Does Blessed Mother Recommend A Book Church Placed on Index?
(reprinted from the Wanderer)
One of the hottest-selling books in Catholic stores today is Maria Valtorta's multivolume Poem of the Man-God, a book placed on the Church's Index of Forbidden Books in 1961, and condemned as recently as 1985 by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
"It's one of our biggest-selling books," Terry Colafrancesco told The Wanderer.
Colafrancesco, director of Caritas of Birmingham, a major promoter of Medjugorje messages, tours, and books, is only one of many distributors of the book in the United States, and says he has sold 5,000 to 10,000 copies of the multivolume set in the past year.
"It's so hard to get good spiritual direction in the Church today, because of the crisis," he said. "These books give tremendous insights into Scripture . . . It is like a pastor reading the Gospel, and then explaining it. People find the spiritual direction they need that they aren't getting in church."
But Cardinal Ratzinger, former and current Apostolic Nuncio Archbishops Pio Laghi and Agostino Cacciavillan, and a host of other ecclesiastics take a contrary stand. In their view, the book is condemned and dangerous.
Cardinal Ratzinger, in a letter dated Jan. 31st, 1985, written in response to the request of Genoa's Giuseppe Cardinal Siri on the book's status, recalled L'Osservatore Romano's judgment that it was "a badly fictionalized life of Jesus."
The Cardinal-Prefect added: "After the dissolution of the Index, when some people thought the printing and distribution of the work was permitted, people were reminded again in L'Osservatore Romano (June 15th, 1966) that, as was published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis (1966), the Index retains its moral force despite its dissolution. A decision against distributing and recommending a work, which had not been condemned lightly, may be reversed, but only after profound changes that neutralize the harm which such a publication could bring forth among the ordinary faithful."
The book has been described as a "second-rate soap opera," a bawdy, at times, obscene life of Jesus, who is depicted as a wise man who utters such word as, "Smell flowers; do not pick them," while He approves of stepping on caterpillars because they have a "lascivious sensuality."
Moreover, He is a Savior unsure of who He is, looking to His disciples - whom He loves to kiss on their lips - for leadership.
Printed in four (or ten) volumes, Poem of the
Man-God is not a poem, but poorly written prose, filled with imagined
conversations between Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and the Apostles that can be,
most charitably, described as banal.
As L 'Osservatore Romano declared, the work belongs in the "category of mental sickness," and that it is a "heap of pseudo- irreligiosity," "a mountain of childishness, of fantasies, and of historical and exegetical falsehoods, diluted in a subtly sensual atmosphere".
But the book is selling like hotcakes, because it is part of the Medjugorje phenomenon, promoted among Medjugorje enthusiasts as endorsed by the Blessed Virgin Mary herself.
According to Colafrancesco, many Catholics are reading the book as a source for meditation when they make visits to the Blessed Sacrament.
He said interest in the book was "sparked" when Marija Pavlovic, one of the Medjugorje seers, asked the Virgin Mary - at the request of a seminarian friend - if it was okay to read the book.
In Colafrancesco's recollection, Mary said, "One could read it."
"If you consider that every word the Virgin Mary says has meaning, then you know what a strong statement that was," he said.
Colafrancesco is aware of the documentation circulating around the world which affirms that the book is still condemned, and the prohibition against Catholics reading it is in force, but disregards it.
He insists that under Canon Law, Catholics have the right to read the book, and that Cardinal Ratzinger "is taking advice from people who want Satan to destroy the Church.
"What's happening to these books is terribly unjust," he said.
The Growing Controversy
The Poem of the Man-God received a major boost
during a broadcast interview on Mother Angelica's EWTN cable network, which
aired an interview with Medjugorje seer Marija Pavlovic conducted by retired
New Orleans Archbishop Philip Hannan, an enthusiastic propagandist for the
Hannan, in fact, in a recent fundraising letter sent to members of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, cited his program's promotion of the Medjugorje messages as a key reason why Catholics should support public station WLAE.
On March 4th, on the Archbishop's Focus program, a viewer from Milwaukee asked Marija, on the air, "What exactly did our Lady say regarding the Poem of the Man-God?'
Marija responded that our Lady told her, "You can read it," and expressed an immediate afterthought.
"I have heard now that there are problems with this," she said," looking nervously over to Archbishop Hannan, who simply accepted the outrageous claim that our Lady would contradict the judgment of the Holy See, and changed the subject.
The Wanderer attempted to contact Archbishop Hannan to ask him about the apparent conflict between the Vatican and the Blessed Mother on what books Catholics should read, but he was not available for comment.
His secretary of 20-plus years, Emily Kulchyski, who works with the Archbishop at the television station, WLAE-32, doing research for him and typing his commentaries, did talk, however.
