The Lady of All Nations – A diocese celebrates, but serious questions remain

On 12 June a day of prayer in honour of the Lady of All Nations will take place in Amsterdam, under the auspices and with the participation of Bishop Jos Punt of the Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam. Lady of All Nations refers to the Blessed Virgin and specifically the alleged apparitions of her in Amsterdam between 1945 and 1959. These apparitions, like others across the world, caused much debate and also much enthusiasm. The debate still remains, and is fueled by a distinct lack of clarity.

At the root of this lie two things that the Blessed Virgin is alleged to have communicated during these apparitions; the first is a prayer that refers to her as she “who once was Mary”, and the second the wish that a fifth Marian dogma be declared, which would make her coredemptrix, saviour next to Jesus Christ. The image created from the apparitions, pictured to the left, also shows Mary in front of the Cross, taking the place of Christ.

Both these elements, the prayer and the dogma, constitute a rupture with all we know of the Blessed Virgin and her role in salvation history, and all that she has communicated in apparitions and miracles. And that, in short, is why the veneration of the Lady of All Nations is so problematic.

During his pontificate, Venerable Pope Pius XII acted against the title of ‘coredemptrix’, and had it removed from documents. The Second Vatican Council expressed exceeding caution in using the term, and even used the word mediatrix sparingly. A 1997 conference on the subject in Czestochowa also decided against the proposed dogma, citing the rupture with the Mariological beacons set forth by the Council (and, I might add, the whole of salvation history).

Much debate in the world Church, then. But things also developed on the diocesan level. According to canon law, a diocesan bishop has full authority to judge the validity of such supernatural phenomena. It is part of what he received at his consecration to the episcopate. Over the decades, at least two bishops of the Diocese of Haarlem, Msgr. Huibers and Zwartkruis, had investigations into the alleged apparitions conducted which led to the veneration of the Lady of All Nations being forbidden within the diocese. In 1996, only weeks before his death, Bishop Henny Bomers declared that he no longer had any qualms about the cultus that had developed and in 2002 Bishop Jos Punt declared the phenomena that occurred between 1945 and 1959 to be authentic. That meant that, with to the authority vested in a diocesan bishop, the veneration was allowed worldwide.

Here we have an interesting contrast; whereas the higher Church authorities, manifesting their duty and ability of guiding the faith of the Church, expressed caution in the interpretation and consequences of the alleged apparitions and messages, the local curia on the diocesan level came to the conclusion that such caution is not warranted. Some blame that latter development on Bishop Punt with his strong personal devotion to the Lady of All Nations, but the case has kept basically all bishops in Haarlem of the last 60 years busy. Twice a serious investigation was called, and at least two bishops came to the personal conclusion that everything was authentic (Bishop Huibers probably came to the same conclusion in 1955, but abided to the ruling of a committee he had established to investigate the apparitions).

That is the situation as it is now, but what tends to be overlooked are the judgements of Pope Pius XII, the Second Vatican Council and modern prelates such as Cardinal Amato, who all speak against the full authenticity. And I tend to agree with their serious reservations. I am not denying Bishop Punt’s authority, but neither am I (or any Catholic) obliged to believe in whatever apparition, be it Amsterdam, Lourdes, Medjugorje or Fatima.  And if we believe, we must do so with heart and mind. The heart may be there, but the mind has its questions which deserve answers.

And that is why I doubt the wisdom is such large-scale events like the day of prayer on 12 June. The Lady of All Nations, and the contents of the Virgin’s alleged messages, of her as coredemptrix and as something else than the human Mary, are presented as accepted elements of the faith, when they are not.

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6 thoughts on “The Lady of All Nations – A diocese celebrates, but serious questions remain”

  1. Hello, Mark!

    I have recently been following your blog from the USA, and have been enjoying your writing. Thanks for sharing your faith and perspective!

    This is an interesting post — I had the good pleasure of studying Mariology while in graduate school. I’ll admit that I shared some of your questions when studying the Lady of All Nations apparition and messages. I appreciate your sharing of your concerns, which have been shared by many in the Church.

    However, I must respectfully disagree on a few points you’ve made here. First, when you say that part of the message of the apparition was “the wish that a fifth Marian dogma be declared, which would make her coredemptrix, saviour next to Jesus Christ,” I find two problems here:

    1.) If a fifth Marian dogma were to be declared, it would not ‘make her coredemptrix’ anymore than the declaration of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception ‘made’ the Blessed Virgin the Immaculate Conception. Who she is, she is. Through the course of time and with the development of doctrine, the Church sometimes sees fit to give Dogmatic authority to particular teachings which have always been true.

