Thursday, June 9, 2016

Miracle of Lipa: Where do we go from here? To the Servants of God

"In cases which concern private revelations, it is better to believe than not to believe, for, if you believe, and it is proven true, you will be happy that you have believed, because our Holy Mother asked it. If you believe, and it should be proven false, you will receive all blessings as if it had been true, because you believed it to be true."(Pope Urban VIII, 1623-44)
Monastery of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel of Mary Mediatrix of All Grace. 

The Miracle of Lipa is probably the most fascinating of all the Marian apparition stories that ever was told and retold in the Philippines. A well-documented phenomenon that took place in September 1948 in the town of Lipa in Batangas, one of most ravaged during World War II, the story involved Carmelite nuns and sisters, one of whom was the principal visionary, Teresita Castillo, then the Catholic hierarchy in the Philippines, the religious people of Batangas and those beyond the province, joined in later by writers, actors, government officials and their wives, the plain curious and the Apostolic Nuncio.
More fascinating is the fact that nearly 70 years have passed, yet both the Vatican and the Catholic hierarchy from day one of the apparition have apparently been divided among themselves, or so it appears, on these apparitions.
Today, we learn that this case of personal revelations, in spite of their supernatural character that also included showers of rose petals, some of which bore religious images as witnessed by hundreds, or thousands of people altogether for a period of time, a special commission of bishops dismissed this mystical episode in 1951 through a one-paragraph statement ruling that "the evidence and testimonies exclude any supernatural interventions". This was to be reversed by another Bishop of Lipa, Mariano Gaviola, after 40 years, and reiterated through a 2015 decree issued by the present Archbishop of Lipa (Arguelles), only to be declared null and void shortly thereafter by the Vatican’s Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith (CDF), in view of a “definitive” conclusion made in 1951, purportedly approved by the Supreme Pontiff during that time.
Almost nothing of the records of the apparition remains today, such as diaries, personal writings, and all related materials like rose petals and the statue of the Virgin Mary that were ordered burned and destroyed in those days when all discussions or studies of the case were likewise suppressed. But the Carmelite nuns of Lipa just hid the statue away from view as they just could not bring themselves to destroy it. Others who in their hearts believed in the apparitions and the shower of rose petals just kept their strong faith and quietly propagated the same over the years.
Could it be possible that for reasons we might never know, but only those behind the suppression of the events in Lipa knew first-hand, that those concerned were, indeed, just too quick in affixing their signatures to that 1951 one-paragraph decree? "Under duress", some claimed, lest they faced excommunication as various accounts also would reveal.
It is even more curious that on record, not one of the signatories ever talked with any of the persons directly involved with or were witnesses to the apparitions that even included the two bishops of Lipa at that time.


Interior of the Church. Photo: Christian Lucas Sangoyo

Imprimatur
It is quite significant that one of the earliest records that has survived after the suppression was a copy of a narrative with an Imprimatur signed by Bishop Alfredo Versoza, Archbishop of Lipa from 1916 to 1951, written by Mother Mary Cecilia, Superior of Carmel in Lipa. This written account was dated December 6, 1948,  three months after the reported apparitions.
Could it be that for whatever reason, those concerned, when they were compelled by untold circumstances to say something simply forgot, or just ignored the processes or norms applying to the discernment of such personal revelation or alleged apparition cases, and just went ahead declaring the apparitions and the shower of roses not to be supernatural? An act the truth of which in God’s own time, perhaps in our lifetime, shall be revealed anyway? 
What’s going on today may just be part of a new and deeper revelation process 


"For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open." (Luke 8:17)

Site of the apparition of Our Lady Mediatrix of All Grace. 
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Private revelations
"In cases which concern private revelations, it is better to believe than not to believe, for, if you believe, and it is proven true, you will be happy that you have believed, because our Holy Mother asked it. If you believe, and it should be proven false, you will receive all blessings as if it had been true, because you believed it to be true."(Pope Urban VIII, 1623-44)
"If it proves to be false”? By whose judgment will prove it to be false then? By the local Bishop who governs the local church in question concerning apparitions in his diocese. By the local Bishop of the visionary Sr. Teresita Castillo, of the Mother Superior, Mother Cecilia of Jesus, of the other Carmelite sisters – and him only.
Who was that local Bishop of the visionary?  Bishop Alfredo Verzosa, the Bishop of Lipa in 1948.


