ROME (ChurchMilitant.com) - A controversial "mystic-led" movement which flouts Church law on intercommunion and is censured by the Vatican is threatening to expel followers "who have the temerity before Almighty God to openly criticize this Pope."
Greek Orthodox Vassula Rydén, who claims to be a mystic, has written to Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant adherents of her True Life in God movement (TLIG) demanding, "All of those in our TLIG groups who are against Pope Francis who was chosen by Christ, I wish them to step down immediately and get out of TLIG!"
On Friday, Fr. Joseph Iannuzzi, a long-term defender of Rydén's "revelations," wrote to TLIG supporters reiterating that critics of Pope Francis "ought to leave TLIG."
In his missive, Iannuzzi, author of A Theological Review of the Ecclesiastically Approved True Life in God Prophetic Revelations, attacked "the Church Militant website [which] has long been known for its anti-papal, anti-Medjugorge, anti-Ecumenical, anti-True Life in God, anti-Vatican II statements" as having "no ecclesial authorization."
"The True Life in God messages that support Pope Francis have ecclesial authorization. End of story," Iannuzzi stated.
However, a Rome-based canon lawyer said that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), had cautioned against Rydén's "alleged heavenly revelations."
In a 1995 notification, then-Cdl. Joseph Ratzinger asked bishops to intervene so that "no opportunity may be provided in their Dioceses for the dissemination of her ideas" and invited "all the faithful not to regard Mrs. Vassula Rydén's writings and speeches as supernatural."
The CDF noted that Rydén's messages had "positive aspects" but contained "a number of basic elements that must be considered negative in the light of Catholic doctrine."
It pointed to "the suspect nature of the ways in which these alleged revelations have occurred" and underscored "several doctrinal errors they contain," noting among other concerns, that "the proximate arrival is foretold of a Church which would be a kind of pan-Christian community, contrary to Catholic doctrine."
"The fact that the aforementioned errors no longer appear in Rydén's later writings is a sign that the alleged 'heavenly messages' are merely the result of private meditations," it ruled, adding:
Moreover, by habitually sharing in the sacraments of the Catholic Church, even though she is Greek Orthodox, Mrs. Rydén is causing considerable surprise in various circles of the Catholic Church. She appears to be putting herself above all ecclesiastical jurisdiction and every canonical norm, and in effect, is creating an ecumenical disorder that irritates many authorities, ministers and faithful of her own Church, as she puts herself outside the ecclesiastical discipline of the latter.
In 2007, CDF prefect Cdl. William Levada reiterated that "[t]he Notification of 1995 remains valid as a doctrinal judgment of the writings examined" and that "it remains inappropriate for Catholics to take part in prayer groups established by Mrs. Rydén."
This reporter contacted Fr. Iannuzzi for his response to the allegations against Church Militant. "I am happy to retract my statement that Church Militant is against TLIG," he said.
The "TLIG mission encourages constructive dialogue and fraternal correction ... but it does not advocate 'those public criticisms that are not open to nor have as their goal efforts of etablishing respectively a fraternal dialogue and correction with the Pope and/or his representatives on the issues to which they take exception,'" he clarified.
Questioning a cult-like uncritical attitude toward the pontiff, Catholic academic Dr. John Zmirak told Church Militant that "nothing was more scandalous than Catholics giving credibility to the Luther-era caricature that we consider the pope an oracle like the Sibyl, who utters new divine revelations that can contradict Scripture or Tradition."
"That's the Mormon model, not ours. The pope is a steward like those of Gondor. Some would make of him instead a Saruman," Zmirak said.
Church Militant asked Iannuzzi if TLIG expected uncritical loyalty even when the pontiff spoke on matters like globalization, climate change, immigration, ecological conversion, Islam, the Abu Dhabi declaration, etc.
"When the Pope offers ambiguous expressions on ecology, Islam, immigration, globalization, etc., these ought to be read within the context of the teachings of his predecessors who also spoke on these themes," Iannuzzi responded, explaining:
However, when the Pope's words appear to diverge from his predecessors teachings, I find it more advantageous for all not to straight-away openly defy the Pope, but first to seek to engage with him and/or those around him in a dialogue by petitioning for clarity, and the Pope should feel morally compelled to engage in said disucssions.
In his bestselling book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism Dr. Zmirak writes:
[T]he guarantee of papal infallibility applies only to teachings on faith and morals by limiting it to those instances "when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he [the pope] defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church."
"Everything else the pope and the bishops do and say is fair game for criticism," Zmirak stresses. "It is intrinsically impossible for the pope, as pope, to speak with authority on the details of climate science."
"Nor is he better suited than you or I to evaluate the so-called 'consensus' of actual scientists," Zmirak adds. "He might as well be picking stocks or rewriting the scores of Broadway musicals, for which he has equal divine authority: none."
In a Mic'd Up interview with Church Militant, Dr. Daniel Mahoney dismissed the idea of a "Francis magisterium," elaborating: "This is not the way we Catholics talk. Individual popes do not have their own magisterium. Our loyalty can't be to the will of a particular pope. That's a distortion of a proper understanding of the magisterium."
For example, "the Koran, Pope Francis insists, is incompatible with 'every form of violence.' This is false, and everyone knows it," Mahoney writes in Pope Francis, Wayward Shepherd.
But Rydén, in a November 2019 letter to TLIG followers, claims Jesus told her to "obey My Pope no matter what comes up." She asks critics of Francis to "get out" of TLIG "prayer groups, out of all our retreats and pilgrimages because you are like gangrene in the Body of Christ!"
Critics like Fr. François-Marie Dermine note, though, that in Rydén's messages "the figure of the Pope is not at all intended as that safe and unshakable reference point willed by Christ and typical of the Catholic tradition."
In a 50-page dossier, which includes photocopies of Rydén's supposedly divinely inspired "automatic writings," the Dominican priest points to the message of April 18, 1988, where Jesus through the "seer" tells then-Pope John Paul II: "Peter, take My Hand, Satan has digressed you from the truth!" A later redaction amends this to: "Satan has digressed many of you from the truth."
Father Dermine reveals that Rydén's strategy is "to demonize her adversaries" and "this demonization is applied first of all to any kind of objection expressed inside the TLIG organizations."
Critics also point to Rydén's promotion of intercommunion and concelebrated Eucharists between Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants.
A Catholic priest told Church Militant that these practices, prohibited by the canon law of both Catholic and Orthodox churches, started once TLIG began its pilgrimages over 15 years ago. He also revealed that a number of participants objected to the practices.
Rydén claims that Jesus told her that the church had to gather "around One Altar."
A number of participants at the Athens pilgrimage in 2019 expressed distress when a Buddhist monk went up to the altar to receive Holy Communion.
Many pilgrims also walked out or refused to participate in sessions where Rydén had invited Muslim imams, Buddhist monks and a liberal Jewish rabbi to speak.
Sources told Church Militant that a number of high-profile followers of TLIG who questioned inter-faith Rydén incursions at recent pilgrimages and elsewhere have also raised concerns about Pope Francis' pan-religious day of prayer for the pandemic.