THE DECLARATIONS OF MSGR J.M. PUNT
During the second Dutch prayerday of the Lady of all Nations, which took place on June 8, 2002 in the Jaap Edenhal in Amsterdam, Msgr Punt announced to the approx. 1500 faithful present, that in a letter to about thirty bishops all over the world, he has pronounced that he, according to his judgement, came to the conclusion that the apparitions of the Lady of all Nations consist of a supernatural origin. The bishop said: "In light and virtue of all these recommendations, testimonies and developments, and in pondering all this in prayer and theological reflection, I have come to the conclusion that the apparitions of the Lady of all Nations in Amsterdam consist of a supernatural origin..." This all can be read in the bishop's letter dated May 31, 2002 in which he answers questions about the Amsterdam apparitions. For the full text of the letter see the end of this article.
In our AVE Newsletter number 2 of June 2001 we already formulated our point of view on the apparitions and the recent statements from the bishop did not alter our point of view. As a matter of fact this new development induced us to make further inquiries into the case of the Lady of all Nations.
THE LETTER OF MAY 31, 2002: RECOGNITION OF THE AUTHENTICITY OF THE APPARITIONS OF THE 'LADY' IN AMSTERDAM
The bishop asserts: "As bishop of Haarlem/Amsterdam, I have been requested to make a statement regarding the authenticity of the apparitions of Mary as the Lady of all Nations in Amsterdam during the years of 1945-1959. Many members of the faithful and bishops have emphasized the urgency for clarification. I also have been personally aware that this development of devotion, which has spanned over 50 years, call for this." This is a very peculiar pronouncement. The declarations made by the various Commissions who examined the case several times before, by previous bishops (Huibers/1956 - Zwartkruis/1972) and the repeated declarations from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith were clear and explicit enough: the events of Amsterdam do not consist of a supernatural origin.
Msgr Bomers (1983-1998) was put under high pressure by the fanatic proponents. They managed to induce the bishop to approve the public devotion of Mary under the title of 'Lady of all Nations' (letter dated May 31, 1996, also signed by his then auxiliary bishop Msgr Punt). And on June 20,1997 Msgr Bomers declared that there are no objections against the veneration of Mary under the same title.
To separate the devotion from its source is very strange indeed and not logical at all. Msgr. Bomers action caused quite a lot of confusion and defied the authority of former bishops and of Rome.
Nota bene: On May 22, 1998 Msgr Bomers informed Mr. Waterinckx of Brugge, Belgium, by letter that he does not recognize the supernaturality of Amsterdam...!!! In a letter, black on white, with the bishops' signature... This statement was made considerable time after his declarations of May 31, 1996 and June 20, 1997 and this indicates that if Msgr Bomers had still been here, the situation would probably have remained unchanged.
"Many members of the faithful and bishops have emphasized the urgency..." But the reaction of the Dutch bishops was rather halfhearted. When Msgr Punt, during question time before a bishops conference was closed, made reference to his 'recognition' of the 'Lady', his colleagues simply took a note of it. No congratulations. Apparently his colleagues are better informed about 'The Lady' than the bishop of the Haarlem Diocese. People are now already drawing lines between Amsterdam and Fatima, even by some newspapers. But how different was the approval of Fatima in 1930!? That was a real celebration. And soon afterwards there was an enormous national pilgrimage in gratitude of all Portugese bishops to Fatima. But Msgr Punt seems to be solitary amongst the bishops in the Netherlands.
About what and to whom the bishop wants to speak out?