    2.) Using the title of Co-Redemptrix for Mary does not mean that she is “saviour next to Jesus Christ.” This is a serious misrepresentation of her maternal mediation and her unique role beneath and with the Saviour, a role which merits the title of Co-Redemptrix. Her participatory mediation and co-redemption must always be understood as what they are — secondary and subordinate, while free and full. It is from a Christological Mariology that we come to see Mary’s unique role in the plan of salvation, always leading us closer to Jesus, from whom she herself received all the graces and merits of salvation.

    Next, it seems a bit unfair to mention that “Venerable Pope Pius XII acted against the title of ‘coredemptrix’, and had it removed from documents,” without mentioning the many Fathers and Popes of the Church who have supported the theological concept of Redemptrix and Co-Redemptrix (Leo XIII, Pius X, Benedict XV, Pius XI, Pope Pius XII) and those who specifically used the term Co-Redemptrix in their papal addresses, homilies, and teachings including Pope Pius XI (on 3 occasions) and Blessed John Paul II (on 6 occasions). While we can rightly say that the term Co-Redemptrix is not currently dogmatic, it seems hard to deny its support from the ordinary papal magisterial doctrines.

    Lastly, the Lady of All Nations apparition was given the ruling of constat de supernaturalitate — the ruling of the Church confirming that a private revelation or apparition is of supernatural origins. This ruling has never been given, and then later revoked. For this reason, it hardly seems unwise to hold a large-scale day of prayer in devotion to the Lady of All Nations. As you’ve rightly observed, the faithful are free to participate, but certainly not obliged. We are all free to have questions and doubts, but to spread doubt to other believers in a case where the Church has already spoken, in my humble opinion, seems unlikely to bear good fruit.

    Thanks again for your blog, and may you continue to be blessed as you share your journey of faith!

    Peace and all good,
    Leslie

    1. Thank you, Leslie, for you extensive comment.

      I am not a Mariologist or any kind of expert on supernatural messages and suchlike, so all my writings are from the perspective of just your average Catholic. But of course, even as such I’ll have some ideas and opinions about such matters.

      You write about dogma having always been true, and you are right, of course. The truths of our faith do not change over time. However, that does not take away the obligation of declared dogma needing to be true. The Church needs to be as certain as she can about that. If a fifth Marian dogma is declared, and the Blessed Virgin be understood as coredemptrix next to Her Son, the mere title would make her of equal standing with Christ, or at least seem to do so. At the very least, the title would result in confusion, especially when we consider that Mary has always directed us to Jesus Christ, making clear to us that she is not the one to redeem or save us, but He is. Coredemptrix would negate that entire tendency. That, in my opinion, is the crux of the issue: does the Virgin show us the way to Christ, or does she stand next to Him in his salvific work?

      If her role in salvation is secondary to that of Christ, which I do agree it is, why the title coredemptix? That is a question which I am stuck with, because it does give the impression of elevating her to the same level as Christ.

      My main problem with such a well-advertised day of prayer is that it, combined with the often very basic knowledge of the faith among Dutch Catholics, may give incorrect impressions. Prayer is great, agreed. But the questions surrounding the Lady of All Nations and the fifth dogma should not be hidden.

      This is my personal blog, and I’ll always give my personal take on things. In this case, I am extremely hesitant to embrace the devotion for the Lady of All Nations, despite Bishop Punt’s declaration that it is supernatural. With that I do not deny his authority to do so, of course, but rather exercise my freedom not to participate.

      I don’t think I’m spreading doubt instead of sharing my opinion. I think my readers should always make up their own minds in good conscience before simply agreeing with me. Then again, I think the issues I raise should be considered before doing so. And, yes, sometimes I am simply wrong, ad then I rely on people with more knowledge on the matter to inform me and my readers. So, thank you for doing so!

    2. Oh, by the way, I think you have a very fun blog. You write with a lot of enthusiasm about Catholic topics, which I like. I’ll add your blog to my blogroll.

      1. Oh, thanks! You are kind, and I appreciate your encouragement. Always good to find others similarly enthusiastic for the faith! Be assured of my grateful prayers.

  2. I’m with ‘in caelo’ on this. That said, I’m just finishing my PhD thesis in the Netherlands. I have a supervisor and a co-supervisor. The co-supervisor’s job is to help the supervisor who has ultimate authority.

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