 to 1971 alone there are 210 reports of apparitions and all of them were never recognized as worthy of belief.
These events and the recent pronouncements calling the apparitions untrue, delivered indeed a blow to us who have been so eager for a recognition of our love for our Blessed Mother no less from the object of our filial love herself. I for one thought for a while that finally we have been affirmed in our deep devotion to her by this apparition, but sadly that fact has been declared a hoax. Maybe the appropriate time has not come. Perhaps our mother deemed it superfluous and redundant at least for us Filipinos, for after all we are “el pueblo amante de Maria” - the country beloved by Mary - and no amount of seeing or “not seeing” could change that love. Perhaps we don’t really need it.
For all the heartbreaks and the frustrations most of us have experienced, either directed to Judiel or to the Church which has recently pronounced it judgment - this I would like to say: Everything that is needed for our salvation is already here with us. It is in the bible, in the doctrines of the church, in the moral teachings of our faith and repeated by our pastors time and again. The message of the apparitions are already there in our hearts - we have only to carry it out. I sincerely believe that what we have to await and worked for is the greatest miracle which is yet to happen. They are not apparitions, or showers of roses or dancing suns but the miracle when all men and women would turn their hearts to God and neighbor - in love.