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(LifeSiteNews) — We have all heard about private revelations and approved apparitions. Indeed, we may immediately think of the apparitions at Lourdes, La Salette, and Fatima. Yet many today maintain that we need not take heed to what Our Lady said there since they are private revelations.

My two guests today are Gene Zannetti, author of Spiritual Strength: Building Athletes for Christ, and Father Francesco Giordano, head of the Rome office of Human Life International and professor of dogmatic theology at Rome’s Angelicum, to discuss the assent owed to private revelations, and what that means in relation to the message of Fatima. This is The John-Henry Westen Show.

Zannetti begins asserting that it is “modernist” to hold that private revelations are an optional matter, especially when they are directed at you. “Whenever heaven speaks, heaven has a very clear purpose, and when heaven wants us to do something, we must comply,” he explains. While many in the Church maintain that private revelations are optional, Zannetti points out that the manualist tradition, along with the ecumenical councils, have held otherwise.

Addressing the issue, Fr. Giordano makes an important distinction. First, he notes that universal revelation, the deposit of faith, must be believed. Approved private revelations, however, simply aid us in our assent to what must be believed. Examining the issue more closely, he notes that while we do have a canon of Scripture, what was scriptural was not agreed upon in the Church until the Council of Trent, and that apart from Scripture, the Holy Ghost will speak through the saints and mystical phenomena.

Approved private revelation, the priest says, is not public in the sense the deposit of faith is, but they are “private revelations that are made public for all of us.”

“Well, then I think we must pay attention,” Giordano says. “Our Lady doesn’t just appear out of the blue for no reason.” He examines all approved Marian apparitions since Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in 1831, observing in that instance that the philosophy we recognize as scientism was just coming into existence, the Miraculous Medal showing that miracles can occur.

Since Our Lord, furthermore, will not “randomly” send His Mother, “we have to take these seriously.”

“If the Church has approved them, then it’s not something you can just say, ‘Well, I’m not gonna believe it,’” Giordano tells me. “If you don’t … I think you can say you have a bit of a dry faith.”

Zannetti, speaking to the message of Fatima, says that the crises in the world and Church are the result of people not living up to the message. He also discusses a document about the message of Fatima by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger from 2000, in which the future pontiff says that private revelations can only be accepted with human faith rather than Catholic faith; in other words, accepting the validity of approved private revelations is a matter of prudence.

Zannetti explains that he found Ratzinger’s opinion odd, since people who do not heed divine messages are often punished in Scripture. Responding to the problem, he points to the manualists Jordan Aumann and Antonio Marin, who both maintained that if private revelations contain messages for someone, when approved, that person must accept it by divine faith. Zannetti also notes that those to whom the private revelation is given are to give it the assent of faith.

“We can’t mix the categories,” he states. “There’s a big difference if the private revelation is directed at us, which is almost never, and then when it’s not directed at us.” Taking for example Our Lady’s appearance to St. Catherine Labouré regarding the Miraculous Medal, Zannetti says that wearing the medal is indeed a matter of prudence, though adds that since Our Lady said she would perform a miracle at Fatima so all would believe in her appearance, it is a message for everyone.

At this point, I ask Giordano about the difference between approved and unapproved private revelations.  

Giordano, looking to Lourdes, notes that miracles took place before the Church approved the apparition. What the Church does in such circumstances, however, is observe and withhold judgment. As for believing in unapproved private revelations, the issue is one of prudence, though he admits that the issue is “complicated.”

The Church, the priest explains, needs time to reflect upon alleged apparitions. The way the Church would judge such a thing is by examining the people involved, whether they are normal and simple, simplicity being a sign that the apparition could be authentic, or whether the message itself is from God or the devil. However, Giordano says that while people can visit alleged apparition sites, he advises caution regarding them. He discusses Medjugorje in this context.

Addressing an apparent surge in alleged apparitions, Giordano believes the issue is that people should respect the Church’s authority, but the Church should also demonstrate that she takes alleged apparitions seriously and that she “takes these things into consideration.”

Giordano further advises in matters of unapproved private revelations that it is better to follow those who have already been approved and keep one’s distance from those unapproved – an approach he takes on Medjugorje to avoid offending those attached to it.

He also notes that pastorally, if someone should visit Medjugorje and experience what could be a conversion, the “spirit” must be “test[ed]” to see if the conversion is true or not, as what could have been experienced was not conversion but a surge of emotion, and to encourage people to bring practices from Medjugorje such as Eucharistic adoration and confession to their own parishes.

Zannetti addresses the severity of the Fatima message in similar terms, suggesting people “set aside” unapproved private revelation since it “will just confuse everyone,” adding that people should “hold out” until the Church gives approval, before returning to the distinctions made earlier in the show. He also notes that most approved private revelations do not have an “extra step” on top of living a normal Catholic life. Fatima, meanwhile, calls on Catholics to practice the First Saturday devotion, offer up one’s sufferings and daily duties, wear the brown scapular as a sign of one’s consecration, and pray the Rosary every day.

While he refrains from touching upon the requested consecration of Russia, Zannetti notes that we know that when enough Catholics have done what Our Lady asked them to do at Fatima, we will see the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart. Explaining the conditions for the Triumph, he says that either enough Catholics would have lived out Our Lady’s message, thus allowing the pope to receive the grace to perform the consecration, or that if the consecration were performed and the Triumph were forthcoming, then not enough Catholics were living out the Fatima message.

Describing the First Saturday devotion, Zannetti says that it entails praying the Rosary, going to Holy Communion, and meditating on one or more mysteries of the Rosary for 15 minutes, all on the first Saturday of the month. If one cannot go to confession on that day, one can go either eight days before or after. Once enough people do this, he asserts, we will see the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart.

“We can be sure not enough people are taking that action, and this is basically the key that unlocks the door,” he says. “And there’s no other way. There’s no other solution.”

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John-Henry is the co-founder, CEO and editor-in-chief of He and his wife Dianne have eight children and they live in the Ottawa Valley in Ontario, Canada.

He has spoken at conferences and retreats, and appeared on radio and television throughout the world. John-Henry founded the Rome Life Forum, an annual strategy meeting for life, faith and family leaders worldwide. He is a board member of the John Paul II Academy for Human Life and the Family. He is a consultant to Canada’s largest pro-life organization Campaign Life Coalition, and serves on the executive of the Ontario branch of the organization. He has run three times for political office in the province of Ontario representing the Family Coalition Party.

John-Henry earned an MA from the University of Toronto in School and Child Clinical Psychology and an Honours BA from York University in Psychology.