T H E   C H U R C H

AND

MARIA   VALTORTA'S

P O E M   O F

T H E   M A N G O D
 
 



  INTRODUCTORY  NOTE 

SINCE its translation into English, Maria Valtorta's Poem of the Man-God is enjoying an enthusiastic reception and rapid diffusion in the West. Some readers, however, having heard that the Work was placed on the Index of Forbidden Books, have inquired of Valtorta's editor and publisher, Emilio Pisani, about the truth of this assertion. The following excerpt translated from an article in the publisher's Bollettino Valtortiano [Valtorta Bulletin] No. 23, 1981, pp.90-92, addresses this question and gives the history of the Work's vicissitudes with Ecclesiastical authority.The editor returns to this subject in a much later edition of the Bollettino [No. 37, 1988, p.l47], also translated here for interested readers of Valtorta.

Of recent concern to some Valtorta readers, is a letter of Cardinal Ratzinger dated January 31, 1985, to the Archbishop of Genoa, Cardinal Siri, in response to an inquiry from a priest of that diocese about the Church's position toward Valtorta's Work. Cardinal Ratzinger affirms that Valtorta's Poem of the Man-God was originally placed on the Index of Forbidden Books (1959), and though the Index was abolished, that censure retains its moral value "for the more unprepared faithful". It must be emphasized, however, that it was only the 1st Edition, published in 1959, which was placed on the Index, probably because it was published as an anonymous work, without revealing Valtorta as its author. It also lacked theological annotations to clarify passages that might lend themselves to misinterpretation. The 2nd (current) Edition of Valtorta's Poem..., published in 1961, received verbal approval for publication from Father Giraudo, O.P., Vice-Commissioner of the Holy Office (see below), since it bore Valtorta's name as author, and was amply annotated, where clarification required it, by Fr. Corrado Berti, O.S.M., the theologian charged by his Order with evaluating Valtorta's writings. (On all this see also especially Fr. Berti's Testimony , paragraphs 4 & 10.) Readers will find Cardinal Ratzinger's Letter to Cardinal Siri, as well as the publisher's commentary on it, in Appendix I below.

There is however a more recent clarification on Valtorta's Poem, from Cardinal Ratzinger, in a letter of April 17, 1993, directed to Bishop Boland of Birmingham, Alabama, together with an analysis provided by Prof. Leo Brodeur, of the Valtora Research Center. For this clarification, see Appendix II below.

With regard to the publisher's statement that Valtorta's Work has never had an official "Imprimatur", it must be noted that this requirement was abrogated in 1966, by a Decree of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith. The Decree, approved by Pope Paul Vl on October 14, 1966, was later published at the wish of Pope Paul and states as follows:

"IT IS NO LONGER PROHIBITED TO DIVULGE, WITHOUT IMPRIMATUR, WRITINGS REGARDING NEW APPARITIONS, REVELATIONS, VISIONS, PROPHECIES AND MIRACLES." (Acta Apostolicae Sedis: No. 58/16, October 14, 1966)
-- Translator

I

[Bollettino Valtortiano No. 23. January-June 1981

"Imprimatur", a Latin word which means "let it be printed", is the formula of approval which the competent Ecclesiastical authority has affixed to books on religious subjects which, in its judgment, can be published without harm to the truth of the faith and to the integrity of its customs.

The Work, The Poem of the Man-God, is clothed with an essentially religious character, being a paraphrase of the Gospel. It is not detached from the truth of the faith, since that possibility is excluded by the opinions expressed for more than 30 years by authoritative and consecrated persons -- Christians, surely, who live the mind of the Church. And from the fruits of spiritual conversion which are constantly stirred up in its readers in every part of the world, it clearly does not harm the integrity of customs. Nevertheless, it has never had, and does not have, the Imprimatur. Why?

We editors have neither the authority nor competence to give a completely clarifying answer to this question. We can, however, report on the ambiance and the facts which of themselves have informed the birth and diffusion of the Work, so that the reader may know these and pay attention to interpreting the signs which accompany so singular a Work.

Emilio Pisani, Editor]

Relations of The Poem With Ecclesiastical Authority

Maria Valtorta had not finished writing The Poem of the Man-God when the Work began to have its first difficulties with the ecclesiastical hierarchy. Father Romualdo M. Migliorini, O.S.M., [Valtorta's spiritual director] had to be the involuntary cause of these.

Fr. Migliorini, who was a holy priest in the memory of his confreres and of all who knew him, did not limit himself to assisting Valtorta spiritually, but also took care of typing out the transcription of her handwritten notebooks. While dedicating himself to this labor, he let himself be seized by a growing enthusiasm for these writings, to the point of making a rash distribution of them in little typewritten pamphlets which, in the colorful language of Fr. Corrado Berti, O.S.M., were given the significant name of "birdseed". [Fr. Berti was Professor of Dogmatic Sacramental Theology, and successor to Fr. Migliorini as Valtorta's Director.]  Moreover, it seems that Fr. Migliorini had displayed the nature of these pages as "divine revelation" which, detached from the context of the Work, could have been provocative in their originality, above all for those times. In addition, the good Father began to occupy himself with at least two other women who, holding themselves to be clothed with a mission from on High, undertook some rather controversial initiatives. The most evident result was the removal of Fr. Migliorini who, in 1946, had to be transferred by an injunction of his Superiors from Viareggio to Rome. But it is probable that joined to that measure was a prohibition against continuing to diffuse the typescripts.