Msgr Punt says that he has observed that the devotion has taken its place in the spiritual life of millions all over the world, and that it possesses the support of many bishops. According to us this is a rather exaggerated statement. We found out that, especially abroad, only relatively small groups are enthusiastic about Amsterdam and that the devotion is of very limited significance. Moreover we found out that people outside the Netherlands are informed one-sidedly and amongst others never heard of the repeated statements from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It is true that prayer cards are distributed by the thousands in many countries and in many languages but one cannot say that because of this the devotion has taken its place in the spiritual life of millions all over the world... Thousands of pilgrims come to Fatima and Lourdes daily and during high-days hundreds of thousands. An annual prayerday in Amsterdam attracts 1500 pilgrims only... So, one cannot say that there is an untenable situation, like Mr. Soffner of the Supervisory Commission stated and consequently there is no sound argument why the bishop had to speak out about the authenticity.
The question to what extent these 'apparitions' have been bearing fruits cannot be simply answered. An impartial investigation into this could be held. But some 'other' fruits have already appeared: the hard core of 'The Lady' are of the opinion that you have to believe in 'The Lady' to be a Roman Catholic. They consider believing in 'The Lady' as a criterion for the orthodoxy. In that way 'The Lady' acts like seeds of disruption and for this reason 'The Lady' cannot be from heaven.
"It is primarily the task of the local bishop to speak out in conscience regarding the authenticity of private revelations that take place or have taken place within his diocese." Rightly so, but this was already done sufficiently by his predecessors, unless the present bishop can prove beyond any doubt that his predecessor were utterly wrong. He cannot act as if he were the first bishop to speak out and ignore the well-founded conclusions of his predecessors. If this step would be right, his successor would have as much right to revoke it (which is not as improbable as it seems, because many, clergy, intellectuals , theologians and members of the faithful consider the happenings of Amsterdam as heresy).
In his letter of May 31, 2002 Msgr Punt says a.o.: that he has asked once again for the advice of theologians and psychologists concerning outcomes of previous investigations, and the questions and objections deriving from them. Who are these experts? Did the bishop also ask the opinion of the skeptics? How was the investigation carried out? Has there been an investigation into the apparitions in itself or was the investigation meant to look into the propagation of the devotion only? Did the experts examine the foundations? Did they thoroughly study previous investigations and take the outcome of this into honest consideration? If only the kind of spiritual fruits a devotion delivers is taken into consideration, then the authenticity of Medjugorje could be approved as well, because many bishops and theologians enthusiastically speak about the fruits of Medjugorje. But this is not a good argument at all. The right argument goes into the foundation of it: the apparitions in itself! A commission also has to follow criteria given by Rome. Did they do so? Former Commissions as well as prominent theologians did see objections, theological as well as psychological. They concluded that the messages did not come, could not have come, from heaven, that Mary never revealed herself in this way and that the revelations did not consist of a supernatural origin, whereupon Msgr. Huibers in 1955 declared that taken into consideration the contents of the messages and also the circumstances of the events, nothing can be found which cannot be explained entirely in a normal and natural fashion. Had those former experts and bishops it all wrong? Does Msgr Punt understand the importance of the investigations of former Commissions, of his predecessors and the confirmations of these by Rome? Does he understand, taken into consideration all previous negative declarations, that his investigation should go much further, much deeper into the matter. The Holy Office (now: Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) declared on August 25, 1961: "After ample consideration the Holy Office has decided that the matter is definite and that one should not revert to it." This was confirmed again in 1974 and in 1987.
"In light and virtue of all these recommendations, testimonies and developments, and in pondering all this in prayer and theological reflection, I have come to the conclusion that the apparitions of the Lady of all Nations in Amsterdam consist of a supernatural origin", Msgr Punt professes. Apparently the bishop disregards all former recommendations, testimonies and developments, does not mind anything and just follows the recommendations of 'some theologians and psychologists' whom he once again asked for advice. It is simple enough to ask for advice from people of whom you know that they are behind your cause. But it will be clear that such an advice is of little to no value at all. For such an important cause, of great importance to the Worldchurch, one could expect that a Commission would be set up, in which theologians, psychologists and other influential experts, proponents and sceptics would participate.
