The Amsterdam Apparitions: Where Are We Now?
Dr. Robert Fastiggi
Dr. Robert Fastiggi, Professor of Theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Michigan, has authored the following extremely factual and well-documented article regarding the status of the Amsterdam apparitions of the “Lady of All Nations,” which has been published on Patheos (who has granted permission for its free republication) —Editor.
On December 30, 2020, Bishop Johannes Hendriks, the current bishop of Haarlem-Amsterdam, issued a clarification regarding the devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary as “The Lady of all Nations.” (1) In his clarification, he allows public veneration of the title, image and prayer to continue, but he also states that this in no way can be understood as recognition of the supernatural character of the Amsterdam Apparitions. This position, though, departs from the judgement of his predecessor, Bishop Jozef Marianus Punt, who on May 31, 2002, approved the apparitions as in essence consisting of a supernatural origin. (2)
What happened? It appears that Bishop Hendriks followed instructions of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith [CDF] in Rome, which provided him with the information that Pope Paul VI, on April 5, 1974, approved the CDF’s judgement "that the supernatural character of the Amsterdam Apparitions was not established." This information is quite surprising. The 1974 judgement of the CDF was posted on the Vatican website as a “notification” dated May 25, 1974 (3) without, however, any reference to an approval by Paul VI. (4)
Bishop Punt, when asked, confirmed that he was never informed of Paul VI's approval of the 1974 CDF document during his time as Auxiliary Bishop and Bishop (1995-2020). It seems, in fact, that none of the Bishops of Haarlem (now Haarlem-Amsterdam) were informed of this during the 46 years between 1974 and 2020. It also seems that none of the Amsterdam bishops have ever seen a copy of Paul VI's approval of the 1974 CDF judgement. On January 9, 2021, in an EWTN interview with Michael O'Neill, Bishop Hendriks admitted that no written document of Paul VI was presented to him. (5)
If in fact the case was presented to Paul VI, it could never have constituted a final decision, as is suggested in the Dec. 30, 2020 statement, since canonically it would have to have been promulgated and communicated to achieve binding force. Canon 54§2 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law states: "To be enforced, a singular decree must be made known by a legitimate document according to the norm of Law. (6) This, however, never happened. (7) If Paul VI did in fact approve the 1974 notification, then he only confirmed a “non constat” position at that time, which, by its nature, is not a final decision that can never be revised.
The 1974 CDF notification in itself also does not prevent further developments, as it was a clearly a “non constat” statement. The original Italian says that the supernatural character [of the Amsterdam] apparitions was not established (non constava della soprannaturalità delle apparizioni). (8) This corresponds to the Latin “non constat de supernaturalitate,” which means that the supernatural character is not evident or determined at the present time. The German translation, posted on the Vatican website confirms this understanding: "Die Übernatürlichkeit der Erscheinungen steht nicht fest" (“the supernatural character is not fixed or certain”). (9) Once again, this formulation indicates that the supernatural character of the apparitions has not yet been confirmed, but further developments and investigations are still possible.
Subsequent developments did occur. The 1974 CDF Notification prohibited public veneration of “The Lady of all Nations.” In 1990 and 1995, however, the CDF gave explicit permission to the Bishops of Haarlem to approve public devotion to the “Lady of All Nations,” with the addition, however, that this had to be differentiated from an approval of authenticity. (10) This approval of public devotion was officially given by Bishops Bomers and Punt in 1996. (11) In 2002, Bishop Punt approved the apparitions in essence as worthy of belief and supernatural. (12) According to the 1978 CDF norms concerning private revelations, the local bishop has the primary responsibility "in the discernment of presumed apparitions or revelations." (13) Thus, Bishop Punt acted in full accordance with these norms in 2002. Moreover, the 1974 CDF notification did not prevent Bishop Punt from ruling in favor of the supernatural character of the Amsterdam apparitions. The 1974 ruling of “non constat de supernaturalitate,” by its very nature, was neither final nor definitive. The CDF did not confirm the Bishop’s 2002 approval of authenticity, and it continues to hold to the “non constat” position. The CDF, however, did not overrule the position of the local bishop with a new investigation or with argumentation. The question remains whether a subsequent bishop can, on his own authority, disqualify a formal approval by his predecessor. A subsequent bishop can, of course, take disciplinary actions different from his predecessor.
Where does all this leave us now? The disciplinary measures of Bishop Hendriks must be followed in obedience, as long as the CDF holds to its non constat position regarding the Amsterdam apparitions. History, however, also shows that even strong negative positions can be totally reversed by the Holy See—as was the case with the Divine Mercy apparitions to St. Faustina. (14) If the apparitions to Ida Peerdeman in Amsterdam were in fact supernatural in character, those devoted to Our Lady of All Nations should have confidence that, in the future, these apparitions will be recognized by the Holy See.