At Rome, Fr. Migliorini knew Father Corrado Berti, O.S.M., Professor of Dogmatic and Sacramental Theology. He confided to Fr. Berti about the existence of Maria Valtorta and, together with the latter, set himself the task of devising how to make the publication of Valtorta's writings possible and licit. Although the harmony of his relations with Valtorta was becoming always more shaky through an emerging incomprehension which, in their letters, reached polemical tones. Subsequently, the two finally stopped writing each other.

A Papal "Imprimatur"

In 1947, Frs. Migliorini and Berti, who were confreres in the Order of the Servites of Mary, succeeded in having this Work of 12 typewritten volumes, given to Pope Pius XII. After becoming personally acquainted with it, the Pope accorded an audience to the two Religious and their Prior, Fr. Andrew M. Cecchin, in February 1948. The opinion of Pius XII was favorable. He advised publishing the Work without cutting out anything, not even the explicit assertions reporting "visions" and "dictations". But at the same time he did not approve the text of a Preface which spoke of a supernatural phenomenon since, according to the Pope's advice, any interpretation should be left to the reader: "He who reads will understand."

Set free by such a high-ranking response, the two Religious gave themselves to the task of seeking an editor, and after some attempts that came to nothing, their enthusiasm brought them to the Vatican Polyglot Printery. Here they found a good attitude toward accepting the Work of Valtorta. Previously, however, the Work had been submitted to the Holy Office, where it ended by being severely and inexplicably blocked in 1949. It was suggested to Fr. Berti -- who would have to put his own signature to the sentence of the Holy Office without having the possibility of speaking -- that he should deliver [to them] the handwritten originals and all existing copies. But having kept in Rome only a small number of the originals, he instead hastened to go to Viareggio by night to deliver that small number back to their original owner, and he brought to the Holy Office only the typewritten copies, duplicates and incomplete, which at the moment were in his possession. Some authorities, solicited by Valtorta herself who had been deeply dejected, tried in vain to obtain a new papal audience.

First Edition of the Work

At the beginning of 1950, Valtorta's Work was finally taken over by our Printing and Publishing House [M. Pisani]. We did not want to enter into the subject of its passed vicissitudes, which seemed to obligate only those who wore a Religious habit, and we seemed to be sufficiently guaranteed by the very high judgment of the Pope and by the recorded certifications granted by indisputably competent and authoritative persons. But above all, the profound conviction prevailed in us that we would be serving a holy Work from which the Church would be greatly profited.

Our Bishop (then Msgr. Fontevecchia), who gave the Imprimatur to all the religious publications put out by our Publishing House, was not up to granting it to that compelling mass of typewritten pages, which he also appreciated and set himself to read, though already advanced in blindness.

The Work of Valtorta came out in its First Edition of four large volumes, now no longer available: the first volume in 1956, the last, in 1959. The name of the author was not given, out of respect for the desires of Maria Valtorta who did not want to be known in her lifetime. It spread slowly, with approval, without meeting any difficulty.

Censure of Holy Office Over Papal "Imprimatur"

But the death of Pius XII and the election of John XXIII, who favored a marked decentralization of the Church's government toward its competent Departments, seemed to cause a vigorous resumption of the allayed hostility toward it. The placing of the Work on the Index without the forewarning of any admonition, came like a thunderbolt in a serene sky. The Decree of Condemnation of the Holy Office was published on the first page of L'Osservatore Romano of Wednesday, January 6, 1960, Epiphany of the Lord, along with an unsigned article which occupied a whole column, under the title: "A Badly Novelized Life of Jesus". The content of that article, which at a distance of 20 years we can re-read with tested serenity, reflects its title, since it points out no substantial error in Valtorta's Work....

Grieved, as Catholics, by the Decree of interdict from the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office, we were calmed by this article which explained its motives. We immediately felt that the Church, by striking down the Work of Maria Valtorta with this step, legitimate, but extraneous to Her infallible Magisterium, did not do anything but repeat a gesture -- many times accomplished in Her history and always mysteriously permitted by God -- against persons and writings in which later on She would glory. And we accepted it in silence.

Maria Valtorta, having now entered into her inexplicable psychic isolation, would be dead the following year: October 12, 1961. Father Migliorini, consumed with illness, had expired in 1953. With Father Corrado Berti, O.S.M., constantly at our side, we found a system for resuming the publication of the Work with such criteria as would not exclude the respect due toward the authority of the Church. Basically, it was a question of not betraying a faith that had taken root in us, and, in case we were to relinquish that great Work, of not permitting other editors to appropriate it for themselves and use it for quite different purposes, possibly exploiting that very ecclesiastical condemnation for advertising ends.

