Recently, a reader submitted to the Lepanto Institute an article written by Msgr. Patrick Perez regarding the devotion to the Divine Mercy. In the article, Msgr. Perez indicates a number of reasons for which he is deeply concerned about St. Faustina and the Divine Mercy devotion initiated by her and the writings in her diary.
There are several errors and misstatements in Msgr. Perez’s article on the Divine Mercy devotion. Msgr. Perez focuses on what he called “condemnations” of the Divine Mercy devotion, and gives no attention to the rescinding of these “condemnations.” For the sake of clarity, it must be stated here that neither St. Faustina’s diary nor the devotion to the Divine Mercy were ever “condemned”. However, Msgr. Perez asserts that:
“Pius XII put the writings of Sr. Faustina on the Index of Prohibited Books. That meant that he considered that their content would lead Catholics astray or in the wrong direction. Next, came other prohibitions made by Pope John XXIII. Twice in his pontificate, the Holy Office issued condemnations of the Divine Mercy writings.“
However, this is not exactly what happened. Cardinal Ottaviani, then head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, attempted to persuade Pope Pius XII to sign a letter condemning the Divine Mercy devotion as written by Sr. Faustina. Instead, the diary was placed on the Index of Prohibited Books. This is not the same thing as a condemnation. This same pope, incidentally, blessed an Image of the Divine Mercy in Rome on 24 June 1956. Not exactly the action of one preparing to condemn this devotion.
Furthermore, Pope John XXIII did not “condemn” the diary or the devotion either. However, the Holy Office under his direction forbade circulation of “images and writings that promote devotion to Divine Mercy in the forms proposed by Sister Faustina.” Suppression of the devotion is not the same thing as condemnation. More to the point, the reasons behind the suppression were the result of poor translations of the diary. Also, it cannot be considered mere coincidence that St. Faustina accurately predicted this suppression and the lifting of the suppression in 1935. She said in her diary:
“There will come a time when this work, which God is demanding so very much, will be as though utterly undone. And then God will act with great power, which will give evidence of its authenticity. It will be a new splendor for the Church, although it has been dormant in it from long ago. That God in infinitely merciful, no one can deny. He desires everyone to know this before He comes again as Judge. He wants souls to come to know Him first as King of Mercy. When this triumph comes, we shall already have entered the new life in which there is no suffering. But before this, your soul [referring to Fr. Sopocko] will be surfeited with bitterness at the sight of the destruction of your efforts. However, this will only appear to be so, because what God has once decided upon, He does not change. But although this destruction will be such only in outward appearance, the suffering will be real. When will this happen? I do not know. How long will it last? I do not know. But God has promised a great grace especially to you and to all those… “who will proclaim My great mercy. I shall protect them Myself at the hour of death as my own glory.” (1738)
Of note here is that St. Faustina told her spiritual director, Fr. Sopocko, that she and he would both die before the suppression of this devotion was lifted. Fr. Sopocko died in 1975, three years before the suppression was lifted in 1978.
Cdl. Ottaviani, as head of the CDF, was responsible for the suppression of the Divine Mercy devotion. Given the information he had at the time, his suppression was well founded. As Msgr. Perez points out, the Holy Office declared that “There is no evidence of the supernatural origin of these revelations.” The caveat “at this time” should have been added to this statement. The lifting of the suppression of the Divine Mercy Devotion by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith says:
“This Sacred Congregation, having now in possession the many original documents unknown in 1959, and having taken into account the profoundly changed circumstances, and having taken into account the opinion of many Polish Ordinaries, declares no longer binding the prohibitions contained in the Notification [of 1959].”
While Cdl. Ottaviani was the one responsible for the suppression of the Divine Mercy devotion, he is ALSO the same individual who appointed Archbishop Karol Wojtyła of Kraków to begin the informative process on Faustina’s life and virtues in 1965. It was through this process that the translation error was discovered, interviews with St. Faustina’s spiritual director and sister nuns were conducted, and the suppression subsequently reversed. Were the Divine Mercy devotion and St. Faustina’s diary actually condemned, this appointment and informative process would never have taken place, and certainly would not have been initiated by Cdl. Ottaviani.