Pope Leo XII. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Encyclical "Stais comnitum" of Leo XII-1896 (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma by Dr. Ludwig Ott, Page 289):
"This power of the Pope in no way derogates from the ordinary and immediate power of Episcopal jurisdiction by which bishops, who have been sent by the Holy Spirit to succeed and take the place of the Apostles, feed and govern each his own flock as true pastors; but rather, this authority is asserted, strengthened and vindicated by the Supreme and Universal Pastor."
According to this declaration the Episcopal power is as follows:
"An ordinary power, that is, it is associated with the Episcopal office; an immediate power, that is it is not practiced at the order of a superior, but in the bishop's own name. Thus bishops are not delegated (agents) and so are not vicars (representatives) of the pope, but they are independent pastors of the flocks entrusted to them, even though they are subordinate to the pope. A power appointed by God for the Apostles (on the ground of divine ordinance, whether in the immediate commission of Christ, or on the direction of the Holy Spirit --- Acts 20, 26) have passed on their pastoral office to the bishops. The bishops are the successors of the Apostles, not in such a manner that an individual bishop is a successor of an individual Apostle, but that the bishops in their totality are successors of the College of Apostles.
"This is a true pastoral power, as it embraces all the ecclesiastical powers to the exercise of the office, the power to legislate, to judge and to punish. It is a power which is limited locally and materially, since it extends only to a definite segment of the Church, and is circumscribed by the Papal power which is superior to it. Matters of causae maiores (universal importance), touching the welfare of the whole Church, are reserved to the Holy Fathers." (Dr. Ott)
So it goes without saying that in matters of private revelation, the Vatican never ever has changed the decision of a local Bishop, and never will, because Bishops do not get their authority from the Pope on such matters, but directly from the Apostles. 
Has the Vatican ever officially approved a private revelation such as Fatima? Not the Vatican but the ordinary Bishop. Consider this statement from Miracle Hunter:
As established in the Council of Trent (1545-63), the local bishop is the first and main authority in the judgement of the authenticity of apparition claims. Vatican approval is not required for an apparition to be considered authentic. After an episcopal approval, the Vatican may do nothing but it may release an official statement or after some time give non-written forms of approval such as a papal visit with the crowning of the associated icon or a gift such as a golden rose, the approval of the construction of (or elevation of an existing shrine to) a basilica, the establishment of a feast day, or the canonization of the associated visionary.
Positive judgments by the local bishop (but not yet by the Vatican) theoretically are able to be reversed by a subsequent bishop - but this has never happened in the history of the Church. Negative judgments (Constat de non supernaturalitate) and rulings of no evidence of supernaturality (Non constat de supernaturalitate) have later been changed to positive judgments on a few rare occasions with the ruling of a subsequent bishop.
If a Marian apparition is recognized by the bishop, it means that the message is not contrary to faith and morals, that Mary can be venerated in a special way at the site and that the faithful can believe with confidence in the supernaturality of the event. But, because belief in a private revelation is not required by the church, Catholics are at liberty to decide how much personal spiritual emphasis (if any) to place on apparitions and the messages they deliver.
 And so, who was it that reversed the Verzosa Imprimatur by making a negative judgment and ruled that there was ‘no evidence of supernaturality’ in the Miracle of Lipa? The Special Commission of Bishops formed by the Catholic hierarchy in 1951, whose decree was merely certified as original ("Concordat cum originali") by the Apostolic Nuncio.
This decree, dated 11 April 1951 and signed by Manila Archbishop Gabriel M. Reyes, Bishop Mariano Madriaga of Lingayen, Bishop Cesar M. Guerrero of San Fernando, Auxiliary Bishop Juan Sison of Nueva Segovia, Auxiliary Bishop Vicente Reyes of Manila and Lipa Apostolic Administrator Rufino Santos stated in one paragraph that the members of the special commission “have attentively examined and reviewed the evidence and testimonies in the course of repeated, long, and careful examinations, have reached the unanimous conclusion and hereby officially declare that the above mentioned evidence and testimonies exclude any supernatural intervention in the reported extraordinary happenings – including the shower of petals at the Carmel of Lipa.”
As could be seen by just reading the decree, no reference was made at all to Versoza’s official Imprimatur of 1948. It could only be deduced that, in those days, the Bishops’ decree was presented by the Catholic hierarchy as the one and only official document on the apparitions - "including the shower of petals". That said, and assuming they are not aware of the Verzosa-approved document of 1948, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) of the Holy See did no wrong in merely sustaining the Special Commission’s ruling.
By releasing a new CDF decree dated 11 December 2015, received only recently on 30 May 2016 by the Archbishop of Lipa, Ramon Arguelles, stating that “the declaration of 1951 was a decision confirmed by the Supreme Pontiff and therefore definitive” this new claim must, however, be subject to proof by CDF to be fair and square to Filipino Catholics including myself of the generation that came after 1951, and for all future generations of the Catholic faith in the Philippines and the world to see. 
With certainty, no one in the Catholic hierarchy could claim knowledge or awareness of such a Supreme Pontiff confirmation of the said decree.