Ecclesiastical Censure Withdrawn

In December of 1961, when the first volumes of the 10-volume edition had already gone out, Father Berti was summoned anew by the Holy Office, where he found an atmosphere of dialogue which, among other things, allowed him to relate the words of Pius XII of 1948, and to exhibit the favorable certifications of some authorities. Among these there were three consultors to the Holy Office itself : Father Augustine Bea, S.J. (who became a Cardinal), Msgr. Lattanzi, and Father Roschini. He was required by a report and some documentation to return to the Holy Office four more times in January of 1962, and was always able to deal with the Vice-Commissioner, Father Giraudo, a Dominican, and finally obtained a sentence which seemed a cautious approval: "We will see how the Work [The Poem] will be welcomed."

Meanwhile, after the announcement of an Ecumenical Council, the Church turned Her attention elsewhere, while the Work of Maria Valtorta, resurrected by this sudden stroke, had already resumed its slow and silent but incessant path of diffusion, registering continual approval and sowing incalculable good during the whole pontificate of Paul Vl. In 1966, the Index of Forbidden Books was suppressed, and the ensuing censure against readers and editors of the Work was repealed in view of a revision of the material which was newly enforced in 1975.

Gift of Valtorta's Work to Pope John Paul II --- Blocked

Toward the end of the year 1978, a Monsignor of the Roman Curia, a reader and profound admirer of Valtorta's Work, and previously a friend of Cardinal Wojtyla, induced the editor, Pisani, to offer to the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, the homage of the ten volumes of Valtorta's Work. In January of 1979, this same Monsignor brought the small box with the ten bound volumes to the Apostolic Palace, accompanied by a long letter of his own together with a shorter one from the editor. It was an attempt at feeling out the new Pontiff who so loves direct contact with every man without any discrimination. But we have reason to believe that our initiative, marked by an authentic spirit of devotion, was blocked by the Secretary of State.

Continued Prodigious Diffusion

For now, there remains the consolation of the prodigious spread of Maria Valtorta's Work which, without publicity, reaches its readers in Italy and abroad, even to the most distant countries. And reports returning to us have revealed the profound good it accomplishes in consciences, reawakening them to love toward Jesus Christ and His Church. It is an approval which for us begins to have an ecclesial value, because it shows that the people of God, which the Church is, has recognized this Work like the disciples of Emmaus recognized the Lord and could not detach themselves from Him. This approval gains competence when, from among honest but unknown readers, there emerge some known authorities who certify, justify, and endorse the greatness of Valtorta's Work. They cannot be refuted without demolishing the esteem which the Catholic world nurtures for its champions of sure doctrine and holy customs.


I I

[Bollettino Valtortiano No. 37, 1988

The frequent questions of readers about the position of the Church in confronting the Work of Maria Valtorta, induce us to return to this subject already treated in various numbers of our Bulletin (especially our Bollettino Valtortiano No. 23 [see above]), in order to mark certain aspects which seem to us to correspond with the needs felt by Catholic readers of our day. We do so to inform and guide minds, not to bind consciences.

-- Emilio Pisani, Editor]

The Work of Maria Valtorta in the Church

THE Ecclesiastical authorities and religious personages who are on record as having expressed themselves in favor of the Work, The Poem of the Man-God, have always done so according to their personal qualifications and with the reservation, implicit or explicit, of submitting themselves to the judgment of the Church. The only official pronouncement of the Ecclesiastical authority has been one of condemnation: placing of the Work on the Index by the Holy Office, December 16, 1959. But L'Osservatore Romano of January 1960, in publishing that decree of prohibition, gave the motives for it in an unsigned article which is as mild as may be written against the Work of Maria Valtorta.

We know that the condemnation of the Holy Office, even though binding for Catholics, was not an act of the infallible Magisterium of the Church. We know that the suppression of the Index of Forbidden Books that has since supervened, even though it has taken away the juridical effect of that measure, keeps its whole moral value for it. On the other hand, we do not know what nature or value we should attribute to the anonymous article on the motives of that condemnation. Nonetheless, we hold that, having appeared on the first page of L'Osservatore Romano together with the text of the Decree of the Holy Office, the article must represent the most secure one for the Catholic reader among positions against the Work of Maria Valtorta.

An analysis of that article can be read in our Bulletin No. 23 [Bollettino Valtortiano: see above ]. From it we now want to draw three fundamental conclusions:

The article of L'Osservatore Romano of January 6, 1960 has remained, together with the Decree of the Holy Office of December 16, 1959, the only pronouncement of the Church in regard to the Work of Maria Valtorta, and the Ecclesiastical authority applied in both are constantly recalled.

But Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (the former Holy Office), in a letter of January 31, 1985, to Cardinal Giuseppe Siri, then Archbishop of Genoa, specified that the decision of that condemnation was taken "with the aim of neutralizing the damage that such a publication could bring to the more unprepared faithful".