Kulchyski is now reading the fifth volume of the Poem, and believes Valtorta's work "is absolutely fantastic, completely engrossing, and totally edifying." She admits that it led her "to read Scripture in a new light," and dismissed the notion the book should not be read because it was on the Index.
"There is no Index anymore," said the Archbishop's secretary, "and besides the Virgin told us that, 'It is good reading'."
Kulchyski also explained why the Archbishop could not respond to Pavlovic's answer. "I think he felt he was not prepared to answer the question that night," she told The Wanderer.
Curiously, however, she added in the next breath, "We had received numerous questions from people around the country who had heard that Marija was going to be on his program, and who wanted him (the Archbishop) to ask the seer that question. But he felt it would not be appropriate to ask the question because that was not what most people wanted to hear from the seer."
Seven Reasons Not To Read It
While the Archbishop's secretary and thousands of other
Catholics continue reading Poem of the Man-God, and encourage others
to do likewise, there are 7 reasons the Holy Office (consultors were Fr. Augustin
Bea, S.J., and Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.) condemned
1.) The book contains a fraudulent imprimatur, allegedly bestowed by Pope Pius XII, and has no legitimate imprimatur, which it must have.
2.) The Jesus and Mary are in stark contrast to the Gospels. "Jesus speaks the maximum like a chatterbox, always ready to proclaim Himself the Messiah and the Son of God, or to share lessons in theology with the same terms used by a modern professor . . . (and) the Most Holy Virgin speaks as abundantly as a modern propagandist."
3.) "Some passages are rather risque and record some descriptions and some scenes like modern novels . . . the reading of such passages as those quoted, only with difficulty could be finished without danger of spiritual damage.
4.) There are "many historical, geographical, and other blunders.
5.) There are numerous theological errors in the book, beginning with what "Jesus says about Eve's sin."
6.) "The work would have merited a condemnation . . . if nothing else, for reasons of irreverence."
7.) The authoress claims revelation, and the Church decided it was not revelation.
What Catholics Read
There are hundreds of examples justifying the condemnation
of this Poem, but three examples are sufficient to illustrate how
Jesus and Mary talk, offered with the caveat that this is blasphemous
After the 18-line description of the scourging of Jesus before His crucifixion, Valtorta's Jesus "says":
"They would not believe that I was the Messiah, but did not want to kill me, in case I were . . . The world, after an incubation of perverted ideas, explodes now and again in such displays of perversion. Like a huge pregnant woman, the crowd, after nourishing its monster in its womb with doctrines of wild beasts, gives birth to it so it may devour" (vol. V, p. 569).
After the crucifixion, and Jesus is taken down from the cross. Mary says, "Leave Him in my lap. If I succeed in warming Him up, He will rise sooner.
A few lines later, she reveals, "As far as I, His Mother, am concerned, He is nothing but a big boy who is tired and sleeping . . . Prepare the way for His return. I am sending you. I, whom Maternity makes the Priestess of the Rite. Go. I said that I do not want it. Do not think that I will let you put it on Him. It will be easier for Him to rise if He is free from those funeral useless bandages" (vol. V, p. 634).
After Jesus "revealed" to Valtorta how He rose from the dead, He explained how the marks were made on the Shroud of Turin:
"My kidneys, almost crushed by the scourges, were no longer able to work. Like those of people burned by fire, they were unable to filter, and urea accumulated and spread in my blood, in my body, bringing about the sufferings of uraemic intoxification and the reagent that oozed out of my corpse and fixed the impression on the cloth . . . anyone suffering from uremia, will realize what suffering the uremic toxins cause me" (vol. V, p. 669).
In Valtorta's fantasy, the Apostle Peter is continually rebuked by Jesus, and repeatedly warned not to judge people.
In one passage, Jesus exclaims to Peter, "You are an awful bore. You are worse than a boy."
In other passages, Peter is rebuked, "Peter, Peter, you are a big old baby," and is called "a snake." With the other Apostles, he is compared to "pubescent girls."
In one particularly violent passage. Jesus calls to Peter, "Come here, you usurper and corrupter," and accuses him, saying, "You have corrupted my Mother."
The current Apostolic Nuncio and his predecessor have
received numerous requests from both laity and clergy on the prohibition
on Poem of the Man-God, and in one recent response, Archbishop Agostino
Cacciavillan observed that "faithful Catholics would still heed the reservation
and caution expressed" in the Index of Forbidden Books dated Jan. 5th,
Still, the question remains: Why is such a book still "selling like hotcakes" in Catholic bookstores?
by Paul Likoudis
Looking for a good book on the Life of the Blessed Virgin? We have several.
Catholic Truth Publications/TAN Books and Publishers,
Last edited August 30, 2001