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Note on the English Translation of the 1974 CDF Statement

A recent article in the National Catholic Register covers the December 30, 2020 statement of Bishop Hendriks of the Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam on the alleged 1945–1959 apparitions of Our Lady of All Nations to the Dutch woman, Ida Peerdeman. The article states that in 1956, Bishop Johannes Huibers of Haarlem declared that after an investigation he had “found no evidence of the supernatural nature of the apparitions.” The article goes on to say that “the Holy Office, the forerunner of the CDF, approved the bishop’s verdict a year later. The CDF confirmed the judgment in 1972 and 1974.”

The National Catholic Register correctly quotes the English translation posted on the Vatican website. This translation, though, is misleading. In a September 17, 2020 statement posted on the website of the Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam, Bishop Johannes Hendriks notes the 1956 judgment of Bishop Huibers—confirmed by the CDF in 1974—was “non constat de supernaturalitate”. As Bishop Hendriks explains, this means that “the supernatural character is not fixed,” and there is room for “further investigation.”

The Vatican website does not provide a Dutch translation of the 1974 CDF statement, but it does have a German translation, which would be the language closest to Dutch of the posted translations. The German translation of non constat de supernaturalitate is “Übernatürlichkeit der Erscheinungen nicht feststeht”—“the supernatural character of the apparitions is not certain.” The Italian translation closely follows the Latin, but it uses the imperfect tense for the verb, constare. The Italian reads: “non constava della soprannaturalità delle apparizioni”—the supernatural character of the apparitions was not established. The French translation follows the Italian in using the imperfect. It reads: “le caractère surnaturel des apparitions n’était pas établi”—the supernatural character of the apparitions was not established.

There is a big difference between Bishop Huibers stating in 1956 that the supernatural character was not certain or established and saying he “found no evidence of the supernatural nature of the apparitions.” The Latin non constat de supernaturalitate is accurately conveyed in the German, Italian, and French translations on the Vatican website, but the English translation is misleading. To say the supernatural is not certain or established is not the same as saying there is no evidence of the supernatural. As Bishop Hendriks notes in his statement of September 17, 2020, the non constat de supernaturalitate wording allows room for “further investigation.”

Dr. Robert Fastiggi

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