We are therefore led to hold that that prudent measure bound only the more unprepared, according to a criterion of evaluation reported in the year 1959. For example: today there hardly exist anymore the boarding-schools which were viewed in the L'Osservatore Romano article as a category particularly exposed to the "spiritual danger or damage" deriving from the reading of the Work of Maria Valtorta.

The official Church has given Her pronouncement, in the way that we have seen, on The Poem of the Man-God, which is Maria Valtorta's greatest work. On all the lesser works of this same author, on the other hand, [the Church] has never taken a position of either approval or condemnation.


  A P P E N D I X   I 

[As stated in the Introductory Note, a recent concern to some readers of Valtorta's Poem of the Man God, is a letter dated January 31, 1985, from Cardinal Ratzinger of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to Cardinal Siri, Archbishop of Genoa, in response to an inquiry from a priest of that diocese on the Church's position relative to Valtorta's Work. In that response, Cardinal Ratzinger states that in 1959, the Work had been placed on the Index. But it should be recalled that this censure applied to the 1st Edition (1956-1959), which appeared as an anonymous Work, and without any theological annotations to clarify some ambiguous passages. The 2nd Edition, upon which the English translation is based, amended these defects and so was approved for publication in 1962, by Commissioner of the Holy Office, Fr. Giraudo, O.P. Thus the original ecclesiastical censure of The Poem was withdrawn.(see above).

Translated below is the Letter of Cardinal Ratzinger to Cardinal Siri, Archbishop of Genoa, followed by the response and analysis of the Cardinal's letter by Emilio Pisani, editor and publisher of the Valtorta Opus. Then follow some sample letters from readers of The Poem, to the publisher, Pisani, typical of the concern and bewilderment over how such a Work could ever be put on the Index. 


-- Trans.]

[Taken from: Emilio Pisani, Pro E Contro Maria Valtorta, (Centro Editoriale Valtortiano srl, Viale Piscicelli 89-91, 03036 Isola del Liri (FR) Italia, 1995), pp.159-162.] :
 
 

SACRED CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH

Prot. N. 144/85                                                                                                                                    Roma, 31 January 1985

Most Reverend Eminence,

With a letter of 18 May [1984], Father [...] asked of this Sacred Congregation a clarification about the writings of Maria Valtorta, collected under the title of "The Poem of the Man-God", and if there exists any evaluation of the Church's Magisterium on the publication in question with the corresponding bibliographical reference.

On this subject I have the honor of expressing to Your Eminence -- you will judge the opportuneness of informing the Father [...] -- that in fact the Work in question was placed on the Index on 16 December 1959 and defined by "L'Osservatore Romano" of 6 January 1960, as "A Badly Novelized Life of Jesus." The provisions of the Decree were re-published with an explicit note again in L'Ossservatore Romano of 1 December 1961, as can be reviewed in the documentation herewith enclosed.

Since some have subsequently held that after the abrogation of the Index, the printing and diffusion of the Work in question is licit, L'Osservatore Romano (15 June 1966) had presented what was published in A.A.S. (1966) [Acta Apostolicae Sedis]: that, although abolished, the "Index" retained "all its moral value," for which [reason] the diffusion and recommendation of a Work is not held to be opportune when its condemnation was not taken superficially, but after weighing its purposes, to the end of neutralizing the damages which such a publication could bring to the more unprepared faithful.

With gratitude for your every kind arrangement, I profit by this occasion to confirm my sense of profound esteem

For Your Most Reverend Eminence,
Most Devotedly,
(signed) Joseph Card. Ratzinger

(with enclosure)


To His Most Reverend Eminence
The Lord Cardinal Giuseppe SIRI
Archbishop of
GENOA

     ~

[Following is response and analysis by the editor, Emilio Pisani, of Cardinal Ratzinger's letter to Cardinal Siri of Genoa above.] :

In the first place, Cardinal Ratzinger limits himself to "expressing" ["significare"], that is, to communicating: "that in fact the Work in question was placed on the Index on 16 December 1959 and defined by 'L'Osservatore Romano' of 6 Jannuary 1960, as 'A Badly Novelized Life of Jesus'." He confirms that a fact of which one desires news, has really happened: without approving or disapproving it.

Still refraining from any kind of opinion, Cardinal Ratzinger next reports two other historical facts: the explicit note of 1961, which extended to the second edition of the Work the provisions of condemnation of the first [edition], and the notification of 1966 on the retained moral value of the Index, despite its abolition. [Note: It would seem however that Card. Ratzinger was not aware of the verbal withdrawal by his predecessors in the Holy Office, of the ban against the Poem as regards the 2nd Italian edition, nor of the very dubious circumstances that surrounded the censure delivered to Fr. Berti regarding the 1st edition: namely, the complete "gag-order" imposed on Fr. Berti when summoned to the Holy Office, preventing any report on his part of the Pius XII's previous papal "Imprimatur" on the Work -- thereby rendering the condemnation of even the 1st Edition invalid {cf Canon 333.3}. On this, the reader is again referred to paragraphs 4 & 10 especially of Fr. Berti's Testimony. --Trans.]

All the facts reported occurred when Ratzinger was not yet the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and was not yet a cardinal. Therefore he gives the information requested and passes no judgement.