"Also authentic images and visions are always transmitted to us, - to use the words of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith -, through the filter of our senses, which carry out a work of translation..." and "...are influenced by the potentialities and limitations of the perceiving subject." To use this pronouncement of Cardinal Ratzinger (Cardinal Ratzinger, Theological Commentary In Preparation for the Release of the Third Part of the Secret of Fatima, L'Osservatore Romano, June 28, 2000) in this context is wrong and misplaced. Obviously Msgr Punt wants to cover himself against the frequently made objection that the alleged seer of Amsterdam was not a very exact person and not clear in het expressions; they were often vague. The comparison with the children of Fatima is misplaced because in Fatima the children were very exact and what they saw and heard was clearly imprinted on their memories. It was all precise, concrete and reliable and of completely different and incomparably higher order of experience than the reports of Ida Peerdeman of Amsterdam. In Fatima Mary made predictions which came true. Take for instance the miracle of the sun. Apart from unintelligible statements Mary never made clear predictions in Amsterdam and if they were made, never came true. Influences from the world around the seer were more than often the basic elements of the so-called apparitions.
"Unlike Holy Scripture, private revelations are never binding upon the conscience of the faithful", Msgr Punt said. Correct, but if a bishop throws his weight in the scale, announcing that he recognizes some alleged supernatural event, he plays on the conscience of the faithful.
But the not-binding character of a bishop's pronouncement does not release the bishop of his duty to make a thorough investigation whereby the results of all former investigations will be taken along. Furthermore Msgr Punt should realize that his 'approval' is not so non-committal as it sounds, because proponents will continue to strive for the dogma, as is asked for in the 'messages'.
Though a private revelation may never be binding upon the conscience of the faithful, it nevertheless is thrusted upon you in some churches. Those who want to pray the special prayer of 'The Lady' should do so in private gatherings in order not to burden or irritate the faithful who have no affinity with 'Amsterdam'.
"And the signs of our times are dramatic. The devotion of the Lady of all Nations can help us, in my sincere conviction, in guiding us on the right path during the present serious drama of our times, the path to a new and special outpouring of the Holy Spirit", so the bishop says. It is not strange to believe that the Holy Spirit comes to our help also in our times. But is it the Holy Spirit who speaks in the messages to the seer Ida Peerdeman, messages which are of dubious help, very much confused and debatable and even silly. The exalted expectations of a special coming of the Holy Spirit is akin to and paves the way to sensational end-of-the-time thinking and feeling, that something mysterious, something special will happen that will change this decadent world, a kind of feeling similar to that of the Pentecostal movement.
THE LETTER OF JUNE 18, 2002: ONLY RECOGNITION OF THE DEVOTION
In a letter, dated June 18, 2002, addressed to the faithful of the Haarlem Diocese (a sort of a pastoral writing, but which was not) Msgr Punt wrote: "Undoubtedly you have heard of the approval which I gave to the devotion of Mary as the Lady of all Nations." and "What I have said is that to my sincere conviction this devotion is in fact authentic and comes from God."
Contrary to what Msgr Punt announced in his letter of May 31, 2002, viz. "...I have come to the conclusion that the apparitions of the Lady of all Nations in Amsterdam consist of a supernatural origin" he casually and only once used the word 'apparitions' in this letter of June, 18. So de bishop now says that he approves the devotion to Mary as the Lady of all Nations and that to his sincere conviction the devotion is 'in fact' authentic. As the devotion was already publicly allowed in 1996 and in 1997, the contents of this letter to the faithful in the Haarlem diocese was not very sensational, certainly not to those who had not heard of the letter dated May 31, 2002, because many people (wrongly) believed that the devotion had been approved already in 1996/1997. Now some people, rightly or wrongly, got the impression that the bishop climbed down, that he, in his letter of June 18, was somewhat premature, spoke before his turn.
Possibly the confusion is even greater now.
Because of this remarkable manoeuver opponents and proponents are more divided than ever before.