Archbishop Ramon Arguelles of the Archdiocese of Lipa
Photo: Andrea Adriano

CDF states further that “the phenomenon of Lipa is not subject to the authority of the local Diocesan Bishop (cf. CIC can 333)”.
“CIC can 333” is about the Pope enjoying “ordinary power” that is supreme, full, immediate and universal in the Church - “immediate” as “such a primatial power can be exercised by the pope directly, without intervention, on all of the faithful and on all the particular Churches, even if in arrangement with the latter the immediacy of papal authority tend to reinforce and guarantee the proper, ordinary and immediate power of their bishops”. 
There is no indication whatsoever that this “immediate” power was exercised at all by the Supreme Pontiff in this particular instance. 

The CDF decree also states that: “The authority on which this declaration was made was not that of the Bishop members of the Special Commission, but rather of the Supreme Pontiff." 

So here I again quote an earlier post by Fr. Paul Kramer on the online page of TradCatKnight: “It is standard procedure to note the approval of a higher authority on the decree itself. Such a notation is nowhere to be found on the decree April 1951; and it is inconceivable that Pius XII issued some other decree confirming the 11/04/1951 decree on Lipa, since such a decree is totally unknown to ever have existed.” This will inevitably imply that the authority of the Pope on which the declaration was made also never existed.


Only last year in the Philippines, on 17 January 2015, Pope Francis was seen making a sign of the Cross before a replica image of Our Lady Mediatrix of All Grace at the Archbishop's residence in Palo, Leyte as he was visiting the victims of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). 
Also in photo is Palo Archbishop John Du. 

So where do we go from here?

Two eminent bishops who governed the Diocese of Lipa until 1951, namely, Alfredo Verzosa and Alfredo Ma. Obviar have long departed from this Earth and could no longer be reached for comment by us mortals. That the good bishops totally complied with the order of the Church to keep their silence on the apparitions meant they could never have been expected, as loyal servants of the Church, to even defend themselves or their belief on the apparitions. They’d probably rather spend the rest of their lives spreading the teachings of the Church, and serving humanity their own prayerful and humble way – as both of them had done. 
In God’s own time the truth will come out anyway, we could almost hear them utter in total surrender.
Those whose lives they had touched and inspired, and eventually left behind, are however, doing their part. These two great Bishops’ cause for sainthood are prayed for by a multitude today, and, remarkably, their road to holiness has nothing to do with the Miracle of Lipa at all, but with the kind of lives they separately lived in those days before and after the war.