Only in the final part of the letter does he express an opinion, which should be considered in two parts : 1) from the respect due to the action of his Predecessors, the cardinal cannot hold "opportune the diffusion and recommendation of a Work" condemned; 2) but immediately after he explains that such inopportuneness should be understood as referring to "the more unprepared faithful," considerably limiting the range of that condemnation.

This and nothing else emerges from an attentive reading of the document.

One may hold that Cardinal Ratzinger chose to direct his reply to the Bishop of the inquiring priest, rather than to the latter, because he was counting on the medium of a good interpretation: "...I have the honor of expressing myself to Your Eminence -- who will judge the opportuneness of informing the Father...".

Quite the contrary happened. The letter, once made public, was interpreted -- in good or bad faith -- as an expression of a new and more severe condemnation of the Work of Maria Valtorta. For years her enemies waved it as their flag.

The most clamorous case is that of Fr. Philip Pavich, of the Order of the Friars Minor, residing at Medjugorje in Bosnia. Determined to demolish Valtorta's Work with a punctilious critique, he thought he would be able to do so with the support of Ratzinger's letter, driving himself on to offend the holy memory of Maria Valtorta and to defame the editor, Emilio Pisani.

His mimeographed papers in English were sent above all to the United States, where the English edition of the Work was enjoying success. The first of these [papers] bears the date of 4 October 1991, displayed, paradoxically, as that of the feast of the meek St. Francis. They provoked upset, disorientation and so many polemics. It was a systematic attack, in installments, which finally exhausted itself after a couple of years.

Other hotbeds of contention, with the weapon of Ratzinger's letter, arose every so often at various points in the world. In the wake of the rash publication of that letter one can also locate the publication abroad of some books which retrace the objections and criticisms of certain spiteful Italian publications, which meanwhile have exhausted their function in their own country."

-- Emilio Pisani

[The following are letters to the publisher on the censure of the Poem, with Dr. Pisani's replies]

[LETTER NO. 1]

[BOLLETINO VALTORTIANO, No. 32: July-December, 1985: p.128]

Emilio Pisani
CEDEVAL
Via PO 95, 03036 Isola del Liri (fr)

Dear Sir:

Please excuse me for taking up a little of your time, but it is a question of Maria Valtorta, whom I love as a sister even without ever having known her, and of her Writings, about which I do not know anymore what to think... I have read the 10 volumes [of The Poem...] three times, I have underlined and annotated them: they have done me great good. I have advised [reading] them and given them to others who have drawn great joy and comfort from them. I should say that I have read them, in part even in my family, without enthusiastic preconceptions, but with a critical spirit.

Perhaps as a preliminary to my judgment, it is necessary for me to say something to you of my preparation in the religious field: all thanks to the Lord to Whom I am always grateful with all my heart. Educated in a Christian family, for seven years at the Institute of the Salesian Sisters, with not only a secular, but particularly a religious, preparation; then in parish Catholic Action, and among Catholic Professors and Catholic teachers with Doctorates. How many books read, conferences audited, courses of Spiritual Exercises, etc., etc. The Bible and Breviary since I was a young girl (I am now 65): all this, with the grace of the Lord, has furnished me with a certain preparation to evaluate a religious book. I am not just someone unprepared. And yet, in all the books of Maria Valtorta (I later read also her Book of Azaria, her Autobiography, and the three volumes of her Notebooks) never -- in my opinion -- did I find anything which goes against the orthodoxy of our Faith, in which I want to live and die.

Then why so many difficulties against this dear Maria Valtorta and the work which the Lord entrusted to her, rather imposed on her to do? Visions, meditations, spiritual elevations, premonitory dreams: Christianity is full of them: from the Fathers of the Church to St. Gertrude, St. Bridget, from the two Catherines: of Siena and of Genoa, to St. Teresa of Avila, to Blessed Anna Maria Taigi and holy Don Bosco. Recently I have read some little volumes: "He and I", by a good French soul, a certain Gabrielle (I do not remember her last name) [Gabrielle Bossis --Trans.], who died in 1950. While she was alive, with the collaboration of her spiritual director and the blessing of her bishop, some little volumes had been published in which were collected the interior locutions which the Lord had suggested to her; they had such success and had done much good. Why then instead so different and hostile a treatment with regard to Maria Valtorta, not only when she was alive (all the saints have had these trials), but even now, more than 20 years after her death? -- And the words of Pius XII? And so many good and cultured priests who have had the care of these editions and have found innumerable comparisons with the Old and New Testaments, which dear Maria did not even know, perhaps, that she was citing when she wrote?

Till a few days ago I believed that the hostilities were ended that had made her suffer so much in her life. Instead... Can I continue to read the writings of Maria Valtorta, or do I do wrong? And all those to whom I have suggested or given them?

Rome                                                                                                 Maria Luisa Baldo

~

[LETTER NO.2]

Emilio Pisani
CEDEVAL
Via Po 95, 03036
Isola del Liri (fr)

Dear Sir:

I had deluded myself that with the passage of years that condemnation to the Index of Forbidden Books had been forgotten, and had been substituted by admiration and diffusion, given the always more ample circle of readers who have derived great spiritual benefit from [Valtorta's Poem]. But the devil is not of this opinion...

