Vatican supports action to
Review Associate Editor
The Vatican has strongly confirmed Cardinal
William H. Keeler’s September 2000 decision to prohibit the
Thursday evening prayer services at St.
Joseph, Emmitsburg, in which Gianna Talone Sullivan
claimed to receive messages from the Blessed Virgin Mary.
In an April 2 letter to Father William
O’Brien, C.M., pastor of St. Joseph, Cardinal Keeler
reported the Feb. 15 ruling of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger,
prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, that
Baltimore’s archbishop is in a position to conclude the
matter with a decree that the alleged apparitions are clearly
not miraculous ("constat de non supernaturalitate").
Cardinal Ratzinger said his opinion on the
decree was made after careful consideration of the report of a
three-member theological Commission of Enquiry appointed by
Cardinal Keeler that concluded there was nothing supernatural
going on and that there were, in fact, "negative
elements" contained in some of the apocalyptic prophecies
that Dr. Talone Sullivan made public. As a result, Cardinal
Keeler informed her that "no Catholic church properties
may be used for the purpose of providing a platform for any
activities associated with the alleged apparitions."
Dr. Talone Sullivan, who has a doctorate
degree in pharmacology, claimed to receive messages from the
Virgin Mary during Thursday evening prayer services at St.
Joseph beginning in 1993 until September 2000 when the
archdiocese banned them.
The three-priest commission wrote that,
"given the present circumstances throughout the world of
what may be called a growing addiction to the spectacular, we
think that the Church should not promote or encourage persons
claiming to have extraordinary channels to God."
In response, Dr. Talone Sullivan said she is
"grateful for the time, devotion and commitment, which
the commission undertook in reviewing and studying the alleged
experiences and events."
"It is," she stated, "a great
gift to belong to the Catholic Church, and we are always safe
when we bow in obedience under her wing." However, she
maintained that her apparitions and messages were and continue
to be real.
Married to a physician, Dr. Michael
Sullivan, Dr. Talone-Sullivan is the founder of the Mission of
Mercy, based in Fairfield, Pa., near Emmitsburg. It is a
non-profit mobile medical program that works to provide free
medical and dental care to the poor, homeless, uninsured and
underinsured patients in central and Western Maryland.
After first receiving "private
revelations" in Scottsdale, Ariz. in 1987, Dr. Talone-Sullivan
said she began to receive messages in 1988 that she said the
Virgin Mary wanted to be made public. She said that from Dec.
19, 1989, to the present time, Our Lady has appeared and
spoken to her nearly every night except Fridays during her
private prayer, and during nearly every public prayer group in
both Scottsdale, Ariz., and from November 1993 to Sept. 2000
at St. Joseph, Emmitsburg.
In 1989 Bishop Thomas O’Brien of Phoenix
formed a commission to look into Dr. Talone-Sullivan’s
reported apparitions and later announced that the diocese
neither supported nor condemned the events.
The Archdiocese of Baltimore remained silent
on the events in Emmitsburg until Aug. 30, 1995, when a
spokesman said that because a diocesan investigation in
Arizona had uncovered "nothing contrary to faith"
Baltimore was "neutral on the matter at this time."
The Thursday evening prayer services
attracted crowds of about 600 people, growing to some 1,000 in
the summer. Cardinal Keeler noted that the commission
acknowledged that "impressive results" came from the
Thursday evening prayer services, including conversions,
increases in the number of confessions as well as physical and
However, he noted his commission’s finding
which stated that while it "gladly recognizes the working
of God’s grace, even in somewhat strange
circumstances," it saw "no necessary
connection" between Dr. Talone-Sullivan’s alleged
apparitions and the reported benefits.
In his most recent letter, Cardinal Keeler
said he trusts "this final decision will clear up any
confusion that still exists and relieve the doubts of the
faithful regarding the alleged apparitions and any public
dissemination of their message."
Father O’Brien acknowledged that some St.
Joseph parishioners and regular visitors to the Thursday
prayer services were unhappy with the archdiocesan
However, he said, the issue is not as
controversial anymore and that it no longer disturbs parish
"The prohibition stands and is
reinforced by (the Vatican Congregation’s) consideration
that I may conclude the matter is not supernatural in
nature," Cardinal Keeler told the pastor.
"People who expect the world as it is to end soon
do a lot of very strange things."
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