And while Msgr. Perez points out that Pope John XXIII issued two “condemnations” of the Divine Mercy writings, he is the same pope that did not publish the Third Secret of Fatima as requested by Our Lady. One cannot weigh his opinion of the one without his opinion of the other.
With regard to the claims of papal condemnations of the Divine Mercy devotion, it is intellectually dishonest for Msgr. Perez to equivocate suppression with condemnation and then focus exclusively on the suppression of the Divine Mercy devotion while ignoring the Church’s lifting of the suppression and institution of Divine Mercy Sunday. Either the Church through Her Pope has the power to bind and loose or she does not. By focusing on the suppression and falsely claiming it as a condemnation, and then ignoring the lifting of the suppression and institution of Divine Mercy Sunday, Msgr. Perez is mischaracterizing the nature of the actions taken by the Church and denies Her authority in these matters when they disagree with his limited understanding of the matter.
Making another point, Msgr. Perez says, “The central error of the Divine Mercy is that it promises lots of spiritual rewards with no requirement of penance, no mention of reparation, no mention of any condition.” The claim that there is no condition is simply untrue. In entry 699, Our Lord said to St. Faustina regarding the “Feast of Mercy” (which we now call Divine Mercy Sunday), “The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment.” As for the concern about “spiritual rewards with no requirement of penance and no mention of reparation,” it must be noted that the conditions of Confession and Holy Communion for the remittance of punishment due to sin are no different than the conditions required for the reception of a plenary indulgence. It is difficult to see how Msgr. Perez can take issue with the “spiritual rewards” of Divine Mercy Sunday without also denying the spiritual rewards that accompany a plenary indulgence.
In the last portion of his article, Msgr. Perez expresses concern over the intimate language Our Lord uses when speaking to St. Faustina. I will only say this … if Msgr. Perez is disturbed by the intimate language in the diary of St. Faustina, then he should avoid reading any of the other mystics who have had similar experiences. To this, I will only quote St. Catherine of Siena’s “Dialogue” as dictated by her while in a state of ecstasy:
“But, in no way, does the creature receive such a taste of the truth, or so brilliant a light therefrom, as by means of humble and continuous prayer, founded on knowledge of herself and of God; because prayer, exercising her in the above way, unites with God the soul that follows the footprints of Christ Crucified, and thus, by desire and affection, and union of love, makes her another Himself. Christ would seem to have meant this, when He said: To him who will love Me and will observe My commandment, will I manifest Myself; and he shall be one thing with Me and I with him. In several places we find similar words, by which we can see that it is, indeed, through the effect of love, that the soul becomes another Himself. That this may be seen more clearly, I will mention what I remember having heard from a handmaid of God, namely, that, when she was lifted up in prayer, with great elevation of mind, God was not wont to conceal, from the eye of her intellect, the love which He had for His servants, but rather to manifest it; and, that among other things, He used to say: “Open the eye of your intellect, and gaze into Me, and you shall see the beauty of My rational creature. And look at those creatures who, among the beauties which I have given to the soul, creating her in My image and similitude, are clothed with the nuptial garment (that is, the garment of love), adorned with many virtues, by which they are united with Me through love. And yet I tell you, if you should ask Me, who these are, I should reply” (said the sweet and amorous Word of God) “they are another Myself, inasmuch as they have lost and denied their own will, and are clothed with Mine, are united to Mine, are conformed to Mine.” It is therefore true, indeed, that the soul unites herself with God by the affection of love.”
There is one last point to be made with regard to the concerns of some traditionalists about the devotion to the Divine Mercy as written by St. Faustina. Cardinal Burke, when he was Archbishop of St. Louis, wrote a beautiful article about St. Faustina and the Divine Mercy. I highly recommend his article, and suggest that if Cardinal Burke is pleased with this devotion, then we ought to be at peace with it as well.