Padova                                                                        Fr. Martin M. Penasa, ofm.conv.

~

[The Publisher Replies] :

The Work of Maria Valtorta entitled The Poem of the Man-God, in its first anonymous edition of 4 volumes, was put on the Index by a Decree of The Holy Office of December 16, 1959. L'Osservatore Romano of January 6, 1960, reported the text of that Decree together with an ample article which illustrated the motives for that provision. Whoever wants to know why the Work was put on the Index, should read that article, which we have analyzed in our Bollettino Valtortiano No. 23 [ See Above ]. Whoever asks if that Decree is still valid, should consider that in the meantime the Index of Forbidden Books was suppressed, through which the Ecclesiastical censure of 1959 is no longer juridically valid though keeping its moral value. Finally, whoever wants to delve into the nature of the private revelations of Valtorta's Work and the relations of this Work with the Catholic Church, whether the hierarchical Authority or the People of God (in which we may understand the non-hierarchical authority, the consecrated, and the simple faithful), should know that we have treated of this in scattered numbers of our Bulletin [translated in this Dossier].

As to news, we have nothing else to say. Honest readers, though, like Ms. Baldo, Father Penasa, and many others, can still say so many things.

Isola del Liri (fr)                                                                                          -- Emilio Pisani

~

[LETTER NO. 3]

[Bollettino Valtortiano, No. 33: January-June, 1986: p. 132]

Emilio Pisani
CEDEVAL Via Po 95, 03036
Isola del Liri (fr)

Dear Sir:

The nuns of the Visitation of Genoa-Quinto, have written to me, asking me for a volume of The Notebooks of 1944 of Valtorta. However, they ask me if it is true that the Congregation of the Faith prohibits reading it: the Curia of Genoa has put out a decree in some such sense. They, who are great admirers of Valtorta, are displeased at this. I do not know what to answer on this subject.

Monte Senario (Fi)                                                                Fr. Paolo M. Michelucci, osm

[The Publisher Replies] :

As far as we know, no decree has intervened after that of the Holy Office of December 16, 1959. We can, however, relate a fact which has rather lately became known to us.

A priest of the diocese of Genoa wrote a letter dated May 18, 1984, (two years ago) to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to obtain a clarification on the subject of the Work, The Poem of the Man-God by Maria Valtorta. The answer was received in a letter of January 31, 1985, signed by the Prefect, Cardinal Ratzinger, and directed to the Archbishop of Genoa, Cardinal Siri, to whom it was left "to evaluate the opportuness" for transmitting it to the inquiring priest.

The answer of Cardinal Ratzinger recalled the condemnation of 25 years earlier, and settled the reasons for it expressed then and for its successive confirmations, given that the Index for Forbidden Books, "although abolished, keeps all its moral value". He then added a specification which we will speak of at the end

That letter of response had been diffused by photocopies, presumably at the initiative of the priest for whom it was indirectly destined, and who had taken the provision of covering up his name which was twice reported in it.

We would like to make two remarks on the subject:

1) Cardinal Ratzinger answered after eight months. Unless this is his practice, why such a delay? A long examination of the material? Or neglect of something of little account?

2) He answered, not the priest who had written him, but his bishop, who is Cardinal Siri, telling him to inform that priest only if he held it to be opportune.

3) He confirmed that the official position of the Church, in regard to the Work of Maria Valtorta [i.e., in its first anonymous edition] is always that of the decree of December 16, 1959, whose motives were explained in an article that appeared on the first page of L'Osservatore Romano of January 6, 1960. Therefore, it is necessary to go back and reread that article which, "in almost four thousand pages of close printing" of Valtorta's Work, did not succeed in giving evidence with any certainty of even one single error, while it let slip some eulogies of theological testimony, ending by declaring the motive for that "public condemnation", which had been "opportune" because of a "grave disobedience". (We have already explained, in our Bulletin No. 23 ( see above ) how, for different reasons, neither Valtorta nor her Editor were party to that disobedience.

4) Finally, the Cardinal adds a new element when he specifies that the condemnation had for its "end to neutralize the damage which such a publication could bring to the more unprepared faithful". It is necessary to see, therefore, who today are the faithful who then were considered "the more unprepared", and for whom alone the reading of the Work of Maria Valtorta was prohibited by an Ecclesiastical censure [See remarks by the Editor above under Bollettino Valtortiano No. 37 ].

Isola del Liri (fr)                                                                                            -- Emilio Pisani


  A P P E N D I X   I I 

[A more recent Notification from Cardinal Ratzinger of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith on Valtorta's Poem of the Man-God, was occasioned by a personal request from Mr. Terry Colafrancesco, Founder of the Medjugorje Prayer Group, Caritas of Birminham, ALabama, on July 21, 1992, requesting further clarification from Cardinal Ratzinger on the Church's position on the Poem, in view of the growing controversy that surrounds it.

