Some reflections and questions on the recent judgment concerning the Lady of All Nations by Dr. Robert Fastiggi
On December 30 2020, Bishop Johannes Hendriks, the Bishop of Haarlem-Amsterdam, issued a clarification regarding the Lady of All Nations. In essence, this clarification explains that devotion to Mary as the Lady of All Nations is good, but the 1945–1959 messages and apparitions of Our Lady of All Nations to Ida Peerdeman are not approved by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
In both his December 30, 2020 clarification as well as in his accompanying explanation and pastoral word, Bishop Hendriks makes it clear that he is acting in accord with the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (CDF). Apparently, the CDF felt the need to act in light of recent reports concerning the veneration of Our Lady of All Nations. These recent reports might be—at least in part—due to to a letter of July 20, 2020 signed by Archbishop Joseph Spiteri, the Apostolic Nuncio to Lebanon, addressed to Cardinal Béchara Boutros Raï, the Maronite Patriarch. The Patriarch had asked about the Church’s official position regarding the apparitions of Our Lady of All Nations. Archbishop Spiteri told him that he had consulted with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and he was told that the Notification of May 25, 1974—which states that the supernatural character of the revelations of Our Lady of All Nations is not established—remains valid. Archbishop Spiteri further adds the CDF is of the opinion that it is not appropriate to contribute to the spread of the veneration of Mary as “Our Lady of All Nations” (non sia conveniente contribuire alla divulgazione della venerazione di Maria come “Signora di tutti popoli”).
After the letter of Archbishop Spiteri appeared on an Italian website, it spread to other sources. A September 17, 2020 article appeared in the Nederlands Dagblad by Hendro Musterman with the title “Marian apparitions in Amsterdam ‘false’”. Bishop Hendriks published a response to this article on the day it appeared, and he explained that the 1974 CDF judgment was “non constat de supernaturalitate” —which means that the supernatural character of the apparitions has not been determined. The CDF did not issue a judgment of “constat de non supernaturalitate,” which means the apparitions are not supernatural.
Furthermore, the CDF in 1990 gave permission to the Bishop of Haarlem to approve devotion to Our Lady of All Nations. This approval was officially given by Bishops Bomers and Punt in 1996, and in 2002 Bishop Punt approved the apparitions as worthy of belief as supernatural. Bishop Hendriks further notes that Pope Francis sent a message to the participants of the September 14, 2019 Day of Prayer in honor of Our Lady of All Nations held in Düsseldorf, Germany. In this message, Pope Francis expressed his joy over the Day of Prayer, and he imparted his apostolic blessing to those gathered for the event.
The December 30, 2020 clarification of Bishop Hendriks shows that the use of the title, the image, and the prayer of the Lady of All Nations is allowed, but any reference to a supernatural origin is prohibited. All Catholics, of course, must obey this judgment of the CDF, but some questions still remain.
The Congregation goes back to the notification of 1974, and interprets it as a definitive negative judgement, confirmed by Pope Paul VI. But if the 1974 judgment was definitive why was this not explained to the bishops of Haarlem-Amsterdam? Why did the CDF allow for further developments regarding the devotion and even the apparitions?
In effect, the CDF has nullified the judgment expressed by Bishop Josef Maria Punt in his May 31, 2002 letter in which he says he has come “to the conclusion that the apparitions of the Lady of All Nations in Amsterdam consist of a supernatural origin.” Bishop Punt, though, made his 2002 judgment in good faith and in accord with the 1978 CDF Norms Regarding the Manner of Proceeding in the Discernment of Presumed Apparitions or Revelations. According to these Norms, “Above all, the duty of vigilance and intervention falls to the Ordinary of the place” (III, 1). Bishop Punt, therefore was the proper authority to intervene to determine the credibility of the presumed apparitions.
In a September 15, 2020 posting on the Mother of All Peoples website, Bishop Punt explains several developments after 1974 that led to the eventual approval of both the devotion to Our Lady of All Nations and the apparitions. The first was the 1984 approval of the supernatural character of the events in Akita, Japan in which Sister Agnes Sasagawa heard a beautiful voice coming from a wooden statue of Our Lady of All Nations modeled after the image in Amsterdam. In a letter dated February 28, 1989 Bishop John Shojiro Ito of the Diocese of Niigata (within which Akita lies) wrote to the Bishop of Haarlem explaining the deep connection between the supernatural events of Akita and Our Lady of All Nations in Amsterdam.
Another development was the 1984 advice given by the CDF to Bishop Bomers of Haarlem to make a distinction between the title, Our Lady of All Nations, and the apparitions. In 1990 the CDF advised Bishop Bomers in writing that he as bishop should judge the advisability of this policy.
In 1995 Bishop Punt was appointed auxiliary bishop of Haarlem, and in October of that year, he met with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the then Prefect of the CDF. Cardinal Ratzinger asked him for his opinion on Our Lady of All Nations. Bishop Punt explained that he was in favor of allowing public devotion but would await further developments with regard to discerning the authenticity of the apparitions. Cardinal Ratzinger gave permission for this policy, which led to the May 31, 1996 decree of Bishop Bomers and Bishop Punt authorizing public veneration of Our Lady of All Nations while leaving the authenticity of the apparitions to Ida Peerdeman up to the conscience of the faithful.