The essence of the devotion has been twofold. First, it is the praying the prayer for the coming of the Holy Spirit over our wounded world. We can still pray the Prayer of the Lady of All Nations, privately and publicly. Secondly, the devotion includes confidence in the promise of Our Lady, that if the Church—especially in a dogmatic formulation—would honor her with all the greatness the Lord has granted her as our Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate, then she will be allowed by God to save the world from a great global catastrophe. We can still honor Our Lady as our Co-redemptrix and Mediatrix, as these titles are an integral and long-standing part of Catholic Tradition. (15) We must, however, avoid associating these titles with approval of the supernatural character of the Amsterdam apparitions.
Humanity is, in fact, in a time of great crisis. The battle between the dragon and the “Woman, clothed with the sun” continues in our present age. Now is the time to seek Our Lady’s powerful maternal intercession for the Church and for the entire world.
Dr. Robert Fastiggi is a professor of dogmatic theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit, Michigan
(1) Bishop Hendriks’ clarification along with an explanation and pastoral word can be found in the news archives of the Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam: https://www.bisdomhaarlem-amsterdam.nl/?p=news&id=4486.
(2) The May 31, 2002 statement of Bishop Punt is available at: https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/library/in-response-to-inquiries-concerning-the-lady-of-all-nations-apparitions-3828.
(3) The CDF’s 1974 notification can be found in the original Italian and various translations on the Vatican website: https://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19740525_signora-amsterdam_it.html.
(4) According to John Paul II’s apostolic constitution, Pastor Bonus (June 28, 1988), the CDF does its work with an innate dependence on the Roman Pontiff (no. 8). Some judgments of the CDF (Holy Office), however, specifically mention papal approval such as the July 24, 1951 Decree of the Holy Office concerning the alleged apparitions in Heroldsbach Germany. See the Acta Apostolicae Sedis 44 (1951) 561–562.
(5) The link to the interview can be found at: https://soundcloud.com/ewtn-radio/the-miracle-hunter-michael-oneill-01092021.
(6) The 1983 Code is available at: https://www.vatican.va/archive/cod-iuris-canonici/eng/documents/cic_lib1-cann35-93_en.html.
(7) The first public reference to Paul VI’s approval of the 1974 CDF notification appears in a footnote in a 2010 article published by Msgr. Charles J. Scicluna, now the Archbishop of Malta and an adjunct secretary to the CDF. Although Msgr. Scicluna was an official of the CDF in 2010, his reference to Paul VI’s 1974 approval of the CDF’s notification on Amsterdam was not an official announcement of the Congregation. See Charles J. Scicluna, “Orientamenti Dottrinali e Competenze del Vescovo Diocesano e della Congregazione per la Dottrina della Fede nel Discernimento delle Apparizioni Mariane” in Apparitiones Beatae Mariae Virginis in Historia. Fide, Theologiae: Acta Congressus Mariologici=Mariani Internationalis in Civitate Lourdes Anno 2008 Celebrati (Città del Vaticano: Pontificia Academia Mariana Internationalis, 2010) p. 355, footnote 3. In this article, Msgr. Scicluna incorrectly identifies the 1974 CDF judgment as “constat de non supernaturalitate” (it is established as not being supernatural). In an article published two years later, Msgr. Scicluna correctly gives the 1974 CDF judgment as “non constat de supernaturalitate” (the supernatural is not established). See “Criteri e norme della Congregazione per la Dottrina della Fede nel discernimento delle apparizioni mariane” Marianum LXXIV (2012), page 271, footnote 108.
(8) The original language of the notification was Italian because it appears in Italian as Document 64 in the Enchiridion Vaticanum Supplementum 1. Documenti Ufficiali della Santa Sede Omissa 1962–1987: Testo ufficiale e versione italiana (Bologna: Edizioni Dehoninane: 1990) 493–495.
(9) The German translation can be found on the Vatican website in the section on the Roman Curia: https://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19740525_signora-amsterdam_ge.html.
(10) On September 15, 2020, Bishop Punt provided an overview of the developments regarding the Amsterdam apparitions and devotions. This overview is available here: https://www.motherofallpeoples.com/post/bishop-answers-request-for-clarification-regarding-the-amsterdam-apparitions.
(11) See https://www.devrouwevanallevolkeren.nl/en/approbation-of-the-title-1996/.
(12) The May 31, 2002 statement of Bishop Punt is available at: https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/library/in-response-to-inquiries-concerning-the-lady-of-all-nations-apparitions-3828.
(13) See III.1 of these norms, which are available on the Vatican website at: https://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19780225_norme-apparizioni_en.html.