On May 11, 1993, Mr. Colafrancesco received from his bishop, Most Rev. Raymond Boland, of Birmingham, Alabama, a reply which claimed to relay the contents of Cardinal Ratzinger's reply to the Caritas request. That letter Bishop Boland is produced below, courtesy of Caritas of Birmingham. It is then followed by a commentary of Prof. Leo Brodeur of the Valtorta Research Center.                                                                                                                                                                           --Trans.]

-- Diocese of Birmingham in Alabama --.

Mr. Terry Colafrancesco                                                                                         May 11, 1993
Caritas of Birmingham
P.O. Box 120
4647 Highway 280 East
Birmingham, AL 35242

Dear Mr. Colafrancesco:

His Eminence, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, in a letter which I received from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith this week, has asked me to inform you about the position of the Church regarding the writings of Maria Valtorta called The Poem of the Man-God.

The Cardinal wants you to know that the Congregation in the past has issued certain "Notes" on this subject for the guidance of the faithful and these were published in L'Osservatore Romano.

In the light of the recent recurrance [sic] of interest in the work, the Congregation has come to the conclusion that a further clarification to the "Notes" previously issued is now in order. Thus it has directed a particular request to the Italian Bishops' Conference to contact the publishing house which is concerned with the distribution of the writings in Italy in order to see to it that in any future reissue of the work "it might be clearly indicated from the very first page that the 'visions' and 'dictations' referred to in it are simply the literary forms used by the author to narrate in her own way the life of Jesus. They cannot be considered supernatural in origin."

The implications of this most recent decision of the Holy See (Prot.N. 144/58 i, dated April 17, 1993) are obvious insofar as those who use, publish or sell the writings in question should know and clearly express the judgment of the Holy See as indcated in the underlined section of my previous paragraph.

Hoping that this letter will serve as an authoritative response to the question which you addressed to His Eminence Cardinal Ratzinger in your letter of July 21, 1992, I am,

Sincerly in Christ,
   (Signed)
Most Rev. Raymond J. Boland, D.D.
Bishop of Birmingham in Alabama


[The following excerpts commenting on the above letter of Bishop Boland, are by Professor Leo Brodeur, Director of the Valtorta Research Center, Box 492, Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada, J1H 5K2. The comments are taken from the Summer 1993 [No.7] issue of "The Valtorta Newsletter" published by the Center] :
 

Cardinal Ratzinger on The Poem of the Man-God

...Until we see a copy of the Cardinal's letter to the Bishop, we must rely for this information on a May 21, 1993 letter by Bishop Boland himself to Mr. Terry Colafrancesco, the founder of Caritas of Birmingham, who kindly sent us a photocopy of the Bishop's letter.

The Cardinal's permission to publish The Poem of the Man-God is implicit in the Bishop's words that "any future reissue of the work" must bear the disclaimer. As for the disclaimer, according to the Bishop, the Congregation

has directed a particular request to the Italian Bishops' Conference to contact the publishing house which is concerned with the distribution of the writings in Italy in order to see to it that in any future reissue of the work "it might be clearly indicated from the very first page that the 'visions' and 'dictations' referred to in it are simply the literary forms used by the author to narrate in her own way the life of Jesus. They cannot be considered supernatural in origin."
The words within double quotation marks were underlined in the Bishop's letter, presumably quoted from the Cardinal's letter to him. The Cardinal's letter in turn presumably provided the English translation of a passage from the Congregation's letter to the Italian Bishops.

Analysis

Cardinal Ratzinger's statement, though encouraging in some respects, is disturbing in others.

1. Permission to Publish

On the encouraging side, we see the Congregation's implicit permission to continue publishing The Poem of the Man-God. This amounts to a tacit admission by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith that it finds no dogmatic or moral error in The Poem. We now need to turn to Bishop Boland's letter to Mr. Colafrancesco for more context.

... Cardinal Ratzinger...asked me to inform you about the position of the Church regarding the writings of Maria Valtorta called The Poem of the Man-God.

The Cardinal wants you to know that the Congregation in the past has issued certain "Notes" on this subject for the guidance of the faithful and these were published in L'Osservatore Romano.

In the light of the recent recurrance [sic] of interest in the work, the Congregation has come to the conclusion that a further clarification to the "Notes" previously issued is now in order. Thus it has directed a particular request to the Italian Bishops' Conference...

The rest of Bishop Boland's paragraph contained the information on the implicit permission to publish, with the disclaimer (quoted earlier on).

Oddly enough the aforesaid "Notes" published in L'Osservatore Romano were stern condemnations of the Italian original of The Poem of the Man-God! Cardinal Ratzinger's latest "clarification" thus seems to be a complete reversal of "the position of the Church regarding the writings of Maria Valtorta called The Poem of the Man-God." But it is not so. It is only a reversal of a reversal: over ten years before the alleged condemnations published in the Osservatore Romano, Pope Pius XII had said: "Publish this just as it is." Now at long last Cardinal Ratzinger implicitly agrees with him...but only as far as allowing the publication goes.