After the sudden death of Bishop Bomers in 1998, Bishop Punt became the apostolic adminstrator of the Diocese of Haarlem, and in 2001 he was named the Bishop. In light of the growing devotion to Our Lady of All Nations, the events at Akita, and requests from the faithful for clarity regarding the apparitions, Bishop Punt sought the advice of some theologians and psychologists about the messages given to Ida Peerdeman. In 2002, he saw sufficient foundation for a recognition in essence of the supernatural character of the apparitions without putting any pressure on the conscience of the faithful. According to the 1978 CDF Norms, the local bishop has the primary responsibility to discern the authenticity of private revelations within his diocese.. He may consult the CDF, but he is not required to do so.
According to the 1978 Norms, the local ordinary can request the intervention of the CDF or a qualified group of the faithful can do so (IV 1.a). After the 2002 judgment of Bishop Punt in favor of the supernatural character of the Amsterdam apparitions, the CDF did not intervene to either approve or reject his judgment. The 1978 Norms, however, recognize the right of the CDF “to intervene motu proprio in graver cases, especially if the matter affects the larger part of the Church” (IV 1.b). For more than 18 years, the CDF let the judgment of Bishop Punt on the authenticity of the Amsterdam apparitions remain in force. What transpired in 2020 to prompt the annulment of his approval? It seems that the CDF has reaffirmed the position of 1974 without any consideration of the developments since 1974. The Congregation has now overturned the approval of the local bishop without any clear rationale or new investigation.
The title “Coredemptrix” for Mary, and the request for a final Marian dogma, as contained in the messages, may have been the most sensitive issues for the Congregation. The use of the title “Coredemptrix”, however, is not affected by the instruction, as this title has a centuries-old tradition in the Church. It has also been used by saints and mystics, as well as by Popes Pius XI and John Paul II. If the use of the title, Coredemptrix, is sufficient reason to override a bishop’s approval of reported apparitions, then the CDF would have asked for a reversal of Bishop Hector Cardelli’s 2016 approval of the apparitions received by Gladys Quiroga de Motta in San Nicolas, Argentina. In the message of September 23, 1986, Gladys says: “Today I see Jesus; He says to me: let humanity hear the voice of Mary, Coredemptrix!” (Hoy veo a Jesús, me dice: ¡Oiga la humanidad la voz de María Corredentora!).
At this point, it remains a mystery as to why the CDF believed it was necessary to ask Bishop Hendriks to annul the judgment of his predecessor, Bishop Punt, on the apparitions of Amsterdam. We might wonder what new evidence has emerged since 2002 that would justify this reversal. There does not seem to have been a new commission formed to investigate the alleged apparitions on the part of either the Diocese or the Holy See. The 1974 judgment of non constat de supernaturalitate does not mean there was “no evidence of the supernatural nature of the apparitions” as the English translation reads. Instead, it means “the supernatural character of the apparitions was not established”, as the Italian and French translations read (“non constava della soprannaturalità delle apparizioni”; “le caractère surnaturel des apparitions n’était pas établi”). Catholics, of course, must manifest obedience to the decision of Bishop Hendriks and the CDF. Nothing, though, prevents the faithful from praying that in due time Rome will change its position, as has happened in the past—even in cases of very negative judgements (for instance concerning the revelations to Sister Faustina on Divine Mercy, or the mystical experiences of Padre Pio).
It’s also important to realize that requests for dogmatic proclamations recognizing Mary as Coredemptrix and/or Mediatrix of All Graces do not depend on the apparitions of Amsterdam. Dogmas can be confirmed by private revelations, but they can never be based on them. At Vatican I (1869–1870), the French bishop Jean Laurent asked for a dogmatic definition of Mary as Coredemptrix, and in 1915 Cardinal Mercier of Belgium coordinated four separate petitions to Benedict XV to proclaim the dogma of Mary, Mediatrix of All Graces. Even at Vatican II some 300–500 bishops requested a formal definition of Mary as Mediatrix of All Graces, and 54 asked for formal recognition of Mary as Coredemptrix.
What is consoling is that devotion to Mary as Our Lady of All Nations can continue with the support of Bishop Hendriks and the Holy See. Recognizing the Blessed Virgin as the Mother of All Peoples is affirmed by numerous popes and by Vatican II’s affirmation of Mary as “the Mother of the living” (Lumen Gentium, 56). In his 1895 encyclical. Adiutricem, Leo XIII taught that “the mystery of Christ's immense love for us is revealed with dazzling brilliance in the fact that the dying Savior bequeathed His Mother to His disciple John in the memorable testament: ‘Behold thy son.’ Now in John, as the Church has constantly taught, Christ designated the whole human race and in the first rank are they who are joined with Him by faith” (no. 6). If the Beloved Disciple, John, represented the whole human race, then Mary is indeed the Mother of all human beings and the Mother of All Nations. As Mother of All Nations, she remains the Queen of Peace. We must implore her help as the great Advocate to help us avoid degeneration, disaster, and war.