Copy of the book, "Alfredo Verzosa, Obispo" is presented to Pope Francis
in Rome by Archbishop Emeritus of Nueva Segovia, Ernesto Salgado (2014).
Photo: Bishop Alfredo F. Verzosa facebook

The current status of the two Bishops: Servants of God 


Servant of God (Latin: Servus Dei) is a title given to individuals by various religions, and in general it is a person believed to be pious in his or her faith tradition. In the Catholic Church, it designates someone who is being investigated by the Church for possible canonization into sainthood. Currently there are only 17 Filipinos who have been given this title, the same title that two other Filipinos, St. Lorenzo Ruiz and St. Pedro Calungsod once held.


Servant of God Alfredo Verzosa, Bishop of Lipa; Founder of the Missionary Catechists of the Sacred Heart

Born: December 9, 1877 - Vigan, Ilocos Sur, Philippines
Died: June 27, 1954 - Vigan, Ilocos Sur, Philippines
Nihil Obstat: 2014 (Nothing stands on the way)

As a young priest, Verzosa assigned to Nueva Segovia, worked hard to protect, revive and strengthen Catholicism in Ilocos Norte at a time when there was a dearth of priests due to the shift of most of the local clergy to the new church (IFI) established by Gregorio Aglipay.

Verzosa was appointed as a consultor in the Synod of Nueva Segovia and worked as secretary of the bishops during their pastoral visits.

In 1916, Pope Benedict XV named Verzosa, then 39, the second bishop of Lipa, the fourth Filipino to be elevated to the bishopric.

He was the first Filipino Catholic bishop to hail from the Ilocos region. He became Bishop of Lipa on January 20, 1917.

He founded the Missionary Catechists of the Sacred Heart, a diocesan congregation for women in 1923.

Verzosa as the local Bishop of Lipa allowed the apparitions of Lipa to be publicized and for the Mediatrix to be venerated.

Though he had used his family’s wealth to rebuild the churches and schools of war-torn Lipa, he was falsely accused of mishandling the war reparations and finances of the diocese. He lived in exile at his Vigan home, reduced to rolling tobacco leaves to augment the family income.

Verzosa died in his home city on June 27, 1954.

Fr. Ericson Josue, a priest from the diocese of Laoag and a professor of Theology at the Vigan Seminary published the book “Alfredo Versoza, Obispo: The Life and Legacy of the Fourth Filipino Roman Catholic Bishop” in 2007.




Servant of God Alfredo Maria Aranda Obviar, Bishop of Lucena; Founder of the Missionary Catechists of Saint Therese of the Infant Jesus

Born: August 29, 1889 - Lipa, Batangas, Philippines
Died: October 1, 1978 - Tayabas, Quezon, Philippines
Nihil Obstat: March 6, 2001 (Nothing stands on the way)

Obviar was Bishop of Lucena and founder of the Missionary Catechists of Saint Therese of the Infant Jesus Born on August 29, 1889 in Mataas na Lupa, Lipa City, Batangas.

The first auxiliary bishop of Lipa, he, together with Bishop Alfredo Verzosa, personally believed in the authenticity of the apparition of Our Lady Mary Mediatrix of All Grace in the Carmelite Convent of Lipa to Teresing Castillo, a Carmelite postulant.

After an unfavorable pronouncement on the apparitions by the Episcopal Heirarchy of that time, Monsignor Verzosa and Monsignor Obviar were relieved of their posts. Monsignor Verzosa was retired to Vigan, his birthplace while Monsignor Obviar was made Apostolic Administrator of the newly created Diocese of Lucena. They humbly submitted to the orders of the Church and kept the seal of perpetual silence about the apparitions. He died on October 1, 1978, the feast of his patron saint Therese of the Child Jesus, patroness of the congregation he founded.

Bishop Obviar is the first Filipino cleric and bishop candidate for beatification. He became Servant of God on March 6, 2001.


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