2. Arguments for a Supernatural Origin

As for the Cardinal's assertion that The Poem "cannot be considered supernatural in origin," it is quite strange since there is no evidence at all in the Bishop's letter to Mr. Colafrancesco that the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith might have launched, let alone carried out, a full-fledged investigation in the matter before making such a momentous declaration.

Before stating that Valtorta's writings were not supernatural in origin, did they investigate to see what kind of person Valtorta was? Had they done so, they would have quickly found that she was a good, earnest, devout Catholic, an invalid who had a deep prayer life and lived according to high moral standards. They would have found that she often claimed, explicitly, in no uncertain terms that she was having visions and dictations from Jesus and other heavenly persons, and that she fully realized the gravity of her claims.

Now had her visions and dictations been mere literary forms of her own deliberate invention, she would have been an unscrupulous liar ; but this hypothesis is excluded by the testimonies of all the priests and nuns and lay people who knew her.

Or what if Valtorta had been insane and had imagined all those visions and dictations and mistaken them for real mystical occurrences (and thus escaped the accusation of being a hoaxer)? This hypothesis of lunacy falls flat in the light of her daily living during the years that she wrote. Within the limits of her physical handicaps, she functioned very well : she cared for people, kept up-to-date on current world events, wrote coherent, insightful letters, and had a witty, bright, keen mind as observed by all her visitors, some of whom were Church scholars or university educated laymen.

In either case, the charge that Valtorta's visions were "simply the literary forms used by the author to narrate in her own way the life of Jesus" seems quite amiss to say the least, as it would imply character shortcomings not found in her.

If one now moves on to consider Valtorta's visions and dictations in The Poem of the Man-God, the charge that she narrated the life of Jesus "in her own way," becomes even more untenable, from several points of view.

Theologically: Valtorta's writings exude a great, all-encompassing breadth of knowledge and a clear-mindedness and loftiness of concepts worthy of the greatest theologians, of the Church Fathers, and of the greatest mystics. How could a lunatic or a liar produce such writings? Furthermore, she had never studied philosophy or theology either at school or on her own. The only education she had received was the average education of upper-middle class Italian girls of the early 1900s. How could she have composed her lofty writings "in her own way"?

Spiritually: Valtorta's writings are outstandingly practical, drawing the reader to practice the faith in everyday life. They are not in the least dry theological textbooks. They bring spirituality alive, they bring it home, to the reader's heart, by showing us Jesus intimately, personally. Many a reader has exclaimed that reading The Poem is like living with Jesus as the apostles did. As depicted in The Poem, His character -- the perfect blend of warmth and reason, of mystical outlook and practical attentions, of holiness and love -- has helped many a reader to reform a life of sin, to increase love for our Lord, to become holier. Jesus is portrayed in the The Poem as in perhaps no other mystical work. It is quite doubtful that Valtorta could have produced such an uplifting portrait on her own, when she was the first to admit her "nothingness" and ascribed everything to Jesus.

Even scientifically: Valtorta's The Poem of the Man-God exhibits an uncanny accuracy with regard to the archeology, botany, geography, geology, mineralogy and topography of Palestine in Jesus' time, an accuracy commended by various experts in those fields. Yet, given her lack of education and reading in those fields, and given the fact that she never travelled to Palestine, how could she have given accurate descriptions of places she never went to and never read about in any detail?

Finally, from the literary point of view: Valtorta wrote on the spur of the moment, without preliminary plans, without rough drafts. She wrote fast -- over 10,000 handwritten pages in three years -- with great consistency of thought and purpose, in masterly Italian combining the highest achievements of the Florentine style of the 1930s with the vividness and spontaneity of common folks when they are quoted. Few writers throughout the history of humanity have been that good and that prolific in that short a period of time; perhaps none of these wrote without rough drafts. Yet, she was bedridden and subjected to frequent physiological crises and down-to-earth interruptions by her relatives or neighbors. How then could she have written so well, when most writers crave solitude to be able to write?

When one ponders the theological and spiritual loftiness of Maria Valtorta's The Poem of the Man-God, as well as its scientific and literary remarkableness, in the light of her average education, lack of health, and in the light of her speed, accuracy and greatness of achievement, how could one seriously entertain the thought that she accomplished all that without supernatural help? When one also ponders her personal lifestyle as a generous victim soul who practiced the virtues heroically, when one also ponders the sufferings which she daily offered to the Lord, then with all due respect, how could the Congregation casually dismiss her claims to supernatural visions and dictations without a public full-fledged investigation into her case?

Conclusion

While we wish to commend Cardinal Ratzinger for his implicit permission, according to Bishop Boland, to let The Poem of the Man-God be published, we long to see a complete explanation for his alleged denial of its supernatural origin. Better yet, we would like to see an official investigation into Maria Valtorta and The Poem of the Man-God.

In the meantime, we hope that many will begin reading Maria Valtorta's writings and taste for themselves the Lord's milk and honey.

-- Prof. Leo A. Brodeur, M.A., Lèsl., Ph.D., H.Sc.D.

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