Many people may now believe that the bishop has approved the authenticity of the apparitions. He has indeed done so in his letter of May 31, 2002 to a number of bishops and at the prayerday on June 8, 2002. But in his letter to the faithful of June 18, 2002 he does not mention the authenticity of the apparitions of 'The Lady' at all but only mentions the approval of the devotion. It seems that he backs out from the approval of the authenticity of the apparitions.
What now is the status of 'The Lady'? What is against a bishop being explicit? A bishop too may be mistaken in such matters. This occurred several times in church history but was later on set right.
In our opinion it is Msgr Punt task now to provide clarity in this matter. That is his duty as bishop. And the faithful have the right to get it. Furthermore it is desirable to investigate whether the approval of the devotion is misplaced because, according to our opinion, the approval of the devotion (1996) also means, to a certain extent, approval of the apparitions (see our Newsletter number 2 of June 2001 for an explicit explanation). Furthermore also the approval of 'The Lady of Akita' should be reexamined by the local bishop or the bishops conference in conjunction with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The church can too easily be influenced by such very questionable 'apparitions' which are propagated worldwide for the purpose of a certain ideology.
Msgr Punt further declared: "For me a sign of supernaturalness is also the strong Trinitarian and Christocentric character of the devotion. Mary repeatedly points to Him and the cross." This explanation is irrational, one only has to look at the image of the 'Lady', who places herself before the cross (without the body of Christ on it!), focusing the attention to herself and not to Christ. In fact, she takes the cross all for herself! Her posture is brazen, the expression on het face is commanding. Yet, the real Mary was humbly standing under the cross, not in a victorious posture, but suffering.
"The Supervisory Commission will draw up a list of questions and remarks and evaluate these to the best of their ability", bishop Punt says. This Supervisory Commission only just started with its work and it should get a chance to come forward with something tangible. Does a Supervisory Commission differ from a Commission of Inquiry? What is the sense of a forgoing approval? Are the members of the new Supervisory Commission independent, unprejudiced and do they have sufficient expertise? Who appointed the members of the Supervisory Commission? What is their background? Is there within the Commission room for experts who, in accordance with the declarations made by the church from the beginning until the 'approval' by Msgr Punt, will be in a position to dispute the authenticity of the 'apparitions' and the 'messages' of 'The Lady'? Questions to which many would like to get an answer in order to avert the pretense of prejudiced cliquism.
THE CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH
What can now be expected from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith? Rome repeatedly declared that the apparitions are not supernatural. As recent as 1987 the Congregation confirmed that the declaration of May 25, 1974 concerning alleged apparitions in Amsterdam has neither been revoked nor altered and as a consequence remains in force in full. (See AVE Newsletter number 2 of June, 2001).
It is an undeniable fact that the 'Lady of all Nations movement' draws lots of gullible people (and clergy too) who also believe in other so-called apparitions. You can fill in the examples yourself. With each supposedly supernatural phenomenon a sense of devotion is created by certain people. Other people who have carefully studied the 'case of Amsterdam' and the confusing, questionable and sometimes silly and occult messages, wonder how it is possible that fanatic headstrong persons could have come that far with 'Amsterdam' and read with disbelief Msgr Punt's declaration.
The success of Amsterdam and many other apparitions/phenomenon is mainly the result of propaganda made by some very closely involved people and/or of commercial interest. Amsterdam came into the spot-light thanks to Msgr Hnilica (a bishop who, according to some people, has never been able to prove that he was ordained as bishop) and father Paul Sigl, who, after they tried in vain to get involved in Medjugorje and with the meanwhile exposed impostor Theresa Lopez of Denver USA, travel the wold in order to promote Amsterdam, whereby they do not hesitate to misuse Fatima (at Fatima's strong displeasure), to manipulate with Fatima and to call Amsterdam the fulfillment of Fatima. The question remains by what authority Msgr Hnilica and father Sigl operate in Amsterdam.
Let us pray, for all of us who need it, for enlightenment from the Holy Spirit.