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How to Answer Protestants Forum: apparition of Mary

by Catherine Frakas 10 Aug 2002

apparition of Mary QUESTION from Mary Graham on May 2, 2002 Why is the apparition of Mary on the bank in Clearwater Florida not approved by the church. Is the entire Shepards of Christ movement not approved? If not, Why?
ANSWER by Mr. Troy Martz on June 23, 2002 Dear Mary:
There is considerable confusion about what it means for an apparition to be considered approved by the Church. The process of approval requires complete evaluation of the apparition, message, and those who received the message by Church authorities.
Generally, it is first tested for doctrinal soundness -- does any message contradict the teaching of the Church? Or, can the messages be easily misinterpreted to contradict the faith? Since the Church was divinely instituted by Christ and is grounded in Apostolic Tradition (both in the written Scripture and unwritten interpretation), messangers who contradict the teaching of the Church cannot be from God regardless of who they claim to be. Also, since the Apostolic Tradition contains the fullness of faith handed down by the Apostles, any apparation proclaiming new doctrine that is not part of that Tradition is obviously false. If the apparation is doctrinally sound, does it have universal application.
Next, does the apparation lead those who received it to holiness, sanctity, and devotion or does it lead them away from the sacramental life of the Church?
Additionally, what is the mental state of those claiming to have received the apparation? Are they of sound mind? Could they be seeking self aggrandisement or profit?
As you can see, it is much more likely that the Church will disapprove an apparation than approve one. Even if there is no reason to disapprove the apparation, it can take decades (or even centuries) for authentic apparations to be recognized by the Church. There are only a handful of approved apparations in the history of the Church. That is not to say that any unapproved apparations are false, only that they have not been disapproved.
When dealing with apparations it is important to remember that all apparations, approved or not, fall into the realm of private revelation. Public revelation (Scripture and Sacred Tradition) ended with the death of the last Apostle. No private revelation is binding on anyone other than the person who received it. Faithful Catholics are encouraged to learn from approved apparations, but are not required to believe in them or accept any message.
I am not familiar with the Shepherds of Christ. The best way to determine the validity of a movement is to evaluate their loyalty to Rome and their obedience to the local Bishop. Any organization that discourages either of these things is immediately suspect. Since I don't know the status of this particular movement, I will leave that to you to find out.
Pax Christi, Troy
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